After learning he had a immune disease, Lee completely lost his independence and ability to look after himself. His subsequent recovery compelled him to support and help others.
Lee’s strong mindset led him to recover from his health problems and develop a ‘can do’ attitude to motivate and inspire.
I was born in Bolton to teenage parents, and spent my early years living in a council house. My parents were both hard working and instilled that in me. I had a relative smooth pathway through school, I was labelled as clever and didn’t put a lot of effort in. I was the first in my extended family to attend University, and that had made my parents proud.
Struggles at university
I attended University in Manchester and moved into the city in the second year. For the first six months, I adapted well to independent life, joined a kickboxing club and enjoyed a social life. But when February came, I started to struggle, and started to isolate myself in my dorm. I choked on a presentation in front of my whole year, and I consoled myself by playing computer games. I continued to spiral downwards and eventually had a mental breakdown, locking myself in my room and not coming out for 2 weeks. In the end, my parents came and took me home. I failed that year and had to go back and resit it.
I managed to get myself together over the next year and staying at home, I managed to eventually graduate, and while lacking confidence in myself, I secured a graduate position on the Co-operatives finance pathway. Unfortunately, this was in 2007, and 6 months in, the credit crunch bit, causing several redundancies in the departments above me. This led to a meeting with my manager, who advised that I couldn’t be put on the training I needed, or be promoted, until the economy recovered. This was difficult to take, but it sparked a fire inside me. I would have to look after myself both financially and educationally, and I couldn’t rely on corporations to do that for me.
Venturing into business
When I had finished university, I went to see a business advisor, as I had drawn up a business plan to start a video game wholesale business. After presenting it to him, he told me it was a great plan, and then said to me…
You’re young, black and have an attitude problem. This industry is controlled by 50-year-old white men who won’t trust you and will see you as someone who will disrupt the market. Your’re obviously talented so why don’t you go into coding or development where the crowd is much younger and more diverse?
I took the advice a little personally, but I respected his opinion and experience. I decided to focus on the graduate job.
But with the graduate job becoming redundant, I took the sets to start this business from my bedroom, and took an easier job at Bolton Council, which gave me the time and energy to build my business. I worked alongside the business for 4 years while I built it up to £750k turnover. I used the flexibility and finance to train as a nutritionist, a strength and conditioning trainer and a football coach. I got a new job helping unemployed people back into work, which was very rewarding. My son was born in 2012 and I got married in 2013. We bought a family house and I started to feel contented, if not fulfilled.
In the May of 2014, over the course of 5 days, my joints started to lock in place. Firstly, my wrist, then both my knees, and them my shoulder. I was dragged to the hospital by my mother in law, unable to walk. I spent the next month in hospital, being treated and attempting to find out what was happening. My immune system was attacking the connective tissue in my joints, and the damage this had caused left me unable to walk. At this point my son was 18 months old, and my wife was 6 months pregnant. They helped me shower and look after myself. I found it difficult losing my independence, and the isolation caused my losing my mobility. I went through rehab, intensive physio and hydrotherapy, and after 6 months I was back on my feet. I was in a lot of pain as my gait wasn’t correct and my lumbar vertebrae were compacting together, so I went back into physio to get this worked on.
I had a lot of time to reflect while not being able to move well. and I decided, I was going to get back on my feet and play with my children. That gave me a strong mindset and the resilience to recover. It also gave me a burning desire to help others who were also going through significant challenges. I am on medication, which is very unpleasant, so I decided I would use my knowledge of nutrition to experiment and see if I could reduce my medication. I started an Advanced Sleep Practitioner Course so I could also optimise my sleep. And I started to take notice of what movement worked for me. Documenting this journey helped me formulate my ideas towards setting up a well-being for performance company. And that is where I am at today.
