Self-Care Ain’t Selfish

By Simon Hunter Esq, MBE, CEO Hunter Apparel Solutions Limited, UK

For those that do not know me, I am Simon, married to Roisin (Irish for a beautiful rose – and indeed she is) with 2 sons, Jude, and Noah. I reside in Northern Ireland, County Derry, Londonderry (like New York, New York “so good they named it twice”). We live in the far Northwest of Northern Ireland, near where the mighty River Foyle flows into the North Atlantic Ocean, from there on, on from our coastline; its next port – the United States of America!

I grew up a “factory rat” at Hunter Apparel Solutions Limited (Hunter), which was established in 1936 as a tailoring operation and by 1952 had become a manufacturer of uniforms. I am “rag trade” through and through, probably like many of the NAUMD readers. I have been working in the sector for some 25 years and I am now CEO of Hunter.

I am deeply interested in the emerging concept of the CEO as Chief Energy Officer, literally, the CEO controlling their heart rate variability through controlled breathing can help set the energy levels for the organization. In smaller companies at least (or what I prefer to refer my own company as – a High Growth Potential (H.G.P.) company, I think the CEO is also the Chief Purpose Officer.

Charging the body and the mind are now core skills for a modern CEO and whether we seek guidance and inspiration from James Allen from a prior century or Dr. Joe Dispenza from the here and now, the message is clear, start by looking after yourself, self-care is not selfish, then making the best you can of what you’ve got apply it in earnest to your organization and see what you are capable of.

At the start of the summer, I was recommended a great book by a valued friend called “As a Man Thinketh”, written by James Allen and published in 1903. It was described by Allen as “… [dealing] with the power of thought, and particularly with the use and application of thought to happy and beautiful issues…..It shows how, in his own thought-world, each man holds the key to every condition, good or bad, that enters into his life, and that, by working patiently and intelligently upon his thoughts, he may remake his life, and transform his circumstances.” The book is incredibly thought-provoking and quite staggering in its modern currency given it is now 118 years old! Having just listened to a podcast by Dr. Joe Dispenza on hard wired behaviors and the use of meta-cognition to help individuals change their daily reality, it seems that the import and essence of Allen’s work is alive and well amongst our greatest global thought leaders.

The basic tenet of the book as I understood it was – look don’t think your thoughts are private or hidden – they aren’t – they come through in what you say, how you say it, how often you repeat it, what you chose to do, with who…. as such, we all think we have a hidden private world that perhaps is less private than we think. What we choose to put in our heads is incredibly important, because that becomes what we think and what we do and so who we are. Now, I am certainly not being “holier than thou” when I write these words or being in any way preachy, after all, I am only perfect in my imperfections of which there are many, but it does make one ponder about our own ability to shape our future and the future of our companies, or our sector. I highly recommend Allen’s book to anyone interested in personal development and self-help – which hopefully means everyone reading this article.

In mid-July while in self-isolation due to my 20-year-old son Jude getting most likely the Delta variant of Covid, I was doing a spot of reading in that great rarity that is the Northern Irish sunshine, when I read in The New York Times, about Dr Edward Chang talking to Pancho, who has been able to communicate for the first time since a car crash in 2003. His first words were” my family is outside”. He last spoke to his family 18 years ago when a devastating stroke after a car accident left him paralyzed and robbed him of his power of speech. With the assistance of this technology “Pancho”, is once again able to communicate after doctors and scientists in California developed a breakthrough method of treatment. After hours of recording cortical activity and implanting electrodes into Pancho’s brain, the team led by Chang, Chairman of Neurological Surgery at the University of California, were able to show the words he was trying to say on a computer screen in real-time, so directly via the brain (so no filter here), the words just spilled directly out of Pancho. What he thinks is what he says.

On the very same afternoon, on Futurism, I read that Facebook had announced its plans to abandon the development a Mind-Reading Headset; a brain-computer interface headset capable of turning brain signals into spoken words. Not something I expected Facebook to be working on particularly, but it seems that the technology whereby what we think would be directly displayed is here already and potentially expanding outside of medical environments soon. It seems to me that the adage GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) so oft vocalized by my deeply boring computer science teacher in my teens has never been more important. We must learn to feed our brain with high-quality data that improve the state of our thoughts such that when our minds wander it wanders only in fertile territory.

Like many in self-iso I wasn’t perfect in that either, myself and wife Roisin did go for hikes in the Sperrin Mountains close to our home. Well out of the way from other folks and soaking up whatever Vitamin D can be had from the skies above us, we walked, talked, perspired and generally “put the world to rights” as they say. Its never more pronounced for me than when being outside in nature how the mind just drifts so freely in a way that is not possible indoors with the sounds of appliances and various media coming at us 247. I think that using a walk in the mountains to clear your mind followed by a very deliberate resetting of one’s mind is a great way to help navigate the challenges of self-care and leadership. So, focusing on leading oneself before one can attempt to lead others is critical and as such self-care is vitally important. Learning techniques, such as breathing (box breathing, Wim Hof breathing), cold shower and ice bath treatments are a great way to build up your resilience and your immune system. I find particularly that the discomfort of the cold shower being a great way to start the day, the idea being that humans grow from a position of discomfort rather than comfort.