Top 5 Lessons In 2020 That Shape The Future

What are your top 5 lessons from 2020?

By Craig Johns

I was asked the question the other day – what would I leave behind in 2020? It stopped me in my tracks, as I tried really hard to think of anything that I didn’t want to take into 2021. In the end I said “the Fridge”, yes, like many I have worn a nice track between my home office and the kitchen during 2020.

Otherwise, there is absolutely nothing I would leave behind. Everyone responds differently in crisis, uncertainty and change. For me I thrive on it and in fact, it is right in my element. Did everything in my life go perfect in 2020? Far from it! However, I was quickly able to draw on my natural intuition to learn from every mistake, uncertainty and crisis to make a number of effective decisions.

Here are my top 5 lessons from 2020 for the future…

  1. Resourceful before resources
  2. Collaboration wins
  3. Serve others first
  4. Be the calming influence
  5. Simplification is sophistication


My parents naturally displayed the importance of being resourceful before resources when I grew up on the farm in New Zealand. Be more effective with what you have before you get anything else. My parents had to work extremely hard to weather the highs and lows of building a farming business from scratch and it was a great lesson to see first hand.

When catastrophic bushfires, poor water quality and COVID-19 restrictions caused event cancellations from January through to March, my natural instinct was to look at what we had with Triathlon ACT and use what we had available and conserve our financial resources. Losing half of our season was challenging enough on our financial reserves, but the prospect of losing the next 1-2 seasons was cause for deep concern. We had experienced financial uncertainty in 2014-15 and the measures we put in place then, ensure that our low risk, but agile model could cope with the toughest challenges sport could face. We looked at what human resources we had available and used our skills and talents to keep our members engaged, active and optimistic for the future. In fact rather than losing resources we had increased our financial reserves by 32% by the time I resigned in September 2020.

Within 2 weeks of restrictions being implemented by governments around the world, Ben Gathercole , James Thorp , Debbie Dionysius, my wife Julie and I knew that sport coaching was going to be one of the most heavily affected professions. We called on a few friends and some new ones to create the world’s 1st online endurance coaching business summit, called COACH 2020 VISION. With 12 weeks preparation we delivered an 8hr event of 20 speakers 20min each on areas such as; own your own coach brand, become a high performing coach, your coach business essentials and future of coach businesses. Among the 20 speakers were 13 people who were either an Olympian, World Champion, or had coached or worked with at least one.

Producing online content was something I was used to, so it made sense to produce 40 videos in 40 days that focused on different ways to lead during uncertainty and crisis. Using the content I was also able to support initiatives with ASCTA (Australian Swim Coaches and Teachers Association), Canberra Business Chamber, Mass Participation World and the Institute of Civil Infrastructure.


As a very determined individual I was always keen to develop my own ideas, lead my own company and create new projects. I remember a couple of friends always saying that you will produce you best work and have more success when you learn to collaborate and partner with other people. Over the past couple of years I started to realize this potential and in 2020, I gained the confidence to bring collaboration to the forefront of everything that I was doing.

One of my active CEO Coaching clients Sasa Sestic is an incredibly talented individual representing Australia in Handball at the 2000 Olympics, winning the 2015 World Barista Championships, leading the most high performing team I have ever seen inside a company, and manage to open a new specialty coffee café in Melbourne during lockdown. As I worked closely to support him during huge uncertainty, as a business owner in hospitality, we partnered up to co-host The Coffee Man Podcast, where we blend a world in coffee with a world beyond coffee. The first four episodes are some of the most rewarding interviews I have ever done as Sasa gave us an insight into how he successfully rode the rollercoaster of emotions in 2020.

