Greg Van Borssum on Happy Feet, Mad Max and the road to fulfilment (#11)

If you’re like me you’ve probably set some resolutions or goals for 2021. You may even have given up on some of them already! If you’re looking for some inspiration to get off to a flying start this year then this episode is for you!  

Today we’re talking to Greg Van Borssum. I’m really excited about this conversation because it really delivers the goods.  

Greg is a failed school kid who turned adversities into opportunities. Greg has accomplished an incredible level of achievement.  

By the age of 21 Greg was a national bodybuilding champion, a three-time Mr. Universe finalist and a multiple black belt martial artist.  

Greg is an award winning Hollywood filmmaker where he is known for his work on the Oscar winning movies, Happy Feet and Mad Max: Fury Road.  

Oh, and he also is a pistol shooting world champion! 

Now, as a speaker for mental health and suicide prevention, Greg has also received the prestigious Speaker Accreditation which Toastmasters has only awarded to 87 people over the last 40 years. 

In this conversation we cover a lot of ground. We talk about leadership, mental health, overcoming adversity and pursuing goals.  In this episode we do talk about suicide: especially the pressures that can lead to suicide, the signs to look for in someone who is suffering in silence and the steps people can put in place to help regain control of their lives. If this is sensitive topic for you, please proceed with caution. 

We hope you enjoy this inspiring conversation with Greg Van Borssum! 

You can find Greg through his website ( You can follow him on InstagramLinkedInFacebook and YouTube or check out his podcast. You are also able to pre-order his upcoming book, Remaster Mind, from his website. 

You can listen on Apple, Google, Spotify or Simplecast

Show Notes 

2:30 – how Greg got into martial arts.
3:30 – how Bob Paris inspired Greg to become the National Body Building champion.
5:04 – we don’t have to be limited by what people say about us.
6:14 – the example we set can change lives.
6:30 – Greg’s grandfather won the Military Medal in WWI.
7:08 – the remarkable example Greg’s grandmother set.
8:48 – the importance of believing in someone’s potential.
9:08 – we need to start going towards what we’re scared of.
9:57 – your fear is your greatest strength in waiting.
11:16 – kids need to be taught their family history.
12:32 – reaching your goals.
13:28 – two greatest assets: naivity and stupidity.
14:07 – said yes to Happy Feet with zero prior experience.
14:55 – Leadership is easy: leadership is care.
16:20 – turning around a toxic culture.
16:44 – there is an “I” in “TEAM”.
17:55 – lack of communication kills a team.
18:20 – Greg banned emails!
19:24 – if I find you blaming someone you’re off the film
19:35 – literally breaking down the barriers to communication.
20:10 – team bonded by playing together.
21:52 – ego makes you an ineffective leader.
23:46 – focus is the key to achieving goals.
26:18 – be a spiky person.
26:52 – the employment world needs to be turned on its head.
28:00 – you need to take time to understand people to get the best out of them.
29:23 – training people and building confidence.
31:22 – the cost of success.
32:03 – how a near death experience changed Greg’s life mission.
34:18 – Greg became an accredited speaker to help others.
37:07 – how Greg became an advocate for mental health.
40:39 – protecting his family from his struggles was Greg’s stupid moment.
41:42 – you feel like you’re not a man if you talk about this stuff.
42:12 – I did not know if I was coming home.
43:35 – Greg started learning public speaking after he started giving keynotes.
44:15 – Greg’s aim is now to go global to change lives.
44:33 – how do we help people when they are struggling?
45:10 – do something!
46:05 – clinically proven: a hug can change someone’s entire day.
46:10 – 30 minutes of excercise gives 12 hours of better brain health.
46:19 – don’t put off seeing someone who is struggling.
46:26 – us, we, together.
46:55 – don’t just give them a number and move on.
47:21 – everyone’s been through stuff.
47:51 – life doesn’t always fire a warning shot.
48:56 – the signs that someone is struggling.
49:32 – suicide survivors want to live.
50:12 – help yourself before trying to help others.
51:12 – what is strength really?
52:12 – chase fulfillment, not success.
52:35 – strength doesn’t focus on what you can’t do. Focus on what you can do.
53:01 – everyone has the internal battle, but we’ve got to get up and move on anyway.
53:28 – keep a journal.
54:24 – training to overcome the fear of public speaking.
55:13 – use your time to invest in people.
55:40 – redirecting bad forces for good.
56:30 – importance of being able to detach.
58:18 – it’s our responsibility to reach in to help them out.
59:18 – don’t worry about saying the right things. Have the right heart.
01:00:34 – the signs are in the body language.
01:01:58 – R U OK is not good enough.
01:02:34 – being a good person.
01:02:55 – we need to unify to fight against mental health.
01:03:36 – the human factor is always needed.
01:04:34 – chasing success leaves no space to help others.
01:05:42 – the small things are the big things.
01:06:34 – going back to old high school.
01:07:58 – people in our life shape us.
01:08:44 – get in touch with Greg.
01:09:33 – final thanks.

