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In the world of entrepreneurship, it's all too common to see an overemphasis on quick success and profit maximization, often at the expense of the deeper, more sustainable aspects of business creation and personal fulfillment. This narrow focus can leave entrepreneurs feeling unfulfilled and isolated despite their outward success.

This week, I’m delighted to welcome Abi Mandelbaum, an entrepreneur who stands out for his commitment to integrating creativity and deep personal values into his business ventures. Abi's approach not only fosters innovation but also nurtures the human spirit, creating a more holistic model for success.

In this episode, we delve into Abi’s journey, exploring how he seamlessly blends the art of creation with the science of business. We discuss the challenges of maintaining authenticity in a profit-driven world, the benefits of fostering a collaborative culture in business, the role of creativity in solving complex problems, and how these elements contribute to both personal well-being and business success.

Join us as we uncover the essence of creating with purpose, revealing how a dedication to authenticity and creativity can redefine success and lead to more meaningful achievements both in business and in life.

Topics Covered

  • Abi's entrepreneurial and personal journey
  • Integration of personal values in business
  • Defining success beyond financial gains
  • The role of authenticity in entrepreneurial leadership
  • Challenges of maintaining integrity in competitive markets
  • Influence of purpose on business strategy and decisions
  • Building a values-driven company culture
  • Impact of entrepreneurial practices on personal well-being
  • Strategies for balancing profit and principles

⏱︎ Time Stamps

00:00 • Welcome to the Zen Habits podcast

00:37 • Introducing Abi Mandelbaum

02:20 • Abi's entrepreneurial journey: From virtual tours to mental health advocacy

09:42 • Creative entrepreneurship: Beyond money and success

16:22 • Collaborative creation: The power and challenges of partnership

20:51 • Ideas choosing people: The drive to create

23:33 • The evolution of motivation: From worthlessness to worthiness

26:24 • Finding purpose after success

26:50 • The mission of healing and self-discovery

27:36 • The power of purpose over proving worth

29:48 • The journey to creating a meaningful blog

33:37 • Embracing emotional well-being over material success

43:08 • The transformative power of personal retreats

49:01 • Reflections and gratitude for the journey

📄 Transcript


Welcome to the Zen Habits podcast, where we dive into how to work with uncertainty, resistance, and fear around our meaningful work. This is for anyone who wants to create an impact in the world and cares deeply enough to do the work. I'm your host, Leo Babauta, creator of the Zen Habits blog.

All right. Hello everybody. Today, I am honored to be joined by Abby Mandelbaum, who is a successful entrepreneur, and we're going to get into the details of that, but I invited you here, Abby, because not only do you have that aspect of your life, you have deepened into your own personal journey and then taken that growth into a new blog that you've launched.

And that's a whole different arena, a whole different creative output. I believe that entrepreneurs are creatives as well. They create something in the world. Personal journeys of spiritual growth and personal growth is a creative aspect and now blogging. And so, I think it's going to be fascinating to see anything that is the same or different in all of these areas.

And you're a father and parent like me. And so, I'm a father and husband like me. So, I love to just touch on that as well. So, Abby, it is an honor to have you here. Welcome.


Leo, thank you. It's an honor to be here. I've been a fan of yours for a while, for a very long time, actually. And it's interesting that I now started my blog recently because I've been following yours for many, many years. And so, it's a pleasure to be here having this conversation with you. Thank you for the invitation.


You're welcome. It's great to have you. And yeah, I'd love to just talk about what that's like to start this blog. I remember what it was like for me, but it's really good because I think other people can connect to that part of the journey of wanting to launch something like that.

But before we talk about launching a blog, let's go back to launching other things. Maybe you can do a brief walkthrough of your career as an entrepreneur. Cause I know that it's not just one company. I think you've co-started or co-founded or in some way been involved in a number of them. And I've lost track. So can you maybe lay it out for us?


Sure, sure. So I've been involved in many companies, but I'll stay focused on, let's say, the main ones. And I want to take us back to 2010. And one thing I want to highlight about 2010 is that back then, entrepreneurs were not celebrities. It was a very different world back then.

