“Being told I was too diverse and young. Now I share my story to inspire others to not let society imprint on you” – Lee Chambers
We at BoxHuman are passionate about highlighting and celebrating inspiring humans; especially the ones who are inspiring, helping, and bringing light to the world. We do this to rebalance some of the negative messages we often hear, see, and receive daily. We met up quickly with one of these amazing individuals…
Hi Lee, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Without further ado, let’s start this BoxHuman Inspire Series. Can you please tell me a little bit about you and what you’re especially known for?
My name is Lee Chambers, I’m thirty-five and live in Preston with my wife and two children, who are seven and five. I was born and brought up in Bolton, and had a stable childhood. Both my parents worked hard to meet our basic needs. I was the first person in my extended family to go to University.
At University I studied International Business Psychology. I had some mental health challenges in the second year, trying to define my authentic self and transverse the child to adult transition. I isolated myself and was taken home by my parents.
I went back to University and graduated, and started working as a financial adviser. This was in 2007, and after six months my training lost funding, and then I was made redundant. This became the catalyst for me to launch my first business, PhenomGames, and to start my own professional qualifications. I grew my business while working in local government, studying, and spent a period working in elite sports.
In 2014, I became seriously unwell and lost the ability to walk. Over the course of five days, I lost all my independence. With my son only eighteen months old and my wife six months pregnant, it was a challenging time. I was discharged and began walking rehab and intensive physiotherapy. I was determined to be proactive and get back to walking again. My daughter was born and I aligned with the ambition of walking by the time she was walking. Eleven months later, I walked a mile unaided, and I had made it. This ignited a fire in me to help others.
I continued to run my video game business while I finished my master’s and enjoyed time with my children before they went to school. When Annabel started last year, I decided to launch Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing. Providing coaching, training, and workshops around employee wellbeing, conscious leadership, and organisational culture. That leads me to where I am today, living with the purpose and a mission of positively impacting the health and happiness of thousands of individuals each year.
I’m already inspired! What an amazing start to your interview. Thank you for sharing that, Lee. What has been your biggest life challenge that you’ve personally had to go through and how did you overcome it?
While my mental health challenges and redundancy were difficult times to navigate, my illness was certainly my biggest challenge.
I had just turned twenty-nine and had been thinking of all the things I could do before I hit thirty. In the previous year, my son was born, my wife and I bought our first house together, we got married and cruised around the Caribbean. Life was peaceful. Then, one Friday, my wrist locked in place. Over the course of the next five days, both my knees and my shoulder proceeded to do the same. Off I was dragged to A&E by my mother in law.
I was tested in the hospital for all sorts. I was stuck in my hospital bed, I couldn’t shower, eat properly, or do most things without assistance. My wife was six months pregnant and coming after work to help me. My son didn’t understand why Daddy couldn’t get up and play. At first, I was in shock, it had happened rather quickly. I was in good health beforehand.
After the shock wore off, I started to feel frustration and despair. I knew I had to let these negative feelings come and express them. It felt unfair, I’d looked after myself, I was only twenty-nine. Then I started to grieve. My mobility and physicality were part of my identity, would I walk again? I was in excruciating pain as my body attacked itself. You get a lot of time to reflect when you can’t walk around.
The second week came and I started to settle, and then I had a moment of vision. A thought dropped into my head that would change my viewpoint and mindset. It was “In twenty-nine years on this planet, have you ever been grateful for the ability to walk?”. All of a sudden, it hit me, I hadn’t. I hadn’t been grateful enough to the people now helping me live. I was not grateful enough for growing up in the UK, for never being hungry or homeless, for being educated and for receiving healthcare for free. I was not grateful for the freedom to set up a business and work across industries. Why should I sit here and complain? That’s where it all began.
I decided to take ownership of my disease and health outcomes. I would be proactive in my recovery, ensuring I did everything I needed to do to get the best chance of recovery. I would attack the disease as much as it was attacking me. I would forget how I was feeling, be resilient, and celebrate the small wins. It became my mission to get back to walking again. That decision cut off every other option. I worked with my physio and my consultant to not limit my recovery. I stayed consistent on mornings I was stiff and in pain. I anchored into my future identity, walking again. I adapted many of the things I couldn’t do. I bounced back when I lost progress due to vertebrae issues. I wasn’t going to be stopped.