If I wasn’t busy enough as CEO of Triathlon ACT, running my own business NRG2Perform and setting up World Sport Coach in April, a friend of mine, Sam Cawthorn, reached out in April to see if I could help him with the corporate section of Speakers Institute, in May. I was working 80 + hours a week at this point, but I knew there was something special that we could do, so offered 1-2hours per week until July and then we could regroup. Within 3 weeks we had locked in two Fortune 100 companies, IBM and EY global as clients. It all felt so natural and we could see that each other’s strengths were complimenting each other effortlessly. At the beginning of July we commenced discussions about creating a new company Speakers Institute Corporate and going into business partnership. On October 1st 2020 we launched the new company and now have more than 30 people, from four different countries working for us. The growth has been quite staggering and going into 2021 we are developing a team that speaks Portuguese to work in Latin America and we continue to expand our client base.

Its important to me to give back and serve the communities that have supported me so well. As Vice-Chair of Speakers Tribe Global, I didn’t hesitate when I was asked to contribute a chapter to a co-authored book Make A Difference. The book became an Amazon #1 Best Selling Book. Asootosh Kkant and the team at Speakers Tribe India have produced three Amazon #1 best selling books in 2020, helping 62 people become best selling authors for the first time. They did it all without pay and all proceeds going to charities around the world. They are in the middle of producing two more books with the target of having more than 100 Speakers Tribe members reach Amazon Best Selling Author status.


My mum is like Mother Theresa to me. She has always served as a Nurse and been a huge contributor to non-for-profit community groups. She has always put everyone else’s interests first and I love my mum for that. Like Simon Sinek says, Leaders Eat Last, my mum serves other people first.

I put my own book Break The CEO Code on hold during 2020 to serve and support others who needed a helping hand. As someone who has always been a natural coach and thrives in environments where I am teaching and mentoring people, I spent a lot of time in 2020 on phone calls and zoom meetings checking in to see if people were ok and to help them find clarity, when their vision was blurred. It is extremely rewarding when you see people find their space, confidence and thrive rather than survive when the going gets tough.

I was initially due to finish working at Triathlon ACT in April, but for me, I knew it was important to ensure that the organization could sustain the next 2-3 years of restrictions and uncertainty before I finally finished in September. I sleep well at night, know that the sport is in safe hands.

I love facilitating and have had an amazing opportunity to facilitate and coach with Speakers Institute both online and on stage in 2020. During one of the programs in September I met Erwin Diaz from Qantas. He was speaking about Rage and Resolution. When he shared the challenges that he was facing along with 30,000 employees at Qantas Airlines, I felt it was my duty to support an industry that had supported me and my industries as an athlete and speaker for many years. Conversation with Sam Cawthorn led to offered our services being offered to support Qantas with 2 keynote speeches for all staff. What transpired was shutting down an airport and a museum, moving a Qantas airplane and arranging Sam to do the keynote in front of a Boeing 747-400.

#4 Be The Calming Influence

The feedback I receive from the people I work with, guests I interview on the active CEO Podcast and people I coach is that I make them feel comfortable and relaxed through my calming influence. I have had some great mentors in my life, but this trait definitely comes from my late Granddad Richards. Through your body language, tone and presence with people, you can make a profound shift in the emotions people feel.

Before we initiated the COACH 2020 VISION summit I commenced an 8-week free online webinar series called Endurance Coach Connect, providing a place for sport coaches around the world to stay connected, support each other and learn. The coaches opened up with me and shared their vulnerabilities. They felt comfortable in my presence to let go of the tension created by an uncertain world and a life they have always known.

For some reason, I knew it was important to reach out to people who were relatively quiet, when COVID hit, to ask the simple question, are you ok? For me I felt calm, comfortable and in my element when COVID hit, but many people where in a state of overwhelm, stress and bewilderment. Reaching out and saying hi was enough to help people find some clarity and focus their attention on things they could control.

