7 Wellness Lessons from the World Cup

world cup

Whether you love football (soccer) or not, you would have friend, family member, colleague, employee or boss currently engaged in the football World Cup being held in Brazil. The World Cup happens once every 4 years, is the largest event in the world, involving 32 countries and viewers exceeding 2 billion merely from its TV audience worldwide.

What’s more interesting is the level of emotional involvement from fans all of over world, skipping word, taking unprecedented levels of sick leave and spending more work hours online and on social media searching match results and planning where to watch the next fixture.

I am certainly one of those people though I did take it to the next level – I actually went to Brazil to watch the games. Yes, I was one of the lucky few to obtain tickets to watch Australia play Holland at Porto Allegra and also managed to acquire ‘last minute’ tickets to attend Russia vs Belgium at the fabulous Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

It is indeed a rare occurrence for a CEO to have 2 weeks off work to relax, celebrate and enjoy the festivities in Rio de Janeiro and join the Brazilians in the support of their football-mad national matches. However, it has been a life-long dream to attend the World Cup and for much of the time over there, I felt an enormous sense of gratitude for having created a career and a life that could financially allow me to achieve this dream.

Yes, it is possible, even with a career as CEO in healthcare.

Whilst many non-football fans are cynical of the World Cup, its costs to Brazil, a nation that has a wide gap between the rich and the poor as well as the productivity losses during this month of mayhem, I choose to learn a few lessons in wellness on how to turn the occasion into a positive experience in productivity.

1. Opportunity to build relationships

Whether you are football fan or not, now could be a great time for building or cementing relationships whether at work or in your personal life.

In Brazil, I had the opportunity to connect with my younger brother Ashvin, who lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia whereas I live in Sydney. As such we only meet up a few times a year and this was an opportunity to share and joint aspirational dream with member of my family.

I also managed to connect with my cousin and several other friends from all over the world in Rio and it was a rare opportunity to strengthen those meaningful relationships in my life.

The occasion can also be used to strengthen business relationships, by having more casual, relationship building discussions whilst watching a game. Often rivalries during a game can even build greater friendships afterward, so why not use these games as an opportunity to engage with someone you want to do business with.

The World Cup event can even be extended into the office setting, perhaps by having more dress down days, or allowing for breaks during game hours (especially if you know most of your employees are going to be watching it anyway). This way you could build trust with your team and they’ll be grateful for it afterward.

2. Adapt your schedules accordingly

Depending on which country you live in, match times can be during critical meetings or they can occur while you should be getting your REM sleep. If you are a fanatic and need to stay up to watch the games, then do expect that your productivity may drop during the day.

You should then think about ‘giving up’ other pleasures this month e.g. personal reading time or TV time, in order to make up for the loss in work productivity.

If on the other hand, you are not a fan but you know many of your employees are, then do be aware of when key games are on, (especially if they involve your own country), and try to work around them.

3. Screaming is therapeutic

I don’t recall shouting at the top of my lungs as much as I did at the Australia vs Holland game at Porta Allegre. Although we did end up losing the game, the Socceroos (Australia’s national squad whom I support), played like champions and even took the lead against the mighty Dutch who were fielding a very strong squad, possibly a trophy winning side.

It was extremely liberating to just ‘let go’ of my emotions and discharge my vocal cords for those 2 hours, especially when you are used to working in the corporate healthcare arena. The fact is, screaming is a therapeutic exercise (others may call this cheering), but I highly recommend you let your voice rip every now and again for stress relief, and a football game is definitely a good excuse.

4. Pace Yourself

With all the match-watching parties, interrupted sleep and disordered eating patterns, one can find yourself several kilos heavier and more out of shape watching football instead of playing it.

In my case, being on holidays in Brazil also meant having to try all the meaty, high carb Brazilian food such as the traditional Fejjuada (beans, rice, chips and 5 kinds of meat) as well as consuming traditional Brazilian beer for lunch, which is apparently commonplace.

They key is to not to completely all your mind-body wellness routines in the process. Even if you find it difficult to exercise every day, do try to fit it into the calendar at a different time of the day to when the games are on. Also, you could use the half-time breaks to meditate.

With food, its always handy to prepare in advance and do a big shop at the grocery and obtain a lot of healthy snacks (fruits, unsalted nuts, rice crackers etc.) so you are munching on tonnes of junk food during those tense goal scoring moments.

