An entrepreneur has an idea. A businessman has the skills to go with it. A visionary has a mission that brings both together. Meet Abdullah Boulad. The founder and CEO of The Balance Healthcare Group – a luxury addiction, mental health, and wellness clinic based in Mallorca, Spain.

Abdullah has been through a lot more than most. He fled the civil war in Lebanon with his family at the age of eight, he integrated into a new country and culture without knowing the language, he’s built companies and lost them. He’s the poster child for pivoting. When life finds ways to subvert you – change tactics. Abdullah has been shifting gears for years.

When a family tragedy struck, Abdullah faced his own kind of burnout. He had a heart attack. He took a step back from the corporate world, recalibrated. He spent the time investing in knowledge – this time around his health. He studied psychology, somatic work, and CBT. He sought out the healing, and now he’s investing in other people finding theirs.

We sat down with Abdullah to discuss those pivots, what led to his heart attack, and his advice for men looking to find balance in their lives.

SquareMile: You were born in Lebanon during the civil war: what do you remember from that time period?

Abdullah Boulad: I was seven and a half years old when we left Lebanon for Switzerland. Before the war, my father was travelling across Europe as a businessman, buying clothes and machines and all kinds of stuff. That was my only connection to the world outside Lebanon. I remember only a few things from that time – but it’s so far away that it feels like a former life.

I remember planes flying over the city and bombarding everything. I remember glass crashing and my grandmother grabbing my hand to take me to shelter. I remember my father giving a shield to a friend of his one morning and getting the news later that day that he had died. It turned out he had passed the shield along to someone else. He got shot and died that evening.

I have memories of family members dying, people being taken hostage. My father and my uncle were threatened. That was the reason my father decided to leave the country – for the sake of the safety of the family.

SM: When you’re thinking of those early days in childhood: is it only fear you remember or was there joy, too?

AB: I felt a lot of love then. I had a lot of love from my family. I don’t feel bad about the time. When you’re a child, you don’t see anything other than what you have. But I felt the fear of others around me. When people were running around searching for people, knocking on doors and checking the houses. They come in with their guns and I felt that fear. As a child, you cannot judge if this is good or bad unless you feel it indirectly from others. The anxiety I felt was second hand from my family.

SM: Can you tell me about the transition period from Lebanon to Switzerland?

AB: It started with sitting in a car waving goodbye to my family. I knew something sad was happening. I had never been travelling before – I didn’t know what Switzerland was. What is Europe? I only knew that my father would leave and bring back gifts and clothes and it was nice to see new things.

We went to Italy on the train, we had only one bag with us when we arrived in Switzerland. It was a tough time for my parents. As a child, you just go outside and play and be with others. But I could see it was hard for my parents. None of us spoke the language, we didn’t know anyone.

SM: You didn’t know the language at all?

AB: Nothing. In school in Lebanon, I was studying French and English. But my main language was Arabic. This was how it all started. When I got to school, it was hard. I was the foreigner. It was a time when there weren’t any foreigners in Switzerland. We came up against some racism. Children can be mean. They laugh at you if you don’t understand something.

SM: How did you cope with that?

AB: I remember I had anger at the time. But I directed it into other things. It took a few years, language–wise, to connect with people.

SM: What were those things you directed your energy towards as a kid?

AB: It was always sport, movement. I would bike a lot. When I got older, I got into karate. I mastered it and got into the Swiss junior team. It’s fighting, but it’s not. It’s about self control. Every training session started with meditation and breathing – and then you train. You never hit. You control it. You feel your body and control. Then you finish with meditation and the breath again.

This was the first connection I ever had to my body. ‘There is the body – there is the breath – there is meditation.’ As a child, you just do what the others do. You don’t understand the ideas behind it. But it makes sense to me looking back.

I was always intrigued by trading as well. There were these flea markets in Switzerland that I’d go to and negotiate with people. That’s where I learned about people, how to sell, how to interact. Sometimes I’d even go buy from other people and resell items.

