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Gaining a Competitive Edge with Noel Carroll

Jul 17, 2022

Noel is the Coach of Yuki Tsunoda who is a driver for Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team. Previously, Noel was a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Arsenal FC.


Today Noel speaks to us about his coaching expertise and how that applies to high performance not only in sports, but in life.


Noel tells us all about how he got into sports and high performance, and managed to develop a skillset that now allows him to travel the world and coach the best of the best.


Noel also started an epic YouTube channel with a friend to discuss different aspects of high performance, and how he took a passion project and turned it into a job with Adidas! 

My Key take aways from this episode were:

1. Work the process, year after year. When you work the process, opportunities tend to present themselves. Do not try to reinvent the wheel. Make sure your process is proven and then work it, year after year. What is your process, and is it working for you?

 

2. If you keep doing what you're doing, you're always going to get the same results. If you're currently getting great results, then that's fantastic! If you're not, you have to change. You have to ask yourself "Am I hiring the right people for the right roles?", "Am I developing the leaders around me?", "Is my team functioning well?". Think about what you're doing and make adjustments accordingly. 

 

3. Reflecting on your performance is of uttermost importance. Make sure you are debriefing after events, and then take a day off and come back for another debrief. Focus on what you are running towards, not what you are running away from. 

 

 

Full Transcription

 

SPEAKERS 

Noel Carrol, James Laughlin 

 

James Laughlin 00:00 

Welcome to lead on purpose. I'm James Laughlin, former seven-time world champion musician, and now an executive coach to global leaders and high performers. In every episode, I bring you an inspiring leader or expert to help you lead your life and business on purpose. Thanks for taking the time to connect today and investing in yourself. Enjoy the show. 

 

James Laughlin 00:39 

What's it like to be the coach for a Formula One driver? Well today, we're so incredibly lucky to connect with the one and only Noel Carrol. Noel is the coach for Yuki Tsunoda from Scuderia Alphatauri F1 team. And today we chat about his role, how he approaches it, and how it applies to not an only high-performance sports, but in the boardroom and in life. He shared so many incredible insights. So, sit back and enjoy the show. 

 

James Laughlin 01:25 

Noel, a massive welcome to The Lead on Purpose Podcast. 

 

Noel Carrol 01:31 

Thanks, James, absolute pleasure to finally catch up with you. 

 

James Laughlin 01:34 

I'm excited to connect. I know you're a very busy guy, you're flying all over the world. And it's very high performance-focused, obviously, with Formula One. So, I'm honored and privileged to get a moment of your time to talk about how you operate and what you add at that high-performance level. But before we get there, let's talk about where your interest in sport and high performance actually began. 

 

Noel Carrol 01:59 

I think that probably like most people, sport is around us in many different ways, whether it's at school or in the house, excuse me. As I grew up my dad was a runner, his dad had been a runner, but dad played every sport going. And it wasn't until I was older, that I realized, actually, the dad and granddad were pretty successful in Ireland in GA sports. And you kind of just do whatever is available when you're young. So, we were really encouraged to go outside and play and kick the ball and throw whatever. And my parents never really sort of pushed us down one line. And I grew up wanting to be a vet. So, it couldn't be any further from sport, really. And probably as I went through secondary school, I was helping volunteer with a group making sports events happen and was working as a lifeguard at the time. And maybe wasn't studying as hard as I should be. Now I felt like I was studying hard. But the exams didn't really come off. And it was pretty obvious that I wasn't going to be a vet. So, my dreams of being James Herriot were dashed. And I think the school sort of careers guy said, you're into sport, and you've done all the sciences, you should do sports science. And I'll be honest, I had no idea what that even was, like, sports science, maybe when I was at school, was a developing field, but it wasn't something that I was aware of. Anyway, I wasn't good enough to get into the sports science course, because my grades really were that bad. So, I did sports material science at Birmingham, and I was going to make running shoes. And that was, that's what I thought. I mean, I was a runner, I was on the athletics team, and I wanted to take my passion and this kind of engineering that we did and go into running shoe design. But that didn't quite work out. Because it's never quite a straight path is it. And I ended up working in a bar and doing a lot of athletics and a lot of triathlons and the two just didn't marry up being on your feet, working late hours, surrounded by rich food and booze, and then trying to go out and be competitive. I ended up changing a personal trainer, I went to a David Lloyd was asked called Next Generation back then, and then it became a David Lloyd. And I knew I didn't want to stay there. I wanted to get into high performance. And I sat down one day, I printed off a bunch of job applications for the sorts of jobs I thought I wanted. And then I went and looked at who had those jobs and got their CVs wherever I can get things or work out where they've been. And I literally had like two documents, one of what these people did what they were asking for, and then I have my CV and I went well I haven't got any of that. And I just started to fill in the blanks. So, I needed to get some academic qualifications. So, I went back and did a Master's. I needed to get experience, so, I got internships. And when I'm working on paid, I went and got industry qualifications. So, there are technical qualifications that sat alongside the academic ones. And I think probably for a period of two and a half years, I worked much harder than I thought I ever could, without realizing it, because it was probably driven by passion. And with the support of people around me, they allowed me to do that they gave me sort of a safety net to fall back in. And so, or put some dinner into me or just made sure that I had a bed to sleep on that night. And you probably got lost along the way you didn't, although it wasn't, it didn't happen overnight. And I looked back, and I probably couldn't do it again, I don't know if I have the energy anymore. But yeah, that's how I started off and I was at a David Lloyd. And one of the guys when are we know someone who helps out at Leicester Tigers, you should just speak to him and chatting to this guy and turns out Leicester Tigers as a rugby club in the UK, who at the time, I think were top to the prem and the year or two before I've been Heineken Cup champions. So, it was huge. And they had satellite centers around the UK, where they coached young up-and-coming rugby players from about 12 or 13 to 15, 16, and 17. 

