I remember the day well. It was 4th January, 2008. I had just returned from the Christmas break, when I was called into my boss, Jane’s office, to be told that she was unexpectedly moving to a new position in the company. If that wasn’t enough, I had been selected to take on her role!
I was stunned. Unbeknown to her, I’d spent the entire Christmas break agonising over a huge career decision of whether to stay at RBI or leave and join a start-up business in the environmental space. It was a tough decision to make, but after much deliberation, I had decided to move to the start-up. But the universe had other ideas for me, and this new information fundamentally changed things. So instead of handing in my resignation, I found myself face to face with the group CEO that afternoon, discussing my new role as RBI’s Marketing Director, a role that I would do for the next 8 and half years as the business began to accelerate its journey of digital transformation from magazine publisher to a digital data, analytics and software business.
I was due to start on March 1st, but it almost didn’t happen at all as the month before, I went on a flying visit to Shanghai to see a new company we’d bought. It was a fabulous experience getting to see China and experience the sights, smells and sounds that Shanghai had to offer. I was there for all of two days. Unfortunately, though, I picked-up a virus whilst there and didn’t realise this until a day after I returned to the UK, and was out running along the River Thames in Kingston. It was a beautiful day and a very normal situation for me to be in.
All of a sudden the world went black.
When I woke-up, I found myself in Kingston hospital with an irregular heart-beat and all kinds of wires stuck on me. It was a very frightening experience and there I stayed for two whole days, face-to-face with my mortality.
My Health Obsessed Years
When I was released from hospital, I had an immense sense of freedom and at that moment made a commitment to myself that I would never allow myself to feel that vulnerable again.
So I did what every super-controlling person would do: I became obsessed with my health!
I’d always believed that I had been following the path to wellness as I’d run six marathons and did a load of exercise, but as I know now, true wellness is much more than just fitness. Up until that point, I only saw food as fuel. As a runner, I consumed tons of bread, pasta, orange juice and energy drinks because it was all about performance, scraping off precious seconds to achieve a Personal Best. That’s what constantly drove me, plus the inaccurate belief that I could ‘burn it all off’. Now, though, I needed to eat for health & longevity, but before I could do that, I needed to really understand what success looked like, as that wasn’t clear at all.
So I invested the next few years in educating myself and cutting through the confusing spin, reading a whole range of books on nutrition, including the evidence-based China Study which resonated with me so much that I decided to go ‘cold turkey’ and stop eating animal products altogether. And, whilst I was upgrading my habits, I decided to replace my 7 daily cups of black coffee with green tea, my orange juice with green juice and to stop drinking alcohol altogether, replacing it with kombucha, a delicious fermented tea. In short, I focused on facts and logic.
The Change Process
Whatever anyone tells you, the change process is very difficult. On Day Three I got the worst flu I’ve ever experienced and was in bed for an entire week. I felt weak, ill and super depressed. But I stuck with it as I had an enormous “Why?” – I had so much I wanted to do and I needed the energy to be able to do it! On Day 6, I started to feel a bit better. On day 7 I felt much better and by Day 8, I felt amazing! My energy went through the roof! I was waking-up at 5.00am and doing 3 hours of work before the working day even began, which meant that I was able to have my big corporate job by day, but then geek out on wellness and nutrition as well! Writing a blog that would eventually become my Raw Energy brand.
I was loving it, and I wanted everyone to experience the sheer aliveness of having all that Raw Energy flowing through their body. I also started to imagine what this newly found solution could do for the energy of a whole team or an organisation.
The RBI Story
Whilst I was changing and upgrading my lifestyle habits, during the day I was leading a large team through huge change. RBI had started life as a trade magazine publisher, but by 2014, was well on the way to becoming a software, data and analytics business. It was a phenomenal transformation and I feel very fortunate to have been part of such an amazing journey of business transformation and value creation.
However on the ground, the uncertainty, the restructures, the redundancies, the acquisitions, the divestments, the integrations and the cost-cutting all took away a lot of energy from my team and the rest of the organisation, and often led to stress, overwhelm and, in some cases, burnout.
The Birth of RBI Living Well
In January 2014, I was sitting in an executive leadership meeting discussing the topic of the day: how to accelerate revenue growth. After several years of decline, the business had some key growth engines. In that meeting, the Head of HR presented the ‘RBI people strategy’ to the team. This was the first time we’d ever had a people strategy and it was very comprehensive. It covered the key elements you’d expect to see: recruitment, retention, learning & development, recognition & reward.
One thing it didn’t include, though, was anything about health and wellness and workplace energy.
That meeting inspired me to go on a journey of innovation that would lead to RBI Living Well, a Workplace Wellbeing philosophy and programme that, over the next three years, would scale across multiple offices, impacting the energy and wellbeing of 1000s of people across the world, and supporting the business transformation and revenue growth objective.
By the time I left RBI at the end of 2016, the Living Well philosophy had 86% awareness, a more engaged (+46%), more energised (+36%) and more resilient (+26%) workforce, and these results combined got externally recognized by winning the CIPD ‘Best Corporate Health & Wellbeing Programme’.
Through 2017, the RBI Living Well programme continued to grow and thrive and make a lasting difference to the RBI and RELX employees, customers, partners and shareholders around the world. As for me, I was ready for the next challenge and relocated to Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, the Mecca of Wellness. Australian Consumers are the most health conscious in the world. Many wellness innovations start in Australia and then move to other countries and I wanted to be part of that, so joined SumoSalad in February 2017 as Chief Customer Officer, an amazing fit as our missions are so aligned. We believe that the obesity epidemic and all of the personal and financial costs associated with it could be reversed by helping people not only understand what to eat for wellness, but also have easy access to great tasting, fresh, healthy food that Fuels Greatness in individuals, teams, communities and workplaces.
If you’re looking to energise your workplace to drive innovation, customer experience, productivity and growth, we can help.
Get your free guide: 20 Ways to Energise Your Workplace
Research shows that Energy is the number one health outcome people want. With great energy comes great results and that’s applicable at every level: personal, team and organisation. We’re here to help you unleash the energy that already exists within your organisation and use that energy to improve your results. That’s why I have collected twenty things that you can do to release the energy in your organisation. You don’t have to do them all at once! Download it here
The Raw Energy Philosophy is built around the framework that looks at the whole person, recognising that life is organised into a number of segments, each creating positive or negative energy. True wellbeing is the result of achieving balance in each aspect of your life. Our mission is to work with forward-thinking people to assist them to identify energy blocks and imbalances across five dimensions and empowering them with the tools and techniques, programs and services to balance and release positive energy.
Lawrence Mitchell is Founder of Raw Energy & will be speaking at The Wellbeing at Work event in Sydney on 27th September 2018.