Whether we like it or not, as business leaders, we live in a world where our differences are highlighted daily. Where politically and socially, there seems to be an “us and them” narrative driving behaviours, and in a world that is supposed to bring us closer together, there seem to be forces that drive us apart. There is undeniable tribalism that is coming out. Every day we are asked to work out which side we are on…

I wish I could tell you that in this blog, I will discuss what it means to be a leader in today’s world, what connects us regardless of our colour, gender, sexual orientation, belief, physical and neurological differences. I wish I could lighten the mood and say we are all the same. I hope I could make you laugh with a joke. But I am afraid I can’t. This blog is about low self-esteem, and since I am the only one in the history of the world who has ever suffered from it, this blog will be all about me… Ah. I’ve disproved my own set-up…

Here is my blog, and this is about all of us.

I have believed that the grass was greener on the other side for almost my whole life. I am not even a grass dweller often, but I knew if I was, the patch of land that I found myself would be less vivid in colour, less lush, than that of my neighbours. That’s how much of a pessimist I was.

Maybe it is the capitalist society I grew up in? The one telling us that we need more, should want more, should have more? Perhaps it was having such a career-oriented father? A man who, however much money he made, it was never enough. He was constantly comparing himself to others and so was never happy and worked too hard? If that was the case, then maybe the terribly poetic nature of losing my father when I was 16 years old to a stress-related heart attack should have made me realise that there is more to life than the pursuit of more? Maybe…

I am not a doctor, and this isn’t about my dream of a medical degree because I don’t hope to understand the intricate complexities that make us human. I hope to use complicated and niche terminology to distract you from being vulnerable as a business leader. I am vulnerable…but my team has suggested that I can’t keep doing that. So, after minutes of procrastinating, here is the truth. I, like almost everyone, have suffered from feeling that I am not good enough, and that left me feeling broken.

You don’t have to look very far to see that people, particularly men, don’t talk enough about how we are feeling. We are not given the tools or the opportunities to articulate how we feel when we are young. Phrases like “man up” and “boys don’t cry” reflect this. It even goes to the children’s sing-along anthem “The Wheels on the Bus”, which acknowledges that the “mummys’ on the bus go natter, natter, natter.” while the daddies go “shush, shush, shush”. I haven’t sung this song for many years because my children are more grown-up now, but I doubt the lyrics have changed… This is supposed to be a lighter look at a severe problem. You don’t have to look far to find horrifying statistics about the mental health crisis we are facing. Also, we should look into changing the lyrics of that clearly sexist song.

It took me 25 years to realise how my father’s death had affected me. I was “dealing” with my grief by throwing myself into sport, unhealthy relationships and alcohol.

This reaction, I have learnt only in hindsight, is not uncommon. I am sure if you are reading this blog, you are seeking some work-life balance and that you have also found yourself wobbling on the thin line between keeping it together and falling the heck over the edge. I didn’t realise that throwing myself into hockey was me trying to cope with the loss of my father. I didn’t know that because 1) I hadn’t thought I was having a tough time, so I didn’t know I needed to cope with anything and 2) it was only when my wife said “enough is enough” that I realised that throwing myself into hockey was a distraction, not a solution. I wasn’t coping, I was on the verge of losing everything, and I didn’t even know it…

When my father died, I was devastated, but I also thought that people lost their parents all the time. I didn’t allow myself time to process my grief but instead pushed it down in an attempt to silence it. Remember when you were young and told to clean your room, and after arguing and protesting, you just stuffed all the mess into your wardrobe and leaned against the door as it buckled and groaned under pressure? Yeah. Like that. But for 25 years and with my emotions. And just like when I was a child shoving my mess into my wardrobe and thinking I’d get away with it. I couldn’t, and I didn’t.

Here is how I actually got better. I realised I was not on my own. I asked for help, and I was lucky enough to receive it. Many don’t. That’s what those terrifying statistics I mentioned earlier are. Although I had people around me, my family, my hockey team, as you can imagine, they are not professionals, and that’s what I needed. Also, sportspeople are not the best listeners to paint everyone with a broad brush.

When I started my Mastermind, I learned to talk openly and honestly about feelings. We are not taught to be vulnerable, so we must understand ourselves. We also have to know it is not a sign of weakness but strength. Once I had those support systems in place, I could speak my truth. I realised that I was hurting, and I could heal from that.

I also learnt that I wasn’t able to control everything. I wasn’t able to control what happened to my father. I am not even entirely in control of everything that happens to me. That is not me shifting the responsibility of the things I can change, but realising if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, it is scientifically impossible for me to be hit by and driving the bus simultaneously. I am trying to embrace the unknown. I am not mastering it, but I am also learning to be ok with that. I also look both ways when I cross the road.

You can’t go wrong with a bit of Leonard Cohen. Sure, he is not what the kids would call a floor-filling artist. His album is not a record that makes the people rise from their seats and head to the dance floor and throw shapes like they are in a violent maths lesson. But when I listen to Anthem and hear the line, “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” I can’t help but feel that he hits the nail on the head so well that it’s never coming out of the wall.

I want you to know that I have felt broken. If you feel broken, you are not alone. And neither am I. The grass might look greener on the other side, but if I continue this land-based metaphor, it is even more likely that we are all in the same field. This is my blog, but I hope you have found a little bit of yourself in here too.

Thanks so much for joining me.

Download the ten daily habits HERE