E10: Serial Entrepreneur Ola Ahlvarsson Wants To Build A New Society Based On Self-Development

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About Ola Ahlvarsson:

  • Founded more than 20 businesses, worked with many of the world’s biggest brands that you know of (like McDonalds, Google, Microsoft, Merck, Procter & Gamble, Twitter, IBM…. etc).
  • Avid martial artist, with a Black Belt in Karate, and he’s become the European champion in Goju Ryu Karate, the Swedish champion in Kung Fu and in Taekwondo, and the world champion in WAKO kickboxing.
  • Two notable businesses that Ola runs are Star Stable, the world’s largest online Horse game – with more than 6 million users, and Epicenter, which is Sweden’s biggest scale-up incubator.

Episode Summary:

Listen to the full episode on iTunes (and please leave a rating to help the podcast reach more people): E10: Serial Entrepreneur Ola Ahlvarsson Wants to Build A New Society Based on Self-Development

We need to find a joined narrative and purpose that everyone can believe in.

Not only in Sweden but on a global basis. Kind of like Christianity did before or football or some of the isms.

The only way we can achieve this is if everyone evolves as an individual and that must start from the second you are born to the second you die.

Society should not only teach you things at school for some years to help you get a job but rather help you develop yourself to your full potential.

A successful society must have the following building blocks:

  • Shared purpose.
  • People reaching their full potential through life-long self-development.
  • Appreciation for entrepreneurship and change so we can create a bigger pie for everyone.

However before we can reach this society we must first correct a lot of things.

Wars within society prevent us from building an ideal society:

  • Men vs. women.
  • Employer vs. employee.
  • Left vs. right.
  • East vs. west.

These wars prevent us from reaching an ideal society and they’re hard to wash away.

Everyone looks at the world through different lenses.

E.g. how do women look at a James Bond movie compared to men?

Most people have a 1 dimensional view on the world.

Values: A lot of schooling in Western countries try to teach you that all values are equal.

Not all values are equal.

Some religious values are not fit for organisations and society.

Do you want to have someone over for dinner that believes in stoning women for being unfaithful?

Right now we have different morales on a societal, organisational and individual level.

The most prosperous countries are the most in sync.

We must apply the rules of the most prosperous countries to those who aren’t prosperous.

That will topple a lot of governments that don’t believe in human rights.

We must pair this with opportunity.

The mistake we made in the industrial model is that we exploited people and the planet so we could become very rich and buy big watches.

Now there is a new breed of companies that want to improve the world and perhaps make even more money while doing so.

In the future you won’t have good investors and customers if you don’t have a company that leaves a positive impact on the world.

Morale changes with the situation.

Example: Ola had a gardener in Miami. When Ola asked him if he cut the grass he said he had just cut it. However, Ola could see on the surveillance camera that the grass had not been cut for 6 months. So he had just been sending invoices every month without cutting the grass. That would never happen in Sweden. Morale changes in a world where there is no employment security.

If you’re a normal Swede, maybe 1/1000 people in the world have similar beliefs to you.

People with different lenses from you think: “If they just did things “the right way”, they would be in a much better situation.”

Example of SS soldiers from the 2nd world war: Imagine a guy who is 18 years old. He has only grown up with Hitler and Hitler’s propaganda. Everything they have read and heard was created by the Nazi Party. They know that people from outside are coming to take over Europe so you’re going to stop them to protect family and loved ones. You go through hell and high water to win. You fight and you see your friends die. Then you suddenly find out that your leaders killed millions of innocent people in concentration camps and that wearing an SS uniform and tattoo makes you a criminal. Back then you could either choose to be SS or Soviet. Would you choose to be with Stalin or Hitler?

Problem with current political system: It’s not transparent.

Who are your 6 favourite EU representatives? You’re paying their salary but you have no idea what they’re doing.

Employee vs. Employer: Employer sucks all blood out from society and employees.

There are 2 ways to view employers:

They create a bigger cake for everyone or they eat a big slice from the society’s shared cake.

Most modern employers create a bigger cake for everyone.

Ola: A lot of people think that he stole his success from someone else or that he had it easy because he’s a man or from Sweden.

“Everyone I know who has worked like psychos on something they’re passionate about and just kept going at it just like I have. They’re all successful.”

Think about Robinson Crusoe: Who did he steal his wealth from when on that island alone?

Another example of employer vs. employee: 

Leftist writers write a lot of bad things about entrepreneurs not giving back to society.

However, the truth is that on an average salary it will take them until they’re 55 to pay their own schools, hospital bills and roads.

So if they work another 5-10 years they maybe contribute a little bit.

When people say: “My tax-payers money” it’s a joke.

Wealthy business owners contribute more to society through high tax payments than everyone else.

