Gary Bailey and Michelle McLean-Bailey

  • Michelle McLean-Bailey and Gary Bailey had plenty in common long before they started showing businesses how to reduce stress and increase profits. They were both international superstars. She was a bona fide beauty queen, Miss Universe 1992, and the first from Namibia to win the title. She was 19. He was born in Ipswich, England, but grew up in South Africa. In 1978, at age 20, he signed professionally with one of the world’s best soccer teams, Manchester United. He appeared in 375 matches during his nine-season career with Manchester, and the team captured two Football Association Challenge Cups during his tenure.They met around the time that Michelle and Gary were hosting separate television shows during South Africa’s run in the FIFA World Cup. “It was 2010 when we officially became acquainted, but we’d worked at the same television station for years before that,” Gary says.
  • They found that the characteristics they had individually developed to help them deal with the pressure of celebrity were similar. “We’re naturally positive people, and I’ve always questioned, why,” Gary says. “What is it that helped me be positive?”
  • With her background as a public speaker and appearing on television, and his comfort on the world stage as an athlete and as a TV sports announcer, the two decided to start their own business in 2011—a motivational speaking program and workshop, “Success Under Pressure.” (In 2010, Gary had co-written Succeed  Under Pressure with Rakesh Sondhi, who was a faculty member of Henley Business School at the University of Reading, where Gary received his master’s degree in business administration.)
  • “During my year as Miss Universe, I had no idea that I was going to have to deal with the type of pressure I had to,” Michelle says. “Traveling to two continents a week. Visiting three cities a day. Needing to deal with the media and the press at a very young age. Luckily, I had techniques in my life to be able to deal with that.”
  • Gary not only had to follow in the footsteps of his father, Roy Bailey, a well-known goalkeeper for England’s Ipswich Town, but his professional career started when he took over for Alex Stepney, a Manchester United mainstay for 12 years. “The worst position ever is that of goalkeeper,” Gary says. “Make one mistake, and see how the world hates you. That’s the pressure I had to learn to live with. If I didn’t develop techniques to cope, I would have never survived.”
  • The “Success Under Pressure” workshop uses what Gary and Michelle call the five GREAT principles—Gratitude, Reframing, Energy, Advancement and Team. “We had developed these each in our own ways, but when we got married, we agreed that this is how we live our lives, then we started to see medical science that backed it up,” Gary says.
  • They had been using techniques that led to success under pressure, but they didn’t know there were hormones being released that were helping them to outperform others. “Here’s an example,” Michelle says. “Well-chosen words, whether you tell yourself something positive, or someone else [tells you], produces oxytocin, which is called the ‘cuddle hormone.’ ” Practicing gratitude is more than having an “Oprah moment,” they agree. It releases another positive hormone—dopamine, which can result in being more optimistic.
  • In order to move to the United States, Gary applied for a green card on a special-skills visa. “I put the whole soccer thing forward as a speaker, and they said soccer in [the United States] is a growing sport. The moment we had the option to come here, (A) we grabbed it, and (B) we could pick anywhere in the States to live. We picked here.” They immigrated in 2013 (the same year they were married) to Boca Raton, a city that Gary had become familiar with after visiting often during various coaching expeditions.
  • Helping people is in their DNA. Michelle founded the Michelle McLean Children’s Trust the year she became Miss Universe when she declared, “My priority is with the children of Namibia.” The Michelle McLean Primary School opened in South Africa in 2000.
  • While they love motivating people, they say their speaking business has personal perks. “Our careers could have continued to take us in opposite directions. But we are getting older, so we decided, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to travel together?’ We’ve seen more of the United States in three years than most Americans see in a lifetime,” Gary says.

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