March 9, 2022

Chapter 2 — Find Your Motivation

One of the most common questions I get asked is, What motivates you? There are a few things that really motivate me, and I certainly wouldn’t have any motivation if I wasn’t sober. To recognise that I had a problem, and do something about it, was a huge revelation. Publicly, I have spoken a lot about my battle with alcohol and addiction. I haven’t shied away from sharing this aspect of my life. In fact, at the time of writing this, July 2021, I was a guest on Peter Cardwell’s Talk RADIO TV.

Into my twenties, it was party central. That was the way for many of us. I got older and began to realise I was becoming more and more divided. There was the sober me and the drunk me and, in the end, I just didn’t trust myself. It was real Jekyll and Hyde stuff — all bets were off when I got a drink in my hand.

What started out as just going out on a Friday and having a few drinks really got out of hand. I have no off switch, in every respect. I know I’m not the first person to have woken up and said, Never again. But there are millions of people who can say that in a more light-hearted manner, and they can wake up on a Saturday morning, shake their head, finish last night’s pizza off, and go out and do it all again. Fair play to them. That wasn’t how I drank.

There’s only so long you can maintain that kind of lifestyle before it catches up with you. I think if you can actually recognise that it’s caught up with you, then you’re at the crossroads. You can either keep heading on down that path of self-destruction, or you can grab the wheel and take control of your destiny before it’s too late.

The realisation, the reality check that I had a problem, was an inciting incident for me. It pushed me in a new direction. I doubt I’d be here if I was still drinking. Any progress in life I’d make, alcohol was there to contradict those achievements and self-sabotage was always lurking in the shadows.

I needed a better relationship with alcohol and that relationship was abstinence. There were probably plenty of times that I should have knocked it on the head. Without wanting to celebrate some of the behaviour, I’m including this to illustrate some of the lows. The thing is, at the time, you’re the life and soul and on top of the world — confident, strong, and indestructible. On the inside, you’re anything but that. You’re the polar opposite.

I was on an all-dayer in Richmond, one of the punchiest boroughs in London with lush green areas like Kew Gardens and Richmond Park. It was a summer’s day, full of tourists, families picnicking, and it was incredibly hot. It was the kind of day where you’re by the river having a laugh with your mates, the drinks are flowing, and the water looks more and more inviting by the minute. Of course I had to get in. You imagine the river Thames to be dirty with pollution and three-headed fish, if indeed anything could live in there. But the Thames at Surrey is totally different. It’s picturesque and tranquil. Or at least it was until I was in it, stotting drunk, splashing, shouting, laughing, on a dare to swim from one side to the other. It was game on. All I had to do was avoid all the little sailing boats and swans. I didn’t mind the boats so much, but I didn’t want a swan to break my arm or I’d just be swimming in circles and would never make it to the other side. When I did make it across, there was the return journey to contend with. After a breather and more encouragement from my friends, I splashed my way back and earned a well-deserved drink. From my point of view, it was hilarious and one of the biggest and cleverest things anyone had ever done. The reality was that it was one of the stupidest things anyone had ever done. Nearby spectators were horrified and probably disgusted, but what did they know? I was in the moment and untouchable. I was displaying the kind of behaviour that gets you locked up with an Anti-Social Behaviour Order. Or dead. But I just couldn’t see it.

It feels tragic, now that I look back. Sure, it’s up there near the top of my drinking material, I was so drunk that I… stories, but it could’ve easily gone the wrong way. At the time I felt legendary, but it was just plain dangerous for me and for anyone that may have had to rescue me. With each drinking session, the stakes seemed to be higher each time. It was like I was hurtling towards death and couldn’t see it because I was so hellbent on outdoing the last day, night or weekend out.

