Why don't we value ourselves enough to invest in ourselves?


For my 32nd birthday, I hosted a retreat in Queenstown with 16 business leaders. I’m that kind of sicko who would rather run a business retreat than have a party. It was something I had wanted to do after visiting an incredible place called Aro Hā just over a year ago where I experienced what I would call a personal transformation. The thought of gathering together a group of people who share a similar passion and journey, and embarking on a collective transformational journey, was better than the allure of any birthday cake, even if it was the vegan chocolate one from Moore Wilsons that tastes just like you imagine the one from Matilda would… I wanted others to experience what I had; a sense of clarity and perspective. A renewed purpose. A massive release of tension and anxiety from running a business. And finally, a release of the burden that a lot of Kiwi business owners place on themselves, of having to continuously be successful and maintain an image of success.

But, getting 16 business leaders to join me in one of the world's most beautiful locations and wellbeing retreats was a lot harder than I had anticipated. People felt nervous about leaving their business for a few days. In New Zealand, it seems we don’t believe enough in self care, and this is even more true in the business world. The irony is that in the wider world right now, self care is a huge focus and topic of discussion for people's wellbeing, but when it comes to running a business, for some reason it feels like it doesn’t apply. As business leaders, we often push ourselves to the brink, focus only on outputs, and forget about the inputs.

Well I would like to propose a wild idea to the business people of NZ; working on yourself is the best thing you can do for your business.

When I had my first child I thought I was going to be able to do it all. I tried to be the best dad, best husband, best boss, best friend, best whatever. It didn’t take long until I realised I was doing all of those things really poorly. I was focussed on my outputs rather than my inputs. I was essentially running on fumes as there was no fuel in the tank and it ultimately led to burnout and feelings of failure.

I’ve just had my second child and I wanted to approach this time differently. Rather than trying to live up to the unrealistic expectations that I had put on myself, I’ve ensured that my needs are being met and that I’m feeling great. Needs such as; exercise, socialising, time to simply do nothing and decompress, time to explore my other passions and have a life that’s more than just kids and work. This has helped me to be a more present, more patient, more loving father and husband. I actually have the energy to support Kat and the kids and run the business. It felt strange and somewhat selfish, but the results speak for themselves. I don’t believe anyone can really be a good person when they have nothing left in them and they’re dragging themselves through the day for the benefit of everyone else.

And I think it’s the same with business babies. No matter how big or small. If you’re only focussed on the results and output, without taking the time to step back and work on yourself and fill your own tank first, you will burn out. Unfortunately in New Zealand our business culture says; I have to work harder, I need my staff to see me working harder, and I need my peers to see me working harder. Instead of listening to your gut and taking time out, we just push on and suck it up, thinking that’s how you succeed, survival of the fittest. 

How about this; take a day off. Go get a massage, sleep in, make a regular long lunch date on Fridays, have fun, do some yoga, enjoy the ride! You might be surprised at the difference it’ll make to your work. 

I hear you cry; “But you don’t understand, I’ve got too much to do, I can’t just be taking pamper breaks here and there.” I get it, it feels like there’s not enough time in the day to even think about yourself, but there’s your problem. I believe in the wonderful saying, “in order to move fast, sometimes you have to go slow first”. 

This is not something I have always believed in. I used to be a work harder, longer, faster kind of guy. There are still elements of that in me, but a few years back I realised that way of living was unsustainable, and totally lame. Why own a business to break my back over it everyday, when I started it to have freedom in the first place. It was a line my good friend said to me one day that shifted my thinking: “make your business work for you, not you working for it.” This new frame of thinking gave me the nudge to design the life that I wanted and put myself first, and from there the results started flowing.

It took some convincing to get everyone to Aro Ha, but when we did all finally make it to the retreat, it was pretty clear that most of these business owners were on the edge of burn out. But by the end of the week, most felt and even looked like new people. Safe to say, the initially reluctant group had no regrets about the time or money invested.

If you’re interested in some of the things I have changed, here’s a list. And this is by no means religious, I have two young kids so I work this around them and my wife who take priority, even just taking one of these and implementing it can make a difference. I do believe that self discipline is the key to happiness, so some of these ideas are restrictive, but on purpose.

  • Meditate for at least 15 minutes a day
  • Exercise every morning for at least 10 minutes (this usually involves using my kids as weights)
  • Go to the gym or some sort of fun sport like bouldering or mountain biking at least three times a week
  • Take Wednesdays off. I can still work if I want, but just leave the calendar blank so I get to decide on the day what I want to do
  • Only drink on weekends. This makes some functions not as fun but makes the weekends more fun and the weekdays easier.
  • Try to avoid bread and other heavy foods that end up making you feel like shit.
  • Invest in wellness. We recently splashed out on a spa and sauna at our house, and it’s insanely great for unwinding. Another huge driver for getting it was the social aspect, (it’s hard to make friends as you get older...sigh) every Tuesday night we have sauna night and invite random people to come over and have awesome chats.
  • Be yourself at work. The more you bring YOU to your work the more your staff and colleagues will trust you and respect you. Everything flourishes
  • Write a list of all the stuff you do like doing and all the stuff you don’t like doing. Hire someone to do all the stuff you don’t like and focus all of your attention on the stuff you do like.
  • Go on at least one 5 day retreat a year. One year I went to a hotel and sat by a pool listening to pop music for a week. Didn’t leave the hotel. Totally got me through the year.
  • Think about what a ‘rich life’ is for you and spend money on those things. For me a rich life is eating good quality healthy food, so I spend money on it guilt free. I don’t care about clothes so I skimp there.
  • Block your time. Book that gym in at the start of the week, don’t let it get double booked. Make your wellness practices as important as your work. Value yourself!
  • If you don’t think you have time or money to invest in yourself, then you have to reframe your thinking, because you do; swap out the time you spend on social media or watching content with exercise or mindfulness practices. Spend that money you were going to blow on 4 pints on a massage etc.

I do acknowledge that this comes from a place of privilege. After working on Wrestler for the past 10 years we're in a comfortable position to explore these things. However, I do believe it's never too early to start, and had I taken on some of these ideas earlier in my career, I think I would have more hair on my head. I also think these ideas apply to anyone, business owner or not. The most important asset in your life is you, make sure you invest in it.

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