In Nick’s words…
Who/what inspires me: Everyone who has ever come back from suffering to bring more truth, love and creativity into the world.
Best advice/motto: Switch On. Break through. Thrive. And do it now. There is no better time.
It is the early 1990s and Nick Seneca Jankel is dripping with sweat amid flashing laser lights on the dance floor of an underground club in London. Despite his bulky frame, his glasses, his geeky clothes, a young Nick finds himself shedding his inhibitions and letting loose on the dance floor. For a few hours he feels totally free, connected, confident and at one with the people around him.
And then Monday comes, the feeling is gone, and Nick crashes back to the shy and lonely kid he’d been before his dance floor utopia. A few years later and depression batters him further. Panic attacks seize him with terror. The painful condition fibromyalgia, or chronic pain syndrome, strikes. Yet, Nick remembers that feel on the dance floor and wonders. If it was possible to feel that good then, surely there’s the chance to feel that way at any time. But how?
… he feels totally free, connected, confident and at one with the people around him.
21st Century shaman
For years Nick has been on a mission to determine the answer. His journey has taken him from the hallowed halls of Cambridge University where he studied medicine and philosophy, to the tribes of Africa and South America. It has seen him consult to big business, author a book and launch a variety of coaching services.
Today Nick is marketed as a 21st Century shaman – someone who marries the mysticism of spirituality with solid science to provide answers to feeling good, someone who consults to big business and government agencies on a social scale, while also working with individuals as a coach committed to helping people to unleash their best selves on the world.
A far cry from the depressed youth he once was, Nick is now awash with optimism about the world and its people. But what path did he travel to get there? And what has he learned along the way?
A far cry from the depressed youth he once was, Nick is now awash with optimism about the world and its people.
Staring down madness
When Nick, freshly graduated from high-school, applied to study medicine at Cambridge he was instructed to take a year off first. So, with no clear direction, Nick found himself in a remote village in Zimbabwe for a year’s teaching post. “It wasn’t like one of those cushy gap-year programs you get now,” Nick says. “It was: no training, drop you off in a village, and that’s it for a year. It was the first proper job I’d ever had. But there was no training, no power, no electricity, no toilets, nothing. It was very primitive.”
With no TV to distract him outside work hours, Nick retreated to the world of books. He’d lose himself in great tomes on philosophy and the meaning of life. But, with no one to discuss what he was reading and little life experience himself, he found himself on shaky ground, experiencing all sorts of existential angst as he questioned himself and his place in the universe. “I remember one night walking back from the village to my school and collapsing on my knees in the dust of the African bush and looking out over the metaphorical abyss of madness and thinking I could go there, and choosing not to,” Nick says. “It was a choice. That was definitely an influence on my choice to find some terra firma on which to base a life.”
“I remember … looking out over the metaphorical abyss of madness and thinking I could go there, and choosing not to.”
Power of connection
It was Nick’s experience in Africa that also led to his belief in the inter-dependence of life. Far removed from the western concepts of individualism, Nick realised the power of community. The feeling grew as he’d pile into the back of a truck for village trips to football games. The feeling intensified with time spent at a tiny bar with one battery-powered radio pumping out music and a single battery-powered light.
Drinking a thick porridge-like alcohol he likens to swallowing ‘sick’ and learning dance moves from the locals, Nick revelled in the glorious feeling of fitting in exactly as he was. “I remember being truly free in this little village where people knew me,” he says. “They allowed me to be a little crazy. They egged me on to dance and let go more and be free and shake my booty. I remember them showing me how to dance like an African – to move my arse – that’s served me in good stead on the dance floors of London and New York.”
It was here that he came to learn the African concept of ‘ubuntu’ – a notion of human connection that Nick describes as ‘I’ only existing within the experience of ‘others’, in which ‘my’ happiness is intrinsically bound up in ‘yours’. It was a notion that Nick cemented much later when he returned to Africa to interview tribal elders about western concepts like depression and anxiety. “The basic upshot is that [these conditions] don’t really exist there, they are seen as community issues, not individual ones,” Nick says.
For Nick, life is a gloriously interconnected web. “Everything has taken millions of years to evolve and relies upon billions of synapses, cells and molecules working together in symphonic harmony to create a masterpiece called the human being,” he writes in his book ‘Switch On’. “Anyone of us can harness this orchestra of biology to invest and design anything we want… Now that is a freak’n’ miracle.”
