Bonus. Rediscover Who You Are | Brett Kaufman at the Chamber of Commerce

Before we can start leveling up, we have to go back and look at who we are at our core — and that can be a long process that requires a lot of work. Brett has spent a lot of time in therapy and coaching to get to the root of himself so that he can learn to create from his highest and best self, but it’s a journey that never really ends.

We were all born pure of one divine energy, whether that’s God or the Universe or something else entirely, but the idea is the same: We have a purpose. And then, somewhere along the way, life happens and throws us off course. Everything that happens to us—our parents, societal pressures, traumas—sink in and take us away from that purpose.

Brett’s grandfather grew up poor. Hole-in-your-shoes poor, he would say. He never went to college, but he did want something different. So, he started a business. And that business was successful. He showed his kids love by giving them everything that he never had. But the message that Brett’s father had picked up was that those things — the material things — were all that mattered. But it never really filled him up. He tried to fill the void through addiction, violence, and bankruptcy — and he took all of that programming and passed it on to Brett.

Brett’s father pressured him to be a man, a tough man. He said that he wasn’t smart enough, he wasn’t man enough. He needed to sit up straight, learn his manners, shake people’s hands, and make eye contact. But he wasn’t a man; he was just a boy, a sensitive kid. And at some point, his mother hit a rock bottom and, after a generous family gave her a ride home from her broken down car, she saw what a real, loving couple and family could look like. And she did what women in 1984 in Akron, Ohio, did not do: She got a divorce. She moved Brett and his sister to Columbus to start a new life. But Brett’s insecurities didn’t just go away.

He started, at first, to follow in his father’s footsteps: sex and drugs and anything else he could do to hide from his insecurities. But he began to meet the most kind people: People who would open him up, who showed him community and creativity. And then he met his teacher, his future wife, and he knew he had to be enough for her. To impress her he got a job at a bank and did all of the things his dad had taught him to do.

He continued to learn from amazing people. Chet Scott and Built to Lead taught him what it meant to have an identity and purpose, and how to incorporate those into his work and life. At Landmark Forum, he realized that the stories and attachments from our childhood don’t have to mean as much as we make them out to mean. And at the Summit Series, he met thousands of people who were authoring their own lives.

From there, he started Kaufman Development with the idea that we could build communities that are beautiful from the inside out. He went from the suburbs to downtown, offering people opportunities to meditate, to take part in community gardens, to volunteer around the community, and to teach people to love their lives. And then he was introduced to a festival called Independent’s Day and he knew that the place for his next expression was going all-in on something called Gravity.

Gravity is a place where people honor their full expression, their being, and their impact. Brett is partnering with the city of Columbus to tackle affordable housing, communal living, social innovation centers, events, and giving people more opportunities to live their lives. Gravity is working to remove the stigma around mental health and therapy and change the way therapy is done in this country. And soon, Gravity will have a venture capital fund that no longer subscribes to the myths of startup culture, instead opting to holistically support entrepreneurs.

It’s not the programming that matters — It’s the time, love, and space that we give people to go on their own journeys. We are all works in progress, but to reach the next level, we first need to go back to our core and author our own lives. It is never too late.


Brett talks about:

  • [00:22] How therapy is relevant to leveling up & the chamber of commerce
  • [01:00] We were all born with a purpose… and then life happens
  • [02:04] The programming we pick up as kids
  • [03:12] Finding out what truly matters
  • [04:00] Creating community
  • [06:27] Learning to love your life and work
  • [08:01] Going all-in on Gravity
  • [10:10] Investing in people

Lessons for intentional living:

  • Understand that we are not our programming; we do not have to be reflections of our parents or our schools or our communities. We each have the ability to author our own lives, to choose our own destiny. Invest in yourself, in what matters to you and who you are at your core, and discard the programming you grew up with if it doesn’t serve you.