Season 4
32 Minutes

E126 | Johannes Leerink | When We Have Nothing Left To Prove

Johannes Leerink is a seasoned business executive from the Netherlands. After a fast-track career as a rising star at Procter and Gamble and Sara Lee, Johannes dropped out of corporate life. Influenced by the teachings of Landmark and Werner Erhard, Johannes founded and served as practice leader of Vantage Group Europe, a boutique organizational consulting firm.

Johannes has subsequently founded or co-founded other leadership laboratories such as Silk Leadership Lab and The Hidden Transit. In work and life, Johannes is animated by an ever-deeper exploration of inner healing, consciousness, and freedom.

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Johannes Leerink  00:00

Uh, something in me, My mother did nothing wrong, but something in me said, literally, talked, I’m absolutely unwanted, and here’s the proof, I am going to be traded in by someone else. So I said, sort of uh huh, yes, that’s nice. And I thought, I need to prove I am wanted the same voice in my head. Send it to Johannes.

Achim Nowak  00:27

Welcome to the MY FOURTH ACT podcast. I’m your host, Achim Nowak, and I have conversations with exceptional humans who have created bold and unexpected lives. If you like what you hear, please subscribe on any major podcast platform so you won’t miss a single one of my inspiring guests, and please consider posting an appreciative review. Let’s get started. I am so happy to welcome Johannes Leerink to the MY FOURTH ACT podcast. Johannes is a seasoned business executive from the Netherlands, after a fast track career as a corporate insider at Procter and Gamble and Sarah Lee, Johannes dropped out and became a serial entrepreneur in the personal and organizational excellence world. Johannes was the founder and practice leader of Vantage group Europe, a boutique organizational consulting firm. He has subsequently founded, or co founded, several leadership laboratories with enticing names, such as silk leadership lab and the hidden transit. Johannes explores big themes like freedom, consciousness, energy, and I love having that conversation with you. Hello, Johannes,

Johannes Leerink  01:52

Hi. Pleasure to meet you again.

Achim Nowak  01:55

Pleasure to meet you again as well. Before we get to the big themes that are already announced. I’m always curious when you were growing up, I think you grew up in the Netherlands. You know how mom and dad want to know what we want to do with our lives? What was in your mind? Or what did you tell your parents?

Johannes Leerink  02:14

Yeah, well, there are two things about my youth I remember, and one of them is indeed about this question. So my father was a doctor, general practitioner in the first line, and my mother was a doctor too, but she didn’t finish the specialist, so she became the second person in the practice of my parents. Why didn’t she finish? Because my father’s parents both died at very young age, and they were general practitioners, and my father took over at a very young age, and my mother had to take care of the two three brothers and sisters of my father, who were still teenagers and had no parents. So that was an incredible tough time. Then this period comes early teenage. I think grandmother, most of the time asks Johannes, what do you want to be later? What is your profession? I have two brothers, and all three said, always, no doctor. I’ve been wondering about that one, but probably had a lot to do with the stress and hard work my parents had to put in to get this going. Can I move on? On this one? Because fast forward, my father passed away two years ago. He had one mission, and it was to be a healer, and he chose that to do in the physical form, so he knew he was going to take over the practice 10 years later, probably for my father, from his father. So it’s maybe disappointing for him. I realized later that all these kids said, no doctor. So we had a moment with my brothers and said with my father towards the end of his life. I said, well, that you may be proud, because basically, although we didn’t become a doctor, our love for people you have conveyed worked very well, and at that moment, I was already 10 years connected to a hospital system to transform the whole system. My brother was a hospital director, and my other brother is a lawyer in how do you call it casualty? So when people have insurance problems after the thing, all three do it with the same love. And I think that relieved something when we said that to him. What

Achim Nowak  04:36

I love about your story is that I hope I’m not too simplistic. You think it’s not about the titles, it’s about the deeper purpose for why we do stuff, right, and the fact that dad understood that that’s a beautiful thing. We’re going to talk more about healer and what that means, and how we serve the world, because that’s part of your mission. But as a European part. Person who lives in the United States. I’m struck by the fact that you started your career in these big, global American entities. I mentioned Procter and Gamble. I mentioned Sarah Lee, and then you left. I’m curious, because all of us, when we think about stuff, we think of a moments where, yeah, this is why I was there. This is a moment that was cool. This is what I love, being there. About being there, but most of us have a dark version of that as well, where we go. What the hell am I doing here, and why am I still here? Could you take us to both of those extreme experiences in the heart of