But now, you read about unicorns and new companies and people know the co-founders by name, that didn't used to be the case back then. And the reason I'm mentioning that is because back in 2010, I was finishing business school and as I explored different jobs and interviewed with different companies that came to the school to recruit, I just couldn't see myself working for any of them.

So, it's interesting because nowadays, you see a lot of people starting companies and they start for multiple reasons. And the reason I started that first company back then, and I'll share more about it, was because I just couldn't see myself working for anybody. So, it was kind of like my only choice.

I got to create a job for myself. And thankfully, at the time, I had been working on what really was a pet project with two very close friends who had also been my college roommates and let me mention this because it's something very interesting, right? So, I'm Jewish, I'm originally from Columbia, and these two co-founders, one of them, a Muslim from Jordan and the other one, a Catholic from Albania, right?

So this could either be the beginning of a joke, but in this case, it was the start of a great partnership and company. And what we did back then in 2010, we created a platform called the Virtual Walking Tour platform. Okay. And the virtual walking tour platform came out of the idea, we were all international students when we got to the U.S.

And we didn't really know what to expect. What was college life like? What was the difference between different universities? So we said, wouldn't it be amazing to help international students be able to walk through college campuses from wherever they are in the world?

We didn't plan on it to be a company. We just thought like, wow, this would just, this is something that should exist. Nobody has created it. All three of us were computer scientists, so we knew how to code and we created the virtual walking tour.

Now, you fast forward and during the years that followed, we ended up becoming the leader in creating virtual walking tours for universities. We built the tours for more than 500 universities across the U.S. in four different continents. We also had clients and eventually other industries started taking notice and approached us because they were very interested in our, in our technology, our platform.

I mean, nowadays, virtual reality is something everybody knows and something that most people have tried. We got started with virtual reality in 2014. And so our, our platform, because of our technical background, became pretty advanced to the point that we even had clients like Cisco, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft. Eventually, cities wanted us to do virtual walking tours of the entire city. And we got clients like the city of Houston, the city of Philadelphia, and so on.

So anyways, it was very interesting because we never got together to start a company. We just got together to create something that we thought ought to exist in the world and that would add value to a lot of people. So, if we fast forward nine years later to 2019, we get approached and acquired by one of the world's largest private equity firms, Vista Equity Partners. And for me, it was a dream come true.

I was only 38 years old. We didn't start this company with the hope of having an exit at some point. We just started it because we wanted to work for ourselves. And here I was, 38 years old, achieving my lifelong dream of retiring before 40. And that's not a joke.

My parents knew and my friends knew I always spoke about it since my twenties, since I started working, it's like, man, why do people work for so long? I want a path where I can retire before 40. So, dream come true. I'm at the highest peak of my life in terms of self-esteem in terms of joy.

Little did I know that that dream just six months later would turn into a nightmare. And I'm sure we'll talk a lot more about that. I know you've read my blog and I very openly share what that transition felt like. And, but that sent me on a path of self-discovery. Which I'm very happy to share more about.

And today, I'm leading two companies and they're very much a result of the work I put in to really gain clarity on who I am and what my purpose is in this world and in this lifetime. And today I would define it as creating environments where together we can heal and become the best version of ourselves as individuals, as society, as humankind.

So, I'm the president of a company called Opcion Yo, and Opcion Yo, we've become the leading provider of mental health and emotional well-being to the Spanish-speaking community worldwide. And as a result of that company and seeing, you know, how much suffering there is, which I experienced also firsthand for our society and the adults in our society, I realized we ought to do something earlier.

So, I created a company called Goodness. And we're focused on an emotional development program that we deliver at elementary schools so that children can grow up already with all these skills that most of us end up developing in our thirties, forties, fifties, as we start feeling lost in the world.

So that's, you know, the three main companies that, that I am and have been involved in and look forward to sharing more about that.


Okay, thank you. Yeah, you put a lot into that. And so I have some follow-up questions, but there's just so much goodness in what you just shared. The first thing I wanted to reflect on or just comment on for the audience is going back to the beginning of what you were talking about.

