At the age of twenty, ex professional rugby player Gareth Timmins joined the Royal Marines and underwent thirty-four weeks of intensive training to become a Royal Marines Commando. Back then, he'd never have thought that he'd go on to graduate with a 2:1 BA in Forensic Psychology from The Open Univeristy, which he would then use to write a bestselling book.
In "Becoming the 0.1%: Thirty-four lessons from the diary of a Royal Marines Commando Recruit", Gareth applies a psychological framework to the diary he kept throughout his journey as a new recruit, in order to teach others how to build an "elite mindset".
Now thirty-seven, Gateth told us all about his journey from student to bestselling author. Read on to discover how studying with the OU gave him the confidence to get published.
The Hoot: Why did you decide to return to education, and what was studying with the OU like for you?
Gareth: I didn't do very well at school, but in 2014 I wanted to re-educate myself and see if I was capable of undertaking academic study. I chose forensic psychology to try to understand my younger self . Why did I want to go into The Marines, and why was I so eager and willing to go to war?
How I felt in 2014 was a complete conflict with how I felt when I was younger; it was two different people.
When I was studying I really surprised myself with how involved into it I got. It was the most reading I had ever done in my life, but I made a pledge to myself to get fully engrossed in it.
The Hoot: Why did you choose to study at the OU?
Gareth: The OU has so much credibility. When you see that they're making TV programmes with David Attenborough and the like; who doesn't want to get involved with that? It was soemthing I was proud to be a part of.
Distance learning was another big aspect. Throghout my six years of study, I did two years in Afghanistan, two years in Egypt, one year in London, and one year in the front seat of my car while I was renovating a house. There was so much flexibility to study in these crazy environements while life carried on around me.
The Hoot: Do you think your time in the marines helped prepare you for studying at degree level? There's a lot of discipline needed for both.
Gareth: It definitely helped. With both, there's an element of self sacrifice and discomfort that you're going to endure. In my book, I call it a life to sacrifice ratio. If you look at the lifespan of an average human being, it's a very short term sactifice that you have to make in trms of what it will do for your future.
The Hoot: Had you always wanted to write a book, and how did your studies help with that?
Gareth: Not at all. When I left for my royal marines training, my Mum gave me a really bizarre gift just before the train doors closed. It was a diary, and she said, "just write things down".
So I did. On the way down, I just opened the diary and wrote an entry in it and then unbelievably I kept it up for a year, writing about the ups and downs of my transition from a civillian to a Royal Marines Commando.
Two years before I finished my degree, I started writing up the diary entires into a book becasue I had gained so much confidence through studying with the OU.
When I eventually met a literary agent, he said that for every chaper of the book, or for every week of the thirty-four week long commando training course, I needed to write a lesson that the reader could take away and use to make themselves better. It then just fell into place that I would use what I'd learned in my degree to forensically deconstust each week, pull out a theme, and write about it psychologically.
The Hoot: Your book was published in August 2021; what has that achievement felt like in relation to your professional and academic achievments?
Gareth: The book and how I was able to execute it is all full credit to the OU. Without the OU I would never have been able to write it so eloquently, let alone apply the psychological lessons to each chapter.
In terms of achievement, the book is up there massively, and I see it as part of my OU journey.
The Hoot: Are there any lessons in your book that could help students as they progress through their studies?
Gareth: The first lesson in the book is about compartmentalisation, or breaking large undertakings down into manageable chunks that become doable mentally. So you shut out the six years of university study, and just break it down into weeks to use as a marker of success.
When I was studying, I broke it down into three-month terms, and then broke it down again. My advice is not to dismiss responsibility to the next day.
The Hoot: What advice would you give to students who want to get published?
Gareth: Have full confidence in your writing ability. One of the problems that I had was coming to terms with my credibility as an author, beacuse we always tend to think that it's somebody else, and not you, who can do that.
Similarly in my studies, for the first couple of years I really struggled when asked to critically analyse things because I couldn't comprehend how I could possibly do that, having not come from an academic background.
So the first step is enactment and building your self confidence. And then, you need to get the outline of your book an turn it into a business plan, because that's what literary agents want to see.
If you've got something to say and a fresh approach to something, just do it. Be prepard to step out of your comfort zone, and also be prepared to take a bit of criticism, but also know that it's massively worthwhile in the end.