mark knowles on success and high performance

Tips for success and high performance from an elite athlete

One of the world’s greatest hockey players, Mark Knowles, talks about what it takes to achieve sustainable, long-term success at the highest level.

Mark played Hockey for Australia for 15 years, captaining his country, winning an Olympic gold medal, a swag of Commonwealth Games medals, and a World Cup among a long list of accolades.

On the Get Invested podcast, Mark shared his key insights on what it takes to be the best, irrespective of what field you’re in.

Work hard:

“Something that’s allowed me to go to the next level and be a true high performance athlete is I absolutely love the hard work. I absolutely loved the discipline of training hard and living a lifestyle that would allow me to be an elite athlete. I absolutely loved doing extra training and I never really thought that wasn’t what was normal. I just thought that’s what you should do or that’s what most people would do if they want to play at the Olympics or play for their country or be the best player in the world.

“I saw my parents working hard every single day and I absolutely loved that part of being an elite athlete, the hard work and the dedication, the determination, the discipline required so that part I think has allowed me to be the person and be that athlete that I really wanted to be.”

Don’t settle for anything less than long-term success:

“I wanted to be there for a long time and I knew that I would have to continue to grow, continue to find ways to alter my performance and my game style and move with the times. I think moving with the times isn’t just hockey skills. That’s personality traits of different generations and different coaches and different styles and different countries. That part, I think it allowed me to stay in the game and have that longevity and that success for a period of time.

“(Before my first Olympics) I was buzzing and we got our Olympic uniforms and I was running around like crazy with my tracksuit and I was like, ‘Far out boys, look at this. I’ve got an Olympic tracksuit’. I was on the phone to mum and dad and the three leaders in the team came up to me just really quietly, not in front of anyone, not with a raised voice, just really calm in a corner and they said, ‘Hey, mate. That looks bloody good on you but we don’t play for the Australian men’s hockey team for the tracksuit. We play for the medal’, and it snapped my mentality around from just wanting to be there and be an Olympian to wanting to be a winner.”

Ask for help:

“I think the part that helped me most was I actually have never been afraid to ask for help. I’ve never been afraid really to ask silly questions and to lean on people. I guess that first six, seven, eight months of being out injured, it just gave me a chance to ask questions that probably people hadn’t asked before but it also I think earned me a lot of trust and earned me a lot of respect.”

Learning from failure:

“(After failing at the 2008 Olympics) I took it personally, what happened, how I didn’t perform, how my teammates didn’t perform. Things went wrong, lack of connections, and I honestly believe that we thought we were a little bit better than what we were, and it showcased to me that you have to be at your best in those big moments, and we weren’t.”

Maintain balance:

“That one moment shouldn’t be your whole life. Whether you win an Olympic gold medal or whether you lose an Olympic gold medal and win a bronze, that’s not what’s going to take you through your life. We’re working with athletes more and more now and I know it took me such a long time but we have to become Mark Knowles who plays hockey, not Mark Knowles the hockey player because if you are only an athlete or only a hockey player, in my instance, every single up and every single down will be far higher and far lower than they really need to be.

“I guess that’s an important part about relationships and working environment and balance in our lives and my kids. It took me a while but even at the end of my career I became a far better winner and a far better loser because I had so much more in my life.”


“It was all about doing more, doing extra, training harder. It was really that ‘lead from the front, show everyone how to do it and they’ll jump on the back of you’. I went through, I would say, a flat patch in my leadership where I probably was trying to do something different. I was trying to get away from that but I couldn’t. I couldn’t let go of the reins. I couldn’t let go of the power of leading from the front and showing and telling people what to do and that was a disappointing time for me because I knew that I wanted something else but I couldn’t let myself do it.

“Then there came the time where we had the disappointment in Rio in 2016 (Olympics) and I moved away from the national program and I knew that I wanted to do it and it became easier because I wasn’t there every day so I was technically letting it go by default, by not being in the national program. What I got out of that first six months of doing that was actually I liked myself far more as a leader and probably the team got more out of me as a leader as well. It wasn’t just a dull, plain message every day. My message had far more punch and vitality because I wasn’t just talking and doing everything every day.

“The best leaders that I see now or the best leadership when I was doing it at my peak performance of leadership was actually when I was doing less and empowering others to do more, to give them more license to be involved, to take charge of their own destiny, to not wait for someone else to tell them what to do, for them to take ownership of things that they were really passionate about.”

Listen to the full podcast here.

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