From fast paced Tech Entrepreneur to simple living as a Spiritual Therapist
When I first met Bent he had just finished two master degrees, one from Copenhagen University and another from University of Cambridge, and he now wanted to join a “tech for good” startup. I was working on an idea and needed someone like him as my co-founder. We immediately hit it off, and with Bent on board BetterNow started to move really quickly.
For 3 years we worked side by side, then I left the daily work, while Bent continued for another year as the CEO. Then he burned out in a quite dramatic way. I cannot say that I had seen it coming, but it was not a total surprise either. By then I had witnessed a young man not only burning the candle on both ends, but more like throwing the whole candle into the fire.
Back then, Bent was living an always on life to the extreme. Whatever he did, he did it to the fullest – and he didn’t accept any down time, or “inefficiency” in his schedule. He would work at the office for 10-12 hours, fully absorbed in pushing his tasks forward, then go for a 20 km run giving it all he had, and then arrive home where 20 guests would be waiting to party with him. This is not an exaggeration. During the years we worked together Bent put in minimum 60-hour weeks at BetterNow, he trained himself to finish the Copenhagen Marathon in less than 3 hours, he had a rather large number of girlfriends in open relationships, organised radical Burlesque parties with hundreds of participants, renovated a houseboat, ran art projects on the side, and lived together with two friends in downtown Copenhagen in a lively apartment where the doors were always open to friends and visitors.
In many ways an enjoyable and exciting lifestyle – and Bent did surely enjoy his life in all its colour and intensity for a long time. But being close to Bent, I witnessed how there were also challenges. One of them was the drama with the girlfriends, and I saw from a distance that, even with clear rules from the outset (open relationship), it was no guarantee to be able to avoid hurt feelings and conflicts. Maybe more troublesome to Bent was the fact that BetterNow was not growing as fast as we had promised the investors, and more importantly, as fast as we ourselves expected it to grow. Again and again we had to ask for new funding, and the pressure on us increased. After 3 years my partner colleagues at Rainmaking asked me to please move on to the next venture. I had a good conversation with Bent about it, and he accepted to continue running the company without me.
Bent gave the BetterNow mission all he got for another year, and then he handed over the CEO role to one of our first employees, Jesper Juul Jensen. Jesper and his team have since then taken BetterNow further forward, and today more than 100m DKK of donations has been collected for 150+ charities across 8 countries. The company is still not a big financial success, but it surely has had a huge positive impact.
I had expected that leaving BetterNow would be a welcome break for Bent, and that he would quickly shake the stress that I sensed was building up inside of him. Instead - to my amazement - he right away got involved with two new startups, without even 5 minutes to catch his breath. I saw Bent struggling to make the new ventures work, in a process where he eventually lost a lot of money, including his own. We still talked quite often, and one day Bent told me that he was experiencing a burnout. He described to me how he simply couldn’t work in front of a laptop anymore. Just writing one simple message required huge efforts. Bent needed a break, and we agreed that he could stay in my summer house while he went through his process.
Bent ended up living in my summer house for a year and a half, all by himself in the forest. From here on I only witnessed his progress at a distance, but it was clear to me he underwent a tremendous journey, and I could feel that he was healing some profound traumas.
A couple of more years have passed since then, and today Bent is a transformed person. I now meet him and see someone who has an in-depth understanding of the human psyche and of the spiritual side of life. He has studied a wide range of topics, such as healing, energy work, psychotherapy, the chakra system, ancient wisdom from many traditions, qigong, body work etc. And he has become an excellent therapist with his own practice and lots of clients. He just bought his dream house out in the middle of beautiful nature, close to Gilleleje (North of Copenhagen), and is to me a shining example that emotional pain has the potential to become a gift in our lives, and to uplift us to higher ways of being, living, contributing and thriving.
When I ask Bent directly about his journey, and what has brought forth such a change of his being, he tells me that the essence of his transformation, is a spiritual awakening that came in the midst of his most challenging time, that this has been the ground from where he rose again to a new life, and what is at the center of his life today.
Some of the questions we asked Bent to address during this Heartful Academy session:
How would you describe your old way of being in life, and your new way, and what made this transformation happen?
When we worked together, all of your life seemed to evolve around creating and manifesting. Today it seems like you have little interest in making a huge impact in the outer world, at least the business world. Some might say that working as a therapist is a humble life compared to that of a tech entrepreneur. You must surely have thought about this yourself?
What is your core guiding principle in life, and how has that changed since your transformation?
Back then, it looked like you had quite a hard process, do you have regrets? What advice would you give your old self?
In the business world, burnout is a common phenomenon. What is your best advice to others experiencing burnout?
How do you see the difference between having a burnout and a spiritual awakening, can you have one without the other?
When we want to heal our own traumas, where is a good place to start, and why do you think that so many of us don’t get around to become wholehearted about our own internal process, wellbeing and growth?
Do you still sometimes dream of your old life, of doing a tech startup, hosting wild parties, etc? What keeps you on the path that you have chosen?
Can you tell us more about the work that you are doing today? How do you work? Why is it meaningful to you, and what is the impact of your work?
What role does business and work play in our individual journey towards peace, freedom, joy, excitement and happiness?
What needs to happen in order to reduce work-related stress, and increase workplace performance as well as individual wellbeing?
It is a huge journey you have been on, what can others learn from your experiences?