Steve McDermott

Visionaries. Muhammad Ali and the power of imagination

The Greatest. The Olympics. Mind movies…

Steve and Muhammad AliWant to know what it takes to succeed at the highest level? What if you knew how to turn your dreams into reality? Imagine smashing sales figures, losing weight, going further, faster, successfully completing your goals big or small. How about even winning a medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games? If you knew the one thing all peak performers do than all this and more might be a lot easier than you might McThink.

Europe’s No1 Motivational speaker, Steve McDermott – a fellow of the PSA (Professional Speakers Association) and founder of The Confident Club – shares his McThoughts and McTips on the secrets of successful people. This one is all about the power of imagination…

I’ve two posters on the wall of my office that I can see as I write this. One is a photograph of Albert Einstein that says “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. Did you know it’s a scientific fact that your brain and body can’t tell the difference between something you vividly imagine and reality. All world-class sportsmen and women are visualizers. As are other peak performers in just about any other field you care to mention. All these people see it, they feel it, and they experience it, before they actually do it. As a formula this would be:

I x V = R (Imagination x Vividness = Reality)

The secret is the symbol in the middle, repetition.

Of course, apart from positive visualization there is another name for this. It’s called worry. What failures do is vividly imagine things going terribly wrong in full technicolor with quadraphonic sound, over and over and over again. The point is, in life you always get what you focus on. So be aware that it is actually entirely up to you whether you use this special gift to generate good or bad results.

Now maybe you are thinking, surely what I vividly imagine can’t allow me to do something I’ve never done before or create physical results. Well, yes it can. You see, by constant repetition, running what I call mind movies; you coat the neural pathways in the brain. This effectively creates fake but totally believable memories. Specialists in brain research give the following explanation: ‘When you learn anything, a pattern of neurons is set up in your brain tissue. The chain, or electrical pattern, is your brain’s method of remembering, so since the subconscious cannot distinguish a real from an imagined experience, perfect mental practice can create new patterns or correct imperfect patterns grooved here.’

Ali and the power of the mind

Image-1 (4)One of the greatest exponents of visualization, who coincidentally was known as The Greatest, was Muhammad Ali, the former World Heavyweight Boxing champion. Ali (originally known as Cassius Clay) also won a Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, before changing his name after converting to Islam in 1975. Ali called this visualization ‘future history’. He said: ‘The man with no imagination has no wings.’ He always rehearsed the fight in his head, over and over, before he ever stepped into the ring. That’s one of the reasons why out of the 19 fights in which he predicted the outcome (when he’d say things like ‘Archie Moore, you’re going in round four’), 17 happened exactly the way Ali said they would with him winning.

This is all backed up by my good friend Leon Taylor the retired 10M platform diver (mentor to young diver Tom Daley – one of our best prospects at the 2012 London Olympic Games). Leon told me he kept coming forth in major events (The worst place of all to finish). So at the Olympic Games in Athens he changed his plan for running mind movies. Instead of just visualizing the dive he also visualized the seven days leading up to the final and “saw” what he would be doing in vivid detail every day and more importantly how brilliant he would be feeling. Before doing this because of nerves he had never slept the night before a major competition. But in Athens it was different, not only did he sleep like a baby, but when he woke up on the day of the final it was as he described it “like putting in a DVD and pressing play”. As he sat on the bus on the way to the diving arena Leon looked around and he was the only competitor smiling. That day he was the first British diver to win a medal for 47 Years – Olympic Silver. So metaphorically speaking will you be smiling on the bus on the way to your Olympic final? – Like for example your next major business presentation – well only if you’ve run positive mind movies in advance.Steve with boxing gloves

So what’s the second poster on the wall of my office? Of course it’s of my all-time hero Muhammad Ali who said many brilliant things but none better than what’s on this poster “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something deep inside them: a desire, a dream, a vision.”


Half business guru, half stand-up comedian, Steve McDermott shares more McThoughts in his International best-selling book “How to be a Complete and Utter Failure in Life, Work and Everything.” As a coach, of thirty years standing, Steve’s also helped train hundreds of people increase their confidence and master the art of delivering a brilliant presentation.

Email Steve at or call The Confident Club on +44(0)113 3372037. And remember with a vivid imagination your dreams can become reality.

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