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To my Willows

by Karen Kimsey-House, CEO & Co-founder, CTI

It’s 9:00 am in Sonoma, the final day of yet another Co-Active Leadership Program. The sky is the most brilliant blue and a gentle breeze stirs. Twenty-one people surround a crackling fire, their faces rapt and shining. Lithe as a cat, one moves into the center and circles the fire, declaring out loud her intention to make a difference in the world. One by one the others follow suit. They are, in turn, bold, shy, calm, dramatic, funny and profound.

The Willow Tribe. Photo by Meir Atias

Then the ceremony is over and my work is done. The ten-month journey has been wide and filled with learning. Without a doubt, these are not the same 21 people that began. What a delight to watch the faces change…to see the limiting beliefs fall away, to watch people claim their power, their impact, their destiny. What a privilege to watch them love, support, struggle with and push each other, weaving themselves into a community that will sustain.

They have learned much. How to stand firmly for what they believe in, how to create from all that life has to offer and, most importantly, to believe in the whisperings of their own heart. More than anything else, they have learned to look inside themselves for direction and to follow the path that is most resonant whether it is the popular road or not. They know who they are and what they are here for. 

Willow assistants Leslie Stein & Bill Spangler, co-leaders John Vercelli & Karen Kimsey-House. Photo by Susanne Sabahi

They will forget. We all do. We forget. And they have tools to help them recover. They have a good map to recover to. They are well-equipped for the real leadership program which will last the rest of their lives. 

They will change the world. One person, one conversation, one event at a time. In ways large and small, across cultures and continents, they will change the way people think and feel about leadership, life and about each other. 

Next month, I will begin again with another group. Today there is only completion and celebration. I feel well-used. They are my legacy to the world, these 21 Willows. I am grateful and I am proud.

January 26th, 2012 by Karen Kimsey-House | 6 Comments »

Listening for the voice of the earth

by Nick Kettles, MA, CPCC

Since Co-Active Coaching found me six years ago, it’s helped me create more fulfilment than I could’ve ever imagined. Amongst many highlights so far was the realization of an ambition to become an environmental journalist.

However, as the model makes clear, life is not just about pursuing important objectives but also how we embrace the transformation evoked by the journey along the way.

Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The truth is, when I set out, I had no idea the levels of despair the in-depth articles I was commissioned to write would invite me to confront.

Amongst myriad interviews, I met with a South American politician with the sands of time slipping through his fingers, balancing the need to fight an internecine civil war against protecting precious Amazonian rain forest from ecocide.  There was the vet who received death threats from local sheep farmers after helping reintroduce the bear to the Pyrenees. Then there were the ocean conservationists who intercepted a Yemeni fishing vessel carrying hundreds of shark fins. Their grief for the loss of this much maligned predator was made more complex by their empathy for the fourteen-year-old fishermen who had mindlessly slaughtered the sharks to alleviate their poverty. 

In spite of the power of Co-Active Coaching’s lesson of ‘being with’ where others are, over time I developed a resilient, thick skin, which didn’t suit me. 

I scotched over my own despair and was embarrassed to admit I was increasingly relating to the earth as a living sentient being worthy of an all-together different level of respect. Mother Earth is for tree-huggers, not hard-nosed campaigners, right?

Then, around August 2009, I began to consider ‘where next’ and the CTI Leadership Program seemed to me the best way to work that out.

When I first heard one of my leaders, LA Reding, call me forth on the first retreat to be a voice of the earth, I didn’t want to hear it. Having already held so much despair about the earth, my internal critic went crazy trying to formulate a far more prosaic life purpose statement.

Yet the program, which emphasizes 100% authentic self-expression and how to align that with a clearly defined life purpose, brought her words into sharp relief.  With time for quiet reflection in Nature, I considered whether it was possible to lead from my vulnerability about the earth. 

Nick Kettles

From that place of recognizing the power of our despair, I considered what it would be like if instead of trying to rescue the Earth, we focused more on adopting a new perspective in how we relate to her.

What would a Co-Active relationship with the Earth look like? What would we hear if we were really listening? That she’s far more creative, resourceful and whole than we are willing to admit perhaps? 

The learning keeps bubbling away for many years way beyond the final leadership retreat and it’s taken time since that point two years ago to really accept this is what calls me to be of service. Once committed to authentic self- expression, it becomes painful not to accept who you are and what you stand for.

Today the arc of my career as a campaigning journalist is coming to an end and I’m now working with my partner Priya, also a Co-Active Leadership graduate, to combine coaching, qi gong, and meditation to help others slow down so they can consider who they are being in relationship to the Earth. 

I am sure as this new arc unfolds, a whole new level of transformation will be evoked. The only difference this time is that I’m really excited what that will entail.

Nick Kettles, MA, CPCC, is a writer and coach who loves listening deeply with his clients for the words and ideas that sing their purpose. Otherwise, he’s slowing down outside, meditating beside a fire with his partner or playing with his children amidst the elements and the turning seasons. nick@newmythcreate.com

January 17th, 2012 by CTI | 1 Comment »

Being leader-full

by Karen Kimsey-House, CEO & Co-founder, CTI

One of our long-time faculty members, Eileen Blumenthal, forwarded me this post the other day. It is brilliantly written by Micah L. Sifry. In it, he points to the bankrupt condition of our current power-based leadership models and offers the Occupy Wall Street Movement as being “leader-full”.

