Rich Pierson and a bit of Headspace

Headspace, the meditation app that’s in 190 countries, and has 70 million users, was co-founded by my friend Rich.

And the story is pretty incredible.

Today Rich brings to life what the tipping point was to the start of this movement.

What was going on in his life before Headspace. How Rich and Andy met. And then the impact they’ve had on meditation globally.

Rich shares some really great insights, tips, and advice on meditation.

He tells us what Andy taught him when they first met.

And then he tells me something that I had never thought about before when it comes to meditation, which was a real ah-ha moment for me.

We talk about the impact of Covid on Headspace.

And then Rich talks about what’s next.

This was a really heartfelt, open, and incredibly honest conversation that I just didn’t want to end. I learned loads. And it was really great to reconnect with Rich after a good few years.

I hope you enjoy this chat as much as I did. So please do have a listen, leave a review, rating, and subscribe.

And if you’d like to get some Headspace, you can find out more about how to here.

00:00:07:18 – 00:00:29:11
Philippa White
So the questions are these. How can we really activate the best of the private sector to meet the challenges of the real world? Is there a way to accelerate my career that doesn’t involve boring online or classroom courses? And can I really impact people in the developing world with the skills that I have? Can I finally feel proud of what I know?

00:00:30:04 – 00:01:01:08
Philippa White
Those are the questions and this podcast will give you the answers. My name is Philippa White and this is TIE Unearthed. Keep listening and you can follow us on our journey as we show you how we’re connecting the private sector with the social sector. To me, change. Hello everyone. Philippa White here and welcome to Episode 19 of TIE’s Podcast.

00:01:01:08 – 00:01:08:04
Philippa White
Today I’m chatting with my friend Rich Pearson, who’s the co-founder of Headspace. Hey, Rich.

00:01:08:23 – 00:01:10:09
Rich Pierson
Hey, Pfeiffer, how are you?

00:01:10:15 – 00:01:12:00
Philippa White
I’m good, thanks. How are you?

00:01:12:16 – 00:01:13:10
Rich Pierson
Good, thank you.

00:01:13:19 – 00:01:34:17
Philippa White
Good. Now, let’s tell our listeners a little bit more about you, because many people will have already heard about Headspace, but probably don’t know the backstory. So we worked together at BBH on I’m pretty sure you worked on a Barclays account when I did. I mean, we both worked at BBH, but I think it was the Barclays account that kind of brought us together and that.

00:01:34:21 – 00:01:37:23
Philippa White
Yeah, and I think we overlapped briefly. And did you work on V?

00:01:38:22 – 00:01:41:14
Rich Pierson
I didn’t know. I didn’t ever work on P.A. Okay.

00:01:41:16 – 00:02:12:04
Philippa White
So I think you must have anyway, you must have. VB Or you went to then run head of New Business? I think so. Maybe you went to run a new business and I was working on the Barclays account, something like that. But then shortly afterwards I left to start TIE and on one of my trips back after I had a meeting at BBH, we met up for a coffee and we went for a walk and as we were walking down the tiny streets of London, you were talking about your next search for sort of the next thing that you wanted to do.

00:02:12:04 – 00:02:13:22
Philippa White
And I think you were studying architecture.

00:02:14:22 – 00:02:16:12
Rich Pierson
Acupuncture, close.

00:02:16:12 – 00:02:16:24
Philippa White
Accurate.

00:02:17:00 – 00:02:17:13
Rich Pierson
Similar.

00:02:17:14 – 00:02:24:16
Philippa White
Architecture, acupuncture. It was I wish we can sort of be a bit of a weird jump to meditation.

00:02:24:16 – 00:02:27:07
Rich Pierson
Well, acupuncture was quite a weird jump from advertising.

00:02:27:23 – 00:02:58:03
Philippa White
But that is to be architecturally easier. Yes, it’s kind of funny that anyway. Yes, acupuncture and and I think you have to remember I remember the conversation really clearly because you’re walking through these tiny streets and we were holding a cup of coffee and you’re like, I’m thinking of starting something with acupuncture. Anyway, then fast forward to about a year later and I saw you and a group of other people, I don’t know if it was three or four people, but I just remember I was sitting with somebody, I think it was Victoria Brooks, I can’t remember.

00:02:58:15 – 00:03:25:23
Philippa White
And the sort of this was like, Yeah, Rich is here to talk. He’s starting a website, I think like, Oh, okay. And, and I think it was around 2010 because I’m pretty sure that my youngest or my eldest, she, she’s now ten and, and I think she had just been born and anyway headspace shortly after the meditation up was launched by you and Andy, who is your co-founder.

00:03:25:23 – 00:04:01:17
Philippa White
Andy Pretty calm and he’s going to seek a degree in circus arts and is a former Buddhist monk. For those of you out there don’t know the story of of headspace and now the meditation app has nine 7 million users and is used is in 190 countries around the world. Rich It’s an incredible story and I just love you to tell people how headspace came about, what happened between our walk through the tiny streets of London, sipping on coffee and talking about acupuncture to when the app was born.

00:04:01:18 – 00:04:02:05
Philippa White
Tell us.

00:04:03:04 – 00:04:45:21
Rich Pierson
Please. Yeah, well, thanks. Thanks for having me. And I think the yet when I was studying acupuncture and having left advertising, I think it was a strange leap in in lots of ways, especially to my friends and family. I think to do so I had gone clinically insane and it seemed very, very obvious to me to make like a big shift like that in I knew I didn’t want to do advertising anymore and I did know that I wanted to have some form of impact, but I just didn’t know quite what that looked like in kind of perfect, you know, in a clear vision.

