Lessons on courage: where business meets a poet

“Aargh, action, goooo, bravoo.” Courage in the workplace sounds something like this: face adversity, run through fire, speak up, take risks, make changes, decide, and do it FAST. Or, if we go a bit deeper, we’re now all about admitting mistakes and I-don’t-knows (vulnerability! leadership!), asking for help, saying ¡NO!, putting out there what we got to say. Being the heroes of the situation.

But wait, what if we’re just scratching the surface here?

Hint: We are, and that’s an issue. To deplete big words of their meanings giving us direction and helping us learn from each other. To leave space only for the wrapping being tossed around in its usual circles.


Courage is a value to you? Then this is what you can do better – inspired by writers, literary artists and poets I love:


Drop the safe and easy words, for example when asking the group how they’re doing. Recognize and use the power of starting a conversation. “We have to have the hard conversations even when we’re not ready…A word like loneliness conveys the true depth of shared human experience” (Brené Brown, in: Dare to Lead). Don’t be afraid to call each thing by its right name.


Use those paper scraps. Like Brené Brown with her “permission slips” written at the start of meetings. “I give MYSELF permission to ask for more time to think about something before I share my point of view.” Do what you need to do, and encourage others to do the same. There’s power in giving permission, in being uncoventional and creative.


Tell the truth (by writing a bestselling book, or just being there). The foundation of courage is vulnerability – the ability to navigate uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure (Brené Brown, in: Braving the Wilderness). We could all benefit from more of it; just as we would benefit from going to therapy where “you’ll be asked to be both accountable and vulberable”, and “manage the certainty of uncertainty without sabotaging” ourselves, in the safe space of the room. Words of the writer and psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb in “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone”. It takes courage to expose ourselves, just as she did in recounting the experience with her own therapist. While also writing from the other side of the couch: “Is there anything that makes us feel more vulnerable than asking someone: do you like me?” Asking is hard, but it’s what opens up ways and worlds. And telling the truth is courageous by nature, cause thew words are not just there, we got to dig down and shoot them up and we don’t know where and how it will land.“An ethical and evolved life also entails telling the truth about oneself and living out that truth” (Cheryl Strayed, in: Tiny Beautiful Things). 


Hold space for the unspeakable. There are things bigger than us, those that carry pain or make us uncomfortable. What if we could show up by not being cowards? “I know this without knowing her. It will never be ok that she lost her mother. And the kindest, most loving thing you can do for her is to bear witness to that, to muster the strength, courage and humility it takes to accept the enormous reality of its not okayness and be okay with it the same way she has to be.” (Cheryl Strayed) Whatever you do, bear witness to life.


Carry a poet in you. “COURAGE is a word that tempts us to think outwardly, to run bravely against opposing fire, to do something under besieging circumstance, and perhaps, above all, to be seen to do it in public, to show courage..” But what if we redefined courage now? 

“Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work; a future. To be courageous is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences..Courage is what love looks like when tested by the simple everyday necessities of being alive.” (David Whyte)

Remember: We’re all real people with real lives and real problems. The most courageous things don’t have the word “courage” sprayed all across them. “You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life”. And ”faking it never works” (Cheryl Strayed).

Let’s be ok with things and not let our (avoidance of) discomfort drive us.

🔴 PS: How are you being courageous when nobody’s watching?

(Cover image: Oliver Cole on Unsplash) 

Hi! Besides being an aspiring coach, I’m a comms professional and creative for social impact. On my CV, I have life experience in leadership. Off it, I know about some hard edges of life. Through it all, I write to connect the dots and help bring out the best in people.

Reach out via LinkedIn or Email if you’re now feeling a tingle of connection, excitement, thirst for more. Or go back to the Blog to keep exploring. 

5 things to learn from coaching – for life, and work

Coaching is the art of partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. I’m currently training as a life coach and 10 days ago, we completed the Trauma-informed Coaching Basics course with Moving the Human Spirit! 

After one of the most transformative one and a half months of scribbling down powerful and curious questions, coaching each other again and again (till we started running out of topics), diving into the TICC methodology and the core competencies of the International Coaching Federation, filling out reflection forms — chasing learning opportunities, starting bigger conversations for change in Zoom chats across continents. And this was just the start of the journey.

The creative process of coaching — a lesson in uncertainty, mirrors and space for curious questions

Since coaching isn’t just a technique, but a creative process and a way of being, there are a few powerful things that I learned. Not even as a coach, but as a human in relationship with the world (team leaders, this is also for you) – universal:


  • The power in dancing in the moment, recognizing the quality of improvisation across disciplines and reconnecting to the moments in which we experienced it. Whether we were running an emergency humanitarian project, painting colours, facilitating a key session, or having a (coaching) conversation. It’s reassuring to have a solid toolkit to fall back on – in coaching it’s fuelled by questions – while knowing that the work happens in the present moment. Filtering, mirroring, caring. Holding the big view/vision and the powerful words of the person, so they don’t get lost in the action.


