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Do you choke under pressure?

I often get asked the question “How do I stay calm under pressure, especially when competing?” This is a question I have often asked myself as I never thought that I would be someone to thrive under such a pressured circumstance, especially as I have always hated being centre of attention and hated the thought that everyone may be watching me.

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With this in mind I put my thinking cap on and brainstormed what goes through my mind and how do I manage my thoughts and feelings on a competition day. Competitions can range from a local competition, an Open workout or Regionals. When thinking about it there seemed to me to be three key areas to consider: my mind-set, my self-awareness and my internal focus.


For me mind-set is the most important which is why I have written about it first. The mind-set you walk into a competition with will determine how well you perform that day. If you walk in thinking that the workouts are hard, or I am feeling tired, or there are so many good people here, in my opinion you have started the day with a defeatist attitude and you have lost before you have even begun. On the flip side, if you walk in thinking that today is going to be great fun, I can learn loads from this, how lucky I am to be competing against some of the best athletes, then you already have a positive attitude and will enjoy the experience more and most likely preform better.

Winning or losing does not always matter, sometimes you need to go to a competition to take part, learn and enjoy the experience so that next time you go back you know how to attack a competition with experience. Every competitor was once an amateur and we all had our first competition.

pro pic


Self-awareness is quite a big topic but for me the part that I like to focus on most is how well you know yourself and how good you are at what you do. Firstly, most of the time the competitions we attend include qualifiers, so straight away you should have confidence in your ability, as you have earned the right to be there to preform. Secondly, you must have faith and confidence knowing that you have prepared for that competition to the best of your ability and there was nothing else you could have done apart from what happens on the day, which is usually out of your control to a certain extent. Thirdly, you must trust your body to complete the exercises, as it would on any other day.

This for me brings me onto the next part, internal focus. Are you able to shut down your brain when necessary to save precious energy?

Internal focus

When I think about internal focus I like to think about whether you are able to shift your mind-set and take your brain to another place or put it in shut-down mode. When you take your mind away from the task at hand you are able to zone out and ignore the people around you who are quite possibly competing against you. You send your head to space, so to speak, and use your muscle memory to help you through the movements.

Putting your mind into shut-down mode is the best way to save mental energy and use it to help you push harder during your workout. When your mind goes into shut-down mode it means that you are thinking about nothing else but the task in hand. It is at this point that you may breakdown the workout into reps, sets or even focus on your split-times. You may even be listening to someone counting for you. Saving as much energy from over thinking is essential as mentioned before; that 2% extra energy could be put into your workout and could turn out being 5 extra reps.



On a competition day I try to remember always to have fun and to enjoy the experience first and foremost. Granted, this may not happen on your first competition and I will admit this maybe didn’t happen during my first competition but as I have become a more seasoned athlete, competing multiple times per year, I have learnt to channel my thoughts and feelings into being excited and give me additional energy to compete rather than using up all my energy panicking or worrying about what may happen. This I believe will be the same for you.

The best tips I was ever given were:

Control the controllable and forget the rest.

Nerves represent excitement and should never be seen as a negative feeling – this one has helped me massively as I can now channel my ‘negative’ energy from being nervous into positive energy helping me to preform better.

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Never get so busy chasing a dream you forget to have a life

As we all know being a successful CrossFit athlete, or being successful at anything for that matter, takes a lot of time, commitment, dedication and sacrifice. Training can take up to 6 hrs a day, recovery just as long and time to eat all the food, well that can take even longer! Due to this there is no surprise that trying to get to the top can lead to some athletes leading very unbalanced lives finding it hard to strike a balance between being an athlete and not.

After speaking to many successful CrossFit athletes over the years quite a few stated that at one point in their career they were so focused on what they were doing that they could not give anyone or anything around them the time of day. They also said that this approach may be not the best way and is far from sustainable.

My story

It is at this point I will hold up my hands and say I have been there. There was a time not so long ago when I really struggled to find a balance between training and wanting to be the best I could possibly be, and have a life. This brings me to my reason for writing this blog. Yes, I am making myself pretty vulnerable in sharing a struggle with you but I think it is so important for people to realise that everyone has their struggles and we are all human.