00:04:46:16 – 00:05:04:09
Rich Pierson
And I was getting acupuncture at the time. Acupuncture said, look, if you ever slip up in acupuncture. And I said, no. And he said, We seem really get stressed and unhappy in your job. And I think you’d be a really good acupuncturist then. You know, I’ve got to starting in a few weeks, why don’t you want to come and join?

00:05:04:09 – 00:05:35:07
Rich Pierson
And so that was really the first big leap, I think. And in hindsight, you know, so I think it gave me a really good perspective on what I had been doing, the things that I actually really liked about it, and then the things that maybe I was I was kind of struggling with. But it also, more importantly, gave me space and time, which I think is if anyone ever asked me any advice about starting anything, I was always kind of if you create some form of space to really work out what you want to what you want to do.

00:05:35:07 – 00:06:08:17
Rich Pierson
I found that really, really useful. I was on a student timetable and at the time I didn’t have any dependents. I didn’t have any financial responsibility, other myself. And so I learned what it was like to earn a lot less money and be a lot happier kind of exploring various things. And I think that’s what led to it, was that space in that time enabled me to really even consider that that headspace might be something I want to do because Andy was teaching meditation and the same thing that I was done in acupuncture.

00:06:08:18 – 00:06:11:18
Philippa White
I was going to ask, How on earth did you meet Andy?

00:06:11:18 – 00:06:33:10
Rich Pierson
Because I was actually not how I met him. So I was there for a year studying acupuncture. We never met, so we definitely would have like crossed in the hallways and like, but we just never met. And then I was to pay the bills. I was freelancing at my friend’s company called All Star Lanes, which was like a bowling alley in, in in London.

00:06:34:05 – 00:06:54:00
Rich Pierson
And he was getting meditation lessons of Andy and he said, Look, you should find me Andy. He’s teaching you meditation. And that was really it. But it turned out that we were in the same building. And so I think it was I think it was we were we would have met at some point, but it was actually a friend that kind of tipped the balance there.

00:06:54:12 – 00:07:18:15
Rich Pierson
And yeah, when I met Andy, I was really, really struggling. And with my mind, really, I just I didn’t really know how to handle all the thoughts and emotions and feelings that I had. And I found that actually that that kind of relentless thinking and got more and more actually when I left advertising I think got better for a bit.

00:07:18:15 – 00:07:37:14
Rich Pierson
And then over time it kind of got worse and worse and just caused a huge amount of anxiety is the truth. And so when I met Andy, I was pretty desperate and opened alone and the thing and he said, Look, I can’t afford to pay, but I’d love to make this clinic bigger. And you’ve got a marketing background and it sounds like you’re really struggling with your anxiety.

00:07:37:14 – 00:07:39:19
Rich Pierson
How about we do a skill swap? So it really was like.

00:07:39:20 – 00:07:40:14
Philippa White
Oh.

00:07:41:01 – 00:08:06:02
Rich Pierson
Yeah, so we went to Day Night. He had an office, he had a clinic in London Wall, which was actually a really interesting place in that it was it was a kind of a rehab center with and it had doctors and psychologists, it had physiotherapists for like elite athletes. And so and he was teaching out there. And so it was already this interesting kind of mix of medicine.

00:08:06:02 – 00:08:24:23
Rich Pierson
And Andy being there made it feel a lot different to how I thought of meditation. But yeah, I’d go there and we do meditation for yeah, we chat for quite a long time. Then we did meditation for a bit and then we go it the right Starbucks. And I just came up with like loads of ideas for what you could do with this coming.

00:08:24:24 – 00:08:44:18
Rich Pierson
And so that, that happened over a period of about six months and then eventually and he said, I know you’ve got all these ideas. I’ve no idea how to make any of them happen due to the you want to do it with me. And so that was and I was kind of like I thought he meant, do you want to come and work for me?

00:08:44:18 – 00:09:03:00
Rich Pierson
And so I said, Yeah, I’ll come with you. And then he’s like, Harmony Foods pay, I’ve got enough money. And why don’t you become why don’t we become business partners? Why don’t we just do this together? And I was at war and like, I’ll take a few apart. And I said, No, no, 5050 partners will be will be 50 partners.

00:09:03:00 – 00:09:23:16
Rich Pierson
And I never really thought out of what, you know, out of work for free is the truth, I think. And I did for a bit, you know, so I it but it was really it was really kind of organic in that way, the way that it started. And I got so much benefit from it. And I just loved Andy as a, as a person.

00:09:23:16 – 00:09:46:14
Rich Pierson
And I’d never really met anyone like that who had that type of skill. And the way he thought about the world and, and how he showed me to kind of understand my mind. I just see as fun, as a very rare thing. And so I was I was kind of hooked in that, that relationship around learning, you know, about the mind pretty early on.

00:09:46:14 – 00:09:55:16
Rich Pierson
And that was really that was the start. It wasn’t really thinking about a business, so it was really born out of this really good stuff. But why don’t more people know about it?

00:09:56:13 – 00:10:18:22
Philippa White
How amazing. Yeah, that’s amazing. I didn’t know that part of the story. So for people who might not know about head space or for people who actually use the app but maybe hadn’t really okay, what’s the objective of Headspace and what do you teach people? Like what are the skills that users can benefit from and why are they important?

00:10:19:21 – 00:10:38:13
Rich Pierson
Sure, what? The vision’s always been the same for the company, which is to improve health, happiness, the world. That’s the lens that we look through everything. And the way that we kind of think about that is, you know, how do you get folks to prioritize looking after their health, their mind, as much as they would prioritize anything else?

