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Community Highlights: Meet Gv Freeman of Founders Thriving

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gv Freeman.

Hi Gv, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I grew up in a small rural town in central Nebraska. When I was 14 years old, I got outed as a gay kid in a small Nebraska town, and my life sort of turned to hell. Lots of bullying and torment. So I decided the best thing to do was to disappear and spend 11 months as a foreign exchange student in Belgium when I was 15 and 16 years old. This experience truly opened my eyes to travel and many new and different cultural perspectives. I returned to Nebraska to finish high school and went to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, studying computer information systems. After three years of college, I got bored and became a DJ working onboard Carnival Cruise Lines. When I moved to Belgium, I realized that substances were a great way to numb your feelings. That behavior was amplified working as a DJ, and I developed a negative relationship with alcohol that finally concluded in 2007 at the “request” of the legal system. While it was incredibly challenging at that time, that experience, and the ones leading up to it, changed my life for the better.

During this time, I started working for a small computer consulting company where in 2002, I launched what would have been known today as a digital agency. I ran that division for about 7 years and moved to St. Louis in 2010 to become the Director of Business Development for a small digital agency in Maryland Heights. It didn’t take long to find my entrepreneurial spirit, and I started my own digital agency then sold that to a larger agency in St. Louis. At this point, I started my career as a full-time intrapreneur for several different organizations over the next seven years. I ran marketing and technology for a large auto dealership. I was the Director of Sales and Marketing for a psychometric and test development company. This was my first true experience working with tech/SaaS startups, and I was tasked with productizing and growing a platform they had developed. I also did the same thing for a fintech company and, most recently, an experiential marketing agency. Each time going deeper and deeper into marketing, sales, and product development. While all of this was happening, I constantly sought to improve how I thought and felt. First, it started with the gym. Then I found psychotherapy in 2012. Shortly after that yoga and became a certified yoga teacher in 2013. Then in 2015, I ended up in the Amazon jungle drinking ayahuasca with shamans. This was a profound and life-changing experience that truly began setting the course for the upcoming years of my life.

In 2016 I began studying Vedantic philosophy with a teacher in California and studying the wisdom traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Shamanism. In 2017, I wrote my first book, the SaaS Field Manual, which was the first time I truly began incorporating the concepts of self-care into the process of building a startup. During this project, the two lives I had been living – , corporate and spiritual – , began to merge.

From 2017 through 2020, I had been actively speaking on entrepreneur burnout and mental health in the corporate world, but it was during COVID that things dramatically changed. When the pandemic hit, I was running a tech startup in the event marketing industry—unfortunately, no events, no money. We lost 95% of our revenue in 60 days. I had to start diversifying my income, so I created a fractional CRO consultancy and began working with founders to help them better integrate all the aspects of their life in pursuit of becoming successful and happy – at the same time. This was the merging of business and spirituality, and it was working based on client feedback. Founders were getting happier, and I loved the work.

Then on January 1st of 2021, after a rather chance psychic reading, the universe shouted at me and said, “you’re done working for companies. It’s time to start working with humans.” Founders Thriving was born two days later, and in September of 2021, I took nine entrepreneurs to Nicaragua for the first-ever Founders Thriving Consciousness Experience. The results of which exceeded all my expectations and those of the participants. We quite literally changed lives in 6 days. We helped founders begin decoupling the concepts of net worth and self-worth and start developing a healthier relationship with themselves and the businesses they run.

The concept of Founders Thriving as an “experience” rather than a retreat, workshop, or seminar implies that it required no cognitive learning. We offer entrepreneurs an opportunity to live a different life for a week and learn about themselves. Every day there was an opportunity to do yoga, breathwork, and meditation, eat excellent and healthy food, and have deep conversations by the fire with fellow entrepreneurs who felt just as stressed and overwhelmed. Part of this experience also involved expanding states of consciousness, including micro-dosing, holotropic breathwork, and a full experience with psilocybin mushrooms.

Running in parallel with the creation of Founders Thriving – and with an abundance of online networking meetings and happy hours – my Romanian development partner and I decided to build a new web app specifically designed to help power networkers more effectively manage and grow their professional network. We started in early 2021, and by June of that year, we had launched Nactivate, a first-of-its-kind app that gives networkers the tools they need to grow influence at scale. From the beginning, we wanted to build an app that helps people connect one-on-one rather than one-to-many. Digital marketing and social media be damned, it was time to go the ole’ fashioned route and begin truly connecting with humans again.

Returning to Founders Thriving and having proven the concept that there is indeed a way to be successful and happy – here and now – I’ve spent the past two years combining 15 years of spiritual and mental health work with 25 years of professional experience and marrying them together in a unique program called DEEP Inner Work; a six-month guided journey into self-awareness with the outcome of finding more joy, peace, and freedom in your life. And through all this work and a desire to give back to the community, I’m super excited to be launching Conscious Shala this July. The mantra of this project is that spirituality (not religion) can be  a solution. I’ve felt for some time that social media is only further dividing us rather than connecting us. Conscious Shala is a spiritual community center where members pay a small monthly fee and will have access to spiritual programming, groups, workshops, family dinners, and events from all different spiritual traditions. Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Native American traditions, breathwork, reiki, yoga; it doesn’t matter. If it is based on spirituality, safe, and oriented toward healing, growth, community, and consciousness, it’s probably an excellent fit for Conscious Shala. It’s a membership-based all-denominational community with no dogma or doctrine.

