After two years of building, running, and crashing a non-profit foundation, I'm starting a new journey.
November 29, 2021
It's time. I'm finally putting my proverbial pen to the paper, writing my first public article in many years. The purpose of this article is to explain why I'm writing this article, and the many that I hope will follow, paired with some reflections on where I'm currently at in life and where I want to be heading. But in order for this all to make more sense, let's first rewind the clock a little.
A brief history
Around seven years ago I started a blog called 'The Social Wolf', which was dedicated to happiness and how one could live a healthy, daring and fulfilling life, summarised in the catchphrase: "be happy, be you".
You see, a few years earlier I had had my first encounters with 'self-improvement', and for the first time in my short life understood that I could get better at something if I actively applied myself. I say understood because implicitly I had already known that this was the case, but I only realised that much later when I reflected on the many years of trampolining practice I had done as a kid.
These early encounters with self-improvement produced the naïve realisation that I had 'figured out life'. The solutions seemed so simple: get out of your comfort zone; walk the unorthodox path; engage in meaningful relationships with others; live a healthy lifestyle; and just be more confident. As I'm writing this sentence I can't help but wonder, that perhaps it wasn't so naïve after all...
The Social Wolf Vlogs
Anyway. After writing articles for a little over a year (and having started a new study programme in a different city) I figured that I needed to do something more radical. The approach I took wasn't leading me to the results that I wanted, and I felt that something was holding me back. Having a hard time trying to figure out what it was exactly (my study program? My friends? My own beliefs?), I decided to leave it all behind and travel the world; partially inspired by this interview with Cal Fusman on the Tim Ferris show.
My plan for this epic journey came paired with the idea to transform my blog into a Youtube channel. The name of the game: travel vlogs. My good friend Michiel, who had decided to accompany me for the trip, was excited by this idea and we became partners. I remember us setting an audacious goal: within the next year we would have 100.000 Youtube Subscribers. And so we began.
The Solo Wolf
In the following months Michiel and I traveled through Europe and Southeast Asia. However, a few weeks in we'd decided to stop doing the Youtube channel together, since we had different expectations and requirements of the project. We stopped being partners and settled on just being friends. Our travels continued and we ultimately ended up as au-pairs (a.k.a. nannies) in Australia, where we lived a few hours apart and were basically living separate lives.
So there I was, living in a sub-urban villa on the outskirts of Brisbane, with a 'failed' Youtube channel, and no more traveling content to record (as I stayed in the same house for 8 months). So I switched gears. I rebranded our Youtube channel, made it my own, and started a new series called: "learning new skills in one week". During this series I created some of the most embarassing content of my life, and some of the work that I'm proudest off. It was an interesting time.
The Enlightened Beast
Towards the end of my stay in Australia I sat my first ten-day Vipassana (silent) retreat, which completely changed my life (but that's a story for another day). During this retreat I had come to a realisation; I was going to make educational videos about topics that I thought important and dear to my heart, and do so under a new brand, namely: "The Enlightened Beast". This name was based on the notion that I am a being that is seeking spiritual enlightenment, whilst simultaneously seeking to become an absolute beast in the material world.
When I returned home to the Netherlands, I put this idea into action. I started publishing weekly videos on Youtube, covering topics such as drugs, bitcoin, and fasting. I also took a deep dive into growth hacking and 'one-man marketing'. After months of keeping this up I felt like I had hit a plateau, and I didn't know how to move past it. Luckily, I had gotten some great advice from my brother, who in many ways had already accomplished things that I was seeking to accomplish. This advice ultimately led to the decision to go back to University.
After two years of hard work my Youtube channel had ultimately gathered around 250 subscribers.
The Students Gift
Coming back to university, once again in a new city, I decided to start my own podcast; having been infatuated by the medium in the years before. I was also planning to start my first business, or rather a non-profit platform, that would bring together like-minded people for creating, and executing on, community projects. This idea had also come to me on a silent retreat, where I had a deep realisation that I wanted to contribute to the people around me, and society at large, from a place of love and compassion. The podcast would become part of this initiative and I gave it the name "The Students Gift".
Unfortunately, the non-profit never came to fruition. I had entered in an entrepreneurship competition and the message was pretty clear: "no business model, no interest". The podcast, on the other hand, was gaining momentum and I was interviewing many fascinating people, including students, teachers, managers, entrepreneurs and friends. After recording nearly forty episodes, and speaking to many students outside the studio, I observed something interesting: quite a few of my fellow students wanted to get more out of life, but felt there were non, or few, like them. This led to the birth of my first real business; or rather, the birth of our first non-profit foundation.
