Servant leadership, powerlessness and radical self-scrutiny. In this interview Philipp von der Wippel, used-to-be-underage social entrepreneur and now advocate for an impact-driven European youth, shares what the encounters with his passions and his inner ruins have taught him about standing up for the impact we as individuals want to stand for.
Philipp von der Wippel was introduced to us, years ago, originally by a friend saying “If you ever want to meet someone who is changing the world, although he hasn’t even finished high school, meet him.”. Since then Philipp has founded and co-founded many initiatives, his biggest one being ProjectTogether (PT), an incubator for (up until today) 250+ social projects led by young people which he set up at the age of 16. Currently, Philipp studies Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford. – Interview by ASTRID SCHRADER.
The Arc: I recall a funny scene in the UK wherein your colleague Chris who at the time had also barely finished high school and you were sitting next to Chloé, our host at the time, and me asking, “So what is the business case of this A-R-C? And what is your go-to-market strategy?”
A few hours later Chloé and I met in the corridor and she just said “These kids are too smart for the planet.” In my awe the only thing I could do was to nod. – Philipp, what does it meant to be so much ahead of the curve? 😉
Philipp: It has definitely meant to go my own way. I think there have roughly been two options: either to do what is considered as “normal” or do what my passion is telling me to do. I chose my passion. Though this sounds cool, it can in fact be very tough. It means that I did not have many points of reference to reassure myself around decisions I made. This taught me that comparing myself with others is the wrong approach if I really want to become the best version of myself. I realised that what I do has to be in harmony with my inner self, rather than with what society expects me to do. This has required me to build up strength and resilient confidence in my own intuition and judgment. This is an ongoing challenge for me – every single day. To go for passion rather than common sense is a choice in every single moment.
I chose my passion. Though this sounds cool, it can in fact be very tough.
The Arc: You joined us on The Arc 2015. At that time, one phrase you mentioned repeatedly was: “Everyone has their inner ruins”. What does this statement mean to you?
Philipp: What I mean is that everyone has some inner dust. Affections, sorrows, unsatisfied needs. Before The Arc I was often afraid of my vulnerabilities and I tended to ignore them because I was fearful of facing them head on. Facing my vulnerabilities means seeing myself as I am – and not only seeing the parts which I like about myself. Especially when I touch on salient points within myself, then it can then be even more hurtful.
At the same time, I have found that there is nothing more beautiful than authentically scrutinising oneself without any excuse. Inner depth seems to be a process of continuous and relentless self-scrutiny. This increasing sensitivity around what is going on within me makes it possible to engage in even deeper and more meaningful relationships with my partner, my family and my friends. It is so rewarding. To say it with John Green, “maybe there’s something you’re afraid to say, or someone you’re afraid to love, or somewhere you’re afraid to go. It’s gonna hurt. It’s gonna hurt because it matters.”
The Arc: Yeah. That definitely resonates. *blink* Ok – shifting gears: Who inspires you?
Philipp: YOU. I am inspired by every single person reading these lines. You are the fascinating kind of person who does not sit back but who sets out for searching for a meaningful life. I am deeply moved whenever someone has the courage to choose the journey of searching for purpose, rather than being complacent with given circumstances. That is why I love stories about historical people who made this choice despite of extremely difficult conditions. For example, what is it which gave William Wilberforce the endurance to fight against slavery in Britain for his entire life? I believe that there is this ultimate, ultimate invincible trust within us which is stronger than any burden.
I am deeply moved whenever someone has the courage to choose the journey of searching for purpose, rather than being complacent with given circumstances.
The Arc: You have been campaigning against Brexit, you are Founder and Co-Founder of a multitude of initiatives. What – if anything – would you like to change through that sort of servant leadership? As in: seriously, practically.
I want to end powerlessness.
Philipp: I want to end powerlessness. I believe that alienation and powerlessness are the root cause of personal unhappiness as well as of the huge political problems in the world.
I believe there is a strong interdependence between the well-being of the individual and the welfare of the public. As long as individuals are not satisfied with themselves, they will continue externalising their own conflicts into the world. And as long as political problems are not properly solved, people will internalise those in response.
How do we break out of this vicious cycle? I am convinced that what we need is a young generation of people who are authentic to themselves and who have the confidence to fix the problems. Right now, most people wait for other people to permit them to be happy and to take responsibility for the most pressing problems in the world. But there is no one from whom we can ask for permission. No one can make us complete and no one can give us the entitlement to take ownership. It is entirely up to us.
Right now, most people wait for other people to permit them to be happy and to take responsibility for the most pressing problems in the world. But there is no one from whom we can ask for permission. No one can make us complete and no one can give us the entitlement to take ownership. It is entirely up to us.
The Arc: Ok. We always do this at the end of interviews and the last questions should have been a good warmup for this. 30 seconds: Who do YOU dare to be and which IMPACT do you wanna stand for?
Philipp: I dare to be a pragmatic dreamer. And I will not be the only one. I wanna stand for the impact of all young people joining me in living their dreams. Imagine all the people… Dreams come true. (…while listening to John Lennon’s “Imagine”).
The Arc: Haha! Great one 🙂 Thanks so much for that interview.