Since I was 12 years old I have had opportunities to coach people in a sporting, business and other areas of life. I have always been good with problem solving, puzzles and seeing patterns when other people see a mess. What I have enjoyed most is through strategic questioning and providing belief, I have been able to help a number of people find clarity in 2020. Whether they are an Olympic coach, world Barista Champion, successful businessperson, sort after sports physio, super mum or CEO, I know my job as a High Performance Leadership Expert is to help talent become world class at what they do. My calming influence creates a safe psychological space where people can be vulnerable, allowing them to explore what they are 100% passionate about and really want in life.


Every year I watch people set New Years Resolutions, which many are in fact every day resolutions, and fail to fulfill them. My business partner, Sam and his wife Kate Cawthorn introduced me to “what is your word for the year?”. By focusing on one thing, it is much easier to stay connected to it and ensure that you make a positive behavioral change.

My word for 2020 was FOCUS. I have had a photo of an eye on my phone, which reminded me every day to focus my energy. What we know in the world is that we don’t have an ideas problem, we have a focus problem. What is the one intention of where you will focus your attention? Some people may look at my year and say where was your focus with so much happening? For me it’s absolutely clear, as I narrowed my focus to high performance leadership and ensuring every decision I made was based on whether it was high performance leadership or not. The interesting thing is that when you find clarity and focus on your vision, you begin to say NO rather than YES. It is what I was extremely good at as an athlete and I now have it embedded in my life purpose. My word for 2021 – PARTNERSHIPS – As you may have already seen, I got a head start on this one in 2020.

The easiest thing in the world to do is make something complex, the hardest thing in the world is to simplify something. Being selected to speak on the TENx stage in February gave me 150 hours of dedicated and specific focus on simplifying Break The CEO Code. When you can make something simple in life it removes the barriers from the consumers mind and therefore they understand it. The simpler something is, the more sophisticated it becomes in their minds. Simplification is Sophistication. This will be my next book and is a key focus of what I do in High Performance Leadership.

Having a supportive wife, best friend for life and calming influence in Julie, is what makes this all happen.

What are the top 5 lessons you learnt in 2020 that you can take forward into 2021 and beyond?


It’s All About Trust Link
Have We Got The Hiring Process Totally Wrong? Link
Are You Leading A High Performing Culture? Link
Are Leaders Born? Link
It’s Your Story Link
Be A Rookie Link


Craig Johns SPEAKER
Craig Johns BLOG
Return to HOME



Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

People Are Our Greatest Assets

By Craig Johns

There is nothing more beautiful than teaching and coaching people. The immense pride and enjoyment you get out of seeing someone grow is supported by the benefits you receive by teaching and coaching. You learn more about yourself, you tend to reflect on your own habits and routines, and you provide an opportunity to learn new ways of doing things.

“People learn the most when teaching others.”


As a CEO or leader you have a huge responsibility to not only prepare your people for their work, but also prepare them for life. More than just teaching skills, you have an obligation to teach them to find and understand their purpose. Once people understand their purpose, you then have to work with them to connect it with the purpose of the company and the work they are completing.

People Are Our Greatest Assets

People are the only sustainable thing in an organization or a team. The New Zealand All Black Rugby Team’s win-rate over the last 100 years is over 75 per cent. It’s a phenomenal record, and an achievement matched by no other elite team, in any code, around the globe. However, in 2004 the All Blacks weren’t in a great place with team culture issues, low morale, disjointed purpose and declining performance.

“Better people make better All Blacks – but they also make better doctors and lawyers, bankers and businessmen, fathers, brothers, and friends.”


The team management and senior players came together and decided that they needed a fresh culture, where individual character and personal leadership were emphasized. They developed a new mantra, ‘Better People Make Better All Blacks’. This resulted in a remarkable turnaround with the team achieving a win-rate of just over 90%, and two Rugby World Cup’s, since 2004. They literally ‘swept the sheds’ and turned the focus to ‘leaving the jersey in a better place’.

There is nothing more rewarding than teaching people to become better than ourselves. Many CEO’s and leaders are afraid of the people they work with becoming better skilled, better leaders and better people than they are. It’s all about ego, and they need to realize that way of thinking is hindering the progress of both the company and themselves. As a CEO and leader, you need to learn how to create a mindset where you are proud of people growing above you, rather than being afraid of it.