Dedicating all of my time to chase my goal was amazing and very rewarding but it did come with its downfalls and I have come to realise that there was no need for it to consume my life as much as it did. Not having a balance and giving my all to training and nothing else actually turned out to be very detrimental to me mentally and physically.


Having a tunnel vision and only ever existing in the gym, my kitchen or bed sleeping and recovering was not the best way to go about things. It is now only on reflection that I can see this. Life was very isolated and things in my life were beginning to suffer, especially my relationship with those closest to me.  Not only this but training was beginning to suffer as well as I was putting incredible pressure on myself to preform and when I didn’t my whole world came crashing down. Not ideal and very unreasonable. Not surprisingly my mental game was also shot. Battling with negative thoughts from bad training and not having time to see friends and loved ones, and not having people to talk to begins to take its toll and when you have no mental strength you might as well hold up the white flag as it is very hard to pull yourself together in the gym if you can’t even do it outside.

Funnily, when I started to relax outside of training and find ways to work around my busy training schedule, training actually improved dramatically and I was beginning to preform how I had wanted to all along.

So, what did I change?


 I sat for a long time asking myself WHY?

Why do I do what I do and what do I want to achieve?

I came up with these answers.

I train CrossFit because I enjoy it and it is fun (said no one ever) and I wanted to get back to Regionals. As my love for CrossFit was disappearing I thought that and at this rate I wasn’t going to be making it back to Regionals because nothing was going right.

It was at this point I re-assessed my training, recovery and what I was going to do to make sure when training was done that Lucy the athlete took a break and Lucy was able to go out and enjoy herself and have a life.

Firstly, I started making sure I saw my friends more, visited my grandparents and spent quality time with them and my family.

Secondly, I made sure I didn’t consume my head with my training when I left the gym. If I had had a bad day I tried to leave it behind and move on.

Lastly, I brought the fun back to my training

Surprise surprise, my training quickly came back to life and my mind was able to think clearly.

The moral of the story

Sometimes we have to learn the hard way and experience lows to help us grow. The biggest realisation for me was that you can chase your dreams and be the best ‘you’ and excel even more whilst having a life and enjoying some time off. Someone very close to me once told me this and I never believed him till now. A little too late!

real quotes about life (9)

Final thought

One of my favourite quotes is:

“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life”

However, for the purpose of this blog I am going to change it slightly and leave you with my final thought:


You defo can have both!!!

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Mental Toughness with Justin Su’a

Yesterday I was very lucky to be able to speak with Justin Su’a on the phone. Justin Su’a is a mental performance and leadership coach for the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Browns. Justin also produces a weekday podcast called INCREASE YOUR IMPACT – for me one of the best podcasts around. Each day Justin discusses a different topic or drops knowledge bombs giving you focus and something to think about for the up coming day. Justin’s podcast has become part of my morning ritual.

Alongside working with sports teams and individuals Justin travels around the world giving talks, helping people and organisations to cultivate mental toughness and build a workplace of excellence. Justin has also written various books and is known as a leading expert in his area of mental performance and leadership.

I asked Justin if he would be able to take a little time out of his busy schedule to chat with me as I have begun to realise just how important mindset and being happy within your own mind/head is and how much this is overlooked by a lot of athletes/people. Mindfulness and being mentally strong relates not just to when you are training or competing but also in your everyday life.

From speaking to Justin, I was able to learn a great deal and to think about my mental game and strength in a very different way. I could write a massive blog around everything we discussed but here are the best bits. I hope you can enjoy and learn as much as I did

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What makes a mentally strong athlete/person? 

I think the same components and principles that make someone physically tough also make them mentally tough. For example, strength and conditioning, by which I mean the ability to respond to failure, to recover from adversity, to embrace obstacles and hardships, to be able to take feedback and work with that. You have to think of mental toughness as training your brain to grow and become stronger and help it recover just like you would your body when you train.