  • The power in stating what we see, speaking out what appears to be true. As a responsibility and commitment. Letting go of the need to be right. Our intuition at the service of supporting the coachee.  The power in asking curious questions and trying differently if they don’t land. And the realization of how many questions we have inside, if we give them space. In the end, the power of language and presence put together.


  • The power in asking curious questions and trying differently if they don’t land. And the realization of how many questions we have inside, if we give them space. In the end, the power of language and presence put together.
  • The power in backtracking instead of paraphrasing, talking the language of the person in front and mirroring the essence of what one heard them express. Letting them know they just acknowledged something in themselves.
  • The power in giving ourselves space, making that the priority before doing any of the work. Of letting go of any idea of needing to “perform”. Of holding myself fully capable just as I do with the client / person in front of me. Pushing through the insecurities. Do you trust yourself fully? 


Letting go is courageous by definition.  

➜ Of certainties, preconceived ideas of what could help, flows, outcomes, anything really. It takes courage to dance in the moment and not know where it’s all going. Embracing the uncertainty of the shared space – between continents, cultures, communication styles.

Now for three months straight, we’ll dive into the Trauma-Informed Coaching Certificate, building an understanding of trauma. With topics spanning brain activity and trauma, neurotransmitters, tools for grounding, post-traumatic growth, shame, restorative coaching and everything in between to become trauma-informed coaches.

“What if you fall? But what if you fly?” — by one of my training colleagues. I’m inspired by all of you! And happy to exchange about coaching with everyone interested. 

PS: do you want to understand trauma-informed coaching better? Reread this previous post


More information about the world’s most recognized trauma-informed coaching training program can be found here.

Hi! Besides being an aspiring coach, I’m a comms professional and creative for social impact. On my CV, I have life experience in leadership. Off it, I know about some hard edges of life. Through it all, I write to connect the dots and help bring out the best in people.

Reach out via LinkedIn or Email if you’re now feeling a tingle of connection, excitement, thirst for more. Or go back to the Blog to keep exploring. 

7 universal insights into storytelling between therapy and communications

[FLASH OF CREATIVE INSIGHT✍️🧠] Storytellers, anyone? “In therapy we say: Let’s edit your story.” I’m inspired by people who do courageous things, who tell honest stories, or even help to change them. And by great content editors, but that’s a different…story.

The book “Maybe you should talk to someone” by therapist & writer Lori Gottlieb made me think hard about the universal truths of stories, between #comms and #psychology. Why care? We, and our world, are made of stories.


🟠 ALL STORIES BOIL DOWN TO UNIVERSAL QUESTIONS. On a human level they’re something like this: “Everyone lives their own story, but underneath the details we’re forced to face the same essential questions: How do I feel safe in a world of uncertainty? How do I connect?” And in comms we all need to answer “What’s your reason for being?” (PS: don’t forget those WHY questions), as a communicator you know.

🟠 STORYTELLING IS ABOUT BUILDING UP, AND LETTING GO.We grow in connection with others. Everyone needs to hear that other person’s voice saying, I believe in you. I can see possibilities that you might not see quite yet. I imagine that something different can happen, in some form or another.” “…But part of getting to know yourself is to unknow yourself – to let go of the limiting stories you’ve told yourself about who you are.” Stories only have the power that you give them.

🟠 THE FIRST STORY WE TELL IS NEVER COMPLETE. Give important stories time to unfold, and to change. The story a patient comes into therapy with may not be the story she leaves with. What was included in the telling at first might now be written out, and what was left out might become a central plot point. Some major characters might become minor ones, and some minor characters might go on to receive star billing. The patient’s own role might change too – from bit player to protagonist, from victim to hero.” And in comms, how often have you been scratching surface level or getting it all wrong?

🟠 STORIES DON’T ALL OBEY THE SAME RULES OF EXPRESSION. So go find the right one. “Wendell [her therapist] and I had a conversation, even if no words were exchanged. He watched me grieve, and didn’t try to make things more comfortable by interrupting or analyzing the issue. He let me tell my story in whatever way I needed to today.”

🟠 STORIES CAN CONNECT US, OR CAN (PURPSEFULLY) KEEP US AT BAY. The seemingly pointless, repetitive, aggressively boring and aggravatingly-angry ones are attempting the latter. “Anger…pushes people away and keeps them from getting close enough to see you. I wonder if John needs people to be angry at him so that they won’t see his sadness.” Deep. Be boring with your therapist to do get stuck, but please don’t do it in comms.

