…our research shows that listening and playing music are the only daily actions that activate almost the entirety of our brains, creating synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres quietening down the frontal cortex of our brain which is where anxiety and stress originates. Our IRIS technology has been designed to increase the element of active listening, immersing us in the audio we consume, and increasing this healthy brain activity. Our emotions are continuously affected by the music we listen to, to motivate, calm, relax, inspire, focus, and invoke creativity.
Asa part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jacobi Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe, founder & CEO of IRIS.
Jacobi Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe has been considered a leading innovator in the music industry for over 15 years. Possessing a background in finance and an irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit, he has been behind start-ups spanning tech, music, venues, and events. With a clear vision and desire to instigate change in the music space by bringing ‘live’ experiences to everyone, Jacobi became obsessed with tackling music compression and audio quality issues. It was in 2016, while exploring the idea of a festival that would blend music and social change with audio quality at its heart, that he was introduced to the two engineers of IRIS technology. Instantly blown away by the superior audio experience, he began to build a business model and fundraise to establish IRIS in 2018.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Asa serial entrepreneur starting my first business at the age of 17 I have worked in a myriad of areas but focused the last 10 years of my life in and around the music industry, owning a record label, and live events business and management company. I have also produced and played music around the world and built recording studios. During this time, I have been increasingly focused on mental wellbeing with my own journey and particularly the part audio, frequencies and technology can play in this ongoing challenge that faces our species. The sum of these two passions and research has led me to build IRIS.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Like any entrepreneur, my career has been filled with huge highs and lows, challenges, and successes, and, at the risk of being a cliché, it has been a roller coaster journey. That said, one of the many stories that stands out is in the building of IRIS itself. The journey I went on to find the scientist behind our disruptive technology, that could support my vision and how we came to be partners in changing the way the world looks at audio and the positive effect it can have on an individual neurologically, physiologically and physiologically. The challenge here was always educating the world on the importance of audio and how it affects us so deeply, we have seen audio neglected for years through the digital age and only now begin to see the world fall in love with audio again.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
Back when I was touring as a DJ we had a sell-out show in Camden at the famous venue KOKO, must have been close to 3000 people rammed in at the peak of the evening a drunk partygoer killed the power by tripping over the wires on stage. This proceeded to kill the music for 12 of the longest minutes of my life as we lead a football chat sing along waiting for the show to go on. No matter how hard we try we can’t control everything, and you always have to be ready for the unexpected. The funny thing about this story was the contract we had to play was related to bar spend and during the 12 minutes, we saw a huge spike in drink sales that ended up making the night one of the most successful we had had at KOKO.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Having the strength to ask for help is something I have struggled with in the past being a sole founder in my business and liking to carry the weight of that alone. That said, there are two people who have helped me get to this stage and continue to help me as we strive to battle through inevitable future tests and opportunities. The first of which would be poorly described as a life coach and one of the most incredible men I have met, Alexzander Grashow. I met him through Richard Branson and instantly saw a unique ability in him to get the best out of anyone or any company. I was honored when he took me on as a client/project and have focused my strengths and worked hard on my weaknesses ever since. The second is my CCO Tom Darnell who shares my vision and is by my side every step of the way. I had previously filled this role with another candidate but took the meeting with Tom as more of a courtesy. Tom was waiting in a glass meeting room as I finished a call across the office. As I approached the room I saw him sitting there and instantly thought to myself, this is a waste of my time, I have filled this role and there was no way I was going to hire this guy sitting there with a rather disheveled and odd-looking mustache and turtle neck jumper. Needless-to-say, having spoken to him for 10 minutes I knew he was going to be with me on this journey for the long hall.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Take time out. It can be so easy to become consumed with business, particularly when you are starting something new. However, sometimes, being away from the business and just relaxing with family and friends lets your mind consider any problems you may be having. Every two to three months I go off the grid for a couple of days and step away from all tech and just breathe. This gives me the chance to recharge my batteries, reflect on the bigger picture and come back with the tools and energy I need to tackle the pressures and challenges we face.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
I think nothing is more important than communication. Both from the top-down and from the team below to the company leadership. Also, people need to know their opinion matters. Someone once told me there is no such thing as a stupid question — if someone working in the business doesn’t fully understand something, then there is every chance your target customer won’t either. The recent lock down and working from home have brought forward a number of challenges but the lack of communication on an hourly basis I see as the biggest challenge.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.
1. Disconnect from technology where possible.
2. For me, physical health and mental health go hand in hand. I exercise regularly and outdoors where possible.
3. Balance in life, it is important to connect to family and friends as well as throwing yourself wholeheartedly into one’s work. The power of human contact cannot be underestimated.
4. For me, meditation is an extremely important part of my daily ritual to remain focused and relaxed simultaneously. We call this flow state.
5. Finally, music, our research shows that listening and playing music are the only daily actions that activate almost the entirety of our brains, creating synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres quietening down the frontal cortex of our brain which is where anxiety and stress originates. Our IRIS technology has been designed to increase the element of active listening, immersing us in the audio we consume, and increasing this healthy brain activity. Our emotions are continuously affected by the music we listen to, to motivate, calm, relax, inspire, focus, and invoke creativity.
Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.
If you have had a job that has kept you busy, need to stay busy, keep physically active as well as mentally active. Listen to podcasts, take up a hobby, stay social.
How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?
Scientific studies show we improve the health of our brains not by mastering merely one skill set but by challenging ourselves with new skills and opening new pathways in the brain. It is important to expand our skill set with new challenges, whether that be a new language, musical instrument, a new physical skill or sport, brain teaser, or problem-solving.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
A book I continue to go back to is The Psychology of Man’s Possible. I am fascinated by the possibility of raising the level of our conscienceless, awareness bringing our minds into the present moment rather than living in the anxiety of the past or future.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I have always had a deep belief that the ocean is the life source of our planet and it is imperative that we protect this life source rather than use it as to dispose of our waste, I don’t eat seafood and haven’t for over 14 years.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“When I love thee not Chaos is come again” This is a quote from Othello that to me reminds me that without love for yourself and those around you we create a world of Chaos.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
I limit my social media use to Twitter and Instagram and try to limit my use of those but I can be found at the handle of @jacobiagc & for IRIS @irislistenwell
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!