- “God is dead” and the antidote to psychological constipation
- Next level virtual environments with “Metahumans”?
- Slow down AI now?
- “Being with” vs. “doing with”
- The Unlock Moment
- “What’s that?!” Listening at the periphery of awareness
- What I’m listening to
- New Content
- Catch me live
How do you sum up 5 weeks in the life of a parent?
“Ain’t nobody got time for that” comes to my mind (and perhaps it brought this one back for you too 😀 ).
And it’s not just that it would take too long to tell you. It also feels like there’s just generally no time anymore! I’m still not used to having so many things undone on my to-do list. For example, for the past 2 months I’ve had the infant car seat next to my desk in a huge box, waiting to go into the basement. And it’s just SO not a priority. They say some things you can’t understand until you become a parent. They’re fucking right!
My dad’s frequent saying “You don’t have time, you make time” comes to mind often these days. It was easier done before Leah joined us. But Nelly and I have been talking about “mindset” a fair bit these past weeks, in that it really isn’t as relevant how much you’ve got on in life and how many things are on your to do list, it’s about how you relate to it.
It’s just SO important to maintain your joy, gratitude and passion for living. Otherwise, what’s the point of working so hard?!
In this spirit, as usual, please enjoy these 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.
Existential Thinker Friedrich Nietzsche famously proclaimed in the late 19th century that “God is dead”, to point to the fact that the Church and religion had lost significant power and influence as a result of the enlightenment age. The rise of science and reason offered alternative ways to explain the world, and this had a profound effect on human experience.
When I was working for the School of Life pre-pandemic, I remember Alain de Botton point out in one of the class materials that our relationship with meaning and purpose took a turn during this time. While watching a recent WiseCrack episode it dawned on me that during that time many people had also lost their way to get things off their chest, and it paved the way for helping-by-talking practices such as therapy.
I’m probably preaching to the choir when I emphasise just how important it is to have an outlet for your thoughts and feelings. Add in non-judgement, empathy and positive regard, and you’ve got yourself a powerful cocktail of psychological wellbeing.
Most friends, parents, managers and, yes, also many therapists and coaches, don’t just hold space to air what’s on your mind. With usually best intentions they try to actively help, when sometimes (often?) we just need to be listened to, and emphasised with, without judgement, just being with us.
Now sometimes we need an intervention, we want to accelerate, we want someone’s input, we want guidance, someone else’s perspective, a helping hand. A God can’t give that to us, a person-centred therapist won’t, many coaches can’t help but to do that.
And I’m not knocking it. It might just be exactly what we want and need right now. But I think it depends on where we’re at.
What I am certain of is that a regular space to air our “stuff” and let it all out is just incredibly helpful. Think of it as basic maintenance of your mind, decluttering, pulling out the weeds in your garden while they’re still small, or going to the toilet to avoid constipation.
Letting it out regularly helps us stay healthy and well. And there are many ways we can do that.
Therapy isn’t just for people with issues. It’s a space to air what’s on our mind.
Journaling is many people’s choice of doing just that. Your journal won’t judge you.
Art, poetry, dance, any form of expression is a form of that too.
And yes, you guessed it, coaching can be such a space too – if your coach is the kind of coach who understands that this may be what you need today, and lets it happen instead of intervening.
I’m gonna leave it here, and invite you to reflect on the spaces that you have in your life where you can release your shit (pun intended).
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg invested billions into developing his vision of the “metaverse”. I’ve heard many people chuckle that this will likely be an “Elon Musk buying Twitter”-type sunken investment.
And I get them. Looking at the kinda ridiculous graphics, where metaverse users had only very recently been given legs (yes, legs!), it’s hard to see how this could catch on as a viable alternative to meeting face-to-face.
Until I saw this! Metahumans captured from the real thing with unbelievable levels of realism and detail.
And then I made the connection to watching a short Behind the Scenes documentary on how Avatar 2 was shot, and how emotions and facial expressions were incredibly accurately and engagingly transmitted onto (pun intended) an avatar in a virtual world.
With the tech presented in the above video you can similarly capture facial expressions and subtle muscle movement, but on a phone!! And with a little more computing power (which isn’t far off) we’ll be able to do this in real time in the not-too-distant future.
Gone are the laughs about silly looking manikins, devoid of human emotion, a toy in a painfully obvious virtual world. Hello foto-realistic, real-time and micro-muscle-simulating representations of yourself in an environment that can be anything you want or need it to be.