Johannes Leerink  05:35

your life? Yes, I make it the long version. Is it okay? Please

Achim Nowak  05:39

go as long as you would like Johannes,

Johannes Leerink  05:41

first of all, I love that part of the career, because you get so much chances to see the world and make a difference for all the people who work in your organizations. I don’t regret a second I created in Procter and Gamble. I was very ambitious the mission to be a general manager and President 10 years later, which was unheard of, but I wanted it. And every year I checked whether that was career was on track. And 10 years later, yes, there I was president and Sarah Lee and general manager and whatever that’s the career path. There was the dark side of the career path I discovered only when I reached the top. I still love to have done it, but I’m glad at 35 epiphany, I think that’s the word because, and I’ll bring you back to four years old. I was four. I literally saw this movie I’m going to share right in the Epiphany, I saw myself sitting as a three year old, nearly four, in the dining room at home, my mother and my grandmother were sitting there, I remember, and they were sort of drinking tea, but my mother had a big belly, and I was due to be having my fourth birthday, and she clearly wants to communicate something to me, and it looks like she was a bit stressed about it, so she said it a bit well, with cynical humor I felt as a little kid, also a bit tension, I guess. She said, Johannes, in a couple of days, you will have your birthday. And I said, Yeah, that’s fun. Okay, good. But you might, we might get a little brother or sister at your birthday. My grandmother stepped in and she had the same cynical humor, and she said, wow, that’s the biggest present. Johannes, you don’t need any presents anymore, is it? This is the biggest one, and that hurt me so much. So I’m going to say it the way I discovered it. Something in me, My mother did nothing wrong, but something in me said, literally, talked, I’m absolutely unwanted, and here’s the proof, I am going to be traded in by someone else. So I said, sort of yes, that’s nice. And I thought, I need to prove I am wanted the same voice in my head said it to Johannes, that’s been my I call this first act to the end,

Achim Nowak  08:19

if I’m interpreting you correctly, that desire to be wanted is desire behind in 10 years, I’m going to be this really important person. When you said that, I have to chuckle, because you and I and all of our listeners have this stuff that we have hidden inside. I was thinking, it’s nice that you got it out of your system. In 10 years. That’s pretty fast, right? How did the epiphany happen? Like, how did you say, Okay, I got this. What now?

Johannes Leerink  08:48

This was literally in the landmark Forum, which in America most people know. I went there because a colleague, a general manager, who’s so positively connected to me again and with his kids. I was sort of jealous, so I wanted to go there. I sat there, and I don’t know it was this first day. You have 60 people in a room, so it’s not about coaching. You just sit and listen. At least I was, yeah, there are all those stories, but you do apply them to your own life. I don’t know what happened? I can’t say, but somebody else sharing. I saw myself sitting there in this chair and his voice in my head telling me that I lifelong was unwanted, and I noticed I am not unwanted. I’m the one who discovered there’s something saying there all the time proving my mom I was worth it, Mom, I’m president now, do you love me now? Well, I literally went to her to discuss this, to get my brain sort of sorted out, and she said, I always love you. You know what? I mean? Yeah. Well, do you think? And I knew that. I had to hear it. That’s about how the program go out.

Achim Nowak  10:04

I just love the fact that you got verification with your mother so that you talk to her, which is cool. But the part that really interests me that somehow, at some point, you chose a different path professionally, and you could have just had that insight and say, Great, now I understand, but I’m doing really well at Sarah Lee, and the opportunities are amazing, and I’m so young, I already accomplished all this. I can conquer the world with Sarah Lee. Yeah, what happened inside your brain or heart or consciousness that made you say, I gotta do something else.

Johannes Leerink  10:37

I think it’s what you would call my calling was probably always directing my life, because she can make a difference anywhere, but this being chased by the past, which you cannot solve because my mom loved me already propelled me into nearly unhealthy, of course, career, because it took a lot of private life issues as well. So when that fell away, my words, which I already spoke at. Sara Lee, this is my last job. I’m not going to be promoted. I will be an entrepreneur. I will do something else. And after this, call it moment. But it was, of course, a whole series of moments, but this huge epiphany I embarked on such a I would call it consciousness journey, that I so got that the healer my father was was completely in me. I had to dedicate my life to that. But I didn’t forget my corporate entrepreneurial background, because part of the epiphany was, if people get it this in business, there are results you cannot even imagine. I basically spent two years working full time on myself after I was fired at Sarah Lee. That’s a whole story, but I was sort of fired over my beliefs, but that’s a different story. We can go in that let me finish this line. Two years later, this epiphany came. I’m going to work with this methodology, whatever I got in landmark and discovered for myself. I am going to set up a company that’s doing consulting, leadership, whatever you want to call it, but committed to what a CEO is, committed, committed to breakthrough results. And yes, we do it via people. We do it via liberating them. We do it via raising their consciousness, via having them discover they are not in charge, but something in their head, is in charge. That’s all true. But we are, we commit to your agenda. And we did amazing transformations, because I started that in Europe, because tanto group was not in Europe, they were in America and Asia. That was an amazing time. So the second epiphany, you could say, was, that’s my mission now. But then listen, I said I’m gonna prove, you see, the old mechanism still, I’m gonna prove the world that this view of life, this loving encompass is so much more productive for the planet, for shareholders, for CEOs, for career makers, but also for marriages. So I spent doing that for 11 years, discover and after that, discovering that with the same, you know, same drive, saving the world is the same thing. Well,

