As an infantry soldier, my purpose in life was to be a protector. To do what others wouldn’t in our country’s time of need.
I left the army in 2011. I was an infantry section Commander with a positive career path and strong life purpose. I wanted to be a soldier for life, but life itself had other ideas.
As an infantry soldier, my purpose in life was to be a protector, to do what others wouldn’t in our country’s time of need. With precision focus and dedication, I never expected to discharge from the Army any time soon.
On her 28th birthday my sister, Katie, lost her battle with cancer. My family needed me now, much more than my country did, so my Army life was put on hold.
When I left the army I had a few issues, most of which were easy to hide and it often took a lot of reflection before I even realised there was a problem. I had been on deployments with the Army to East Timor and Afghanistan but none of my dramas were related to these deployments. I didn’t have any highly traumatic experiences on deployment, and I was not suffering PTSD. I didn’t fix the classic “broken solider” story we’re continuously fed, I didn’t fit into the classic psychological assessment boxes.
I started my own psychological research to better understand my issues. I read Sebastian Junger's book “Tribe” which hit the nail on the head for a lot of what I experienced.
I went cold turkey into civilian life. I cut myself off from my tribe for the best part of 3 years. I jumped straight into a society where discipline is not needed, nor encouraged. How could it be when excess is king and comfort is queen?
There was a time when I lived, breathed, fought, ate, and shit in close quarters with a group of men who I trusted with my life. I had my tribe. The pursuit of excellence was highly regarded within our circles. Discipline, fitness, and mental fortitude were all valued traits that we held as a collective.
I came to realise that warrior traits are more and more frowned upon. Teaching courage, loyalty and honour have been pushed aside to make way for safe spaces and gender neutrality. To me, even pursuing excellence is no longer embraced in our society. To win means someone had to lose, and heaven forbid we let our children lose at anything.
Something had to change. I had to get back to my tribe. I had to start reconnecting with the disciplined man I used to be. I needed to reignite my pursuit of excellence, and gain a new found purpose.
I spent the next 6 years slowly learning new concepts. Mostly through books and podcasts from people like Joe Rogan, Aubrey Marcus, Wim Hof, Jordan Peterson, Tim Ferris, and the list goes on. I found these people so engaging. They all have a unique ability to deliver common-sense information to all demographics.
I started to structure my own routine using the tools I picked up in these books and podcasts. The routine was built using unconventional fitness methods - Wholefood nutrition, meditation, proper sleeping patterns, constant personal growth and development, and funky bio hacks.
When I stuck to this routine I felt happy. I was ambitious again, the routine was working.
Even so, I still had my falls from the wagon, I still had dark days. Our tribe is familiar with the dark days - the state where everything seems hopeless. An anxious, depressive prison. But whenever I got really dark, the lessons I learned through routine, discipline and meditation helped me pull me back to the light.
I started putting this concept on paper. Brainstorming how I could deliver this to Veterans in a way that would help them stay away from the dark side. So many of us need to rediscover what it’s like to be highly motivated and ambitious in life, to rediscover a life purpose.
My first plan was to buy a farm and start a Veterans retreat. A place where Veterans could come together and learn the principles I had been practising. I found this idea popular amongst the boys, but the setup costs were too high. The idea is not currently feasible. I moved onto plan 2.
I sat on the concept for a few years, wondering how to best expose the principles I had built to turn the mental health spiral on its head. I slowly added to the program and pillars as I learned new hacks and discovered new research yet time was passing and the idea was getting dusty. I simply wasn't making it enough of a priority to get the launch off the ground.
The catalyst that got me into gear was a tragic one. In 2017, Jesse Bird aka Big Bird took his own life.
A brother from the Big Blue 1, Birdie was one of the boys who loved talking about the idea of the farm. Every time we got on the sauce we went through the plan. We would tweak the idea and wrap up the conversation by saying “we have to stop talking about it and do it", but we never did.
After Birdie's funeral, I made the completion of this project my main priority. I looked at the idea from every possible angle and made sure the delivery method would be one that could reach the greatest number of Veterans, without being cripplingly expensive to run.
My brother Ben, a software engineer and my ex-wife, Ana, a website and app designer were working together running a digital agency. They sat me down and showed me how effective my concept could be if it was delivered through an app. Maximum exposure, maximum reach, the ability to change lives on a much bigger scale. Things started to move, my planning and concepts began to take life and fall into place.
Three years on I find myself leading a renowned and unapologetically honest mental health charity, reaching a demographic group most other charities and psychologists struggle to access. The Swiss 8 App has now been downloaded more than 8,000 times, and our users have been reporting decreased anxiety and depression, and increased holistic health and comfort in discovering new life purpose.
Whether you’re tied to the Veteran community or not, if this has struck a chord for you, we’d love to connect. Please support us through fundraising, donating, volunteering, downloading the Swiss 8 App, and connecting with us on social media.
- Adrian Sutter
Swiss Technologies Ltd. T/A Swiss 8 is a Health Promotion Charity registered with the ACNC.