A passion for wellbeing
My business why is simple: I went into business because I wanted to positively impact the well-being of as many adults and children I could, while increasing their health outcomes, and trying to help people avoid my challenges, or assist them through them. I’m also passionate about helping the next generation to learn the life skills that are going to be very valuable as the future is going to be increasingly dynamic. When I have done a lot of self-work on myself, I have got clarity on the fact that everything I’ve done and enjoy in my life can be boiled down into one sentence ‘I want to optimise things and help people’.
Striving for equality & inclusion
My ethics and values drive my actions and desires. I’m competitive, inclusive and would love the world to be more equal. I value consistency, I’m thoughtful and I want to bring joy to the world. I identify with collaboration, curiosity and personal growth.
The lowest point
My lowest point was a time after losing the ability to walk. I really struggled with losing the ability to look after myself fully, not being able to easily socialise with friends, play team sports and having to adapt so many aspects of my life. I was in grief for my mobility. But I had help from my wife, and my parents in law. I started to reframe my pain and started to think about all the things I was grateful for. Even my business was mostly digital, so I was able to keep working from my hospital bed. I still had my legs, my family, a great life. I learnt that my health outcomes where related to my own ownership for my chronic disease. I could take my medication and sit there and hope…or I could be accountable to myself and try everything to get myself into the best place I could be.
Learning from failure
I have had one failed business, which I started in 2013. It was a game-based merchandise subscription box service. I was overconfident and didn’t have the budget to buy the licensing for all the merchandise. I bought a significant amount of stock, setup all the processes, but found I didn’t get enough traffic to convert, and I had been short sighted as to how to get a different business model working effectively. Luckily, I had the finances to take the loss, but I dissected the failure and took numerous lessons to take forward. It has also meant with my well-being business; I took a complete beginner’s mindset to it. It is easy to be blindsided by success and being an entrepreneur is not a simple process. I worked alongside my video game business for so long, just in case it didn’t work.
The most amazing moment in business was after my first year, having made a significant profit, that I had proved that I could do it, to myself and in my head to the adviser who had doubted me. But what trumps this is getting the feedback, face to face from my first coaching client, after I had helped her improve her sleep and this had snowballed to improving other parts of her life. After she left, I had a teary moment where I felt so fulfilled by making a difference, and that fuels me to wake up every morning. It solidified that I want to help as many people as I possibly can.
Making a difference
My life and business are very busy now. Having setup Essentialise in December, I have been making a difference with my individual and corporate clients. I have a few speaking engagements, workshops and am currently designing an online platform. I am also busy networking locally. I have been going into sixth form colleges talking about my journey and how life is full of challenges, but you can fail your way to a level of success if you’re willing to keep learning. And I’m collaborating designing a series of assemblies called ‘Our Future Global Leaders’, for primary school children in disadvantaged areas to give them future-proof life skills that schools don’t teach.
My son, Myles, and Daughter, Annabel, are 7 and 5 and are both at Primary School. They are doing well, and I am very proud of them. My wife Louise is currently working as a teacher and doing her SENCO Masters qualification. I am currently studying my ILM Executive Coaching qualification and am part of the core 7 group setting up Toastmaster Preston, the public speaking educator, as there is no club to attend in Lancashire at present. I coach a disability football team, AFC Lammack, for adults with disabilities.
Coping with stress and overwhelm
I prioritise my wellbeing both physically and mentally in a strategic way. I have a morning routine: I wake up at 6.15, wash my face, hydrate, meditate, listen to a positive podcast, exercise or stretch, read and then journal. This gives me a positive start to the day, before I have any other inputs or stimuli from work, the news or other people’s agendas. I plan my days so I can work in waves, doing 90 minutes at a time with 15-minute breaks to fit in with my ultradian rhythms. I have incorporated gratitude and mindfulness into everyday activities, such as a piece of gratitude at every red light I stop at, and I mindfully stand up every 15 minutes, shake my body and feel the vibration. I have learned to become vulnerable and talk about my challenges with those close to me. This is never easier as an entrepreneur or a man, but it is so vital to my mental wellness that I operate at a higher level because of it and am increasingly more empathetic and understanding of other people’s perceptions and perspective.
