Nuggets May 2021
Well not that anybody notices or necessarily even cares about how regularly these Nuggets find their way into the inboxes of the world, but it did matter to me. I had made a promise that every last Friday of the month I’d be sending these out. I was told it’s important that your followers have a clear date to look forward to. Well that didn’t work too well in my flexible, going-with-the-flow kinda ways. So “before the month is over” worked really well. “The weekend after the month is over at-the-latest” was my most recent variation of this rule. And actually that worked really well for me for a long time now and, as you may or may not have noticed, I found myself semi-regularly on a Saturday morning, with a cup of coffee, musing on the month past and really quite enjoying this time.
…Well, fast-backward to me last weekend really needing a fucking rest from thinking and reminding myself that I’m the one making the rules. And while I think it’s important that we stick to them as to maintain our own personal integrity, I made a formal request head office and got granted permission to rest. So here I am, in great spirits and actually happy to share some nuggets with you, rather than feeling it’s some kind of chore or thing to tick of my list. Because it’s really not. I value the exchange and regular feedback as the value of these little musings continue to warm my heart and make this time a really meaningful one to me.
So here we go, as always, a few Nuggets of what’s been going on for me this month, bits and pieces that I’ve come across or thoughts that have been on my mind, as well as a few fruits of that energy. If any of it resonates, make it swing! I’d love to hear from you 🙂
What I’ll be telling my kinds: It’s all about relationships
I just got off the phone with a dear colleague who, I believe somewhat inspired by the success of the ACIC coach training programme and my faculty positions in The School of Life and the International Centre for Coaching Supervision, asked me if I had any tips for her as she’s keen to teach more and connect with like-minded trainers. My advice was two-fold and that’s definitely something I will be telling my kids as it applies to pretty much anything in life I reckon:
First, it’s all about relationships! There are likely [large numbers] of equally good or better [job titles] out there in the world. And how often does someone who is as (if not much less) qualified as you get the job because they know someone? I used to think that’s bonkers, but it actually makes a lot of sense. I used to think it’s unfair and doesn’t make sense. Surely you’d want to have the best person possible in the job?! Well the best person possible is not necessarily the best-skilled, but the person you trust the most. And you trust the person you know a lot more than the person you don’t know. Especially when skills matter less than the person being on board with the values and mission of the one who hires. Of course, in some instances it’s plain and simple nepotism or Vetternwirtschaft (as we say in German), but a lot of the time I now think it makes perfect sense to hire from within the people you know. Now as an introvert who spent most of my under-30s becoming independent and showing the world that I don’t need anybody’s help or network to succeed, I struggled with this idea and I had massively underestimated and undervalued the relationships in my life. If I could live my life over, I’d take much better care of the people I got to know, like and trust. It’s so simple to keep in touch and check in every now and then, yet I’m pretty bad at it. I always felt I needed a reason to give someone a call. It’s a good enough reason to be curious as to how they are because you care.
Now if you’re reading this and we used to be close/r and you haven’t heard from me in ages, I’m sorry! Despite bringing lots of people together professionally these days I still suck at checking in and maintaining many of my relationships. I think (and very much hope) that those who are dear to me know this and that the love and respect we feel for each other shines so strongly in the moments we connect that you won’t doubt the value the connection holds to me. But then again, there’s a period of time that you don’t hear from someone over which you’ll ask yourself whether it’s still there. If you’re asking yourself that question about me, chances are it still very much is, and I encourage you to drop me a line so we can re-connect. It would mean a lot to me and I hope I’ll get over myself some day and just make it a regular thing to check in with people every now and then. There’s gotta be an app for that, right!?
Anyway, what I’d like to instil in my kids is an awareness that relationships are the most valuable thing you can nurture. Not just for work opportunities, but as your rock in life, the stuff that really matters.
Oh and the other piece of advice was to make your intentions known. I had written the story about how I got the School of Life gig in another Nugget, which was basically a result of putting my intention to work with them into, yes indeed, one of these nuggets, and a chain of events started that led to becoming part of their teaching faculty. It’s not always straight forward (it certainly wasn’t in this example), but to be vocal about what we want, who we’d like to connect with, and what our mission is, even how others may be able to help you, it goes a long way, sometimes exactly where you’d like to be. And I believe that when we show us with our intentions on our sleaves, those with similar intentions will gather round and resonate.