Creating your first company, it wasn't that you wanted to like create this successful business, it's that there was something that you thought should exist in the world, this virtual, like tour of campuses and for international students, it's like, we think it'd be cool for that to be there. And you created it, co-created it with your partners. That's a creative act. And this is why I wanted to talk to an entrepreneur like you, who's created these kinds of things, because I believe that our way of viewing the creative act is limited.

We think it's like writing and music and art and things like that. But, but actually, if we expand the scope of it, we can see what you did there. With that first example, was creating something that did not exist in the world and something that was in your mind, this should exist, and then the creative act is like, how do we collaborate here to actually make this a reality?

So I really wanted to comment on that and just say thank you for sharing that. I heard it in the other things that you created as well. You know, I'm going to mispronounce the name, but you know, this is something that you thought should exist. Like it was needed based on what you had experienced and you created that as well.

And then you're like, you know what, we need to start way earlier and go upstream to when, when they actually need this not later when the symptoms are all like out of control, but. You know, when they actually are forming these things. And so that you decided that needed to be in existence and you created that as well. So I just really wanted to acknowledge the creative aspect of what you shared there really amazing.


Thank you, Leo. And, you know, it's interesting because I've always thought of myself as a creator, more so than an entrepreneur. And like I said, I do think entrepreneurship used to be a little bit more pure in the sense that entrepreneurs wanted to create. Now, unfortunately, you still have a significant percentage of that that's just looking to create, to solve a problem, to make the world a better place.

However, you have a lot of people that are getting in it for the money. And, and the main reason for it is, it's not that they're passionate about the problem they're solving. A lot of times it's just, they see the potential to make a lot of money by solving that problem. You know, both are valid, but they come from very different places.

And for me, having been involved in many companies, not only companies that I've co-founded, but also companies that I've been an angel investor in or that I advise, one thing I've noticed is that when entrepreneurs are passionate about what they're creating, not only does the likelihood of success increase significantly but, but they just have a lot more fun along the way.

And actually, I would like to add something that's very relevant to that first experience. The creation of You Visit, right. And the virtual walking tour platform and so on. And it's that, like I said, we never started a company, it became a company. But we were acquired on year nine. However, in year six, we started getting approached.

And until year six, it was just three guys that were passionate about what we were creating. But on year six, we started getting approached by private equity firms, venture capitalists, and they started putting numbers in front of us. This is what your company is valued at. And if you do this, this is what it could be valued at.

Until then, it had never been about the money. And, and seeing all those numbers did make it a little more about the money during those last three years. And I would say, like, even though the valuation of the company kept going up, our passion and joy as a result of this project we had created went down.

So I just wanted to share that because, you know, that that's something that really left a mark on me that I said, from now on, I will only create companies that I could see myself being involved with and owning forever. Now, if at some point it makes sense for that company to get acquired because somebody can take it and, and bring it to the next level, then I'd be happy to explore that, but that's not the goal.


Right. It becomes like the whole game, right? It's like this numbers game, like making a crap ton of money. Thank you for sharing that. I think that's something that a lot of people don't talk about. So I really appreciate you being willing to share.

Like a lot of us don't have the experience of someone putting obscene numbers in front of us. And then like our minds switching from like, this is fun and like, we're creating something here together, to like, okay, this is everything that matters. Thank you for sharing that.

I really want to get to some of the juicy stuff that you've mentioned around, you know, depression when you're at your highest peak of your goals in life to creating the blog and, and everything in between. But before we do, I have a couple of follow-up questions about creating companies, because I'm really curious about the creative aspect of anything, whether it's parenting or spiritual growth or entrepreneurship.

And I like to compare it to the more traditional creative ways we think of as creative, like making paintings and writing novels, because I think there's some interesting similarities and differences. And so I'd love to ask you when I write a book, I'm alone. I write in isolation for the most part. And I'm making whatever I want to make.

But you made it with two other people. There were three of you and I'm sure that eventually there were others involved as well, but at least in the beginning, there were three of you. And it's not just like, here's what I want to create. It's let's create together. And I imagine that that's amazing. It brings in some new stuff that you don't have writing on your own in a room alone.

But it also brings in a bunch of extra challenges and leadership challenges as well. And I'm wondering if you can speak to that, what it's like to create something like that with others as opposed to alone and like the benefits of that and the challenges that you saw.