“Everything has taken millions of years to evolve and relies upon billions of synapses, cells and molecules working together in symphonic harmony to create a masterpiece called the human being.”
Foregoing a set path
With a year’s life experience in Africa behind him Nick returned to the UK and began studying medicine at Cambridge with the aim of becoming a psychiatrist. As the descendent of Jewish holocaust survivors Nick’s acceptance as a medical student was met with mass rejoicing among his family. He was the first in his family to attend university as a youth. And medicine! He had it made.
So it was with disbelief that his family learned of his decision to ditch medicine for philosophy. But Nick was sure it was the right move. “Suddenly I was loving my learning more than I’d ever done before,” he says. “Philosophy really got me juiced up. I remember getting up in the morning to go to the university library to read another 10 books that day about the philosophy of the human experience, and loving it and being so happy and so enlivened by it.”
The experience of changing study paths led to one of his core teachings today – that you have to be prepared to let go of what you’re doing, even if it has been working ok, if you want to experience a breakthrough.
Ditching corporate life
This lesson hit home again a few years later when Nick found himself leading a highly successful start-up company. Using the philosophical learnings of his degree, and experience working at an advertising agency that used understanding of human behaviour to encourage sales, Nick a launched a brand and innovation consultancy, helping start-ups and large companies develop new businesses. “We grew it crazily, had loads of staff, an amazing client list, it was powerful,” Nick says. “But I realised I wasn’t happy. I was not just tired, I was weary. I realised I was burning out. I mean burning out in the sense of not just burning out the energy but burning out the wiring of my being.”
Nick began to doubt what he was doing. “I was using the most powerful transformational tools – how to cause heart and mindset changes – to flog laundry powder,” he says. “We’d find a part of you that isn’t quite happy with yourself and activate that trigger to create a product that solves that supposed need. In a moment of blinding light I realised I needed to do the exact opposite – I needed to use these tools to transform people’s sense of lack, and need and ‘not-enoughness’ and help them realise they are enough and perfect in every way. And, crucially, to use that experience of love and connection to make change in the world.”
So one day he walked into his business, announced his resignation, and simply walked away. “People thought I was nuts,” Nick says.
“I needed to … transform people’s sense of lack, and need and ‘not-enoughness’ and help them realise they are enough and perfect in every way.”
Ripe and Ready
But Nick was convinced. “I got totally sure my role in the world was to help young people to connect with themselves, to know they’re ok, and become part of the social solutions to the world,” he says. He started applying for funding to conduct projects with non-government and government agencies. But he soon realised his work could be much more powerful if he wasn’t spending so much time attempting to access funds. The solution? Raise the money himself. So began the foundation of his current enterprise – the website Ripe and Ready, which aims to inspire people to live their best lives through blog posts, meditations and podcasts, Nick’s new book Switch On, coaching programs and, his latest offering to the world, The Switched On MBA (for anyone who wants to build a ‘conscious’ career or enterprise). In addition Nick consults to big name business brands, provides inspirational talks and offers business, life, parenthood and relationship coaching.
Connection in a digital age
While others decry the negative effects of our digital age, Nick believes it puts us in great stead for a positive future. “Now within our grasp, perhaps realistically for the first time in human history, is the tangible possibility of a just and equal society for all,” he writes in Switch On. Why the positivity?
“You can use technology to encourage people to become addicted to checking their Facebook page to see if they’ve got any likes, to delving into the internet to avoid being present with their children or you can use the same technology to connect people to share more. Technology is a beautiful thing as long as you’re using it consciously. Through the internet we get to share our ideas, our beliefs, really quickly, with the right people so that we can organise ourselves in ways you couldn’t do before.”
Nick hopes his teachings will encourage people to find their purpose and unleash it on the world. He urges them to do the inner work to discover what ‘service’ means, to work on themselves to understand their gifts, to be prepared for the discomfort of stepping up to live a life of purpose.
“Be of service because it comes gushing out of you, because it is inevitable,” he advises. “Do it because it is who you truly are. Do it because if you aren’t of service, you can’t be your truth.”
“Now within our grasp, perhaps realistically for the first time in human history, is the tangible possibility of a just and equal society for all.”
Click here to order Nick’s book Switch On: Unleash Your Creativity and Thrive with the New Science & Spirit of Breakthrough
. Please note, I’m offering this as an affiliate but am happy to do so because I read it myself and loved it.