5. Time for breaks and Holidays

If you can’t beat them, join them! If you know productivity is going to be low on certain days, then why not just allow for some time off or take it off yourself. Once again, your colleagues and employees may appreciate this and you could enjoy a holiday when you know that even your clients and suppliers are probably in the same boat.

If you are working in an environment such as a hospital where it is unrealistic to take prolonged periods of time off, then see if you can shorten shift work during these periods, which may involve negotiating with some of your colleagues.

6. Fine-tune Corporate Wellbeing strategies

As the World Cup occurs from June to July, it is a good time to conduct a mid-year review of your corporate wellness strategy. Assess your wellness and productivity metrics of your organisation or if you have a wellness program for patients, then it is a good time to assess if this program is meeting its goals.

If they haven’t they get to the underlying cause of why this is the case. You could use the World Cup games as an event to engage people in the wellness conversation, find out what’s working in the organisation and what’s not.

Companies spent millions of $$$ to improve employee engagement as the World Cup could be an ideal opportunity to raise that conversation in a positive way using a topic that many of your employees already love.

7. Rediscover your inner child and passions

I well and truly maintain that the true secret of success is this “Know Thyself”. When you really know yourself, what you want in life, what your strengths are, what your core values are, what areas your blind spots are, and find ways to compensate for that, is when you really grow.

Some of this knowledge may sit in your conscious mind, yet 95% of who we are sits in our subconscious mind. For some reason in our past, certain people are able to better access memories from our childhood and understand reasons for how they behave now. I find that those people who are able to ‘discover their inner child’ e.g. laugh at themselves, especially when dealing with their own children, are better able to cope with stress and maintain long term business success without burning out.

This World Cup, especially visiting Brazil and rediscovering my love for football, a sport I have largely ignored for the last decade since moving to Australia from England, has allowed me to rediscover a passion from my childhood that I had left behind. As a result, I feel like I have another outlet to turn to in times of stress as a CEO, and for that I am very grateful.

Whether it is the skill of the game, the social occasion, the drama of players antics e.g. Luis Suarez biting his Italian opponent, with football there can be something for everyone to enjoy. And joy is part of wellbeing and wellbeing is fundamental to long term success in life and business.

What is your biggest lesson from the World Cup so far?




Do you have the ‘Entrepreneur’s Curse’??

In my role, I help CEO’s and Entrepreneurs in the Healthcare and Wellness industry, often when times are very rough. In some cases their companies are financially cash strapped and they are almost broke.

For the CEO’s of larger companies, stress management is just as important as strategy management, and so I help them in both of these areas.

However, for the smaller organisations, I note a very similar behaviour pattern or condition that I have noted several times in the past. In fact, it’s a condition that I have also been afflicted with in the past.

The condition is called the ‘Entrepreneur’s Curse’.

To understand this curse, first you have to understand the mindset of an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is often someone that is optimistic and full of bright ideas. A true entrepreneur has the courage to take some of these ideas and turn them into viable businesses.

However, what happens very often is one of two things:

1. Before Business no. 1 becomes a success, the entrepreneur has already started working on business no. 2 (and possibly even business no. 3)

2. Within business no. 2, the entrepreneur has already dedicated his or her limited time to a multitude of projects, tasks and activities, all of which are ‘good ideas’ to him or her, but do not necessarily align the with cash flow requirements of the business

3. The entrepreneur has spent so much developing new ideas (the exciting stuff), that he or she has not focussed on the MOST IMPORTANT AREAS OF FOCUS and developed that ONE BUSINESS to become the greatest source of income and success.

In short, the entrepreneur has spread himself or herself too thin, to point that the business never really succeeds and occasionally reaches a point of failure of bankruptcy.

In effect, this curse is actually a ‘blessing’ or ‘gift’ as the ability to continuously generate great ideas is a special ability to be cherished. However it does have a major downside if it is not checked.

In the last few weeks, I have particularly come across several entrepreneurs that are experiencing this ‘curse’.

One entrepreneur in particular had experienced a repeated set of failures, from office supplies, to property failures and subsequently wanted to start a range of healthcare products.