Sure. Sure. That's a great question. And I should add that, you know, in that company, You Visit, we were three partners. In Opción Yo, we're four partners. In Goodness, we're three partners. So, I did want to highlight that because, you know, I always thought that if there came a time to start a company, I would want to do it on my own.

And that mainly came from the fact that I just felt, "Oh, you know, you have to deal with these people so closely and then what if they disagree and this and that." But after my first experience creating a company with other people, I realized I didn't want to create any company by myself.

And let me explain why. Because the entrepreneurial journey is extremely difficult. All odds are against you. And it's pretty binary, right? You either hit it off and build a company that you can live from or eventually also sell and make a lot of money from, or it just doesn't end up working and you end up shutting it down.

Whereas if I were to relate it to, let's say a painting or a book, you know, the things that are more traditionally called creations, you will still put it out there and it'll continue to exist, right? The book, no matter how many copies it sells, it will continue to exist as a creation.

So the reason I said I will, you know, after this experience, I will always find the right partners is because during that journey, I realized just as the company has ups and downs, so does each individual involved in the company. It's just very taxing.

And, you know, if I think back to that first company, You Visit, you know, as I started having doubts and feeling down because we weren't getting the traction that we were hoping for. I mean, it was a good three years before I actually started making money. I mean, at the time I was living with my girlfriend, and she was paying all the bills. She's now my wife, by the way. So, it worked out.

But what I mean is, there were times where my two partners needed to pick me up and say, "Come on, you know, we're not done with this yet. Let's try this. Let's try that." And there were times where it was the other way around. One of them was down, and the other two of us would pick that person up. And that happens in every company that I've been involved in, either as a founder, as an advisor, as an investor, you see it happening just because the journey is so challenging.

Now, I do want to address another part of your question, which is the creative process. Cause you know, if you think about a company's life cycle from one to ten, the part that I enjoy the most personally is the one to three because that's where you're bringing something into the world that didn't exist. And it's beautiful.

You're just, you have the ability to close your eyes and already picture it existing in the world, even though it's just an idea in your head. And then you start executing towards that. Once you get past level three, then it becomes more about how do I scale this company? How do I optimize processes? How do I hire the right talent?

And it's not that that part is not exciting, but to me personally, the creative part is the most exciting. And for me, all of the companies that I have started at a place where, you know, I could personally connect with the world that I wanted to see exist. And then there was a power within that said, "Go do it, go do it."

And I want to use this opportunity to share something that was once shared with me that I just love. And it's that people don't have ideas. Ideas have people. And you're probably right now wondering like, what does he mean by this?

You know, I'll ask you, Leo, have you been in the type of situation where you see something out there in the world and you say, "Wow, I thought of that like three years ago. And now look, it's a thing."


Right. I hate that.


Yeah. Yeah. But this story explains it. And I'm sure a lot of listeners right now are thinking the same thing. It's like, yeah, it's almost happened to everybody. And I'm a big believer that ideas do come to people.

But if an idea comes to you, it's because it has chosen you to create it and make it a reality in this world. But if you don't, the idea will go and find somebody else to do it. And that's why the idea doesn't just stay with you. The idea will move on to somebody else who will have the courage and, let's say, the drive to bring it into life.


Oh, man. I love that so much. Now that makes me think, I have to ask then. So first of all, thank you for sharing that. That's such a beautiful idea that had you right there. And so I love it. You know, we can argue about all the science of all of it, but it doesn't matter because I think it's true. The truth of it is true.

You said, unless you have the drive, you know, basically the will to create that, like make that idea reality, that's not the words you use, but I felt that in something you said like a minute ago, which was just like this, you, you could see the vision of it. You could see what doesn't exist yet, but like you could connect to it, but then there was something in you that drove you to do it.

I think that's not as common, it's not that common to have that. People have the idea, but they don't have that inner thing that you had. And I, I wonder where that comes from for you and like what that's like to, to have that on a day-to-day basis. Like today I need to get up and make this idea reality.


Oh, it's a very interesting question, and I wonder where it comes from too. Okay. But let's have a conversation about it. Because it used to come from a different place than it comes today.