Interestingly, some people have some parts of mental toughness but struggle with others; we are not always the full package. You can be confident but lack focus, have good focus but lack performance, be a great athlete in the gym but when it comes to a competition be unable to perform. There needs to be confidence but not arrogance in all areas. To be mentally strong you have to work on your areas of weakness and teach your mind how to be able to perform at its best when it most matters

What are the best two ways to work on your mental game? 

You might be able to guess my answer as I say it many times on my podcast – IT DEPENDS. There are many ways to work on your mental game and strength and most of the time it depends on the individual and which area they most struggle with. However, my top two ways are:

  1. Mindfulness – Mindfulness can help your brain to relax and it can help you train your brain to be where you want it to be and how you want it to think in a given situation. The best places to start with mindfulness are apps like Headspace, Calm and 10% Happier. 10% Happier is my favourite as it has teaching components where it helps to teach you how to quiet your mind and well as use meditation. All these apps can be used anywhere so there are no excuses.
  2. Journaling – Writing a journal everyday can help to teach self-awareness and it can help you to become aware of certain things in the day that went well or not so well that perhaps had not occurred to you before then. This is very important as how can you change things if you are not aware of them? When you are journaling try to answer these 3 questions everyday:
  • – What was the best part about today? This helps to show optimism and gratitude for what you achieved that day.
  • – What did I learn? Always look at successes and failures as this helps you to move forward, learn and reflect.
  • – What am I going to do better tomorrow? This is the activation piece allowing us to move forward with the lessons we learnt and put them into action the next day.

Should we make a daily list of things to achieve to keep us on track? 

Again, I would answer this with IT DEPENDS. Some people work really well having lists they can tick things off from but for others who are more open and fluid it can cause even more stress to their day. Each individual needs to find something that works for them and stick with that.

I try and create a HIT list – HIGH IMPORTANCE TASK LIST. I figure out the things that are the most important that need to be done that day or over the next few days and try to tick them off. This does not give a direct timeframe in which they need to be done but it just reminds me of the most important things.

How do you know the best way to find what works for you?

Experiment and try out different things. You will never know until you have tried, but never get angry or frustrated if the first thing doesn’t work.

Do you think meditation and mindfulness are important?

Yes, I believe that meditation and mindfulness is very important. There is a lack of awareness around this topic and people do not tend to participate in it because they don’t understand it and find it hard. You do not get any direct feedback so it can be hard to see if it is helping or if it is changing your mental toughness.

People find it hard to change habits and are not always keen to take time to work on new approaches. If you take even just 5-10 minutes a day even 1 minute you can really start to see a change in the way you are able to think and deal with situations.

If you are not an athlete should you still take part in mindfulness and meditation?

Everyone should take time to give back to their body and mind. It is so important to stay healthy and well within your mind as well as your body. Knowing where you want to be able to put your mind or how you want it to think at a certain time is so important, not just in a workout, but in general life.

Taking time to meditate can help you to process what has happened in your day, what is going on in your life and how you feel about certain things that are going on in your life that maybe you are trying to push to the back of your mind. It is essentially time to reflect and think, giving you time to process and cope with feelings.

The longer you hold onto things the heavier they become.

It is so important that we recognise how we are feeling and know how to deal with those feelings.

Do people need a mind coach?

It is always good to have a coach, just like in sport, as they can help you to learn, to know you personally, are someone to talk to and they can help to direct your thoughts, feelings and emotions in the right direction. However, it is not imperative and you can work on all of this on your own through the apps mentioned above


Favourite book on this topic?

10% happier by Dan Harris

Is mental training as important as physical training, nutrition and recovery? 

Yes, for sure, especially for the more elite athletes. It can be even more important for some as potentially they are physically strong and very fit but their mind is lacking strength. If they work on that they will become better without changing anything but their mind.

Final thoughts!

Our mind tries to protect us and tell us not to hurt ourselves – if we keep pushing it we hit flight or freeze. We need to train our brain to say “No, it’s OK”. It will be OK and push through our mental freezes. You need to be able to quiet one voice (bad chimp) in your mind and allow the other (good chimp) to come through. We need to be able to allow our chimps to have a debate and see that the bad chimp is not always right. For more on good and bad chimp see The Chimp Paradox by Prof Steve Peters.

