The 1% Podcast

Damian Browne


  • 01

    Damian Browne

    On Adventure and Testing New Boundaries Lincoln Recruitment Specialists

This is a re-release of a podcast we recorded with former professional rugby player and extreme adventurer Damian Browne. We wanted to re-share this podcast as Damian is close to finishing another epic journey rowing unsupported across the Atlantic from New York to his home county Galway aboard the purpose-built 6.2m Cushlamachree. He began the journey with lifelong friend, Fergus Farrell in an attempt to break the world record. However Fergus had to be airlifted off the boat a month ago when he got into a medical emergency leaving Damian to complete the journey solo.

You can follow his journey live here:

He also post daily videos and updates to his LinkedIn page here:

On this podcast Damian spoke to us about the exploration of his physical and mental limits when he rowed the Atlantic solo from the Canary islands to Antigua and conquered the Seven Summits.

Damian played elite rugby with clubs such as Leinster, Connacht and Brive. After retirement, he embarked on a life of exploration and adventure successfully defeating the Marathons des Sables, single-handedly rowing the Atlantic and is currently working his way to climbing the Seven Summits – preparing for his Mount Everest climb in 2021.

It’s an exciting narrative with some unique insights into motivation, grit, performance and pushing yourself to the limits from someone who still hasn’t found his own boundaries despite conquering some of the toughest challenges in the world.

Show Summary


3:07 Family life growing up in Galway City

  • Vibrant neighbourhood for a child
  • Close to beach and woods


4:50 The mindset of challenging himself from a young age

  • “We’re creatures of habit”
  • Expanding boundaries by exploring new landscapes
  • Climbed Malin Head


7:14 Hidden gems in Ireland

  • Eagle’s Rock, Leitrim
  • Views from Mweelrea in Connacht
  • The Caves of Keash in County Sligo


9:01 His rugby years and its influence on ‘peak performance’

  • Long-term and ongoing learning
  • Pro for five years
  • The rugby environment has changed so much over past 20 years
  • Formed by the environment, the people and its demands
  • The sacrifices involved


10:49 Memorable moments from the rugby career

  • The Golden Age of players
  • Getting the marching orders from Martin Johnson
  • “Scary” Olivier Merle


13:02 Different coaching styles across each stage in rugby career

  • Return to Leinster was a ‘culture-shock’
  • Different coaching-style in France
  • Moving between clubs due to opportunities
  • A year to find his feet


16:09 Joe Schmidt’s reputation and his approach to pushing limits

  • Giving the player power
  • Focus on process and systems
  • “The key is: are you putting in the work?”
  • Empowered to work and improve on things


18:18 How an extraordinary team is built from ordinary people

  • Setting clear standards and demands
  • Seeing even the best players in the world working hard
  • Raising the standard of the whole environment


21:30 His approach to retirement from rugby

  • “You’re either moving forward, or dying”
  • Enjoyment being in uncomfortable environments
  • Physical and mental health has been the driving force
  • Swapped one passion for another
  • Fear of exposure
  • Tuned in to signals of ‘reverting back’ and seeking comfort
  • Asking questions around his behaviour that was driven by fear
  • Clarity helps compartmentalise negative thinking


30:08 Transition from group to solo challenges

  • Motivated by improvement
  • Hunger to leave rugby behind and carve own training
  • Choose own individual training plan, and not curtailed by a group
  • “Competition brings the most out of us”
  • 6 – 7 minute indoor rower 2km test
  • If it’s not hard, push yourself more


30:08 Maintaining core values

  • Difficulty in peer pressure environment
  • Example of practising press-ups
  • Avoid cutting corners


32:55 Regular challenges Damian sets himself

  • Physical training and cold water: “it never gets easier”
  • Habits of overcoming resistance
  • Setting training tests every few months
  • 12 week training cycles
  • Recovery time
  • 28 minutes in the cold water at the end of February


39:40 What drew Damian to Marathon des Sables

  • Watching a documentary about the Donovan brothers
  • “I just knew I would do it someday”


41:35 How tough is Marathon des Sables?

  • “Depends on how well you prepare and push yourself”
  • Keen to do the race again and push his comfort zone
  • Going to the toilet in bags and battling with hunger
  • Professional sports taught him a lot about nutrition and stress
  • Key to recovery is sleep and nutrition


47:27 On the world’s longest train across the Sahara desert in Mauritania 

  • 704km in total
  • “Adventure is a mindset”
  • To practise photography skills


49:19 What exploration means to Damian

  • “New ground, new places, new faces, new sights, new smells”
  • Internal exploration involved


51:37 The motivation around adventures and exploring

  • It could be as small as walking a different route home
  • Grow in confidence


53:30 His solo and unsupported 5000km row across the Atlantic in 2018

  • “From start to finish there’s a discomfort”
  • Challenge of funding
  • Reading ‘The Crossing’ by Ben Fogle and James Cracknell
  • On his ‘Before 40’ bucket list
  • Huge learning curves: from the maritime to the self


56:07 Strategy to deal with ‘slumps’ during the Atlantic row

  • Letters from family
  • Having a sat phone
  • Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN)
  • Recording video diaries


1:00:40 Capsizing twice and seeing a whale

  • Capsized in a storm
  • First capsize when asleep in cabin, second capsize when on deck
  • Unable to swim
  • “What can stop me from achieving what I want to achieve?”
  • Power of negative visualisation
  • Panicking is a massive dump of energy
  • Practising at Blackrock, Galway


1:08:26 Managing pain on the row

  • Pressure and sea sores
  • Constant pain that mentally impacts you
  • Pain makes you focus on the wrong things
  • Managing through self-awareness
  • Back to the present moment where you don’t need to be anxious or stressed


1:14:26 Readjustment to ‘normal life’ after an adventure

  • Having time alone
  • Decompress on route back home with a mini-trip
  • Take time off from training
  • Wired to be present in the moment


1:17:06 Trusting your gut

  • It comes through time and life experiences
  • Guiding force


1:18:37 Rowing across the Atlantic again in 2022 with lifelong friend Fergus ‘Gussie’ Farrell

  • First time to link the challenge with Ireland
  • Ticks all the boxes for a challenge
  • Seldom done route: 52 crossing attempts
  • First Irish pair to attempt it


1:21:00 His relationship with fear

  • “All I know is physical pursuits”
  • Strong sense of self-belief
  • “It comes down to self-awareness”
  • Learning to ask yourself the right questions


1:24:09 Motivation to climb Mt. Everest

  • Current ambition is to climb the highest mountain on all seven continents
  • Fear-drive motivation
  • Mind drifts to “what’s next?”
  • Postponed from this year
  • Down to 105kg


1:30:24 Physically and mentally training for Mt. Everest

  • Mitigating physical stressors
  • Be at the right weight, below 100kg
  • Spending time on the mountains
  • Buteyko breathwork
  • Mental prep happens much closer to the expedition
  • Visualisations and affirmations
  • Don’t leave things up to chance
  • Nutrition
  • Doing expedition with Jagged Globe


1:36:57 Impact of Covid-19 on Mt. Everest expeditions

  • No one knows what next year will look like
  • Permits to crowd control


1:39:31 Approach to fear on the mountains

  • There are things you have no control over
  • No “harness” on the mountain
  • The art of not dwelling


1:41:55 Losing weight on Mt. Everest expedition

  • Impact of mass and oxygen
  • Fuelling well on the mountain
  • Lost 28kg rowing the Atlantic


1:44:29 Advice to people about achieving their potential

  • “We’re all limitless in our potential”
  • Having purpose
  • Take the first steps


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