 

Noel Carrol 06:35 

And there was one based in Norfolk, I was living in Cambridge at the time, Norfolk is right out on the coast, where this one was, we'd go out there, and we help them, we put on physical literacy sessions is what they were called. And that's a fancy name for helping people move better. And the real thing behind it was that Tigers wanted their potential Academy graduates to arrive with rugby skills and rugby knowledge, but ready to train in the gym. And one of the biggest problems that you have, when you want to train people in the gym, is they can't move correctly. And you can't load a dysfunction or a bad technique. Because as you know, that's the best way to injure yourself. So, we were charged with training these young players to get them into the best possible movement patterns so that when they arrived at the academy, they get into training and not miss a beat. And that's what we did. And Tigers rewarded us with some kit, which when you were not getting paid like you love the kit who doesn't? And we could go out there once a month and they'd put on a CPD afternoon. And we'd sit in one of the classrooms or we'd go in the gym and there'd be a topic. And one of their S&C coaches would lead it And we get all this knowledge. And you could then take that back. And I've stayed in touch with one of the coaches from there ever since. And that's probably 14 or 15 years ago. And it's been really sort of, I mean, I wouldn't go so far as to say, well, yeah, no, it probably is life-changing. He sorts of mentored me in a way that he probably doesn't even realize. But it got me on that path. And that's, that's where it all started. 

 

James Laughlin 08:24 

Amazing. Absolutely phenomenal. And from that, to know, sitting in Monaco, as we speak, what were the other steppingstones that got you to F1? 

 

Noel Carrol 08:35 

So, in Tigers' environment was a really hard one. very working-class area very, like a principle-driven club. You know, if you fill up your car with fuel near the training ground and you had your top on, people will come up to you and say great job, keep it up. They didn't know what I was doing nothing, right? But they will come and say thank you for your work. You know, that was an amazing thing. But in the club, there was this thing that if you didn't do your job, you knew exactly who the person was below you. So, if you didn't train hard enough, the number two is going to take your spot-on Saturday. And if the number two is not up to it, the number three is going to take it and it was on you. And it was fierce it was such a tough environment. I can remember just on my first day, I could tell stories about probably getting in trouble. On my first day things that just were just not what it was just it was terrifying. I was fresh, ah, you know, fresh-faced going into it. And actually, it's how they built this culture. And it wasn't one of fear or anything like that. It was just you working hard. And one day so I was going in there for this afternoon training sessions and learning once a month, one of the head coaches sat at the back of the room and He said, if any of you are still here in this room in a year's time, you're wasting your life. Oh, that's about how it made me feel a bit uncomfortable. But he was absolutely right. And the next day, I either rang him or one of the other guys and I said, I want the internship with the squad. Don't want this one out in Norfolk anymore, I want to come to the training ground. And they said, well, we've actually been promised it to somebody else. And we're not going to go back on our promise. But we've got one with the academy. So, I took it. And I work in the mornings, the local health club, I teach a spin class, or I take a whatever, personal training clients work till lunch, then I drive up there, and they give me a bit of lunch. And then I spend the afternoon working with the Academy. And I do that sort of four days a week. And I quickly realized, that even though it's where I wanted to be a wasn't getting the exposure I wanted. And there were actually five interns. And you're going, oh, not really getting the exposure that I wanted. And a job came up at London Welsh. Now Leicester Tigers were top two in the prem. Leicester Tigers had just been promoted from the championship. And it was expected that they might not really stay up. So, in English rugby, one team, every year goes up on one team, every year goes down. These guys have come up. And they were advertising for two interns. And I'm thinking I might just trade another internship for another internship. But anyway, I went through the interview process. And on my first day, there were two staff and two interns. At tigers, there were five interns. And I found myself in a position which somebody had told me when I left Leicester's they said If you don't find yourself, thinking you're sort of treading water or swallowing water once a day, for the first six months, you've made the wrong decision. And I can promise you, I was so far out of my depth. It must have been obvious to the senior players. But I had to do everything and it was brilliant. You know, we had to take warmups before games on the pitch, we'd be responsible for training the substitutes, preparing the kit van, whatever it was, we had to do it. And at Christmas, halfway through the year, we'd had a points total, I want to say we thought if we had 20 points, we'd stay up. We're 25. And we weren't, maybe we weren't bottom.  

