The day I shot Sir Dave Brailsford changed my life

Event photographer - Sir Dave Brailsford

Ok I’m no criminal just a photographer trying to start this blog with a bang! When people over hear two photographers chatting about who they recently shot or who they are booked to shoot next it can raise the odd eyebrow! Part of the perils of being a professional photographer I guess!

Back in 2014 I was in central London on a Unilever photography commission, it’s common for them to book very high profile and interesting speakers. On this occasion they’d booked Sir Dave Brailsford who at the time was The Manager for Team Sky, the well-known cycling team.

When I photograph speakers I often switch off because I’m too distracted with the brief, considering my angles and telling the story of the day…but every now and again my ears perk up and this was one of those times!

Sir Dave discussed working on the small margins and psychology behind the athletes training. The descriptions of the margins that Team Sky went to were fascinating from the obvious of the diet, to the less of obvious that they take their own tailored beds and bedding around with them and move them around to the various race locations. Just to confirm at this stage of the blog Kay Ransom Photography does not have tailored beds installed into hotels the night before an away shoot, though maybe in a decade or two this something I can work towards! :-p

He then moved onto the psychology element of the talk and discussed the principals behind Team Sky’s training and he revealed they were trained on “The Chimp Paradox”, back in 2014 this was not something I’d heard of and was very intrigued.

Psychologist Steve Peters (The author of “The Chimp Paradox”) and Sir Dave worked closely together to train Team Sky. Dave gave us some examples on the power of working with a psychologist in professional sport. Before the athletes were trained in psychology they asked one of them what they would do if one of their competitors went out before them in the velodrome and beat the world record. The athletes reply was I’d go out of the blocks like the clappers and cycle as fast as I possibly could. To which Dave/Steve’s reply roughly was – so you’d ignore all the strategy and training to date because your rival had just achieved a world record? The athlete then took a step back and realised what had happened in his mind, his “chimp” has taken over and his rational human was no longer in control.

This sense of realisation had just as much impact on me listening as it did to the athlete at the time from the sounds of it. I vowed to read it as soon as I got home. The shoot continued with various content for the day and I headed home from The Big Smoke to The Shire that evening.  

A few weeks later I remembered to download the book by Steve Peters (don’t worry I’m not on any form of commission for this blog 🙂 ) and proceeded to read it. I have to say it was the most life changing books I’ve ever read and I now have the ability to understand my clients so much better that I could before.

For example at my old photo studio (which was in the middle of the Cotswold countryside) my clients would frequently got lost, I’d receive stressed phone calls and cross voice mails (when my phone service inevitably dipped out at the end of the drive whilst trying to find them). Prior to reading the Chimp Paradox the start of the shoot could be awkward and frosty, post reading the book I listened with intent the client’s story of how they got lost, which roads, which turnings etc., we’d then spend another ten mins chatting about silly common ground, until I could tell I was now speaking to their human and not their chimp (we all have chimps by the way, not just my clients lol). The shoot would then be fun with a buoyant atmosphere and the client would leave on a positive note and not mention the stress of their arrival.

I’ve recommended this book to countless friends who I felt would benefit a little more from understanding their own mind and the minds of others and the feedback every time has been outstanding. So my advice to anyone reading this would be consider reading it and also consider the small margins of your body, mind or business and see what you can improve.

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