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The Hero’s Journey:
Interview with Robert Althuis
We typically believe “intelligence” only resides in our mind; however, as the HearthMath Institute has scientifically proven our heart is actually also a center of intelligence including a vast network of neurons. In fact, there’s more data going from our heart to our mind than the other way around. The intelligence of our heart is of a different quality though. Whereas our mind’s intelligence resides in logic and linear thinking which all comes from our neocortex, our heart is the portal to our higher knowing or the intelligence of life itself. We access this intelligence through mastery of the language of the heart which is feeling, sensing, knowing (vs thinking), and intuiting. When our heart becomes the master and our mind an instrument in service to the master we come to a new level of understanding, insight, and solutions which makes us more awakened leaders.
Robert Althuis is the Founder of the Sacred Wealth Institute, a mindfulness organization that provides coaching, strategies, tools, and techniques to help private clients and businesses embody their full potential. In addition, Mr. Althuis is the founder of Wayfare Holdings, a boutique impact investment firm for his personal real estate and entrepreneurial interests.
Mr. Althuis is also a Venture Partner at Keen Growth Capital, an impact investment private equity firm based in Orlando, and serves as an Advisory Board Member for Bulltick’s alternative investments real estate fund. In 2021, Mr. Althuis published his first book titled Never Enoughitis.
Mr. Althuis launched Wayfare in early 2009 with the acquisition of a 50% ownership position in Lynxs, a leading international transportation infrastructure development firm based in Austin, Texas. Prior to acquiring an ownership position in Lynxs, Mr. Althuis was a Senior Vice President in the Airport Infrastructure group of GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS). At GECAS, Mr. Althuis served as the lead originator for the Americas Region of the Airport Infrastructure group and was instrumental in structuring Global Infrastructure Partners, a then $6 billion infrastructure investment fund sponsored by GE and Credit Suisse as well as the acquisition of numerous operating companies and real assets on behalf of GECAS where he also served as a board member on behalf of GE. Mr. Althuis started his career at GE Capital in an executive management program in 2002 and joined GECAS on a full-time basis in 2003 and was promoted to GE’s executive band in 2006. In his initial role in GECAS, as a member of the structured finance team, Mr. Althuis closed in excess of $1.5 billion of aviation-related debt and equity financings.
Mr. Althuis, who has dual nationality from The Netherlands and the United States, holds a B.B.A., summa cum laude, with a major in Real Estate from Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia, and an M.B.A., with distinction, with a major in Finance & Management from Columbia Business School in New York City. In addition, Mr. Althuis is a certified member of the CCIM Institute and a licensed real estate broker in three states. Mr. Althuis began his career in commercial real estate acquisition and development in 1995; his last position before joining GE was Vice President and Division Manager of the commercial real estate activities of a diversified real estate firm in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mr. Althuis resides in Coral Gables, Florida, and is a father, artist, avid yogi (RYT-200), kite surfer, crossfit athlete, and an active dive volunteer with the Coral Restoration Foundation in the Florida Keys where he previously served as a Board Member.
For more information about Robert Althuis and his work, go to https://www.robertalthuis.com
Read the Interview Transcript
Hugh Ballou: Greetings, everyone. This is Hugh Ballou, founder and president of The Nonprofit Exchange. SynerVision Leadership Foundation is the organization, and this is our podcast, weekly interviews with leaders helping you with ideas for a fresh start, for a new pathway forward. Coming out of the last two years, we have challenges ahead.
Today’s guest is not any like we have ever had before. You’ve heard that before, but it’s true. Robert Althuis is in Miami. He is coming in by Zoom today. Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your passion for this work that you do?
Robert Althuis: Thank you, Hugh, for that introduction. I appreciate being on your podcast. My background really is business. I was in busines for 25 years. I was a senior executive at GE Capital, and then I went into business for myself for about 10 years. I made a lot of money and had a lot of success, all of the beautiful things that come from that. I experienced a letdown, so to speak. I reached that proverbial peak in life and had this moment where I was like, “Is this all there is?” I had everything: the house, the wife, the kids, the toys, all the shiny objects, and all the money you could wish for. I was a little bit lost. There has to be more to life than this.
That precipitated what I call my inner journey. Later on, I was presented with a couple disasters in life. I had a business that was wiped out by a hurricane, which triggered a cascade of things that made me fall from grace. This led me to writing my book Never Enoughitis. It was this profound journey I was guided on by the universe that revealed a lot of different things I didn’t really have eyes for when I was on the fast bullet train to success and when things were going really well for me.