Let's go back to 2010. You know, after doing so much personal work, and spiritual work. I mean, you talk about retreats, breath works, meditations. I mean, when I say meditation, starting with two minutes and then eventually building up to two-hour meditations that I look forward to doing.


What a weirdo.


Yeah. To cold water exposure, you know, that has become very popular. And also to just personal therapy. Going to therapy and working with a specialist, which is a lot of why, you know, now I'm the president of Opcion Yo. And back then, now we don't, with the understanding I have today, in 2010 and what drove me during those years, what was fueling that will was actually my desire to feel worthy.

In reality, it was that, you know, it was the internal feeling of worthlessness that I wanted to prove to the world that, no, I am worthy. And look what I can create. And I didn't realize it at the time. I didn't realize it at the time, but buried deep, deep inside was this feeling.

And that, you know, kept me during the times that it was challenging to say, no, I cannot fail because if I fail, it's not only my company that's failing, then I'm really worthless. Now I know how toxic that is and, unfortunately, I think it's also pervasive in our society.

So I was, you know, the creative element still came from the passion and the creativity. However, the drive came from that sense of worthlessness that I wanted to convert into worthiness and show the world, here it is, see, I did it. I am worthy.

And that's why I believe that after being acquired and feeling very worthy for a few months, the sense of worthlessness came back. Because no amount of money will cover that. But I had no clue about this stuff, Leo, no clue, no clue. And I didn't understand it. I didn't know.

I felt there was something wrong with me. I'm like, how can this be happening? Like how ungrateful of me. Like I've been blessed in so many ways in my life. And here I am lying in bed without the ability to get up just months after what society and I would call like a huge success. Like I just felt I couldn't even talk to anybody about it. But before we go deeper there, which I can sense you want to go deeper there.


Yes, definitely.


After doing the internal work and realizing all of this, now the creation comes from a personal mission, comes from a purpose, which is the purpose I shared earlier. And I'll repeat it, which is to create environments where together we can heal and become the best version of ourselves as individuals, as society, and as humankind.

And since I gained the clarity on this, after all this personal spiritual work, multiple depressions, the path is just a lot clearer and the drive is a lot cleaner, and there's more joy in that creation process because of where it's coming from.


That's so powerful. Thank you for sharing both. There's the original one, which is like this drive to prove yourself, prove your worthiness. And I think people can relate to that. Even if we don't always have the awareness that that's what it is. You're like, “Oh yeah, I can relate to that”. And I love that you could point out how pervasive that is.

I think you're someone with a vantage point. With the companies that you've formed since then, that can see how pervasive it is, but also how toxic it is. And then coming from a cleaner place of being driven by purpose. Ah, that just lifts my heart. And it sounds like it's just as powerful, if not even more powerful, to be driven from that place.


Oh, it's life-changing. It's not just powerful, it's a different life experience. I speak about it in the blog. And it's the difference between being driven, you know, similar to, let's say like a horse, right? Where, you know, the horse keeps going and runs faster because, you know, it's that lack of worthiness and let's say in us, and you're like hitting yourself, but every hit hits deep into your soul.

And I didn't realize that until I was just crushed in bed. Now creating from this different place where it's a place of love, a place of purpose, a place where you feel connected and you feel, "Hey, what is it that I came to this life, to this world to do?" You're no longer hitting yourself. You're actually encouraging yourself all the time and bringing a lot more self-compassion to that process. And, and that's for me, it's been life-changing.


You hit on one of the main themes of this season of my podcast, which is creation, but creation with love. And so you spoke to it so well just now. And I love, like, I could just clip that out and say, this is what the season's about. While we still have a little bit of time, I really want to get to the blog, but of course, we have to get to what led to the blog.

You've touched on it now a number of times, financial success, all of the success. That's the goals hit of your life, lots of money and yet not elation and contentment and happiness that we all imagine comes with that, but something completely different. Tell us about, you know, tell us a little bit more about that.


So the creation of the blog, it's a very interesting story. Because differently than the arena, let's say that I was comfortable in, which was technology entrepreneurship, where I would have an idea. And if I was passionate about it, I would just start creating, executing. The idea of the blog came three years before even writing a single word.

