Ten years ago Tom Wheeler was living many a young man's idea of a dream life.
In his early twenties, he was earning a large salary from his sales job, living in a penthouse apartment and had a party lifestyle many people were envious of. There was just one problem though…he was miserable.
It took him some time to come to terms with this fact, given the life he was living, but when he did he began to search for a solution. The search started with religion, then meditation and, finally, turned to something more contentious; an indigenous plant medicine from South America called Ayahuasca.
He had already come to the conclusion that happiness was about more than money and it was these experiences that finally revealed a deeper purpose and set him on the path to becoming a successful businessman and philanthropist.
A decade later Tom is now CEO of a thriving global professional network called IR Global that has members across the world. He started the business in his parent’s kitchen after returning from a stint travelling in South America with a clear vision.
He tells One Endeavour: “The whole basis of IR Global was to create an ethical footprint around transparency and value creation for our members. We expressed this vision to professional firms, and many of them appreciated what we set out. I like to think people can feel authenticity and good intentions.”
Part of Tom’s grand plan was to build a business that could help him to enact social change and, to that end, he has combined his business interests with a passion project called Sinchi, using his status with the influential members of his network to leverage the project’s growth.
The Sinchi Initiative is a not-for-profit entity focused on the preservation of indigenous culture and knowledge. Its mission statement ‘because our liberation is bound together’ explains Sinchi’s purpose, which is to bring the modern western world together with indigenous cultures, allowing both to learn from each other.
Tom says: “We seek out the elders and the leaders of indigenous tribes to see what is going on in their communities. We take a strength-based approach, emphasising positive inspirations that can be derived from their way of life.”
“I have spent time in the jungle and in other wildernesses such as Greenland. These experiences have had a profound effect on my personality and also my perspective on society and nature. It has taught me the importance of community and the expression of culture through music and art. Modern society is progressing quickly thanks to technology, but the question is, how much are we losing in the process?”
There are big plans for 2017 within the Sinchi movement, including a vinyl project working with Aboriginal communities in Australia. This involves recording traditional tribal song lines and creating modern interpretations through a collaboration with a number of well-known music producers in the US and Europe.
There will also be a photography project around the essence of community, inspired by the work of world-renowned photographer Jimmy Nelson and Aboriginal artist Wayne Quilliam.
Tom says: “For too long our understanding of indigenous life, beliefs and community has come from a Western perspective. I believe it is vitally important we give these communities the opportunity to tell their own stories and document their own culture; that’s when we will learn from them, because we are hearing it from their perspective, in their own voices.”
Tom’s life has changed dramatically in the space of the last ten years. He now lives in Amsterdam with his Dutch girlfriend Nina and their young daughter Tala and has control of his own time, unhindered by a 9-5 existence.
His successful business interests and passion for social change have driven him to remarkable success in a short period of time.
When we ask him to summarise his journey so far, he smiles: “I love the fact I have the freedom to work when and where I want to. Inspiration comes at all times of the day, and that freedom has made me ten times more productive.”
“I no longer see weekends as weekends and I don’t have to look forward to wage day, holiday entitlement or Christmas. I still work hard, maybe harder, but I’m just not bound by those cultural norms.”
“My journey so far can be summed up by the word synchronicity. When you are following your heart you end up in a sequence of events that are interconnected. You meet people you are destined to meet and it leads to unbelievable experiences.”