Interview with: Partner at iDiscover, Ben Depraz-Brenninkmeijer

Time to read: 8 minutes

This week we introduce you to iDiscover team-member Ben Depraz-Brenninkmeijer. After receiving his master’s degree in Management from HEC Paris, Ben worked in investment banking in London before making a career switch to life coaching in 2015. Over the past few years, he has been Head of the Coaching Division and Head of Business Development at iDiscover and in the Spring of 2020 became a partner in the company.

Ben in Mallorca on his wedding day

Hi Ben! Good to talk to you today. First of all, huge congratulations on becoming a partner at iDiscover 360. What would you, as the first partner, like to bring to iDiscover? and how do you see the future of the company? 

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

5 years ago when I left banking and started to take this coaching path seriously, I created a vision for myself. I dreamed of becoming a leader in the field of coaching and human development, contributing to making the world more aware, more responsible, more free to be and more free to act. I took on to work on myself and become that.

This vision is still guiding me today and I think this is my highest contribution to iDiscover. 

I hope that I can help grow and promote the deep and powerful work that we do here so that more people can benefit from the meaning and fulfilment that comes with taking full ownership of your life. 

I really believe that iDiscover has the potential and capacity to make a difference on a global scale, by deepening the way we understand ourselves and others, and by embodying and inspiring a vision of personal responsibility which is, in my view, the most meaningful path for us all.

Presenting to YPO chapter in Thailand in 2017

That’s amazing! I can’t wait to see where the company will go in the coming years. What would you say is unique about what you do?

The space, possibility and trust created between two individuals in coaching are incredibly unique. The depth of the conversations and interactions I have with people because of what I do is something that I cherish every day.

Many times when working with clients one-to-one, as well as during our Core programmes where a group of individuals journey together to build their self-awareness and elevate their lives, I experience a space of deep and untainted truth. There are moments where I am present with such raw authenticity, such pure self-expression and love, that space and time feel like on pause; letting us – whoever is present – witness a truly magical experience.

I have also been blessed to experience this unguarded vulnerability with close ones, family and friends, and the connection and love I feel in these moments is unparalleled and truly unique. I believe no other profession in the world can give me access to that.

What do you think makes you stand out?

This is a very hard thing to identify with certainty. I can only answer with what I intuitively feel I do consistently, which is bringing both a different perspective and a will to commit. 

Growing up, my family gave me a gift: the ability to listen to different points of view and not take sides. I have developed an ability to be with someone as they share how they see themselves, others and the world, and yet know at the same time that that is not how things are, but how things occur to that person. With this came the capacity to help someone see other perspectives, open up new pathways of thinking, seeing and being that might serve them better. I get a real kick out of seeing someone have an insight that opens their world up a little bit more.

I also strive to lead by example, and I’ve always been committed to my own development and improvement. Today I know that I have a high ability to commit to people, goals or practices that inspire me, and I bring it out of others too. I think some of the most memorable moments I ever experienced with others, whether clients, friends or family members, have been moments where someone saw who they could be, and committed to that vision of themselves because of a conversation we had or something they felt when they were with me.

Taking on the challenge of personal development, and most importantly of a handstand

You started your professional career in investment banking. What inspired you to go on the completely different route of human development and coaching?

We are all fighting demons that are invisible to the rest of the world. As a teenager, my sister struggled with depression for several years. She and I have always been very close. Seeing and experiencing her pain was a life-shaping experience for me. She’s doing much better today and I cannot do her story justice in a few sentences, but suffice it to say she was and continues to be my greatest inspiration.

Despite this early exposure, I didn’t acknowledge how important helping people find meaning was for me, until later in life; instead I pursued a career in investment banking after graduating from the top business school in France. It would not have occurred to me at the time that I would end up doing what I do today. After only a few months in my graduate job in Canary Wharf however, I experienced a void, a lack of meaning and purpose that I wasn’t prepared to face. It sent me spiralling down quite quickly into what was for me a deep identity crisis.

I looked into police and military school, psychology degrees, war-zone charities, travelling the world, investigative work, criminal profiling, hypnosis, traditional psychotherapy, interpol… I spent hundreds of hours searching the web, watching videos, reading books. I dived into personal development as a way to find out what my purpose was, with a flavour of psychology and philosophy to it. I was pretty lost, but the only thing I knew was that I wanted to help people, and I had a hint that it had to do with the mind and the stories we tell ourselves, but it was all quite fuzzy back then.

