Mike Raven

Mike Raven

Co-founder and Managing Director - Leaps Innovation Ltd.

United Kingdom

Why did you decide to go on Remote Year?  

It was a combination of things. Personally, I am furiously curious; anything that is new and out of the ordinary that I haven't seen before intrigues me, especially because this social movement called ‘Remote Year’ contained some of the stuff I am passionate about; travelling, community, and professional development, it was hard to ignore. It's very much aligned to my outlook on life. I was also lucky that my personal circumstances allowed me to do it because of where I was in my life. It did mean that I had to sell my house and a lot of my possessions, and I now have just about enough left to furnish a small studio apartment when I go home, wherever home is.

How did you find yourself a remote role?

Before joining Remote Year, I wasn’t working remotely and was very much 95% office based. I work at a creative agency and we previously had employees overseas with limited success, so that was a fear of mine but I knew we had to improve because of the way the landscape of business is changing, so I positioned my argument based on that.

What I am very fortunate enough to have is a partner and a boss who is a close friend and has a similar outlook on life and therefore the conversation was made a lot easier. I still remember the day I was walking through the small cobbled streets in the town in southern England where we were working one lunch time talking to him about it, and his first response was “this sounds fantastic” and “I am jealous, I want to do it too, so let’s find a way to make this happen.” I can imagine this is a dream first response for anyone having this kind of conversation.

Once I was confirmed to go, we went about upgrading technology and improving how we deal with remote meetings and communication, such as installing Slack into the agency. We even made a video of interviews with each member of staff about how they felt about me doing this, and we put it on the site to promote the initiative.

What was the response of your colleagues?

There was a mixed response from emotional reactions such as “we are really excited for you” as well as practical responses, and maybe a hint of envy in there too.

What have you been working on for the year?

It has shifted as the months have progressed, from initially quite similar tasks as I was doing when in the office, to eventually realizing how I could leverage the power of the community I was around, with such a diverse group of talented individuals, for the benefit of my agency. After this, I became much more focused on partnerships. Then two-thirds into the program, I had an even bigger shift where my partner from the agency and I decided to start a new business together. In addition to this, I have been working on a few personal projects. As I am also a qualified naturopath, I have been doing a few consultations with Remotes and Staff alike, and am looking to develop my own health and wellbeing enterprise aimed at the remote community. I also set up and facilitated two Hackathons in Morroco (picture above) as well as in Bulgaria, with one more planned before we finish Remote Year. 

Tell me more about this business you have decided to start.

Having worked with startups and global brands alike, there has always been one commonality; a need and a thirst to innovate, and to explore new ways of doing things. I’ve experienced many “workshops” and I’m fascinated by acceleration programs, so we thought we would start our own.

Leaps™ are 1 to 7 day programs for any size business, who face a challenge, be it a project that needs to be fast tracked, perhaps needs a jump start, innovation is getting lost or hasn’t even started, or even their proposition is outdated or in need of major or minor tweaking. Our process is very different, action-packed, and has proven already with the likes of Reuters, the UN, and Vodafone to be a resounding success.

We just soft launched the business officially today! So if anyone would like any more info, or has any feedback, please reach out on Social Media or check out the website www.discoverleaps.com.

I love how you talk about leveraging the power of your community, but how did you do this in reality?

I really believe the opportunity to leverage your community is something that can’t be missed in this program. I was very fortunate to be able to form a group of 10+ people within Ikigai who supported me with a very fast paced project to be able to put some pitches together for some global brands, which was a phenomenal learning experience and very humbling.

Also things that pop up out of the blue, such as the 7 day startup experience which I participated in with a group of other remotes, really make this such a wholesome experience. Realising that there are always people with similar ambitions and similar ideas around you is such a refreshing feeling. So that time I was in El Salvador, camped out in a turtle sanctuary, trying to start my own business in 7 days was something I will never forget.  

I feel privileged to have worked with a number of people in remote year, across different programs, and I hope to continue doing so through the Citizen opportunities. The mindsets present in these sort of remote working communities, coupled with the talent and creativity, is something I am sure more and more organisations will be tapping into. I plan to be part of this global shift in resourcing and project-focussed innovation.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of Remote Year? Is it what you set out to achieve at the beginning or has this changed?

At the beginning of Remote Year I didn’t set myself huge ambitions; I just wanted to experience it day by day, but I have achieved so much more than I thought I would. I am a believer of the idea that when you are searching for something, then you stop creating something. So I made a conscious decision to focus on the day, what I was creating, and the impact I was having on people, rather than searching for something.

The biggest thing I will take away is how much benefit travelling and being part of a much larger community can have on your professional and personal life, and remaining consciously aware of that day to day.

What does your typical work day look like?