In most circumstances, while I strongly encourage greater entrepreneurship in the wellness industry, in this case
I actually advised him not to do it. It would have made his problems (and his debt) even larger and he needed to focus on more near term business growth opportunities.

Here’s the thing – if you haven’t learnt your lessons from past failures, the universe will keep hitting you over the head with the same lessons until you learn them!

Everyone has a unique set of stories and business experiences when they come to me and its important to identify what an entrepreneur really wants in their business and in life, before providing advice of any kind. So here’s a few pieces of general advice if you think you may be suffering from the healthcare ‘entrepreneur’s curse’.

1. It still surprises me how many business owners, particularly in healthcare, have not set themselves a financial goal. One tip I can provide here, is make sure you have set financial targets that are aligned with your business values as well as how you truly define success and happiness in life.

So many start up entrepreneurs want to create a business dollar company, yet very few actually do. If you have set a big goal – great, but ask yourself – does it really have to be a billion dollars?

Start with a more short term goal and work your way up from there. Your financial goals will help you determine a more focussed strategy for your health business.

2. Get OBJECTIVE advice on how your personal performance and business style affects your business. There is a tendency to rely on friends or family or occasionally, one-off advisors and whilst this can be helpful, solving these issues, especially when the business is in financial trouble, requires more intense support.

In my experience, a solid Advisory Board can help but more importantly I have found regular business coaching or mentoring to make the most difference. The reason for this is that entrepreneurs can get distracted VERY QUICKLY, even daily, and such there needs to be that sounding board to be there as regular as possible to get this back on track.

A good coach can save you millions and help make you millions, depending on the size of your business. Therefore I strongly recommend paying for a professional that is willing to accompany you on your business journey long term.

3. Finally, I would also strongly recommend mapping out all your projects , major tasks and activities on a simple project mapping tool like Basecamp (hyperlink to www.basecamp.com).

It is incredibly insightful to observe how many projects & activities you may be currently in, what may bring you short term revenue and which are the longer term options, in order to strike the right balance for your cash flow forecasts.

I recall conducting this exercise with Energesse and at one point we found that we were way overcommitted on the number of initiatives that we were involved with and actually ended up scrapping or holding off half of them!!

So, in summary know that your entrepreneur’s curse is also your gift. However, be sure that if you want to help as many people as possible with your healthcare and wellness organisation, then you need to be AWARE of how you are managing these sides of yourself and how it affects your business.

When was one time when you experienced the ‘Entrepreneur’s curse’?

Do you suffer from “If Only I had….” Syndrome?

Some people are very interesting – aren’t they? Throughout my life, I’ve been involved in the healthcare industry for over 15 years and this has given me a great insight into people.

Having grown up and studied in Malaysia, Singapore, UK and Australia, I met and befriended all kinds of people from eastern and western cultures. And they’ve had a diaspora of beliefs that confronted each other but often also coalesced in harmony.

Working as a doctor in hospitals in the UK and Australia, I treated them when they were sick and depressed and saw them heal and go home in good spirits. And then there were those that I could not help even with the best of medicine, and died with their families around them or sometimes alone. I witnessed their attitude to life in the best and worst of times.

When I moved into the business of biotech and pharmaceuticals, I saw the big picture of healthcare, how financials shape the world and how governments and businesses interact to create a ‘healthcare ecosystem’, which ultimately was also driven by people and their opinions.

In my time as a filmmaker and entrepreneur, I heard their stories and learnt how to tell theirs as well as my own. I developed a courage that I had not needed before, a courage to brave the world under my own ‘brand’, the wits in my head, the passion in my heart and the clothes on my back. No big brand like “Pfizer” to support me. And I saw a different side of people then.

And in all that time, I found that there are really only 2 kinds of people in this world.

This may seem very simplified, and yes we can shift between these two kinds of people, particularly in our 7 Areas of wellbeing, particularly areas such as Career and Finance.

Type V – People who believe that ‘the world happens to them’

Type H – People who believe that ‘they happen to the world’

What do I mean here?

Well the Type V as I call them, are the ones that suffer from “If only I had….” Syndrome. They are often ‘victims’ of how the world (other people, employers, God, natural disasters, family members, ex-husbands/wives, etc) has them wrong and their problems are always somebody else’s fault.

