Be your true self and that’s enough… That’s the message I got from a small stand of Birch trees in the mountains of Colorado on the last day of my Coach Training.
Something tells me I should explain a bit more.
Since October 2013 I have been learning to be a personal/leadership coach through the Newfield Network. I did part one (Foundations for Personal Leadership) of the training @ the University of Calgary but decided to do part two (The Art & Practice of Ontological Coaching – TAPOC) just outside of Colorado Springs at a Leadership Development retreat called The Nature Place. Ontological Coaching is a holistic and effective way to help people discover all that is within themselves and open their view to new ideas and possibilities.
Both Foundations and TAPOC have been transformative experiences and I’ve met some of the most incredible people along the way. TAPOC was especially meaningful as I spent 5 days truly immersed in the work of learning to be a coach. My classmates were some of the most generous,compassionate and caring people I’ve ever known. I’m certain I will know them for a very long time. The Newfield approach of learning is experiential, we don’t just learn how to coach we experience coaching as both coachee and coach. We practice on each other using real breakdowns and genuine conversation. Coaching is to be in service to another person and we learned the humility and compassion required to be in service to our coachee’s. I believe that this style of coaching is more than a profession, it’s a calling.
The Newfield mission sums up the approach to this work:
Julio Olalla, Founder Newfield Network
Our mission is to generate and nurture learning spaces designed to allow the emergence of a new conception and experience of knowing where we learn to live a good life as we contribute to build a socially just, environmentally sustainable and spiritually fulfilling world.
I am very proud to be a member of the Newfield community and I’m so proud of all the work my classmates did to help me prepare for the journey ahead. They gave of themselves and allowed me to open up in ways I didn’t think I could. For that I am so grateful.
The next step is to get out there and actually coach! I would like to thank my Coachee Guinea pigs in advance
Oh right I forgot to explain the tree thing! On the last day of the conference Julio talked about being open to different voices when it comes to coaching, our learning can come from so many places, he asked us to go out to the forest and find a tree that appealed to us and ask it one question. The question was “What are the things I can do immediately to create happier and deeper relationships?” I walked into the forest and saw an evergreen tree that looked nice, as I approached it the wind came through and made the leaves rustle on a small stand of Birch trees and that caught my attention so I went and stood in the middle of them instead. I closed my eyes and asked my questions, the answer came through so clearly it was almost overwhelming!
Be your true self and that’s enough…
Pretty smart trees
Okay that’s maybe not the best image of My Specific Journey… but I do love the song ‘Don’t Stop Believin’
Alright enough monkey business… I’ve been having some really great conversations lately with some really interesting people.
As I move through this process of learning to be an Ontological Coach I have been recruiting potential ‘Coachees’ to volunteer for the final part of my training. So far the people who are interested are amazing to talk to. They are smart, interesting, intuitive people who I can learn so much from. I’m so grateful that they would even consider being a part of this process with me. I still have a couple of months before I will actually do any real coaching but the conversations so far have been so energizing.
I know in my heart this is how I want to spend my time. Building genuine connections with people who are passionate about growth and want to fully step into who they truly are. The holistic approach to these conversations is why they they have the power to be so transformative. Discussing the power of language as a tool for action, the influence of moods and emotions and how they are manifested in our physical self is rich and diverse terrain for discovery.
I already have the opportunity in my day job to build one on one connections with new people all the time, but I’m a Recruiter so there is a defined business motive to these meetings. This means there is a limitation to how deep a conversation can go. I’m very fortunate to have the opportunities I do and I’m grateful to those around me for allowing me to explore this new path.
I’m so excited to be a coach!
I was speaking with someone the other day and we were discussing that since I don’t have kids I will forfeit the experience of helping a person grow and develop into a good person. This experience is unique to parents. However she pointed out that a good coach does exactly that, a coach can help clear away the clutter and enable a person to step into who they truly are. This was an amazing moment for me to consider that.
For me the idea of being a coach is to be in service to other people. To see the light in another person and help them see it in themselves feels like important work. This is my journey and I will work hard and strive to make the world a better place one conversation at a time.
And because I used the picture…
Thanks to Laura for sharing this with me.
I think most people are familiar with the latin phrase ‘Cogito Ergo Sum’ which means ‘I Think Therefore I Am’. It’s from Rene Descartes ‘Discourse on Method’ from 1637.
What very few people would know is that it was also my 1st tattoo. I got it when I was 16 and had just discovered Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre and of course Descartes. In one fragile year of intellectual discovery I effectively shut down my emotional self and discarded any possibility of a spiritual life. I reasoned that all I needed was to trust in myself and my logic and if I couldn’t see it, it wasn’t real. I became one of those very annoying “Bullet Point Atheists”, my arguments were literally only skin deep.
It didn’t take long before I realized that I didn’t have the knowledge to back up my arrogance and I stopped showing people my tattoo. I felt like a fraud to have that phrase on my arm when I didn’t even really understand what it meant. The idea of what it represented was what I was attracted to. I didn’t want to acknowledge my emotional side (too painful) and as far as spirituality went, I felt truly abandoned by any kind of God. That only left logic and reason.
My teen years were challenging, it sucks to be a teenager no matter who you are but I don’t think I had the tools to handle the challenges that came up. My feelings were dark and depressive during that time, I know I retreated into a world of reason & knowledge, not to learn but to hide. I couldn’t handle the loneliness of those years and I reacted to the environment I was in by shutting out anything that could hurt me.