I remember wearing an Oculus Rift headset for the first time a few years back, playing ping pong with a cat. I was in a tiny room, but the simulation gave the very real illusion of spaciousness. And I remember getting physically dizzy when standing on a cliff about to wingsuit into a canyon. My body and mind revolted against taking a step into an imagined abyss. It gave me real sensations.
I imagine, just a few years into the future, being able to wear a very much beefed-up version of such a headset that will accurately capture even the most subtle facial expressions, making genuine human connection not just possible, but getting incredibly close to the real thing…
I imagine how powerful role-play exercises will become. I imagine the opportunity to take clients into an embodied experience in a virtual environment that will elicit very real emotions and tonnes of material to feedback on and learn from.
Of course it’s not the real thing, but close enough to do some excellent work.
The future is very exciting!
This might well be the end of us… was my initial reaction to the emergence of the recent AI development avalanche.
Then I entered a consciously positive space and explored how partnering with an AI could be incredibly helpful, not just for coaches and their clients.
And then, yesterday, I found myself immersed in two presentations by people I respect, and it opened a few thoughts up that brought back that initial concern. I’m not quite sure what to do with this as it seems impossible to keep up with the nauseatingly fast speed of changes in this landscape; but given recent, increasingly loud calls to slow down the releases of new AI tech into the public sphere, combined with human beings generally being quite shit at slowing down once they smell an exciting opportunity, I’m now concerned again.
Funny really, as I’m usually the big picture thinker, and much of the excitement at the moment lies in the detail and short-term effects that AI opens up. It took a historian to remind me what’s at stake!
Yuval Harari, in this excellent presentation, points out that humans operate fundamentally through language, and that science fiction likely had it wrong when it assumed that machines would need to threaten us physically in order for humanity to be at risk. In reality, we’re not far from a world in which a significant amount of content we consume will be produced by non-humans. And since culture curates our reality, and content makes up our culture, we’re at risk of changing our perception of reality in profound ways.
Yuval also warns that democracy is based on the premise that it enables a conversation across the population to decide how to govern. When this conversation gets hijacked by AI, and optimised for particular outcomes, it’ll be impossible to stop or slow down AI developments through democratic means.
Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin, the creators of the documentary “The Social Dilemma” dug into the AI landscape in this presentation and similarly warn us that right now is the time to try and intervene. If we had the chance to add more oversight to Facebook’s or TikTok’s addiction-inducing and election-tipping algorithms at a time when it was still in development, wouldn’t we want to do that?!
They also asked the question whether you’d get on an aeroplane to board a flight if 50% of aeroplane engineers told you that there’s a 10% or higher chance that you will die if you got on board. These are the numbers from a survey on AI safety (albeit some debate on the exact numbers).
Founder and CEO of Open AI, Sam Altman, along with a few other experts, just testified in front of the US Congress, kicking off a series of hearings designed to set rules for AI development. I didn’t get to listen to this in full, and frankly, I don’t have time sth through the 3 hours, so what it comes down to for me, as well as so many people I reckon, is to have trust in our governments and regulating institutions. Now I’m happy to be back in Germany, where my level of trust in government is reasonably high. I can’t say the same for the US or UK, which is pretty worrying.
And that’s when I arrived home, gave my daughter a big long hug, and wished her the best of luck!
It can be scary and exciting to sit with the possibilities that AI holds, and it’s hard to even try to imagine how the world might change, even over the next 12 months…
And that’s where I’ll leave it today. With lots of uncertainty and little clarity. I can feel the urge to put a comforting spin on this, and emphasise the positives. But I also think it’s important to pay attention to the whole spectrum of what’s at hand here, so I invite you to sit in some uncertainty together.
I’ve just come off a podcast interview with the highly influential Prof. Jonathan Passmore.
Too much in that conversation to summarise in a nugget, but one thing that stuck out for me, which ties in with my passion for existential coaching and my recent musings on AI developments:
When coaches start out, their focus tends to be on getting things done, with and for clients. Even as coaches develop and mature, they’re often eager to gather effective tools and interventions to accelerate their clients’ development or expand their awareness. Passmore himself, with a number of his colleagues, published a whole book with coaching tools (which I was honoured to be invited to contribute a chapter towards).
Tools help us when we’re in “doing with” mode. And there’s no doubt that they can really do the trick for clients. “Being with” is harder to fathom and quantify, hence more difficult to research, and more challenging to teach.
