I don’t even know what possessed me in the first place to apply to this skill training called WeHost in Antwerp, but I remember telling myself I should at least go for market intelligence. Someone had told me before this I was good at public speaking and how executives pay good money to master this skill. So I thought I could do it for a living, even though deep down I felt very inadequate due to my limited experience in training this particular skill (and that I’ve worked in the same, totally unrelated, industry for the past 7 years)
But thank heavens I went because what I found out was way beyond skills building. It was a freaking revelation of who I truly am!
Let me give You a very high level overview of what this event was about: as advertised this event promised to show some cutting-edge techniques in the art of hosting. But this part should’ve already given me clues about what was to come:
weHOST is the perfect journey for those working or wondering about the possibility of working as facilitators, trainers and hosts and looking for a major inspirational leap to move ahead in this direction.
This event is the brain child of Mr. Dey Dos, a truly inspirational man I’ve known since 2002, but who up until this “conference” progressed, he was by far one of the most intimidating, in your face kind of person I know. Either I’m somewhat of a masochist or my subconscious was sending a subtle hint: time to face one of your biggest fears…. critical feedback.
For those who know me today, you probably think of me as the least emotional, sensitive, touchy-feely type of person. Not a lot of people saw me as the “mother” type. And they were right, because u til very recently, I did not see anything remotely adequate about my mothering skills. I felt no connection to my child and everyone around me seemed to be more interesting to him than I was. I had a bad case of post-partum (post-natal) depression and only a couple of hours of knowing in my small working group I blurted this out together with a whole ocean of tears. Up until that moment I was a “closeted crier”.
The experience was different for everyone and I’m quite certain for some people it wasn’t like an extended therapy session like it sort of was for me. I had a crying moment every single day; 4 and a half days I may have filled 100 trash cans full of tissues. When I pointed this out to my group one of them said, “hey, but at least you didn’t cry today”. Yeah, right…. I had already soaked the shoulder of our fabulous host, Ernesto, wet. This man was very gracious about my crying fit and literally lend his shoulder, no questions asked. My word for him is “magnificent”. He dances like a pro and has an incredibly kind soul. And he is soooo freaking cool!
But why all the crying you may ask? I’m 32 years old and by society “standards” I should have it all figured put by now. And if I don’t I should just shut up about it, accept it and get on with life. I guess you can see where I’m going with this: I don’t have it all figured out and I can’t accept my current situation. I have all this wealth of experience and skills, but all I could see were the flaws. The excuses of why I sucked. Most importantly I did not know how to deal with all these emotions and equated being vulnerable with being weak. If people see who I really am, they won’t accept me, the corporate image, the reputation I’ve so carefully been crafting over the years would shatter. But hey I’m not really the crybaby, nor the tough businesswoman. I’m none and I’m both. Too much to process!
One of the exercises we went through got me to this magical place:
And it was like in the movies, having a complete “aha!” moment. All I needed was a soundtrack and some funky catchphrase and I was Hollywood romantic comedy material! For most people this could be a creepy area in the park were you could just get mugged….and I kind of did! I started re-reading my exercise and focusing on answering my questions on a piece of paper so I wouldn’t forget, headphones on and about to play an instrumental piece of music to concentrate when a bunch of children on a school trip arrived at my spot and went all wooooooah! (same reaction I had when I first spotted the tree) and started climbing the giant roots. The did not mind me there, they seem to be ok with my presence and so was their teacher. One of them even dared to ask me “Madam, have you seen any mushrooms?” (I didn’t even feel ancient because the called me “madam”). And just like that, they left and with that a very clear feeling: there is nothing more amazing than keeping that sense of wonder children have. I like that. It makes me happy to discover new things, a lifetime of learning, and most of all, when you receive that same sense of awe in another person for something you shared with him/her.
So it turns out this even did exactly what it promised it would do and provided the major inspirational leap I so desperately needed. But it also taught me to never stop searching for my life’s purpose. Because today I know the world of learning and teaching is definitely what I’m supposed to be doing and it defines a lot of who I am. But tomorrow it might be something else, keeping with that essential component: to never lose that need to always discover something new, something beautiful and be in complete awe of such discoveries. But here’s the best part of it all was this:
It’s the people around you that make the journey. I’ve had, for a very long time, my family and some loyal friends around to be grateful for. In this event I met incredibly inspiring people who shared their hearts and souls even when we were all strangers in a room. After the shame hangover as our host very aptly called it, the walls came down and we were able to see each other as we truly are: people with lots of qualities and many flaws as well, but certainly beautiful and worth it, just the way we are. It was in the moment when I truly listened to others that I understood many things about my own life and experiences and how devoting yourself to others can be so much more fulfilling than catering solely to one’s individual needs. I have learned that being a good trainer, facilitator, or host requires being a service to others. Not to your ego, not your image, to those in front and among you. In order to help others with their learning journey, ideas discovery, or meaningful conversations, you need to build rapport with them and it’s pretty hard to do so when their is a wall of “pretend” built on what you think your participants believe you should be. Only when you take the wall down can they truly engage….
So let it be known, my wall is down and more than ever I feel I am where I need to be. And I hope if there is ever a chance, I can help you, too.