Jane Imrie

Day five of Newcastle Startup Week: Keep going or pivot

After a packed week of talks, panels and networking opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs, the fifth and final day of Newcastle Startup Week saw the event draw to a close.

After Sky’s morning fringe session on TV advertising at Gallowgate near St. James’ Park, the last main event took place on fittingly took place at Newcastle’s iconic quayside, in the NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator Hub at 1 Trinity Gardens.

It is no coincidence that many of today’s speakers focused on maintaining healthy wellbeing, this week has also been Mental Health Awareness Week. Here are some of the highlights from the day.

Spencer Davey - ’Drive’

Newcastle Falcons player and CEO of Storm Fitness Spencer Davey focused on his journey from childhood to rugby player and entrepreneur, drawing on his experience as a man of both business and sport to offer advice on the subject of drive.

He began by sharing a story about how drive can be bad. For him, a playful competition on a rowing machine at the gym once turned into a full-blown obsession to beat the world record for most rows in a minute. Admitting that he didn’t really care about it, he declared the eight months spent working on this goal “meaningless” and a waste of time

He then reflected on when drive works well, reminiscing on his childhood: “my dream was to be a professional sportsman…well a rugby player actually, but they didn’t have them back then.” He achieved that dream, going on to become a professional rugby union player.

It was during this career that he started to get bored: “I didn’t feel I had purpose”. He also felt that his “athleticism was taking a downtown”. Around this time he saw a family member go through a personal crisis, as well as drawing inspiration from seeing former Olympic champion Tom Thorpe talk about mental health.

Spencer decided that he wanted to help people with their physical, mental and social wellbeing, and so set up personal training business Storm Fitness.

He stressed the point that “there’s a belief in all of us that if we struggle along with things, things will be ok” but that we should listen to our bodies and minds even when there is work to be done.

Speaking about the psychological phenomenon of ‘addiction transfer’, he warned against substituting one addition for another saying: “in my own experience, addictive behaviours lead to addictive behaviours.”

Addressing the culture of needing to be ‘driven’, Spencer asked “are you driving or are you driven?”, differentiating between having a specific meaningful goal in mind compared to adopting ‘drive’ as a characteristic.

He concluded with a quote from the late George Michael: “What happens when everything is not enough?”, ending on poignant note by adding: “we know what happens, don’t we?”

Sarah Crimmens - ’Expansion & Contraction’

Co-producer of Newcastle Startup Week and self proclaimed ‘magic maker’, ‘space creator’ and ‘community builder’ Sarah Crimmens paused from her busy role of overseeing the event to speak about the importance of maintaining wellbeing through understanding what she calls expansion and contraction.

She began by explaining expansion and contraction as mental highs and lows, peaks and troughs or ups and downs. Formerly believing life to operate in a ‘straight line’, she said she now understands expansion and contraction to be how life flows: “it’s in our DNA as entrepreneurs especially!”.

She warned against “chasing the highs”, and talked about the importance of being in touch with all emotions, whether positive or negative.

In her professional and personal quest for self-development, she has come up against resistance: “A lot of people are like ‘why would you want to develop yourself?’…I’m like ‘why wouldn’t you?’” She has also found that a lot of the people she supports in her work as a wellbeing coach put off working on themselves to a more ‘convenient time’, to which she asked: “What would happen if you did it now?”

To deal with the peaks and troughs that life has to offer both in business and personal spheres, Sarah shared two frameworks: ‘pause and notice’ and ‘working with and through’.

‘Pause and notice’ works on what she called the ‘3 As’: ‘allow’, ‘acknowledge’ and ‘accept’, and she stated that sitting with the negative times as well as the positive is a healthier way to handle feelings.

In ‘Working with and through’, Sarah highlighted some of her preferred ways of working with emotions and difficult times:

  • “Listen/tune in“. Sarah recommended finding a place where you can listen to your inner thoughts
  • “Ride the highs and lows“. She emphasised the importance of sitting within all feelings whether positive or negative.
  • “Enjoy each moment“. According to Sarah: “They’re all teaching you something!”
  • “Compassion“…“with yourself!”
  • “Resource“. She explained that it’s vital to know your mental resources and draw on them when required.
  • “Nourish“. She discussed remembering to make sure the body has the nutrients it needs at all times.
  • “Exercise“. Minimal exercise can be a huge help, according to Sarah.
  • “Nature“….“Get outside!”
  • “Connect“. Sarah stressed the benefit of connecting with other people, “even if just for five minutes”.
  • “Plan“. She said not to underestimate the power of planning something nice for the future in helping wellbeing.

Want to catch up on the event? Follow #NewcastleStartupWeek to check out what has been happening throughout the week.

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