- The end of life as we know it – Death, endings, zombies, existential risk, and coaching
- The power of incremental learning – What’s your backflip?
- You can lead a horse…– wait, where’s the water?
- I never liked asking for help… – And ironically I forgot to ask you on here. Still…
- What I’m listening to – Akira The Don and Alan Watts (the don!)
- New Content – Coaching Lab Galore and Coaching Uncaged’s final season
- Catch me live
It’s starting to get to me. I’ve been feeling exhausted these past couple of weeks. A combination of parenthood, our big launch week to promote the next evolution of the Coaching Lab, Nelly being on crutches after spraining her ancle, and being back in Germany where my hayfever is back in full effect for a few weeks in spring.
I can be on GO for quite a while. I know that about myself. This month has been stretching it though.
Time to slow down! But at the same time it’s important to keep the momentum. I feel I owe it to what we’ve worked so hard for over the course of this past year.
On the bright side, Berlin is really blooming. All the trees turned green in unison, the streets opened up their gardens and shop windows, the people are celebrating the end of winter, and the city is vibrant in the kind of way that made me move here.
Not being able to walk (also by extension) really puts things into perspective and invites you to (re-)appreciate the basic things in life – like being able to move around, and all the things your wife does around the house you may or may not have stopped to notice (<3).
That’s it for now. Took a little longer to get these Nuggets to you this time. I’m still publishing weekly via this list if you fancy hearing from me more often, and also on LinkedIn if you wanted to connect on there.
But now, without further ado, enjoy a few Nuggets, bits and pieces I’ve been thinking about, came across, or found worth sharing in some way. If any of it resonates, make it swing! I’d love to hear from you.
Existentialists have a reputation to love talking about death.
And in a way that’s true, in that “endings” matter greatly. Our relationship with time, temporality, endings and, yes, death, are intricately linked to almost everything we do and how we experience being human.
Death offers a layer of meaning to life that couldn’t exist if we were to live forever. Similarly, any uncertainty you might have about whether your job or relationship is still going to be there for you in a year’s time is an invitation to make the most of it right now.
And zooming out a little bit, I’m literally grateful each morning that we’ve got warm water flowing out of the tap and I don’t have to ration my showers (yet?).
The planet is in grave danger, or rather: human existence as we know it on this planet is in grave danger. Most people are aware of this fact. A tiny fraction of those are up in arms about it. Many (consciously or unconsciously) prefer not to let this enter their sphere of awareness. After all, it’s uncomfortable to think about endings. So, many prefer not to.
And yet, endings are an inevitable part of living, and death is a certainty.
My first ever TED talk I watched was Stephen Petranek’s “10 ways the world could end very suddenly”, and I remember the awareness this instilled in me. For weeks I was living a richer human experience, more mindful of the here-and-now, and despite the struggles I was facing at the time, I felt an acute sense that everything was more or less okay. Existing includes anxiety and suffering, but I was still there, and that meant something.
This, I realised, is also why I love post-apocalyptic stories, like zombie movies. It’s not just the falling away of most rules, bringing out the existential freedom in people, and the most interesting character developments that ensue. It’s the reminder that, in some way, the world (even if it’s “just” yourworld as you know it) could end very suddenly.
Arguably that’s most likely not going to be Zombies, though I did just watch and loved The Last of Us, the most realistic “Zombie” scenario I’ve seen to date, where a cordyceps mushroom evolves to be able to spread to human hosts. This is based on a very real fungus that can control insects’ behaviour and can e.g. wipe out a whole ant colony within a matter of days. If you have not seen this video filmed by David Attenborough’s Planet Earth team, it’s mind-blowing! And it gave me significant chills… and that feeling again, yes, somewhat anxious and concerned, but mainly of gratitude, and an energy to enjoy what is, right now, as much as I can. Things might go haywire at any moment.
Years of coaching with an existential lens taught me that this relationship with endings makes a huge difference to how we experience life. Some get caught in anxiety and stress when faced with that awareness. Some so-much-so that they suppress and ignore it. Others embrace endings as a natural characteristic of being human, and find meaning and energy in it.
That said though, while our relationship with endings makes a tremendous difference to our wellbeing and human experience, it doesn’t mean that we should just accept that the world is going to end.
Stephen Petranek offered solutions to some of the most pressing dangers in the world in the year 2002. The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk does excellent work to “study and mitigate risks that could lead to human extinction and civilisation collapse”. This fascinating podcast episode with Toby Ord and Sam Harris offers more insights into very real risks and what we could do about them.
But for most people, it’s not the big, humanity-threatening issues that concern them the most. Often the endings in question are not even that significant in the long run. But either way, taking a good look at your relationship with death and endings creates a form of “existential resilience”, and helps us experience a richer human experience.
Yannick out. With Love.
Good luck to us all 🙂
Can you do a backflip?
Have you ever tried?
Too risky? Might get hurt? Not gonna try? Yeah I get it.
It took me ages to find the courage to try, and then a good amount of pain to land it. I didn’t have a trampoline, or lots of powder days with soft snow, or buddies that already know how to do it, or the internet to teach me.
I wish I had had a coach like this one back in the day, or free access to coaches like him sharing their wisdom and techniques. Add in training facilities that offer a relatively safe space to practise, and parents that actively encourage you to go for it (arguably easier when it’s safe and supervised – I get it, Mum. Love you!), and I marvel at the possibilities of what my level of snowboarding might have grown into.
But breaking complex and risky movements down into manageable chunks goes far beyond sports. Think about something you’re scared to do…
Now try to break this down into a sequence of events. Perhaps you can identify a number of different skills involved, or people you’d need to talk to, or tasks that need to be done.