While they may be proactive in some areas of their life, such as their social life or physical wellbeing, they are often reactive and disempowered in others areas, such as with their business, work or money.

When they don’t get what they want in those areas of life, they often tend to say “ Ah, if only I had an investor, my business would be going great” or “if only I was better looking, someone would hire me” or “if only I had white skin, I would have more friends” or “if only I didn’t have this disease, my life would be great”.

For these Type V, there is always a reason why they did not get something and it was due to their own bad luck and there was nothing they could do about it (or at least they thought). Interestingly they may not have this attitude in all areas of their life, just in the areas they appear to have been unsuccessful in achieving their desires.

Then, there is the Type H, which are the ‘Heroes’. Type H are the masters of their own destiny. They are often very positive and successful in business and in life. They are happier (or at least appear to be), because no matter what disaster, tragedy or illness happens to them and knocks them down for a period of time, they find a way to bounce back.

They also get along better with others and do the best with whatever God has given them. These people aren’t better looking, they don’t necessarily have more money nor were they’re the best academically. They believed in how well they were, even when they were sick.

They just made the most of what they had, they believed in going out and getting what they wanted in life, despite the odds and making their business successful, no matter how dumb, ugly or ignorant the world thought they were.

I admired the Type H people. They were still human, and had the usual flaws of being perfectly human. And they are times when they got depressed and defeated through life’s challenges, but they have heart, and they are persistent in getting to their goals, especially if their goal is as simple as daily happiness.

Now I know that this may seem a little judgmental or even controversial, however it is just my own observation of people having worked across many careers, countries, cultures and organisations.

But here’s the secret…..

Being Type V or Type H is a choice.

We are not born this way nor were we made this way.

At some point in life, and in some areas of our life, we chose to be either Type V or Type H. And we can change at any time……

So, which one you rather be?

Have you met anyone with “if only I had…..”syndrome?

Is profit a bad word in healthcare?

I have been involved in the healthcare industry for over 15 years and I’ve worked as a doctor in hospitals, I have worked in medical research for biotech industry, I have worked marketing healthcare products and business strategy in the pharmaceutical industry and I have enjoyed leading my business in holistic health and wellness.

In all my endeavours in healthcare, money was a part of the healthcare paradigm. In the hospitals and practices in the UK and Australia that I worked in, doctors, nurses and allied health professionals didn’t really think about charging patients as healthcare was essentially free. The government essentially paid everyone’s salaries.

Even then we had the occasional patients complain that service was poor!!

And what’s even more interesting, was that nurses were going on strike because they needed better pay and doctors were also about to go on strike.

Ironically, when I left the National Health Service in the UK to leave such disillusionment, the problem was exactly the same – nurses were going on strike because of poor pay and doctors were about to go on strike!

When I was in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, there were no strikes! Essentially, there was medical research performed and a lot of it was commercialised. The reality was that the product (medical drug) in this case would need to serve a need in the market, but would also have to somehow generate revenue for the company.

There was a constant balance of managing the needs of patients who need the drug and setting a price that governments could pay for it, in order to reach the broadest amount of people.

The company on the other hand had to serve its shareholders and make a profit – something many companies did well, but many also struggled with.  This was the development of a drug is very risky business – you could spend over $1billion dollars developing a drug (the average cost these days), only to find weeks after hitting the market that it had to be withdrawn for some unforeseen side-effect.

In my humble opinion, while these companies were commercially driven, there was a line that we would not cross and integrity in how we did our science was paramount. However, this is a topic that is widely debated in modern society. Very often, people struggle to rationalise the concept that healthcare is somehow a business and that finances are involved in delivering healthcare.

This challenge is perpetuated in the field of complementary and alternative health, which I am now involved in. Here we charge patients (who are now called clients instead) and it is interesting to observe the dynamic how many people are quite happy to pay several hundred dollars for a flatscreen TV but will not pay it to solve an emotional issue that they have had since childhood.

It speaks to how much we value our own health these days.

I am a firm believer that in order to be a sustainable organisation long-term, you need good discipline in business and you need to be able to make money, or show a profit. Even a non-for-profit should be able to generate a profit, as long as it is reinvested into the organisation.

This is clearly a challenge in the mindset of many people in healthcare.

However, what do you think – is profit a ‘bad word’ in healthcare?