“Understanding this responsibility creates a compelling sense of higher purpose. It’s a good lesson for us all: if we play a bigger game, we play a more effective game.”


When people are buying a product, they are looking for an emotional connection, rather than a material connection. Your people are at the heart of creating the emotional connection the buyers crave. It is important that you create an environment where your people are passionate about selling an experience, a new way of doing something, a feeling or a dream. As they say, ‘people sell, not products’.

People Are Our Greatest Assets

People are more interested in the ‘why you are doing’ rather than ‘what you are doing’ when it comes to joining your community, purchasing a product or doing a deal with you. Why did the company begin, why does it act and interact in the way it does, and why do your people turn up every day? Your people need to be aligned in the collective purpose of the company, be passionate about the purpose, and live and breathe it every day.

“Give a man a fish; feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish; feed him for a lifetime.”


Enjoyment and happiness are the number one retention tools in the world. For people to enjoy their work and be happy in the workplace, they need positive relationships, purposeful work, opportunities to learn and grow, and have some ‘skin in the game’. Forget a tunnel-vision focus on the bottom line and profit aligned productivity, and begin focusing on creating an enjoyable and happy place, that people love turning up to every day.


Appreciation and recognition drive the human spirit. Confidence and self-esteem are some of the most vulnerable human characteristics. We often look for the negative things, those that aren’t going right and focus on them, rather than emphasizing the great things people are doing. If you are always focusing on the negative aspects of your companies or peoples work, you are not going to develop trust and the loyalty of your people.

“Tell me and I forget,
teach me and I will remember,
involve me and I will learn.”


Look at ways you can reward and recognize the efforts of your people, more often. This helps to build confidence and self-esteem, especially if you can create an environment where people feel appreciated for their work, while also learning how to improve in areas that need attention. Remember, without confidence it is impossible for people to perform at their best. Just watch a tennis tournament.

Your people are your greatest asset. Take the time to communicate with your people, listen to them, and ask questions that improve their understanding, and bring them closer to the purpose of the company and what they want to achieve in life. Find ways to reflect on how you interact with your people and seek new ways to communicate more effectively. You have a great responsibility!

“If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed;
If in terms of ten years, plant trees;
If in terms of 100 years, teach the people.”


Remember, people are our greatest assets.


It’s All About Trust Link
Have We Got The Hiring Process Totally Wrong? Link
Are You Leading A High Performing Culture? Link
Are Leaders Born? Link
It’s Your Story Link
Be A Rookie Link


Craig Johns SPEAKER
Craig Johns BLOG
Return to HOME

Be A rookie


By Craig Johns

Have you got a rookie or two? Imagine a workplace that is filled with employees and teams who are full of energy, enthusiasmcuriosity and an inner drive for gaining a competitive edge. Is that yours?

All businesses and organisations want innovation, creativity, productivity and forward progress. But, many leaders stifle their team member’s abilities through the processes, daily habits and environment they create. So how do you create a culture of curiosity, wonder, learning, creativity and inspiration?


In an ever changing world ‘it’s not what you know, it’s how quickly you can learn’. The more experienced you are as a leader and your team members are, the higher the likelihood of complacency, reduced productivity and a feeling of we already know how this business works.

Do you ever feel jealous when new employees join your organisation full of zest, inquisitiveness and desire to make an immediate difference?

The number one predictor of impact in a business or organisation, is productivity. As leaders we need to be continually ‘changing things up’, providing a culture of forward-thinking and inspiring creativity at all levels of the business or organisation.

Do you ever feel jealous when new employees join your organisation full of zest, inquisitiveness and desire to make an immediate difference? You wonder how they have so much energy, eagerness and why they ask so many questions, even challenging what is working well! You don’t have to wonder, you too can channel the energy of the Rookie!!!