An all-day drinking session in a bar in Budapest took a really dark turn. We were drinking it dry, hammered on cherry brandy. When it was time to leave, we were asked to pay a huge drinks bill, even though we knew we’d been paying round-by-round. We refused and the situation got out of hand. The dangerous part of this wasn’t even the fight that ensued — it was when someone pulled a gun on me and pointed it to my head. We made it back to the hotel in one piece, and later found out from the police that the bar was owned by the Russian mafia. The police said they wouldn’t be making any further enquiries. Case closed. We really were lucky to have made it out alive, although it didn’t stop us getting back on it and having another all-dayer. It’s a great story for after-dinner speeches and reminiscing over, but there’s the seriousness that just couldn’t be ignored. I was Camberley’s answer to Amy Winehouse, but without the singing and the hair. I was a fucking rockstar every day. I was Jim Morrison, I was Janis Joplin… I was anyone but Rachel Murphy and I’d totally lost my way. Those three other rockstars were all dead at 27. From not knowing they had a problem and not getting help. Nothing glamorous there, eh?

I don’t want to sound like I’m being flippant about addiction. There are dozens of other examples I could have used, and the tragedy of those hilarious-at-the-time anecdotes is that they all generally ended up in horrible chaos. My drinking and my behaviour were out of control. It got insane. It wore me down and reached the point where I couldn’t ignore it or make those morning-after empty promises any more. That was rock bottom. The place you’re told you need to hit before seeking help.

Enough was enough. The first day of February 2014 — that was it. I took control, but I couldn’t do it on my own. I entered into a 12-step recovery program after looking into both the negatives and the positives behind it. Did I consider myself an alcoholic? No, I don’t think I did. Not immediately. I didn’t go to my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and do what we’ve all seen in films and TV. I was trying to reconcile a lot in my head at the time. I had a stereotype in my mind of what an alcoholic was and how they looked, and that image was far from my reality. I was quiet, shy, apprehensive — all of that. It was a unique situation for me and there was a 50/50 battle of wills going on in my head, lurching between, Christ, what am I doing here? and, This is the first time I’ve truly felt at home. I knew I wanted to give myself a proper chance, and this was it.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to start preaching. I made a conscious decision that drinking was something I couldn’t keep doing if I wanted to function as a human being. I can be around people drinking, if only for a limited time. Even drinkers know how boring it can be for the sober one or the designated driver. And being the sober one doesn’t mean you instantly become boring, it just means you can do more of the exciting stuff and remember doing it!

I got so much back in return for giving up alcohol, and found a renewed lease of life that I’d missed in that sluggish, non-functional state. Being sober brought with it a totally different existence and I felt rewarded for it. That new lease of life really has all been about living.

I get asked that question around motivation a lot. Being a very motivated person means I’m driven and I’m always seeking to learn and develop. I think my actions have proved that. If you want it enough and you push yourself, you’ll generally find a way. It may take a while, but most of us know or learn that. My motivations have been many and varied throughout the years, and I believe they were probably running parallel and continue to do so. Sometimes one leads more than others, but they’re generally steaming ahead at the same time, always pushing me to strive even further.

As I’ve mentioned, sibling rivalry has always been there. That’s just a given now and pushes me in anything I do, but it pushes me even harder in business. It might sound quite jokey when I describe it… it’s not. It’s really serious and it means that none of us ever take our eye off the ball. As the elder of the three, I’ve always had that motivation to lead and manage. It was a role I adopted early on. The leader of the gang, the one who’d initiate the ideas, the one who was CEO of the Murphy Corporation, and the one who had to get there first.

Another motivation was my marriage breakup and the anger and frustration caused by the divorce. I’d put everything into the marriage, both emotionally and financially, as anyone does. When the divorce was done and dusted, that financial investment was gone. Not only did I have to rebuild my emotional life, but I also had to rebuild the bank balance. We all experience situations differently — each of us has our own version of events. It made me determined to get everything back on track and I wanted that security more than anything. Learning to rebuild emotionally has been a big part of my journey too. I talk more about this in future chapters when I discuss Personal Development, but it boils down to understanding myself better and accepting myself as I am.

Certainly one of my biggest life motivators is my stepdaughter, Charlotte. She became sick in May 2006 when she was just 14 years old, and was diagnosed with Meningitis and Meningococcal Septicemia. Saying Charlotte got sick is such an understatement — she nearly died. And she’ll feel the effects of that for the rest of her life. We all will. I mean, even to try to put into words what it is and what she went through is almost impossible. She was in hospital for six months, spending half of that in intensive care, which is just unheard of.

