Hi, I'm Paul
A Shaman, entrepreneur, journalist, author, speaker, bio-hacker, spiritual teacher and encouraging optimist dedicated to helping you live a Fulfilled Life.
On January 21, 2001, I thought I had reached the pinnacle of my life. I was at a big stadium in Los Angeles, California, and was about to speak in front of an audience of 10,000 people. I remember standing backstage, feeling the loud bass moving my body and the adrenaline pumping through my blood. The heat of the audience radiated toward me when I went up and gave my presentation. As I was standing in front of the large crowd, and the light from the light beamers was shining on me, I thought, this is it. This is where I belong. This is my life and my future.
At that point, I had everything—at least everything you can buy. I had a large penthouse apartment and expensive cars, I was partying in mansions in Beverly Hills, and I was traveling around the world in first class. This is what life is all about, I thought. It seemed to me that I had reached the ultimate success in life. I also had many friends and colleagues, and when we got together, we would have the typical discussions about earning more money and brag about our nice things— the second helicopter, the third yacht, and so on. If someone at that point had asked me if I was truly happy, I would have been very puzzled by the question because, with my money, power, and fame, I thought I had everything I could want. I thought I was the happiest man in the world. I felt that this was the zenith of my entrepreneurial career.
The Ultimate Failure: Success Without Fulfillment
About two years later, I was jolted out of my illusions about success and happiness. On Christmas Eve of 2003, I hit the wall with a life- threatening burnout. I was diagnosed with double-sided pneumonia, and my fever went up to nearly 109 degrees Fahrenheit. The doctors could not control it, and they were very worried. The problem was that my immune system was so poor that I could not fight pneumonia. I had been working 12- to 18-hour days since age 17, and that had its consequences.
The doctors said it was a miracle that I survived. I was 35, but had had the health of an ill 80-year-old. I was completely white and extremely tired, and my hands and the rest of my body were shivering even though I was sweating. And I couldn’t sleep. The doctors saw I was ill. They ran dozens of blood tests and a lot of other tests. They even tried psychotherapy. Despite the best efforts of the top doctors in my hometown, Trondheim in Norway, traditional Western medicine proved to be futile. None of the professors and specialists who tried to help me could find anything pathologically wrong with me.
It was very frustrating because I felt I was very ill. It made me realize that what we call the “state-of- the-art” Western medicine is limited, at least in cases such as mine. The only thing they had left to offer me was retirement and disability pension. I was used to being very active, but now I had barely enough energy to sustain the most critical tasks for living, and I was deeply depressed. I felt completely empty. My glamorous life and ideas of happiness and success were gradually fading away. I realized that all the money in the world could not make me happy and fulfill my deepest longings in life, and it dawned on me that I had accomplished the ultimate failure in life—success without fulfillment.
I grew up in a middle-class family in Trondheim, a city in the middle of Norway. As a child, I was conditioned to be a functional achiever. My mother had grown up during World War II, and there had been times when they had had neither food nor money, so her mentality was that money and food were more important than happiness. It was imperative to her that I was able to take good care of myself. She wanted me to be the best at whatever I did, whether that was school, hobbies or sports. It was a perfect setup for success. Unfortunately, it was also a perfect setup for workaholism and burnout.
My entrepreneurial spirit had already surfaced at age 9 when I began collecting empty bottles and recycling them for money. By the time I started going to university, I had three jobs and owned my own company. People wondered how I was able to do so much at once. I had the saying that “There is time for everything; it’s only a matter of planning.” In my mind, time didn’t matter, and there were no limits. I thought I was the perfect functional achiever.
Another main influence in my early life was my martial art master, Master Lehn. I met him when I was 15 years old. He was focused on imparting a strong character, built on a solid foundation of ethical principles such as loyalty, honesty, fairness, integrity, courage, and love in his students. It formed the core of my character and is a fundamental part of my teachings today.
At a very young age, I had to learn to overcome obstacles. Ever since the first grade, I was told that there were things I couldn’t do, accomplish, or be because of my several handicaps. For one, I was very nearsighted; I had –4.5 diopters and didn’t even know it. Somehow, I got by without any problems. Even though I sat in the back of the classroom, I could still manage to understand what was going on in the front. Nobody believed I had such poor eyesight because I was a biathlon skier, so I would ski and shoot at 1.8-inch targets from a 54-yard distance, and I won many competitions without wearing glasses.
When I was 16 years old, I was diagnosed with severe dyslexia. The teacher wondered how it was possible to go through school without being able to read the books. I had found ways to compensate. Also, I had meager coordination skills and no physical strength, so I didn’t have a great starting point for Taekwon-Do. My Taekwon-Do master said it didn’t matter because he could make anyone into a world champion. I ended up earning 20 gold medals in Norway and international championships. I didn’t have talent, but with the right teachings, the right teacher, and the right framework, the impossible was made possible.
Even though I had learning disabilities, I was able to become an engineer with a master’s degree in computer science. The most important thing I learned from getting my degree was to have a skeptical eye and use scientific methods to break down things to ensure objectively measurable results. After I graduated, I went on to become a research scientist at one of Europe’s largest independent research institutes. I refused to listen to the people who told me I couldn’t do things, and I still do.
How I Changed
My process of transforming from being severely ill and depressed to healthy and genuinely happy started with blaming others. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t stand being responsible for my life. Of course, blaming others didn’t help. It paralyzed me and brought me into a suffering victim role and made me pity myself for not having any energy and being ill constantly.