Being with someone is not just “being there”, at the same time in the same space. It’s offering your full presence, holding space, meeting the other with empathy, positive regard and congruence. It means not to judge, push, pull, advice, rescue, analyse or interpret. It’s simply being with the other person as they are navigating their world. The only thing you dowhen you’re with someone in this way, is to resist the urge to do something – to interrupt, save, guide, intervene, or ask a “powerful question”.
The existential coaching space has “being with” as its foundation, and (combined with a believe and mindset that the client has access to their own solutions) often that’s all it takes for someone to progress or figure things out.
The “doing with” part can be an excellent combination. And the interplay between being with and doing with makes for a powerful catalyst.
My hypothesis is that AI will cover a lot of the “doing with” going forward, probably more effectively than most human coaches. Jonathan sees in it the potential to truly democratize coaching, to make it available to all people with access to the internet, at near zero cost.
But I reckon that more and more people will be craving the experience of “being with”, with a coach who’s trained to hold space for them in the way described above. I can’t really see AI catching up with that, and I think it’ll have huge implications for all helping-by-talking industries.
I’m tempted to leave you with a question. Instead I’d love to hear what question(s) you’re left with!?
“Where do we need to start in your story to understand who you are today?”
What an excellent entry point into a rich conversation!
While, in some way or other, I explore this with most of my clients, I really loved the wording of this question, as offered by Dr. Gary Crotaz, who I connected with this morning, and who kindly invited me onto his podcast “The Unlock Moment” (hence the title of this Nugget).
It may not be an exact moment (though it often is, and often that moment exists vividly in people’s memories, Gary tells me), perhaps it happened gradually… but to explore a time that significantly shaped your values, your identity, your mission, your story, or your sense of identity – what an incredibly rich inquiry!! And it makes for excellent storytelling too as you can imagine.
A thought that emerged while I was listening to Gary is that, first of all, too many people never take the time to reflect on their life to figure out how they’ve become the person they are today (for better or worse).
Secondly, those who are clear on who they are often cling on tightly to that concept of self, even after they’ve evolved, changed, or moved on from being that person.
And I get it: Once you’ve invested that much time and effort into figuring yourself out, you probably don’t want to let go of it so easily. And so it’s tempting to (usually unconsciously) ignore subtle (and even not so subtle) shifts in values, beliefs and worldviews – as to hold on to the clarity of self that you’ve worked so hard to achieve…
And then there you may be, 20 years later, in crisis, because “all of a sudden” you got old, you became a different person, or you don’t recognize yourself anymore.
Warning signs are a creeping sense of inauthenticity, something not feeling quite right, or an emerging sense of alienation with the people around you or the spaces you spend time in.
As human beings we’re always in a process of becoming, whether you’re paying attention to it or not.
One more reason to check in with yourself regularly and take stock of who you are becoming, before it’s time to dig deep into your past and figure out where things went wrong (which is usually some form of therapy). We can catch these shifts as they are happening, and when we do, we put ourselves into a position where we can actively participate in who we are becoming.
Coaching, and existential coaching specifically, is an excellent space to do just that. Other pathways also help, such as journaling, regular reflection time, conversations with the right kind of friends, therapy, many forms of art, and whatever you can think of to regularly turn your attention inwards, take a step back, and recognize yourself in the context of time and your environment.
That said, I’d love to hear some of your “unlock moments”.
(And sorry-not-sorry for nicking the terminology here, Gary. If anyone’s resonating, I definitely recommend you check Gary’s podcast, especially the episode with Marshall Goldsmith – arguably the GOAT of executive coaching/executive coach-branding
“Uuuh, what’s that?!? … I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something just happened…”
It was during a recent supervision group. Something in her voice had changed. Very subtly, not more than a little tremor, but I got a sense that there was something behind the words she spoke.
And indeed, a door opened, and the “I’ve only got a little thing that probably won’t take much time to discuss” suddenly got big and significant, and allowed her to work through some stuff.
On some level she knew it was there, but wasn’t sure whether it’s okay to talk about it in a supervision space.
Suffice to say that it was more than okay, as it connected a lot of dots to what she had been bringing in the past. It allowed for some catharsis as she was held beautifully by the group. After all, supervision has a restorative function.
It also goes to show that what’s going on outside of the coaching room almost always in some way finds its way in. Sometimes subtly, sometimes with bells on!
