Peak Performance Specialist
6. July 2016
Ann Quinn is in the business of making people better. As a peak performance specialist, she has worked with world sporting champions, performers and leading executives to help them plan for success and lead fulfilling lives. A scan of her orderly and elegant Melbourne home quickly reveals clues to such successful living. Designed by renowned Australian architect Robin Boyd in the 1940s and complete with a purple tennis court and seasonal garden, organization meets flow as each room is optimized for productivity, mindfulness, health and enjoyment. Generous with her insights, Ann shares her routine and secrets to success, as well as teaching us about Feng Shui and introducing us to her Tonkinese cat Koko.
For decades you have helped top athletes and executives attain success in their field. What’s the secret?
Success doesn't just happen—you have to do everything to prepare yourself. For athletes, you have to plan in detail and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. You don't start out with making the goal to win Wimbledon, instead the goal is to work on improving each aspect of their game in detail—technically and tactically, physically and mentally as well nutrition and recovery too, and then winning takes care of itself.
“Change is the only constant in our personal lives and working environments.” What have you learned about helping people change
People are not aware of the stress they are under until they can see what is happening to them physiologically, so I use heart rate variability analysis to determine what really causes stress and what promotes recovery. It's not until they see what is really underlying the stress that they learn how to manage it and become more energetic and focused at work.
We can get so caught up in trying to be optimal and productive in all aspects of our lives, all the while ignoring the stress it creates. How can we get better at looking after ourselves?
So many people jump out of bed and want to get to work, but they don’t take care of their own bodies. Sooner or later they are going to wear out. Recovery for athletes is crucial so they can perform at their best consistently and with high intensity, but you bring that concept to the executive world, and they have never really thought of planning that into their week. Yet, it is vital for them to replenish their energy regularly, so that they can give more of themselves, the next day, week, month, and for years to come.
Working in a home office, how do you make sure you switch off and prioritise your own recovery?
I made sure to have the lighting in my office different to the rest of the home so it signals to me that this is where I come to work. At the same time, it is also nice to be in flow with the environment—I can be in the office working and get peace from looking out at my garden and hearing the sound of the flowing water.
At the end of the day I make sure I’ve written up notes from each client and prepared for the next day so there is nothing left to do and I can just leave it behind and focus on just being free, so to speak, and I know I will sleep better. Intuitively, Koko will sit on my computer at the end of the day, which reminds me it is time to stop working!
It’s striking how everything appears to have its place in your office and home – clear surfaces, organised bookshelves, and tidy spaces. Was it these qualities that appealed to you with the USM Modular Furniture?
When I renovated the house I wanted to maximize space. Previously, I had floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and those big, old, grey filing cabinets, so I wanted it to look modern, I wanted it to look sleek, I wanted it to be elegant, I wanted it to be fresh but also practical, durable and organized. It was Rina Cohen, my interior designer, who suggested USM and I fell in love with it straight away.
It also flows well with the period furniture throughout the house. How did you develop your taste for antiques and design?
My Dad was in the furniture business, so I’ve always appreciated great design and craftsmanship, which ties in with the USM furniture which is timeless and elegant. I was worried initially about how it would blend with the antique furniture, but Rina who confirmed it would work together beautifully and it has. I particularly like the contrast of the white USM furniture with the wooden floors, and the defining chrome trim brings everything together.
“The key is really to enjoy the process and find out what fulfils you throughout the day and make that part of your routine.”
In your pursuit of making people better, what have you learned about how we can make our lives fulfilling?
You have to enjoy the journey, you've got to have fun and a lot of people don't. They are so focused on achieving the big goal—whether it be in business or in sport. I’ve been with athletes when they have won gold medals and Grand Slams and it is an amazing feeling and experience, but a week later, or a month later, or a year later, it is just a memory.
Thank you, Ann, for reminding us ‘it’s what you do in between’ that makes life extraordinary. Find out more about Ann’s work as a peak performance specialist.
This portrait was produced by the international interview magazine Freunde von Freunden. Find more USM furniture for your home and workspace here.