SM: A natural born entrepreneur.


AB: Yes! Then there were the computers. I had a Commodore and Atari – I can’t even remember how much time I spent on those bloody machines. I’d spend hours taking them apart and putting them back together – it was the most relieving feeling when I had created an installation and it worked!

SM: What was the first idea you ever had for a business?

AB: It was those computers – I’d buy parts and assemble them and then sell them. I learned by doing, by failure. I’d buy a computer, take it apart and figure out which part was doing what and then try to reassemble it. The first one crashed but eventually I learned. Then I was able to make installations. I was able to put in new software – I’d install MS–DOS. Eventually, I could install Windows. I’d made sure it was a functioning system and then it was ready to be sold. Eventually, it became a web design company later on when I was studying architecture design. I even had other people working for me.

SM: How old were you?

AB: I was seventeen, eighteen.

SM: I love this recurring image of taking things apart and putting them back together in a new way.

AB: To me, this is entrepreneurship. With the design company, I did a course on HTML and designing and then I went out to Architecture offices and offered to create their websites. I went door to door.

SM: How many years did you do that for?

AB: A few years.

SM: That transitioned into you going to university?

AB: Yes – and then I studied business.

SM: Did everyone in your life tell you that you were born for business?

AB: No, not really. I thought how I was was normal!

SM: But you had the instinct enough to study it?

AB: Yes, while I was doing architectural design, the real estate business was not doing that great in the 90s. I wanted to be successful. I loved architecture because you could create something, it’s creative and you see the result at the end. But I wanted to think bigger. Business allowed me to be in any industry. It was a more neutral, flexible career path. I ended up falling in love with marketing. I worked at UBS—the Swiss Bank—in the marketing department. I’d study business in the evenings and work all week. They were long days.

SM: How did you feel in the corporate world?

AB: I didn’t like finance. I liked marketing – that was my passion. I loved the creativity and the design element and to think about what drives people. When tech started coming up and digital marketing boomed – I found my niche. After UBS, I stayed corporate but with more relation to private equity, start–ups, and venture capital. I realised that there was more to finance than I thought. We were learning how to build ideas into something bigger. That’s when my passions started to align.

SM: How long did you stay in that sector?

AB: It was maybe two years. Then I started my own company and it was successful and I had over 20 people working for me. We were helping small businesses get started, getting them financed. Then I started investing in these. I had wins and losses. I learned a lot. On a daily basis, I was given business ideas and was interviewing people, trying to gauge whether they were capable of doing that. I was running this until I had an accident in my family. My wife fell down the stairs seven months pregnant and was rushed into surgery. The stress of all of it eventually got to me and I had a heart attack.

SM: Wow. And what did your days look like back then leading up to your heart attack?

AB: I was overworking, completely. I was very active, I had long days. I rarely had lunch, I’d eat at dinner. I didn’t sleep well. I could go on. When my wife fell – everything stopped. The world completely changed. I was paralysed. This was my kind of burnout. I was taking care of everything else, except myself. My wife, my kids, my business but never me. I needed to reflect on what happened. Is this what I really want? Is this what I want to leave behind? What do I want to leave for my children? I took time off.

SM: What did you do with the time?

AB: I went back to school. I got two masters. Because of what happened I started looking into health and healthcare. I started training in psychology, therapy and CBT – all these areas. Then it shifted. I started to build ideas around this. I just knew I needed to be in that field.

SM: What was your first business idea that you acted on?

AB: There was something about the Swiss Rehab market that felt a bit institutional to me. I wanted to build a company in a different environment. I found a place in the mountains that I fell in love with and I just leapt. I decided to open my own clinic – I hired top talent from Switzerland and London. We called it ReCore. But it didn’t last long. It was too isolated of a location. I started working one on one with clients in Zurich – helping people as it came up. This gave me the flexibility to think about my family and where we would be our best. We started talking about what kind of life we wanted to live. I said: why don’t we move to Mallorca? Then seven weeks later we did.

