From a male nurse to a mental and success coach, from unfit to world record holder and 17-time Ironman finisher. Süddeutsche Zeitung named him “one of the most sought-after motivational coaches in Germany”. We talk to Slatco Sterzenbach about optimisation and the right kind of slack.
Slatco Sterzenbach, what is more difficult: becoming better or doing better?
As the saying goes: “You go first”. Every major change always starts off small with each individual. Many companies first change the processes and then take care of their staff’s anxious mindset. Doing it the other way round unlocks so much more potential.
How are personal and corporate performance connected?
If a company is successful, it means the managers are doing something good. In other words, as Michelin-starred chef Thomas Bühner told me in a private conversation: “If my staff make a mistake, I know I made the same mistake before them.” Sometimes I come to companies to train the managers and I very quickly notice ‘which way the wind blows’ in the company. The managers need to lead not based on position, but on skill – particularly emotional and communication skills.
Where should optimisation start in a company?
In an ideal situation, it should come from both sides. The boss can create the conditions to make it easy for staff to be creative, communicate openly and actively get involved in the company without fearing limitations. Staff should learn to think independently: “My company is my best customer! How can I best serve my company with the strengths I have?” This requires a high level of awareness on both sides.
Does the ‘better self’ really lead to a ‘happier self’?
The term ‘better self’ assumes that we aren’t good. But we are. Everybody acts based on their best option. If we consider the basic needs of all people, then these needs should be met. Only then will we feel satisfied, happy and fulfilled.
Do we all need to be always improving anyway? Or do we sometimes need to be cut some slack?
We can only improve on what we do if we slack from time to time and come back stronger. Every top athlete knows this: we improve in the recovery period after training, not in the training itself. It’s the same in business: we can only be creative if we switch our physiology to relaxation mode. For me, there are two kinds of slack. Conscious, mindful and planned slack is the essence of subsequent wanted and gratifying strain.
Is there something that people simply cannot do better?
Of course, we can all somehow do better. But I feel it’s much more important to ask: are we using our lives to really exploit our potential and live out our visions and wishes? What kind of life do we want to look back on?
You have completed the Iron Man 17 times, written bestsellers, given speeches all over the world – does Slatco Sterzenbach ever show signs of weakness?
I used to call it weakness, but now I call it letting go and simply ‘being’. Through meditation, I have learned how my life was always driven by performance and comparison. That has changed. My feelings are my new compass. It’s OK to feel good as this is how you reach peak performance. But this way, there’s no pressure.
Slatco Sterzenbach’s resting heart rate is 28 beats per minute. The 17-time IRONMAN has given more than 1,800 talks and seminars in 15 countries. Coaching clients from top-class sport, industry and entertainment have been seeking his advice over the past 15 years. He is a guest lecturer at several universities and author of the books Der perfekte Tag (The Perfect Day), Fit 4 Business and his latest release Change als Chance (Change as an Opportunity). He uses his seminars to help people find and unlock their potential.