To start with, Jake, tell us how you got into the world of Formula 1…
I grew up in a small village in Norfolk. My parents were brilliant: my dad was a charity worker, my mum was a teacher and I would describe my upbringing as really normal. You know, mum and dad wanted us to go to school, do A-levels, hopefully get into uni, then get a job and that would be perfect. But I would look at high-achieving individuals who were living their dreams, doing amazing things, and think either there was a secret I didn’t know about or that things had kind of been pre-determined – I would have my life and they would have theirs.
Then, through a series of failures, I ended up working in Formula 1. I failed my A-levels and had to do retakes. The first day I went back to school, there was a TV channel looking for people to go and talk about politics on a TV show. I went along and, having just been fired from my job at McDonald’s, I asked them about work experience. That’s how I got a job in TV. Working in Formula 1, I had a chance to speak to those high achievers I’d never spoken to before – drivers, billionaires, circuit promoters, CEOs – and ask them why they were where they were and I was where I was. Amazingly, they all had similar stories to me: normal upbringing, failures along the way, but they had resilience. Resilience, I learnt, is key to living a successful life, but the biggest revelation for me was that there was no secret. And I really wanted to share that insight.
Which is why you started the High Performance podcast?
Exactly. In my Formula 1 days I was learning a lot: the people I spoke to talked about being passionate, but they also spoke about how action leads to motivation. You don’t just wake up in the morning and think, ‘I’m really motivated to make a success of my life.’ The action comes first and that leads to the motivation. Unfortunately, a lot of us spend too long waiting to feel motivated before we do something. I got the F1 job at 28, though, then I stepped across to BT Sport and was fully engaged trying to help make a success of a brand-new channel. To be honest, though, at that point I was too nervous and anxious to share the things I’d learnt about becoming a high performer. I think a lot of people don’t quite have the confidence to be truly themselves in their 20s and 30s. But I’m 43 now, I really believe in this stuff – and I’ve learnt that there’s never going to be a perfect moment for anything. So I didn’t want to wait around any longer and started the podcast.
And now the podcast has become a book?
When I started, I had a fear that people would look at the podcast and go, ‘Why the hell is this guy who used to present Bamzooki on children’s TV trying to tell me about high performance?’ So I invited Professor Damian Hughes to be part of it. He specialises in high-performing cultures and I knew he’d bring instant credibility. With him on board, the podcast just went off the scale – 300,000 downloads a week, more than a million a month, and messages from people saying it had changed their lives. The book is everything we’ve learnt doing the podcast so far and I genuinely believe it can get people closer to happiness – because we have the evidence of people telling us every day that they’re happier than ever after listening to High Performance. And that means the world.