Freediving holds vital business lessons, writes Sue Green.
There are times in business when you have to take a deep breath and dive straight in. Ant Williams knows this well and he's had the perfect training.
Williams is an international freediving champion. He can hold his breath under water for eight minutes and in December, at Dean's Blue Hole in the Bahamas, a 202-metre sinkhole, dived to 100 metres in one breath.
With no scuba gear or breathing devices, it's a dangerous, extreme sport requiring physical and mental strength, courage and a willingness to take risks.
These are lessons New Zealand-born Williams, 42, previously a sports psychologist, realised could apply to business. As the head of the new Melbourne branch of Sydney-based business performance consultancy Maximus, he uses his personal lessons to help clients develop their companies and improve their bottom lines.
"It has taken me a long time to work out if there were any lessons [from freediving] and to try to describe or even teach those lessons to other people," Williams says.
"The lessons come under that bracket of self-awareness; freediving is a sport that requires a lot of mental strength."
Williams, who holds a psychology master's degree from Otago University, had been working with top athletes such as boxers and mountaineers. While working with a MotoGP team in the south of France he realised he had never experienced the danger and risk that was grist to his clients' mill.
"I thought, part of me feels like a fraud, here I am teaching all these tough athletes how to do their sport but I have never done it. I thought I would find a sport that has an element of danger to it and I will see whether I can apply the things I am teaching people." His aim: "To take on a risky sport and get to a degree of confidence."
He chose freediving because in the south of France it was that or bullfighting.
When Williams started freediving in 2001 he had never succeeded in a sport and no one in Australia or New Zealand knew much about freediving. Now, by contrast, both countries have highly seeded teams.
"The thing that attracts me to it most is it is about being able to go into the ocean and face some very primal fears, something basic around not being able to draw breath, the suffocating, going very deep - to experience those fears," he says.
When Williams began diving, risking decompression sickness, he could not get beyond 15 metres, he was so tense about being down there in the dark. Then came lessons he uses in his workshops for