SINK OR SWIM: HOW JEFF ROBINSON OVERCAME DEPRESSION TO INSPIRE OTHERS
Written on the 12 October 2016
FOR Jeff Robinson, the phrase 'sink or swim' is a mantra he once imbibed as a high-flyer in the business world, but it soon became a stark reality when, floating out to sea, he fought the will to live.
The former Gold Coast General Manager of AE Smith, the largest privately-owned air-conditioning and engineering firm in Australia, now wants to give back and has launched a mentoring program underpinned by the phrase 'fear less, go hard'.
Jeff (pictured) believes his story is not unique but he wants to use it to help others. After hitting rock bottom when his wife Sue died from cancer in 2013, Jeff fell into a dark abys of depression, spending hours in the ocean in an attempt to wash away the pain and his loss.
"I was spending a lot of time in the water and just wanted to stay out there and drift away. I was close to just staying under, but I thought of my family, my two sons and how they would have felt losing both parents. I had a big wake-up call, an epiphany if you like, and I decided to change my life and to start living," says Jeff.
When AE Smith was acquired by commercial engineering giant Spotless, Jeff was made redundant and he bought himself a new bike and began cycling and getting fit. In January this year, with a newfound sense of adventure and a zest for life, Jeff was riding his bike along the road at Kirra, when a dog ran out in front of him.
"I remember swerving to miss the dog and the next thing I'm waking up in hospital with two broken arms and pins and screws keeping my elbow together," he says.
"At first I started feeling sorry for myself. It was like the old 'why me?' syndrome kicking back in and then I knew I had to snap out of it and get back on track. I realised my story is not unique, but I had to refocus and plan for the future, find a new direction and set new goals," said Jeff.
"That's when this corporate mentoring idea came to me and it has been a wonderful, life-changing experience."
Now the Harley Davidson riding ex-GM powers into board rooms and corporations, espousing his unique blend of leadership and supporting HR managers to bring the best out of their people.
As part of the Jeff Robinson Pathway, he has produced a personal development workbook which participants keep as part of the one-hour goal setting workshop. Rather than preach work-life balance, Jeff gets participants to think outside the box with exercises such as '20 challenges to achieve my list of 80 lifetime desires'. Robinson is also donating 10 per cent of the price of each of these sessions to Cancer Council Queensland.
"Business owners and managers are often so busy, they don't have time to micro-manage staff or find ways to empower them," he says.
"Leadership is a tough a gig and I understand that completely as I've been there. Most cultural change merchants want to create a positive working environment to enhance productivity and boost morale, but just don't have the tools.
"By empowering your employees, you get increased productivity. That's where I come in and I believe I have found my true calling."