00:10:38:13 – 00:11:00:22
Rich Pierson
I the way they look after their body, things that they eat, the way they exercise is I think there’s this common kind of understanding. Those things are good for us, but I think we’re now moving into this kind of awareness, this third wave of health, where folks understand their mental health is as important, if not more important than any other part due to the ways that they can look after themselves.

00:11:01:09 – 00:11:28:14
Rich Pierson
But back then it was, you know, in 2010 when we launched, we did the events, then the app launched in 2012. It was really about how did one how do we convince people look after the health of mind was important but to how to meditation be a useful tool for doing that and I think the really I think what should any anyone that’s listening that hasn’t tried it I think what should give folks real confidence is, you know, meditation has been around for over two and a half thousand years.

00:11:28:14 – 00:11:55:10
Rich Pierson
And I think what that what that says is that it’s not a fad. It works. And people throughout history, in different cultures all around the world have used it in some way to help them with the human condition, which is suffering, like whether we like to acknowledge that or not. But as human beings, we all we all struggle with different things in life as well as good things in life.

00:11:55:10 – 00:12:17:07
Rich Pierson
But ultimately how we navigate those things is purely down to how healthy and open our minds are. And meditation is a wonderful tool to be able to do that, which is proven not only by time now, but also through the fact that, you know, science actually shows us what actually happens in a, you know, in our brain when we meditate.

00:12:17:07 – 00:12:46:08
Rich Pierson
And so if you think it’s a bit on the edges where you think it’s hippie, you know, you should look at the way professional athletes use it. You should look at what happens in the prefrontal cortex, your brain, which is not the rind of your brain, where all of the positive kind of, you know, reactions in your brain happen and negative reactions that part of the brain controls all of your emotions and how you respond to things.

00:12:46:08 – 00:13:01:02
Rich Pierson
And when you meditate, it gets an increased blood flow to that part of the that part of the brain. It’s just like a muscle and it gets thicker and stronger. And it didn’t really know that until they put experienced meditators through FMRI machines, actually scan the brains.

00:13:01:02 – 00:13:02:22
Philippa White
What are what are those machines. Sorry.

00:13:03:05 – 00:13:24:24
Rich Pierson
They’re called fMRI machines from. So they basically measure the brain activity. They put you through a scanner and they they measured brain activity, scan your brain. And so you can see as you’re doing things what’s actually what parts of the brain are lighting up, what parts of the brain get used and I didn’t really know that until they put experienced meditators through them.

00:13:25:05 – 00:14:05:16
Rich Pierson
And so and the interesting is the science has progressed that you can see real you can see positive changes in benefits in quite a short amount of time. So you don’t have to go and be a monkey and unknown metal 18 hours a day to get some of the physiological benefits of a meditation practice. So that was kind of a long winded way of saying that if you if you want to improve your relationships with yourself and others around you, maybe struggle with anxiety or, you know, low levels, depression or whatever it may be, there are hundreds and hundreds of papers on how meditation can, can can help you with so many of those things.

00:14:07:02 – 00:14:35:01
Rich Pierson
And I don’t know the people that I speak to for that. Most people struggle with something at some point and need a bit of help. And and I just think a really simple access exercise that, you know, in most respects doesn’t cost anything. And you can do anywhere in as little as 10 minutes. And if I said to you, you guys spend 10 minutes a day doing this thing or you’ve got sort of this pill, most people would say one of the pills that I would take 10 minutes ago, I’ve got too much time.

00:14:35:01 – 00:14:41:22
Rich Pierson
I haven’t got. You know, I’m going to have time to do that. I like that. I sort of interesting thing to reflect upon totally.

00:14:41:22 – 00:15:07:17
Philippa White
And I think because that that brings me to a question that I have because as somebody who’s not only been doing this meditation, obviously for a really long time since then, you have C and D in 2010 or 2009. So it was before when you actually launched Headspace and and now and you own a company that is in 190 countries around the world.

00:15:07:17 – 00:15:24:03
Philippa White
Meditation is obviously become a huge part of your life. So what, what, what do you do? What is your practice? So for somebody who doesn’t meditate well, for somebody who is one of those people who says, okay, the I don’t know, like I don’t have 10 minutes, I don’t have a tendency, like, well, yeah, like you spent probably 10 minutes like going through Facebook.

00:15:24:03 – 00:15:37:06
Philippa White
Probably, yes. I’m sure you can use that time to visit you. What’s an ease? What do you do? And yours is obviously, no doubt a much longer practice. But for somebody who what are some tips that you can give? Yeah. As a place to start.

00:15:37:06 – 00:15:56:12
Rich Pierson
Yeah, my practice is probably a little bit different, as you say, because I’ve been doing it, you know, every day for a long time now. So a you know, and I do like an hour every day, but I’ve I’ve built up and I definitely would advise people that are just starting out to start off there. It’s a bit like saying someone that’s never run, gun run a marathon.

00:15:56:15 – 00:16:28:08
Rich Pierson
And I think that’s how a lot of people approach meditation. And now I hear people go, I can go on a passenger train for silent and passengers train for ten days having never done it before, which, although interesting, I think is is not necessarily the best way to create a a practice that can last. And so my advice to anyone this thing out is how Andy taught me when I first learned about meditation, which is, you know, little more often when I first started, I struggled to sit for longer than 5 minutes.

00:16:28:09 – 00:16:29:02
Philippa White
Yeah, I have.

00:16:29:02 – 00:16:52:13
Rich Pierson
And it was it was really difficult. And actually, if you look at a lot of the the really old texts, they say that, you know, it’s much better to do, you know, a ten lots of 3 minutes throughout the day than maybe one then one block of 30. And the reason for that is because we have to train our mind to be good at meditation.

