There are a lot of people in the world that are willing to extend a helping hand and guide you towards finding your authentic self but lack the means to do so. Investing in people and companies that do so is, Bridge Builders Collaborative. Joining this episode is their Managing Partner, Charlie Hartwell, to talk about what they mean when they say, “Going deeper.” He discusses the importance of each individual and how everyone has their own unique gifts that they can contribute to create a better world. In addition to that, learn all about what it truly means to be living in a conscious world. Charlie also touches on the topic of how we should treat this pandemic, as a species, as an opportunity to be better.
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Building the Bridge Towards Your Authentic Self with Charlie Hartwell
As always, I am excited about our show. I have Charlie Hartwell with me. Charlie is the Managing Partner of Bridge Builders Collaborative, a group of highly successful investors who have been investing in startup companies in the space of mental wellness, consciousness, and spirituality. As a Harvard Business School graduate, Charlie has served and led organizations in fourteen industries, including starting a nonprofit in the slums of Kenya in 1986 that has now served healthcare to several million patients.
He has also founded the first for-profit expedition company in US history to promote the Bancroft Arnesen Expedition and the historical 17,000-mile crossing of Antarctica by two women who became the first to cross the continent on foot. Charlie and his company are passionate about supporting the growth of new movements around mental fitness, heart-centered connection, consciousness, evolution, and improved health care. Please help me welcome Mr. Charlie Hartwell to the show.
It’s good to be on the show.
It’s great to have you on the show. It sounds like you’re doing some amazing things with your life and with Bridge Builders Collaborative. Give us a little bit more information about Bridge Builders Collaborative.
Bridge Builders Collaborative came together several years ago when my wife got me involved in something called the Mind & Life Institute. It was the organization that was helping to bring awareness to the research behind contemplative practice. I got connected to that community and in that community, there was a group of three investors who had come together to say, “I wonder if the science around contemplative practice, mind training has gotten to a point where there would be anything to invest in, so we could take the research and bring it to application with a positive impact in the world.”
They found me and they said, “Let us know if there’s anything to invest in.” At the time, there was little to invest in and we were the first investors to focus exclusively on that space. Over the last couple of years, the space has gone to scale. We’ve made some of the more well-known names in that industry. We’ve made fifteen investments in the space. We’ve gone from 3 to 8 investment partners. Our investors and investments are scattered around the United States and the world, so it’s interesting to watch our space. In a sense, we provided a ground floor in the co-creation of a new global industry and to be investing and collaborating with others to build that is a lot of fun.Sometimes you have to go through your own personal growth to get to a point where an opportunity will be available to you. Click To Tweet
When you talked about consciousness and mindfulness, I remember not long ago, not many people were acceptive to the idea of consciousness and mindfulness. It was like a foo-foo, flighty type of idea that people shied away from but it’s taken off and people are finding the benefit of consciousness and mindfulness. That awareness for people has taken on a whole new meaning and it’s great to know that you pioneered that and allowed even people like myself an opportunity to share that knowledge in that space. I don’t know what your story is but that has been a vital part of my being and my recovery. I don’t know how much you know about my story.
I don’t want to make the show about me but consciousness and mindfulness were vital to my recovery to being the person that I am right now in finding my contribution in my space and purpose in life. It affected and impacted my identity. Without that, I don’t know if I would have accomplished what I’ve accomplished and I would do what I’m doing. A lot of people out there could say the same thing about that. What is your story like? Why would you get involved with that? I’m sure there was a return on investment and all of those things but was it a deeper level that you wanted to get involved with consciousness and mindfulness. What’s the story behind that?
If I go back to what my energy is, even when I was a young kid, my energy is about change, growth, authentic leadership, and innovation. I’m most comfortable when I’m helping to co-create global movements, so in my professional career, I’ve worked in fourteen different industries. I’ve worked in big business, small business, startup business, turnaround, etc. My journey down the path of consciousness or awareness or whatever centers around suffering. My father and my grandfather died within a couple of years of each other. They were my role models. My business was failing and I’ve never had a business failure before. My marriage had been dead for years and I wasn’t even aware of it.