Some days I made progress, others I didn’t, but I was grateful for every step. Watching my daughter grow gave me a powerful way to be walking with her. I had taken ownership before, with my own self-awareness and life after my past challenges. This was a big challenge, and I saw it as that. It was not a threat, it knocked me out of my status quo, and became the guiding star for Essentialise as I got clarity on my purpose. Then I began optimising my nutrition, sleep and movement to become medication free, which I achieved in June 2020. Now I’m ready for the next challenge!
Simply, wow! What you’ve overcome and the determination you’ve shown is incredibly inspiring. Can you please kindly tell us what you’ve learned from your own personal journey so far and what others should learn from it?
I’ve learned so many lessons. From my mental health challenges, I’ve learned that we must be courageous and vulnerable, and have the conversations we need to have. Cultivating our self-awareness and emotional intelligence allows us to navigate ourselves, and express our authenticity. I learned that challenges must be approached to be overcome, not avoided.
Redundancy taught me that I shouldn’t expect others to carve my path for me, that if you want something, take ownership and be accountable to yourself. It also taught me that life isn’t fair and that even in Summer, there is a Winter not far away. It was a blessing as it gave me the space to think more about what I wanted.
Being told I was too diverse, young, and disruptive to start a business in the video game wholesale market taught me that often, even well-intentioned advice is not great advice. I have also learned that conforming to society doesn’t make lasting change, and stops you from expressing who you truly are.
Losing the ability to walk helped me see that success isn’t about possessions, but it is something to define yourself and use as a compass to live your everyday life. I realised just how important an asset your health is, and just how much fortitude I have. I also began to grasp that after the initial event and negative emotions, the suffering became a choice, and I stopped resisting the pain, and this freed me to move forward.
Doing what I do today has taught me that living with a purpose and a mission that aligns with your true self gives you fulfilment, energy and happiness, and gets you out of bed with a job to do. My children teach me to be more self-aware, to see my blind spots and continue to learn.
We are not even halfway into this interview and I’m already taken back by your inspiring journey. So with that being said, let’s keep it going. You are an Environmental Psychologist and Wellbeing Consultant. You combine environmental psychology assessments with both physical and mental health workshops, designed to build employee awareness around sleep, nutrition, mindset, and habits. Can you tell us more about this and what are the benefits?
Employee Well-being is becoming more of a focal point. Our mission is to improve the well-being of employees by addressing a number of areas that we feel are vital for the future, and that are often underutilized.
Firstly, workplace well-being starts internally. At a base level, if employees are appreciated and given the autonomy to develop, they will be more engaged in their work and their life as a whole. This comes from an organisation’s culture, if leaders consciously address this by ensuring that a company has values, that are congruent and unite workers, and this is expressed throughout the company. This is why conscious leadership and purposeful business are threaded into our well-being programs. When this is prevalent in an organisation, well-being grows organically and our impact is amplified.
From an environmental perspective, we are looking at both physical and mental environmental stressors and how these can be addressed. Firstly, many offices are designed by architects and interiors and signed off by boards and financiers. They are installed by facilities and contractors, and the end-user isn’t often involved at all stages if any during the process. So we assess how the environment is for the users. We look at congruence with job role, the employee wants and needs, how it flows as a space, biophilic design elements, and stressors such as temperature, lighting, acoustics, ventilation and density. We take this data and utilise it to deduce return on investment and impact on wellbeing.
Our workshops revolve around empowering employees to take more responsibility for their health behaviours, increasing awareness and encouraging experimentation. We also highlight how consistency is impacted by mindset and habits, and how we can utilise these to our advantage. We look at how, beyond this awareness, we can build a well-being strategy that engages the harder to reach, and that builds community within organisations. Physical and mental health are largely interconnected and we guide employees to make small changes across a number of areas as these compound to considerable improvements over the longer term. We assist with policy planning and measurement, so the strategy can be evolved over time.