What bubble are YOU in?
It came as a shock to me. I thought everybody would jump on this. Nash was (and is) already WELL-excited and when he told me that we might be able to get Helen Pluckrose to join us for a Pub Psychology session on wokeness, cancel culture, social justice and post-modernism, I remember him musing that, out of the hundreds of sessions we ran over the past nearly 10 years, “this will be one to remember!”. We had discussed the psychology of language in a previous session and loads of doors opened to continue this conversation in the light of the current escalation of what we might refer to as “the culture wars”, the growing divide of many western societies and the rapid growth of movements such as liberal justice warriors on one side and the alt-right on the other. “wokeness” and “cancel culture” seems to be in everyone’s awareness. Dr. Seuss discontinued soe of their books due to language that may purport and even create racist attitudes, Chris Rock gets un-invited to host the Oscars due to a homophobic tweet from his early 20s, Jordan Peterson refuses to use the preferred pronouns of transgendered people arguing that an attempted law to do so is an attack on free speech, and many republicans seem to lose their shit on a regular basis when asked to consider minorities and make some relatively minor changes to their lives in order to significantly improve people’s lives.
Now when I first heard the term “woke”, I thought it was a really positive thing: to be awake and more aware of social issues and challenges faced by people who often find themselves suppressed, marginalized or discriminated against. It seemed to be a movement to promote social justice and create a fairer society – generally values that I very much hold. With time though, it seems to have become something different. I heard Sam Harris front on wokeness and outline how it’s going too far and how it can be actually quite dangerous to such values. Getting “cancelled” seems to happen increasingly to people with wonderful intentions who, for years, did amazing work to create positive change. “Social justice warriors” (as they became known) started to attacked everyone who dared not to use the “right” language, even it no offence was ever intended and the person learned and adjusted as a consequence. There seems to be little room for intentions anymore and not only celebrities, but anybody now could become the target. When I recently opened a few posts in our ACIC online community with “Hey guys”, as to address a mixed gendered group, like I often do, I was told my US-based colleague that I’d be tter rethink this and that, even though there’s a strong linguistical argument as to why the plural “guys” is not in any way discriminatory (and certainly not intended to be) against women (in fact I often address groups of women as “guys”), I’d most likely get into trouble eventually and cause offence. Now what do I do? I find myself hesitant now when I open this way. Is this going too far or is it a necessary and important change to how I address groups? And where’s the line? Language is an ever-evolving construct and the meaning of words change over time.
Going back to the story, with excitement I created the event “A Debate on Wokeness, Cancel Culture and Social Justice”, we even postponed it as to get Helen involved and to have ore tie to prepare for what promises to be a heated debate with passionate views from across the spectrum, and then… Crickets! 3 tickets sold (they’re £5 so money is not a barrier) in the first 10 days. WTF?! Were people scared to get cancelled, worried about getting “triggered” or attacked for their views? Do they not know Pub Psychology as a space that’s respectful and curious and well-facilitated? Might they think we’re for or against wokeness or cancel culture and feel unwelcome? Maybe they don’t want to or feel unqualified to “debate”.
Then I asked the Hivemind (my Facebook network) and the overwhelming response was something along the lines of “I have no clue what you guys are talking about and never heard of wokeness or cancel culture, so it didn’t capture my interest.” Stunning how I find myself in my own bubble and making assumptions as to what the pub psychology community is and isn’t aware of. I hadn’t seen this coming and thought it was an important reminder that we all, to some extent, exist in bubbles and might not even know what kind of news and information arrive to people so close to us. Made me wonder what I am not aware of and never heard of…
Anyway, if this made you curious to learn, explore or, indeed, debate this, do join us on the 20th May for our Pub Psychology debate, regardless of whether you lean back and let us do the talking or whether you have passionate views and would like to partake. We would like to see a diverse group discussing about important issues such as this in a respectful and constructive way. And I DO believe that’s possible.