All that came together like the universe said, “You’re stubborn.” It took me three forms of suffering to get to a point where I understood I needed help. When I made the decision to say, “I need to get help,” that is what began my own process of looking at myself, my patterns, family system, behavior, and the stories that I lived under. I found a musical voice that I didn’t know that I had and I found a greater connection to my purpose. My wife who had been in this space, my second wife and my soulmate, is the one that introduced me to this space. It was a question of using my gifts to help propel this movement to move forward. I had to go through my own personal growth to get to a point where this opportunity was available to me.
Isn’t that true for everyone? Most people that I know, if not all, that come into this space have some personal experience that awakened them to this idea. I find it funny, however, that most often, we don’t come into the space until there’s not another option. There’s nothing out there that can truly help you in that. You lost your job and your family potentially or you have some type of illness that is not curable, so you have to go within and find strength, understanding, and a different perception about the experience. You begin to find another part of you and you start to pivot. You start to look at life a lot differently and you find that, “This stuff works.” It takes sometimes, for most people, not having another outlet to turn to before we turn to mindfulness. Has that been your experience? Could you say that whole is true?
About 95% of the time, I agree with you, Rodney. Normally, when I find people that I can have this discussion with and they’ve gone through their own process, it took something like that. I would say there are 5% of the people. I’m hoping it’s going to increase the percentage over time, who had conscious parents so that they had such awareness and unconditional love growing up where they grew up in this environment. Yes, they can deepen their practice, but for that small percentage of people who had conscious parents or communities around them, they didn’t necessarily have to go through the same amount of suffering that somebody like me had to go through.
Tell us about the types of companies that Bridge Builders Collaborative invests in.
We’ve invested in fifteen companies and they range from a company like Headspace, which many people have heard of. That’s a meditation app, and another app called InsightTimer, which has 7,000 global mindfulness and spiritual teachers from multiple traditions on a platform with 16 million people who have downloaded and about 500,000 that use it every day. We’ve invested in digital therapeutics, so companies that are software companies that are going through the FDA process to be approved by the FDA so that they can be reimbursable software to treat individual conditions. Those are companies like Pear Therapeutics and another company called Happify.
We’ve invested in knowledge platforms and a personal growth market network called Gloo. We’ve made an investment in a company that’s trying to revolutionize gaming because gaming has all been based on this male fight or flight response. We invested in an entrepreneur out of Canada, who is a senior coder and leads teams of hundreds and thousands of people. She believes that we’re missing 50% of the audience who would rather do games that are based on tend-and-befriend where it’s not always about winning and domination. It’s about collaboration, etc. We’ve invested in consumer platforms, health platforms, digital therapeutic platforms, and B2B companies. That’s some of them.
What does it take? What type of opportunities are you looking for if someone reading this maybe feels like they have the type of business that you would be interested in? What does that criteria look like?
For us, what we look for first are companies where we say, “If this company is successful, we know what the impact will be on the world and we would support that.” The second thing that we would ask is there science behind the product or service that we think is credible science. The third is there an entrepreneur who’s both experienced and integrated, has done their own personal work, has a managed ego, who we can collaborate with, and add value to? We’re not in investments to make money purely. We’re actively involved and we want to support our companies.
We want people who will listen. Not that we’re always right for sure, but we want people who are willing to be curious and listen to others’ experiences, and then we look to what’s the market size. We want things that can be globally scalable, and then when we get through all of that, then we do an analysis of what could be the projected ROI, and would the ROI be significant? We normally look at companies in the Series A investment framework, so that can be somewhere around $1 million and existing revenue with a large growth trajectory. We’ve invested in some companies that have large audiences that they haven’t monetized yet, and then if we invest money, can they begin to monetize those communities?Going deeper means getting to some of the core behaviors that are causing suffering. Going deeper into the human experience, finding your purpose, and living to that purpose. Click To Tweet
If I remember correctly, we talked about startups. Do you invest in startups? It sounds like what you described were pre-existing businesses that were already making money. Could you talk a little bit about that?
They would be classified as startups. It’s just that they’re early-stage startups. We’re not the first money into a company. That’s usually friends and families that invest, and then typically there are Angel Investors that come in, and then the venture capitalists that come in after that. We’re normally in between a stage where there are angel investors and venture capital coming into businesses.
How do you add value to the investments that you make?
The first thing I would say is that I would name these four Cs. The first would be council. Our investment group has run and started multiple businesses in multiple industries, large companies, and Fortune 500 companies. They have a lot of business councils. Council is one value added. We also know our industry well enough, so we know how to add value for the council as to how mental health works or how behavioral health might work. We’re some of the most connected people on the planet because we’re focused on this space exclusively.