 

Noel Carrol 12:42 

Then, unfortunately, somebody within the club made some mistakes, which I'm sure they regret deeply. And the League took a bunch of points off of us and find us. And it condemned the club to be relegated, we'd be very difficult to come back from that. And the team basically said, there'll be no job for you guys next year. And they told us early and they said if you want to apply for advertise jobs will fully support you. And if you get something you can go, we won't make you stay the whole year, which was a really good thing. But looking back now, what I didn't realize is those guys probably were worried about their own futures as well and they were paid. So, I applied for a lot of jobs. I kept a spreadsheet because I needed to keep track of how many jobs I'd applied for and where each application was. And I applied for 44 jobs. And number 41 replied back and said we'd like to invite you for an interview and 42 and 43, which was really weird. So, I had three interviews lined up. One was for a big rugby college, which would have been an S&C Coach, a strength and conditioning coach working with a young athlete. Number two was for a like a funded Ph.D. So, you'd work in research for the university, and you could explore something in your area and get a Ph.D. And number three was for Arsenal Football Club to go and work with their nine-year-olds. And I didn't interview for the college, I interviewed for the academic realize is not for me. And they realized I wasn't for them. And then I went to Arsenal. And it was for an internship, but it was paid this time. And actually, in the interview. I won't tell you how much it was when they told me how much money was on the table. I just went did you say this, or do you say this? And it wasn't the bigger one. But I took it. They offered it to me, and I went in working with the nine-year-old. And very quickly somebody within the staff left and within about a month they moved me into the staff rather than as an intern because they felt at that time, they felt that I had the experience and I'd done internships and what they'd seen in that time was good enough. So, they gave me a start. And then, pretty much every year, I just worked, the process worked as hard as I could, and the next little job would come up, so you get a bit more responsibility. And I moved from the nines and year old's to working with the 13, 14, and 15. And then an opportunity to come to go and work with 18U. So now you've gone from working with little Billy to guys who are just starting to become household names in the fan's circles, maybe they've made a Europa League appearance, or they've come on in a home game. And then I work with the under 23, or what a lot of people will call the reserve team for the rest of my days. 

 

James Laughlin 15:48 

Amazing. I mean, what an experience when you think that anybody in your position would give the left arm to work in that environment. It's incredible. And I'm sure the experience you've learned there in that environment and brought over to F1 has just been incredible. 

 

Noel Carrol 16:04 

I think that the first thing is that I am not an athlete. I'm not even a failed athlete, because I didn't get that far. And a lot of people who do my job have been athletes and come back. But no one's driven an F1 car. I mean, the number of people that have driven an F1 car is minuscule. So, I can't tell you what it feels like. If you are an F1 driver, you can tell me. And what that means is that I have to rely on all the prior learning and all the mistakes that I've made along the way to help you be a better driver. Of course, you could have come up through junior formulas, I could have worked in F4 to F3. Whatever, Porsche racing DTM motocross, there are hundreds of series that you could have worked in, but I didn't. And when I got my start, I was actually in the hotel I'm in now for an interview in Monaco with another driver. I don't really know why I got the job. I basically put across in the two days I spent with him, that I said, if you just keep doing what you're doing, you just get the same results. And I've come from a completely different background, I came from athletics and triathlon, into rugby, into soccer. Now I'm looking to go into something else, I can bring you new ideas and new ways of approaching problems. And I'd like to think that that's kind of one of the bits that resonated with him. And that's how I got the job. 

 

James Laughlin 17:38 

Incredible. I mean, I love what you just said. And it's like all of that prior learning and experience makes you a better coach because a great coach and a strategist help the client. And doesn't matter what kind of client it is, whether it's an athlete, whether it's a high performer, whether it's a CEO, you help your clients see their blind spots, and we can't see our own blind spots, because well, they're blind spots. And when you've got such a varied background, with all these layers of compounding experience, you get to see a totally different picture for that individual. So, I think that's just a massive strength in your toolbox. 

 

Noel Carrol 18:16 

When I first started working with Daniil Kvyat, he was the first F1 Driver, I worked with his coach that was handing over the role was a guy called Steve Smith, who lives in Australia, and has worked in motorsport for many years, and is widely regarded as an excellent psychologist and excellent coach. And one of the things that you told me is that the F1 environment is not one where you can easily communicate with the driver, because they're strapped into a car, you've got these big headphones on everything is super noisy, and their field of vision is really small. You can't impact a change at the moment, in the same way, that a coach could shout from a sideline, do this, you know, even then that's limited, but at least they can talk in a way to their players. So, what Stuart has said is that you will develop a set of observational skills and kind of like monitoring an environment that you've never had before. So, you come from the arsenal, we have 22 players in the squad, I was directly responsible for 11 of those 10 of those. And you knew those guys, you knew who was breaking up with their girlfriend you knew who was moving house, you know, who actually got pulled over by the police for speeding overnight. And all those little bits that are going on in their lives, but they only let you see a bit. When you're in the garage and when you're on the road and we're on the road. One of the other guys told me the other day it's about 240 days out of the year. So, I see my driver more than I see my wife and he sees me more than he sees anybody else. And it's kind of like a relationship, we have moments where we clash and moments where we get on like a house on fire. But we're driving towards the thing. And along the way, we have to share certain things to be able to see what's going on. And I feel like one of the other performance coaches with who we all sort of chat and share ideas within the realms of what we can, he once said that we're the eyes and ears of the driver. And it's like you said that the blind spots we're not aware of, you know, there are things that you can do to improve your own blind spots. But when you're young, especially, you key my current driver is just turned 22. With the best will in the world, when I was 22, I didn't know what I didn't know. And probably was a very difficult person around them to be around, let alone with the external pressure of driving an F1 car in the world's media, and we tried out a bit of dinner last night at the hotel, and three people come up to you for your photo. And he's not even one of the big names, not yet by a long stretch. So yeah, we're the eyes and ears, I think for the drivers, and you try and pull them up when it's appropriate on things that they're doing badly. And I don't mean in terms, I'm not telling you to turn three, you're a bit slow in turn three mates. I mean, when you next time, don't speak to them like that. Yeah, and you might get more back, or, you know, when this happened, we could have reacted better. At or same time, what you did there was bang on, let's have more of that, please. So, in the other part of our role, I realize I'm probably talking a lot to you. Our role is we're like a conduit to the driver. So, in the car, when he's driving, only one person ever speaks to him. So, if you've ever watched a race, each team is a little bit different. But our team has we call it like a radio discipline, which I think is even like a military term. But there's a certain way of speaking on the radio. So, we use certain phrases, not for code or anything like that. But so that there's continuity, so the communication is constant. But it's only one voice in when he's out of the car. People obviously can talk to him in conversation, right? That's not the sort of deity that no one can speak to. The team doesn't want to bother him with stuff. So, they'll come to me and go, are parents coming this weekend? How are we going to get their tickets to them? 