00:16:52:13 – 00:17:14:17
Rich Pierson
I think that’s that’s part of the line. When I say good at meditation, I don’t mean that there’s there’s good or bad meditation, but you have to train your your mind to become aware in the moment. And that takes time. Like it really. Like we don’t naturally kind of especially with our busy lifestyles, our mind doesn’t naturally kind of go there.

00:17:14:18 – 00:17:33:04
Rich Pierson
So I would definitely start off with small, tiny increments and see how you get on if 3 minutes works for you and you get some benefit from it, go up to 4 minutes, go up to 5 minutes, go up 10 minutes and build it up gradually rather than trying to start with the big amount and think, I’ve got to get to this, I’ve got to hit this mount.

00:17:33:04 – 00:17:53:06
Rich Pierson
And you know, if you can get a few of the short sessions throughout the day, that can be really beneficial. So that’s one thing. The second thing I would say is there’s a lot of misconceptions about what meditation is and it benefits they give you. Most people think that when they sit down, it is about clearing the mind of thoughts.

00:17:53:07 – 00:17:53:22
Philippa White
Totally.

00:17:54:12 – 00:18:10:02
Rich Pierson
And and nearly everyone, even however lots of people have been doing a long time, they still think when I sit down, I’m not going to have any thoughts and it’s just not it’s not a realistic expectation. So you think that you’re a failure as soon as you do it? You know, I can’t do this. I’m not a person that meditate.

00:18:10:17 – 00:18:34:07
Rich Pierson
I know meditation is it’s really it’s like shining a flashlight on your mind. It that’s all it is. And so it’s just showing you what is actually going on in your mind. And maybe you’ve been distracting yourself all of your life and potentially just in that day, you don’t really know what’s going on. So when you sit down and be quiet and you follow your breath, of course, all those thoughts are going to come into your into your kind of mind’s eye.

00:18:34:08 – 00:18:50:21
Rich Pierson
And for most people, that can be a quite scary experience. And a lot of people say this meditation just makes me think more is that that’s that’s what’s going on. It’s just showing you what’s going on. And so I think that’s one thing, one that’s.

00:18:50:21 – 00:19:09:21
Philippa White
Really I have to say that is so key what you’ve just said. Because what we have been told is you need to sort of smack and wall. I think I heard Andy say that. Yeah, meditation. It’s like, don’t worry, it’s not trackable at all. It’s like, yeah, go, go, go, go. It’s not like that. And it’s so fascinating what you said.

00:19:09:21 – 00:19:16:02
Philippa White
It’s just shining a light on all that stuff that’s going on in your head. I love that. Yeah, sorry. Go on. Sorry.

00:19:16:02 – 00:19:38:14
Rich Pierson
But, I mean, but but that that experiences what most people when they start practice, they’re like, well, either can’t do it or it doesn’t work. I don’t like it. And so they give up. The second thing is effort, which is, I think as as Westerners, I think it’s particularly difficult and because I think we’ve been brought up with our education systems that the harder we try something, the better will be at it.

00:19:39:00 – 00:19:59:14
Rich Pierson
And meditation is one of the only things in the world that almost like the harder you try to be good at meditation in inverted commas, the further you get away from actually meditating. And so that’s a really difficult that effort thing is a really difficult thing for for driven folks to get their heads around. So that’s that’s another thing.

00:19:59:14 – 00:20:27:21
Rich Pierson
And then the third thing I think is this idea of, you know, what we’re looking for, this kind of peace of mind or whatever you want to talk about, how you want to describe it that makes sense to you. It’s always with us. We don’t have to go and create it. It’s there. And that’s you know, if you if you see the animations in the app, that’s really what the blue sky animation is about, which is the blue sky is always there.

00:20:27:21 – 00:20:46:23
Rich Pierson
How much is covered by clouds. And if you use that analogy and you think the clouds are full, thoughts are feelings. The blue sky always stays there, but sometimes it’s cloudy, sometimes it’s so and sometimes it’s rainy, sometimes it’s stormy. But the peace of mind that we’re kind of looking for, that we’re searching for, is always that we don’t have to go and create it.

00:20:47:10 – 00:21:09:12
Rich Pierson
So if you can approach a practice, really thinking about those three thoughts, which is it’s not about effort. The thing that we’re looking for is always there and that it’s not about stopping your mind of thoughts. You’ve got a much better chance of getting more out of the meditation. And then just on a practical level, do short time links and build it up one by one.

00:21:10:01 – 00:21:41:14
Rich Pierson
The second thing I would say is try and attach it to a habit you already have so that it can be a simple thing to build into your routine. So if you have a cup of coffee at a particular time in your day, maybe do it before the cup of coffee or after the cup of coffee. If you have a shower every day after the shower, before the show, before you work out, after you work out, think of something that you do regularly that’s already built into your habit and just add it, which is a classic kind of habit building technique coupling that really, really works.

00:21:42:02 – 00:22:04:15
Rich Pierson
And then the final thing I would say to anyone just starting out is really think about why is it that you’re doing this thing? What why do you want to meditate? What is it these motivating you to sit down and be like, super clear about what that is. And it doesn’t really matter what it is. It could be you want to sleep better.

00:22:04:15 – 00:22:29:23
Rich Pierson
It could be because you want to have better relationships. It could be because you don’t want to shout you kids as much as you like. Whatever it is, it doesn’t it doesn’t matter. Positive, negative. Just be but be clear about it. And I think if you can be clear about why you’re doing it, your ability to to be able to stick with it becomes so much easier because then it’s got a point.

