In conversation with Ollie Ollerton
We talk Mind, Mental Health and Spirituality – Mental Health Awareness Week 2019
Ollie’s military heritage is extensive. Joining the Commando’s at 18, he toured in both Northern Ireland and Iraq, after which he joined the SBS, (Special Boat Service) the water- based side of the SAS. Ollie was one of just 7 out of 250 to pass the course. After leaving the military he worked in Baghdad as a private security contractor before heading to Thailand where he was part of a three man team that infiltrated child trafficking rings.
Ollie stars in channel 4’s hit TV series SAS Who Dares Wins and is the co-founder of Break-Point - a company designed to help people exceed their expectations. His eponymous book ’Break Point’ is currently at no.2 in the Sunday Times best seller list. He lives in Sussex with his partner Laura.
‘Until you’re mentally prepared, you’re never physically ready.’ Ollie Ollerton
STIL: The SAS has always been so secretive, why now is it ok to ‘come out’ as it were, and does this compromise you?
OO: Yes, when you’re in you’ve got to keep it a secret. There is an inherent risk to what we have done. We are on watch lists. But we made that decision. Every time I open the front door I’m on guard, I’m on point all the time, but I’m relaxed in doing that. It’s important for me to use my SAS heritage to help others and to help veterans.
STIL: Let’s talk about the hugely popular TV series SAS Who Dares Wins; you’re about to start the 5th series. How much input do you have as regards format, trials and all that the contestants go through?
OO: We have no part in the selection process which is fantastic for us because we get to uncover who the contestants are as the show goes on. We do have input into the trials etc. The show is a powerful tool as it helps to deliver a message. It helps every veteran stand up and be proud for what they have done for their country. It gives them recognition.
STIL: How did your company Break-Point and SAS Who Dares Wins come to fruition and what does Break-Point offer?
OO: I am a great believer in visualization. When I got back from Iraq at age 43 I literally had nothing. I had a short spell in London chasing some bad Russians – my brother commented that I was like Bourne from that movie, only I was broke Bourne! (Ollie roars with laughter at this recollection.) As soon as I realized that your purpose and your happiness comes from within, I started to visualize what I wanted. I visualized Break-Point. It was my intention to have a company that would help people exceed their expectations. On leaving the military a big part of the trauma is loosing the comradery, that brotherhood, in a heart-beat. It’s massive. Most of our support staff at Break-Point are veterans. So, I spent two months visualizing, goal-setting, meditating. I drew myself a contract focusing on what I wanted to achieve. I believe in affirmations. State your intention. Where do I want to be in six months time? I did this every day. And at the point where my family were saying I needed to get a proper job and I was even beginning to doubt myself... I got a call from Foxy. Soon after that we were meeting the producers.
STIL: Many of our customers are health conscious, they work out, eat well etc. Are there some basic rules that we as women can follow re diet, fitness and a healthy mind?
OO: That’s just it, the first thing is the healthy mind. We have years of negative programing, we focus on image. I believe that through patching myself back together I have a good understanding of how we work as humans. You have to change the blue print. Our survival blue print only cares about food, sex and staying alive. Focus on the mind before you even think about the body. As soon as you get out of bed in the morning state your positive affirmations. Write yourself a contract, start changing that mindset. That’s Mental Wealth! For my mental stability and my moods I have to work out.
STIL: Amongst many things, Break-Point offers Online courses; in a nutshell, what do these consist of?
OO: They focuse on mind, body and nutrition. It’s about investing in you. People say I haven’t got time, I have to go to work, that IS work, that’s you! You have to keep the energy moving, we are 60% water, water stagnates. Break-Point takes people out of their comfort zones. Their thoughts and feelings become organic. The ego is left behind and people can see who they really are.
STIL: Why did you leave the military?
OO: I asked too many why’s...it didn’t meet my purpose. I achieved so much but was never settled or happy. It wasn’t my calling. People don’t understand how much we get from helping others. Thailand was an epiphany for me. That's the work I am most proud of - 1.6 million kids a year are sold into sex slavery, 22 kids in one raid was our most significant bust. But I don’t think my work is finished there.
STIL: Are you spiritual?
OO: Absolutely - 100 percent! I am not religious but I am certainly spiritual. Prayer for me is meditation. That is my way of praying. We are the universe. Everyone is focusing out there on what is going on. It’s not out there! Everyone has to look within. Spirituality is within, and me investing in myself is my religion. We must stop looking for the exernal fix.
STIL: Do you think we have a spirit? Or that we are energy? And what do you think happens when we die?
OO: I do think we are energy. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. When we die we carry on, our spirit carries on, our energy. Was there ever a start? Is there an end? This planet has been used time and time again.
STIL: Do you think we carry on here?
OO: I hope not because I’d like to go somewhere else! (More laughter)
STIL: Do you fear death?
OO: (Ollie pauses here) I fear an abrupt death but not a natural one. I still feel that I’ve got a lot to do so it would be more of an annoyance, an inconvenience! (Laughter!)
STIL: You put great value on having a plan. ‘Without a plan you become part of someone else’s,’ you said in 2016. What if you can’t think of a plan? And why are you so fond of the ‘F’ word?!