I believe the same is true for all kinds of work, but definitely extra significant when we work in relationship with others. Whether that’s teams, or 1:1 – it’s just so important to pay attention to how the outside affects the inside. And it may be that people need an invitation to connect the dots, in a safe, non-judgemental space.
“Being able to play back thoughts and feelings at the periphery of awareness”, is how Hawkins & Smith (2006) described Level 4 of their 4-level listening model. And it’s a skill you can learn.
No need to name “it” correctly even, but really important to acknowledge any shifts you are noticing. Especially when you get an intuitive sense that there’s something significant there. If they don’t want to open that door, that’s okay. Usually they brush it off or ignore it, if that’s the case. If it’s important, it’ll come back. The invitation to open up is the important part. And it can simply start by getting curious about something that just happened right in front of you.
“I see you”, is what you’re saying, essentially – even if you may not know exactly what you’re looking at.
What I’m listening to
I recently rediscovered a DJ set I played a few years back in Brussels and it’s been on heavy rotation in our house. Perhaps you like it too.
After initially announcing that this season (Season 14) will be last of Coaching Uncaged, I’m so happy to tell you that Animas have decided to continue the podcast. It’s been published weekly this past month, so if you’re not following my weekly Nuggets, then you’re in for an avalanche of value below. Enjoy!
Charmaine is one of the most important voices today in the DEI coaching space. Her “research gives primacy to the marginalised voices of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and other people of colour) who work as coaches in the industry”. We discuss the challenge of coach neutrality, the line between coaching and activism, how to “embody decoloniality as a generative way of being” as well as the importance of critical reflection and radical compassion. You can listen or watch this episode.
Dr. D is quite the character! And a masterful coach! Back in 2020 I had invited him to run a module for the ACIC, and last year he was my guest in the Coaching Lab. I was happy to see him scheduled in for Animas’s Coaching Uncaged podcast and this week his episode got released during which we talk about what makes a masterful coach, and I also got to finally ask him what’s the deal with the dozens of certificates and diplomas that spread throughout his Zoom background (and apparently even further through his house). Everytime we chat it’s been great fun and super interesting, so I reckon you’ll enjoy this one! You can watch and/or listen to this episode.
Tatiana is a wonderfully critical thinker, highly respected professor for coaching and supervision, and outspoken sceptic of positive psychology, transformational coaching, and other “beautiful ideas that can make us ill” (as per one of her published articles). As you can imagine, as someone with a masters degree in Applied Positive Psychology and hosting a podcast for a school that teaches transformative coaching, I’ve been waiting to challenge some of her challenges, which made for an excellent recipe for an engaging conversation. Enjoy!
I slow down when I’m in Guthrie’s presence. It happened on Tuesday when he was our guest in the Coaching Lab, and I also noticed it during this episode for Animas’s Coaching Uncaged podcast. And how inspiring it is to meet someone with such a clear mission and conviction as to his approach to working with people. IFS is so much more than therapy or coaching. I cannot recommend you enough to check this one out. You can watch and listen to this episode. Also good to know: we had Guthrie in the Coaching Lab last week, and his recording has just been cleared and can be watched with a VIP Membership.
Talking about Coaching Episode 60
Coaching is often presented as a well-defined practice with clear guidelines and competencies. Yet, once coaches get released “into the wild”, their coaching styles often change and evolve, to a point where it can feel quite different to what we’re being taught at schools and training institutions. To shed some light on such developments, Siawash and I decided to go live on Facebook to record this special episode of our podcast, inspired by, and celebrating the Coaching Lab. Sorry to have missed you, Nikki! You were there in spirit. You can listen to this episode or watch it on YouTube.
- 20th 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.
https://coachingcabinet.eventbrite.co.uk or on MeetUp
- 4th July: Yannick’s Coaching Lab #40 – Change Maps work with Leadership Coach and Change Choreographer Marcus Druen – Come grab a ticket or sign up as a member.
- 6th July: Coaching & Psychedelics Drop-in Sessions – I’m still holding space for coaches interested in the work with/around psychedelic experiences. We’ve moved our slot to the 1st Thursday of the month now though, 6pm UK time on Zoom.
- 7th July: An Existential Lens on Coaching – My contribution to the Catalyst14 annual CPD event “Deepening Your Practice”.
- Talking about Coaching: live – We’re still broadcasting our podcast recording sessions live on Facebook.
- 20th-22nd July: 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 upload 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 🙂