Links to references 

Bob Paris 

Military Medal 

Hudson Fysh: founder of Qantas 

Qantas: Australia’s leading airline 

Les Brown

Eskimo roll 

Happy Feet 

George Miller, director of Happy Feet and Mad Max: Fury Road 

Mad Max: Fury Road 

Accredited Speaker Program through Toastmasters International 

Speech where Greg won his accreditation 

Wendy White – friend encouraged him to go for accreditation 

Suicide Prevention Australi


Black Dog Institute 

Brad Hazard 

Key Quotes 

“I was told I had no future…when I was older I had enough…I promised myself that I would become strong.” 

“There is no 5 step plan to becoming great at something…if you want to change things you need to put your face to the fire.” 

“People have to start going toward what they are scared of…If you look at your fear and go towards it…in it you will find your greatest strength because out of it you will overcompensate for it and you become this super powerful person at this thing you thought you were weak at. It is your greatest strength in waiting. ” 

“I became what my Dad said I would be…kids need to be taught their family history.” 

“If you pick a goal in life you need to think…how else? Or until…” 

“I don’t care how I’m going to get there…I’m going to get there.” 

“My two greatest assets are naivety and stupidity…you have to just start.” 

“People spend all this money on Leadership courses…I think Leadership is a four letter word…it is just ‘care’.” 

“People say there is no ‘I’ in team…the ‘I’ is a team of individuals…you have to understand that as a leader”. 

“I banned emails…and there in no more blaming….if something is wrong…get off your backside and walk up and find an answer…if I find you blaming you are off the film.” 

“I believe we do it together, whether you are the janitor or the director” 

“Phones are killing us in so many ways…when I was a kid I spearheaded my focus…our focus is divided into so many pieces now…you can’t be a master of things when you are focused on fifteen things.” 

“If you can teach your kids they come from something…they take that onboard and they believe.” 

“The HR department usually means Hopeless Resource…if you don’t tick all of the boxes you don’t even get an interview…the greatest minds in the world did not tick the box.” 

“I realized that all these achievements meant nothing…the only thing that mattered was that I got better for my wife and my kids…I promised myself that I would better myself for other people…I became outwardly focused…I became a speaker to help others.”  

“One of my proudest moments…I walked out on stage with three words in the title ‘Us, We, Together’ and I started making up the speech…I managed to string this thing together out of nothing.” 

“I believe that is why some people take their lives…it becomes a multitude of things that happen in a short space of time…it becomes overwhelming.” 

“The more time we can spend doing things to help others the better the planet would be.” 

“People want to know the right thing to do…do something…just be there…” 

“The truth is behind the eyes…you can tell a fake smile…your eyes don’t change…when you smile for real your eyes light up”

“if you think someone is struggling, don’t put it off until tomorrow…you don’t give them a number and walk off….no matter what happens I’m going to let you know that I care.” 

“You don’t want to go to a funeral and know that you could have done something.” 

“I don’t believe in a hand off, I believe in a hand on…you sit with them through the first one.” 

“If someone is isolated and when they talk it is all negative…when they are smoking 30 cigarettes a day…people know when someone is struggling.” 

“You are your seven closest friends and if your seven closest friends are drug addicts…guess what? You are number eight.” 

“Strength is a weird thing…at my highest point in body building I was my most self-conscious.”

“I changed success to fulfilment…success is tied to money…we should change this to fulfilment.” 

“The lessons are in the losses.” 

“Everybody needs to keep a journal…write out a paragraph as if you have achieved it…I am…” 

“I believe in training hard and competing easy.” 

“I wish at our lowest point in life, we can step outside and look at it as a third person…what should this person do?” 

“Creativity happens when the phone is off and we are way from people…” 

“If someone can’t reach out…reach in and helped them out…people don’t want to hold it in…you just need to nudge them enough.” 

“Don’t say: ‘what is wrong with you?…Say: ‘how can I help you?'” 

“If you show that you are not judgmental people will open up and tell you stuff.” 

“If you ask Are you Okay? What if they say no…tell us what to do next!” 

“It’s better to do something than nothing…if you ask someone how their day is you have the patience to stay there and listen to the answer.” 

“Whether it is bad or good, people around you are shaping you…everyone is shaping you if you let them…if you can be an influence in someone else’s life – that is more powerful than money.” 

About the author

Divan and Mark are co-hosts of the Candour Communication Podcast where we discuss interpersonal communication and all the human stuff that gets in the way.