My passion these days is sharing this with other people, sharing that there is a deep sanctity to all life, that there is beautiful wisdom that we rarely have eyes for, and there is profound wisdom in all kinds of teachings that we can avail ourselves to, to expand on our own life and show up in a different way and be truly the leaders that we have the potential to be rather than the ones that are just pursuing as many marbles as they can accumulate in life. That’s what I work on predominantly these days.
Hugh: That is a major breakthrough in my eye. I’m 75, halfway to 76. For me to take on something, it’s got to be meaningful to myself and to other people. You’ve been on a journey, and it culminated in this book. Do you have a copy of it handy?
Robert: Yeah, I do. I hope it will show up. It’s my face, a little bit more beard these days. That’s the clean-cut version of Robert.
Hugh: Tell us what the book is about. What was the journey?
Robert: 2017 was a sea change year in my life. My father passed away early in the year. My ex-wife and I decided to get divorced, which is a monumental change in your personal life. A week later, this hurricane wiped out one of my businesses, which incidentally, I had a personal guarantee on, which is the only personal guarantee that I have ever signed that is unlimited. That pushed me on the edge of bankruptcy. The insurance wouldn’t pay out, and we couldn’t get permits to rebuild. I had all kinds of things cascading. This beautiful life, and this man that had been so firmly in control of his life, or so he thought, saw things dissipate.
Eventually, I realized that I wasn’t going to get out of this myself. I needed some help. That was the first monumental step for me, this tough alpha guy who had been the ruler of the world, so to speak. He was just an ordinary man in deep trouble on multiple levels: financially, emotionally, spiritually bankrupt (if you want to call it that). I went into therapy, and my therapist told me to journal. That is how this book started. She told me to express my feelings on paper. I was writing about my divorce. I was writing about this relationship and what had happened over the last 10 years.
The book picks up right around when I get out of business school, which was when I was 31 years old. It has this journey of this fairytale life with a beautiful romance, weddings, the beach, incredible business success, a career that goes like a rocket ship at GE. I was presented with real life when I went into business for myself. I was swimming with the sharks, and I became a shark. I was working with the big guys in the world, the big private equity guys and venture capital. To be a player in that world, you have to put on some armor. I started seeing some of the underbelly of big business, some of the stuff that really happens behind the veil, the stuff we don’t really see on the front page of the paper. I was part of it. I was a cog in that wheel, a really well-paid one, but I was still participating in that. Over time, it bankrupted my soul. When I came out of that, I was really wondering that there had to be more to life.
The third part of my book is really where I’m finding I go on this inner journey. I call it the hero’s journey. We go from the ordinary world into the spiritual world. We really discover who we are as a person, as a soul. What am I here to do? What’s my mission? What’s my purpose? What do I really care about? As I went on that journey, I did it like anything else. I went 100 miles an hour, headfirst. I wanted to figure this out. I wanted to figure out this whole spirituality thing. I read hundreds of books. I went on courses, retreats. I went after it.
Slowly but surely, I started having this framework, a different level of understanding, a different dimension that opened up to me, that puts life in a completely different perspective. Once you see, you cannot unsee. It triggered profound changes in how I show up in life, how I see life, how I see others, how I interact with others. That is really what I bring into the world now through my consulting and my coaching practice for other CEOs and entrepreneurs whenever it feels like it’s time for them to level up.
Hugh: We’re talking to people who don’t have that infinite wealth in the nonprofit and clergy worlds. We are leading a cause-based organization; it’s not a for-profit, but it’s a for-purpose. There are some of the same challenges. We are always on the treadmill trying to get enough because we are not an expert in attracting revenue, we are not an expert in marketing, and we are not an expert in leadership. But we have a service that the world really needs. It was hard before the pandemic, and it is still hard in a different way now. What is the inspiration you bring to the world for this sector of people who are working really hard but are really challenged?
Robert: I will start off by saying that people don’t buy statistics; people buy stories. People invest in stories. I always tell people if you are running a business or a nonprofit, if you are a PTA mom trying to raise money for a kids’ event, if you want to galvanize support of any kind, you have to learn to become a good storyteller. This is how through the ages humanity has transferred information. When you tell a story, you can draw people in emotionally and connect them with something. It’s good to have supporting facts and all the beautiful information about your organization, but if you can translate what your organization does into a story, that makes it human, that makes it real, that touches someone, wallets open quite rapidly. It’s the same in business, nonprofit, government.