For 13 years that tattoo was a real regret on my part. Whenever anyone saw it I would pray they didn’t know what it meant, I would always make up random meanings for it to change the conversation. I was so embarrassed of what it represented, while I felt like a fraud when I was younger, I felt like an pretentious idiot as I as got older. I realized that trying to live in just one domain (mind) for so long was limiting my growth and joy. If I wanted to really engage with the world I needed to be comfortable in my own skin, and that meant learning to be comfortable with my emotions. It also meant I had to get that damn tattoo covered!
Well the tattoo is long gone, I had it covered by a Japanese pagoda 10 years ago. It took a while to step into my emotional self and feel okay, it’s a work in progress, but the work is really satisfying. In the last 18 months I have really found my spiritual side. Meditation has become a very important part of my life. Through meditation I’m feeling the connections all around me and it’s amazing.
I think about that 16 year old kid who got a dumb tattoo to show the world he didn’t need to be vulnerable or to be protected. I used to feel sorry for him but I don’t feel like that anymore, I’m proud of him. That tattoo was his shield and I‘m proud that he did what he had to do and he made it through.
Becky and I have been watching the new version of Cosmos an it’s led to some amazing conversations. For those that aren’t aware of the show it’s a new version of the classic Carl Sagan series that aired in 1980. Neil Degrasse Tyson is the host this time around.
The show is such an amazing combination of science and imagination. Specifically I was blown away by the Cosmic Calendar that says that if all time from the big bang to now was one calendar year human existence would be the last couple of minutes of the last hour of Dec 31st.
I have two very distinct feelings when I think about that fact. First I feel so insignificant, small and unimportant. There was a time when I would have spiraled into feeling depressed, like what’s the point? Not this time, after feeling small and insignificant, I’m overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude. I’m amazed and grateful that I’m living at a time and in a place where I have the opportunity to bear witness to the vastness of life.
I feel genuinely connected to life and appreciate my place in it. Of course my mind struggles to grasp the scale of it all but my heart swells and the feeling is joy.
Who would have thought watching a show about science would be a spiritual experience.
Here’s the original Cosmic Calendar with Carl Sagan from 1980.
It’s a popular debate today, are we too connected by our technology or are we not connected enough to each other. Can you have a meaningful connection with someone via Instagram?
I can see both sides of the debate… actually I live on both sides of the debate. At work I prefer direct connections whenever possible, it’s faster to pick up the phone or walk down the hall then to rely on email (the second worst form of communication after texting). I’m a Recruiter and it’s such a critical part of what I do to develop a connection with my candidates to build rapport and trust.
It’s a different story in my personal life. With exception of my amazing wife Becky most of my relationships are maintained through a steady stream of ‘Likes’ texts and retweets. If my phone rings outside of work I almost always screen the call. My normal excuse is I spend all day talking to people so why would I want to do that on my spare time. Just reading that line makes me shake my head. Why would I avoid personal connections in private life but work so hard to build them professionally?
I’ve been thinking a lot about why I treat my personal and professional relationships so differently. What I’ve realized is that there is a common theme in almost all of my relationships. That theme is distance. At work I rely on knowledge and experience to build connections, but nothing too personal. It’s the PG “Company Manners” version of who I am. I’ve been doing it for so long it’s been completely transparent to me until now. I’m friendly and approachable on the outside but anxious and defensive on the inside.
At home with family I’m much more casual and open but still guarded and distanced. I love my family but I don’t talk to them that often. It feels so strange to admit that. I am so fortunate to have a loving family who are supportive and generous. I’m truly grateful to have them in my life but I don’t know if they know that. I think I worry that relationships have an expiry date and if I get too involved or share too much of myself I will inevitably get hurt. That is a legitimate risk but I guess no emotional risk, no emotional reward.
So what can I do? If I want deeper more meaningful connections I only have one option, I have to step into my own vulnerability and take the emotional risk. At work I will declare “I don’t know” more often, rather than hide behind feeling I have to know the answers I will be open to asking for help and admitting I don’t know. In my personal life I will not hide behind a wall of social media and instead try actually being social. When the phone rings I’ll answer it or better yet I’ll reach out and make the call.
Before I start I have a Confession, I love the commercial on CBC for the Paralympics and it is the inspiration for this post. I should also confess that this won’t be my only post based on the tagline of a commercial (I’m lovin it… just kidding)
I’ve been watching the Paralympics in Sochi and I’m so inspired and amazed by the athletes. It occurs to me that I relate more to the athletes in the Paralympics more than I do to the athlete in the Olympics. I always assume that the athletes in the Olympics are “gifted” and possess mysterious physical attributes that are not available to me. I guess I feel that if an athlete with a physical disability can be successful that maybe I can to.
That got me thinking about why? I’m not physically disabled, but I do feel like there is something missing and that’s where I relate to the Paralympian. I feel like I don’t have all the tools that everyone else has and that like the Paralympian I will have to “Overcome” to be successful. Well at least that’s how I used to feel.
I realize that the elements required for a Paralympian to be successful are the same as it is for any high level athlete. They need the insight to learn technique (language), they need physical practice to perfect the technique (body) and most importantly they need the strength to be immersed in failure. The vulnerability an athlete needs to be willing to fail is key to their success (emotion).
This is where I get stuck. Nothing scares me more than vulnerability. The idea of failing at anything, especially failing in public is enough to prevent me from trying at all. For years I joked by saying that instead of no pain no gain I was just going to stick with no pain. This was more telling than I realized. I can’t say that I have overcome my fear, far from it in fact, but I do acknowledge my fear and I’m more comfortable to step into it and be willing to fail.
As I’m watching these athletes I’m not focused on their disability, I’m seeing more and more the courage they display by being willing to fail so that they can succeed.
This is the lesson for me. It’s not what’s missing that’s important, it’s what’s there.