Like all of us, adventurer Ant Middleton has used the past year to learn, reflect and grow from his mistakes. He’s now flipped those mistakes on their head, and is using them to create a movement of positivity that, quite frankly, we could all benefit from.
“I can’t disclose where I am at the moment.” It’s exactly how I imagine all interviews with former Royal Marines start. Intrigue, mystery, and the smallest hint of a smug smile. The reality of the situation is somewhat less thrilling, and my remote interview with Ant Middleton is more a result of COVID-safe protocol than part of a top secret mission. It’s a way of life Middleton hasn’t accepted so readily, infamously taking to social media in March 2020 to encourage his 1.1million Instagram followers to “Get out there, don’t change. Fuck COVID-19!”.
Since then, a year of devastating loss of life and economic turmoil has ravaged the country Middleton calls home, and his take on the situation is much different. “I’m just appreciative of being out and about and being able to work,” says a humbled Middleton.
And work he has, spending the past year turning past mistakes into a signature brand of positivity. As centrepiece of surprise hit SAS Australia, host of celebrity fish-out-of-water specials Straight Talking, and the recently released book Zero Negativity, Middleton is uniquely positioned to offer advice on authentic, carefree and successful living. Most often through failure.
“I’m not scared to fail,” an appropriate flex from a man who tells me that his next goal is a trip into outer space. “I’ve failed up to now in my life, and I’m going to fail to the day I die. That is a fact. That’s part of who I am. That’s part of life. So I embrace it.”
Middleton is the next evolution of health philosopher, an elusive hybrid modern adventurer born from a history of military service and refusal to accept defeat. He has the infectious energy of Ross Edgely, spirited thirst for adventure of Bear Grylls and the endearing straight-talking attitude of Gordon Ramsay. However it’s his authenticity and willingness to “fuck up” that separates his from the rest of the adventure pack. He’s a man who owns up to his mistakes, learns from them, and moves forward, impeccably so.
Since leaving the Royal Marines in 2021, this attitude that has seen Middleton rise to the top of the self-help realm, and unlike his past life, this time his mission is simple; empower his followers to life a negativity-free life. Heed advice from this positivity guru and your results just may be, much like Middleton’s next adventure, out of this world.
ON FALLING SHORT
Failure is such great tool once you learn how to make it work for you. Failure is everyday part of life. Acknowledge first of all that it’s part of who you are. Once you do that, you start to make it work for you. You start to make it work to your advantage.
There’s not much that I won’t commit to because I know that once I commit, I’m going to learn. When I learn, I grow. When I grow, I become a better version of myself. I don’t get carried away with the final destination.
It takes years and years and years to master something. Just keep going. Unfortunately, people and society has drilled that into people. Especially with kids nowadays at school and there being no first and last place, and then there’s no competition. You’re not preparing them correctly for what life is all about. They’re regressing. I believe that when it comes to the way that we think, we’re going backwards at the moment, but hopefully the tables are turning.
Success is manmade. Failure is manmade. Happiness is manmade. You’ve got to be unique to who you are. We’re all different.
SKY’S THE LIMIT
Psychologically and physically, we are incredible, incredible beings. I’m fascinated by people. I’m fascinated by the way that we think, the way we function. So anything that can test me to the limits, I’ll always jump on board. We’re always trying to push the limits. I’ve climbed Mount Everest. I’ve sailed the roughest seas. I’ve done the hardest military training in the world. I’m intrigued on what’s out there.
We’re talking about firing me into space, and the training that has evolved around that and what’s up there. But I’m also really intrigued on what’s down on the depths of the ocean.
These are the two, I would say, medium term sort of crazy ideas that we’re really pushing at the moment is, see how far we can push our bodies both up there and down there. What’s amazing about that is we know more about what’s up there than we do what’s on the depth of the ocean. So there’s this pretty cool project that we’re folded at the moment, which will really help us to see what was down there and what actually exists on two, 3,000 meters down.
There’s no project that’s off the table with me and there’s not much that I won’t accept. There’s not much that I would say I’m scared of. Listen, when I get to certain heights, you can get scared of heights and I’m quite claustrophobic, but I fight through it because I believe in exposure. I always say exposure, exposure, repetition, repetition. That’s how you’re getting it. It doesn’t mean that you become fearless. It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to be scared every time you do something, but it’s exposing those emotions so you can understand them and repeating that process. When you repeat the process, you learn more about yourself each time you do that. So I’ve got quite a methodical way of dealing with things. But yeah, no, listen, I’m not fearless by any means.
YOU DO YOU
We all think differently. Me climbing Mount Everest might be the equivalent challenge as someone going into big crowds. That might be their success because they might suffer from social anxiety, and it’s their victory. Happiness for them might be just staying at home and having a nine to five and just getting through life, and then someone else’s happiness might be going out partying all the time, having a good time. So really it’s unique to the individual.