What seemed to simple but too 20 years to resolve
I heard the most wonderful story from one of my supervisees. Throughout her 20 years of marriage it had always kinda bugged her that, while she was serving dinner, her partner would be somewhat awkwardly be about, trying to help but not really helping, more like being in the way and making things more difficult. Based on a conversation we had about “contracting” in coaching (agreeing on what this space is, our roles in it, and how we use it together). When we coach, it seems to come quite natural to us, yet outside of the coaching room it’s not necessarily part of the standard procedure. Now this wonderful coach came back to the group the following month after it had become clear to her that (re-)contracting with her client, sharing her experience and simply asking them about theirs, and then agree on how they would like to manage this going forward. What she shared was that she had applied the same principle to this situation with her husband, and it turned out that he felt uncomfortable with getting served by her and that he felt he wanted to contribute in some way rather than “just sitting there”. A rather brief conversation during which they both shared their experience and agreed, happily, on a way forward. It was a solution to a minor, but persistent issue, resolved within minutes by sharing our experience with a curiosity as to the other’s and an invitation to agree on what to do with it (if anything). What may there be that bugs you in one of your relationships, which some simple “contracting” might resolve?
It also reminded me about another contracting-related anecdote: It must have been around 2010, I remember I was fresh to coaching and excited to have these kind of conversations and the skill set to help people think and make decisions. A (highly experienced coach and) friend of mine told me how he was undecided whether or not to do a PhD under Philip Zimbardo (!) and the best way I knew how to help him (I did consider shaking him into taking the opportunity, which, as it turned out would have been very much the wrong thing to do, but that’s a different story) was to ask some coaching-style questions. After a few minutes he glanced over (we were walking alongside each other at the time) and he said: “You know, Yannick, you should ask me for permission before you coach me.” It wasn’t a big thing but it really stuck in my memory and since then I’m more careful to ask myself whether the person is “okay with me wearing my coaching hat for a few minutes” or whether there’s something else that we might better be clear on in how we do things right now. These days I’m all about contracting contracting contracting, but back then it was a profound learning moment. And this sort of contracting goes well beyond coaching.
What snuck itself into the background
A very visually aware client recently pointed out to me, as I was explaining my different professional “hats” that he’d be having access to as part of Rocket Supervision, that I have those hats literally in the background. Now it’s not that I’m not aware of what’s in the background when I meet people, but for some reason I hadn’t made the connection. The hat stand came “into the picture” because clients needed to hang stuff (and I’m quite functionally-focused when it comes to what’s in my room). I then thought that it looked kinda empty there without clients coming in anymore, and so I satisfied the hat stand’s (assumed) craving for fulfilling its purpose (not without thinking about this famous scene from Rick & Morty of course) and hung up some hats. Funny how metaphors sneak themselves into the here-and-now. And it was a really wonderful way of contracting (see above) too as I was pointing out that there are in fact 4 hats, not just the 2 visible ones, and that some of my professional hats are also “nested” and supporting each other, sometimes hidden away and working beneath the cover of the other. At times we make it clear that I’m taking one hat off and put on another. Other times they operate as one as they have become fully integrated. I do remember a music festival once where I may or may have not been seen to wear multiple hats at a time. A rich metaphor as it turns out!
Quote I loved
I don’t actually know where this quote originated from (and am I’m trying hard right now not to enter that rabbit whole). I’ve heard it first in an episodes of the Tim Ferriss Show (again, resisting very hard here). I believe it stems from Zen Buddhism, but certainly I’ve heard it in many forms over the years:
“How we do anything is how we do everything”
I noticed it first when I watched people I know well ski and snowboard. How they engaged with the mountain, with learning, with challenges, with the weather forecast or getting stuck on a lift…. that was usually telling about how they engaged with other hobbies, their jobs, their relationships, the world. What I loved (and why I’d jump on the opportunity to take a group of coaching clients into the mountains)is that it happens in an embodied way, so it’s very authentic and real. It’s difficult to fake how the body responds, and also the mind can’t help but reveal itself when the body is busy surviving or moving at high speeds (or both). Think about that…
I’m excited to finally share my conversation with fellow Existential Coach and Programme Leader of the MA in Existential Coaching at NSPC, Sasha van Deurzen Smith. We talk about a bunch of things in this 2 hour conversations, so bring a snack and a notepad. On that note (pun intended) I’d like to let you know that 1) these solo deep dives are now, in addition to YouTube) on all major podcasting platforms in audio format, and 2) that I’ll be running my introductory training programme again this summer and you can find the dates and links in the “catch me live” section further down. PLUS, here’s a video introduction for you also:
Here’s an invitation for my next rounds of introductions to existential coaching. If you ever wanted to spend some proper time diving into this with a group of like-minded coaches, join me!