We have connections to some of the world’s leading spiritual leaders, scientists, people in businesses, and other investors in the space. We add value through making connections. The third is our credibility. Having us on a cap table and being able to say Bridge Builders investment, because of our success in the space, that adds a lot to a company. The fourth would be our cash. I named that cash as being the last of our value add and not the most of our value add.
I did some research on you and you talk about going deeper. What does that mean? How does that relate to the investments that you make?
Rodney, it’s funny, I describe my wife as the wisdom of our family, and when I listen to her and integrate what she’s saying, normally things turn out much better. She said to me a couple of years ago that we’d been investing in gateway drugs to higher levels of consciousness. I could point to 100 million people that are meditating around the world just on our platforms that weren’t meditating several years ago. If you get somebody sitting down and meditating for ten minutes a day, that’s great. They might have a little less stress in their life and less anxiety, etc.
Going deeper is to get to some of the core behaviors that are causing suffering. It might be to deal with the trauma that you haven’t processed or it might be to look at the stories in your life that run through your head. As my wife would say, living below the neck. It might be deepening your connection to yourself, your community, and something greater than yourself. It’s definitely going deeper into the human experience, living and finding your purpose, and living to that purpose.
I know one of the things you like to talk about is personal transformation and waking up to your authentic self, which is important. You, being a person that would invest in a company whose mission is to help people do that, why do you find this work so important to invest in it?
The simple answer to that question is from my perspective, if we don’t collectively wake up as a species, we’re not going to have a planet to live on. We’ve been degrading our planet and we’re treating each other incredibly poorly. We see that many people in the world are living in poverty. We’re degrading our resources and polluting our air, etc. Unless we can get down, shift our awareness, and go deeper into living consciously, I get concerned that the technology that we’re creating is manifesting itself and growing at a much higher level than our consciousness. We have technology that can destroy our planet, but I’m not sure that we have the consciousness to know what to do about that or how to handle that. From my perspective, my life is dedicated to helping provide invitations to those who are willing to go deeper so that as a society, we can start to wake up.
How does one become their authentic self? Not just being mindful or conscious, but becoming their authentic self. How could they play a role in that mission?
The authentic self is already there from the way I look at it. The question is, “What are the layers of things that prevent you from knowing what that is?” From my framework and my experience, we are who we are. We came onto this planet. We are gifts and we have unique individual gifts. A lot of times, we’ve been talked out of what those gifts are. We’ve had stories coming sometimes from our family systems or our communities that say, “Don’t be that bright of a shining light. Just fit in. Do this. You’ll make more money if you do that. Don’t take that risk even if your heart says, ‘Take that risk.’”If we don't collectively wake up as a species, we're not going to have a planet to live on. We've been degrading our planet and we’re treating each other incredibly poorly. Click To Tweet
All of these stories get layered around and when we start to peel back that onion from that analogy, you start to find at the core of what your purpose is and why you are here. When you can embrace that and then say, “I no longer care what people think about that. They can think I’m crazy if they want to. They can think whatever they want of me and I’m willing to go after that and be that in the world.” I find that is when people feel happier. They’re living to that purpose and life becomes better overall. They have more abundance, and I don’t mean just about money, I mean more abundance in life in general.
I have this belief that everyone has a contribution. I feel that if you’re here, then there’s something. I don’t personally know what it is. Only that person can know what it is. Unfortunately, many people don’t know but there is some level of contribution and it’s directly related to your desires and the things you want out of life. The desires are no more than a carrot than anything. It’s just to get you to move because you want and desire certain things and desire such a strong emotion that it moves you into action. It’s similar to what you said.
Somewhere along the way, that light has been dimmed and a lot of people don’t feel they can reach that desire or that goal or that thing. They’re compelled to move, but they don’t because they don’t feel like it’s worthwhile. We all suffer because of that. Everyone has some level of contribution that’s necessary during their time here and that contribution should be expressed. When it’s not expressed, we all suffer. We’re all connected and there’s something about every individual that’s necessary for all of us. That contribution all supports the sustainment of life here on this planet, in my opinion.