IKEA CEO discussion: When he passed away a leftist youth party official said that his life winnings should be distributed to his employees.

Instead of seeing that he gave them jobs and gave the state money they saw it as him using his employees.

It’s a very twisted view of what drives the engine.

It’s like if someone who speaks into an electrical microphone is against using the electricity that powers their microphone or that pays their life support machine or light.

Ola knows a billionaire who builds companies. He asked him: What do you non profit? How do you contribute? To start with, I pay 50% tax. I pay hundreds of millions in taxes. That’s a good way to start contributing? I’m good at making money so I want to make more money so I can pay more tax.

Society should incentivise businesses that don’t exploit people and the planet.

A lot of people think that you have a curve where greed and money are on one side and goodness for society and the planet are on the other. Why can’t both be combined?

Businesses that provide minimal value to society should be taxed high.

Business that provide high value to society should be taxed low.

Trading bitcoin has no value. Should be taxed very high.

If someone creates good schools that provide high value for society the tax should be much less.

We should keep companies private.

Public companies don’t work. It didn’t work in Cuba, Venezuela or the Soviet Union.

When you take away the passion from a company, you take away the hard working entrepreneurs who stay up all night to provide value for society.

Scale ups vs. start ups:

  • Scale up: A successful company that’s growing. They’re the 0.4% that grow rapidly and hire new people.
  • Start up: A company that’s still looking for a product-market fit. A couple of guys in a basement with an idea – it might work or not work. Only 4% of start ups make 500,000 EUROS in their 3rd year. 0.4% make 10 million EUROS. It’s easier to become a rap star in Sweden than creating a scale up.

A lot of media focuses on start ups. That’s like focusing on little league instead of Champions League.

Politicians should focus on helping scale ups because they’re proven. They should also help start ups too however to a lesser extent because there’s a difference between trying and succeeding. 

Sweden is a blueprint for where the world will go in the future.

Things that are wrong in society:

  • Putting guilt on women’s sexuality.
  • Forcing people to live together for the rest of their life regardless of whether it’s good for them or not.
  • Teaching children religion as if it’s true.

Ola considers Harvard professor Robert Kegan to be the Maslow of our times.

Robert Keegan’s model of personal development:

  • Level 1: Impulse driven behavior (Babies and small children): Want food. Want pee. A couple % stay in this stage. Usually violent criminals.
  • Level 2: Selfish behavior (Children): You realise there are other people but you put yourself first and just take-take-take.
  • Level 3: Behavior driven by others (Teenage years and 20s): Is this embarrassing? Am I acting right? Whole life defined by others.
  • Level 4: Mindful behavior (30-60): You become more mindful and stop thinking about what others think. 
  • Level 5: Seeking complexity and giving back (60+): You realise that your mindful behavior was an ego-trip too and you start seeking out complex tasks to solve (e.g. Bill Gates trying to solve Malaria) and you want to give back to society.

Most business leaders only get to the third level.

When society is built this way you get a lot of people like Jordan Belfort who care about what others think.

Unfortunately you cannot understand people who are at a higher level. This is why ISIS soldiers can’t understand how jews contribute a lot to society by having lots of nobel prize winners etc.

The only way to correct this is by having a higher level of self-development on the individual level. When people reach a higher level of self-development, they understand others better.

Different levels have different ways of thinking.

E.g. level 4: You want to reduce complexity and make the world easier.

Level 5: You want to find complexity. How to cure Malaria?

Some countries are not developed enough to have the discussions required to change their society because most of the individuals within those countries have a low level of thinking.

Examples: Sweden is highly developed, America somewhat and Afghanistan definitely not.

School should be based on learning and study instead of getting jobs.

That’s how the most advanced society in Athens was created. They kept studying and learning.

Nation states: Right now we have a joined agenda in Sweden because we pay tax to Sweden.

If we paid our tax to the EU we wouldn’t care about Sweden.

Nation states were created to defend property that you need to create wealth and to get people to kill people that didn’t come from that place.

Now they just create more problems.

Ola: Nation states will disappear in 100 years.

Why are there countries?

Imagine if you created a city where if someone committed a crime they could never enter that city again. All their possessions would be taken by the community.

Imagine another city where you can’t have any religious belief outside the one in your head. Can’t speak about religion.

Would this remove criminals and religious strifes?

As long as there are different values of what is right and what is wrong, there will be nation states protecting a model of values that this nation state believes in.

50 years from now:

  • There may not be any disease.
  • People may live to 100-200 years.

How Ola prepared for this:

  • Can live where he wants.
  • Can buy what he wants.
  • Has many connections in different areas of life.

When you’re entrepreneurial you’ve been through a lot and you’re curious about new things so you appreciate change.

– Oskar Faarkrog


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