This isn’t very existential, but something that I utilise when a coaching client really wants to master something but it feels too big or too scary to tackle. Yes, we can explore the fear and perhaps remove or manage it. But often the fear is not a limiting belief, but very real indeed, and important too. I found that going a systematic behavioural route can be the most straight-forward way towards a solution. And the limiting belief might just be that whatever it is you’re thinking about cannot be broken down into manageable chunks.
“You can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink”, as they say since the year 1175.
But in order to lead one to the water, you have to know where the water is! And as a coach I often don’t.
And even if I think I do, I work hard to keep that piece of knowing out of my awareness. I do this in order to be able to help my client learn.
“Knowing is the opposite of learning”, as another saying goes.
So I really think it’s our job as coaches to help someone figure out where “their water” is, even if we can see a lake literally just there right in front of them.
I might get curious as to what they see when they look around. And if they can’t see what I see, I might get even more curious as to what’s happening there (for both of us). Is that particular water not relevant to them? Does it not qualify as water? Is it the wrong kind of water? Might they have water-deficient vision of some sort? Perhaps they never thought to stop and look around? They didn’t realise they were thirsty. Or it may be my particular perspective that allows me to see something they can’t. Have they possibly not got a concept for what water is…
Whatever the reason, if I were to just tell them about the water that I see, I take away a LOT of valuable learning. And chances are it’s a distraction to where they need to be.
And it’s also SO much more likely that someone chooses to drink from the water that theychose themselves. Rather than the one recommended to them.
All that said, if you meet someone who’s severely dehydrated and at risk of serious harm, do point that shit out! Working with a coach, or wearing your coaching hat, is not necessarily the best approach depending on what the situation is. That’s why coaching is even more valuable when life’s going okay, compared to when there’s a crisis.
And so (perhaps unconsciously) I forgot to send off my “asking for help Nugget” to this list.
In some way the train’s left the station now as it was really about supporting our big launch week, but several wise (wo)men told me that launch events really are just the start of a journey, and so your help is still relevant.
But rather than copy-pasting my musings on why asking for help is difficult for me, and how you could support the Coaching Lab if you felt so inclined, have a look at the article, and the round up of Coaching Lab content, and perhaps you are or know a coach who’d appreciate to witness the range of what coaching can be, and to see what the practice actually looks like in the room where it happens.
What I’m listening to
I really like Alan Watts. Hugely inspiring, and a fascinating and entertaining speaker.
I recently came across a talk on Wu Wei which I LOVED, and from which I clipped ttwo sections, one that sums up what it means to listen phenomenologically, and jazz, and another about how children know a deep truth about the world, intuitively.
Now, for many years I’ve sampled these sorts of little nuggets, and the DJ, producer and beat maker in me still has hope that one day I’ll find/make the time to lay them over some relaxed beats and share them with people. And then I remembered that Akira The Don had done just that, and so I dug up his sets and been listening to it. Not how I’d want it to be honest, but they’re beautiful and profound nonetheless.
Animas’s Coaching Uncaged podcast is in its final season now and has dropped its first two episodes of this final run:
Talking about Coaching & Psychedelics #14
Kile is the author of the excellent book “Beyond the narrow life: A guide to psychedelic integration and existential exploration”. You can imagine how excited I was to talk to him about coaching. Albeit a clinical psychologist, in my experience the lines between coaching and therapy can become quite blurry when we work with existential questions, and especially when psychedelic experiences are being discussed. I loved this conversation, and I reckon you will at the very least find it very interesting.
Notes from the Lab
Yozana, Jan and Ambika have been working with me to create lots of new content this year, and I wanted to give you a few insights into what we want to put out there. Since most of my content is long-form and takes a while to sit with, we figured that it’d be really helpful to draw out some of the Nuggets, and I wonder what you think about this format:
- Here’s one where Quinn Simpson (Lab #34) invites her client to focus in on a goal for the session by getting out of her head and into her body.
- Another one where Spiritual Coach Mamoon Yusaf (Lab #30) talks about the importance of being present and the grey area between coaching and therapy.
- And here’s one where integrative Coach-Therapist Caroline Strawson (Lab #10) is setting up an emotional processing technique.
Over the next weeks we’ll be getting these and lots more like them out on LinkedIn, my Facebook page, and on YouTube, so if you wanted more content, more often, and much shorter than usual, those are great places to keep an eye on.
Also, a round up of Coaching Lab content from the launch week is here.
- 11th May: Animas Lecture – From theory to practice –> What Coaching looks like in the real world. I’ll be celebrating lessons from nearly 40 Coaching Labs. It’s free but you need to book a ticket.
- 1st June: Coaching & Psychedelics drop-in sessions – I’ve had to move our monthly drop-in sessions to the 1st Thursday of the month. Same time (6pm UK time) same place. Stop by if you’ve got an interest in coaching & psychedelics.
- 6th June: IFS Coaching Masterclass with Dr Guthrie Sayen (Coaching Lab #39) – Come grab a ticket or sign up as a member.
- 16th June: The Coaching Cabinet – Our FREE peer support group for all coaches. Come stick your head in. Everyone’s welcome, and everybody seems to find value in these sessions.
- Talking about Coaching: live – We’re still broadcasting our podcast recording sessions live on Facebook.
- 20th-22nd September: IPPA World Congress of Positive Psychology – I’ll be talking about Coaching & Psychedelics at this exciting conference in Vancouver this summer.
And that’s it. If you’re reading this, I appreciate that you’re still with me and I hope you enjoyed these Nuggets. If you can’t get enough, I’ve uploaded all past editions to my website’s blog and you can sign up to get weekly Nuggets here! And again, if any of it resonates, make it swing! I’d love to hear from you 🙂