A glittering City career was beckoning, until a brutal murder turned Gian’s world upside down. But from adversity, he drew the strength to forge a new future, dedicated to helping others build happier lives
Outwardly, you would think my life was perfect, and until 2015 it really felt that way.
Graduating from university, spending time at Deutsche Bank, and about to embark on my career at PwC – life was great. I’m a competitive, performance-driven person, and if someone had mentioned mental wellbeing back in 2014, I wouldn’t have taken it seriously. Until everything came crashing down.
In May 2015, my father left for a business trip overseas and never returned. He was murdered, and my whole world turned upside down.
At 23, I found myself involved in an international murder investigation, liaising with government authorities, and fighting in the courts for justice. This continues, even today.
After three months away, I remember returning to work and being overwhelmed with the amount I was having to deal with. Working long hours, continuing to take my intense accounting exams, and looking after my family, while managing my father’s case throughout the night.
My body was constantly filled with emotions – from sadness to anger, confusion and panic. All I knew was that I had to keep going in the name of my dad.
When the body of my father was flown back to Heathrow from India, I began planning his funeral to say our goodbyes. Some days later, however, we were told that it was not my dad’s body that had landed in the UK. To this day the uncertainty continues. It was a second major blow.
I began to realise that no matter how hard I worked, or how much energy I put into this, I could not control everything. I soon realised that there’s a lot I can’t control, and in fact there’s only one thing I can control – and that’s how I respond to a situation. Nobody can take that away from me.
It was at this moment that I realised I needed to look after myself, and take the concept of self-care seriously. They say you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help others, and this is exactly what I needed to do.
I began speaking openly with my colleagues at work about the challenges I was facing, I started putting a self-care routine in place, and what I saw was incredible. More and more people started sharing their stories with me, both in my teams at PwC, but also in friendship groups, and friends-of-friends working in corporate organisations.
I soon realised that we all have a story we would like to share, if only more of us in business organisations would take the time just to stop and listen.
When I was able to speak to my team about how I felt, I realised I would work harder – go above and beyond – for those leaders who showed care and understanding. There was a direct link between kind leadership and increased productivity. I saw the need for storytelling in companies.
If someone had mentioned mental wellbeing back in 2014, I wouldn’t have taken it seriously
I knew I couldn’t change my past, but I had to do something to help others. I had to try to ensure that anyone going through challenging times felt they could speak up about it at work; and I had to encourage more leaders to support their teams, as I had been supported.
After several years at PwC I decided to leave and launch TLC Lions – Lion is the middle name I share with my murdered father – and we are on a mission to ignite emotion and empathy among those in the corporate world.
I’ve brought together a collective of 25 ordinary people with extraordinary stories – the Lions. The Lions (our speakers) share powerful yet uplifting sessions that are tailored to clients’ inclusion, wellbeing, or learning and development agendas.
Both our online series, and virtual and live events, bring emotion to life, and encourage employees to take action and feel inspired.
Our Lions include:
• Dr Kamel Hothi, the UK’s first female Asian bank manager, who is now an advisor to the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, a global network of young changemakers.
• Jonny Benjamin, who was talked out of taking his own life in London by a stranger.
• Victoria Milligan, who lost her husband, daughter, and left leg during a speed boat accident off Padstow, Cornwall, in 2013.
We now support more than 150 companies, including EY, Sony, Rolls-Royce, Tesco, Mastercard, and many more, to bring inclusion and wellbeing strategies to life. Today I’m proud to have an advisory board that includes experts from Harvard and MIT, as well as the HR Director of Rothschild & Co, and a senior partner from EY.
Life has changed a lot for me in a short time. I’m now incredibly happy and do a lot to look after myself, and ensure I reflect and monitor my feelings.
Number one is my SHED – sleep, hydration, exercise and diet. I constantly monitor my SHED, and if I don’t feel 100%, it’s usually because one of them is out of balance, so I adjust and correct myself.
Meditation has been a huge part of my life since 2015, and is something I practise every day. I feel so passionately about encouraging more people in the corporate world to meditate that I launched The Unwind Experience – transforming rooms in offices into candle-lit oases, with Europe’s first surround sound meditation experience. We’ve rolled this out with Deloitte, Universal Music, Hyatt, Bloomberg, and many more.
It’s important to me to use my experience and learning to help others. Being on the board of This Can Happen, which empowers workplace mental health, as well as sharing my own story of wellbeing as a superpower, allows me to help others to be equipped to survive in times of difficulty, and to thrive every single day.
I’ve learnt a lot over the last few years and I’m committed to supporting others to lead happier lives.
Graeme Orr | MBACP (Accred), says:
After his father’s murder, Gian became overwhelmed with the emotional strain of the investigation, along with the pressure of his career, and supporting his family. He began to realise how draining trying to control these stressors were, and noticed how little he put into self-care. After making a difference in his own life, he wanted to reach out and share some of the same practices for others to help themselves. It’s worth noticing that we can all help our mental health by making sure that we have a strong self-care regime, too.