Peace is a verb

Reposting a twitter thread from last year for remembrance day. Still holds true.

Remembrance Day. (1) walk with me… The picture of Macron and Merkel made me well up. I grew up in Germany, and at every family reunion, the second toast (after the one to the person/occasion) was always to “l’amitie franco-allemande”. To the French-German friendship.That stayed
1:13 PM · Nov 11, 2018
(2) stories of what it takes to make reconciliation happen. Learning each other’s languages. School exchanges. Exchanges between farmers, students, business people. Living under somebody’s roof, sharing food. Talking about hurt, wrong and things that connect(still sharing food).
(3) my family has a distillery, making fruit schnappses in Germany. One was always “Mirabelle de Lorraine” Brought from my auntie’s Dad with his tractor. The old men sat in the distillery and had a grand old time. Once the schnapps was ready, so had everyone else.
(4) he always shared buried all his good liquor in the garden when the Germans came. When my auntie Genevieve married uncle Franz, he brought out one of the bottles. Allegedly finishing the story with a big smile shouting “and now the %$£ Germans ARE drinking it” dispensing hugs.
(5) I was raised on these stories. (and some of the Mirabelle…) And, music teacher father of playing the Ode to Joy at full blast whenever something towards greater freedom, love, peace, democracy happened. 1989 onwards he played it a lot (remember? The hope? The love?)
(6) I hated growing up German, with that unbearable guilt, the full weight of history. I and did everything I possibly could to become as international as possible, studied history, politics, social sciences, postgrad in peace and conflict resolution studies for the Never Again.
(7) My grandfather was born in 1898 (that’s not a typo). He fought in WW1. He didn’t like war. He came home. His brothers didn’t. He was as internationally minded as a baker’s apprentice turned farmer could get with a few years of primary school education.
(8) I am sad I was too late to be able to have political historical conversations with him. I would have loved that. I imagine he would have loved seeing me do what I do. His body lived till 97, sadly, his mind left quite a bit earlier.
(9) Wherever he is now, I hope he sees the good bits that have happened in Europe. “Not letting the Nazis win” a key theme. And the news sometimes not looking all that encouraging. It would have broken his heart. It breaks mine.
(10) I now live in London. This month, people sell poppies for remembrance in front of every tube station. I am always a bit conflicted if I should buy one or not. If it is weirder to participate or not to participate. This one is on my laptop bag.


(11) I felt too embarrassed to have my accent heard so I bought it in silence. Brexit Britain is a weird place. It would have hurt Granddad as it hurts me. Some things can’t be solved with a bottle of Mirabelle. And often, the conversations aren’t going so well either.
(12) what got me into what I do now (leadership development, coaching, working with values) was a mix of the German army (thank you!) (training me to be a warzone correspondent), and a UK/Italian NGO

@wysengo where I did a leadership program. (thank you!)
(13) I am not cut out for living in a war zone. Few humans are, actually. That is not how we are meant to live. It’s a disgrace. We should be better than that by now. And, apparently, aren’t.
(14) The older I get,the more I realize, peace is a verb. A “doing-word”, as we say in German. It is fragile. It is iterative. It can crumble and needs rebuilding. It is work on the outside and quite a lot of work on the inside. You trust, you get your heart broken. You try again
(15) Nobody is in this alone. We are all a lot more connected than we think we are. We can remember together, be grateful for the work of those who came before us, and share their stories. And maybe share a Mirabelle and a hug. And then go back out into the rain to keep fixing…
(16) thank you for walking. And thank you to these two for the gesture that means so so much.


On approval (you’re OK)

Looking to make change can be a bit scary. What if the new thing is not in fact better? What will the others think? Will I lose respect? Will they (still) be proud of me? They were so happy when I got XYZ, what if I now want something else?

Meeting people after an absence can be a challenging time for that (as I’m updating this blog post, we are all working on who gets to see whom when and how in the UK as things slowly start reopening in spring 2021). A lot has changed, in many ways, and we are often not in the loop with what changed. We might also need to catch up with ourselves in this emerging new life, if we’re honest.

If you are looking to make changes in your life, conversations can feel like minefields. We are adults (I assume). And yet, on some level, we want others to like us, to respect us, to understand us and to support us in our being-in-becoming.