Achim Nowak  13:34

let’s dig into there. First of all, I’m not a landmark person. I’m very familiar with Werner Earhart, who was was the originator of the thinking a doorna Erhardt, and what he’s done. But I’m one of those people who ran from landmark, ran from the landmark culture, yes, which I experienced as oppressive, controlling and profit driven. Nothing wrong with being profit driven. But I have a hand. It’s clear to me then, mostly like, what you got at Landmark and what you learned from the teachings of Rena or Hart has channeled through landmark had a profound impact on you, yeah, but if you have to point on like, one or two things you already shared, one obviously about the relationship to your family and how we prove ourselves. But what else did you get there the way you went? Wow, yes, insight, this changed my consciousness and how I view myself in

Johannes Leerink  14:30

the world. Yes, I think a lot of people have, so let’s say that have that experience, and I tend that, by the way, completely I was probably also a bit too enthusiastic to my family about it, not profit driven, but of course, I wanted to save their lives, which is not necessary. But anyway, that’s what happens when you get an epiphany. But for me, it was definitely worth it, then you don’t see those aspects so much, because it was worth it already. Fast, I was part of the. Intel group as a founder, and then we have every year conferences, three days with Werner ERD. So I got trained by him for 11 years.

Achim Nowak  15:08

What I love about the opportunity to talk to you, you know, because you said you got to hang out with Verna once a year, which is amazing, beyond Wernher teachings, which are legendary. How did you experience him as a person? Or was there personal contact? Sometimes we put people on a pedestal, and that’s the Guru, the wise person, which is another way in which we project our narratives onto other people, right? But what was that like to be around this in many circles, just be loved and revered, thinker and leader around how we do life.

Johannes Leerink  15:43

So in those conferences, he didn’t mingle so much, so I didn’t have too many interactions. He’s pretty I had the privilege to organize a being a leader, six day Leadership program at Erasmus University and the rotundam School of Management, and he was one of the keynote leaders, together with Michael Jensen from Harvard and some other people. And I organized that with another Dutch professor. So if we hang out for three days, then the only thing I can say, it’s a beautiful human being, very sensitive to whatever is going on, very, very, very committed to spend every second of his life to his purpose and mission to, yeah, well, his mission is a world that works for everybody, and is that mission? Very cool. Now,

Achim Nowak  16:33

in the spirit of our conversation around next acts, you know, this is the fourth act podcast, and the folks who listen to a conversation are very curious around, how do we move into something else? How do we let go something that we’ve done? And one of the many reasons I wanted to speak with you is, you know you you were the head of Vanderbilt Europe for a while, for over 10 years, and then you moved on to something else. I love the name silk leadership lab. I hope I didn’t butcher that, because I love the mystery in it. Yeah, and then you moved on from that, and you do something called the hidden transit, which are also love, because it also has this mystery in it. But would you just walk us through? Because this is, I think, the bigger questions, How and when do we know that it behooves us to let go of something, and how do we let go of our attachment to that that we have created?