The benefits are multiple. Organisations benefits from more engaged, motivated, resilient employees. They are less likely to make mistakes or fall into conflict. They become more productive, creative and take more responsibility. Team morale is higher, staff retention is higher, and the industry hears you’re a good place to work, attracting talent. Less sickness and reduced costs lead to higher profits.
Individuals, simply are happier with life. They feel their employers care. They become more accountable to themselves. They have better health, and this leads to more energy to do the things they love. Better relationships and optimism often follow, and this is contagious.
1) Can you tell us what’s your business called, what inspired you to do this and why? 2) What have you learned from working with your clients?
1) Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing – We spend over a quarter of an average week at work, and it’s a vital part of our overall wellbeing. When I lost the ability to walk, I was lucky I had a business that I had automated many elements of and didn’t require me to be physically there. However, so many people don’t have that luxury. I’m inspired by wanting to help people prevent future health challenges, and become more resilient to the challenges they face.
Additionally, I want businesses to be more conscious of all stakeholders, including employees and have a purpose and a mission to change the world in some way. Leaders who lead themselves first, managers who help bring out the potential in others, and empower rather than tell. Emotional intelligence being valued, workplaces becoming inclusive and great environments to be in. At its heart, I want people to be happy and healthy, and that their work does not take away from their vitality and wellbeing.
2) What have I learned from my clients? Oh, I’ve learned a lot and I am still learning. I’ve learned that people resonate with a different language, everyone has great potential inside them but often they stand in their own way. I’ve seen just how different organisation cultures can be, and how well-being can be viewed. I’ve learned that sometimes people just need permission and an open and honest conversation. I’ve also learned just how self-aware some people are, and I’ve truly met some enlightening people.
It’s sad to say, but we’re nearly at the end of our time together. Let’s throw in a few more quick BoxHuman Inspire questions before we say goodbye…1) Tell us one thing that makes you smile? 2) What inspires you to be you on a daily basis and why?
1) Seeing my children navigate the world in their own way.
2) Knowing that there is only one me and that I am aligned on a mission to make a difference.
“Its about connection, not perfection”Lee Chambers
Brilliant Lee! Let’s keep the inspiring questions flowing and move on…If there was one positive thing you would say to someone to inspire and empower them what would it be and why?
That you have all you need inside of you to become all you want to be. We can cultivate the self-awareness to explore ourselves and find out who we truly are, and forge a path to get there. We are one big unique experiment, and life journey is about testing to see what you can become. Every failure gives you data for the future. The present is called the “present” because it is a gift to you, use it today to craft the future you desire.
Wow, what inspiring advice! Finally to finish our BoxHuman inspiring questions…What future goals do you want to achieve and why?
My future goal is to leave the world a happier and healthier place than when I entered it. I want to positively impact a million people through my work. I want my children to become their authentic selves and live their journey. I also want deep conversations that are often shielded away from becoming mainstream.
I’m disruptive, loving & iconoclasticLee Chambers
Simply all I can say is three words…Absolutely breathtakingly inspiring! Finally and to conclude this interview…A BoxHuman is an empowered individual. They will not be defined by society’s labels. They show the better qualities of humankind, such as strength, kindness, and inspiration. Can you please tell us what makes you a BoxHuman?
I am a Boxhuman. I will not conform. I am a hero. Not in the modern societal sense. In the true greek sense. A hero is a protector, whose secret weapon is love. I express myself authentically, willing to show my vulnerability.
I have worked tirelessly to become less judgemental, more self-aware, and understanding that we all have our own perceptions and perspective. I ask powerful questions that empower others. I actively listen to them. I use my intuition to guide my life. I have an acuity to my senses from years of listening to my body. I share my story to inspire others about what is possible. I breed cultures of care in organisations through my work.
As a young black male, I forge a path to show you can become something other than what society imprints on you. I want to spread the message, go out and fail, carve your character, and take action, we can’t think our way to clarity. I give more encouragement than advice, I help people to realise their potential. I express myself rather than impress others. My values are defined, I live by them, they are my virtues, my guide, my soul.
“Thank you, Lee.”
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