Jake Humphrey: ‘We mustn’t assume everyone else is happy – we all have struggles’
Jake Humphrey wasn’t born a high performer. In fact, he describes himself as a “Mr Normal” who never thought he was going to achieve his dreams.
Happily, he was wrong – Humphrey went on to become a successful TV presenter for the BBC and BT Sport, as well as hosting the hugely popular High Performance Podcast series, in which a string of famous guests, ranging from the Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey to England football manager Gareth Southgate, share the secrets of their own success.
“One of the key things about high performance is that people are not born as high performers,” says the 44-year-old presenter and father-of-two.
“I grew up in a small village in Norfolk, I was the son of a teacher and a charity worker, and the truth is I thought high performance was for other people – I thought other people had successful careers and achieved their dreams and did amazing things. I didn’t think that someone like me – Mr Normal at school – would ever amount to that.
“That’s the great thing about high performance, it’s the same for everyone,” he adds. “No matter what they’ve achieved, they started out not believing they were necessarily destined for great things.”
Humphrey is about to take the podcast, which he co-presents with organisational psychologist Professor Damian Hughes, on tour across the UK – and he’s hoping the secrets revealed on it will change people’s lives.
“It’s all about taking lessons from people who’ve achieved amazing things,” he explains. “So it’s not about being a billionaire or being a World Cup-winning footballer or an Oscar-winning actor, but we talk to all those people to find out what they do in their everyday lives that people like you and I can learn from.”
Humphrey says one of the big secrets of the high performers he’s spoken to is their optimism. “It’s their expectation that great things are going to happen,” he shares. “The lovely thing about that is everyone can learn from it – everyone can believe that the next meeting, the next opportunity, or the next job interview, could be the thing that changes their life.
“When you have an optimistic mindset and you believe opportunities are waiting for you, then you see those opportunities. If you have a negative mindset where you don’t believe good things ever happen to you, then that’s exactly what happens – those opportunities pass you by because you’re not expecting them, therefore you’re not open to them. I think that’s a really, really important lesson.
“The same opportunities pass by high performers as pass by everybody else, but they’re able to grasp them because they’re expecting them and therefore see them.”
So, what are Humphrey’s stand-out moments from his high-achieving guests?
He immediately recalls rugby star Jonny Wilkinson’s revelation about how long the thrill of winning the rugby World Cup in 1993 actually lasted.
“Another lesson from High Performance is that for people who’ve achieved amazing things, the thrill of achieving those things disappears in a fleeting moment,” he stresses. “Jonny Wilkinson spent 20 years trying to be the world’s best rugby player, and when he won the rugby World Cup, he told us that the thrill lasted for 30 seconds. So then we have to ask ourselves: is the climb worth the view? In that case, absolutely not.
“What we’re trying to say to people is, don’t be on this treadmill where you’re constantly striving, constantly pushing, constantly working, constantly attacking life for a given moment that’s going to bring you happiness. That moment never comes, therefore it’s the doing that has to be the thrilling part. Otherwise, you get to the end of your life and you look back and think, ‘I thought all of those moments were going to send me somewhere happy, and what I failed to realise was that those moments were the happiness’. This is the only moment you have – just enjoy it.”
Another important life lesson came from the movie star Matthew McConaughey, who’s a strong believer in the power of optimism.
“He was amazing,” declares Humphrey. “He spoke about an optimistic mindset, and said he kept a journal every single day – and when things were bad, instead of wondering why, he read his journal around periods when he was feeling good. And he looked at what he was doing, the lessons he was taking, the people he was hanging out with, and he was able to get himself back into that positive space.”
The podcast has also featured some serious mental health conversations, not least with world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury. “He told us he feels suicidal for weeks after his big fights,” reveals Humphrey. “It’s another good reminder that the people who join us on the podcast are no happier than you or I – in fact, in many cases, life is more of a struggle because being an elite individual isn’t easy.
“We mustn’t assume everyone else is happy and we’re not, and that’s a real challenge because in the modern world, all we see is perfection,” Humphrey reflects. “Every time you engage with someone on social media, you’re seeing great performances and winning moments, and we’re comparing our own lives to those highlights reels.But it’s really, really important that we understand they’re only highlights reels of other people’s lives – we don’t see their struggles or their challenges. All of us are just doing the best we can.”
Has what he’s learned on the podcast improved Humphrey’s best version of himself?
“Absolutely. Every single day, I wake up in the morning earlier and I decide the way I’m going to feel is entirely down to me. I’m a real advocate for the fact that my response to things is what matters, not the things that happen themselves. It’s definitely been enlightening for me personally, and definitely led to me living a happier life.”
These messages seem to have been passed on to his young children too – Humphrey proudly recounts how his daughter Florence reacted to a recent situation.
“I saw a note from my daughter about being disappointed with a couple of people in her class last week. She’s only nine, and she’d written at the bottom ‘PACE’ – positive attitude changes everything. How lovely is that, that at nine-years-old all of these conversations we keep having on the way to school or before bed or whatever, are clearly having an impact on her? It was something she made up herself – and she’s absolutely right.”
He turns to ask his wife, Harriet, what he’s brought into his own life from the podcasts, and she immediately says lifestyle factors.
“One of the big things is people wondering why they don’t feel great, but not thinking about the everyday things that are important for wellbeing,” he says. “You just need to make sure that each of your decisions is like a brilliant diamond decision – we’re talking about what to have for breakfast, how to speak to your partner and kids.”
High Performance Live starts touring theatres from February, and Humphrey says: “The single biggest thing I want people to leave with is the feeling that high performance is not only for them, but it’s already within them.”
Tickets for High Performance Live are available now (thehighperformancepodcast.com/live2023)