Johannes Leerink  17:30

Yeah, that’s interesting, because we started silk as a buyout in the end, but it started with meeting Vasco vasich, my partner in sale later on, and he appeared to have discovered, you could say what I discovered, what Werner discovered, but via the spiritual way, so nothing to do with business and organizations. And I thought he was so clear and interesting. I think he discovered deeper layer. There are no words to where I’m talking about but okay, a deeper layer to the work, which would simplify how we would do this, but I found there was no room face listening, or it was my problem, but I couldn’t convey that message to the rest of the team that we had here, a guy a newbie, but he had discovered something, yeah, that could benefit the world. And if we would do that, the whole world would have it. So we did everything to get that clear. And then you discover the power of context. When you have this best musician, you have those videos right playing in the subway. Nobody recognizes him as the best player in the world, and then later on, he makes 50,000 doing it in the Radio Hall in New York. And we discovered we are these Europeans, just newbies 10 years on the block. The rest did it for 30 years. They all followed Werner. So how can they discover something that’s better deeper. So we found the power of real context, because that context speaks, we couldn’t get it across. So at one point I said, well, then just tell me. What does it mean to cost? So then we have to do this buyout, because we have to move on with this new discovery. I am on such a quest to discover, you know, the nature of reality. There was no option to hang out there and be the grumpy old man who knew better, but nobody was listening to so we had made a choice to do something very painful, because I gave my heart to those people and stepped out of it, did a management buyout, and we started silk, I have to say, tanto and landmark did it very, very graciously. They helped us even finance the startup. So I’m gracious that they really were their words, right, but they were preaching. They also. So once we completed it, they supported us, and then we had this silk Lab, which was basically working version between Vasco and me, where we did the same thing, but on a deeper level. So we basically didn’t need so much. Does it communicate the distinctions the tools Werner was using, we just conveyed the energy behind it. For me, there was a whole journey for Vasco. It was a knowing to find out that that is what works, and not the distinctions. You could say who you’re being.

Achim Nowak  20:35

I’m curious. I’m hearing that obviously Vasco had a profound and his knowledge and insights had a profound impact on you as a business owner who assumes a different identity. And I believe everything is energy, so I’m on the energy train with you, but I also know some things are easier to convey to clients and sell to clients than others. Because somebody could say, God, these Johannes and Moscow, they’re on this esoteric spiritual trip. Good for them. But do we want to spend money on these guys? Come on. So how did you figure out how the things that you are discovering can be conveyed in a meaningful way to folks who might bring you in to help them.

Johannes Leerink  21:21

I think it was my track record that’s not helped. I had a group of very, very loyal clients, which all moved with me. So vento closed, and they moved with us. And one of them was this hospital system I told you about that really needed a complete transformation. And I knew when we did it the way vento did it, that wouldn’t work. That was too confronting, which works, but not in that setting that was too sensitive. I dedicated, I think, now, 10 years, to this hospital to support them. But the real thing was, when we did the buyout, our plan was not to support the hospital or even do the silk leadership lab. We wanted to do that as a lab for our discovery and then share that with people, and they had all those breakthroughs. But the business plan was to co invest with venture capitalists into organizations which were hard to acquire, but with our methodology, our energy because that was it, our knowledge, they could be done like buying 678, small businesses that now have to operate as one to do an energy transition, which is a big thing here in Europe, to solar etc, is impossible to do if you have not the ability to align people on that deep level. They wanted to work with us so we could be a shareholder and as shareholders, not support as consultants, just be on the court make the difference as a shareholder, so you make it safe for the people that you’re not going anywhere after thing is over. That was our plan. And basically we did do one of those investments, but that was very small, and we basically put 90% of our effort in this hospital, given that my father and mother are a doctor that was sort of a calling, right? And Oscar was so kind to follow that

Achim Nowak  23:26

I love the literal and metaphorical meaning of being a shareholder in everything we engage with, right? It’s a beautiful phrase, but what I’m wondering about is I’m listening to you because it for the last three years or so the your professional identity is the hidden transit. So of course, I’m thinking circ leadership lab. I love the name, I love what you just talked about. Why and how did you move on to another professional framework explain that to us?

Johannes Leerink  23:58

Very bad. Business wise, I can tell you’re the director of the hospital, which I basically I know him for more than 20 years. Is my first job I did as a Vento consultant with him, and then he dedicated his life to make this hospital being completely transformed. Wrote a book, which is a very well sold book, saying how he did it. And then he was so kind to give a whole chapter and the whole story about Johannes and Vasco and silk. So silk, silk, silk. And everybody wanted silk. And then the moment the book came out, we concluded that our journey was complete vascularism Portugal, which, you know, is a nice place, and decided to move on. And I decided to move on, because our journey sort of the polarities of spirituality and business which met each other, they were merged. So I heard him say and share all the meetings. The stuff I would normally say, and he saw me in supporting people say the stuff he said 10 years ago. So we said, Our journey is complete. Let’s move on. Silk is in us. And that was, of course, bad, because we could have done good business. He is still a shareholder in that organization, and I was so pushed into a personal transformation for three or four years that I quit everything. It’s clear to me

Achim Nowak  25:27

that listen to you, that at every stage of your career you have done great service for people, that the service has changed as your consciousness changes. So I really get that, how much does it matter to you to be of service to others? Because what I’m hearing there’s a people love your work. They want you to grow. They want you to be more visible, they want you to scale. And part of me, and I know this from my own life, is I could go, that’s nice, but that’s your fucking agenda. You know, that’s not mine. Yes, this is your agenda of how I should impact in the world. How do you connect that with what’s true for you with your current consciousness, which might be different from your consciousness five years from now? How do you reconcile all of that?

