How Paul Taylor is helping Aussies learn the lost art of resilience

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Paul Taylor is a neuroscientist, exercise psychologist and nutritionist and former British Navy Aircrew officer devoted to teaching resilience.

Through his MindBodyBrain Performance Institute, he works to help people develop the resilience he learnt through his roles as an airborne anti-submarine warfare officer, helicopter search-and-rescue crew member with the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, and rigorous combat survival and resistance-to-interrogation training.

He is a firm believer in the Stoic philosophies of accepting fate and circumstances and using them to decide how to be the best you can be.

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How did your Stoic resilience help through the lockdowns?

This was the thing early for me in the pandemic, being reminded of the Stoic philosophy and that whole idea of you playing your given roles well. Focusing on things you can't control is a complete waste of energy. Zone in on your control. The key thing is to focus on what you can control and refuse to waste energy of what you can't control.

Can you attribute your resilience to your upbringing?

My mother was Irish Catholic and my dad was Protestant. I was brought up as Irish Catholic in a Protestant neighbourhood. Recently I was presenting a resilience talk to a large organisation, and a question came in from a Spanish psychologist who had moved here a year ago. She was surprised at the low levels of resilience in Australia.

We had a discussion, and without wanting to seem critical - this is an amazing country and the lifestyle is awesome - I often describe it as a bubble country.

There have been so many years of prosperity, we were not affected by the GFC. My kids are growing up in a bubble in a bubble in a bubble. A core part of resilience has to be earned. It's about adaptation to stress. When you're brought up in an environment relatively stress-free it doesn't do any good. It's like the idea of "that which does not kills us makes us stronger".

Why is resilience such an important trait right now?

It has been shown that people who score high on resilience suffer less from workplace burnout.

During the first lockdown there was nothing - my business disappeared, there was phone call after phone call and email after email cancelling everything. I ended up running some free courses during the first lockdown.

In the second lockdown I got heaps of requests for resilience [training]. Doesn't matter what industry, people are wanting to run resilience [courses] in all different industries - banking, insurance, military, not-for-profits. People who react best in the training are the people who are interested in the science and basically interested in self-improvement, either for themselves or for their children - a lot can be used with kids as well.

What was your first job?

Paper boy in Belfast. My first proper job was in the military. I had part-time jobs at uni and then travelled for a year and worked in the US and Australia. I was backpacking around in India and I saw these guys who had been backpacking for years and years and I realised one day that it wasn't a sustainable long-term thing and I felt they were missing some discipline.

I had a personality that needed discipline and I wanted to do something exciting and challenge myself and the military was the obvious answer. I joined the British Navy Air Crew.

What's the best money advice you've ever received?

When I was a kid, being told by my parents to save at least 20% of my pocket money. As an adult it was to go and see a financial adviser, who really got us thinking about long term planning and all the necessary insurances and stuff like that. It was really, really useful.

What's the best investment decision you've made?

Some shares I've bought have multiplied by a factor of five. But my best investment decision would have to be investing in my own business. I started my first business in 2005 when I left the military because I decided after the military I never wanted to work for anyone again, to be told what to do again, how to dress. I'd done my time and I'd had enough.

What's the worst investment decision you've made?

I bought shares in a company that produced a golf cart that followed people around. The company disintegrated but there are now rival companies out there producing them.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?

Champagne - there's not many Irishmen that would say champagne - and good food. There's always some excuse to have some bubbles.

If you had $10,000 where would you invest it?

Right now I'm very worried about investments - I don't like the global picture looming in the next six months. I'd probably sit on the $10,000 for the next six months.

What would you do if you only had $50 left in the bank?

I would actually sit down and work out a plan of how I was going to sort my life out.

Do you intend to leave an inheritance?

I do. I intend to leave something for my kids and grandkids to give them a leg up but not too early. I want them to be able to earn their own money first.

Would you like to see any changes in the way people look at money post-COVID?

I would, and we have done some stuff. I would like to look at where I'm spending my money and see if it is really necessary.

People should reevaluate the things they buy. I think COVID has been useful for that. It was a necessity for us as all speaking gigs dried up but it's been really liberating for us and we just thought there was stuff we were spending money on that we couldn't see the point.

We are going to spend more money on holidays with the kids, buy less material stuff and spend more money on experiences.

Finish this sentence: Money makes...

Circumstances don't make the man they only reveal him to himself and money makes an enabler of both the good and bad in people.

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Julia Newbould is the managing editor of Money magazine and is one of the hosts of the Friends With Money podcast. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.