00:22:29:23 – 00:22:45:23
Rich Pierson
And the other thing is that intention might change over time. The more that you do it, maybe just you do it because that’s know what you’ve seen the benefits and you want to keep doing that for those in the people that are around you. But I think so many people start things because they by that they’re like, Oh, that be good for me, I’ll do that, let’s do that.

00:22:45:23 – 00:22:51:15
Rich Pierson
And then not really understanding why do they want to do it? And I think it’s the same with fitness or anything, right?

00:22:51:15 – 00:23:11:24
Philippa White
Yeah. And I think what’s really nice about that because obviously with fitness, I don’t know, let’s say someone’s gaining weight over the pandemic and you’re like, okay, I want to lose this weight. So you do fitness. You’re like, okay, I can see the result. I’ve lost ¬£5. Yeah. And obviously with meditation, I think that goal post is really important because if it’s okay, I’m shouting about it, my kids, I really need.

00:23:11:24 – 00:23:31:00
Philippa White
And then you suddenly realize, oh, you know, you have your your start date and then you kind of you review things two months later and you’re like, Oh my God, the relationship in the house is actually better. Okay, yeah. Huh. There’s something to that. So I think that’s important as far as measuring results and seeing the impact for sure.

00:23:31:23 – 00:24:02:10
Philippa White
Yeah, really interesting. And one thing that I so thank you for that is that even for me, just listening to you say all of that, that makes it possible and more positive. It’s like I’ve meditated, but I can’t say I’m as good as you are at all. And not that it’s a competition, but just as far as being able to fit it into my life and have proper like I have times where I kind of stop and I reflect, but I haven’t got it into a schedule, but I do work out so it’s something.

00:24:02:10 – 00:24:11:01
Philippa White
Okay, actually, I could just couple that with that and and just your easy. Yeah, this your recommendations are really helpful.

00:24:11:16 – 00:24:33:19
Rich Pierson
So was it just that’s I mean, you said that which I think is really common, which is, you know, people think, you know, I’m either a good meditator or a bad meditator. And that genuinely is no such thing as a good meditator or a bad meditator. There is simply are you? Where are you not where are you? Distracted?

00:24:33:19 – 00:24:58:11
Rich Pierson
Are you not distracted? That’s it. But it sounds so simple, but that is actually it. And the practice of sitting down every day is purely to give yourself the opportunity to train your mind, to be able to be less distracted more often. That’s it. And it sounds like. But we kind of put all of these judgments and pressures on ourselves, right?

00:24:58:11 – 00:25:24:05
Rich Pierson
With everything all the time. It makes it really hard to get over. And I think that’s why most people give up most things rather than sticking with them, because they have unrealistic expectations about what it is. And I just think that thing of just being a bit easier on ourselves that even if you only do it three days a week and it’s only for 10 minutes, like that’s good.

00:25:24:06 – 00:25:47:12
Rich Pierson
Like it’s not, it’s not going to do the thing that I like about meditation and always said to me, which always gave me a lot of motivation, said like unlike fitness, where you can lose fitness really quickly with meditation, it’s like every time you do it, it’s like drips in the bucket, but the water never evaporates and you just put the drips in.

00:25:47:13 – 00:26:06:19
Rich Pierson
And so every minute, every session is there, it can’t be taken away. Yeah, can’t be taken away. And so that I’ve always, I’ve always really like said if you miss a session, it’s not like you go back. It’s like now you start from where you kind of left off. And that I think is is a nice, a nice way to kind of approach it as well.

00:26:06:19 – 00:26:35:03
Philippa White
Yeah, really nice. It’s really nice. And tell me, I mean, because obviously it’s been a it’s been a tricky time, obviously, for many people, for all of us. And I just wonder, how has COVID impacted Headspace in the sense that are more people recognizing that, you know what, maybe this is something that I need to just kind of work through a lot of the challenges that I’m facing right now.

00:26:35:22 – 00:27:16:05
Rich Pierson
Yeah, I think what the lockdown has shown, I think everyone is that without distraction or without our normal distractions, whatever they may be for us as individuals, when those distractions get taken away, we are left with ourselves in a much more stark kind of reality without lots different routes to go of escape down. And I think that it’s shown us our true mental health as individuals, how how stable always individuals and how stable are the people around us as individuals.

00:27:16:05 – 00:27:37:05
Rich Pierson
And I think for a lot of people that’s been incredibly confronting. And so I don’t think that it’s I think it’s exacerbate the problem, basically. I think it’s a bit lonely to him about this shining a light. I think actually the lockdown has just shone a light on our own mental health, which I think in normal, everyday life we’ve got so many things that we can distract ourselves with that we don’t necessarily have to look at it.

00:27:37:23 – 00:28:09:24
Rich Pierson
Whenever we’re feeling like that, we can go and do something to make us ourselves feel different. And so I think what that’s done is it’s, it’s, I think the biggest thing and one of the most positive changes I’ve seen is, is within the workplace. And I think you can see it proven in. So if you look in earnings calls and, you know, mental health being mentioned in in earnings calls by CEOs in listed companies has gone up like 1,000% since the start.

00:28:09:24 – 00:28:10:04
Philippa White
Of.

00:28:10:08 – 00:28:35:13
Rich Pierson
The year. And so that’s that’s fascinating to me in it’s now become a priority for see it’s not just a priority for you know chief people offices or CHL roles. It’s now at the top of the company. It’s now important to shareholders, it’s important to their employee populations. And so I think that’s a big shift that isn’t going away.