You’ve said it well. I don’t need to add anything to what you said. I wanted to say one thing to that, which is about desire. What is the authentic calling versus desire in our society can be influenced by marketing messages and people throwing things at you and telling you, “I desire to go on this vacation to this place.” That’s different from what you’re talking about, which is this inner knowing or this longing inside for the authentic self to be expressed. Does that make sense?
Absolutely. We need more tools to develop the skillset and filter through all of that artificial marketing and everything else that alters the authentic desires because when you’re right. We start chasing things that are not meaningful. Only to find out when we achieve those things, there’s a sense of emptiness. It’s like a little trick. You thought when you got this, it was going to provide this overall feeling of joy and happiness. You find out it was short-lived because it was artificial. It wasn’t the authentic calling. What are your thoughts about that?
I have such a good example. COVID has taught me this great lesson. For my work, I travel all over the world. I fly Delta because I get my miles, and then I start thinking, “I’ve got my miles, so how do I become a Diamond next year?” I started thinking this in about January of 2020. The amount of rumination and math that I do to get that Diamond status, which somehow my mind says, “I’ve got to hit this.” This is the desire. By the way, I’m cognizant of it throughout the year and I know it’s one of those things that’s like, “Charlie, you say you’re conscious, but you’re chasing after frequent flyer miles.” I haven’t traveled in months and I realized, “What a useless exercise. Who gives a crap?” On one level, but the real awareness is now, I’m not chasing that because it’s not even possible. My mind is free because I’m not thinking about that and not that I do that on many things, but frequent flyer miles for me was one of those things. I can laugh at myself because it’s such a silly thing but I own it.
How do people begin to filter and recognize their authentic calling, in your opinion?
A lot of times, when you go to that place, it can be helpful to have others to help you along that process. That’s a combination of that. Some of this is intuitive and you know like, “That gets me lit up. When we start talking about nature that gets me excited. When we start talking about entrepreneurship, I love to start things.” Maybe that’s not what you’re doing now but when you start thinking about those things like, “That resonates with me.” Part of that, people intuitively know even if they’ve been told otherwise in their society that like, “You should be a lawyer,” versus being something else.
There are times that there are people that can support you along the way in that process as well. It’s not only an individual exercise. If you have an authentic community of people that you trust, can support you to ask good questions, and who aren’t trying to make you something other than what you are, then you can have support to get to that point. When you get to that point, it’s natural. You might be afraid of that but it’s natural. You just know it.
When I hear the stats, 3% of the people control all the wealth and they’re the ones that are making things happen. The other 96% are not. It’s lopsided. I have my thoughts about that. It feels that not all of us come to that place where we find that space, where we can operate naturally in our natural beings to contribute to the world. If we could get to that space, the stats would level out because it appears that only 3% of the population is truly living and maybe those stats are tainted to some degree in painting a deceiving picture. It seems like we’re living in a lopsided world and this knowledge, mindfulness, and consciousness is available to all but for some reason, not all of us are utilizing it. That’s a deep question.
There’s a lot to talk about when you were first describing it. I’d say the first piece is we live in an unjust world in many ways. One of the manifestations of that is the wealth inequality, which is significant. Your statistic is a good case in point. What I would say is, those 3% of people, I’m not sure they’re living to their purpose. In my experience, they’re some of the most miserable people that I know. They’re not happy. I’m not saying, everyone. I’m saying that not owning that makes you happy.
However, if we truly live in a much more conscious and just world, we will have a system that appreciates people’s gifts for who they are and it appreciates everyone for their contribution. It will encourage everyone to live to that and to what their purpose is. If we ever get there, there will be abundance for all, and it’s not abundance of, “I’ll have $1 billion or I want to have $1 billion.” It will be, “I get to live. I have the food that I need. I have the friends that I need. My family system is healthy.” It’s a long-term vision. One of the things that I’m finding as I look out into the world is how many people are expressing their part of their purpose of getting out on the streets and saying, “No more.”We are who we are. We came onto this planet. We are gifts and we have unique individual gifts. Click To Tweet
That can be part of a purpose as well. Being the change agent to say, “I’m not putting up with the system anymore. I may suffer because of it but I’m going to be on the streets or I’m going to dedicate my life to doing this. I’m going to solve these problems, recraft systems, and help my company to think about racial and gender inequities in a different way.” There’s much to unpack in what you said and we are out of balance. The world is saying that to us now. When we were talking about both of our experiences of meeting people that have gone through this conscious awareness that we know of, it comes from suffering.
