Ruari Fairbairns, co-founder of One Year No Beer, was a recent guest on EO 360°, a podcast by Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO). April is Alcohol Awareness Month in the US, with April 5-7 designated as Alcohol-Free Weekend. As we approach the weekend, we asked Mark Worster, EO Boston member and co-founder of No Wait Nation, to review the podcast episode and provide his takeaways. Here's what Mark shared.
Alcohol. Adult beverages. Booze. Cocktails. Hooch. Vino. Bubbly. Brewskis. Liquid courage. Social lubricant. It's legal to drink it if you're of age. Society seems to encourage it through the prevalence of drinking in social settings, alcohol-sponsored sporting events and commercials emphasizing its role in promoting relaxation, celebrating victories and enhancing good times.
As a business leader, you likely have conducted pivotal after-hours meetings over dinner accompanied by a bottle of high-end wine or liquor. Many people celebrate birthdays or anniversaries with a tipple or two. And how do we acknowledge a new customer or business milestone? Cue the champagne.
Whether you're an occasional social drinker or like to get tipsy most nights, have you ever wondered what life would be like if you chose not to drink? Has the societal and peer pressure to imbibe made your inclination to abstain impossible?
I was fascinated by the EO 360 podcast conversation between host Dave Will and Ruari Fairbairns, a successful oil broker in London who was no stranger to the role booze played in his career. From wining and dining clients to enjoying nights out with friends, Ruari got his drink on. From time to time, though, he wondered if drinking was having a negative impact on his life.
Encountering a colleague who had recently completed a six-month hiatus from alcohol―including his 40th birthday celebration in Ireland―made Ruari realize: No one was considering the potential advantages for average "social drinkers" in taking a break from alcohol. There wasn't a support network for social drinkers--those without an alcohol addiction--who wanted to change behaviors and say, "No thanks, it's just not for me."
Thus was born a passion project to transform lives in a meaningful way. As Ruari explains, "It's not about giving up alcohol forever, it's about giving you back control. You can't understand your true relationship with alcohol until you remove it and see it for what it is."
One Year No Beer (OYNB) offers alcohol-free challenges of 28, 90 and 365 days. It helps people reset their relationship with alcohol by providing a community of support, mindset hacks and strategies for tackling the challenge.
During the podcast, Ruari recalls how his boss was against the idea of Ruari taking a break from alcohol--until he saw the results. Ruari's already-successful business enjoyed 50 percent growth and a 30 percent reduction in expenses in his first year alcohol-free.
"Removing alcohol builds happiness, patience, resilience and boosts serotonin. Categorically, you will be a better business leader and improve business performance if you change your relationship with alcohol or go alcohol-free," Ruari stated.
Ruari is open and honest, detailing both low points and highlights of his personal and professional journey. My aha! moment was that Ruari and I have a lot in common―we've both struggled with ADHD and suicidal tendencies, spent a period of time without alcohol (in my case 15 years), and now enjoy amazing, joy-filled lives where alcohol plays a minor role and is not the primary method of connecting with people.
5 key takeaways from the podcast
- There are a lot of people drinking hazardously worldwide--of an estimated 2.3 billion drinkers globally, about 3 million died from harmful use of alcohol in 2016.
- Social triggers and cues can be changed so that you are free to choose whether or not to drink. Typically meet friends after work for a beer? Go to a climbing gym or race go-karts instead. Or change it up: Meet for morning coffee before you kick off the day. It's not the alcohol you crave; it's hanging out with friends.
- Avoid peer pressure by "stealth drinking." Tip the bartender to serve you alcohol-free beer, or drink seltzer water with a lime wedge.
- Support and community help master this challenge. Belonging to a tribe, a circle of individuals who will support your efforts to change behaviors, is key. Joining a group or having a partner during an alcohol-free challenge gives you permission. You have an excuse when friends question your motive: "I'm doing this challenge."
- You can reset your relationship with alcohol by gaining distance from it. Most people recognize a benefit after at least 90 days alcohol-free.
The idea that resonated most with me from the podcast is that it's not about giving something up; it's about removing something and having everything to gain.
The nearly 40,000 OYNB members undertaking various alcohol-free challenges across 90 countries report better sleep, lower anxiety, improved productivity at work and more overall happiness. Many also lost weight.
Once members complete the 90-day alcohol-free challenge, a staggering 87 percent choose to continue their alcohol-free lifestyle. It makes you think.