It has been the most turbulent year of my life, but also the most transformative. My life at the beginning of this year, at the middle of it, and at the end of it, has been so completely different. It has been the year that propelled me into the direction of the life I’ve always dreamt of, a life of passion and purpose on my own terms, a life of freedom where I work for my own dreams of creating a better world, in my way. This is my recap of how it all went down.
In the beginning of 2017 I had a successful corporate career, I was a professional negotiator for one of the world’s largest retail companies, I had a lot of freedom and an unlimited travel account. I was proud to tell people what I did for a living, but for the wrong reasons. I was living a life of abundance in the finest area of Barcelona in a luxuriously refurbished apartment. I was super spoiled and didn’t have a single worry in the world, and that was exactly what had started to bother me.
End of February everything changed. I left everything. I had come to the conclusion that all of those things meant nothing if I didn’t have something greater than myself to live for. In conventional terms I had everything I could wish for, I certainly had everything my parents would have wished for me, and they, just like everyone else around me, first struggled to understand my decision. Weirdly, it didn’t feel like a choice to me. I had all of those things but I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t passionate and full of life and excitement as I’ve always been before. Every time I looked in the mirror I felt like I was further and further away from that curious and life loving child in me, I was often tired and felt indifferent to many things. I felt how a life of passion, energy, curiosity and meaning was slowly slipping away from me. No, it wasn’t a choice. My decision was more a natural reaction. Something just wasn’t right, and I had to find out what was missing.
It took me a good two months to sell everything I owned (except for some artifacts of emotional value), and I donated five large black garbage bags of clothes. I packed a bag and bought a ticket to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Just in time for carnival.
The first two weeks in Rio I lived in a hammock on my friend’s balcony. It was 30 degrees celsius at night and I remember wiping off sweat running down my face as I was trying to fall sleep to the noise of the streets. I don’t even know how many people stayed in that apartment over carnival, we were even sleeping in hammocks on top of each other, bunk bed style on the balcony. It was such chaos, it was dirty, it was sweaty, it was simple, and I loved it. It was the very opposite of the life I wanted to get away from. It was exciting, it was inspiring, and I felt like I belonged. We became a small little family of outcasts all going against the societal norms, paving our own paths in life, making up our own definition of what a successful life is. We all lived on next to nothing and applied all kinds of street smart tactics to minimize expenses, since none of us had any income. I was thriving. I felt my passion, my curiosity, energy and life lust running back to me. I felt so alive.
The following couple of months were a real roller coaster. I experienced first hand the intensity of life when living in high uncertainty, and it hit me like a bullet train. Every experience felt greater, every emotion deeper. The financial pressure came creeping up on me, my perception and perspective on money was one of the first things that changed. Also, I had put way too much pressure on myself to accomplish things and to find my new path right away, it all came tumbling down and I ended up struggling with anxiety. I had to re-start. I went on solo adventures in the deep jungle, swam alone in wonderful waterfalls, hiked down a jungle river and along miles of deserted beaches in the monsoon rain. I reconnected with nature, and nature gave me peace within.
Once I got my hopes and internal peace back on track, my relationship came crashing down and pushed me to a very difficult emotional stage that I didn’t think I could handle. I was at the bottom. Right at that point where I was almost ready to give up on it all, two very good friends made a surprise visit. I literally sat in a corner crying a couple of hours before I came back home to see them there, and I burst into joy as if they were an incredibly well timed present from the Universe. We spent an amazing time together discovering the favelas of Rio, road tripping in a rental car along the coast, staying with my friend’s girlfriend’s parents in their village, and boating around an archipelago of paradise islands. And we had a number of nights sitting in plastic chairs on some street bar somewhere in Rio, sharing large ice cold beer bottles, drinking from small glass cups and talking about our lives. We were all going through life defining changes and I think we were all more reflective than usual. These nights meant the world to me. I felt so much support, so much love, and so much belonging. I wasn’t alone in my confusion and chaos. We all found strength from each other and their visit reconnected me with the insight that it is amazing to be alive and healthy, and how magical life can be when spent with good friends.
It took me over two months, but in May I finally realized that starting with creating was wrong. I needed to start from scratch, I needed to start learning first. Learning about myself. I needed to take the puzzle I had laid that was my life, put it in a box and shake it real hard and start laying a new one with only the pieces that I wanted. I left all ambition and performance pressure on building business plans and writing my book. From now on I spent my days reading articles, doing tests and reading about personality types, and got to work on what’s important to me, my core values. This made all the difference. By each article, each test, I got a better understanding of myself and they guided me in my reflection of what I want from life.
