It’s crowded. We’re all here.

I’ve been reading lots of artist bios this year. Often – talent notwithstanding- it’s a thinly veiled story of privilege, with a metric ton of luck thrown in. A whole lot of those starving artists either had “real” jobs or careers to get them started in life, or came from families of influence enough to be able to go not just to Uni but to art school. To then be a starving artist in London with a multi-room flat AND a studio space.

That is not to detract from the beauty of their art, and from their achievements and the countless people they still inspire. It’s hard, it always is. Art (if done right) has a way of permeating your entire way of being, and society doesn’t always appreciate that, nor the outcomes this generates. And we only hear of those who got documented enough in a time where media access was reserved for the few, and where most people would have been too poor to afford having anything photographed (and any photographs would have been black and white), let alone filmed. Work gets lost over the decades, or doesn’t get stored properly and then gets damaged. And it’s hard to tell sometimes what that stack of watercolours in your distant auntie’s/uncle’s attic really merits as you get tasked with clearing out the house.

Now of course it is different.

I have a few 10Ks of pictures on my phone that sit “somewhere in the cloud”, and make videos on youtube because that is a part of one has to do these days. One of my previous careers was in journalism so in the olden days there would have been articles in a newspaper archive, and a few reels of what I did for radio (long time ago, different country, different language). Now there’s podcasts, blogs, online articles, books, a TEDx talk and all the other usual artefacts that come with trying to share and engage people around a topic or an artistic body of work, and to run a business.

And yes, the online world is crowded. That’s because we are all here.

I am here. You are here. So is everyone else with online access and a point to make or a thing to try. It’s crowded because we are all here.

In terms of access, that is a good thing. Let’s face it, 99% of us would not be here in a different time. And so many folks could be here and aren’t yet.

And you don’t have to go back to the 1920s. Where I grew up, girls (or people in a female-presenting body, nobody got those finer points back then) didn’t do A-levels. They stopped school at 16, did an apprenticeship so they would be employable in case of an emergency with the husband (no other options available there and then), then got married, had children and stayed at home.

There was a lot of pushback when I did A-levels and went to the school enabling that after the 4 years of primary school. I lost all of my friends, and my parents had to defend their support over and over again. It was the hardest, loneliest thing I ever did in my life. I was 10. It was brutal. Yet my A-levels will seem so banal to most people now in my urban knowledge-ish-economy surroundings that it barely registers.

If not for a lot of hard work, some support, people taking a chance with me, and plenty of luck, I wouldn’t be here. Not in this life, in this country, not in any career to speak of. I probably wouldn’t write (and certainly not in English), and I probably wouldn’t make art. I just got 5 paintings accepted into a poetry magazine in the US. My alternative self might have never known poetry magazines, nor would they have known me.

No matter how I feel about social media and specific platforms, I recognize the immense power of the internet to level the playing field. I had a part time job in a think tank~ish environment in the late 90s that predicted that, and – for me – it has come true. Chances are, depending on what your father did/does for a living and where you were born, most of you wouldn’t be where you are now either.

I was excited by those possibilities, I wanted to be a part of that. I had no relevant skills when starting out. Just grit. But I sensed that space was onto something and was moving enough and diverse enough that if I stuck around there’d be something in there. I was also too fat and not well-dressed/cool enough for a career in Marketing and too broke for Journalism; so I needed a plan B where someone like me had half a chance. In many rounds of my weird and wonderful portfolio over 20+ years, staying close to that tech space and its possibilities has kept me going (and for whoever needs to hear that: Yes, transferrable skills are a thing).

Yes, there are of course plenty of other factors at play here around expanding education in previous decades and different governments and countries have invested back in the day, and it has paid off for large parts of the population. We need more of that. Apprenticeships done well are the backbone of a healthy economy and society and a lot of countries now try and emulate the German model, so this isn’t against apprenticeships. I’m also aware not everyone wants to live in a city, and that in a lot of places there is now finally a bit more openness towards LGBTQ+ folks so people have more of a chance to be safe and thrive where they were born (and some of that is getting worse again).