Hugh: I can tell you have the power of influence. I do leadership coaching and organizational development and strategy. In my world as a conductor, everything goes from that piece of music, the strategy. What is your plan? How are you going to get there? That is how everyone gets on board with you. When I work with entrepreneurs running small businesses, nonprofit leaders or clergy running a for-purpose organization, and multinational corporate leaders, I find the same gaps in understanding and skills amongst all of those. There is a genuine need for raising the bar on our own performance. Do you see something similar?
Robert: Yeah, I do. Most of humanity, if I may be honest, is lost in the cobwebs of their minds. Mostly our rational mind, our logical mind. We have all these perceptions of reality. We have all these ideas. We live very much in that logical part of the neocortex. But we are humans. We are each a person. When I present you with a whole bunch of statistics, maybe you will be impressed or not, but I am not really touching you. If I translate these statistics into a human life in some situation that I can emotionally connect with, I am now talking to your heart, not your mind.
If I asked you a question in communication, “Hey, what do you think?” you are automatically pointing your awareness to your mind for the answer. When I use the word, “What do you feel?” you will automatically look for the answer in your heart. There is an enormous amount of power when we can start commanding language. Language is really what guides us. The words we use point us to where we want to go. If we’re leaders, or we’re money raisers, or in any way trying to be of any positive influence on someone else, it’s all in the words and energy we use. Where do you guide them?
If you want to sell something, you’re taking someone on a journey. If you are very clear on what that journey looks like, and you can weave that into a story that someone can connect with, now you have their attention in a totally different way than appealing to their neocortex, their logical mind.
Hugh: Let me point out to people listening who are thinking, “We don’t sell. I am going to tune out now.” Wait a minute. You’re asking people to be board members. You’re asking people to be volunteers. You’re asking people to donate. You’re selling something. Until they buy, they will say, “Good work. Good luck. Goodbye.”
Robert, you compressed a lot of stuff in your story when I said tell me about the book. Some of the elements of telling the story, let’s connect this to what you just put on the table of heart intelligence. This kid goes to his dad and asks a question. The dad says, “Why don’t you ask your mother?” The kid goes, “I don’t want to know that much about it.” There is an ideal length for a story. Of course, it will vary in the situation and the topic. Most of us are so passionate about what we do that we tend to overdo it, and people tune us out. How do you shape a story? How long is it? Are there some important elements? When do you stop and leave silence so the next move is theirs?
Robert: That’s a great question. Storytelling is quite easy. Everything has three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. First of all, we break our story down. What is the beginning? The beginning has to have a hook, just like when you watch a movie or any TV show or soap opera, even if it’s just a 25-minute episode, there is a hook. There is a set-up, what draws them into the story. When you speak on stage, what’s your hook? What draws you in? It’s usually an off-key statement that confuses people and draws them in. It sets the stage. That is the first part. You’re painting the picture.
The middle of the story is where the meat comes out. You guide someone along the path that you want them to walk, to experience, to internalize.
The third part is where you tie the knot around the whole thing. You conclude it. All of this you can do in three minutes, depending on the story.
I will give you a good example. There is this beautiful charity called Water. This founder is really gifted at storytelling. He tells you somewhere afterwards about how many water pumps he has installed in Africa and how many gallons of water and how many villages, all these statistics, which are meaningful. But what he tells you, he tells you about this woman who had to walk two and a half hours every morning. Because she had to walk these hours, her kids had to stay home and couldn’t go to school. Because they couldn’t go to school, they can’t read or write. They have no way to advance themselves. Then he says, “She carries this water on her head. It’s almost 20-30 pounds of water. Have you ever lifted your suitcase at the airport? Imagine putting that on your head and walking with that for two and a half hours. There are also robbers with ill intent who might steal her water, so it’s dangerous.” He takes you through this whole story. When he brings it home, he says, “When we built the well, now she has ready access to water. There is no more disease. There is no more diarrhea. Her kids are now going to school. Her kids now have a chance to advance in life.” When he paints that story, how likely are you to say, “I can’t believe it.”
At the end, he says, “One of these wells is $3,000-$4,000. If you contribute $100, I only need 40 other people. We can change the lives of up to 100 women.” 100 of these stories. That is a very different story than telling someone, “I need $400,000 to build 100 wells. Eventually, I will help so many women.” That is much harder to connect with. I was in that woman’s life. I was her for a moment. That’s what I mean when we can translate what we do into stories, it becomes a totally different conversation.