What we’re watching on the world stage is a massive amount of suffering and that can be a collective wake up call for society to get to a different level of consciousness. That’s one way of looking at it. Given all that’s happened, it is my hope and my prayer for humanity that we take this opportunity to look at equity, how we’re treating nature, how we’re treating ourselves, how we’re looking at each other as separate, right or wrong, and to change paradigms. To begin working together, and using innovation and creativity to create a better world.
To me, COVID was a universal timeout. If you haven’t gotten into mindfulness now, there’s no better time to. You describe what you describe when you say we live in an unjust world and all of the inequities that we experience. That is why we have to be mindful. You mentioned all of the things that may come at us to alter who we are, our authentic selves. It’s almost like if you don’t have mindfulness and consciousness, it puts you at a higher risk to fall to the wayside or be distracted by all of these things, and find yourself in a place that you truly don’t belong mentally and emotionally. That leads to a level of unfulfillment with life in general. If you’re a round peg trying to fit in a square hole, then life is a struggle for sure all day every day, so I couldn’t agree with you more. Charlie, how can people connect with you if they want to learn more about you?
I’m on LinkedIn at Charlie Hartwell and our website is BBCollaborative.com. That’s for Bridge Builders. My wife and I have a business called the ShiftIt Institute, which is ShiftIt.com. Our mission is to ignite consciousness, inspire human potential, and create paradigm shifts. I am on Twitter. If you look up Charlie Hartwell, you’ll find me there. Those are good ways of connecting with me.
Time goes by so fast. There’s so much more to talk about here in the space with you, but I love what you’re doing in the world. Bridge Builders is a beautiful title and there’s something to be said about that. When I was early on in my injury, there was a woman. She was a pastor and a mentor. She was a lot of support for me during that time and one of the things that she said to me was that I was going to build bridges and I didn’t understand that at the time.
I was stuck with that and worked with it over time, and as I got older and more mature, I began to truly understand what she meant by that. It’s one thing to be the bridge builder, and then it’s another for people to cross over that bridge. You provide a pathway and connection where there wasn’t one at one point in time. It’s a beautiful thing to have Bridge Builders and we all are bridge builders to some degree. It’s just understanding how we fit in and what role we play in. I appreciate you helping people like me and others be that bridge.
You’re right that everyone can be a part of building bridges. It can start with building bridges of kindness in your neighborhood or your family. It can be building bridges to more authenticity in your workplace. There’s no definition of what the right bridge is, but I am in agreement with you that we all have the capacity to build those bridges. I love how you describe that. You can’t get people to go over the bridge, but you can provide the path and make the invitation, and then it’s up to them.
As we bring the show to a close, Charlie, I would like to ask you, what is the game changer mentality message that you would like to leave with us?
We’ve been covering it. It’s how do you connect with your authentic self? Where do you find that? How do you want to manifest that in the world? That’s my invitation to anybody reading.
I condone that and I challenge the readers to find that. I need it, Charlie needs it, and we all need each other to find our authentic selves because we all have a purpose and a reason for being here. It’s one thing to have a reason for being here and it’s another to truly express it. I hope that you find this topic helpful for you to go out and express who you are. Charlie, thank you for coming on the show. It’s been a pleasure.
Thanks, Rodney. I enjoyed it.
- Bridge Builders Collaborative
- Mind & Life Institute
- Pear Therapeutics
- Charlie Hartwell – LinkedIn
- Charlie Hartwell – Twitter
About Charlie Hartwell
Charlie Hartwell is the Managing Partner of Bridge Builders Collaborative, a group of highly successful investors who have been investing in start-up companies in the space of mental wellness, consciousness, and spirituality. A Harvard Business School graduate, Charlie has served and led organizations in 14 different industries, including starting a nonprofit in the slums of Kenya in 1986 that has now served health care to several million patients. He also founded the first for-profit expedition company in US History to promote the Bancroft Arnesen Expedition – an historical 1,7000 mile crossing of Antarctica by two women who became the first to cross the continent on foot. Now Charlie and his company are passionate about supporting the growth of a new movement around mental fitness, heart centered connection, consciousness evolution, and improved health care. Bridge Builders has invested in such companies as Pear Therapeutics, Insight Timer, Headspace, Happify and others.
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