The Colour Works is a company that celebrates diversity, individuality and wellbeing, (among other great things), and as a marketeer it is far easier and much more enjoyable to be marketing products and services that you not only believe in but that you can take with you and implement in your everyday life. When my Dad – a people development manager who’s always game for broadening the mind – called me up just after New Year inviting me to a wellbeing masterclass, it was a no-brainer.
As part of any New Year resolve, you can’t go far wrong by attending a Guardian Masterclass, especially one that involves Ruby Wax. The title alone is seductive – who among us doesn’t want to improve their wellbeing? What we didn’t anticipate, however, were five very diverse talks, each tackling this particular juicy conundrum in their own way. Add in that we were to receive a book from each author and we were onto a winner.
The compere for the day was Farrah Storr, editor in chief at Cosmopolitan. Ruby described her as “smart and pretty” adding “and I don’t hate you – that’s mindfulness!”. Farrah guided Ruby through an interview which touched on her depression, the changes in her life and her advocacy of mindfulness, during which she delivered some brilliant one-liners such as “Every cell in your body is rooting for your survival but not one cares about your happiness!” and “Pain is pain but suffering is optional.” which amused and illuminated the room at the same time.
Certainly, having someone like Ruby to tackle the persistent taboo of mental illness is a stroke of mastery. She neutralises the subject, pokes fun at it – as well as herself – mocks the industry which surrounds it and yet doesn’t deny the real sting in its tail. Her focus was on the benefits of Mindfulness, which an audience member described as “meditation on the move”. It doesn’t matter what you call the practice– it’s all about adapting it to what works for you in order to begin training that powerful muscle.
Next on was Shaa Wasmund, author of ‘Stop talking, start doing!’ and now ‘Do less, get More.’ Shaa told of the story of her poor background and her subsequent affiliation with money. Even though she became financially successful through sheer drive she was still unhappy in her role. She then decided to become ‘unapologetically me’. What she meant by this was that it is easy to become a version of yourself that other people what you to be rather than being the person you are. Her solution was to quit her high-paid job and follow her life-long passion – writing. On the back of this, she unapologetically wrote these books, which has made her happier now having avoided “analysis paralyses and mistaking busy for productiveness”.
The creator of Moshi and shot chess, (if you don’t know what shot chess is then Google it now!), Michael Acton Smith, was up next talking about his recent book ‘Calm’, which seems to have emerged on the back of too much success. Success can mean saturation and, apparently, can make it impossible to enjoy the fruits of your labour. So Michael took himself to the Austrian Alps and discovered Mindfulness. This resulted in a quirky App and book to help calm the mind and ‘change the world.’ Michael shows that whatever your circumstances, embracing innovation and being solution-focussed can sometimes produce surprising results.
After a light lunch, we were treated to the eating habits of Derval O’Rourke, a former world champion hurdler. Derval now puts her energy into energy: eating in a way which enhances performance in the sport of your choice. ‘Food for the Fast Lane’ is a bestseller which advocates the use of unprocessed foods, making up large batches of goodness at the weekends and organising your freezer with technical precision. Putting aside the accusation of dietary snobbery, her ideas were all very practical and focused on taste as well as nutrition.
The final speaker, David Alred, the sports coach, was an example of saving the best til last. Of all the speakers, each superb in their own way, he was the one who was truly inspirational in my eyes. Afterwards, I actually wanted to swing a golf club or kick a rugby ball correctly, something I wish I was better at. His opening sentence was simply that “Language is the window of the mind.” Now, that statement is going to win me – a Colour Worker – over every time as we believe that using a common language to address behavioural differences and help create a sustainable, fulfilling place of work allows people to be high-performers.
David’s manner was easy and natural. He demonstrated what he was saying, even getting us out of our chairs to illustrate particular points. “Reinforce the behaviour you want to repeat instead of reinforcing the behaviour you seek to avoid” was one particular sentence that stood out. Put another way, “be obsessed with what you want to do and not with what you want to avoid.” Good stuff, I say! Don’t be negative (what to avoid) or positive (nice but no direction) but be proactive (specific with direction). For his finale, he asked a member of the audience to kick a rugby ball. Focusing on the process rather than the outcome (the ball and the shifting of the ‘fire’ in her belly to her foot rather than actively trying to score), she was inches away from the target on the second strike! This is the exact same technique that he had taught Jonny Wilkinson, he said.
Overall, this was a highly unique and enjoyable experience. I left energised by the sheer volume of diverse insights into the human condition. I have remembered the key points taken from the Masterclass and have made an effort to be pro-active, mindful and above all happy in my day-to-day life.
Written by Luke Hawker