00:28:35:19 – 00:29:01:01
Rich Pierson
And I think what that means is that, you know, employers are going to have to take an outsized role in the overall health of their employer bases if they want to attract and retain the best talent. And so that that we’ve seen just tremendous increases in enterprises wanting to take it headspace into their to their organization. So I think that’s been a really positive thing in, in lots of ways.

00:29:02:15 – 00:29:25:11
Rich Pierson
But it’s also shown us that, you know, not everyone’s got access to the care that they need and we’re still not really able to provide the level of care that’s needed at the scale that is needed in the time span. And I think that is a challenge for all of us to work out. How do we how do we kind of scale that that care over time?

00:29:25:11 – 00:29:40:22
Rich Pierson
So I think it’s kind of a bit of both, but I think that the first one will lead to the second one getting solved because you can have economic impact. And fortunately, that is still the thing that drives a lot of decisions and and roadmaps for companies, you know.

00:29:41:07 – 00:30:04:11
Philippa White
Well and actually just because I know science plays a huge part in what you guys do and just, you know, maybe also because this is becoming something that is now proven, maybe there is a lot of question around all you know, this, to be honest, it’s so similar to what we talk about in the sense of purpose and sustainability and responsibility.

00:30:04:11 – 00:30:23:07
Philippa White
It was kind of, you know, when I started Ty back in 2005 or 2000, 2006, we became company. But then it was kind of, oh, you know, yeah, there’s a department that kind of does that or know sustainability. We’re just not really into sustainable. It’s not really our thing right now or or you know, it was kind of like this sort of nice thing to do.

00:30:23:07 – 00:30:43:02
Philippa White
Whereas now it’s actually being seen that actually it, it, it makes people actually want to work for your company. It actually drives better sales. You have happier customers. It’s sort of actually being proven to be if you have it, you know, where you work is a good place to work. If you’re not exploiting the environment, if people actually want to buy your goods, then you will.

00:30:43:05 – 00:31:02:13
Philippa White
You know, the rest follows like profit follows, but you just need to you need to take care of the rest to start off with. And now that’s kind of being proven. And I just think that probably this area as well, it’s it’s all kind of linked up, isn’t it? It’s kind of. Well, actually, what I really wanted you to talk about as well was just the proof of meditating, meditation.

00:31:02:13 – 00:31:19:05
Philippa White
You talked, you touched on it a little bit at the beginning, but you guys have a chief science officer. And if I’m not mistaken, some of the largest studies on meditation have actually come from Headspace, because I know that this it’s been a big thing that you guys have wanted to really prove to the world that guys, this really does work.

00:31:19:05 – 00:31:41:08
Philippa White
It’s been going on for a really, really long time and there’s something to this. And I just wonder, can you bring that to light? Because I think it’s also this kind of information for whoever’s listening to this, who owns a company, who runs a company who you know, it’s not just like you say, the chief people officers. It’s like if your people are happier and they’re like they will be better people for your companies.

00:31:41:08 – 00:31:43:14
Philippa White
Yeah. And the rest follow. So do you want to just touch on that a little bit?

00:31:44:04 – 00:32:08:07
Rich Pierson
Sure. So we’ve done and we’ve done quite a few studies around around the world and and you’re right in saying some of them, you know, I’ve got, you know, over 2000 participants in them. And to put that into context, it’s kind of, you know, ten X the size of normal, large scale studies, which, you know, tend to cap out about 200 people and they’ve been longitudinal in nature.

00:32:08:07 – 00:32:41:10
Rich Pierson
So, you know, some of these studies that like 2 to 3 years at a time, multiple campuses. So in different geographies, people, different roles and responsibilities, we’ve done them in workplaces. We’ve done them in with the National College of Policing. We’ve done places like Google Roche. We’ve done them in schools, and we’ve really tried to push the the boundaries on one how meditation is researched and knowing that there’s still a lot of work I think that we can all do to to really prove out the true efficacy of it.

00:32:41:22 – 00:33:10:07
Rich Pierson
And but we’ve seen some really incredible results, you know, shown if you use headspace, you can reduce aggression, you can increase compassion, you can reduce depressive symptoms, you can reduce anxiety symptoms and, you know, it’s kind of what we were saying earlier that, you know, if I said if I said to someone, hey, if you took this pill, it could reduce you aggression, increase your compassion, depression or anxiety, could reduce the symptoms.

00:33:10:23 – 00:33:31:24
Rich Pierson
And you take it. But when I say like, hey, do 10 minutes every day for 30 days, you know, then about that. Then if I’ve got the time to do that, I’ve definitely didn’t just show. I can fit that in my schedule and people that have this weird kind of relationship with them. I think the effort that you have to put in and the science is, you know, it’s really solid.

00:33:31:24 – 00:33:57:05
Rich Pierson
I think when you can show someone on a brain scan, those parts of the brain affect your mood regulation lighting up and getting kind of stronger when you meditate, I think is compelling for folks because like you said about the comparison with fitness, you can’t see the changes. Yeah, you know, it’s not like you get bigger muscles. It’s it’s not like your head starts to swell because your brain’s getting bigger.

00:33:57:12 – 00:34:23:01
Rich Pierson
It does. That doesn’t happen. So you kind of you have to stick with it over a long period of time to really start to notice the subtle differences. And I think in our the world in which we live, where we want everything now and like yesterday and instant, that the idea of a kind of slow and steady practice over time isn’t necessarily that fashionable in lots of ways.

00:34:23:01 – 00:34:45:09
Rich Pierson
So I would definitely encourage and it depends, would it? I think the science has been really important for enterprises, for us to work with health care partners. Like that’s been a really important part to normalizing it. But I think a lot consumers just want to know whether it’s going to fix the thing that they want fixed, which is just kind of our culture in our society.

