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Meet Brian Ferguson, Nashville-based Ampersand Studios Member and Founder of Arena Labs

Thank you for joining us for this month’s Member Spotlight, Brian. Can you tell us more about what you do?

We coach doctors and nurses how to manage stress and pressure. Our company created the field of High Performance Medicine® which uses performance coaching, wearable sensors, and the proven science ‘human performance’ tools to help frontline medical teams manage the demands of their work. Most high-risk, high-stress fields like elite military teams, professional athletes or the performing arts train people to perform under pressure and manage that daily load of being on stage, on a battlefield or on a playing field. Medical school and nursing school doesn’t train these skills – so that’s what we do at Arena Labs. Since the COVID pandemic, rates of burnout in healthcare have risen dramatically and much of that is because doctors and nurses don’t feel equipped for all they were asked to do. Our work focuses on providing tools and training upstream of burnout to reduce turnover and medical error. We work with the top hospitals in the US as well as with medical teams across the Department of Defense. 


What’s something we don’t know about you? 

I love travel, especially international travel. I’ve been to about 50 countries and lived in Europe, Africa, the Middle East…and Cleveland, Ohio… 

What inspires or motivates you to get out of bed? 

Human potential. I’ve been working in this field – one way or another – for about 15 years. I think one of the most inspiring concepts of the human experience is how we live the life we are most fully capable of. “Human Performance” is our day-to-day behavior, rituals and routines that provide us the best path to reaching our potential. There has never been a more extraordinary time to be alive in terms of understanding our own minds, bodies and health. And, lots of amazing work happening in science, research and technology that I find deeply energizing.  

What is one thing you can’t live without? 

The water. I grew up outside of Cleveland, Ohio in a town on Lake Erie. Many of my best summer memories as a kid were on Lake Erie or among the Lake Erie islands – yes, there’s actually a chain of islands between the US and Canada that are amazing in the summer. I spent 15 years living within a mile of the ocean in Miami, Southern California and Hawaii. I love Nashville and I recognize it’s ironic that I now live in a city with no major body of water but this past year I spent a lot of time stand-up paddling on the Cumberland and exploring the broader lakes around Tennessee. 

Where do your brightest ideas come from?  

I believe deeply in the concept of “consilience” which in simple terms says that we are all struggling with some version of the same problems. Our best breakthroughs often come not from talking to people in the same industry/same experience, but in unconventional places. I am fortunate to have friends across a deeply diverse set of professional and personal experiences. I make it a point to create experiences – gatherings, meals, etc – to challenge my own thinking or ideas among friends and interesting thinkers who I know will elevate or improve my baseline approach. 

How do you spark your creativity when you’re feeling in a rut? 

 If I have the time to plan it – international travel. I find that there’s something about being in a foreign country that forces a different way of seeing the world. Between the language, day-to-day life, how people interact, etc. It forces both a solitude and a personal integration into a different way of living that I love. 

Most of the time I’m unable to travel or plan more than one trip a year abroad. So, for more regular access to creativity in the last 5-7 years, I have drawn on poetry. In 2016, I was introduced to a poet named David Whyte. It took me into a realm of using poetry as a counter-balance to building a business and having to often think in structured, deliberate ways. The broader landscape of poetry – David Whyte, John O’Donahue, Mary Oliver – I find wildly energizing for a different part of the soul. 

Where is your favorite place to decompress & unwind? 

Anywhere near an ocean where I can surf. I generally take at least one week per year with no technology of any kind. Last year I went to Costa Rica and surfed for 8 days. I find that it creates distance, perspective and grounding in the right focus for thinking. 

When do you feel your best, and what do you do to stay in good vibrations? 

More day-to-day, I find my best ideas, energy and creativity come when I’m making time for solid workouts and movement. Locally, I love running the stairs in Vanderbilt stadium. When I’m there in the evening, in an empty stadium, I find a magnitude of thought and ideas that I’m unable to access in the routine of life. 

Since we use wearable technology for our work at Arena Labs, I have been tracking my sleep and well-being for several years. My best objective data comes when I’m making time for connection with family and friends. An obvious statement – but powerful to see in hard data.  

Why did you choose Ampersand Studios as your workspace? 

Two reasons: First, I love aesthetic. The design of Ampersand felt far more serene than a co-work space. I am a big believer that our physical environment and the aesthetic around us sets a tone for how we think and create. I was seeking a space that didn’t feel like an  office or traditional “cowork space”.  Second,  Our team at Arena is mostly distributed – though you’ll see Joshua Blair on our  team in the office as of this month. I was over working from home but wanted to be in  a place where I’d intersect with creatives and entrepreneurs working on ideas far  different than what we’re doing at Arena. I love the range of people and companies  here.  

Where can our community connect with you? We’re in the midst of hiring a firm to redesign our website but www.arenalabs.global or, on Instagram @arenalabs



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