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This year my blog is dedicated to interviewing leaders and subject matter experts to help promote healthier work-life balance. With any luck this will enable us to create better relationships, productivity and performance. I am convinced that this is an idea that needs to reverberate from the top and therefore will devote this year focusing on just that …. With a little help from my friends!

This month, I have been lucky enough to interview John Purkiss, who is a headhunter. He is also the co-author of Brand You, How to be Headhunted and Ken Purkiss – 50 Photos.

I really hope you enjoy his interview as much as I did.

Best wishes,

Sunita Sehmi: How did you get to where you are today?
John Purkiss: I had a conventional type of upbringing: school, university, work. For the first few years I got everything I wanted in life through intelligence and hard work. I had the perfect CV. Then, at the age of 26, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Like many people, I was suicidal before I was diagnosed. The doctors did their best, but the treatment of depression is very patchy, so I had to figure out most of the cure for myself. Then at the age of 35 I was running a business in Paris, which I had to close down. Despite all my cleverness and hard work, I was clearly missing something. Gradually I realised that, if I wanted my life to change, then I had to change. One reason for writing the latest book is that I have discovered how to help myself and am doing my best to help others. That’s how Change From Within was born.

SS: Why did you get into Eastern philosophy?
JP: When I was living in Paris nothing was working out for me. I was looking for solutions and began following a course on trading futures and options. In amongst all the technical stuff was a recording of seminar in which the author talked about the importance of ‘now’.  (This was about a year before Eckhart Tolle published The Power of Now.) Then I read a novel by the same author, in which he talked about the same principle. He used phrases such as ‘Now knows’. Anyway, I started returning my attention to the present moment over and over each day, in the way he had suggested. That’s how I began to understand one of the underlying principles of meditation.
People have been doing this for thousands of years, all over the world, in a variety of traditions. My experience is that some of what they learnt and taught can be extremely valuable to us. It can help us to move forwards, sometimes in big leaps. Being in the NOW also helps us to accept things as they are. Being present is the first chapter of the new book.

SS: What is your new book about?
JP: Once you know what you want to happen in your life, there are two main approaches open to you. The first is to try to make things happen purely through intellectual and physical effort, which is what I used to do. This book will offer an alternative approach, based on the principle that change comes from within. When we work on ourselves, the world changes. This project draws on over 4,000 years of work in the field of personal development, ranging from Eastern philosophy to Western psychology and Californian self-help. It’s written in plain English, with technical terms explained in full, for people of all religions and none. It explains what works in practice, so you can make it work for you. This book will bring everything together under one roof, saving you an enormous amount of time and energy.
SS: How have you overcome a difficult challenge in your life?
JP: I have learned three types of silent meditation: mindfulness, Transcendental Meditation, and silent Sufi meditation. I talk about them in the book. There are many other exercises too. I reckon there will be around 25 by the time the book is ready. One of the benefits of meditation is that it helps us to overcome the ego and act out of love. The results are much better for all concerned.
SS: In your opinion why are people finding it hard to balance work and life?
JP: One reason is that many middle managers have been fired, so the ones who are left have to cope with an enormous workload. There are also parents who are trying to hold down jobs while caring for their children. One of the benefits of meditation is that it enables you to take a break from the material world and connect at a higher or deeper level, depending on how you choose to describe it.
SS:  All the literature tells us to communicate with more compassion and more empathy but how can we practise that in the work place?
JP: I think it’s important to look at the big picture. It comes back to ego again.  Be fully present, and listen. If you learn to be present, you will also find that your intuition becomes much stronger, as mine has.
SS: Could you share some of your strategies that we could use to keep more balanced?
JP: One exercise in Change From Within involves buying an exercise book and then, last thing at night, writing down the five or six things you’ve enjoyed most about the day just ended. Exclude anything that happened before today or that might happen in the future. At the moment I am working on a new exercise based on appreciation in the present moment. So I appreciate talking to you and appreciate the taste of the tea I am drinking while being interviewed. This exercise helps us to be present and appreciate what is happening now, instead of agonizing about the past or the future. When we get to the future, it will be another now.
SS: What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?
JP: “Put your ego in the bank.” The more you overcome your ego, the happier and more fulfilled you will be. There are many strategies for doing this, which I am going to include in the new book.
SS: What's the next challenge for us?
JP: I believe we all need to become more conscious. That includes being conscious of the connection with each other and being conscious of the likely results of our actions.
SS: What's next for you?
JP: I’m completing Change From Within (beta version 4.0). I have two chapters left. I would love to hear people’s stories and examples of what we’ve been talking about. To get a free excerpt from Chapter One: Being Present Will Change Your Life, go to my website www.changefromwithin.net.  It will tell you how to start returning to the present. I hope you enjoy it.

Bio: John Purkiss is an executive search consultant. He is also the author of Change From Within, co-author of and Brand You, How to be Headhunted and Ken Purkiss – 50 Photos. John studied economics at Cambridge University and has an MBA from INSEAD, where he was awarded the Henry Ford II Prize.

John was a partner with Heidrick & Struggles and now is Head of the Board Practice at Veni Partners.

John has lived and worked in France, Belgium and the USA. He speaks French, German and Spanish. In his spare time he meditates, runs and takes photographs. For more information Please contact John at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



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Sunita has a passion for helping individuals, teams and companies to maximize their potential. With over 20 years experience both in the UK & Switzerland, she created Walk The Talk, with the sole aim, to help professionals improve their Business Communication Skills. She is of Indian origin but was born and raised in Britain before she moved to Geneva in 1991. She has a Psychology background, (specializing in Occupational Psychology) and a Post Graduate in the Development and Training of Adults from the University of Surrey. Furthermore, she recently completed a Masters of Advanced Studies in "Gestion des RH et des Carrières," (Specialising in Career Management and Coaching), at the Universities of Geneva, Lausanne, Neuchatel & Fribourg. 

Having successfully worked and operated in different cultures and languages, Sunita's strength lies in her ability to totally empathize with her clients and help them to perform their best.