Rotterdam school of Management, Erasmus University compact logo

Ruben Ridderbos has long been interested in learning and personal and professional development. After obtaining his MSc in Innovation Management at RSM in 2016, he co-founded WeLearning with management consultant Alexander Dorgelo with the goal of innovating the online learning industry. After setting up the company, he worked for two and a half years as a management trainee for Philips, in a variety of strategic marketing and HR roles. Ruben now works as community director and facilitator at Awake Origins, an organisation that helps (future) leaders and entrepreneurs to become more purpose-driven.

Most of our problems boil down to human behaviour. I feel the path I’m on brings me closer to understanding human truth; why we behave as we do and how we can positively influence this.

Ruben Ridderbos

What is it about your work that makes a positive change?

“At Awake Origins, we bring influential leaders back to their ‘origin’. We break down the misconceptions about success and happiness and help them to really live from their natural essence, which I believe is positive by design. By supporting them along this journey and bringing them together in our community, we are creating a movement of conscious change-makers who will act as a catalyst for the desired transformation on earth. Change-makers who create companies that are making the world a more sustainable, loving and joyful place.”

The company aims to awaken at least 10 per cent of the most influential leaders; 10 per cent is commonly regarded as the ‘tipping point’.

“We work with leaders and entrepreneurs who want to deepen their sense of purpose, as well as with purpose-driven entrepreneurs who want to scale their impact. We do this through different programs but always in groups as we really believe in the power of diverse but like-hearted people who reinforce each other. At Awake Origins it’s always about your journey, but we are doing this together.”

Most of our problems boil down to human behaviour.

Why do you do it?

"I have always been interested in human behaviour and what truly drives us as human beings. I therefore enjoyed studying international business, neuromarketing and diving deep into psychology and eastern wisdom. Second, I am driven to find root causes. As an enthusiastic surfer I (like to) fish plastic out of the ocean but for me that’s not enough. I want to understand why it gets in the ocean in the first place and ensure it doesn’t happen anymore. Most of our problems boil down to human behaviour. I feel the path I’m on brings me closer to understanding human truth; why we behave as we do and how we can positively influence this. Such that hopefully one day, we will live in harmony.” 

What advice would you give to others who are looking for purpose?

“First of all, make a distinction between meaning & purpose. For me purpose is much bigger than meaning. Everything can have meaning but that doesn’t make it your purpose.

Second: stop looking and start living. There will never be a point at which you can say: ‘I found it!’. The only thing you can do is live in or out of tune with your purpose. There is not such a thing as finding it.

To give you an example: Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, and this shaped him to become the extraordinary leader he became. The years in prison were part of ‘living’ his purpose. Becoming president was just another milestone and even now, six years after his death, his life still has purpose as being a source of inspiration. Everything you do contributes to your purpose, and meanwhile you can decide how you want to create impact.

I believe many people are in search for their purpose, because it’s what is needed for our race and planet to evolve. The way we live is not sustainable and people not only know but also feel it. The understanding that there is not such a thing as finding your purpose, only living it, is a crucial step in this journey. However, we are increasingly accustomed to instant gratification and believe we can over-engineer everything. Expecting that success comes from making a rational plan and working hard towards it. This might work in business but, this doesn’t work for the most important things in life, such as finding the love of your life, your dream job, or living your purpose. It’s about living in alignment with your unique purpose. Trusting the flow of life and making the right decisions at the right moment."

Your intuition is a much more intelligent and interconnected guide than our minds can conceive.

“The big question then is: how do you live in alignment with your purpose? This a complex journey, which I am obviously still on myself, but I am happy to share some advice.

An important element in doing so is to dare to follow your intuition. Your intuition is a much more intelligent and interconnected guide than our minds can conceive. As Albert Einstein puts it beautifully: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten about the gift.” I believe and experience that when you strengthen and dare to follow your intuition, you are much better able to live in tune with your purpose. Things will unfold in ways your mind could not have imagined.

Second, ask and observe yourself regularly: ‘Why do I do the things I do?’ and ‘What is it that I want to bring to the world?’ Make it concrete, challenge yourself and let others challenge you. You will experience that you will get closer to your truth each time you do it. Finally, and definitely most importantly, answer these questions from a place of connection with yourself. We can be incredibly conditioned by our environment and the way we have been raised, so I strongly believe in the power of meditation and yoga to re-connect with our natural selves. When answering from a place of connection, the answers will be much more truthful and meaningful. Both for ourselves as well as for our planet.

Just like every plant and animal has its unique role in our ecosystem, we have a unique role too. As a big inspirator of mine, the cosmologist Jude Currivan puts it perfectly: “we are all one expressed through diversity”. I believe and experience that when we truly re-connect with ourselves, we will naturally play our part in the whole ecosystem. Everyone living their unique purpose and contributing in a way that suits and excites them the most. Making our beautiful world a more sustainable, loving and joyful place.”