For Thomas Drew, he wasn’t just founding another company. He started a mission to transform mental health and holistic wellness. Since that day, 1AND1 has helped thousands of people along their wellness journeys. Who better to speak on mental health than someone building a community of wellness each and every day. We sat down with Thomas Drew today to talk about all things Mental Health.
Talk to me a bit about your founder journey that led you to where 1AND1 is today.
Thomas Drew: It’s been a journey of perseverance and mission. That’s the most important thing about being a founder, period. The mission has to be more important than the product.
With 1AND1, we've had a few pivots. When we started the company in 2017, it was all about having one mind and one body and becoming 1% better. We began with athleisure and saw some success, but we realized there were better vessels to making people 1% better each day. Then, in 2019, we pivoted to content media because much of the information within the seven dimensions of wellness wasn't accessible – none of the platforms spoke to people like my co-founder and me. We decided to develop content marketing that gives value to our audience through informational content, product reviews, and our mental health podcast. The media side of our business is free. It always will be free. That was our way of helping people who look like us from underserved communities while still creating a platform that's accepting to all.
It’s so hard to be fully committed to a business day in and day out and then decide to pivot. How did you come to that decision?
Thomas Drew: We always wanted to develop an app with real utility. Looking back at all our content and our audience Q&A, we realized the trend of people falling short of their goals for various reasons. One person tried to become more active and fell off the horse. Another person would try to increase self-love but could not figure out how. We realized that this is truly what we believe – the power of habit.
Throughout the company's life cycle, we’ve talked to many successful people in different industries and realized that the main similarity was that they all had some type of habit or practice to get the result they wanted. Then, we drilled down more on that, looked at some data, and realized that people can't reach their goals because their actions are misaligned. They don't have the right intention or consistency.
We set out to create something that has utility, helps people identify where they're trying to go and nudge them to get there through the power of habit. With the app, our goal is to help people form habits and take action, which is essential.
Our business has almost shut down multiple times. There are a lot of things that we've gone through, and we're still fighting through stuff. But that's the company's story, and as a founder – it's about becoming one better together.
You talk a lot about the power of habit; great book, by the way – how has that been something you’ve harnessed along the journey?
Thomas Drew: I’d say being present and having a clear vision are very important. With the vision, you have to understand the reason why you're probably feeling stressed is because you know what you need to do; you just can’t do it all – you get paralyzed with work. You must break it down into smaller tasks you can control and just chop wood. That’s all entrepreneurship is and what being a founder is.
I saw a quote today from the founder, Liquid Death. He said everyone thinks that Liquid Death was an idea I got in the shower. I spent two years iterating and chopping wood and chopping wood and chopping wood until I knew where I needed to go, which goes back to my original point of clear vision.
You can control only two things: your attitude and your work ethic. That's it. Once you realize that nothing else matters,
That’s one of those things where you may come to that realization, but you don’t always keep the focus. How do you maintain focus to keep executing?
Thomas Drew: Your vision is a macro thing that will happen later. Overnight successes take ten years. That's something else that that always plays in my head. So, if the vision is macro, you have to look at all the steps to get to the vision as micro. The macro is slow, but the micro should be fast – you must act.
I used to get in the way of myself being a perfectionist. In reality, you should be taking action based on 50% conviction. As founders, taking action is the way to get out of that stress.
Whether it’s health and wellness, work or personal, those goals become more challenging during the end of the year when you’re trying to ensure the year was a success. How do you navigate that?
Thomas Drew: It goes back to just control what you can control. I liken it to sports. There are a lot of similarities between business and sports, and it's the reason why I idolize Kobe Bryant. He always said, "Don't look at what I did; look at how I did it.”
The learning of that is like all you can do is prepare and control what you can control. Then, you let the pieces fall where they may, which takes away a lot of anxiety.
Now, if you know that you could have done more research or been more prepared or missed this step in the process, then you know where that anxiety comes from if you don't hit your goal. But if you if you say, Here's the goal. Here's the stretch goal. I'm going for the stretch goal. I will make sure everything I'm driving is to hit or surpass these markers in this plan toward my goal. If it doesn't hit, it doesn't hit, but I can live with that at the end of the day because I prepared. It's the same thing in sports and business – proper preparation prevents poor performance. That was my thing when I played ball in college, and it's the same with business. I put in everything I have, and I live with the result. If the result is fantastic, don't get too high on the high. If the result is not good, okay, don't get too low on the low; stay even-keeled.
I love what you said there – this sense of peace because you poured everything into the goal.
Thomas Drew: That's that's life, man. Everybody can say all that matters is the result, but it doesn't matter. What matters is how you get there. I haven't been perfect, but let's say, in the worst-case scenario, 1AND1 shuts down tomorrow. I could look at myself in the mirror and still go to sleep at night and feel good about myself, knowing that we helped people.
We change people's lives. We save people's lives. I did it genuinely. I didn't lie about a single number in fundraising financials, pitch deck, or anything. I was honest throughout the process and gave everything I had. I would be able to move on. You have to approach everything like that.
Some data says 72 percent of founders suffer from mental health issues, and 23 percent report loneliness. What would you recommend to founders who are suffering from these issues?
Thomas Drew: My first recommendation would be to understand what being a founder means and what that commitment means. You must be honest with yourself if you're willing to do that. Over 90% of businesses fail, and as you said, founders go through depression, isolation, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts – it's terrifying.
If you genuinely care about what you're building, give it everything you have and take outside capital – it is the hardest thing you can do. Now, I believe that the most amazing potential things have the highest opportunity cost in life.
You must believe in yourself before anybody else does. You have to have a delusional amount of self-belief and a ridiculous amount of grit.
Now, some important tools continue to persevere as a founder. You have to invest time and capital into your well-being. I used to be in a position where running a health and wellness company – I didn't give a shit about my health and wellness. I ran myself into the ground. I was wrong because, as a founder, you're betting on your brain daily. If you’re not sleeping, eating, or moving enough, it will affect your output.
The more sleep I get, the better my brain works, I make better decisions, and I can better evaluate situations. Ultimately, I’m much more productive. It’s not about getting up at 4:30 AM to do all these unnecessary things. It’s about how effective you are in windows.
You also need positive self-talk and reinforcement. Meditation is massive for me. I can go to the gym for 2 hours, but making me meditate for 10 min is tough. As a founder, you’re always on the go and slowing down to think about nothing for like 10 min – it allows you to go faster. When I meditate, it often unlocks something that I’ve been working on. You must realize that you need to slow down to speed up.
The last point is to find something outside of work that brings you joy. For me, that’s music or basketball on the weekends. You'll lose your mind if you don’t take your mind off work.
Those would be my four things – take your well-being seriously, use positive self-talk and meditate, and find something that brings you joy.
You talked a little bit about it in your answer, but how have you seen things shift away from that hustle culture mentality to more promotion of positive habits as you are with 1AND
Thomas Drew: I’ve had to work with my executive coach on it because she called me out. My whole career, I never felt like I was good enough or doing enough. She made me realize that wasn’t healthy. She said, you only need to worry about competing with you. The hustle culture mentality is detrimental.
She would tell me to be obsessed with efficiency rather than productivity. How do you focus on things that can 5x or 10x the business? By understanding that, I also recognize that I'm a human being. I can only sometimes be super productive, and that's the other lesson, too. We can't always be on; that's when we malfunction.
The conversation pivoted to ensuring self-awareness and focusing on the habits I need to create to be maximally efficient. That’s what it’s all about.