SM: What was your relationship to the island previously?

AB: My wife spent parts of her childhood in Mallorca because her grandparents had a house there. We visited a few times over the years too. We looked at other places – the south of Spain and France. But in Mallorca we could have horses and an outdoor life. And we wanted the sun. The sun is the cheapest form of burnout therapy you can find.

If you grow up in cities like Zurich, you don’t have that enough. And the cities are loud, buzzing. It’s constant passive stress all around you. But Mallorca has calmness – there’s space between the noise. There’s animals and birds and sounds and nature. Just nothing – wind in the palm trees. It gives a very specific feeling. Then you look over the sea and see nothing but space. When you see it, you can feel it. Your mind opens up.

There’s also a spiritual community here. There’s amazing therapists and healers. I knew it was the place I wanted to build the rest of my life on, my kids' lives. I took the ideas and the passion and the mission I’d try to bring forth in the mountains and brought it there instead.

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SM: Can you tell me one of your favourite moments since starting The Balance?

AB: There are so many. Every time a client says, ‘you saved my life’ is a blessing. This isn’t just business. It’s not just shuffling clients. I meet every person that comes here. I want to see them, look at them, give them a hug. I want to witness the transformation. I just said goodbye to three clients last week, and to see them have joy again – it’s a feeling I can’t describe.

The thing I am most proud of is how we work as a team, how compassionate everyone is – we’ve really become a family in what we do. This was my vision. I don’t like conflict. I’m a very balanced person. I like harmony. For the first time in my life, I feel that harmony. I have it.

SM: The Balance has so many different healing techniques and practices: what are the techniques that have most helped you in your life mentally?

AB: For me it was always movement. When I have stressful times, I move. I know what to do now. I know my body. You can do tests and take supplements but nothing compares to moving. At the moment, I have a great routine. I start every day with sport – I disconnect, I take time to myself. I meditate. This helps me have energy for the day. I’m happy to work after that. If I don’t do any kind of sport, I’m mentally and physically exhausted. And there is no supplement or amount of sleep that will help me. Or drugging my body with coffee. Movement is my energy source. But there's a multitude of things I considered - I wrote my book about everything that I learned after my heart attack. 

SM: What trends are you seeing around male mental health in your clients?

AB: It’s a lot of self–esteem topics, and anger. This combination. Or sometimes the opposite with narcissism. All these issues lead to drinking, smoking, overworking or pushing people away. But it always starts somewhere below the surface. It often comes back to the role of being a man in today’s world. They find a lot of relief in psychotherapy – and practicing mindfulness.

SM: What do you think that role is today?

AB: There is so much expected of men. You need to be successful, you need to be an entrepreneur – you need to create something. Be something big. That is where those feelings of I’m not good enough often come from. It’s those comparisons as well – social media allows us to constantly be exposed to other people’s success and constantly reflecting on our own and whether it’s enough or not.

SM: I find that interesting because your clientele are affluent individuals that have already achieved a lot of success.

AB: Yes, because it’s never enough. You could achieve everything but if you step out of a role or position then people don’t look at you anymore. People identify themselves with their jobs. If you are not balanced or grounded within yourself – then you will always feel you are not enough.

It’s the same with children who have hyper–successful parents – they always feel they aren’t enough. These things lead kids to drugs and alcohol. Or if you’re in the public eye, you will be criticised. It doesn’t matter if you are the strongest person in the world, it will affect your self–esteem. All humans are the same.

SM: What do you think is preventing high–performing individuals from being their best, most balanced selves?

AB: Oftentimes people achieve great things, and then they can never get to that high again. They create something or do something big and then they are always comparing themselves to that moment. People need to self–reflect, they need to take time off. People with great self–reflection are the most grounded, balanced people. At The Balance, we offer this space of self–reflection. We help them figure out how to move forward and become a better person – and they define that. Life is not a goal, but an ongoing reflection.

For more information on Abdullah and his clinic, you can visit The Balance.