OO: Everyone must have a plan. You should never rely on emotions for anything. That's why the military is so good, it relies on plans and process…. We as humans need a purpose. A plan and a process is the only way to achieve anything. A plan defines a purpose. The ‘F’ word; without failure there is no success. We learn so much from failure. Failure enables us milestones of growth.
STIL: Do you believe in destiny?
OO: I believe that opportunities are lined up, we create our own destiny depending on which opportunities we choose to take. Everyone goes forward, I’m always looking to the left and the right. Don’t follow footprints, carve your own path. Everyone has an amazing gift. Everyone.
STIL: Do you still suffer from PTSD?
OO: No. I had it before I joined the army, I was attacked by a chimpanzee when I was 10. And after I left the military, I had a lot of problems. For me I had to give up alcohol. As soon as I took away the alcohol lot’s of problems disappeared.
STIL: There is an apparent long-term epidemic of suicides among veterans – the UK military does not keep records, however military charities say they are not coping with the demand for mental health support. In 2018, 58 veterans took their own lives. You may leave the army suffering from PTSD or similar mental disorders or it may kick-in years later. What more do you think could be done to help veterans?
OO: The military have started putting things into play but it’s too little too late. It’s a catch 22...as soon as they admit to the military being the problem they’ll have lawsuits all over the place. Until you go to the source you can’t eliminate the problem. The Chimp attack changed me as a person. If someone hasn’t had a lot of life experience or hardship they don’t have any mental resilience. There is no benchmark for PTSD and it’s not owned by the military.
STIL: One in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in their lives in the UK. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to build and improve their mental health?
OO: I think everyone, regardless of where you’re from, what you’ve done, will at some point have a mental health issue. We are so focused on the external image, we don’t focus on the mind until there’s a problem, but that’s the most important thing. Mindfulness for me creates clarity. I’ve always been positive. Positivity has helped me in some very bad situations. Meditation doesn’t have to be sitting on the floor with a candle, it can be sat on a train with your eyes closed. Focus attention at an intention, get rid of all the mind chatter. 70000 thoughts go through our minds every day. And breathe properly, this allows clarity to come back.
STIL: What will it take for people to see mental illness in the same light as physical illness?
OO: It’s always going to be hard as we are driven by image, by physical, material objects. A lot more awareness, a lot more people talking about mental health. Men need to open up and talk more. We must all be aware that regardless of who we are we will almost certainly have mental health issues at some stage in our lives.
STIL: You have talked of difficult or traumatic obstacles in life. If you haven’t had military training, or hardship, and you come up against a difficult obstacle in your path – a major relationship breakdown or bereavement - how does one cope?
OO: There are never obstacles in the path, the obstacles ARE the path. The path is never clear and straight. People hit an obstacle and say, ‘it didn’t work for me’ - it didn’t work because you didn’t keep going! Nothing great is ever achieved from something you didn’t at least doubt for a moment.
STIL: Was writing your book cathartic?
OO: It opened a lot of old wounds but you have to open wounds to address them. You should never turn your back on these things. You have to acknowledge them, accept them, appreciate them and move on. But the purpose of the book is not for me. I want to use my experience to help others. My heritage is my credibility.
STIL: What do you do to relax? (Somehow this seems like a silly question)
OO: Skydiving! ( It was – Ollie laughs again!) And I do enjoy walking in the hills with my dog, getting into nature.
STIL: Do you read? What is your all-time favorite book?
OO: Not much, I find it hard to concentrate. But I actually do believe that in buying a book you absorb it! (Ollie roars with laughter here!) Yes, I have a favorite book, Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. That book was a turning point for me. Also the Chimp Paradox which I feel more qualified to write than him! (Laughter). When you read a book it leaves a print. I’m careful what I read. What I read must be an investment in me.
STIL: Favorite Food?
OO: Asian soups, vegetables and plants. I find meat bland and tasteless.
STIL: Favorite music?
OO: I like tribal continuous beats. Anjunadeep. Sade’s good, the Sweetest Taboo (it’s playing in the background).
STIL: What does the future hold? You have had a hugely successful military career, you are enjoying huge success now with the TV series and Break-Point. Your book ‘Break Point' is no.2 in the Sunday Times book list this week. What’s your plan?
OO: To create a globally identified brand, recognized for positive growth and the development of others. We are going to franchise it all over the world. The Academy at Break-Point; we take vets, put them on a course, train them, and wherever possible give them a job within the academy. Foxy and I also have an exciting project in the pipeline - a chain of gyms.
An ordinary boy who turned into an extraordinary man. Ollie is engaging, enthusiastic, charismatic and inspiring. He'd feature well on your ideal dinner party guest list. Ollie has enough mind-blowing tales to last a lifetime and he likes to laugh, a lot! One of the most Alpha men in the world - he adores his mother, cries at movies and has made it his mission to encourage others to find their Break Point to become stronger individuals.
SAS Who Dares Wins series 5 starts later this year. Break Point is available in our Books section.
In Memory of David James Wright
'All men are created equal, then some become Paratroopers.'