“Wisdom is not about intellectual debate, but magical moments of presence so deeply connected and so pure with people.” -- Bernd Kolb (Atman Project)
Business leader Alfred Tolle has spent his personal and professional lives at the geographic as well as spiritual intersections of East and West – maintaining personal spiritual practices even while professionally scaling some of the world’s biggest corporations in Asia, Europe, and the United States. Now he is aiming to bring those worlds together, by “trying to bridge the business world and the spiritual world in a meaningful way.”
Alfred started meditating daily in the Zen tradition nearly 30 years ago as a student. Originally from Germany, Alfred got a scholarship to write his thesis about Japanese theater in Japan. “So I went to Japan and wrote about Kabuki. And while I was there I’d visit temples and shrines and I came across people—it was really like coming from work and doing some meditation, and then drinking a cup of tea and then going home. It’s really normal for them, actually; it’s integrated into their daily life. That was 1988, 1989. I got interested and that was my introduction to meditation. Then I did martial arts as well, which always has some alignment with meditation practices as well.”
But the seeds for Alfred’s consciousness of what he calls the “higher dimensions” of the universe were planted earlier, at the age of 13 – when, still grieving the death of his mother in a car accident a few years earlier, he was suddenly confronted with the tragic loss of his father from a heart attack. “At that moment of time [in the hospital],” Alfred recounted
, “I discovered not only a deep sadness, but I discovered also a kind of moment where I felt connected to each and everybody; space and time were no longer existing. And that kind of moment accompanied me through my whole life, and that (I’m recognizing now) is why I am doing what I’m doing. And that was a magic moment for me when I was 13.”
“Interpreting it now, and looking back, it gave me a sense that there’s a deeper meaning to everything we do, something that goes beyond what we see and experience or can understand with our rational mind. I think that’s the basis for how I make my decisions in life and how I solve things. … Then the Universe probably helped me meet some people along the way. I once wanted to become an actor. I had an Italian teacher who … was a deep soul. We had two-hour sessions with exhausting physical exercises. Then when you were completely exhausted, he’d say, ‘Now we start working.’ Because then, you didn’t have any energy left for your ego to prevent you from having deeper experiences of what art really is.”
Alfred went on to assume leadership roles in some of the world’s largest technology and media companies. He was Vice President of Bertelsmann online in Asia/Japan and Executive Board Member of Daum Communication in Korea; then CEO of Lycos in Boston; and then a senior sales manager in Google’s European headquarters in Dublin. In each of these roles, he instigated a number of projects that supported convenings and conversations aimed to bridge spirituality and business. He initiated several happiness and wellbeing projects within Google and was instrumental in bringing the first Wisdom 2.0 Conference to Europe, referred to
as “an unholy alliance of Googlers, Buddhist monks, techies, HR directors, MPs and recovering CEOs band[ying] around words like ‘compassion’, ‘empathy’, ‘communion’ and ‘consciousness’.” Alfred organized the event because “we have to reconnect to our souls and ourselves in order to use technology wisely. I see it as my job to drive Google in that direction.”
Following a successful corporate career, Alfred left Google “because I felt I’d maximized what I could do to make the world a better place from inside the system.” He increasingly felt the constraints
of corporations’ unending commitment to ever-increasing profits and a growth-at-any-cost mindset. And so he left the corporate world to become the Founder and Chairman of Wisdom Together
, a non-profit association aiming to foster compassion and wisdom by promoting well-being and values for a prosperous and sustainable world.
“I felt that there are so many people, institutions and organizations in this world striving for a higher consciousness, and trying to bring compassion to the world. But they’re not connected to each other; they’re operating in their own little ecosystems. So … I want to help establish contacts and connections between these groups and individuals for an exchange of their experiences and perceptions of the world. Such an exchange might help them to get to the next level, spiritually—as well as reaching another dimension in the material world as well. If these two are aligned—the spirituality with the material world—this will be for the good for everybody. If these are not aligned, then it could be destructive, and that’s what we’ve been seeing. That’s why I think wisdomtogether.com should have places where we come together—for conferences, meetings, workshops, retreats—with the intention of exchanging our ideas and for creating networks and inspiring people, and for creating new ideas and supporting them in creating new kinds of projects that can create this alignment that makes better work possible.”
Alfred aims above all to inspire a new kind of conscious leadership in traditional institutions. “Leading means understanding where the other people, or another person is, and creating a place and a framework that he or she can use to develop to the next level, if that’s what they’re seeking. To help them, to your best extent, so that they can spiritually, and also professionally, develop in the best way they decide to do. I think that’s the leadership we need. … Conscious leaders have high levels of inner and outer awareness and act with compassion to share their knowledge and experience with others in order to contribute to a greater good. They lead from an inner source of wisdom and authentic power, and can be found in any position in our societies. In our view conscious leaders can play a fundamental role in a transformative process that goes from the inside out: from leaders to organizations to systems.”
Join us in conversation with this remarkably authentic, conscious leader!