Being a ‘Calmpreneur’
My qualities come part from my natural makeup, and partly from my experiences. I’m very relaxed by nature, and don’t tend to get stressed about things. I often do deep work on things that need to be done, but I rarely worry about things that are out of my control. I’ve done a lot of work on making sure I don’t get emotionally trigger by external events and am a student of stoic philosophy. I like to plan, but I plan flexibility and have learned to be dynamic and adapt to changing situations. The resilience I’ve gained from being unwell really helps, as does the gratitude I’ve gained reflecting on my life. I have a abundant mindset and I see people in the same field as me as collaborators, not competition. I do breath work, and meditation has been mental training that helps me disconnect from work and reconnect stronger the next day. I have a digital sunset where I come away from my devices so I can relax before going to bed.
Advice to other entrepreneurs
- Try and get enough sleep, it’s the cornerstone of wellbeing and performance.
- Make sure you look after your main asset, which is your body and mind, by eating a diet that gives you energy and works for you.
- Try to find an exercise you enjoy, and make sure you move as much as you can over each day. Take the stairs or park a bit further away if you need too.
- Write a success list each morning, highlighting what you need to do to make a little progress towards your big goals.
- Build gratitude into your life, and you will start to see lots of things you can be happy for every day.
- Do the biggest most stressful task first thing, and it won’t build up pressure in your mind all day.
- Try and get out into nature when you can, walk in the park, visit a forest, it brings amazing peace to the mind.
- Have a digital sunset where you turn off your devices in the evening and engage with your family.
- If you have time, try to volunteer for a cause your passionate about, you can help others and feel really fulfilled.
- If you’re feeling stressed, put on some uplifting music, it really helps to reframe your thoughts.
- If you’re feeling isolated, there is now lots of networking groups for entrepreneurs to meet like-minded individuals to talk and bounce ideas off.
- If you are struggling, mind dump your feelings onto some paper, it will give you clarity on if you are worrying too much and give you the space to think of solutions.
- Try to be social with your friends and do something which makes you focus on that task in present, or that makes you laugh a lot.
- Think about how life is never stable, it goes up and down, and as you’re going down, be prepared to bounce back up again.
- Get a coach or a mentor, who you can speak to open and honestly, they have probably been there too.
- Make sure you are aligned with your purpose, if you are on the wrong path it will feel like you are not being authentic to yourself and that can be stressful.
My tips from my journey are:
- Be vulnerable and don’t be afraid to tell your story. Stories really resonate with people, as many of us have been through challenges that have fuelled us to create something meaningful. As the old saying goes, ‘people buy people’, and you will be able to make more impact if you can articulate why you are on the quest you are on.
- Identify your tribe, its very difficult to market both in terms of content and cost if you try and target a large slice of the population. Somewhere out there, thousands of people will identify with your product or service on a level of passion that is like you. Your job is to find them, let them know, and see them spread the word like they were your own business development manager!
- Look after the biggest asset, your physical and mental health. Is there any point having a successful business if you’re not looking after the one body and mind you have? In the early stages, there is a time when working hard to gain momentum is very important, but you should make sure you book in time for the things that energise you. Your business will only be as healthy as you are.
- Continue to give some time to learning, and don’t be afraid to try new things. Being an entrepreneur involves a level of risk taking, and spending time out of your comfort zone. You need to continue to develop yourself as a technician, a manager and an entrepreneur. Your business will never be able to grow beyond your own personal growth and how you identify yourself.
Connect with Lee
Lee Chambers runs Essentialise, a Functional Coaching and Workplace Wellbeing Company. He is a Performance Nutritionist, Strength and Conditioning Coach, and an Advanced Sleep Practitioner. He helps small business owners develop and grow personally so they have more time and energy to do the things they love, and promote a well-being culture inside their organisations.