So, and I'll get to the why the blog, but here I was, and I was like, look, I really feel this desire, this passion to not only share my story but share my ideas, my thoughts, because I think a lot of them are unconventional. And there's already too much conventional conversation happening out there. So, I feel compelled that it is my responsibility to write and, and I have a desire to write,

And yet I couldn't put a word on paper. I just couldn't. And again, it's one of those things that at the moment I just didn't understand why now I do. It's because it was a completely new arena. And again, the feelings of worthlessness were popping up. Well, what if I start writing and nobody reads it? What if I start writing and people actually read it and hate it? Like, then I'm back to worthlessness.


I can relate to all of that, by the way.


So I couldn't write a single word. It took three years until I finally felt that sense of responsibility. It wasn't even my choice whether I was going to start the blog or not; it was a matter of feeling that I had to be a voice in the world. I'll tell you the three main reasons that compelled me to start writing and put myself out there despite the doubts playing in this new arena.

By the way, I'm a native Spanish speaker, and here I am, writing in English. So that was also another funny joke, going back to college. Right?

I grew up in Colombia, graduated from high school there. I got to college in the US, and the first assignment was writing a one-page paper about your family. I was very disappointed. I'm like, "Really? This is what college in the US is like, writing a one-page paper about your family?" I had higher expectations.

So, I wrote the one-page paper, submitted it, and to my surprise, the next day, I had a big F on the paper. And it wasn't because my family sucked. It was because my writing sucked. My English was so bad. Before that essay, I had never written anything formal in English.

The reason I'm sharing this is for the people out there who feel they have these limitations, but if you've got the conviction, in today's world, you can learn anything. You can become an expert at anything for free. It's all out there.

One of the things that's also out there, and it's one of the reasons that compelled me to just say, "Okay, that's it. I got to start writing and put out the blog," is I don't spend a lot of time on social media, but the world does. And it's interesting that in the social media world, everybody's successful every day, right?

All you get is people sharing all the good stuff in their life. And rarely somebody being authentic and honest about their struggles. That's why I decided my first blog post is called "My Greatest Success Led to My Greatest Depression." Which is very unconventional. Most people would be out there just talking about their great success and all they did to achieve it.

But I felt that I wanted to be a voice that spoke up to say, "Hey, success in the definition that our society has given it is not the end-all-be-all. It's a story we have all bought and we live our lives, many of us, into our seventies, eighties, believing that story and working our entire lives for that story. And it's not true."

And I can say it with confidence because I've lived it and I've spoken to a lot of entrepreneurs who have also been very successful with their companies and they all share the same feeling. Just months or years, at some point, it hits them. It's like, "Wow, this wasn't it."

And it's not that we're ungrateful for the financial success. Of course, we are grateful for it, but there's more to life than that. So I wanted to be a voice that sort of says, "Hey, I know a lot of people out there see Abi and see different ways in which I've been successful."

But I also wanted them to see what goes on behind the scenes and what are the areas where Abi has struggled and what part of that is very human and something that we all share. So that was one reason.




The other reason is, one day I was thinking, I would love to really know my great grandfather, my grandfather, even my own father. And I got to meet all of them. And thankfully, my father is very healthy and still going strong, but really getting to know them, really understanding, not their public side, but what was going on inside. So I said, "You know what? I'm going to also do this blog for my future generations."

And at times where writing has gotten difficult, I go back to that and I picture my grandchildren, hopefully my great grandchildren, reading it. I'm like, "I want them to not know Abi, that Abi created this company and that company and he was successful and won this award and this. No, no, no. I want you to know Abi, everything that was going on inside during that journey that gets published outside."

And the third reason is because I just felt there is a lot of suffering out there in the world today. A lot of suffering. I think it’s called mental health, right? In the world that I look at it more as emotional well-being. And let me explain the difference that I see in the two.

When people talk about mental health, even though we as a society have done a good job starting to remove some of the stigma that goes around those words, there's still a lot of stigma around them.

But let's talk about physical health, physical well-being. Everybody talks about physical well-being. Everybody talks about, "Hey, I have a trainer and I'm now doing this kind of exercise. I'm doing all these for my physical well-being." But what are we doing for our emotional well-being?

