Jonathan de Potter of Behold Retreats: “Doesn’t ask, doesn’t get”

“Doesn’t ask, doesn’t get”. My mentor from Accenture used to tell me this. We’d be writing an executive paper at some ungodly hour, and the request would be 20m dollars to continue a project. I was still new to consulting and was dumbstruck — “wow, really? We’re going to ask our client for 20m dollars in a […]

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“Doesn’t ask, doesn’t get”. My mentor from Accenture used to tell me this. We’d be writing an executive paper at some ungodly hour, and the request would be 20m dollars to continue a project. I was still new to consulting and was dumbstruck — “wow, really? We’re going to ask our client for 20m dollars in a downturn when our current project is going poorly?”. The funding was approved, and the project ultimately successful. Doesn’t ask, doesn’t get. Be bold!

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan de Potter.

Jonathan is the founder of Behold Retreats and advocates for elevating consciousness and working on oneself as the most meaningful way to improve the world. As a thought-leader in psychedelic plant medicine, his priority is to guide others to maximize the benefits, and to raise education and awareness on the subject. He enjoys complex problems, meditation, surfing, and is energized by big, bold ideas. Prior to founding Behold Retreats, Jonathan worked as a strategy consultant at Accenture & Country Manager for Capco Thailand, supporting F500 companies with their digital strategy & technology transformations.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I grew up on Maui, Hawaii, and moved to New Zealand for university at 17. I loved it there and stayed 10 years. Then I had a great work opportunity to move to Hong Kong and join Accenture, the consulting juggernaut. I worked there 5 years, climbing the ladder, because apparently that’s what you do, and towards the end of my time there was leading a team of 120+ consultants. Full credit to my mentors who cleared that path for me. Objectively, I had a great life, but fundamentally, I just felt like there was something missing, I just didn’t know what it was. So, in 2016, I went searching, and as part of a sabbatical year, found my way to an Ayahuasca retreat in Peru.

I was under-prepared for the experience. It was super humbling, and I was blessed with quite a number of life lessons, but a month later I was effectively “back to square one”. Over time, doing more of my own work and speaking with others, I recognized how common it was to miss out on the benefits, and that there are significant unmet needs in the plant medicine space.

Deciding to do this work, and going into the depths of your subconscious to clear out the cobwebs requires a lot more preparation, guidance, and integration so that you truly benefit from the experience, and fundamentally improve your quality of daily life. We always remind our clients, this isn’t about unicorns in the jungle, it’s about embodiment of your experience such that each day is filled with more purpose, love, and joy.

I returned to the corporate world after that first retreat and spent much of the last 5 years understanding the plant medicine, hosting retreats for friends, and planning for the transition into plant medicine when the time was right.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Elevating consciousness to unlock human potential [graphic pasted in below] and using plant medicine to do so. Our journeys incorporate an ayahuasca retreat or psilocybin (magic mushroom) retreat in an idyllic location where this work is legal.

Unfortunately, a lot of the benefits are being missed and lost in relation to this work, which is why I think it’s still generally under-appreciated, despite the science and transformational stories. Fundamentally, we have a shortage of experts in the world who can guide people to really break through, and also to do the necessary mental and emotional work.

Hundreds of thousands of people (maybe millions?) going on retreats, but if I had to put a number to it, I would guess 90%+ of the potential benefits are being lost.

We are taking a more holistic approach, bringing together the necessary elements for people to maximize the benefits.

