Happy people don’t wreck themselves

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Sophie Lee is the founder of brand storytelling consultancy and B Corp, Electric Peach. She's on the f: Entrepreneur #ialso100 list for 2024, is a trustee of lived experience recovery organisation, Recovery Connections, and a business mentor for Enterprise Nation. Sophie has trained 1000s of leaders to discover the power of their voice and tell their story with impact.

Biggest fuck up

The creative industry has a pretty prolific issue with drink and drugs. Ever the overachiever, I took that to the next level.

Every massive mistake I have made comes down to the part of my brain that doesn’t say, ‘No thanks, I’m going to bed.’

Hundreds of pounds of gear a week, normalised by the ‘well everyone else is doing it’ narrative. And countless 4 am stop-outs with members of my team, often resulting in carnage at work the next day.

That behaviour carried me to the heights of my agency career.

To the outside, I had my shit together. A lovely flat in Brighton, a senior leadership position.

I was the one they wheeled in to win a big pitch or impress a client over dinner and, of course, drinks. Inside, I was drowning.

In 2017, I left my job to start my own agency. I had all the best intentions of creating something truly unique.

We wanted to use marketing and advertising as a force for good. But, you know what they say… you can escape the douchebag agency, but you can’t escape your douchebag self.

There I was, with all my heavy, tattered baggage, determined to destroy it all.

It fully came to a head one bleak day in January 2018. My business partner and I had an important meeting with a woman who wanted to invest in us. I showed up sweaty and nervous. I’d had 27.7 minutes of sleep and probably stank of a distillery.

That moment cost us the investment (after a very long and mortifying email asking my business partner to seriously consider whether she’d made a terrible mistake going into partnership with me), but probably saved my life.

Thus began the long and painful road to recovery and successful entrepreneurship.

The lesson: happy people don’t wreck themselves. If you see someone in your organisation behaving like this, all is not well. Take them aside, tell them you see them, ask them if they need your help. Do not judge. They, too, may be drowning.

Rant

Oh, so many things.

You talk about wanky bollocks. That’s the very definition of my industry.

So much of marketing is about manipulating people to buy things they don’t want or need. In fact, most major global issues can be traced back to marketing.

Lung disease? Marketing. Alcoholism? Marketing. Beauty standards? Marketing. Diet culture? Uh oh, marketing! The opiate crisis? You guessed it, Barry! Marketing.

But what really huckles my finn is the rise of the self-made guru.

People touting 6-figures-in-six-days courses using a blend of NLP and total Tom fckery. They usually have zero credentials or proof they’ve actually achieved what they are selling but are masters in narcissistic mind control. It’s a total con, and I hate that they take advantage of vulnerable folk just trying to make it by themselves in business.

The worst thing is how they make it your problem when what they’re selling inevitably doesn’t work. You just didn’t believe in yourself enough. Prove you have what it takes and invest another £10,000 in the next phase of bullshit.

Useful advice

Keep showing up. But show up as you really are in all your brilliant, messy humanness. I would love to see us give ourselves permission to fully shine.

Not because we’re infallible and have never made any mistakes but because we are survivors of our fuck ups; they’ve made us who we are.

I’m proud of my journey. But I wish someone had told me when I was drowning, ‘You’re worthy; just as you are.’

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