For the entrepreneurs, Founders Thriving will be hosting two experiences this year and launching a new cohort of DEEP Inner Work in August 2022. The Consciousness Experience in Nicaragua will be held in September, and will have the Integration Experience in Peru in November.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Having worked with many people who have experienced severe trauma in their lives, I think my road has been comparably smooth. But while my path has been smooth, I think it has probably been a more windy and confusing. I spent the better part of two decades thinking I would be the CEO or CMO of a multi-national tech company. The universe had other plans for me, and I’d say that once I realized what I was indeed supposed to be doing, my life got a lot easier. The decimation of my last startup and the rather abrupt pivot to total self-employment has been a real emotional rollercoaster. I’ve experienced more fear, uncertainty, and discomfort in the past 18 months than I have in a very long time. While my high school experience and struggles with addiction were two of the most challenging times in my life. My entrepreneur journey has probably presented more opportunity than struggle until COVID. That said, my teacher often reminds me that all suffering is grace. I know today that any time I’m feeling discomfort, It’s an opportunity to pay attention. The pain is just telling me where my work is at. The world and my experience in it is, quite literally, a curriculum for the soul, and the whole thing is perfectly designed to burn out my reactivity to my attachments. The less attachment I have, the freer I become. The freer I become, the more peace and joy I experience on a day-to-day basis.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Founders Thriving is an organization devoted to helping founders, entrepreneurs, and executives learn to be successful and happy – at the same time. Since early childhood, most of us have been taught that achievement and acquisition are pathways to happiness, fulfillment, and contentment. They may make us happy for a little bit, but happiness always fades. With enough professional and financial success, we achieve external freedom but not internal freedom. The two most common phrases I hear in my practice are, “I’ll be happy when I make my first million,” and “I’ve made my millions, but I’m still unhappy.” When they’ve tried everything else, this is where many entrepreneurs find themselves confused and uncertain about the next steps. Everything they thought would make them happy hasn’t, and they can’t create a project plan to solve a problem they don’t know the answer to. Founders Thriving believes the answer to this confusion is usually a deep dive into self-awareness.

What sets Founders Thriving apart from our competition is that we are experiential. We believe that if you experience a change, you no longer have to remember it. The body, quite literally, does not forget. The concepts we’re exposing entrepreneurs to represent the intersection of neurobiology, psychotherapy, and 4,000 years of ancient wisdom teachings. How that manifests is in two ways; coaching (either one-on-one or in a cohort) or an experience. Self-awareness coaching is typically a six-month engagement where entrepreneurs discover what makes them tick, how they got this way, how they want to change, and then take actions to make that happen. Essentially, I help them do what they do every day for their companies but we shift it to a more personal focus. I hold up a mirror for them to see how they think and behave and offer opportunities to do things differently.

A Founders Thriving Experience is a sort of self-care camp for adults. It is similarly focused on self-awareness but would be considered rocket fuel compared to a standard coaching engagement. Usually 6-14 days in duration and often involving expanded states of consciousness, these excursions are typically offered in foreign countries and allow founders to press pause on their current lived experience and try out a new way of thinking and living. Participants are given a buffet of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual practices to test and play with. They get to see what works and what feels good. Take what they like and leave the rest. While there may be spiritual retreats galore, no one is offering a menu of items from multiple traditions and philosophies specifically designed for entrepreneurs, founders, and executives to pursue true freedom.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
The biggest surprise and lesson is that most entrepreneurs don’t want to be happy and that most people are ok living a life that’s “good enough”. Some have been searching for it for so long that they’ve just stopped trying. This usually comes out in, “Happiness is fleeting, so I’ll just focus on living a life of purpose.” This isn’t the worst-case scenario, but how cool would it be if you could have both. The other reason is that society – and especially the entrepreneur and tech industries – have taught us that suffering and struggle are prerequisites to success. If I don’t have a side hustle for my side hustle, and if I’m not working 20 hours a day, I’m doing something wrong. This model is set up for misery and self-destruction, which I encounter quite frequently. For this group, the pain has yet to exceed the masochistic pleasure they receive from being the hardest working and most miserable of their peer group. At a more philosophical level, the two biggest learnings I’ve had is that everyone is doing the best they can with what they’ve got, and my role is to meet them exactly where they’re at. I’ve never found a single instance where this isn’t true – in both my past and present. And when I combine that with the deeply held belief that I am 100% responsible for my lived experience, I get enormous agency to feel the way I want to. If I’m not feeling how I want to feel, I have the choice and power to change that.

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