So I want to be a voice for the importance of emotional well-being because there are too many voices out there. And while I think physical well-being is very important and I take my physical well-being very seriously and I've competed at the national level in different sports.

So for me, sports and exercise are very important in my life. But now after having gone through the transformation process and spiritual process that I've gone through. I would argue that emotional well-being is a lot more important and needs to be spoken about more openly.


So I'd like to dig into this a little bit because you know, I asked about the depression. And so maybe you can talk a little bit more about that, like paint a picture of why the success that you had did not lead to happiness. What was that depression like and how did you climb out of it?


So, first of all, I would say that. It wasn't a low and then get out of it. It was multiple lows and then each time climbing a little higher and then going down sometimes even lower and then climbing back a little higher.

I just wanted to add that because, again, it's a story that can also be misinterpreted, right? Like, "Wow, Abi went into this deep depression and then he came out and created these other companies." And that's not the case. It was a struggle for multiple years.

So let me paint the picture. I sell my company and I'm on top of the world. I feel self-esteem all time high. It was more than joy. It was exhilaration. However, after months of not having in reality anything to do, right?

Like, yes, my company did get acquired. However, I lost my schedule, meaning now I was waking up every day without anything to do. I lost part of my identity. I was no longer the CEO of this large company. I was now just Abi, with more money in the bank, but now it was no longer the CEO. I no longer had a schedule. I was no longer having important meetings every week. I was no longer traveling for business.

And it was when all those things that at the time felt very important got taken away, that I realized there was a lot of emptiness inside. There was a lot of pain in, these things were always there. They were always there, but I had become a master at being distracted and being busy.

And now that that business and those distractions were out of the way there was nothing else for me to face than all that pain I had inside. And that drove me deep, deep into bed into very deep places, very deep places that today I'm grateful for. At the time it felt terrible but today I'm grateful for hitting such lows because I do believe that if it had been bad and difficult, but not so low, I would have kept on going and I would have gotten by.

But I hit such low that there was no other way out than going inside. There was just, it was like my soul crying and saying, "You are not going anywhere until you deal with this." And if you, you know, we can talk about what this is a lot more or you can also read it in the blog because I'm pretty open about it.


We'll definitely link to the blog. yeah.


But that's what it felt like. And like I said, it wasn't like, "Oh, and then I climbed out of it." No, it was very volatile.


Can you share, you know, we have a few minutes left. I'd love to hear a little bit about that journey. You know, you said it's some ups and downs and, you know, climbing to new heights. Can you share like some of the key parts of that journey? And with the idea that people can go to your blog and read more and follow along with that.


Yeah, sure. So let me speak a little bit about the highs and the lows and during those times, what got me out of bed, right? What got me out of bed? And frankly, it was mainly spiritual and personal growth retreats. Like I could be bad, but I knew that, you know, two months from now I was going to go to this retreat where I was going to get to explore deeper into myself.

And every time I came back from any of those experiences, it was very powerful in the sense that let's say this was my baseline. Right? I would go to this experience, really dig deep. I mean, I always try to give my all, but at this type of experience, I really get fully into it. I'm like, no holding back. This is what you're here for, to work on yourself, to expose yourself, to be real, to be authentic.

And you can learn more about the different retreats and things like that on the blog. But I had a certain baseline that I had gotten used to living with. right? A certain operating system. And every time I went to one of these retreats and got the chance to retreat from day to day life I would come back with a different operating system that was significantly improved. So let's call it version 2.0, version 3.0, version 4.0.

Now, realistically though, and it was my experience, you do come back from those sort of experiences on a high, and then you start moving back towards your baseline. But you never quite get back to your baseline. You always come down, but you end up in a different place because, because you came back a different person and this person cannot, no longer get to that baseline. And you're a new and improved.

So, for me, and by the way, during this time, I was still advising companies, investing companies, but I was just not connected with them. I was not connected to the work I was doing. I was doing it just to, you know, have a side of me that was healthy, which intellectually putting my intellect to work.

But these experiences helped me significantly because. Until I started going to these sort of retreats. And I should add, just because, you know, people will assume different things. None of these retreats involved any psychedelics or anything like that. They were all pure you, pure soul. And everybody involved was bringing their pure selves to them. And there were different kinds of retreats.

