For corporate CEO Alain Esseiva, Co-Founder of Alpadis Group, a passion for running ultramarathons helps him reduce stress and increase perspective and performance. He argues the case for picking up a passion outside work to help you perform at your very best in the office.
For Alain Esseiva, CEO of independent financial services group Alpadis Group, what happens outside the office is every bit as important to his professional life as what happens in it. An avid ultramarathon runner, he has competed in races everywhere from Laos to Mongolia, Nepal to Namibia, Chile, France and even Antarctica – and credits his pastime with enhancing his performance in every possible way. He chuckles, “My family is very supportive, while I’m sure my colleagues think I am slightly mad!” Running a privately-owned company that provides a range of corporate and private client services in multiple jurisdictions whilst overseeing offices in Singapore and Hong Kong as well as being part of a network that takes in Switzerland and Malaysia, Esseiva’s hobby may seem just a peripheral passion, but, to him, it’s the key to keeping sane, focused and on top of his game. He talked Hive Life through why.
“I’ve always liked sports. Being Swiss, I love the outdoors and being surrounded by natural beauty, so running has come quite naturally to me,” he states. But, it was an arduous, three-day, 100 km run in Vietnam that first truly challenged his mental strength. “I was not prepared and I suffered from day one to day three,” Esseiva recounts. “Yet, at the same time, it fascinated me that it was more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Obviously, the pain is physical, but overcoming it is mental. Once the race was finished, I was hooked.”
“Running helps me understand what I am really capable of both physically and mentally,” continues the Singapore-based CEO. “It’s not uncommon for one to ‘hit the wall’ during a race and it takes mental effort to push past your body screaming for you to stop.” And, in that way, he sees the experience as very similar to running a business. “I think many entrepreneurs have faced similar experiences with running a company, which can be a big and daunting endeavour.” With 30 years of combined experience in wealth planning and fiduciary services, he sees motivation and management of challenges at the core of both business management and fitness, stating that regardless of one’s skill, “running is 50% fitness and training and 50% mental. And the motivation needs to come from within.”
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Running marathons can be a very solitary venture, but in that separation from daily life, Esseiva sees great value. “The loneliness of long-distance runs gives me the opportunity to contemplate and appreciate the natural world around me. I like the simplicity. The lack of mobile reception makes for a pleasant retreat from the hectic complexity of everyday life in the city and being cut off from the world for an extended period of time gives me the opportunity to think about the challenges ahead. The distance affords me a sense of perspective – something that’s hard to achieve in today’s world and allows me to evaluate, prioritise, and subsequently tackle challenges.” It also helps give him a healthier sense of perspective. “Work deadlines don’t seem so bad after you’ve just crossed 250 km of desert with a rucksack on your back!”
In a world in which work-life balance can seem more like a pipe dream than a possibility, Esseiva encourages anyone in the corporate world to make the most of life outside work, not just as a respite, but also to help them become the best version of themselves. “I would encourage any aspiring leader to find that extra challenge. Entrepreneurs can, understandably, be very focused on their work to the point that it’s all-consuming. Having another challenging activity outside the workplace will broaden their horizons, allowing them to switch off work for a period of time and challenge themselves in new ways. This will have a positive impact. Most importantly, though, live your dreams!” With his own future plans encompassing a new office in Switzerland alongside taking part in the famous Kazakhstan Action Asia and Mustang Ultra trail races in 2020 (not to mention one in the Arctic Circle in Sweden in 2021), it’s advice he more than follows himself.