Why Is Wellness the Key to Becoming a More Successful Business Person?

For too long many of us have prioritized doing well over being well.

The idea goes like this: in order to be successful, you must sacrifice every aspect of your life — family, friends, interests and even your mental and physical health — at the altar of money, job and career. We glorified the Rockwellian image of success: a businessman — yes, businessman — his tie askew, cheeks flushed, eyes bloodshot, hunched over his desk with the clock pushing 10pm. This post-depression era approach to success was built on the idea that if you work hard you will reap the benefits of the American dream. However, today we understand that to truly become the successful person we envision for ourselves, whether in business, advocacy, citizenry or parenting — we must achieve the essential component of any productive modern lifestyle: wellness.

Just look at the data:

Norman Rockwell (1894–1978), “Expense Account,” 1957. Cover illustration for “The Saturday Evening Post,” November 30, 1957.

Studies show that a healthy employee will miss less work, and those with flexible schedules are less stressed and less prone to burnout. Small, simple-to-implement benefits like a free green juice on casual Friday can make employees feel appreciated and help with retention; and employees who see themselves as happy in their jobs are at least 12% more productive than their unhappy peers.

We need to forget that sad man in the Rockwell painting and replace him with a present-day zeitgeist. The more accurate portrait of modern business success is John Mackey the founder of Whole Foods, who co-wrote Conscious Capitalism and believes in elevating ethical businesses such as his own, with inherently ‘good’ values. Or Oprah, entertainment mogul, with her purpose-driven work fueling savvy power moves (such as a 2015 decision to purchase a 10% ownership in Weight Watchers). Or Arianna Huffington, who founded Thrive Global after an incredible run with The Huffington Post. Thrive is a platform with a mission “to end the stress and burnout epidemic by offering companies and individuals sustainable, science-based solutions to enhance well-being, performance, and purpose, and create a healthier relationship with technology.” These leaders have responsible, healthy routines and schedules, and sustainable relationships with technology. They read books like Mindful Work by David Gelles and actively make room in their lives for happiness.

Wellness, as it turns out, has always been the key to achieving and sustaining success, and also holds the potential to exponentially grow our economy. Smoking is down and exercise is up. Healthy eating and demand for nutrition information has forced changes to menus across the country. Heart disease — the number one killer of Americans — is on the decline.

On the other hand, we’re also coming up short. One-third of American adults are obese. Depression and a slew of other illnesses are on the rise. Opioid addiction plagues far too many communities. Americans are better off now than ten years ago, but we aren’t all advancing in equal stride. Despite all the promise of technology to play an equalizing role, women and people of color still lag behind.

This shows that there is not only an incentive to get into the business of wellness, but there is ample room to be creative in doing so.

Wellness — like success — conjures its own image. A fitness-loving, green-juice drinking yogi — or at least that’s what folks tell me when I say my business partners and I launched a health and wellness-focused fund. Green juice, spin classes, and kale — lots of kale — “do you invest in kale?” Well, we would conceivably invest in an aeroponic urban farm growing kale, but not kale, per se.

The Wing, Soho

As we define it at Trail Mix Ventures, wellness is how we share our possessions and the earth, how we work more efficiently thanks to technology — and what the future of work even looks like. It is a function of how we create outputs and whether those outputs make us happy. Wellness is even contingent on what the products we buy and brands we support say about ourselves (for instance, I am writing this article from The Wing, a co-working space run by and for women,” which represents my passion for friendly community and color-coded bookshelves). The good news is that our economy is finally starting to align with how we live with those priorities.

In 2018, more than 80% of consumers will participate in the sharing economy, exchanging goods or services with peers or making purchases online. Next weekend, farmers and hipsters alike will host strangers in yurts, converted school buses and basements, as business people choose to stay in places like converted treehouses over, say, major hotel chains. All the while, countless people will keep taking fitness advice from Instagram personalities or remote into a fitness class thousands of miles away.

At Trail Mix, we back companies tackling the challenge of wellness from all angles; in fact, we prioritize startups that reflect and take advantage of the tectonic shifts in our markets. These companies include Parsley Health that allow clients to Skype with a nutritionist to learn better eating habits or discuss how to lead a healthier life — likely a more productive one — without ever going to a doctor’s office. And Henry the Dentist, bringing dentists to offices via a mobile van. And Bravely, which allows anyone to text an HR expert at any given moment to resolve work conflicts and navigate sticky workplace issues quickly, effectively and as painlessly as possible.

We think that these are just a few examples of how we build a more efficient life, and living efficiently can greatly aid how well we all feel. We’ve created a manifesto to go even further. We think happy and productive work lives lead to greater innovation and a stronger economy. The potential profits of this new economy are impressive.

Moreover, money follows movement, and a new generation is moving towards a life where they’re happy, healthy, and creatively contributing their talents. In other words, the future of living well.

This is our call to action, to entrepreneurs: dream big and build your company around wellness and purpose. A handful of industries have the potential to increase global revenue in the sharing economy from $15 billion to $335 billion in less than 20 years. Consider building a business that serves your community. Consider the massive addressable market opportunities in elder care, personal fitness, self-care — to name a handful of multi-billion dollar industry opportunities available to categorically disrupt.

Wellness isn’t just good for us, it’s pretty good for business.