Hugh: As leaders, we need to be in touch with our own emotions, don’t we?
Robert: I’m writing a new book. I’m writing a chapter about an element of the feminine energy, which is reverence. We live in a world of irreverence. We are so disconnected as a whole to our heart that we accept there is almost a billion people in abject poverty and starvation and family. We cheer when we see wars being fought. We think it’s great when there is a winning party, not realizing there is an immense amount of destruction and death that comes with every war. We see this in Europe right now, but it’s also in Yemen, Israel, all over the place. We are so disconnected from all of that because we don’t feel.
When we look at what’s happening to Mother Earth, some scientists will tell you we are only 20 years away from a cataclysmic event. We are so disconnected from it. We don’t allow ourselves to feel. We just rationalize and justify. Feeling is where we’re going to start seeing real change in the world. There is so much that happens today, even in our society, the political chasms, the division, the incredible fighting and opposition, the deep schisms, the inequalities, the injustices. It won’t change until we all start feeling. Until we can open up to another person, even when they have a different opinion. Help me understand your position. Help me understand what life looks like when you walk a mile in your shoes.
Hugh: That would require that we listen, wouldn’t it?
Robert: We have to.
Hugh: As a musical conductor, I rate listening as high on the scale of leadership skills and high on the list of underutilized leadership skills. You come to an end of what you say, and you pause. That’s brilliant. This intelligence of the heart, how do we get our head around It? Where do we start?
Robert: The intelligence of the mind, it’s logical. The intelligence of the heart, it’s connected to this universal intelligence. There is intelligence pervasive of life, regardless of your religious beliefs. All energy is information. We know this on a physics level, an energetic level. Everything is energy, and energy is information.
We have all had experiences that are precognition. Where do those come from? Something comes to us, and we just know. Intuition is a similar one. The problem with intelligence of the heart is that our mind is very loud and pervasive and is constantly producing thought after thought. We have to quiet our mind. The language of the heart is feeling, sensing, direct knowing, and intuiting. These are subtle messages. We all have access to this. We all have a heart with its intelligence. In culturation, we are very tuned with our logical mind. We oftentimes don’t listen.
The universe talks to us all day long. You can easily replace the universe with God, creator, spirit, it doesn’t matter. I keep it neutral because I don’t want to go across any religions. When I say the universe, the infinite intelligence, whatever words you want to use, it speaks to us all day long. It speaks to us in cues, coincidences, serendipities. We read something in an article. We hear a song with a word in it. When we are able to be quiet and still in our mind, and we can allow ourselves to feel, sense, direct know—direct knowing means there was no logical process to come to the conclusion; we just know—and intuiting.
Everyone uses this all the time. We go into a room and immediately have a sense of the energy in that room immediately. We speak with a person, and we have a sense of if there is bad energy, a disconnect. We even notice it with our loved ones. When we are in a fight with our loved ones, we are not communicating. There is a distance that we have to cross first before we can communicate and listen to each other and open up to each other.
This feeling, sensing, direct knowing, and intuiting is part of the feminine energy. It’s been relegated as insignificant in our Western-oriented mental world. We dismiss it. Yet there is a wealth of intelligence there that we have access to. When we become masters of the language of this heart intelligence, we can avail ourselves in our leadership at a completely different level. The heart should be the master, and the mind should be the servant to the master. The mind is a beautiful instrument, but it’s a tyrannical leader. The master has innate wisdom in it. We can use our instrument called the mind to support and guide us through those things where the logical mind is a beautiful instrument.
Hugh: Wow. Start there. Think about the end game. Be in touch with the feminine. I grew up in such a male-dominant, we don’t cry, we don’t feel culture. It’s not helpful to do that all the time. It’s helpful to do exactly what you said, open up a new avenue.
Robert: A lot of times, it’s misunderstood when I speak about this. I’m not talking about male or female or whatever gender you identify with. There is masculine energy and feminine energy. These have distinct qualities. When you think in terms of source consciousness, or God if you wish, God is whole. It’s the completion of both. It’s in total integrity. The wholeness within us is within integrating these energies within us. Every man, every woman has access to feminine and masculine energy.
Men, males, tend to be more masculine-dominant in their energy, but they definitely all have feminine energy and access to these qualities and this intelligence. Women typically are more feminine in their energy, but they have full access to their masculine energy. You can be any identification in between. I really don’t care. It makes no difference what your orientation is or any of these things. We all have masculine and feminine energy. They are qualities. There are intelligences of life within us. As human beings, when we can integrate these two qualities within us, these two intelligences, then we become really balanced. Now we have access to all the beautiful things that the masculine has to offer and the beautiful, profound wisdom that the feminine has to offer.