It usually consists of waking up around 6, trying to do the odd bit of yoga, eating the breakfast of a king (and later the dinner of a poor person). I am not one to work from a cafe as the temptation of the cakes is way too strong, so I can generally always be found in the workspace. It's been really interesting experiencing this phenomenon of coworking spaces, from boutique settings to scaled modern offices. I also always find it interesting to have lunch with different people and see some of your surroundings. Interestingly, I have found that my work days here are longer than they are back at home.

Why do you think that is?

I think it has to do with the community, and lots of people working different hours. You can be drawn into different conversations. As you are surrounded with 20-100 people from probably just as many different organizations under the same roof, there is lots to talk about.

How has working remotely affected your current work?

It has certainly provided some challenges to overcome. Timezones in South America are about 4-6 hours behind the UK. The sense of communication when things like eye contact and body language are taken out of the picture has also been really interesting to experience. A real hug goes a lot further compared to an emoji!

Where does your passion for travel come from?

I think it's perhaps genetics, and open mindset. I very much believe that we are living in a world of abundance of opportunity right now and it's almost kicking life in the balls if you don't go and explore that, and a part of that is travelling. I don’t believe in boundaries, I believe that we are all from planet earth instead of a particular country. So your belief structure (and of course your circumstances) can play a huge part on if you travel and how much you get out of it.

Do you plan on continuing to travel after Remote Year?

I don’t think I will ever be particularly static, however I think there will be a balance to find after Remote Year which combines new places, places that I have been before, and a sense of where home is.

What does home mean to you?

Home means balance, it means the people I am closest to, and a sense of comfort and peace. I don’t think it's ever fixed into one location, or at least I haven't experienced it to be.

What is the most challenging part of this remote lifestyle?

Keeping a calm mind, maintaining some sort of active wellbeing routine, and maintaining the right number of strong relationships here in the community and back home. There are other challenges around forming very close relationships. I know a lot of people struggle with prioritizing their family and friends back home with their new family and friends in this community. For some, that may cause further challenges when we come to finish this program and reenter (what some people might refer to as)...real life.

What is the most rewarding part of this lifestyle?

A combination of the most rewarding and the most challenging is having such a busy life. There is a choice of what to put in your diary everyday, from dance lessons, to networking events, to just casual drinks with friends or yoga in the park. It's almost like you are in a travelling city of community events and opportunity and the challenge is to know when to find some space. The reward is to have more opportunities to step outside of your comfort zone, which is a good way to live your life.

What advice would you give to others considering Remote Year?

Don’t procrastinate; take a leap of faith. There is only so much preparation you can do, but be clever in how you set up to join the program. I could have been far more savvy financially. Speak to people who have been or are on the program who have similar roles or from similar companies as you, and leverage that. Join the community early.

What has been your favorite Remote Year city?

It's a question that so many people ask and I think every place has its charm and challenges, but I would love to spend more time in Bulgaria and Colombia in particular.

Describe your Remote Year experience in 3 words.

The first three words that come to mind I can’t really say as my mother might read this, so let’s go with transformational, experimental, and inspiring.

What is your secret talent?

I can breathe through my eye, play the trumpet, quote most parts of a film after seeing it once and I can tell truly terrible dad jokes.

What book should everyone read?

I am not a religious person, but Conversations With God by Neil Walshe. It formed part of my process of waking up to the world, and if you are interested in humans as a species, Sapiens is a must read.

So tell us more about when you woke up to the world?

This is my personal opinion but I believe that everyone, somewhere around the age of 30, goes through some kind of change in their lives and it's part of waking up to the world. It's about whether you embrace it, explore it, or tuck it under the pillow.

3 things you can't live without on the road?

Avocados, pea-protein, yoga.

Describe your perfect day.

Wow. Well, I would first wake up to the song ‘A day like today’ by Elbow, probably have a little snuggle with the love of my life and eat a really wholesome and healthy breakfast out on the veranda, with the mountains behind me and the sea in front of me and 17 different animals making noises in the trees around me.

My day would consist of only needing to get three significant things done, and I would hope that each of those things either benefitted my business, other people, or positively impact the world in some way. I don’t think you should focus on more than 3 things in one day, otherwise you half arse them. Then I would picture a huge picnic bench with super healthy tasty food, great company (friends, family) and music as the sun comes down and then making sure the day ends playfully.

Where are you in 30 years?

In a warm place, with even warmer people, still with the same amount of vitality and zest for life.

What are you most passionate about?

I am most passionate about helping make things better for other people and myself. I really love the arts, sport, health, the food that fuels us, and pushing people and helping them to be better versions of themselves.

Who is the most interesting person you've met while traveling?

Everyone is so special and unique, but honestly I think I’m yet to meet them, but can’t wait for the day I do!

Your favorite quote / words to live by?

I am a big fan of quotes and self-help motivational principles, but I guess for me it's “there is a secret to life, that it's not a process of discovery, it's a process of creating” and that “life truly begins at the end of your comfort zone.” - Neale Donald Walsch