If you’re a Bachelor fan, you probably know Ben Higgins. If you’re not a Bachelor fan, maybe the name sounds familiar — and if it doesn’t, it might soon — he’s written a book, hosts a podcast, has multiple businesses from coffee shops to restaurants and serves on the board of two nonprofits.
Higgins is the kind of person who makes you wonder if we really do all have the same amount of hours in a day. And yet, he’s entirely humble, leads with purpose and intention and reveals the kind of vulnerability that’s contagious. However, the path to where he is now — living happily in Denver with his wife, dog and thriving career — has not been an easy one.
Higgins grew up in Warsaw, Indiana and went on to Indiana University, where he admits he wasn’t a great student. Upon graduating, this led him to believe that he wasn’t a great candidate for the job market. The post-graduation self-doubt is all too relatable, but at the time, Higgins didn’t know what he wanted, so he gave himself time to expand his perspective and took a four-month teaching job in Peru. After returning, he was living comfortably with his parents and working at an afterschool youth center when his boss candidly turned to him and said, “You’ve got to get out of Warsaw.” His knee-jerk response was “but why?”
She said he had too much to offer.
“I didn’t believe that about myself,” he admits, “but I believed her.”
So he moved to Denver, where he worked at a tech company, but then a similar thing happened.
A year-and-a-half into his job, a coworker pulled him aside and said, “You moved to Denver, you don’t have any friends, you work all the time, you’re not dating and you hate your job, what are you doing?”
Up to this point, he felt like that was “his lot in life.” He was okay with being on the outside and playing it safe. Was he happy? Absolutely not.
“If I sign you up for my favorite TV show,” the co-worker asked, “would you do it if they called you?”
It felt like a long shot, so he said yes. Then, ABC called.
So in 2015, Higgins traveled to Los Angeles for the first time to be on the 11th season of The Bachelorette, where he would compete against 26 other men to win the heart of Kaitlyn Bristowe.
Higgins couldn’t help feeling out of place. “The car that I was in was full of six other people,” he recalls. “One was a professional athlete, the other was a doctor, the other was this fitness trainer who was ripped and good-looking and had a $5,000 suit on, and I had gone to Kohl’s and bought a couple suits and got them tailored at the mall.”
As he took in the confidence and larger-than-life personalities in the car, Higgins found himself trapped in a metaphor.
“Right now, this microcosm that I’m getting ready, that I’m driving in this car to get on television for, feels like how I felt my whole life.”
He returned to a state of comfort and played it safe by talking when spoken to, remaining on the outside and keeping his true self at a distance from others. Higgins wanted to stay under the radar as much as possible — being on the show at all was a good story, right? He wouldn’t mind if he went home. Then all of a sudden he didn’t want to go home, so he knew he had to step it up.
Everything cracked when he finally opened up about his insecurities and fears. For a moment, he forgot he was on television — until the show aired.
“I realized that the more vulnerable I was, the more it allowed me to connect with others and gather people around and say, ‘Hey, yeah, me too. I feel that way also.'”
“That episode aired where I admitted, I think at the time the tagline was, ‘I feel unlovable.'” But that’s not what he meant, he explains, what he meant was if people got to know him, they might not like him.
Although some might consider bearing your soul on national television a literal nightmare, Higgins realized it showed him the power of vulnerability.
“I realized that the more vulnerable I was, the more open I was about my struggles, pains, successes and joys, the more it allowed me to connect with others and gather people around and say, ‘Hey, yeah, me too. I feel that way also.'”
Although Higgins didn’t find his lifelong partner on The Bachelorette — or later, when he was the lead on The Bachelor — he found a side of himself he’d never seen.
“The most influential thing that’s ever happened in my life happened on a reality television show — which is so weird to me,” he says.
Now that Higgins was a nationwide sensation, he couldn’t exactly revert to his wallflower ways, but he knew he wanted to make an impact with his platform.
In 2017, he co-founded Generous Coffee, which is exactly what it sounds like. The Denver-based coffee house runs completely as a nonprofit, with all proceeds going to organizations across the globe. The model of giving isn’t an accident, he explains, and is a way to stay humble.
With a platform comes power, and with power comes money, and Higgins wanted to shield himself from any temptation that might’ve come with that and caused him to change who he is.
“Say Generous took off and became a billion-dollar company and all of a sudden I’m staring at a nice little payday,” he says. “I like to think I’m a generous person, but who knows, I think I’d be very tempted to take that money. Who knows what I would do with it, who I would become, what kind of temptations and issues would arise from that.”
Higgins’ gravitation towards generosity doesn’t stop with Generous, though. He’s on the board of two nonprofits — Humane Hope United and Project Hope — where he’s committed to helping others across the globe in a variety of ways, from providing access to clean water to offering better healthcare.
“Be the solution to the things that make you most upset, but try to do it in a contemplative, thought-through way.”
At the core, Higgins’ desire to give back comes from the innate understanding of the power of human stories and broadening one’s perspective. Having grown up in a small town where his worldview was confined to those who looked and sounded like him and had similar values, he has since learned the value of broadening one’s view of the world.
Although Higgins’ journey to self-understanding is undeniably human, not everyone has a television crew pushing them to crack out of their shells and reach their full potential — an opportunity he’s grateful for.
So, for those who can’t go on TV? Ben Higgins says to get angry, like, really angry.
“For anyone that’s struggling with purpose or mission, or how they wake up and walk outside every day: Find the things in the world that make you angry,” he explains. “Be the solution to the things that make you most upset, but try to do it in a contemplative, thought-through way.”
When he’s not giving back, Higgins works on his other business ventures — including owning two restaurants in Denver, hosting a podcast with fellow Bachelor alum Ashley Iaconetti, operating an investment fund and regularly giving talks on hope and human connection.
Although Higgins’ days are packed and his businesses are diverse, it’s the variety of ventures that keeps him moving and motivated rather than burnt out.
“I think it helps me feel more alive,” he says. “When I’m working on multiple different things at once, it keeps me moving, it keeps me active. I’m constantly switching gears, and it’s challenging, complex and at times doesn’t feel as fun as other days, but it does keep me alive. It keeps me on my A-game.”
Although Higgins has come a long way, he remains humble. He starts his day early with coffee. He goes to the gym, answers emails. He spends time with his dog, his wife. He prays and is grateful. He doesn’t have the desire to travel much anymore, he’d prefer to stay home with his family. Most of all, he looks forward to the little things and is committed to leaving his mark on the world long after he’s left it.