 

Noel Carrol 22:48 

We need to get this TV crew we want to do an interview. Can you get the rental car back to wherever all these things that need to be asked to the driver then come to you? And then you have to decide what you ask him? What do you not? And what do you make decisions on his behalf? And in a way, what we're doing is trying to remove layers of stress, and free up his mind to allow him to focus on the task at hand. Because I'm sure we can all relate in our daily lives. We're focusing on a task; it could be a deadline at work. It could be cutting the grass, whatever it is, and then this thing had I done that? Oh, you don't want that when you're spinning around 200 miles an hour. 

 

James Laughlin 23:33 

Yeah, absolutely. And when you look at a corporate sense, I guess that's like having a really powerful EA, someone who can really go for every aspect of what you do. Obviously, it's your role is different than that, but someone that's there for you on the field, and off-field. And that's really what's powerful. So, looking at, say the physical side of it. So how do you feel physical strength can impact mental capability? 

 

Noel Carrol 23:59 

The simplest way that I can explain this is, that if any of you have ever felt fit or strong, you know the difference. And you get up in the morning and you go, this is all just a bit easier, right? And that actually doesn't even happen. You could be training in the gym that I go to near my house. There are some people in there that are phenomenally fit and phenomenally strong. And then our athletes, their parents, and they have jobs, and that's how they look after themselves. And the first thing I would say is most of us have a pension, right? And investments and savings. What are you investing in yourself? Because now modern medicine will probably keep us alive much longer than we're supposed to live. But that's fine, that's great. But what if you can't then enjoy that time because you're broken down or beat up there's a great thing I read recently and it's a stat that comes out every now and then our life expectancy is directly proportional to our ability to get off the floor. All right, that's not how much can you bench press? Or how fast can you run a half marathon? We will live longer if we can get up off the floor. So, dial that back if you can't get out of the car easily or if you can't go upstairs. So, the question you asked is about f1. And I'll definitely come back to that. But if your daily life is hard to do the hard thing, sorry, to do easy things like go upstairs. And I get that people have injuries and limitations and things, but we can always impact those, you know, we've rehabilitated footballers to come back from a career ending injuries that 10 years ago, they would, they probably would never play again, or and walk for the rest of their life with a pretty distinct limb. But we can all take steps. So, an F1 car is like being in a sauna because of the heat. So that's the first thing we need to remember. So, if you get cold in winter, you put a hat on, and we lose most of our heat through our heads. So, we put a hat on. So, let's put a balaclava that's fireproof or fire-resistant, I should say. And then a massive helmet on top of that, we are now you can't use any heat out of the top of your head. We're going to put a layer of underwear on made from again, from fire-resistant clothing, we're going to put long socks on because they're fire-resistant too, then we're going to put this big thick overall. And I'm going to zip that up. And then we're going to put gloves on. And another place where we lose temperature is with blood vessels are close to the skin. So, we lose a lot of heat through and around our wrists. This is why if you want to call yourself down on a hot day, a nice place to put something cold is there or against your neck. Well, we can't put things on a driver there. Because that's all sealed off. So, we get thermal stress. And one of the things that happen when you're trying to lose heat, and you're overheating as you raise your heart rate. And so, your body is going to beat a little bit faster to try and overcome this. But there's nowhere for the heat to go. And then you're sat on top of a massive engine. And I promise you because I have to stand next to the car when it stops, that is just pumping out hot air everywhere it. Then we go to hot places. So, in Spain last week, the air was 33 degrees, and the track is 45 degrees temperature. And what you may not be aware of is that when you follow another car, so if you're racing directly behind someone, you just get the hot air out of their car and come straight over the driver. If it's a street circuit like Miami, the barriers are really close. And it makes like this cocoon effect of heat just radiates him of course we go to places where he chucks it down with rain. But the main thing is that if we can then make him fitter that thermal stress is mitigated slightly. To drive a car, they experienced huge GeForce, so you turn into a corner, or you brake. And then you have up to or possibly a bit more than 5g acting on your head at any one time. To put that into layman's terms, we train with between 30 and 40 kilograms hanging off the side of his head. Wow. The next time you go to the airport, flying around Europe, most bags you're allowed 23 kilos of luggage will double that and you're getting close to what these guys put through their necks. Yeah, it's, I mean, even when I'm doing it, I've kind of got my heart and my mouth. I'm going to wash we are it's a bit heavy that and he's going is it good? 