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What defines who we are as a person?

Everyone will have a different answer to the ‘What defines who we are as a person’  and everyone will be defined in different ways. What I wanted to talk about in this blog is the notion that we are all now too worried about what people think of us and are we too caught up with the way we want ourselves to be defined to the outside World (who probably don’t even care), that we forget who we really are.

 So, what defines who we are?

What job we have?

What we have achieved?

What we have done in our past?

How successful we are?

How people perceive us?

What we wear?

How we look and act?

What car we drive?

How many people follow us on Instagram/Facebook?

 Whilst this is not an extensive list of potential things that may help to define who we are it raises some of the most common and thought-about topics. These are all things that people can be judged for, but do any of these really matter? Does it really matter what car we drive or the clothes we wear or how successful we are? The answer in short is NO! Well not to me anyway.

While I believe that some of the above will always play a part in how people see us and define us even if it is in a very shallow. They should not be the only reasons.

be you

With the continued growth of social media, I believe the most common and most prominent way people, especially young people, believe they are defined and portrayed is by how they appear on social media, for example Facebook, but especially on Instagram.

For some reason it is now believed that the more followers you have on Instagram the better a human being you are and the more you are liked. While this would appear true as the more followers and ‘friends’ you have the more popular you feel, although this is so superficial as most likely 60% +, if not more, are not really your friends. Surely having real friends that you can communicate with is far more important? This appears untrue these days. 

Recent studies have shown that young people are now getting so wrapped up in trying to portray themselves as the person they would like to be or who they think they should be via their Instagram account that is it having a negative impact on their life.

It is crazy to think that a social media channel like Instagram can have such an impact on young people and how they are perceiving themselves and how others are perceiving them, but why is this happening?

1.   If you do not receive as many likes on a picture as you thought you should or your last one received, or your friends received, this can result in you feeling worthless and like no one is interested in what you are doing or likes you for who you are.

2.   You scroll through hundreds and hundreds of photos wondering why you do not look as great as the person in the photo but what you forget to remember is they probably don’t even look like that either.

3.   People start to question why their life isn’t as perfect as the ‘perfect’ life people portray on their profiles every day forgetting that they only post the highlights, like a big show reel.

These are just a few reasons but they can create a really superficial life which others strive to have which in fact is highly unobtainable and probably is not even like that for those portraying it.

People’s Instagram posts promote a life that is somewhat unreal and is perfect through filters and often posed and presented in a way that they wish you to view it. I guarantee that if you spoke to them in real life it probably is not anything like their real life.

So why do we let ourselves get so caught up in the way we want ourselves to be perceived? Because we want to be able to keep up with the wider community and world and feel we are liked and accepted by everyone. As a nation we like to be accepted and liked by as many people as possible even if they are truly not our friends and just imaginary numbers. This, however, is not healthy and I believe it needs to be addressed.

While it is good for business to have a whole bunch of friends and followers I strongly believe that our Instagram/Facebook pages should reflect who we really are and the ups and downs of life not just the ‘perfect’ parts. This is why when posting on Instagram and Facebook I like to post real and honest posts showing my life as honestly as possible.  I often post videos of fails and days that have not been great when I have trained and also the ups and downs of life. The times I have struggled etc. I believe that it is important to show that everyone has bad days and sometimes we don’t look like we have just walked off a photo shoot.

I strongly feel that we should just be ourselves and If we are liked then that is great and if we are not then fine. You should be proud to be who you are and how you look and what you do. There is no need to look for acceptance or even chase it through promoting yourself how you feel you should to be accepted. Worrying about how people perceive you or what ‘defines’ you can lead to deep inner issues which are not always positive.

Always be yourself and be accepted for who you are! Never let the outside World pressure you into portraying yourself in a way you believe you should. Rather be accepted for being you and who you want to be rather than a person you are not.

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Are you really happy or are you just comfortable

One of my favourite quotes is “Are you really happy or are you just comfortable”

This quote has resonated a lot with me recently and has been on my mind!

