Carving a new path after a life-threatening slip - Alastair Lechler
It is Good Friday 2018, just after midday, and I have just stopped tumbling down the east face of Blaven on the Isle of Skye. A thousand feet above me, my hiking buddy is calling the emergency services and facing the prospect that I was probably dead.
As a born and bred Londoner, you might assume I was a fish out of water, but five to six trips per year saw me venturing up to the Highlands and Islands. It was a passion. Almost two years down the track, the passion and mountain that nearly killed me have in fact saved my life.
While falling down that icy slope, I vividly recall feeling a deep sense of dread. Time slowed down but introspection hit lightning speed, most vividly a pre-emptive grief of untapped dreams and having not found what some might describe as my “calling”. It triggered the start of my journey from City-based recruiter to Edinburgh-based social entrepreneur.
Until 2018, my career spanned 14 years in London, working in recruitment.
Three companies and one start-up, long hours, tough targets, some ghastly commutes, but some great people. 2017 saw a bruising end to my first start-up experience, and I took a mini-sabbatical diving in Komodo, volunteering in Nepal, and trekking to Everest Basecamp.
A return to recruitment followed, with a view to disrupting from within, and focusing on the emergent need for digital transformation. Despite renewed energy, quickly the all-too-common challenges of the corporate sector, and lack of agility to innovate, were apparent. I was stifled. Frustration and boredom crept in. My coping mechanism was to escape to the mountains, and the restorative Scottish wilderness. Skye and Blaven were to be my Easter detox. Little did I know what lay ahead.
Lucky to be alive
That day is indelibly marked in my mind. An early start saw us set off kitted up for snow and ice and we enjoyed great views on the hike up. I still don’t know how, but I lost my footing on the ridgeline just below the summit, and slid off into the unknown. With two impacts on the way down, I am extremely lucky to be alive – a broken ankle my only major injury!
I was faced with a month immobilised and housebound, forced to face my demons and challenge my life direction. Losing my stress-reliever and mood-enhancer (exercise), and with my inner critic dominating my thoughts, for the first time in my life I became depressed.
Fortunate to have an amazing support network, I set about making some big changes. Career change into a charity was first. Leading the talent and marketing agenda at the Centre for Entrepreneurs provided a refreshing contrast to the corporate world. I found the bleeding edge of innovation, and some fresh approaches to work/life balance and company culture.
That ecosystem coupled with sharp listening led to the germination of an idea. Entrepreneurs often risk burnout, and equally place huge emphasis on creating positive workplace cultures and high-performing teams. I saw an opportunity to overhaul training and development, and replace the “fun and fizz” nights out – with outdoor learning.
From a standing start, from Edinburgh I launched ReBoot, which provides business leaders and individuals with programmes and activities to invest in wellbeing, preventing stress or burnout. We’ve built an adventure/trail running community, which is aimed at building confidence and a supportive community of like-minded runners who enjoy heading cross-country.
We’re delivering programmes for forward-thinking businesses looking for innovative, outdoors activity-based approaches to hardwire team cohesion and develop future leaders as they grow.
It’s been a transformative few years. What could have been life-ending has in fact been a catapult for a new lease of life, and work that I love – using my passion for the outdoors, and exercise – to improve wellbeing, and build confidence.
- Alastair Lechler, founder of ReBoot