From fi­nance to ro­mance: how ‘Figs’ got into a new role

One of San Fran’s most sought-af­ter cou­ples ther­a­pists has a dig­i­tal brand

The Irish Times - Business - - CAVEAT - Wild Geese Fi­achra ‘Figs’ O’Sul­li­van, Cal­i­for­nia Su­san Clarke

Fi­achra “Figs” O’Sul­li­van grew up in Old Bawn in Tal­laght in Dublin. “I’ve met lots of guys named Fi­achra, my age, who are nicked-named “Figs”. I think its be­cause Ja­cobs ran a huge ad cam­paign when I was young about “how do they get the figs into the fig roll?”. It was ev­ery­where and the kids in my neigh­bour­hood started call­ing me Figs!”

When O’Sul­li­van was 12, his fam­ily moved to Rath­mines and he went to Strat­ford Col­lege.

“I re­mem­ber the prin­ci­pal of the school called my par­ents in for a meet­ing be­cause he said I needed to change my ac­cent as it wasn’t ap­pro­pri­ate for the school. It made me very aware of the class con­scious set-up in Ire­land and I felt at a loss to know where I fit.”

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Trin­ity with a de­gree in Busi­ness, Eco­nomics and So­ci­ol­ogy, O’Sul­li­van moved to San Fran­cisco.

“In San Fran­cisco the only thing peo­ple want to know is are you good at what you do. I worked in fi­nan­cial ser­vices and the only thing that mat­tered was can you make money. I have a com­pet­i­tive side and I found be­ing a stock­bro­ker for Mer­rill Lynch ex­cit­ing and ter­ri­fy­ing, like a com­pet­i­tive sport­ing event.

“I al­ways wanted to be in the first per­centile for money made and I usu­ally was, but I lived in fear of be­ing told one day that I had lost a lot of money for a client.”

In­se­cu­rity

Fol­low­ing his time at Mer­rill, O’Sul­li­van be­came a spe­cial­ist in em­ployee stock op­tions for dot-com busi­nesses.

“I helped a lot of the first Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­nies to de­velop their em­ployee stock op­tions. I worked with com­pa­nies like Citi Group, Smith Bar­ney, Google, etc.”

How­ever, from a young age, he al­ways knew he would end up help­ing peo­ple.

“I al­ways thought I’ll make money first and then do what I want to do in the world. My work in the fi­nan­cial sec­tor was driven out of in­se­cu­rity and it didn’t make me feel any bet­ter.”

When the dot-com bub­ble burst and 9/11 hap­pened, O’Sul­li­van took the op­por­tu­nity to move out of the fi­nan­cial world and he re­lo­cated to a re­mote part of Cal­i­for­nia out­side of Big Sur.

“I lived in Esalen. The Esalen In­sti­tute is a cen­tre which was the birth­place of the hu­man po­ten­tial move­ment. I stud­ied about my­self there for a year and a half work­ing with the heal­ers, ther­a­pists and teach­ers I met there. I be­came in­volved in im­pro­vi­sa­tional dance and theatre and the ex­pe­ri­ences I had there re­ally laid the foun­da­tions for me be­com­ing a ther­a­pist my­self.”

By the time he turned 38, O’Sul­li­van says his sec­ond ca­reer as a re­la­tion­ship ex­pert and ther­a­pist had fi­nally al­lowed him to feel like he has found his place.

“Dur­ing my train­ing, I was vol­un­teer­ing in a cen­tre help­ing peo­ple with their re­la­tion­ships and I had never felt so happy. I loved it so much. In my fi­nan­cial ca­reer, I had helped make a lot of rich peo­ple even richer. Now I help peo­ple love each other. It feels great.”

How­ever, O’Sul­li­van’s ground­ing in busi­ness never left him and, af­ter es­tab­lish­ing him­self as one of San Fran­cisco’s most sought-af­ter cou­ples’ ther­a­pists, he has de­vel­oped a dig­i­tal brand Em­pathi.com.

“I re­alised that my ther­apy prac­tice isn’t scal­able in terms of im­pact or fi­nan­cially so I cre­ated Em­pathi.com in or­der to bring the wis­dom of the ther­a­pies and psy­chother­apy prac­tices I use to a much greater pop­u­la­tion”.

Self-as­sess­ments

O’Sul­li­van launched the app Em­pathi ear­lier this year and found he had 6,000 sub­scribers in the first two months.

“That was our beta launch. We closed the sub­scrip­tions af­ter that so we could re-as­sess what works and what peo­ple want and we are open­ing up for sub­scrip­tions again.”

Em­pathi.com al­lows users to take on­line self-as­sess­ments and cour­ses. There are pod­casts and live ac­cess to O’Sul­li­van at cer­tain times.

“Work­ing in fi­nance in the US in the 1990s, I had the best sales train­ing in the world. I built up my ex­pe­ri­ence in busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, sales and mar­ket­ing and now I’m ap­ply­ing what I learned in my first ca­reer to a busi­ness I be­lieve in and I’m pas­sion­ate about.”

While there are some other apps avail­able to help cou­ples with their re­la­tion­ships, O’Sul­li­van has cre­ated a way for cou­ples to ac­cess what he says are the very lat­est science and clin­i­cally proven psy­chother­a­peu­tic re­la­tion­ship ther­a­pies.

“I spent my time in the fi­nan­cial world try­ing to avoid my shame and feel­ings of un­wor­thi­ness. Now I have suc­cess­fully de­vel­oped a unique on­line start-up that has been led by my vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties,” says O’Sul­li­van.

“By far my great­est suc­cess is be­ing a hus­band to Teale and fa­ther to Grace and Kian. My wife Teale is also a cou­ples ther­a­pist and we do a very un-Ir­ish thing, we air our dirty laun­dry in pub­lic! We will some­times do a joint pod­cast where we will dis­cuss our own re­la­tion­ship is­sues and how we work through them. So, we do this work our­selves. We walk the walk!

“It’s funny be­cause I find it easy to ac­cept my suc­cess here in Amer­ica. I find Amer­i­cans to be cheer­lead­ers. They cheer you on. But there is still the fear that, in Ire­land, peo­ple would be say­ing, ‘who does yer man think he is?’”

In my fi­nan­cial ca­reer, I had helped make a lot of rich peo­ple even richer. Now I help peo­ple love each other. It feels great

Fi­achra O’Sul­li­van: “I find it easy to ac­cept my suc­cess here in Amer­ica. I find Amer­i­cans to be cheer­lead­ers. They cheer you on.”

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