In this day and age it is very easy to live a comfortable life going with the flow because things just work and you don’t have to think too much. Nowadays it is very easy to fall into this mundane life which we believe makes us happy but does it truly? Or is it we are just afraid to take risks? Push ourselves out of our comfort zones or give second chances because we are afraid to get hurt or fail when actually things might just work out even better than you expected?

But what makes us veer away from taking chances and using our brain to block out thoughts, feelings and things that could be great?

Our minds are clever things that help us to protect ourselves when we are not sure what might happen as an end result of a particular action. This is understandable; why would we put ourselves into a position where we might get hurt, might fail or might not achieve? Well why not! Surely when life is so short we should take a chance, push ourselves or even allow a second chance?

In theory this is correct, but our mind as I said before has a great way of shutting things out and using denial or fear to help us to feel better about our choices.

“I will do this because it’s what is for the best” meaning I will not take that risk even if I want to because I might get hurt and this is easier and this is what I believe I should do.

“If I stay in this job or relationship its easier because it just works and it won’t cause me any hassle or pain”. Easy and mundane only stays easy and enjoyable for so long, until it becomes boring, then what? You will stick at it because it works and you missed other chances but you will never truly be happy and always wonder what if?

“I’m not going to try that move at CrossFit because I’ll never be able to do it or I’m scared I may fail”; how will you know if you don’t try?

Denial and de-compartmentalising are wonderful tools and work well for many especially in the short term helping you to become less vulnerable but only for the short term. Denial has a funny way of coming back to a lot of us and biting us on the arse! Denial helps create short-term happiness at the expense of true long-term happiness!

So why do we do this? Why do we allow ourselves to overlook long-term happiness or achievement for the short term? Good question! It takes a really strong person to own up and say “I did something wrong, maybe the timing was not right first time round, I’m going to make myself overcome a fear, put myself in a situation I may not like or even potentially make a fool of myself.”

Feelings can be scary but I strongly believe they should be dealt with as they arise instead of allowing our bodies to disconnect from them and push them to one side as from previous experience they just come back, but even worse!

I am someone who believes in taking risks and doing things even if they are scary or may lead to me being in a vulnerable position or getting hurt, because I always believe life is too short!

I do, however, realise that we are not all the same and people cope differently.  Some people pretend things aren’t happening or just go with the flow, sticking with easy and convenient but I believe this never truly leads to happiness, just settling and taking the easy option!

If you:

Wake up begrudging going to work but carry on because it’s easy

Have someone on your mind

Fear something

Ask yourself if you made the right decision about something

Are currently just going with the flow because it’s easy

Are scared to give second chances at the expense of potentially getting hurt but gaining something great

Are scared to try that new move at the gym


Then maybe you need to have a think and ask yourself

“Am I really happy or just comfortable? I may be happy now but will this last? Have I made the right decision? Should I be where I am?”

If you are questioning any of the above then my answer to you is maybe you are not happy, just comfortable? In denial? Or just ignoring how you feel deep down inside?

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Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself

You were never lost and then found so the person you are today has been shaped and created by the experiences, challenges and things you have gone through in your life and how you reacted to them. Your strength, resilience, maturity and how you treat people.

Throughout life we are always trying to discover who we are, what life really means to us and what we want from it.  What many of us forget is that life is not about “finding yourself but it is about creating yourself”.  

In life we have to figure out and learn what we are capable of achieving, learning, creating, doing and we can only do this by going through rough times, challenges, break-ups etc as they help us to learn, push forward and grow. One of the hardest things to do at these times is to not over analyse, think too deeply into something and hardest of all learn how to move forward from something you may not want to let go of. For me in life, if something doesn’t work, doesn’t happen or causes me pain then it’s not worth going back to.


Granted this took me a long time to realise and learn but has always been a resonating thought in my head ever since.

I will not call them failures, as in failed relationships, job that didn’t work out, friendships that broke down, competitions you didn’t do well in, because nothing is ever a failure just a lesson, so we will call them challenges. From these challenges we can learn and use the experience to help us to grow and become mentally, physically and even spiritually stronger. We can use these times to help us to learn how we want to live our lives and how we want to move forward.

