Ascending Your Own Personal Everest

by Mike Burge, Best Year Yet® UK Partner

I’m a Best Year Yet® Partner. I’m an executive coach. I run programmes for senior teams in a range of organisations, as well as coaching private clients.  These people have significant breakthrough results, which they acknowledge as being unthinkable before we worked together.

I’ve been a key member of an organisation that won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade in the UK.   Prior to this I had a highly successful career in international book publishing. You can read all about it in my biography below. I don’t write this in any way to brag. I share it within a context.

You see I also have multiple sclerosis. As someone who played sport and exercised both actively and with unparalleled joy, when the spectre of a future without that fun and fulfilment loomed – and the resultant loss of friendships from not being able to pursue those passions any more – I went through the traditional grieving cycle of shock, denial, anger, uncertainty . . .

I should say that I’m lucky. I’m still able to walk short distances, drive a car, and I do some exercise. I do my best to look after myself. And yet there’s a gaping hole in my life where that physical adrenalin rush used to be.

I don’t proactively share my situation with new people, as I can sometimes get away with people thinking I’m recovering from some injury. Once they accept I’m someone who is normal in all other ways and has a significant amount to offer professionally, I may tell them. Everyone I do tell says it is not an issue, though I’m not sure this would have been the case with some had I told them when we first met. One never knows.

So why am I sharing this with you?  Because I want to tell you the incredible difference that Best Year Yet made to me.  Here’s my story.

Last year my MS worsened. It’s an illness that doctors can manage, but not cure in the traditional sense. So when I was making my Annual Plan, I made one of my Guidelines “Look after my body.”  As a fit and healthy 28 year old, I’d swum 200 lengths in 80 minutes. We’re not talking Michael Phelps here, but I was proud of that achievement and I remembered it as I was writing my goals. I set one to swim a minimum of 200 lengths of The Old Rectory pool without stopping by December 15th.

When I started swimming again, even swimming 20 lengths felt a challenge. I was embarrassed getting out of the pool with my wobbly legs. It’s not good for your ego when genuinely concerned people 15 – 20 years older than you, ask if you needed help getting up the stairs to the changing room.

I started a regime of extensive stretching every morning, and slowly I started building up my strength and stamina. A major milestone was reached when I swam 100 lengths non-stop. The walk up the stairs to the changing rooms after that achievement was a personal Everest for me.

By November I plateaued at 120 lengths. Then I really connected with my plan. Not only had my Guideline of looking after my body now become part of my DNA, but also my Paradigm of ‘I do what I know needs doing’ connected with a deeper part of me one evening in early December.

I got to the gym, changed, did my warm up and started swimming. Fatigue and the early signs of cramp started to make themselves known. Then the lesson of ‘Manage Your Thoughts and Feelings’ became a guardian to me. I reached 180 lengths and said to myself, “Don’t stop. Be in the moment”.  When I reached 190, I somehow knew I’d achieve my goal. Whereas before the MS, it had taken me 80 minutes, this time, it had taken me 2 hours.

Strangely there was no dramatic elation when my fingertips touched the side at the end of my 200th length. I just turned to swim the next length.  I was in the zone, as sports men and women describe it.  When I completed 216 lengths, the cramp really hit, and ‘look after my body’ took on a new meaning. I walked it off up and down the pool, and got straight out of the pool without any help of a bar. I dried myself and walked up the stairs to the changing room as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do.

So what lessons did I learn?

  1. Remember my own wisdom.
  2. Small stepping stones still produce forward movement.
  3. Seek support and share my progress.
  4. Manage my thoughts and feelings – don’t let negative voices stop me from doing what I need to do to achieve my goal.
  5. Take action – consistently.
  6. And celebrate — I did!

I repeat I’m lucky. Whatever your state of health, there are still your personal Everests to climb.  We don’t always ascend them the first time, but with support and resources, you can achieve so much more than you may have thought possible.

I have MS, and I achieved more than I did when I didn’t.

Whatever the word means for you, here’s to your success.

Mike has over 1000 hours of successfully coaching senior managers and executives up to board level in the private and public sectors. His area of specialism include such topics as developing team and individual performance, supporting clients to have their best year yet by bridging the gap between strategy and actual performance, and enabling them to become masters at producing results. He is a business owner, entrepreneur and has held non-executive directorships in other companies in the SME sector.

Mike graduated with an Honors degree in Economics, and by 28 was the youngest director of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, working closely with authors such as Jeffrey Archer, John Le Carre, Delia Smith, and Stephen King. He has 18 years of success working in book publishing at director or a senior level.

He has managed turnaround situations for organizations and teams both in the UK and overseas, helping to make previously unprofitable businesses profitable for the first time, as well as managing teams internationally to perform at their highest level of expertise.

He has over 15 years experience in coaching and consultancy and has worked with such blue chip clients as Asda, GlaxoSmithKline, BP, ChevronTexaco, BOC, SG Hambros, Intel, Honda, Balfour Beatty, EDF Energy, SSK Smurfit Kappa UK and BAA’s London Heathrow’s Terminal 5 project. He has also worked extensively in the SME sector.

Mike offers great experience of multinational business development, sales and marketing management experience at plc and senior director level. During his career, Mike has worked in a variety of business sectors as well as the public sector and is very conversant with the challenges that face leaders as well as senior managers.

He is a fully accredited coach, an accredited NLP Practitioner and holds various diplomas in Business and Performance Coaching. Additionally, he is a fully accredited international Best Year Yet® Program Leader and Coach.

He has also in his consulting career been part of the team that won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade in 2004.

For more information, his contact details are~



Phone:  +44 (0)7968 970826