🟠 STORIES HAVE LIMITS TO SHOWING REALITY. Remember to work in the here-and-now, to illustrate, to let different people speak up. ”One on one, therapists get depth but not breadth, words without illustrations. Despite being the ultimate #insider in terms of Julie’s thoughts and feelings, I’m an #outsider here among all these people I don’t know but who knew Julie.…Instead of focusing on a patient’s stories from the outside world, and here-and-now is about what’s occurring in the room.” Whatever you do, don’t get lost in the BIG, generic narratives. Understand what you’re not seeing, the puzzle pieces you’re missing.

The foundations of it all: understanding. Understanding of the self in therapy, understanding of a subject in comms. And that can be pretty humbling. 

Here’s to telling and editing stories that help real people.

Hi! I’m a comms professional and creative for social impact. On my CV, I have life experience in leadership. Off it, I know about some hard edges of life. Through it all, I write to connect the dots and help bring out the best in people.

Reach out via LinkedIn or Email if you’re now feeling a tingle of connection, excitement, thirst for more. Or go back to the Blog to keep exploring. 

We’re not all superheroes of our story, and silence kills humanity

“I didn’t want to enroll in this class and the teacher sucks.” (forgotten source)

6.6.22, edited in Sept ’22. This is a place for fragments, written as a human, borrowing the words of others – and not a professional trying to prove something to someone. This is a piece about walking through raw things, while saying goodbye to someone you love – despite everything. Before I write I ask myself: do I have anything to lose? I don’t, though I’m not afraid to lose. And soon, I’ll shed the skin of the person that I’m now. Instead, the world has everything to win if we all make the invisible visible. PS: please be cautious if grief is not what you can read about right now (then I don’t know how you got here. Still, welcome!)).

(Pierre Bamin on Unspash)

“One of the things most people count on every single day is that there will be plenty of time. Until there’s not. Until life steps in and we are reminded that there are no guarantees and life is is far too short.” Writes grief specialist @micheledeville on one of the supposedly most superficial places on earth: Instagram. It taught me a lot about grief in the little in-between-moments, these are some things that made me go “yes, yes, yes”:

  • “Part of grief is feeling like I no longer fit in a world I once belonged to.”
  • “Time doesn’t heal your grief, it teaches you how to wear it.”
  • “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love.”
  • “Grief is a long road.”
  • “No matter how little or how much people support you, grief is still lonely…And: grief needs room.”
  • “The only thing I need I for you to show up for me, listen and acknowledge my pain and grief without trying to fix it all.”
  • “Grief isn’t easy and especially when the person you used to be is gone and you have no idea who you will become.
  • “Sometimes you need to stop trying to meet the expectations of everyone else and just meet yourself right where you are. That’s what your grief needs right now.”
  • “Grief knows no boundaries or limitations..Your grief matters, always.”. (@micheledeville) & the list goes on….
(Toan Chu on Unsplash)

Grief and loss might be invisible. But once they’re there, they’re everywhere and they are here to stay. “Grief sucks. Family sucks. Playing with burnout, but not there yet” I write in a midnight note last month on my phone (that would break down a month later with all the documentation of a life turned upside down). It’s suprising how before all of this happened, in far-away 2020, it is as if I knew. I was reading “Option B: Build resilience in the face of adversity” by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant in between a stressful job, giving a climate workshop somewhere in Austria and my lockdown-times-bed. And there were more books that year.

How do we change with grief? I can just say, my old self has ceased to exist. And I don’t put up with shit anymore. I still work too much, but I put other things first. I guess that I’m an adult. I’ve built myself foundations cause I needed them at all costs, a purpose, and I went back to my roots, that grow where I don’t feel like a guest, a stranger. To not lose myself, I swore on being as honest as possible, authentic and vulnerable. To remember who you are. “Grief has given me the gift of not being scared of being a truer and more authentic version of myself.”– writes Stacey Heale on Instagram after losing her (btw famous) husband and father of their children to cancer. The power of fear is limited when your focus is elsewhere, and to power on you need to stay true to yourself.

“Now i see my mum first as one very brave person”, I’ve read this somewhere and I agree. “You can’t be afraid to love. Not ever.”

“We only get a few specks of time where any of this makes any sense. The only thing I do know is that we have to be kind. Please, be kind.” (Leyley Imgart, illustrator). I just want you to wonder what your co-workers may be going through behind the brave (and hopefully not overworked) faces. I want you to check on your loved ones and have them do the cancer screenings, the health checks they thought they wouldn’t need, out of love towards life. I want you to take your health seriously. I want you to be kinder than you feel and might have ever been. Remember the ones who seem weak, but are the strongest they’ve ever been. No, work is not your priority. I want you to remember that if you haven’t lost a close loved one yet then you’re lucky, but sometime the moment will come. I want you to understand that a culture of positivity is toxic, exclusive and well…simply fake. And silence kills humanity. Things don’t happen for a reason in life and we’re not all superheroes of our story, not machines, not performers. We’re just people. Running a marathon of emotional miles. Showing up is your breakfast, discomfort a foreign concept, void skirmishes a no-go. Allergic to judgement, longing for companionship. Old patterns their shadow. Goodbyes your breath. Trying your new forcing.