In our Western society, with the onset of religion and science, which started around the Renaissance, we went completely mental-dominant, mind-dominant. The mind is the citadel of the masculine. The heart is the fortress of the feminine. We abandoned all these beautiful wisdoms and teachings and qualities. We became really lopsided. You see this in society. You see this in the huge schisms we have. It’s the pendulum swinging too far over. We are missing that beautiful balancing point.
If we can all cultivate and avail ourselves and integrate these beautiful energies we all have within ourselves, we become more complete human beings. We become more whole. We have access to different ranges and dimensions of intelligence that we wouldn’t have if we were dominant on one side or the other. That’s what I’m talking about when I talk about masculine and feminine. It’s not gender. It’s not a biological gender discussion.
Hugh: We have a question from a viewer. What are some of the most common obstacles we must overcome?
Robert: The hero’s journey is also universe’s wisdom. The way we learn, we typically have some formal crisis/catastrophe/calamity show up in our lives. That can take any form. Usually something falls apart. That can be our marriage, our career, our balance sheet, a loved one passing, a kid’s addiction to opioids, an illness like cancer. Whenever something like that shows up in our lives, from an energetic perspective, we are in dissonance. Coherence is where we want to be. Coherence in a biological term is homeostasis.
When there is a dissonance in the energy, the universe nudges us off our path. That’s not the way to look at it. The universe is actually nudging us on our path. The universe sometimes gives us its greatest gifts wrapped in sandpaper. Sometimes, we go through hard stuff, so we find another depth within ourselves. Nothing is ever by coincidence. No matter if we believe it is or not, everything is there for a purpose.
We are usually invited to go on this hero’s journey by something falling apart in our lives. The obstacles we come across are usually our deepest wounds, our deepest shadows, our biggest dragons. Our limited beliefs are probably being faced. The perceptions we have of reality that are just perceptions but not realities, they become our reality. We all have some wounds from childhood. No matter how beautiful your childhood was, this is just how it works. When we are faced with these wounds, and we don’t address them, we are reactive to them. Something shows up in our life, and we are triggered. We don’t know what the trigger is, but we are reacting. When we address this wound, and we heal it and see it for what it is, now we become responsible. We have the ability to respond. We don’t get triggered by the same thing. It doesn’t have to show up in our life. We can change it. We are now aware of it.
Hugh: When people go to RobertAlthuis.com, they get your website. What will they find when they get there?
Robert: The home page describes the awakening process, the hero’s journey. At various times in our lives, we might have something challenging that shows up. That’s usually a gift. It’s the universe inviting us to go to the next level, to develop, to go deeper, to cultivate some next level within us that is available to us. That could even be a decades-old trauma that is now revealing itself as being ready to be healed, to be overcome. That is what I describe on the first page. There is a variety of symptoms we can look for that usually indicate we are at that place in life.
There is a page of my book and a sample of my audiobook that was just released. More information is on the other pages. There is a manifesto. You can work with me. All of those things.
Hugh: In your narrative, you talked about why people need you. We all have blind spots. If we don’t have an advisor to help us discover what’s missing and help us open up to possibilities, we limit our success. Robert, thank you. He is fresh off a plane from Costa Rica.
Robert: Will you allow me to say one more thing? I say this to every client and speaking engagement I do. Worship the teachings, but never the teacher. Every true teacher knows he is still a student, and every true student knows she is already the teacher.
We are all our own healers, sages, gurus, mystics. The only thing any other person can do for you from time to time is show you another path that you have not seen yet. All I can do for someone is illuminate a path based on my experience and say, “I was in this place in my life. I found these things. This might be a path you would like to walk on.” I always tell people not to abdicate your power ever. The power is within you. You are your own healer, guru, mystic. Anything I could teach you is something you are actually remembering. Whichever healer, teacher, coach you seek, go in with the knowledge and the knowing that you have all the answers within you. What this person might be able to do is speed up the process of remembering. I always want to tell people you are so powerful. There is nothing in the world that can stop you.
Hugh: Wise words indeed, Robert. Thank you so much for being our guest and sharing your wisdom today.
Robert: Beautiful. Thank you for having me, Hugh. It was a great pleasure. I enjoyed it.