To zero in on being disruptive, our work is about disrupting unhelpful patterns, so that you can become who you truly are. This includes:

Neurogenesis to heal the brain, increase neuroplasticity, access more of the brain’s capacity, and reduce the thoughts from an overactive Default Mode Network, which most of us in the west suffer from

Facilitating the shift from egocentricity (living in scarcity, envy, pride) to holism (love, joy, peace) as we transcend identification with the mind

Greater creativity for entrepreneurs and leaders to get out there and do their own disruption in their fields of interest

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My girlfriend and I dressed up our cat for some ridiculous Christmas photos. I don’t post a great deal on social media, but this felt like an appropriate time. I made the mistake of posting it on our company page instead of my personal one. Not the end of the world, but our team got a good laugh out of it.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

My parents, foremost. I rejected just about everything they had to teach me earlier in my life. They were spiritual, I was atheist. They were alternative / hippy, I went down the more materialist and corporate route. But they never projected any expectations upon me, always loving me unconditionally, and supporting me in whatever it was that I wanted to do, even if I was sometimes critical of their lifestyle. With the lessons and insights from plant medicine, it’s been a humbling return to see how wise they are.

I also benefited from a handful of mentors in the corporate world, real stand-up leaders, Kiwis and Ozzies who really walked the talk. In the consulting realm, it was always about doing the right thing for the client and doing a proper job. It was inspiring to work for people who kept a high standard.

More recently, from a spiritual perspective, I’ve found some exceptional mentors. They really have a deep understanding of the way of the universe, and our place and potentiality within it. It’s been a super steep learning curve, feeling like I’m back in my first day of school, but it’s been tremendous.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruption certainly has a buzz around it, doesn’t it? To me it generally means that there’s a better way of doing things — an evolution. I think we’ll always make plenty of mistakes along the journey, the real opportunity is to what extent we learn from them. Take COVID for example — the way that I look at it is if we combine unnatural things in unnatural ways, we should expect unnatural results. So we have a lesson to learn. Everything is always evolving, being disrupted, constantly. It’s healthy, I think. I am quite optimistic about our ability to return to alignment with the so called “laws of the universe”, enabling us to live sustainably and peaceably on our amazing pale blue dot. Not sure if that answers the question?

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

A friend once shared the quote with me that “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” I absolutely love that. We all have the decision to make whether we are going to take the easy path, or do something a little more daring. No right and wrong, just personal choice.

“Doesn’t ask, doesn’t get”. My mentor from Accenture used to tell me this. We’d be writing an executive paper at some ungodly hour, and the request would be 20m dollars to continue a project. I was still new to consulting and was dumbstruck — “wow, really? We’re going to ask our client for 20m dollars in a downturn when our current project is going poorly?”. The funding was approved, and the project ultimately successful. Doesn’t ask, doesn’t get. Be bold!

Another mentor used to really drill into our leadership that “All you have is how you choose to spend your time”. It’s a simple statement but has profound implications. He used to guide sales leaders to account for their time, and they’d struggle to. Then they would keep track for a week to see how they spent their time, and they could see 80% of it was spent on administration that could be delegated. Simple, but enlightening. The demonstrable impact upon sales was profound.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Once Behold Retreats has reached a certain place, I plan to make a bit of a return to Consulting, this time to advise governments on the importance and potentiality of plant medicine. I’m just in the midst of launching now. It’s important that health and justice officials have people on their side to understand this subject, rather than a bunch of overly excited “plant medicine enthusiasts”, shall we say.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Check out Patrick Deneen’s conversation with Ezra Klein on Vox. He makes an incredibly powerful case for why Liberalism (meaning individualism in this case) has failed, and that the Right and the Left in the US, though seemingly different, are actually shades of the same color. On the right, you have a group of people who believe the free market should decide who gets what, and on the Left, you have a group of people who believe in taxation and government should provide the necessary services for people to flourish. His point that in BOTH cases the individual has been removed from their responsibility to their neighbor, to their fellow man/woman. This is why I think it’s important to have more than two political parties.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Be the change you wish to see in this world” is such a powerful quote from Gandhi. The opportunity we all have is to improve ourselves, and through it, others will take notice and seek to improve themselves, and through these means, improvements will come in the world.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Elevate your consciousness. It has the potential to make life so much easier, happier, purposeful, joyful, loving.

How can our readers follow you online?, Instagram is @behold_retreats

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