After 2 years continuing my search I finally left banking. I knew that I was going to work with people and help them see and love themselves in more powerful ways, and trusted that the exact form would emerge. And it did.

Ben with his sister

What is the most challenging aspect of your work and how did you overcome it?

This is going to sound corny, but I think the greatest challenge I have to deal with is myself. Working with people is a delicate matter. It is so easy to project, to say things that are actually about you rather than your client, to try and solve or fix a problem instead of sitting back and enabling the other person to do so themselves. Nobody needs saving; but in this profession, sometimes the illusion that this is the case can be deceiving.

My own judgements, my own feelings of inadequacy or insecurity which creep up at times, my own desire to be popular; these are the obstacles I have faced and continue to face. I wouldn’t claim that I overcame this challenge, but I have come a long way through walking the talk. I’ve invested heavily in my own deep inner work and surrounded myself with extraordinary teachers, mentors and coaches who could help me. I really believe you can’t do it alone.

What is your Mount Everest? What would you love to create in the world?

Currently, my mountain is growing iDiscover into a global presence, and empowering as many people as we can. I believe we can make a difference in the world, helping humanity be more self-aware, more collaborative, more purposeful. I would love to be an actor in the evolution of human consciousness, helping build a more aware, more peaceful, more mature way of relating to each other. This means growing and inspiring the team to go for this amazing adventure together.

My personal mission is to see how many people I can love in one lifetime.

Teaching iDiscover content on a cliff in Ibiza

You are now a partner at iDiscover, responsible for the business development and Head of the Coaching Division, but how did you get involved with iDiscover?

In the Summer of 2015, I was doing multiple courses and programmes in the field of human potential and human achievement. Ilona, my girlfriend at the time, told me that I should do this programme called iDiscover Core. After she insisted, I contacted Gal, the founder, and booked my seat on his Core programme. This was 3 weeks after my last day in investment banking. 

I did iDiscover Core, and the rest is history. 

On a separate but important note, Ilona is now my wife. The impact she’s had on my life is indescribable, both personally and, obviously, professionally. Those who know her are blessed to do so. I am so grateful for all the blessings she has brought to my existence.

Ben with wife Ilona who is also an iDiscover certified leader

What do iDiscover and its community mean to you?

Any person who attends iDiscover Core knows how bonding and life-changing an experience it is, and how dedicated and committed the iDiscover team is to the participants. As a result, every time I see someone from our community, there is an immediate connection between us, an inimitable bond that unites us. I love that. It always feels like seeing an old friend.

Today several members of the iDiscover community are among my dearest friends, and the community is a constant source of inspiration, learning and discovery. Therefore, I see iDiscover and its community as a stimulating and inspiring greenhouse for who I am and what I do, and I hope it can be the same for other people too.

What is your most sacred daily/weekly/monthly ritual or performance hack that really works for you? 

Cold showers. Honestly.

What is your guilty pleasure?

I’m afraid it’s going to be cliché because I’m French, but cheese… I’m a sucker for Comté or Beaufort and variations of these hard cheeses. In the UK, I replaced them with Cheddar which is not as tasty, but I can still eat a lot in one go… At lunch, dinner or both! Either as a piece on a slice of bread or grated on pasta or sweet potato. I try not to buy it anymore because I will just devour the pack in no time!

The French just know how to appreciate the good things in life, don’t they ;-) What was your best adventure ever?

My wife and I just celebrated our 3-year wedding anniversary. We’ve known each other and been together since the Spring of 2014, and I can tell you with certainty that the person I married was not the person I met almost 7 years ago, and the person I am with today is not the person I married! We have been very close from the beginning, but we’ve also evolved with each other, and we have impacted each other’s lives in ways that none of us could have foreseen. This commitment has been the greatest adventure I ever embarked on. Marriage is work, no doubt about it, but we are both clear that we are here to help each other grow, and this means in particular not taking things for granted and not assuming that we know the other person. Because of that, there is ongoing reinvention and change, and we don’t know who we will be married to in 5 years’ time. An upgraded version of each one of us. How exciting! :)

What is your favourite quote or the question you want to leave us with? 

“Come to the edge,” he said.

“We can’t, we are afraid!” they responded.

“Come to the edge,” he said.

“We can’t, we will fall!” they responded.

“Come to the edge,” he said.

And so they came.

And he pushed them.

And they flew.”

Guillaume Apollinaire

That’s absolutely beautiful. Thank you Ben!

Over the coming months, we will publish some insightful essays from Bens essay bundle “What will you choose?” So keep an eye on the journal to read more from this amazing man!