There’s room for you here.
Still, in this world.
Remember that.

While you work and walk through your pain.
You’re loved.*

*in all the different love languages out there

(Elyas Pasban on Unsplash)

“I learned that if you don’t deal with grief at the time, it will never leave you.” (Kumi Naidoo, human rights and environmental activist)

From nothing comes nothing, thank you for all people on the web talking about grief. You do such an important work. Here some random, helpful sources on the topic, to grow in the future:

Coaching and counselling: spaces to speak about the unspeakable while summer is standing outside

“There are no easy questions here”, she is right. I’m deeply in love with the fathomless connections that emerge in a first instant of collaboration between special humans. Just like between Vienna and the South, months before the first coaching session. And then I get another call. The mind fog is thick, I write what I can recall and decrypt of my hand-written notes. Apparently grief and exhaustion are detrimental to your short-term memory. What a surprise.

After the coaching I close the computer, just sit and vibe to music. Coaching diverts life from its well-trodden highways, just going back to work and walking in that same path isn’t an option anymore. You just lived through a moment in which you told a person that you fully trust them, you had someone to work through things with. The gift of time, one on one. The gift of being seen for the fuller human that one is, in the moment, in times when fragmentation is a lifestyle and a survival strategy in between roles to balance. Creativity in the room, room for creativity. “You’re living with this every second of your life”. No one can take away the loneliness of loss, bit by bit, but they can make it less threatening and they can kick the toxic guest ouf the room occasionally. You’re not alone.

Coaching teaches you a lot about who you are. There’s my strong desire to connect – deeper than what most people can offer. The loneliness is…really a lot about the space, about picking up on stories and bids for connection, about the ability to share. The lack of all of this. Parallel realities, and something dies inside. “I’m too lost”, there is a question I cannot answer.

Confidence and courage. I realize how much energy it takes to walk with your head high. “How do you want to show up?” The hardest of all questions, but there are no easy ones. Great stuff to unpack. But in this new life, “want” has become a thing of insignificance and impossibility, besides the little moments of escape and reflection. Sometimes coaching gives me the feeling that the forces bigger than you are smaller than you think. You’re not powerless but you’re also not in control. Every little step that you make is a wonder. Playing big, having a choice, mastering the energy for the extra things is a privilege. Old values, worldviews and habits: worthless. So I’m playing small for me, most certainly not for others. I realized that I gave up, but that it’s now time for a next step.

/photo by Külli Kittus on Unsplash

Owning a field, knowing your thing, having it all covered, while persistently growing and playing detective in a messy world is frankly the most exciting thing as a 20-something-year old young professional. I wish people would see me more for the person who I am, in between the personal, the professional and the things bigger than us. The energy constantly looking for an outlet. In the end we talk about me-time, I’ll create distance, I’ll walk to change spaces. I’m giving myself space – for the flower to bloom, even in pitch-black night. What’s up with the metaphors today.

The phone rings. Later, this day will feel surreal. Going to that Impulstanz performance, regenerating through lake vacation, falling asleep through an imagination of a soothing childhood memory, connecting through the one big story of caregiving and having a room in the house where you leave everthing behind before you enter it. The little things I pick up in between talking and listening to advice. Mapping reality at last. You live in your own world, having a permanent backpack to carry. You have people disappear from your life besides the very closest friends. Society is exclusive. Distant out of fear and discomfort, looking away, silent. And in everything happening you have the responsibility to look after yourself, set boundaries, stop being unfair to yourself, and spend time that you enjoy. You owe it to yourself. When you belittle your actions, then counselling helps you to understand where you really stand, how much you’re really giving. A practice in humility, cause the big solutions have never been in your power. “Whatever may come, all of these have already happened.” The connection, the singing, the stories. Two lives. And a quest to stay true to one’s “I”, cause yourself is who you are, undiluted. Your identity. Your own life – despite the bonds that will stay, despite the months and years that feel like the same day that never ends. “I feel like I’ve lost my (stable) sense of self.” – I write in my diary yesterday. But maybe I’m right now on the quest to finding it. Cause there are other bonds and the practice of confidence. For me it’s my bond to Eastern Europe, to Russian, it’ my power, and a story living on. In me.

Writing this has been beautiful but exhausting. Don’t be afraid to be raw, take time to process things, and take care.
#spaces #gratefullness

Recommendation: Check out the work of phychiatrist Luise Reddemann & the establishment of safe places (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11620-002-0018-9 – Link in German)

/photo by Karl Hedin on Unsplash