Life isn’t easy and I doubt it ever will be.

“Sometimes you have to be knocked down lower than you ever have before to be able to stand up taller than you ever have before”

Life isn’t about how many times we get knocked down or how bad it is when we get knocked down but how we get back up and learn from the challenges we have come across, how we can become a better person and how we can grow as a person moving forward.

You may or may not realise it but every choice, decision or experience we go through helps to shape us into who we are and how people see us. While it may not bother you what people think of you we can’t blindly go about life. The bottom line I guess is that it is up to us how we get up from challenges how we move forward and how we react.

If we learn to look at our lives as continuous lessons then we will spend less time focusing on the problems and going back to past challenges and learn to move forward and continue our journey. Every challenge should be embraced. We can find the meaning behind it, learn from it and then move forward using it to help us to grow into a better human being. From challenges come new opportunities and adventures.

My biggest lesson was using challenges as inspiration to help me move forward, focus on my happiness and grow into the person I aspire to be.

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Emotional Intelligence

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to know, identify and manage how you and others are feeling. Most people are able to identify how they are feeling but knowing or being able to recognise how others are feeling is not always so easy. It has been suggested that emotional intelligence can be more important than your IQ in helping you to be successful in life and to achieve your goals and happiness. This suggests that you must be able and willing to develop and mature emotionally as you grow older.

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The five categories of emotional intelligence


Being able to recognise your own emotions as they are happening and knowing how to deal with them. This is said to be one of the most important categories of emotional intelligence and is key to how you are able to grown and mature emotionally. Being self-aware with your emotions means that you are able to tap into how you are really feeling and be 100% honest with yourself. This does not mean just being able to recognise your emotions but also how you can manage them, evaluate them and react to them. There are two elements of self-awareness. Firstly, emotional awareness, how you are able to recognise your own emotions and how they directly affect you and secondly, self-confidence which is your ability to be confident about your self- worth and capabilities.


None of us has any control of when we experience certain emotions or what they may be but what we can control is how long we let them last for and how we react to them. Looking back over a situation and trying to recognise the good that can come from it or using alleviating techniques, like taking a long walk or meditating, can help to reduce any anxiety, sadness or other emotions about a situation.

So what does self-regulation involve?

  1. Self-control – The ability to manage and handle disruptive impulses
  2. Trustworthiness – Being able to keep honesty and integrity to yourself and also others
  3. Conscientiousness – The ability to be able to take responsibility for your own actions and performance
  4. Adaptability – Being able to handle change and be flexible
  5. Innovation – Being open to new ideas


You must be able to motivate yourself with positive and clear goals of what you would like to achieve and when. We all have a predisposition to either a positive or negative attitude. If you have a negative attitude it is not as good as having a positive one but it is not impossible to swap from a negative to positive it just takes some practice and some time.

Motivation is made up of:

  1. Achievement drive – Your own personal drive to achieve excellence and the best that you possibly can and strive for excellence;
  2. Commitment – Being able to align your goals and stick with them;
  3. Initiative – Being able to act and be ready to accept opportunities when presented to you; and
  4. Optimism – Not letting obstacles and setbacks affect you chasing and achieving your goals.
    emotional intellengence 2
    Being able to recognise how another person is feeling or how your actions or decisions may affect someone else’s feelings is really important if you want to be successful in your life or career. Being able to show empathy to others will help you to excel.

    Social Skills
    Having good interpersonal skills is so important when you are looking for a successful career and personal life. In a world that is now so full of technology and where we are always connected, being able to talk and communicate with people is even more important than it has ever been. It has been suggested that people nowadays, especially those of the younger generations, are finding communicating with other people more and more challenging. This is a worrying thought. Being able to communicate well with others allows us to be able to influence, lead, inspire, build bonds and work as part of a team.

From the above it is clear that having good emotional intelligence is so important in everyday life, being successful at work, in relationships and friendships. Being able to understand how you and other people are feeling is very important in being able to read, react and deal with situations that life may bring upon you.

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Final Thoughts:

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far” – Daniel Goleman