Your parents might not understand what you are looking to do next, or why you are unhappy and unfulfilled; and they might not need to. What is or was right for them might not be right for you. They might be supportive and just want you to be happy. If that is the case, you are truly blessed. A lot of people are not that lucky, and have to face more resistance our outright attack in their personal surroundings. Especially when the current gig is going so well on the outside. And all the “but I thought you wanted to be a xxx”, “but all the money you invested in setting yourself up as…”, but but but. And every one of these another thing you feel you have to carry on top of everything else.

Your life is yours, and you want to fill it with things that have meaning for you. This is what we came here for. Yes, this involves other people and adult responsibilities etc. But people evolve, priorities shift and things are not static, so it is OK for things to shift and for you to want your outer life to catch up with the changes you are hatching out in your heart.

Where I grew up in Germany people would always wish “stay just the way you are” on somebody’s birthday. To my growing (slightly antagonistic ambitious teenage) self this always sounded like a curse more than a blessing. Growth and development never stops, and it is never too late to have a more fulfilled life that is in line with your values, aspirations, purpose. Being able to articulate clearly what is important to you, what might have shifted and what you are going to do about it makes it a lot easier to rope others into your journey. Even that one person whose opinion you are dreading. They might find it scary (it might remind them of their dreams long-buried and they might resent you for giving it a go – that is their story, you live yours). Or they might find it inspiring. And if they don’t, your little niece might once she is old enough to understand.

Check out the values worksheet here.
go deeper and get the book.
ping me about how coaching might help. 

(Original post from early 2018, updated spring 2021)

Today’s value: Family

For some people that is the source of all the love. For some it is the source of all the pain. For most of us, it is somewhere in-between (some assembly required).

Family is the one bunch of people we didn’t choose like our friends, work colleagues etc. They came with the setup. And no matter how we feel, they are not strangers. It is also an absolutely fascinating playground to explore nature versus nurture with your siblings.

Some things do seem to run in families. And when you look at the patterns you might have on your mother’s side and on your father’s side, you might then discover how you might have taken things and combined them in a new way. Or how you defied boundaries but still operate from the same respect for craftsmanship (as you smashed an orthodoxy). If I look at what I do for a living these days, it really has bits of all of that. And that is quite amazing.

And if you don’t have your bio-family with you, there are plenty of ways to build your own, with aunties, grannies and nieces that you relate to by mind, heart and soul (if not by blood). And that is beautiful too. It is never too late.

What does family mean for you? Who is your family?

Check out the values worksheet here.
go deeper and get the book.
ping me about how coaching might help. 

Values: Show me the money

First of all, nothing wrong if money comes up in a values conversation. You might, of course, call it “affluence” or “prosperity” or something slightly more refined-sounding, that’s OK). Take it a step further. What does it stand for, for you?

Money is an interesting one, I am always excited when that comes up in a coaching conversation. Why is that:

  • Money in our society is often a shortcut to represent success (but is it really?) So there is a lot to unpack there
  • Money can be a bit of a taboo, which means if people trust you enough to talk about it, you get to talk about stuff that really matters
  • Money is usually not a thing in and of itself. It usually represents something deeper, and what that is is very individual (again, makes for really good substantial conversations about things people actually care about).

Some of the things money can represent:

For person A, it might be security. Comfort. Space. No middle seat on the plane. Better healthcare. A nice, safe place to live – no matter what goes on in the world.

For person B, it might be love and connection with other humans (there, I’ve said it). Being able to visit people you care about on a short notice no matter how far away they live. Setting up your children for a good start in life. Being able to help a relative, a sister, a friend in a much better way. More ways to contribute.

For person C, it might be quality and craftsmanship. The bespoke suit, the shoes. Hand-stitched. The touch. Archaic-seeming traditions of craftsmanship handed down over centuries. The respect and appreciation this commands and the ability to support that.

For person D, it might be freedom. Saying no. Doing your own thing in your way, at your own pace. Leave that job. Leave that relationship. Start afresh. Making art. Travel. Learning Italian in Italy. Learning Salsa in Cuba. Surf shop sunsets.

For person E, it might be a way to make big things happen that they care about. Start that business. See if that idea has legs. Supporting that organization, that group of people. Take something good and expand it. Making big dreams come true.

So, if money ranks high on your list of values:
1) Embrace it — AND then…
2) …ask yourself, what it means for you and your life. What does it give you, what side of you does it allow to flourish. You might also find you don’t need money to allow these sides of you to flourish more.

What does money represent for you? 


(this blog was slightly updated in spring 2021)

Want to explore your values more? Let’s chat. Or get the book.