20 years of rethinking life
The lessons from Ethiopia
In the early 1990s, Dr Aki Hintsa, a specialist in orthopaedic and trauma surgery, was working as a doctor in a poverty-stricken and war-torn Ethiopia. Having long worked as a physician to the Finnish Olympic team Dr Hintsa was exited by the chance to observe the training routines of elite Ethiopian distance runners and was intrigued by their dominance in this demanding sport as well as the state of life balance they had achieved. One key individual that really opened Dr Hintsa’s eyes was Haile Gebrselassie.
Seeing how Haile’s life was integrated, with all elements in their environment geared towards supporting his goals and running ambitions, Dr Hintsa came to the realisation that optimal performance derives from holistic wellbeing and knowing your identity and core motivations. Taking care of your wellbeing, allows you to function at your full potential. Dr Hintsa drew a circle and on the outer layer, he placed the following six elements: physical activity, nutrition, recovery, biomechanics, mental energy and general health. Then in the middle of the circle, he wrote the word “Core” to represent identity, goals, and control. This model was later to define the entire Hintsa philosophy.
Test laboratory for the philosophy
Soon after Hintsa philosophy truly began to make its impact in a most unlikely arena – Formula 1. When Mika Häkkinen invited Dr Hintsa to assist him and his family in their pursuit of the 1998 World Drivers’ Championship, Aki didn’t even believe that Formula 1 was a valid sporting contest, such was the stark divergence with the running culture he had studied so closely. In winning two World Championships with Mika in 1998 and 1999, he transformed this view and proceeded over nearly two decades to create one of the great untold stories in a sport where very few stories remain untold.
Dr Hintsa used to call Formula 1 “the most fascinating laboratory” for the Hintsa philosophy. Following Mika Häkkinen’s success, fellow Finn Kimi Räikkönen followed by young superstars Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel shone as Aki’s quiet influence underpinned their approach to racing. Lewis Hamilton’s recent victory in 2017 turned out to be the twelfth World Drivers’ Championship for a Hintsa driver.
Companies racing to learn from champions
Realising that the challenges faced by Formula 1 drivers are special, but not unique, Dr Hintsa’s team started seeing more and more demand from business executives for their holistic wellbeing services. On the face of it Formula 1 drivers and business executives might have nothing in common, other than the fact that they do their jobs sitting down, but in reality their lives are very similar. According to Dr Hintsa’s observations, top athletes and corporate executives tackle similar challenges in their work. Constant travelling, lack of exercise and sleep, highly demanding decisions, and dedicating oneself to work easily takes up the majority of the resources.
Over the following years several business people came to Dr Hintsa and his team for help. The wellbeing services were used by executives such as Eric Tveter, extrepreneurs such as Joi Ito, as well as politicians such as Alexander Stubb.