Many leaders and managers feel frustrated with Rookies, more commonly known as new employees on their team, as the feel they are a short-term burden and at times a pest. They feel that the time it takes to train and invest in them is holding them back on current projects and immediate priorities. So, are leaders missing the point when we live in a constantly changing and evolving world?

I think so. If we take a look at people with experience, many tend to become stale and predictable, they stop seeing new possibilities and exploring new paths, and they are less likely to seek new perspectives. Due to habits performed over time, they tend to create several blind spots that hinder their growth as well as those they are leading or managing. (Wiseman, Unknown) It doesn’t have to be this way and there are a number of great examples of businesses and organisations, such as Apple, Google and Virgin, that are really effective at bringing out the Rookie in their team members.

“If we take a look at people with experience, many tend to become stale and predictable, they stop seeing new possibilities and exploring new paths, and they are less likely to seek new perspectives.”

Photo Credit: Kaye Asavathanachard

Before we go into some strategies to develop successful ‘Rookie culture’ businesses or organisations, let’s first understand what usual practices impede an innovative and creative environment. According to Wiseman (Unknown) excessive meetings, criticising ideas, rule overload, resisting change and punishing failure are common ways that leaders effect Rookie’s spirit and creativity.

  • Excessive meetings – stifle progress, discourage Rookies, limited time for brainstorming or new ideas, experienced push their agendas, Rookies not invited to share ideas
  • Criticising ideas – Rookies need time and space to try new ideas. Constant criticism will lead to Rookies becoming disillusioned and a loss of productivity
  • Rule overload – Rookies bring fresh ideas and rules will stifle and prevent new, creative ideas
  • Resisting change – resisting organisational change will show Rookies that ideas are either not welcome or aren’t good enough to succeed previous successes.
  • Punish failure – will lead to people operating in a safe place within the status quo.

As leaders we have to kick ‘mediocrity’ in the butt, and utilise the positive attributes of our Rookies and enhance our business or organisation culture, across the board.


Rookies tend to be more alert, move quicker and work smarter due to the significant knowledge or skills gap they face. They are primed for knowledge environments where change is occurring quickly, speed of tasks is crucial and innovation matters. However, according to Wiseman (2014) “they’re not well-suited for tasks that require technical mastery or where a single mistake is game-ending”.

Top performing Rookies are alert and seeking, cautious and fast, hungry and relentless, and unencumbered. On the reverse side, low performing Rookies feel invincible, have something to prove and can go into autopilot. When we compare this to experienced team members, the top performers simplify and clarify, they are agile and persistent, and are resourceful. Low performing experienced team members also feel invincible but are hindered by defending a reputation, questioning their own ability and are threatened by the new kids on the block. (Wiseman, 2014)

Photo Credit: TRIMag Asia

Leaders tend to underestimate the capabilities of Rookies and therefore delegate them mundane, easy and simple tasks when they first start in a role. Why not put their eagerness, energy and enthusiasm to play and allow them to make a difference right away? It provides a great opportunity to develop trust, build their self-esteem, feel part of the team and an opportunity to learn, whether they are successful or fail. They don’t necessarily need to be managed, “they need to be put in the game, pointed in the right direction, and given permission to play” (Wiseman, 2014).

Jon Gordon (Unknown) notes that “Rookies aren’t tainted by rejection, negative assumptions or past experiences. Rookies don’t focus on what everyone says is impossible”.  They tend to “put their head down, work hard, stay positive, live fearlessly and are naïve enough to be successful”. Rookies have a belief that anything is possible and there are no obstacles that are too difficult to navigate. “They bring an idealism, optimism and passion to their work”, and will proactively seek out knowledge, advice and support to make something happen.

They don’t necessarily need to be managed, “they need to be put in the game, pointed in the right direction, and given permission to play” (Wiseman, 2014).


How do we stop the cycle of mediocrity and complacency and bring out the Rookie in all team members, including you as a leader?