The BeMore Foundation
Together with two friends I decided to start a foundation dedicated to personal growth and well-being for students, called BeMore. Besides wanting to create value for my fellow students, I also considered this a great opportunity for myself to experiment and learn things, in a low-risk/decent-reward environment. It was sort of like a sandbox in which you could build beautiful castles and fortresses, without having to think too much about the real world applications and limitations. And building we did.
In the two years that I was active at BeMore, I learned a lot. I raised funding for the first time. I led a team of volunteers for the first time. I wrote vision documents, year rapports and signed our official foundation deeds for the first time. But most importantly I learned that it was about 'I'; more so than I cared to admit. Because even though I was running a foundation that was build upon the relationships and sense of community of so many different people, I secretly still just wanted to do my own thing. This, and many other factors, eventually led to the collapse of our foundation, and with it a handful of my friendships. I was back at square one.
A fresh start
Which brings us to the present. Having processed most of what happened, or at least having the illusion that I did, I find myself in front of a white page. Never in my life have I felt so competent and ready to turn my dreams and aspirations into reality. But I'm lacking the vehicle that will allow me to transform this competence into tangible output; into results. Well, no more I say. This vehicle is getting build, right here, right now. Today is the day that I return to my roots, once again doing the things that I have loved doing for all these years.
Seven years ago I thought I had figured out life. Today I've figured out that I know jack shit; which perhaps is as close as one can get to figuring out life. But I also figured out what I want to do, who I aspire to be, and what I want my path moving forward to look like. You're reading the first iteration of this ambition right now.
Over the past months I've been working on building a new personal and professional eco-system, named Meaning Crafter. This eco-system will be my broadcasting station to the world, welcoming anyone who wants to listen and engage, whilst aso respecting everyone who doesn't. The most foundational principle that this eco-system is build on, is that it's mine. This might sound selfish and possessive, and there certainly is an element of that in it, but that's not the main point. The point is rather that I'm making this for me. I'm building this eco-system to satisfy my own curiosity, to pursue the things that I find interesting and meaningful.
We are living in the strangest and most rapidly evolving times. Our world will change radically in the upcoming years. Jobs will disappear, nations will disintegrate and our most fundamental beliefs and resources will be shattered. I'm an optimist, and I believe that better things will arise out of this change (although I don't discount the chance that we metaphorically or literally blow ourselves up), but whichever way you spin it: huge changes are happening, and there's only exponentially more to come.
Part of my belief is that work for the sake of survival will become obsolete in the near future, which will leave a giant purpose void. I belief that part of the antidote to this purpose void is the pursuit of things that are inherently meaningful to you, or in this case, to me. Of course, figuring out what I consider to be meaningful, and how to spend my time meaningfully, is the quest of a lifetime. And it's the quest I'm choosing to embark on.
I'm building this eco-system as my answer to the purpose void. This will be the place where I write and think out loud, engaging with different ideas and beliefs. It will also be the place where I create content and products, both to deepen my own understanding and to create value for my fellow human beings. And lastly it will be the place from which new places might arise; with this project I'm keeping all the cards on the table.
Starting today, I will set in to motion five things:
- I will start writing a bi-weekly blog.
- I will publish a video on Youtube every other week.
- I will record a podcast with my brothers once a month.
- I will build a Notion system that helps people live more effective and more meaningful lives.
- I will publicly open myself to be hired for coaching and public speaking.
These different parts of the ecosystem will have different styles and approaches. My blog will function as a place in real-time to think, with a minimal amount of editing. The videos will be more curated, focused on what I consider to be valuable information. The podcast will be a mindmelt with some of my favourite human beings on this earth. The Notion system will be my attempt at building something that can radically improve peoples lives. And the coaching and public speaking will be a place to share what I've learned, and earning an honest income for as long as it is needed.
Which brings us to the end, or rather the start. Over the past seven years I've learned a lot, and achieved many of the things I set out to do. I also failed miserably, over and over again, but that's what makes the journey fun. Now, I'm ready to recommit. Recommit to myself, and the things that I value in life. No filters, no shame and no bullshit.
Whether you agree or disagree with what I say. Whether you love or you hate it. Whether you enjoy listening to me, or whether you think that I should shut the fuck up. You are welcome to accompany me on my journey at any time, and make your leave whenever you feel like it. Regardless of your decision, I wish you all the best, and hope you find beauty, love and meaning in this wonderful life.