 

Noel Carrol 28:57 

Is it good? And you're going Yeah, it's fine. Just do another one. But it is it's this is the point of the sport. Sport is extreme, isn't it? You know, it's not that being an elite marathon runner is probably not a healthy way to live long-term, but that's what they do to drive that sport. And then the rest of it. Honestly, for an F1 driver, I feel that there are many other coaches that will do many other ways. It needs to be a generalist. So, we do a lot of cycling for our aerobic base. And for our anaerobic intervals. We train in the gym; we bias the training towards the driving muscles which will be the upper back and neck shoulders. But then the rest of it is the squats; he lunges he pushes he pulls, and we train the core. I would argue that just about the best personal trainers will do that in a gym. We're not doing anything new. Then we do we play squash in the hotel if we want a recovery day. In Europe paddle is huge. We love playing paddle because you can play with four people, it's a great way to play with the engineers. And we might play with some other people in the team, and we swim, we do sauna, you know, we're not doing. Honestly, I think people will be surprised. There's nothing unusual about what we're doing. We do fundamental things, but we do them really well. 

 

James Laughlin 30:19 

And that's the difference. I feel like in any high-performance field, the top 1%, are literally doing everything the same as most others, but they're doing it incredibly well and very deliberately. So, your role obviously, is dynamic. And it's not just a role of doing one specific thing, you have a very rounded role and such a huge impact on Yuki and on the team. So, when you look at that, who else works with you? So, as we mentioned before we went live about psychologists and so forth. So, who else is part of that critical team that interconnects with you to make Yuki's life much more focused on his job at hand? 

 

Noel Carrol 31:01 

Yeah, it's an excellent question. Because in any role in any world that successful there is a multidisciplinary team. That's what we always call that in sport. I don't know what they call it in the business world, I'm afraid. But it could be your leadership team, it could be the team that you work with on a fire engine, you know, that's each of you has got a role in that group. So, the first thing to realize is that I am definitely not alone, although I spend the majority of my time on my own. And I unfortunately just appear to be the public face, because I'm the person standing next to him holding the umbrella. But I am supported by a lot of people. So, we have a psychologist who's excellent. And during COVID times, his role changed a lot, he would have come to a lot of races doesn't just work with us, he works with other drivers and with other athletes. But I tell him what I see I drop him a lot of voice notes on WhatsApp, this is what I saw today. This is what I liked this, what didn't like, this is the change I want to affect. And then he'll come back with. This is how I would go about that in a psychologist's way because he has that skill. But then we will also do so tomorrow morning, we're going to do a review session with him of the previous race. And we're going to do future planning, all in the same thing. And we do it as a three. And people might find that odd. In the traditional sense. I was thinking of The Sopranos. And James, soprano, would go to his psychologist, and he sits there on the couch, and she would sit there and listen to him. There are only two people in the room. In many ways, this is a little bit like marriage counseling, I guess it's the three of us. So, the driver will speak, this is what I see, this is what I feel. And he will open up in those sessions and probably more than you open up to me. And I'll go, huh, then later, then I'll say what I think. And he might also go, oh, yeah, I didn't know that. And then our psychologist ties that together and we make a plan. And we go forward with that. With that plan, I will take that to the engineer, the race engineer. And he'll go this week, we're going to really target high-speed corners, and improving our long-run efficiency, whatever it is, they're the things he's going to work on. I go, okay, this week we're working on I don't know, minimizing distractions, staying on plan, and there might be a third thing, we generally would not have more than three twos, the luxury. There are probably 10 things you could work on, but we don't overload it. And then the engineer does this because he has a huge component in this role, he can then go right, this is where we're trying to get the guy to. And we'll use a common language. So, my language from the psychologist, I will use his words and give those words to the engineer, we're all on the same page. There's this to me as like a manager at a company saying this is our strategy. And we're all going to work in the same direction to the same goal. And we're all on the same page. Because if he says one thing, and I say another psychologist says another, who does the driver listen to? Then the wider scope there are far more engineers and specialists than you or I can even imagine, and I see it every day. And every now and then someone pops up and they go, this is so and so he does this like I didn't even know that that thing existed. But there is a crucial component to making the car work. And he might pop up from time to time and say this is it. Our strategists who design the race strategy, will speak to the driver and go, this is what I'm thinking of doing. And he can feedback and go, right. The problem with that strategy I feel is this and then they make another plan and then they come back to him. We have sports nutritionists that are based in Austria, so we're part of the Red Bull family, we make use of the Red Bull Athlete Performance Center, which is a phenomenal place. They're very private in what they do. They don't allow any media in, they don't have an Instagram, and they don't talk a lot about what they do. But it's a really special place. And again, they have some incredibly clever people, but they just worked really well together. And we have a sports scientist whose part of that group, he's actually based in America. And I have some super conversations, again, about things that I don't understand that he can tell me about. And then I take the bits of that from an academic standpoint and drip-feed that into what we do. 

 

Noel Carrol 35:46 

Then the next sort of thing that we have to be very aware of in the sport is that the driver's time is not just about performance, but it's about promoting the team. Running an F1 car is eyewateringly expensive. So, we have to bring sponsors in. And that means that our media team and our press team are always working on ways to get the name out there and satisfy the sponsors. Because if you've plugged a bunch of money into the car, and you believe in that you want to return on it, and one of the things that we do is we give them time with the drivers. Our press officer works with me to say we've got these requests for interviews for their good times or bad times for them. We decided maybe there might be some that we think aren't quite worth the time at the moment, we'll put those onto a non-race week. Monaco this week is bonkers. It is one of the craziest race weeks of the year. And it's fascinating for that, but there are demands a huge so we're trying to work out those. And then there's a wider circle, you know, there's the chef, the chef cooks for all the team. But we can request some special things and I'll go, I've sent him yesterday, our meal requests for this week and the meal timings will work with him. But also, the driver Yuki is mad at his food. There's actually a really famous interview at the moment going around, he probably hates me for saying this. But they interviewed all the F1 drivers. And they said what do you want to be? And 19 said World Champion, and Yuki said I want to own a restaurant. And he's made into food. So of course, I want to be an F1 champion too, but I want to own a restaurant. So, I really liked that he's got that bigger thing going on as well. F1 doesn't define him. It is what he's doing now. But there's more coming. And here he'll tap into the chef. And then the list goes on and on. But our immediate group would be probably me, the psychologists, the engineer, and the press team. 