In my darkest moment of extreme frustration, the phone rang. It was a friend who wanted to tell me that he had met an incredible guy in Oslo, the capital of Norway. My friend had a severe back problem and had been to all the doctors and specialist available, and nobody could help him. “This guy is the strangest one I’ve ever met,” he said. “He just put his hand on my back, and afterward, I felt no more pain.” It ignited a spark of hope in me, and I thought, why not try it? I jumped on a flight to Oslo, over 300 miles away, and met this strange guy in a shabby gym outside Oslo. He put me on a bench, and then he put his hand on me and started yelling. I was shocked. I had no idea what he was doing. But I was desperate to restore my health and fix my problems, so I was willing to try anything. And an amazing thing happened; I regained some of my energy, and a lot of my physical pain went away for a couple of days. It got me thinking that if the doctors practicing Western orthodox medicine couldn’t help me, I would try to find the solution myself. It was the start of my climb of the most exciting and fulfilling mountain of my life.
In search of a solution to my severe health problems, I began pursuing two parallel paths at the same time. One was modern medicine, which encompassed contemporary practices like Western orthodox medicine, behavior- and neuropsychology, philosophy, therapies, and methods. The other was the ancient where I studied Indian, Japanese, and Chinese medicine philosophy, therapies, and methods. I wanted to understand the universe from the ancient perspective, so I sought education in shamanism, runes, mythology, esoteric Buddhism, Feng Shui, I Ching, astrology, meditation, and more. I wanted to learn it all because I wanted to understand how things worked and perhaps find something that could help me. As a civil engineer and pragmatic academic, I only believed in what I could see with my own eyes and what had rational scientific explanations. So, learning about the Western medicine was easy, but delving into the ancient path was difficult because I had to deal with all my preconceived ideas and prejudices.
Germany is one of the leading countries in integrative medicine, so to draw on their expertise, I moved there. I tested dozens and dozens of therapies and treatments and visited the best physicians and specialists. They discovered that I had several significant health issues. In addition to a weak immune system, my liver was destroyed, and there were huge problems with my kidneys and many of my vital organs. The strange thing was that after they had tested and diagnosed me, they all wanted to talk to my wife, not me. Years later, my wife told me they had said I was so seriously ill that they were unsure if I would live, so she had to prepare for the worst. I can’t imagine how she felt when she kept getting these messages, and she couldn’t tell me because that would make me even more depressed.
It was a rough and demanding climb with many setbacks and disappointments. I invested enormous amounts of money in my pursuit of a solution, and most of the things I tried didn’t work. When I started my journey, I had no intention of sharing my experiences and newfound knowledge. However, as I began changing, people around me got curious and wanted me to tell them what I had done, so I started doing seminars. My first seminar had just two participants who were also friends of mine: Jarle, an associated professor at the University of Bergen (the second largest university in Norway) with a Ph.D. in mathematics and physics, and his wife, Anne Marit, who is a midwife. As they implemented what I had taught them, they had astonishing results, so I thought, why not share my experience with others? After all, I had done all this research and extensive testing, so why not let people know the 10% that worked for me, so they could save a lot of money and time by not repeating my errors? Also, I discovered that an important part of living a fulfilled life was to share my experience and knowledge and help the people around me. Seeing my students use the framework I had worked so hard to create, and for me to get results so much faster than I had done, made me truly happy.
Where I Am Today
Today, I still live in Germany with my wife, Maria Jeanne, in a 220-year- old house made of oak and clay situated in a beautiful landscape. I have learned to find sanctuary both inside and outside of myself. My happiness today originates from the deepest part of myself. The old functional achiever who was living like a robot to achieve success, power and material things has understood that there is so much more to life than being an achiever. I have become happy, joyful, and fulfilled and have the vocation of my dreams where I can express my skills. I work half or one-third of the amount I used to, yet my company is three times bigger than it was. It’s not that you can’t be happy and fulfilled if you have success, but you have much more if you live a fulfilled life.
I no longer wake-up dreading the day ahead. Instead, I look forward to the new opportunities I face. I still have problems and challenges, but I am no longer afraid of them. I have realized that it’s not possible to be perfect, so I no longer strive for perfection. Now I love being an imperfect human being. I have embraced my faults and look forward to my first error of the day because I see it as an opportunity for learning.
My health is very different than it was when I started walking my path. All my blood values are normal, I have a functioning hormone system, my vital organs are healthy, and in the morning, I wake up with energy instead of a headache. Additionally, my mental health has improved drastically. I have bipolar disorder, and I used to be up and down, which was very difficult. Today, I have learned to deal with this part of me. I have learned to manage the wild animal in me that can work day and night for weeks. Now I can let out this animal for a limited period when I feel the time is right and then put it back in its cage when I want to, so it’s not driving me to burnout.
On the climb up my mountain of figuring out how to restore my health, I discovered certain core components for change. These components were the 10% of the best of the best knowledge, therapies, and treatments I experienced during these years that helped me solve my health issues. What was mind-boggling was that I could apply the core components to any area, and they worked incredibly well. Then I tested them on thousands of students, and they too experienced success. The main premise of this blog and my book Beyond Positive Psychology, A Journey from Burnout to Enlightenment is to introduce you to these core components through an efficient and easy-to-use framework for changing and adapting quickly with long-term results by utilizing the synergetic effects of the modern and ancient paths.
It will allow you to test these core components and see if you experience the same results as my students. It could be that you want to lose 20 pounds. It could be that you have relationship problems or financial problems. It could be that you are battling depression. Or it could be that you are feeling empty and frustrated inside, looking for true meaning in life. Whatever area you need to change for the better, the core components are the same.
Being able to share my experience with my students and clients and see how they grow and prosper from it fills me with joy, and I’m elated that I now have the chance to share it with you.