Best of 12 Questions: a three part series
Well-known New Zealanders opened up to Jennifer Dann last year about their failures and what they've learnt about resilience. Here are 12 of the best answers.
Shane Cameron - boxer "My toughest loss was to David Tua in 'The Fight of the Century'. The build-up captured the whole country. I believed I could win. I was ranked higher but David was favourite because he'd knocked out more guys. He was one of the biggest punchers in the heavyweight division at the time. He just caught me with a good punch and the rest was history. I was devastated but David, credit to the man, we're friends now. He's very talented and a good fella. My manager told me, 'It's not how you fall, it's how you rise'. That's what builds character and strength. People respect you more."
– Olympic rower "We went into the Beijing Olympics as world champions and got seventh. You sit there going, "I don't know if I can do this again." Like George Gregan said, it's four more years. The first emotion is, "I'm out of here." It takes time to build yourself back up. A lot of rowers take a year off. Luckily Hamish Bond asked me to row in a pair with him. In our training, we try to fail every day. You need to push yourself to failure so you know exactly what your capability is; when you hit that line you've got absolutely nothing left."
– former All Black "Most New Zealanders are pretty realistic and know sport's place in the world. It's great to be passionate about it but at the end of the day you can walk away and it doesn't really matter. There are far more important things like family."
– radio host "I've failed plenty of times and on many fronts. I used to give myself a really hard time, being a bit of a perfectionist. I'd berate myself. The dialogue going on in my head, I realise now, was overwhelming. The stories that I was telling myself about myself were so negative it became hard to operate. I understand now that failing's part of life. You don't always get it right. The important thing is to get up and try to do better next time. I give myself a break now, let go of things more and enjoy the smaller things in life."
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– comedian "Some of my Snap Chat videos have been complete stinkers. I did a character that was using an anxiety disorder as an excuse to get out of doing things. That crossed the line for a lot of people. I'm always testing the line, to a degree, but for some reason my desire to put it out there trumps everything. I used to be too sensitive to feedback, but in acting and comedy you get feedback all the time. I've learnt not to connect my emotions to it so much. After a while it just washes over and doesn't affect you anymore."
– Waipareira Trust CEO "In Parliament, I tried to do too much too soon. When you do that, you end up cutting your throat with your own tongue. But I learned so much. What matters is that you leave yourself open to change. You have to be strong in your own conscience and spirituality. My Catholic faith has been a beacon of light in my darkest moments. And you need the support of family. My long-suffering wife Awerangi has been my anchor. At Waipareira Trust, we practice the right of redemption - it doesn't matter how many times you fall from grace. We've built a culture of resilience."
– radio host "Being dropped from The Edge Breakfast show and TV3's The Bachelor after 20 years at Mediaworks was disappointing. It took three years to find full-time work again. I got to the point where I thought, "Maybe I'm no good at this" but I've ended up on The Hits Drive with Stacey Morrison and Anika Moa. We're the gayest, brownest show on radio. I love it! I've learned not to take business personally. I've learned that your whole life is not defined by one job. It also taught me the importance of family and friends – with that strong core, you can get through everything.
– comedian "Failure is almost the only way to get better. Comedians who only perform to their own audience don't grow. I've failed a lot. There are times when you think about quitting but it's like you've got to a certain level on a video game. You keep dying over and over again but you've come so far, you want to finish. The difference with comedy is there is no finish."
– radio host "My hardest time in radio was when I got a divorce. Then I started a relationship with a man 10 years younger than me. That doesn't go down well with the public, I can tell you. I got called a cradle snatcher and all sorts. It was a real shit storm. Through counselling I learnt that people's opinions are not something that I can change, so I just have to let it go. I learnt some breathing exercises and promised myself to be more forgiving of people's baggage. We all make mistakes. People are flawed - we can only learn and grow."
– TV chef and author "It's not the content of your life that really matters, it's the context in which you hold it – negative or positive. To a certain extent, we're born with our temperament, but we can change that. I had a crisis in my early 30s when I was feeling disappointed that my life hadn't worked out the way I'd expected. I thought, "Stop it. You're going down a path and it's not going to be a happy one." So I made myself stop thinking like that. I left my job as a counsellor, moved to Paris and became a chef."
– mindfulness coach "When I make a mistake, I tend to beat myself up about it. Mindfulness allows me to see things with a more accurate, compassionate perspective. A Harvard study found 47 per cent of our thoughts are about the past or the future. When we ruminate about the past, we become depressed and when we worry about the future, we become anxious. Mindfulness develops our ability to be present in the moment, without judgement and with kindness, which is where we flourish. Just as we train our bodies to be strong and flexible, we need to train our minds as well."
TJ Perenara –
All Black "Sonny (Bill Williams) and Ardie (Savea) have created a 'vulnerability group' for our team. About eight of us belong. It's a safe space where we can just come, chill, have a coffee and share whatever's going on in our lives. As boys we're taught to harden up, but once you're an adult with real problems, if you're trying to keep it all inside, that's when bad things can happen. We need to show boys that it's okay to be vulnerable and talk about your feelings. If we can do some of that work here between us, it's going to make us better players and better men for our families."
Next week: love and friendship