 

James Laughlin 37:51 

It's incredible what an operation and you know, often people can think of F1 as a very individual activity, but it is when you're out there and you're doing your thing. But actually, there's a huge team around you. It's very much a team sport in that respect. It's incredible what you guys do. Now, I love to chat about failure for a minute. And often, you know, we like to talk about our successes. But actually, you know, our greatest success usually follows many, many failures. So, when you have failed, or the team F1 Team has failed and had a bad day at the office. How do you guys unpack that and then move forward in a really powerful way? 

 

Noel Carrol 38:31 

Yeah, I think failure is very raw emotion. And we all experience it in different ways. Having come from football, where they play, probably two games a week minimum, to F1, where we race almost every second week when we're in season. The biggest thing with our failure is it's public. And that really hurts. That's the difference. Like when we have a bad game on the football team, I would drive to work. You didn't wear your uniform to work for a start. But that's another reason because I lived in part of London that wasn't supported by my team. But people asked will they'll come up to you and tell you what they think. And that's quite in your face. Like that's not normal. But the press then gets on to you. And then the social media-loving people on there like to say nice things about you because they can from the comfort of their own house not knowing anything. Immediately following a race. Within two hours. We've already done our first debrief as a team. And that is a technical debrief in the sense of what was good about the car and what was bad about the car. Ah, what was wrong was that, for example, we had a race recently. And in our first stint in the race, there was a problem that no one knew about. And we didn't actually know about it till the week after. And sometimes that helps explain it. The learning from that problem is that we will never make that mistake again. An example I can probably talk about is in my first season in Silverstone, Daniil had a massive crash a really big crash and a very, very fast part of the circuit. And on the steering wheel, if you've ever seen one, there are loads of knobs and buttons. And honestly, it's like solving a Rubik's Cube while you're going around in the car. And he crashed. And the first thing he did after this crash, he came on the radio, they said, are you okay? He said I'm so sorry. And everyone's like, why are you sorry? Like, don't worry, it was a horror, it was heartbreaking to hear it like because you're emotionally involved and professionally involved. And he said, afterward, he was I was changing a setting on the wheel, the steering wheel, and I looked down for a microsecond and the next thing I know, we're into the wall, it turns out that actually, the back wheel had punctured. But he didn't know. And he didn't have that information. And the reason that that will puncture was because of a very unusual thing that had happened, we had set the car up in a way. And this one-off thing happened, and it made the wheel puncture. The team for the next race, when this will never happen again, and now on our cars, we will run this thing. And that's how you deal with it is in the moment, it hurts, I would say that you allow a period of time where you debrief about it as the debriefs are very emotionally felt, but they're not delivered like that you try and deliver the feedback without emotion, because that's where your bias has come in. And you can only say what you can say at the moment. They're done in a very safe environment; everybody gets their turn to speak. You don't speak over other people, you let them bring their information. And then we go away, and we think about it. And then you probably have a day without anything. And then we come back and do a further debrief. And it's the learnings are what do we want to do? What do we not want to do? And we've, I feel there are two types of goals running away from and running towards. Only one of those is going to be successful, and it's the running towards. So, we're going to focus on what we're going to do better, and we look to the future of how we do it. You know, there's all those cliche sayings, you know, if you just keep doing the same thing and expecting the same outcome, you're going to get failures just going to smack you in the face every time, isn't it? 

 

Noel Carrol 42:48 

But sometimes it is really hard, you know when you're on a path, and a lot of people are criticizing you to have to shut out that external noise. And I can feel what I'm talking about it I can feel my body language is changing. Like, that's how it really gets to you. And you have to find ways yourself that you cope with it. But you can't let it cloud. That will be the big thing because we are on the go. It can be we can for argument's sake Saturday's qualifying day, we could crash on Saturday morning, heaven forbid that we do. But we've got to qualify in the afternoon. Like three hours later, four hours later, we can't be worrying about what's gone wrong there. We can talk about it afterward. But we have to get on with the next task. And plans always change. So, we can have a plan we can have a structure. But in the back of our minds, we have to then rely on our professional abilities and the driver's professional ability to get us out of those situations if we need to. 

 

James Laughlin 43:47 

It's really, really interesting. And I'm thinking about you for a second because you're the coach, and I get I understand what that can be like, and you take a lot on. And then you've got this public challenge of media and social media. So, who do you go to for support for psychological support? Emotional support? Do you have a coach? Do you have someone that is a mentor or an advisor? 