00:34:45:09 – 00:34:56:10
Rich Pierson
But I think it would be wonderful if folks could think about it is that a commitment to themselves and the people around them over the long over the long term, rather than, you know.

00:34:56:15 – 00:35:18:17
Philippa White
It’s an easy time to fix it. And if it becomes more major, I think, you know, the way that this is going, like you say, that it’s now being adopted by, you know, leaders of companies, that it’s now being adopted by companies. Once it becomes a little bit more mainstream, then I think it will just start to be adopted more.

00:35:18:17 – 00:35:36:20
Philippa White
It’s the same thing with natural medicine, right? It’s sort of, yeah. If you look after your, you know, gut health and if you look after your immune system, you’re less likely to get sick. So, yes, rather than always taking the pill when you’ve got a headache, look at why you have the headache and treat that. And it’s sort of that’s even becoming a little bit more mainstream.

00:35:36:20 – 00:36:02:05
Philippa White
And and so this is you know, I just I think about one of another podcast that I had with a guy called Simon Anholt, and he he’s an adviser for presidents and prime ministers and monarchs. He’s an incredible guy. He also weirdly worked at BBH. That’s weird. Anyway, so he he he talks about country branding and anyway that’s another podcast.

00:36:02:05 – 00:36:22:11
Philippa White
But he used this example of when he was he was in Poland or in Russia and he was invited to talk to heads of government. They decided to have this meeting with the mayor and various leaders of government at the bottom of a mine. And he, you know, so he had to go down to the bottom of the mine.

00:36:22:11 – 00:36:43:05
Philippa White
And you’re sitting at this long table with all these government officials. And he said he was starting to feel really nervous and he was looking around and he just thought, oh, my God, I’ve got kilometers and kilometers of rock above my head. And he he started to have a little mini sort of panic attack. And then he thought, you know what, I literally have no control over the situation right now.

00:36:43:14 – 00:37:00:02
Philippa White
I can’t get up and leave because I can’t actually leave. It would also be really weird because I’m sort of the guest of honor and I just had to. He said, you know, I just had to kind of take a deep breath and just learn to kind of control my I couldn’t control the outside world. I couldn’t control what was happening around me.

00:37:00:02 – 00:37:21:13
Philippa White
I could just control my response to what is happening around me. And I thought, that’s such a great example of also just COVID and these moments. And it sort of you were saying how it’s harder to be able to see the impact of meditation, but actually, I guess the more you do it, the more you feel a sense of control over your thoughts.

00:37:22:05 – 00:37:32:22
Philippa White
You have a sense of control over your response to, like you say, dealing with your children or your spouse or whatever it might be. And so, yeah, it’s kind of I guess that that’s yeah.

00:37:34:02 – 00:37:53:05
Rich Pierson
I would agree with that. I think the one thing I would I think it’s I think it’s the same Sam it’s just a slightly different lens on it, which is I think is less about control. I think that’s what we all kind of want to do is feel in control, right? And of situations that make us feel uncomfortable.

00:37:53:13 – 00:38:20:11
Rich Pierson
And actually, I would I would argue that the more that you meditate, the more you get comfortable feeling uncomfortable. And whether that is actually about seeing thoughts that really bother you and not get to engage in them, whether that is being able to feel anxious and not go crazy like I am, why am I anxious? Accompany them feeling anxious again?

00:38:20:11 – 00:38:50:10
Rich Pierson
Oh my God, I’m such an anxious person. I’m anxious going down that kind of road. Or like you say, a situation where, you know, the truth is that in that moment, yes, there’s not a lot that you know, that he could do being down that line. But actually, just to notice the way that he was feeling in that moment, in that experience without reacting to it, is less about control and more about being okay with whatever’s coming up for him in that moment.

00:38:50:18 – 00:39:21:09
Rich Pierson
And that that is a group that is really different, I think, than thinking I’m going to control the situation, I’m going to feel okay in it, because I think that’s what we all want to do. But actually it’s empowering that effort and that kind of iron’s kind of clenching around stuff that causes the tension in ourselves. And if we can, if we can somehow just learn to step back and observe and be okay with whatever’s going on, then we can handle any situation, good, bad or indifferent, that comes up.

00:39:21:09 – 00:39:25:20
Rich Pierson
And that, in essence, is the skill that you’re learning every time you sit down.

00:39:26:07 – 00:39:57:13
Philippa White
So that’s so I love that. I love that. And actually, you know what, listening to all of this, I just find it fascinating, adding that we both went from BBH or Adland in general to setting up companies that actually have a similar goal. Just we’re coming at it from obviously very different approaches. But like for and actually for those of you that don’t know, for people who are listening and haven’t heard of tie before or in, you came through other avenues to listen to this.

00:39:57:13 – 00:40:32:19
Philippa White
But we help people become more passionate and empathetic leaders, more flexible and actually, like you’ve just said, better able to embrace diversity and adversity. And we essentially helped develop sort of the leaders that the world kind of needs now, leaders that are more human. But what’s really interesting is everything that you’ve just said, which like headspace obviously is one of those tools that leaders can use to have that calmness and humanity to bring to their lives and also to their work lives and their day to day jobs and hold everything right.

00:40:33:06 – 00:40:51:01
Philippa White
And it’s just another way to empower leaders to handle the reality that, you know, companies in the world are, you know, demanding on them and, yeah, I just think what we’re both doing is needed now, to be honest, more than ever. And I don’t know, do you just love your thoughts on this? Like, do you have any? Yeah, I.