But one thing I want to highlight is that until I started on my part of my path towards personal and spiritual growth. I was an intellectual doer. I had very little connection with my body, no connection whatsoever with my emotions, completely distracted and buried them very deep inside. I had no connection with my spirit and my purpose.

So actually, that's the, the title of one of the other blog posts, right? My journey from intellectual doer to human being. I didn't know how to be. I just knew how to do and to do from the intellect.

But as I started connecting more with my body, as I started connecting more with my emotions... and as I said, letting them surface was what brought me into a depression, what brought me to bed. But they needed to surface. And if they wouldn't have surfaced in my forties, they would've surfaced in my sixties or seventies.

But what drove the most change was really connected with my soul and my purpose and really getting back to who I was. And the way I'll describe it is. And we've all either had babies or have seen babies or been around babies. And babies are pure. They're beautiful. We're all born these amazing human beings.

But then, you know, while you're still in the crib, well, I was still in the crib, you know, those layers. Start adding on your parents, even though they have the best intentions. They add layers and expectations. Then come your friends and they add layers and expectations. Then comes society, more layers, more expectations.

And now who you are is buried deep inside of that. And you have no connection with it. I had no connection with my soul. So, what this sort of stepping out of my daily life and going to these retreats did was enable me to start peeling away the layers of that onion and reconnect back to myself.

To start loving myself again to have self-compassion for that little boy, right? That little pure boy that used to exist all the way back then. And given that little boy sort of a voice in the adult that Abi is today.

It’s been a beautiful journey. And like I said, you know, even though at the time it was extremely difficult and challenging and did involve multiple relapses and very deep places. Now I look at it all with gratitude and I, and I recognize that it's the path that I had to go through. To get to where I am today.


Okay. I think that's a beautiful note to end on. We are unfortunately out of time. There's so much more that I could talk about. I probably could talk with you all day long, but I really appreciate what you shared with us. It's so, so powerful and so beautiful.

Abi, thank you for spending your time here with us and sharing a bit about your journey. Again, more about your journey on your blog, which we'll link to. But I really appreciate it. There's a lot of depth and meaning in what you shared here today. So, thank you. Thank you for coming on and being a part of this.


Oh, thank you, Leo. You've been doing very important work for decades now. You've been an inspiration to me and I know to millions of others. And it's really been a privilege and an honor to be able to spend this time together with you. So thank you.


If you haven't already, please subscribe to this podcast in your favorite podcast app. If you found this episode useful, please share this podcast with someone you know, who cares deeply. That would be really meaningful to me. And, if you'd like to dive deeper with me into this work, please check out the blog at or get in touch at [email protected].

Thanks for listening, and I hope you'll join me every Wednesday for more episodes of the Zen Habits podcast.

Abi's Bio & Resources

Abi Mandelbaum stands as a pioneering force in the realms of technology, education, and mental health, revered for his groundbreaking initiatives and forward-thinking approach. From the inception of YouVisit, he propelled the company to the forefront of interactive technology, fostering engagement with esteemed entities like Microsoft, HP, and top-tier academic institutions. Under his guidance, YouVisit flourished, culminating in its acquisition by Vista Equity Partners, a testament to Abi's knack for innovation and strategic leadership. Beyond YouVisit, his entrepreneurial endeavors are rooted in a profound mission—to cultivate environments fostering collective healing and human transformation, a purpose that resonates throughout his ventures.

Moreover, Abi's impact extends beyond boardrooms and businesses, as he actively advocates for mental health awareness and serves as a beacon of support within his community. His involvement with Endeavor underscores his commitment to high-impact entrepreneurship on a global scale. Yet, amidst his professional pursuits, Abi maintains a harmonious balance, embracing personal interests such as tennis, exploration, and nature alongside his cherished family. Through his blog and public engagements, Abi invites others to join him in a journey where professional success intertwines with personal fulfillment, demonstrating the profound intersection of business and purpose.

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Music: Salem Belladonna & Robrecht Dumarey

Editor: Justin Cruz

Post-production: Diana C. Guzmán Caro & Amanda Goddard