 

Noel Carrol 44:15 

It's not meant to be again a cliche but probably my wife you know, she's the closest person to me all the time you speak all the time. Obviously, I'm not necessarily at home, which can be annoying. But um, yeah, she knows what's going on, and probably the mask slips a bit then when you're at home, you let it out more, and I can be grumpy something or other when it's normally because my head is somewhere else. But she's great at just bringing me back down to earth to make me realize that and again, I probably get in trouble for saying this but we're just driving a car in circles repeatedly. But there are more important things that are going on. And again, failure isn't what defines you. And I'll be honest, I've been caught out with this question twice in two weeks now. Once was on another podcast for a friend of mine. And he asked, how do you deal with the pressure? And it really got me I went, oh, how do I deal with the pressure? And then last week, we had the rebel performance staff come out. And they were talking to us about different things and their head of psychology, and how do you deal with the pressure? And I spent so much time thinking about him, and the driver and looking after him? And then yeah, making sure my family is okay. And we pay the bills and all this sort of stuff. And then you do go, am I okay? And I have, I wouldn't say that I know what all my blind spots are, because that's because they are blind spots. But I have little internal things that I got, oh, something's not right. And I used to work with some Dutch coaches. And they would always rub their stomach and go, does not feel good in here. And I have no idea what they were talking about. I kind of get it now. And I know when I'm a little bit lost, and I have to bring it back. And the way that I cope in a personal sense is I get the distance. So, you remove yourself from the environment. So, we had we raised in Barcelona, on a Sunday night, I flew home with a massive five-hour delay. And I spent 27 hours in England, and then I flew back to France. Now I could have stayed with the team and traveled directly to Monaco. And the travel was pretty grim. But I got some space. And by getting space, I get perspective. And I deliberately, although maybe the driver doesn't realize this, sent him some instructions on WhatsApp as a text message. And then I didn't speak to him. He was off doing media engagements and was well looked after and had everything you needed. But he doesn't need to speak to me at that time. And I don't need to speak to him. And he could go away, and I go away, and then we can come back. We had dinner last night in Monaco, we'd go chat about what I've been up to. And that's the first thing is getting away from it. And when I'm home, we have a dog and I love, love it to bits and I leave the phone at home and go on a dog walk. Sounds so basic. I see a lot of dog walkers on their phones while they're having their dog walk. It really bugs me. But we live in a sort of countryside, I guess that's even a village in this field. And we just walk around the fields, and you look at the trees. And it's lambing season at the moment. So, all the lambs out and to know just energizes you, and you get away from it. And then yeah, there are people I speak to. So, I speak to our psychologist, I tell him how I'm feeling. And it's not direct like, he's counseling me. But I can just let it out into that team. And it's, it's just like letting the pressure valve off. You just let the whatever it is that comes out and it comes out. The next thing is that I look after myself as much as I possibly can. Again, I will caveat that because I'm not a saint. And if at the right time, there are a few beers to be had, I'll go and have a few beers, because that's good for me. And I'm not going to beat myself up about it. Go and sit downstairs in the hotel and have a beer with one of the engineers. Brilliant. We'll chat about something that's not about the car. I'm not going to be like, that's ruined me. But at the same time, exercise for me is a big thing. When I was at university, and I was running a lot, my housemates would say, if I wasn't on good form, if you've been for a run today. They can tell if I hadn't had my exercise if I could dose but just to do something like that. And for me, exercise can be a little bit meditative. You're concentrating on your breathing; you're doing one task. And I think that that's a really interesting like, way to look at it. 

 

Noel Carrol 49:13 

Meditation doesn't have to be sitting in a slightly dim room listening to a tape or headspace in that sense. And I use definitely do predominant use it for sleep. But find something for yourself that really matters and take yourself out of your normal environment and be in that moment, wherever that moment is just be in it. 

 

James Laughlin 49:37 

Incredible advice. And again, as you say, It's the simple things that you just become aware of, and you actually take action on. It's incredible. And being in the F1 environment, obviously, you've got proximity to so many high achievers, the drivers, the teams, and psychologists. How do you feel that that proximity to these people impacts your mindset and your ambitions in life? 

 

Noel Carrol 50:01 

Yeah, it's a double-edged sword. The first thing that I would say to anybody about anything is if you want to get better at what you're doing surround yourself with people that are better than you. And that's true in every walk of life. The top pulls the bottom up, right? But the bottom pulls the bottom down. And these people in the middle, and most of us, let's be honest, are in the middle, I am definitely in the middle. I'm not great, I'm not bad. But I'm in the middle. There are people in my life that I know, drag me down. And if they're listening to this, I'll be surprised. But they'll probably have noticed that I'm removing them. Just slowly, not directly, not confrontationally. But we're just phasing you out. And I'm spending more time with those people that can help me and challenge me in a constructive way. And that's the first thing I do in the F1 environment, if you look at what everyone else is doing, it is terrifying. Because everyone is doing something different. Why the hell as you do it? What's that? Once you go over there? Is it making the car go faster? Does the driver feel better? Is he fitter? Is he stronger? Every Tom Dick and Harry is trying to sell me a new performance tool. You would not believe the messages that I get about this new product that NASA, by the way, uses everything NASA use with their astronauts. Do they? But everyone's selling me one. How do I tune out what's good and what's bad? And I do, there are certain people I trust, and I go to within an F1 team, your closest rival is your teammate, which is a very unusual world to be in. But technically they've got the same car. So, they have the same equipment. So, they're knocking lumps out of you, you're not performing. If it's the other way around, you're on top of the world. And in our garage, that's PA Ghastly, and his coach Perry has been in this game way longer than I have. And period I can bounce ideas off of each other in a safe way that we're not compromising the service we're giving to our athletes. But we're going to have you come across this person who's selling this art, yet you know what? He's a bit of a snake or watches him. Or they go Yeah, do you know what I use that for a season that was bang on and it helps us in this way. And that's great. And the same way we can feedback on that. So, you find people that you trust and go to from that sense. But then you have to make your own decisions, you have to there has to be a line in the sand and you have to stand for it. And I'm going to share some stuff from my younger days. When I did my master's, Anthony Turner was the I think it's Dr. Anthony Turner now, he was my head lecturer. And there were a few things that he said, the first thing he said is the best coaches are thieves. I stole that same from him. So that must make me a great coach. But he's right. Because you see stuff and you go, I'm going to nick a bit of that. And you do and you have, I'll have a bit of that. The next thing he said is that he's very academic, but he also is a practitioner is never believed in anything too much. And there are fallacies to be had in everything. But there are positives. Because there is not one singing-dancing sleep tracker, I use one. There are hundreds out on the market. And the number of times that I go to places and debugger, I use that one. That's what's wrong with it. I'm aware of its limitations, but I take the good bits. And lastly, and again, I'll have to find a nice way to say this for your audience. But one of my very first kinds of like mentoring coaches during my internship at London Welsh. He used to sort of go, if it smells too good to be true, probably isn't. It was a little cruder than that. But he's banging on. And fads will come and go and, you know, it comes back for me it comes back to doing the fundamentals well. And yeah, learn where we can learn. But don't be put off your course you're there for a reason. And you sure as hell should back yourself to do that job. 