And just because some of us have now made it “in” (whatever that “in” is), doesn’t mean access is open and equal and the work is far far far from done. We aren’t hearing all voices out there yet. This is a reminder that people start at very different starting points. It’s also for me a point of appreciation of my own journey. And – no matter how annoyed I might be at whatever just happened on whatever online platform or how annoyed I am with that tech thing I’m trying to make happen, and no matter how much I wish it was less crowded so it was easier to stand out and find the right folks, I’m glad to be here. I really am. I want everyone to have those opportunities.

Coaching examples

You might be wondering what sorts of topics show up in a coaching setting, what to bring, what to work on. And if coaching is the right thing. 

Here are some examples (in specific sessions, or over a longer process):

  • Rediscovering the love for one’s startup and sharpening one’s role as the business grows
  • Charging what you are worth
  • What to do as a next step (post-corporate career), starting to “scan” for other things
  • Making a more meaningful contribution
  • Getting change-proof: Work out some base-case scenarios for an anticipated change in role, finances etc
  • Being more visible for senior leaders (and with things that make sense for the future)
  • Being more patient and caring with a new team

Ping me to have a chat if you’re currently mulling over something and would like to get some support, or if you want to schedule a free decision clinic. Also, check out my books to get started.

Here’s what my clients say.

And if you would like to read more, check these out: 

Binary thinking and its discontents

Complexity riles and rattles us. There is a lot on, right now, were we to actually look. Bit much maybe. So we try and tame it by shoving it into big, chunky options. It makes us feel like we have a better handle on things. We like that control, it makes us safer and makes us look more “together”. Which one do you want? A? Or B?

This control is, of course, an illusion. It also has some serious downsides:

Binary thinking flattens and cheapens the discussion. We go with the asphalted straight road for convenience. We can move faster that way and the direction is clear. And we lose the undulating landscape that is actually there, and that carries all that context and information. The place where stuff grows and things emerge and dissolve and band and disband. Speed isn’t everything.

Binary thinking thrives on polarity. If you are not for something, you surely must be against it. There is nowhere else to put you in that mindset. If you spend any time on twitter, you see where that leads us, and how much fuel that adds to the fire. This invites zero-sum thinking and point-scoring. If I win, you lose where things are finite, or scarcity rules.

Binary options crowd out the space, smaller options don’t get a word in edgeways. The noise and posturing is deafening. We lose all of those voices and insights that way. I always preferred the pragmatic conversations of multi-party coalitions like in German politics over the posturing of two political parties that own the space wholesale.

Yes, decisions are important, particularly during emergencies. But where we can, let’s keep the space open for longer, and allow space. That space is where new things come from. We need those ideas and we need those voices in the room.

This is part of a series, and we will get more into what to do in future posts. For more ideas and a few personal stories in that space, check out my TEDx talk.

Coaching vs Therapy

What’s what? And why does the distinction matter?

There are lots of ways to get help. And asking for help is a good thing.

Therapy is a healthcare-type of intervention, and is typically regulated in a similar way as other ways of providing medical help. Practitioners have minimum training requirements, pass a state exam and have clear rules and regulations how, when where and in which areas to practice, and when to hand over. Therapy might be funded by the healthcare system, insurance, through a charity or occasional programs via an employer, or directly by the individual.

Coaching is largely unregulated. Coaches are qualified (or not), they might have gotten formal training (or not), their training might have featured mental health issues or boundaries between therapy and coaching (or not). Professional bodies help somewhat, but it is nowhere near as stringent as other professions. Coaching is typically funded by an organization or the individual, or occasionally comes with other programs.

Here is an overview I recently created:

Overview I created for a webinar recently

to download here.

And here is a more “colloquial” visualization.

Quick visualization for a recent conversation with the fab Edith

Look after yourself. In times of crisis, go to A&E or call your local emergency number, or the Samaritans.

The BIG to do list

We have a lot going on, as humans, right now. Climate change, social divides, increasing wealth gap… We do have a fairly large team to work on this though, 7+ billion people and counting…

So, what to do and where to start?

The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) are a good place to start. This has been called “the world’s to do list” and that’s what it is. The big key issues.

Have a look:

The Sustainable Development Goals

Some of these might resonate more with you than others. Some of these might be areas you are already active in. That’s great. Start with that. You don’t have to cover all of them, and not all by yourself. Pick a topic and make a start. Make this part of your work, or find other ways to support this.

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If you are looking for help to align your life better with your values, check out my book “Values-based – career and life changes that make sense” or ping me for a chat.