00:40:51:01 – 00:41:12:18
Rich Pierson
Think I think this just is interesting. As you were talking to some vignette, leaders need to learn it. But I think the difference, you know, if you fast forward a few generations when we go into schools and teach meditation to kids, especially the younger kids, you don’t have to put any explanation around why to do it, what’s the science?

00:41:12:18 – 00:41:28:10
Rich Pierson
And I be convinced I haven’t got kind of 25 years of baggage, an opinion that they just like, okay, so it’s me. I’ll do it and I’ll tell you how I feel. And, you know, they they do it. And then, you know, ask, how do you feel that, you know, make my tummy full? And I feel really calm now?

00:41:28:11 – 00:41:44:18
Rich Pierson
I think that there’s no there’s no baggage with it. And so I think what’s really exciting is thinking about all of these tools that kids are now going to have. And not every school has it and not every child has it. And speak to that. We would like it. But, you know, whether it’s meditation or whatever it is.

00:41:44:18 – 00:42:23:18
Rich Pierson
But I think kids are going to different ways to cope with their mind in this information heavy world that we we are continuing to live in. And that, I think is is really interesting as you think about the future and it relates to, you know, what the world needs now, I think I just think that it’s going to become I think unless you provide that type of leadership and training and you hire and and encourage folks to find that within themselves, they’re not going to want to come work for you.

00:42:23:18 – 00:42:45:07
Rich Pierson
And so the companies that don’t do it will just die. Like, I just think over time they just won’t be here. And the leaders that don’t lead like that won’t have jobs. So I think it will be a self-selection process because as you get younger folks coming through your organization, it won’t be like, oh, that’s I wish you were like, that would be, you know, this is what it needs to like.

00:42:45:12 – 00:43:10:10
Rich Pierson
Yeah. Like it won’t it won’t be an extra thing on the side. And so I the smart leaders are working out now. And if they don’t meet like that, they’re changing. But I think as younger generations come through, I just think it’s going to be a completely different workplace experience and leadership smarts. And so to companies that, you know, maybe you and I have worked at, I think it’s just going to change.

00:43:10:19 – 00:43:11:01
Rich Pierson
Yeah.

00:43:11:05 – 00:43:29:06
Philippa White
Personally, yeah, I agree. Rich, tell us we’re coming to the end of the podcast, but I just love to know what are you doing now? Because I know that you’ve recently moved. You were living in L.A., you’re now in Europe, and your role at Headspace, I think, has changed. Just tell us, what’s the next step for Headspace? What’s the next step for you?

00:43:29:06 – 00:43:29:18
Philippa White
Tell us.

00:43:29:20 – 00:43:56:06
Rich Pierson
Yeah, yeah. Maybe next year at the beginning of the year. It’s nice to be back in back on this side of the world. America was great. But is it’s nice to be back close to family and friends and we and, you know, I transition to, you know, day to day roles to co-executive chairman. So we’re still very involved in the company on the board and helping out where folks need us most.

00:43:56:06 – 00:44:21:10
Rich Pierson
So still, you know, very involved in Headspace, but not in as much of the day to day as we once were, which is very much planned. And now our new CEO is doing a wonderful job with the the leadership team that we that we kind of built together to run that business. And for us, you know, for me at least, I think it’s going to be taking the rest of 21 to work out.

00:44:21:16 – 00:44:54:14
Rich Pierson
You know what I what I want to do it’s been it’s been 12 years, pretty much incredible, incredible growth and a lot of effort. And so I’m just I’m just enjoying that time with with my family and working out, you know, what, what this next stage looks like. But I think it will be and philanthropic in nature and I think it will be related to, you know, the the lineage from which headspace kind of comes from that.

00:44:54:14 – 00:45:03:15
Rich Pierson
You know, loosely speaking, it will be it will be very centered around those those two things. But the details of which are still being worked out good.

00:45:03:15 – 00:45:26:19
Philippa White
Well, I am looking forward to seeing what comes out of all of this. And I hope that you’ve taken a moment to stop and just, yeah, be proud of what you and Andy have created because it’s amazing your impacting so many people’s lives around the world, bringing meditation to the forefront and hopefully, you know, now even more so to companies.

00:45:26:19 – 00:45:31:03
Philippa White
And yeah, it’s amazing. So my hat goes off to you. You’re an inspiration, Rich. Well done.

00:45:32:18 – 00:45:50:00
Rich Pierson
Safely. But I must say, just to jump in it, there are 350 people that work at Headspace and and many more that don’t work there that have worked there. And so, you know, and, you know, I get to talk about this stuff, but it has been it’s been a group, a huge, huge team effort, I promise you.

00:45:50:06 – 00:45:50:14
Philippa White
Yeah.

00:45:50:14 – 00:45:58:11
Rich Pierson
But they they they they’ve done a wonderful job. So had we’re pleased to have been a part of it for sure.

00:45:58:17 – 00:46:18:19
Philippa White
Good. Well, listen, I’m looking forward to you finally coming to visit in Brazil. There was that plan wave that. I know when but I’m yeah. Once borders open up and we’re actually we can’t even leave Brazil I think you can leave where you are but we can’t even leave Brazil. So anyway, when I’m allowed to travel or when you’re allowed to travel, my door is always open.

00:46:18:20 – 00:46:19:13
Philippa White
I look forward to seeing.

00:46:19:13 – 00:46:22:13
Rich Pierson
The same for you. Thank you. Thanks for having me, Phillipa.

00:46:22:17 – 00:46:24:21
Philippa White
Take care. Thank you so much.

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