 

James Laughlin 54:27 

That's amazing. Noel, what you've shared has been phenomenal. And what I love about what you've shared, it's timeless, and also that it's applicable across so many different industries and fields. And clearly, that's why you are where you are at the very top. That's incredible. So, two last questions before we wrap up. One question is this is the week of a major race for you guys. What's your MVP this week your personal or your you with you and Yuki What's your most valued priority? What's the one thing that you guys are like let's do this, this week? 

 

Noel Carrol 55:06 

There is there's a caveat to this. But the number one thing is to work the process. And the caveat to that is that if we work the process, the outcome takes care of itself. Now, one of my favorite all-time books is The Score Takes Care of Itself, by Bill Walsh, it's just brilliant. I would recommend anybody go and read it. But he's banging on and what you said is that, if we do the jobs, right, this bit, which is the outcome will take care of itself. And if we focus on the outcome, and try to get to that, we'll probably miss it. And so that's going to be our big thing is, if I do all my small things, like getting the menu to the chef on time, right, that all sounds so mundane. But if it's late, I'm on the backfoot. And I'm chasing my tail trying to get to the next bit, you know, in, in this week, if the driver has not prepared properly, with watching the onboard camera footage from previous year's races from last year's race, or the documents that will be sent out, this is how we're going to set up for our first session. If he rolls into the garbage on Friday morning and goes, what we're doing today, lads. It's done, isn't it? So, we do the small things, and the small things ramp up in intensity, and they ramp up in complexity to get to that big goal. So that's our MVP, work the process. 

 

James Laughlin 56:36 

Amazing. I love it. And the last question for you is there. So, we'll fast forward many, many years, you're on your last day here on Earth, and someone very much loved and someone that's very much younger, it could be a child or a grandchild. They say, Hey Noel, you know, if I was to live the rest of my life and lead it with absolute purpose, what advice would you have for me? 

 

Noel Carrol 57:01 

Probably much of what we've said already. And for me, that comes down to being present in what you're doing. I fear that there are so many distractions in our lives these days. And we could all try and do many, many things. But reduce your distractions to stay on the course, don't, you know completely put the blinkers on the open to outside influence. And you might go down the path, it's not quite what you want it to be where you thought you'd end up in this many years. But it's to- I promise you is to be in that moment. Because if you are in that moment, you will pick up on the important things that are important to you, that will help you to progress. Because if we're distracted, they'll pass us by, and they're already in the rearview mirror. And what I would really say is that anything that you're doing comes from that our engagements with other people should be present, we should speak to that person directly, and hear what they've got to say because I can learn from everybody. And it doesn't matter what they're doing in life, but they can bring me something. And it might be a bad thing they're doing, and I learned not to do it. But if I am engaged with them, I know whether or not I want to take that thing. If it's something that can improve me, I'm definitely going to hang on to it. But if I'm not present in that moment, and I'm not really listening to what's going on or feeling that vibe at that time. It's too late. That learning moment that opportunity has passed me by and that's what I think that again, we talked about failure, in our failure comes to our biggest learnings but also at the same time let's celebrate our small wins and you know, not pat ourselves on the back necessarily but be proud of what we've done and let it guide us but yeah, that's my that will be my thoughts. 

 

James Laughlin 58:54 

Such great advice. Noel, I just want to say a massive, massive thank you for taking the time and I want to wish you, Yuki, and the entire team all the best for the weekend. I hope it's a great success for you guys. 

 

Noel Carrol 59:06 

Thank you so much, James. Honestly, an absolute pleasure. I've really enjoyed finding out about your podcasts I've tapped into a few of them and already started to in the back of my brain. It's flicked on conversations and made me challenge how I've approached situations. So, I love it. So please keep doing what you're doing. And yeah, look forward to the next one. 

 

James Laughlin 59:26 

Thanks a million, and I look forward to talking soon. 

 

Noel Carrol 59:29 

No problem. Thank you.  

 

James Laughlin 

Cheers! 

 

James Laughlin 59:50 

Thanks for tuning in today and investing in your own personal leadership. Please hit that subscribe button. And I'd love it if you'd leave me a rating and review. I've got some amazing guests lined up for you in the coming weeks. And leaders. It's that time to get out there and lead your life on purpose.