Kelley & Kelley (2012) believe that a leader’s job is not to teach our team members creativity, but to help them rediscover their creative confidence. As a child we have a “natural ability to come up with new ideas” and we aren’t afraid give them a go. Through age, our experiences and self consciousness can lead to falling into safe comfort zones as we develop fears that hinder our progress. A leader has the power to reinvigorate team members, and give them the confidence and courage to bring out their creative juices. Kelley and Kelley (2012) suggest leaders should develop strategies to assist team members to overcome four fears that hold most people back:

“fear of the messy unknown, fear of being judged, fear of the first step, and fear of losing control”.

Leaders need to nurture team members in a way that supports an environment of growth and thriving, while helping team members overcoming fears that inhibit them. We need to create ways to reward failure, not just success and reserve punishment only for inaction. As Thomas Sowell once said, “It is amazing how fast people learn when they are not insulated from the consequences of their decisions”.  Team members must understand that learning beats knowing every time, and that progress is a result of wonder and curiosity. Bill Gates believes, “success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose”. So let’s give our team members the permission to fail and to screw up, so we open their minds up to new ideas.

Liz Wiseman (2014) was her most creative and productive, not from having fresh ideas, but from having no ideas at all. She explains that “when you know nothing you’re forced to create something. When you’re a Rookie, you’re also a pioneer. You’re out there on the frontier without confidence, so you have to focus on the basics. You end up operating very lean”. If we look back to when we were a child we liked to have fun and ask all types of questions, including quite a few silly ones. Levitt and Dubner  (2014) identified that “kids are also relentlessly curious and relatively unbiased. Because they know so little, they don’t carry around the preconceptions that often stop people from seeing things as they are.”

Photo Credit: Sudanong Samantarat (Lek)

What should we do with those team members who spend every day talking and planning about what they are going to do but never do anything, or those are caught up in the ‘good old days’, complain about the way things are and are resistant to change? Should we ask them to leave, move them to a new department, demote them or even fire them? “Rookies don’t have experience. They don’t know about the way things were. They have no knowledge of the good ole days. Instead Rookies create their good ole days right now.” (Jon Gordon, Unknown)

As leaders we need to enable team members to use their experience to provide the business or organisation with expertise, and at the same time catalyse their Rookie mindsets to bring out optimism and passion in the work they do. Team members need to be inquisitive, utilise the knowledge of their networks, act cautiously but with speed, be hungry for results and relentless in the pursuit of new frontiers. We need to inspire our team members so they are pumped up for any opportunity, spread excitement across the business or organisation, have relentless pursuit and aren’t afraid of rejection or failure.

“As leaders we need to enable team members to use their experience to provide the business or organisation with expertise, and at the same time catalyse their Rookie mindsets to bring out optimism and passion in the work they do.”

It’s time to tap into your networks, forge new territory and generate fresh ideas. Let’s be willing to say ‘I don’t know’, ignore boundaries and ‘Bring out the Rookie‘ in you and your team members!


Gordon, J., (Unknown). Think Like a Rookie. link
Kelley, T., Kelley, D., (2012). Reclaim Your Creative Conscious. Harvard Business Review, Dec. 2012. link
Levitt, S.D., & Dubner, S.J., (2014). Think Like a Freak: Secrets of the Rogue Economist. Penguin, UK.
Wiseman, L., (Unknown). Rookie Smarts Research. Rookie Smarts. link
Wiseman, L., (2014). Why Your Team Needs Rookies. Harvard Business Review, Oct. 2014. link

Read More Articles

Art Of Communication – Change Series Part 4 Link
Achieving Successful Change – Changes Series Part 3 Link
Change Tantrums – Change Series Part 2 Link
Why Change? – Change Series Part 1 Link
I Make No Apologies This Is Me! Link
Leaders Are Hired To… Link

Learn More

Craig Johns SPEAKER
Craig Johns BLOG
Return to HOME