I would say, first of all when identifying goals, don’t follow the crowd. Yeah, you want to find a sense of belonging, but you will find your own people, and that’s just through the way that you think. Ultimately, it’s about being honest with yourself. The hardest thing to do in life is to be honest with yourself and be courageous enough to follow what you want, and not what other people want. We have a whole tendency of people-pleasing as well.
Everything starts with you. So be honest with yourself, because if you can be the best version of yourself, the happiest version of yourself, the most successful version of yourself within who you are, then that will beam out tenfold to your loved ones. Being the best version of you will give them a boost up the arse to be the best version of themselves as well. You can’t fake energy.
People might push you down the right corridor, but you have to open the right doors. People might guide you a certain way, but guess what? You have to tread that path. I say to people, take it step by step. And I say, if that step doesn’t feel right to you, or it doesn’t feel true to you, then don’t take it. That’s not the right direction for you to go in.
NO BAD DAYS
I don’t believe in bad days. I don’t believe in bad weeks. I believe in bad moments, and a bad day will be a consecutive encore bad moments, and to have that you must be having a pretty shitty day. We all have bad moments. I have bad moments, but I acknowledge what they are. I’m very honest with them. If it’s a negative situation, I tackle it with a positive mindset, I break everything down.
You can drag that moment out for as long as you want, but once you’re honest with it and you acknowledge it and you start to process it, it becomes a challenge to me. That negativity becomes a challenge for me to flip it into a positive. That doesn’t mean I’m always happy because I could spend days quiet. I’m still positive, but I’m not jumping around, and I’m churning away negativity. I’m churning away a situation. I’m churning away a moment.
If I spend too much time or it starts to affect my mood, then I’ll cut it away. My wife would say to me, “Ant, you’ve been a bit snappy” or I’ll acknowledge that within myself. And then I’ll just go, “I’ll deal with that later on”, and then I’ll go on to the next moment.
Health is a lifestyle. I’m never on a diet. I’m never on a training regime. As part of my day, I love to do cardio in the mornings and I love to maybe hit a circuit or some weights in the evening if I’ve got time to do that. I never structure my day for workouts, however what I do is I plan to work every single day of the week. That’s part of my life. I’ll wake up. If I start at five o’clock in the morning, I will actually get up at four o’clock, do half an hour cardio, or half an hour circuit wherever I am. I might be stuck in a hotel room. I might be out. I’ll always get half an hour in because that’s a huge part of my lifestyle. That’s a huge part of how I think and it’s a huge part of how I kickstart in my day.
If you don’t get it for too long, it starts to affect your mood. That’s when you know it’s become a lifestyle. That’s when you go, “Oh, wait, actually, this is part of my life. I need this in my life in order to function.”
When you wake up and the first thing you do is exercise, it sets you up for the day. It really prepares you for the day, and it’s the biggest chore to do. Some people go, “Ant, I’m getting up early. I do it at the end of the day.” And you’re leaving your biggest chore to do at the end of the day.
Work is a big enough chore. Are you sure you’re going to get back after a long day’s work and you’re going to go, “You know what? I’m going to go for this, too.” No. If you’ve got family and if you’ve got a partner, nine times out of 10, you’re just going to swipe that to one side. Make sure you get that done as soon as you can. Also, psychologically for me, I know that I’ve got my biggest chore done first of all, and everything else just fits into that. So that for psychologically the way that I think and the way that I process things and break things down, it really helps me go, “You know what? My day could only get better. I’ve done that. I’m set up for the day. I’ve got my health. I’ve got my happiness. I’ve got the endorphins flowing. I’m good to go.” And then boom, you attack your day with a positive outlook.
MIND OVER MUSCLE
We’re still caught up in this six pack obsessed image. Whether we like or not, we still like to think that that is the ultimate key to fitness. And if you chip away all that muscle, you take that six pack off, and then people crumble psychologically. So what I’d like is that we focus more on what I call the strongest muscle in the body; the mind. It’s one of those just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. It’s like mental health. If you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Yes, it does.
We don’t train the mind. We don’t see it, therefore we don’t train it. A lot of the fittest people out there, and I’m talking extreme fit, haven’t got six packs. They haven’t got bulging biceps. But these guys are strong mentally. They’re on another level.
You can be the fittest man in the world physically, but once the mind gives up, the rest of the body will follow. I’ve seen it in the Special Forces; if you put a seed of doubt in your head, you’re done. Where the other way round, you could not necessarily be the fittest, but when this says, keep going, keep going, keep going, you will venture into new territory.
You will venture into new capability. You will venture into new self-belief because this will keep you pushing through. So I’d like that balance to tip.
This article originally appeared in Men’s Health Australia, April 2021.