Charlotte Robinson
Sophie Sampford
Grandkids and born legends: Lily Sampford, Arthur Sampford and Roman Robinson

When Charlotte fell ill, she was at Alton Towers for the weekend with family friends. She was loving it, having the time of her life on all the rides and enjoying being a typical teenager. They were staying at a campsite at the park. To put a dampener on things, she’d been getting headaches and decided to have a shower — anything to try to shift the pain. No sooner had she stepped in, when she collapsed and was found semi-conscious. My best mate Mark got her to the on-site doctor before she was rushed to the nearest hospital in Stoke-on-Trent.

Me and her mum Jayne got an urgent call from the hospital. It was basically to tell me what had happened and to get there as soon as I could, but Charlotte had a 50/50 chance of being alive by the time I got there. Jayne was a nurse and she told me later that it’s quite unheard of for hospitals to give those kinds of odds unless it actually is that serious. If she got any worse, she would die. That was the bottom line.

My brother Conor drove us from London to Stoke, no doubt picking up a few dozen speeding tickets on the way. He had the perfect excuse, and I suspect has reused it a few times since. But to not detract from the seriousness, he got us there as fast as humanly possible at a time when none of us could settle or think about anything. Within a short time of being there Charlotte was unrecognisable, with all manner of tubes and drips attached, surrounded by medical devices, bloated, and in a very bad way. You hear ‘unrecognisable’ a lot in this situation and you’ve no idea ’til you’ve been in it. You’d only know who she was because you were told it was her. It was just horrific.

It seemed like she was being taken apart bit by bit. She had to have both legs amputated from below her knees, as well as losing the fingers from her right hand. Her left hand was ok, apart from her middle finger. There was no actual point where the doctors could safely say that she’d pull through. In fact, on one occasion we were told to be prepared for the worst, as it was likely that Charlotte wouldn’t make it through the night. Most of the time, she was either unconscious or in an induced coma. And to wake up as an amputee is the stuff of horror movies. Charlotte’s struggle will never stop. She’s had a kidney transplant and will need more surgery to keep her alive. She’s the most resilient, strongest person I’ve ever known. She is incredible, and we are all eternally grateful that she pulled through.

I’m aware that this is not what a lot of you were expecting to read. What Charlotte went through more or less steered my journey into health tech. It is a massive part of my being. Apart from the motivators I’ve mentioned above, Charlotte is certainly the what and the why my heart is in healthcare.

This was definitely a turning point. It didn’t just help me focus, it made me focus. I had no choice after seeing what the NHS did for Charlotte and for all of us. It was nothing short of miraculous. It’s another thing you never really know until you’re in that position of such need and dependency. Seeing the care Charlotte received was phenomenal. There were 24 consultants working around the clock making sure she got to see the right experts at the right hospitals, and watching over her for weeks at a time when she was unconscious. I needed to give something back, whatever I could do.

Charlotte’s story doesn’t end there. She’s now a mum to a gorgeous son, Roman! If that doesn’t sum up what she’s capable of and how resilient she is, I don’t know what does. Charlotte shares a lot of my personality traits. She is wild, independent and, needless to say, we clashed like bastards when she was growing up! Our relationship is close and I see her and her sister Sophie, my other stepdaughter, about half a dozen times a year up in York. I also love to see my two other gorgeous grandkids Arthur and Lily.

Charlotte is an absolute inspiration and I know her story won’t end here. There’s going to be so much more to it… and it’s thanks to our NHS.

So, when I’m asked to talk about my motivation, I’ll always say I give everything I’ve got. I have an all or nothing approach to everything I do. All our experiences shape us: the good and the bad, the knocks, the body blows… and we need to use them to our advantage. Knowing and recognising what was motivating me really gave me the strength and positivity to put my plan into action.

My takeaways

  1. Being authentic is essential to my true motivation.
  2. Your ‘why’ can and sometimes must change.
  3. Don’t get in your own way. Learn to let go.
  4. Not every ‘why’ is born from tragedy and doesn’t need to be.
  5. Don’t overthink what’s motivating you, because something drives us all.

What helped me find my motivation

Being sober helped me understand myself more. It helped me tap into my energy in more useful ways, and the time I was wasting with overthinking or recovering from the partying was put to much better use! The motivation was always there, as was the strong work ethic, but they’d been drowned out by alcohol and ‘the party’ for a number of years.

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