Coming back to Barcelona was difficult. I was returning to the same place I had lived before, but under wildly different circumstances. My financial and professional situation made me more dependent on my girlfriend, with whom I moved in with when I got back, and insecurities started to take hold. I made some attempts to meet new people and to initiate things and projects but it didn’t quite work out. My anxiety and insecurity grew until I almost panicked. I felt trapped. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
My situation did not get better and I hung on to the relationship as my only source of stability and wellbeing, only it was not strong enough at the time. We broke up and it propelled me into a few very blurry weeks of immense sadness, where I was mostly alone. I felt completely lost in life. After the breakup I moved back to Stockholm and spent the summer sleeping on couches or borrowing friends’ apartments. For many weeks I didn’t seem to be able to pull myself together. I struggled to see a way out of it.
During this time I still made great progress in my transformational journey. The deep emotional state I was in made me reflect, feel and think more than ever. I tried to build a strategy to pull myself out of the misery and made great insights into what makes me feel at peace and where my happiness comes from. Through meditation, training, nature and meeting at least one person every day, I pulled myself towards a point of acceptance. At the same time, one of those people I met turned out to be the business partner I am now starting a company with. One single meeting turned my life around. It taught me to never underestimate how a small single event can change everything in a moment.
Almost miraculously, I had by time managed to reduce my anxiety and worry by focusing more on the present, and harvest peace and happiness out of appreciation and gratitude. I had the opportunity to spend some vacation weeks with my mom and gained a lot of strength from her love and support, as well as from friends back home. I felt immensely humbled by the half year that had passed.
My girlfriend and I met up for a magical weekend in Copenhagen, I felt how strong our love still was, and decided to give it another shot, with me now living in Stockholm and building a life and profession of my own. She would not be able to leave Barcelona due to her job until next summer, so we were looking at almost a year of long-distance. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we had such a strong and irresistible pull towards each other so we decided to give it another shot.
I started getting involved with the amazing people that were to become my business partners and started researching the different fields we were looking at entering. I started spending time at a co-working place for change-makers, for companies that were out to change the world for the better. And it again made all the difference. Now I felt part of something bigger than myself, and I was surrounded by the most authentic people talking about things like consciousness and system thinking. These were people taking on the very structures that our societies are built on. I felt how I started growing again as a person, and I knew I was in the right place.
At the same time, another gigantic piece of the puzzle fell into place. A home. By some miracle, I managed to get hold of my own little small place in Stockholm, and put great effort into quickly turning it into a cozy home. I had gone over half a year without a home, jumping from couch to couch, and it was tearing me down. It made me realize how important a good home is, a fixed and private point where you can feel safe. And once I had one, my energies started soaring.
My business partners and I reached an agreement and I started full time with our venture called Valuesmatch. We are using their existing technology and method of mapping personal values to match and connect people based on values. It was an incredible match, both personally and professionally. In all of my work on myself the past half year I had defined a few life missions or purposes that for me had the magical combination of being something I felt great personal meaning in doing, something I felt very passionate about and something that I would love to spend time doing and that I would also be good at doing.
One of my key values of what I want to bring to the world is understanding. To feel understood is perhaps what’s most important to me in order to feel good, and to seek new perspectives and understand other people is my greatest passion and source of personal growth. That’s why I constantly travel, go on adventures and throw myself at new experiences. During my internal journey of getting to know myself better, I had literally defined the sentence that I wanted to make the world a more interpersonally connected and understanding place, I wanted to make the connection between people stronger and more authentic. This was before we started Valuesmatch, and we copied parts of my own vision straight into the company’s vision.
We had a flying start with Valuesmatch and got our first clients without much effort. Rather, it felt like our idea and our vision had a magnetic pull, people wanted to know more and get involved, and we got a lot of ambassadors fast. I spent much of my days meeting people. All of a sudden we got the chance to be the official matchmaking partner at an international conference with 3000 participants, a fantastic opportunity both to test our product and for exposure. In a couple of weeks we had to drive both product development and communications material to be able to meet the requirements of such a big job. We pulled it off and the largest business magazine in Sweden published a profile article about my journey. It felt unreal. I am now living with the levels of passion and sense of purpose I have dreamt of for so long.
More and more people reach out and are brought along on our journey and we now have advisors that we could only dream of, that believe in us and want to see us succeed. We get the opportunity to pitch for a business incubator program with an admission jury consisting of some of the biggest profiles of serial entrepreneurs and venture capital investors in Sweden, and they loved our concept! We are entering the program in January. At the same time, we are on our way to have our first investors onboard, as well as remaining resources and talent that we need, and it is first now starting to sink in that this is really happening. I am now well on my way to build a company with the intention to scale and spread it all over the world, in order to create a positive impact between people that will make the world a better place.
It’s been tough, it was a big risk, and it was painful, but all change is hard in the beginning, messy in the middle, and beautiful at the end. It was the best, and only, thing I could have done. I am so excited and curious to see what this next year will bring.
All love and no fear,