Follow your Heart: The Story of Soma’s Mike del Ponte

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”

― RumiEssential Rumi

 

I love it when everything seems to fall into place… what a great feeling it is when the universe aligns with our intentions. As we saunter along on our paths, we inevitably run into cracks, bridges, potholes, and other obstacles that life presents to us. How we choose to greet these can determine the path we follow in life. Do we choose to listen to our hearts, or do we let our authentic voice be dampened by the emotional weight of past experiences?

Though surprises and difficult situations are integral parts of life, they’re also keys to unlocking our authentic nature. In choosing to deal with challenges by creating new opportunities for ourselves, we can strengthen our sense of self, our resilience, and explore brand new, unexpected paths.

Since tomorrow’s post is all about finding our purpose, I want to preface it with a look at what it means to follow our hearts. When I heard Mike del Ponte‘s story, I knew he would be a perfect example of living our truth, in all manners of speaking.

Mike’s story

Soma’s CEO and co-founder, Mike del Ponte, is now living his dream of making wide-reaching, positive change in the world, and helping people across the globe access clean water. Not only that, but he’s also achieved an astonishing amount in general for his short 30 years on this planet. Has his life been perfect? Of course not. In fact, when Mike was only 12 years old, his father passed away. From this difficult experience came a wealth of personal growth, as Mike directed his energy toward accomplishing goals that would help support his family. He managed to get a great scholarship, put himself through a prestigious school, and had high hopes of become a priest in order to continue to help others.

Before he made this leap, though, he chose to spend a year away from his home in America. He traveled to many places abroad, including Southeast Asia, and volunteered in Nepal, where he taught “women to optimize their small businesses with microfinance.” These experiences struck a chord inside the budding businessman, as he discovered first-hand the change-making potential that existed in entrepreneurship. His dreams of becoming a priest had been replaced with something truer to his heart, unearthed during his travels. When Mike came back to his home country, he set his mind and heart on participating in business successes like SparkseedBranchOut, and now Soma, by far his biggest venture yet.

Hardship creates opportunity

Necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention. Having a parent die young, or enduring any sort of emotional trauma, can be personally devastating. However, it can also be a wonderful teacher if we let ourselves open up enough to learn from the experience. By using obstacles to fuel our determination, we can turn emotional pain into a force of energy that drives us forward, taking us down new roads we likely would have never dreamed of venturing down before.

One of my own personal experiences with this is when my parents split up several years ago. This ordeal opened up a floodgate of long-suppressed issues that had been waiting many years to be released. Though it was a truly difficult time in my life, I can now easily see its important purpose: a catalyst for monumental personal shifts within everyone affected. Without the challenges that arose from the separation, none of us would be where we are now. While overall, the experience wasn’t easy, as I imagine Mike’s wasn’t either, I recognize that it taught me how to listen to my own heart, and have the strength to start following my own unique path.

So, if you’re experiencing hardship and challenge right now, do not fear; it is simply a gentle teacher in disguise. When we break apart, light can shine into us through to new places where darkness was before. This new light can then radiate outwards, into our passions and onto others. Being torn open is the same thing as having the chance to begin anew: there is no sweet without the bitter. But there is light, lots of it, and every challenge is just a learning experience waiting to be embraced and absorbed, moving us further along our way.

Overcoming emotional obstacles can fuel determination and set us on our true path.

Travel can create new paths to follow

Mike’s decision to take a year off to travel changed the course of his life. Through his time abroad, new experiences such as a 10 day Vipassana meditation, and volunteering with Nepalese women, he was able to listen to his heart and answer his true calling.

When we travel, our preconditioned ways of seeing the world are questioned daily. Day by day, everything we thought we knew is continuously called into question. Confronted with new environments, cultures, attitudes, rituals, and food, our comfort-zones are left far behind as we adapt to the new input we’re receiving every day. This leaves us in an open position to re-frame our understanding of ourselves, others, and our world.  It is in this state that something as simple as a 10-day Vipassana course—sitting in silent meditation without speaking or looking at anyone else—or an eye-opening volunteer experience, can be life-altering.

Learning by doing

It was from these hands-on, global experiences, rather than through his time at a prestigious academic institution, that Mike realized the potential power of entrepreneurship. There are many different ways of learning, and recognizing this is necessary to unleash our full potential. Often, traditional schooling is unable to reach the more intuitive parts of us in ways that other experiences like travel, relationships, or professional work can.

Learning is like life: colorful, messy, and full of possibilities. What works for me will not necessarily work for you! Revelations about our life path and epiphanies surrounding our heart’s desires can come from so many places. Keeping our hearts open to different ways of learning can give us deeper access to our authentic voice, and more freedom in our life choices. It is only when we look at everything that happens to us as a learning experience that we become true students of life.

Mike’s trip to Nepal, and volunteer experience there with Nepalese women, changed the direction of his life path.

My personal experience

I can definitely relate to the perspective gained and subsequent shifts made in Mike’s life from his time spent traveling and volunteering. When I left Canada almost 3 years ago to live in Thailand, I could have never imagined the amazing ways in which my life would be forever changed, and new personal visions found. As cliché as it may sound, my experience living in Southeast Asia really opened my mind to new ways of living. Even my values changed to align more with my true sense of integrity.

 

Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.

― Winston Churchill

 

Instead of feeling pressure to work at a job that I hated, or to look a certain way, my new environment gave me the push I needed to let go of those meaningless, unproductive assumptions, and embrace living with my heart by allowing myself to make lots of mistakes! I’ve learned so much more out here than I ever did from my time in university. This is not the case for everyone; some people flourish in academic organizations, or by staying at home. I have many friends who have learned similar life lessons by doing the polar opposite of me. As long as we’re true to our hearts and we listen to our inner voices, we’ll be on our way to walking our own path. And like Mike, it just might be what propels us to hear, and answer, our true calling.

Exploring different parts of the world often opens up new, exciting possibilities.

On that note, here are Mike’s thoughts on the courage it takes to answer our true calling:

“I believe that if you do what you love, you’ll be good at it. And if you’re good at it, you’ll be rewarded. So to me, it’s just about having the courage to do that. One of the huge issues in the world is that people aren’t doing what they’re called to do. We each have a unique reason to be here. If we do that, we’ll be fulfilled. If we don’t, not only won’t we be fulfilled, but the world will miss out.”