What is effective coaching? And what does an effective coaching session look like? How would you structure a session for an effective outcome? What’s the process? Much of the answers to these questions depend on individual context, but effective coaching also has many elements in common. In this episode of Talking about Coaching Siawash and Nicki and I discuss our takes on effective coaching, how structure provides safety for clients and coaches alike, and why particularly those who are new to coaching will appreciate a clearly structured session to guide them towards an effective outcome.
Many coaches carry the weight of feeling responsible for their clients’ success (or lack thereof). We hear about this often in supervision. When it takes longer than planned for their clients to reach their goal or they get frustrated along the way, many coaches ask: Could I have done more? What did I do wrong so that this client doesn’t achieve what they set out to do? What if they ask for their money back or leave me a bad review? Am I good enough? What else can I do to get them to move forward? The weight of taking on too much responsibility can weigh heavily on a coach, and so Nicki, Siawash and I thought it was important to address this question and talk about the extent to which we share responsibility for our clients’ success or failure. What can and what can we not control or influence? How far are we willing and able to go with our support? What did we promise and contract at the beginning?
Oh, and I know I’ve been teasing the coaching & psychedelics arms of the podcast for a little while now. Heather’s been moving to Mexico and we decided to set up a separate platform for these episodes also, which moved our release date back a bit. We’re currently also extracting some snippets, and so I’m confident that next time you hear from me via this channel, it’ll be ready.
Catch me live
- 18th June: The Coaching Cabinet – We’ve re-modelled and relaunched our FREE social space for coaches and those interested in coaching. Every 3rd Tuesday at 6:30pm UK time we’re meeting in breakout rooms on Zoom to 1) continue the conversation about the last Coaching Lab, 2) dive deeper into a popular topic that emerged from our community, and 3) partake in a constellation exercise facilitated by my colleague Sid.
- 20th May: Pub Psychology – The Psychology of Wokeness, Cancel Culture and Social Justice (with Helen Pluckrose) – As per my nugget above!
- 27th May: Workplace Coaching Summit – I’ll be speaking about meaning-centred coaching at this excellent event organized by Dr. Suzy Green and her team at the Positivity Institute.
- 1st June: Coaching Lab 15 with Dr. Joel Vos – Be a fly on the wall for this live demo centred around creating meaning. Joel draws on evidence based interventions and techniques from his book and academic career (Tickets from 20£ via MeetUp & Eventbrite. Please also note the 20% discount on annual membership with access to all our recorded sessions!)
- 9th June: WBECS Summit – Another heads up that I’ll be presenting at the next WBECS Summit, both at their free Summit on the 9th June as well as their paid Summit on 27th January 2022.
- 12th June: Coach Training for Existential Therapists, Counsellors and Mental Health Professionals – Brought to you by the Society for Existential Analysis
- 13th June: The Festival of Hope & Despair – I’ll be sharing a positive-existential perspective on hope and despair in a talk I called “Trotzdem”. I can highly recommend to check out the fantastic line up of speakers!
- 25th June: Positive Psychology in Practice Conference. I’ll be opening Day 2 of this excellent conference and have been invited to extent a 25% discount code to network (use PD4369HR at checkout)
- 30th June – 4th August: An Introduction to Existential Coaching (5 Wednesdays)
3rd-4th July: An Introduction to Existential Coaching (Weekend Training) – My popular introduction to the existential coaching landscape it back. I’ve recorded a video invitation for you which you are welcome to share with interested colleagues.
That’s it! If you’re reading this, I appreciate that you’re still with me and I hope you enjoyed reading my Nuggets. Again, if any of it resonates, make it swing! I’d love to hear from you 🙂
+44 (0)7914 05 77 03