Many have called the Occupy movement lacking in leadership and disorganized. As the post illustrates, the press have not known WHAT to do with it! I’m with Micah, however.  I believe that the structures that have emerged from Occupy Wall Street call forth the leader in each of us and provide a container for all to step forward and take ownership and responsibility.

It may be that our current institutions must fall away, making room for leadership that is communal, dynamic and values the input and human capital of all, not just those with the most financial or political clout. Perhaps this is the essence of what Abraham Lincoln was dreaming of when he spoke the last line of the Gettysburg address: “ that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

I believe firmly that we are in the midst of that new birth of freedom and that we all have a part to play.

January 10th, 2012 by Karen Kimsey-House | 3 Comments »

Catching up with Kelly Carlin

 The late comedian George Carlin’s daughter, a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach and Co-Active Leadership graduate, shares how her CTI training has impacted her life, work and relationship with her famous dad.

Kelly, George Carlin's daughter

Q: How did you discover Co-Active Coaching?

A: On the Internet. I’d just gotten my masters in depth psychology and knew I wasn’t going for my license and didn’t want to be a therapist. I was looking for something to serve my training and expand my horizons. I worked with a coach before grad school so I knew about it. I signed up for Fundamentals. When I walked into the room, I thought, “Oh dear. This is really corporate. What have I gotten myself into?” But within three minutes of listening to one of the co-leaders, LA Reding, I was like “Oh my God. I’ve found my new home!”

Q: What did you find so compelling?

 A: There’s no B.S. There is tons of learning to be had. It’s scrumptious. What Karen and Henry did was take the best of what had been discovered and created through the human potential movement of the past 40 years and really integrate it in a sophisticated and accessible way. I have studied a lot of those systems myself. I really love the experiential learning of CTI courses, though. You get it in your bones right away. It was everything I loved without the dogma. It felt very clean. It’s in service of something bigger than itself.

Every course has some great gift to it. In Fulfillment, it was amazing to tap into one’s sense of possibility and spaciousness. Balance was the most mind-expanding, learning about perspective. Everything is a perspective. Try everything on for the sake of it. Such a freeing practice. I use it a lot with clients.

Q: So, you have a coaching practice?

A: I work mainly with creative people, especially writers.

Q: Comedy writers?

A: No, I’ve found it hard to work with them. They often seem to be projecting my father on to me. Like they want my approval or they’re trying to tap into some kind of genetic magic they think I have.  In the work I do with my clients, I see myself as someone who is there to help them wake up to their truth, not some truth they think I hold because I’m a Carlin.

Kelly with mom and dad

Q: Aside from coaching, how do you use what you learned in the training?

A: Leadership was huge for me. I learned so many skills and tools. I thought I was already good at “Creating from Self” because I was a solo artist, but experiencing the first retreat showed me that I was still very limited in that area.  It gave me back my birthright. I realized that I have an impact on the world just by showing up. I use one of the grounding tools I learned in Retreat 1 backstage before I go out and do a show when my nerves are so intense and I’m feeling the adrenaline. It makes me go right into my body and out of my head.

In Retreat 2, “Creating from Other”, I learned the importance of co-creating. The future of this planet depends on it. I’m trying to teach people in my community – artists, comedians and writers – about that and I’ve created the space for co-creation to happen. I have parties with live music where it’s an incredible co-creation between musicians, there’s no real band. It’s all improv and sing-a-long. It’s really powerful, like church. It’s an incredible experience, like an advanced Co-Active Leadership activity.

Q: What’s important about Co-Active?

A: Whether we know it or not, it’s happening in every moment. It’s about being conscious that everything is interdependent. Many people walk around thinking they’re separate and things happen to them. Or they can make things happen. It’s so much more of a dance. Dancing in the moment is a great metaphor. Kids should be learning the Co-Active Way in school. If that were so, boy, every segment of society could be different.

Q: Did George know about Co-Active?

A: He was alive when I went through all the training, but he did not know about the concept. Like many artists of his caliber, my dad was self-driven, OCD and worked at a level that was slightly narcissistic. But he really knew how to create from self.  Although, he rarely collaborated with people, personal one-on-one relationships were easy for him. On stage though, he was the captain of the ship – his way or the highway.

I finished Leadership in February of 2008 and he died in June. I don’t know how I would have survived the week following his death if not for Leadership. I was a wreck, there was so much to do and organize and the press! And yet, my higher self came forward and knew how to walk through that week even though I was a wreck. Leadership was in my DNA at that point and it held me and walked me through it until I had to deal with the deeper emotions.

George and Kelly

Q: Did George’s “lone wolf” approach affect you?

A: I was propelled towards the opposite – I craved connection. Growing up in the chaos of drug- and alcohol-addicted parents, where one has to read the environment to know what’s needed to survive, I became highly tuned to my intuition. But these days, I am looking to emulate the wisdom and power of the ‘lone wolf” approach through my art. I do believe that the voice of the “lone wolf” is an important one when so many in the culture are more willing to be sheep and just follow the herd. That was my dad’s biggest gift I feel – waking us up to big truth.

Q: What are your next goals?

A: I’m touring my solo show A Carlin Home Companion in 2012 and part of 2013. I’d love to have an interview show on TV or a bigger radio show on NPR. I’d like to be the next Charlie Rose!

Tune into Kelly’s weekly radio show on Thursdays at 5pm PST or download the free podcasts via iTunes. Don’t miss Kelly’s live solo show, A Carlin Home Companion. Reach Kelly at www.kellycarlin.com.

January 4th, 2012 by CTI | No Comments »