Johannes Leerink  26:14

Yeah, I don’t know if this is going to be understood by everybody, but let’s say, from first building my own career being seen. I moved on to saving the world. I’m saying it a bit with a joke, but I know the point you’re making. Yeah, I was driven, like a lot of people, making a difference was my thing, and I made a big difference. So there’s nothing to be wrong about, yeah, but in this deeper transformation, when I met these Maori people, I landed, sort of, and I saw the world is perfect. From a certain perspective, there’s a lot of suffering. It was in the eyes of the beholder, how the world is you can say, and I was perfect. Johannes was perfect. I landed. There’s nothing to prove. And at that moment, there was peace, and I saw all those people with different consciousness levels. That’s true, trying their best and doing their best and doing what they’re destined to, doing like I was. There’s nothing wrong, nothing to save, but the moment, and that’s I am sort of pulled by the future now, is that the word yes, the future is calling it’s not the past driving me, and the future that calls me is if you give people like I had the profound opportunity to choose to make that transit and find out for yourself, yes or no. I know we have what it takes if you are yes, so then we’ll together find out a way to do it, and we have tailor made program, but it works everybody who is a yes, but I am as happy if many, many people visit their website and go through and discover in those in that decision process, no, not for me. Because what happens when you say, not for me? I choose not. You choose your life. Yeah, that’s for me. I get chills.

Achim Nowak  28:21

It’s that’s I want people to choose. Yeah, that’s beautiful. And since you mentioned the word future and asked where we’re going to wrap up in a moment, I’m Do you have other visions, dreams, aspirations, that you go, this is something else I might wish to explore or endeavor or or are you happy with just this is the stage now another stage will be revealed. I don’t even know what it is. Where are you around future thinking for yourself?

Johannes Leerink  28:55

Yeah. Well, there’s less and less future thinking, and more and

Achim Nowak  29:00

more. Is that because you’re getting older? Yeah,

Johannes Leerink  29:03

I hope, yeah, no, I don’t think so. But the I am currently really busy is the wrong word, but fulfilled with setting up this with the graduates. That’s, I think, the wonderful thing, this whole brand and choose process is made by the graduates, for their families, their colleagues, so it’s totally integer in integrity with Yeah, for people choosing. So that’s for next. I love it to do this with them. I would never have done this as a company, you know, as an entrepreneur for myself, I love to do it for themselves. And yes, I have to make still a pension because I wasn’t very smart businessman, as I just told you. So that’s one. Then my real guru is my life Hank and during that struggle, she has suffered the most, but that’s to be honest, and without her, I wouldn’t have any any of. These successes because she is so committed to me being real and authentic and not being this CEO, or now the saver of the world, or in the hidden transit it’s so easy to be now, oh, I’m going to be famous. You know, everything, everything is pushing but she keeps my feet on the ground. So I do want to spend time with her. Thirdly, I have a real commitment that’s already in the world. Next year, we go with a group of friends. I call them, but they also graduates, and people were interested in the hidden transit, but I didn’t tell much about the 10 years I spent with this two or tribe in New Zealand in Maori, but I went there with a group, and they came here, and I had the most amazing transformations. And that’s real energy. It

Achim Nowak  30:48

for any listeners who want to learn more about you, your work and the hidden transit, where would you like to direct them?

Johannes Leerink  30:56

I hope everybody takes a chance to go to the hidden is www the hidden Look around, look at some master classes and see and go through this decision process, because it will enrich your life. And you can always meet me there, because you can leave a message there. And the other one is everybody’s these days on LinkedIn, and since I have my friends pushing me into the world, I’m pretty active. So find Johannes leading on LinkedIn and connect. I’d love talk to you or support you or answer your questions.

Achim Nowak  31:33

Thank you so much, Johannes for this conversation and for all all the different things we got into during this conversation. I very much appreciate it. Bye, for now.

Johannes Leerink  31:44

Thank you so much. Bye. Bye.


Thank you so much for listening to this episode of The my for the ACT podcast. If you like what you have heard, please like us and leave a review on your preferred podcast platform, and if you would like to engage more deeply in fourth act conversations, check out the mastermind page at Achim it’s where fourth actors like you engage in riveting conversation with other fourth actors. See you there and bye for now. You


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