Ruari Fairbairns is co-founder of One Year No Beer, a community of nearly 40,000 people in 90 countries who are resetting their relationship with alcohol. Ruari was a recent guest on EO 360°, a podcast by Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). April is Alcohol Awareness Month in the US, with 5-7 April designated as Alcohol-Free Weekend. As we approach the weekend, we asked Ruari to share his journey in resetting his relationship with alcohol. Here’s what he shared.
Tell us about starting One Year No Beer. How has it evolved? Where is it heading?
I was working as an oil broker in London, and alcohol was a familiar tool for doing business. Whilst I never felt like I had a problem, I had all these niggling health issues that I was independently trying to solve.
Against much social, corporate and peer pressure, I decided to take a 90-day break from booze, and on that journey I was absolutely blown away with how life improved. I felt happier and healthier, more calm and less anxious, and I lost a lot of weight.
Fears about it impeding my career success were unfounded: In my first year alcohol-free, I grew my business by another 50 percent. Most importantly, all those little health issues disappeared. I was gobsmacked at how far-reaching the effects of drinking alcohol were on my happiness, health and wealth!
I got together with another broker, Andy Ramage, who had recently completed six months alcohol-free, including his 40th birthday in Ireland without drinking a drop. I was inspired! Little did I know, this was the beginning of our tribe.
We discussed the idea that no one was looking at the advantages of taking a break from booze. In our society, if you stopped drinking, you had either hit rock bottom or declared a substance abuse problem. There was no support for a normal social drinker to just say, “No thanks, drinking just isn’t for me.”
So we came up with the concept of One Year No Beer (OYNB) and launched our 28-, 90- and 365-day programs to transform peoples’ relationship with alcohol. It’s not about giving alcohol up forever, it’s about giving you back control. Most people have no idea what their true relationship with alcohol should be like, until they remove it. Then they see it for what it is.
To be clear, OYNB isn’t Alcoholics Anonymous. That’s a different audience. We offer community support, mindset hacks and strategies to reframe your social interactions to a place where you are free to choose whether you want a drink or not. If you slip up and have a few beers when a friend unexpectedly drops into town, then you’ve identified a trigger and have the opportunity to figure out how to deal with that scenario next time. You don’t have to start the challenge over. Keep going, and apply what you’ve learned.
You say people aren’t “free” to choose their relationship with alcohol. Please expand on that.
It’s really simple. If you take our challenge and follow it, spending at least 90 days without alcohol, you won’t drink the same again. Not because we’ve reprogrammed you, or forced you to be a different way, but because we’ve unwound all the gibberish you’ve been fed since you were old enough to hear your parents pop a cork, or open a beer around any celebration, commiseration or congratulations.
Marketing, social conditioning and peer pressure are the reasons why all of us are drinking a poison. Please don’t get me wrong: I still drink alcohol sometimes. Very, very rarely, I drink too much of it. But I have totally revolutionized my relationship with alcohol so that I can take it or leave it. I usually don’t drink if it’s expected of me, because I like to break that mold.
Most people think they have a relationship with alcohol that they “enjoy.” However I’m 100 percent confident that if you remove alcohol from the equation and see it for what it is, you won’t drink as much.
It’s interesting that when we ask OYNB members why they didn’t do our challenge and reap all of the benefits earlier, most will say that peer pressure kept them drinking.
How can changing your relationship with alcohol impact leadership and overall business performance?
My boss told me I was committing commercial suicide by going alcohol-free. During the first year, I grew my business by 50 percent and reduced costs by 30 percent. Who doesn’t want those stats?
Alcohol increases anger, anxiety and depression. Removing it builds happiness, patience, resilience and boosts serotonin. You will become a better business leader and improve your professional performance if you change your relationship with alcohol or go alcohol-free.
Do you consider yourself a social entrepreneur?
Absolutely. This project’s mission is to change the world’s relationship with alcohol.
We are transforming lives in a very big way. We enjoy a constant stream of grateful social media posts, testimonials, before-and-afters—even letters from people associated with our members thanking us.
When I was 14 years old, I wrote a letter to Richard Branson telling him that I was going to change the world one day. When I met the Dalai Lama, everything fit into place for me, and I remembered that letter. It took me 21 years to find the vehicle, but now that I have it, I’m moving forward with this positive way of transforming people’s lives.
Here’s a great statistic: Of OYNB members who complete the 90-day alcohol-free challenge, 87 percent choose to continue to carry forward without drinking alcohol.
What do you share with people who are curious about trying the OYNB challenge?
Whatever your response to reading this post or the podcast—whether it’s “I don’t really drink much” to “Gosh, I think I drink too much” to “Maybe alcohol is having a negative impact on my life”—I say, “DO IT!”
There is no reason not to take a 90-day break from alcohol, with or without the help and guidance of OYNB. Do it. I challenge you as an entrepreneur to do it. It will likely change your life, and lives around you.
Alcohol is the new cigarettes: In a decade, drinking will be much more frowned upon. Alcohol is the world’s most harmful drug, both to those who consume it, and the wider society around them.
You can stick to your habits or, as a leader, you can choose to be out front and be the change you want to see in the world.
Ruari Fairbairns set up his first business selling and servicing computers at 16. At 25, he found himself in London as a commodities broker and quickly established himself as a success. A couple years ago, Ruari quit drinking, and it fundamentally changed his life. Learn more about Ruari’s story and OYNB.