Story 33

Rock Bottoms’ Up!

Hi, I’m Adrian, the human behind this issue of Upstairs. When I explain to people what I do, it ends up like inviting them to ride an invisible dragon (what? no! that’s not a narcotic metaphor!) – an equally unlikely and unforgettable experience. In short, I do mental-emotional change-work, I love writing with mechanical pencils, studying old, dusty languages, and putting together complex Lego sets.

I really felt I needed this win

“I’m going to have to stop you right there!” she said. “I’ve been selling luxury products for over 20 years, and from what you’ve been saying up to this point, I clearly realize there is nothing I can learn from you.”

It was the autumn of 2015, and this curt phrase concluded a painful sales meeting that ended a whole string of similarly unfortunate encounters. In that brief dreadful moment, which seemed to stretch forever, I felt stumped, and all the clever retorts and reframes I could usually wield so artfully slipped my grasp.

She was a high-end personal shopper and stylist for celebrities. I had waltzed into her office full of confidence in how my NLP coaching services could help her bolster sales and increase her profit margin. After all, it’s what we had talked about on the phone, and why she had agreed to meet, in the first place. 

I left my tail between my legs, with a sinking feeling in my stomach, as though I’d dropped a clump of lead inside. “You blundering buffoon!” resounded in my head, as I cursed my incompetence, and the full half-hour I had spent searching for a parking spot on the busy streets of Floreasca, in Bucharest, among posh fashionable cafés and the latest-rage models in auto design.

It stung all the more that I really felt I needed this win. Not just for the money that secured me the necessities of life, but to mark my successful passage into a new stage of my profession, namely working on my own. 

Deep down inside, I knew all too well I couldn’t go back to working some corporate job, working for someone else, as keen and adept I was at training people. I just couldn’t stand having anyone decide my schedule, my tasks, how much I earned, and ultimately, my quality of life. I was hell-bent to forge all that BY myself and FOR myself.

It was a spark that had lit into a roaring blaze ever since I attended my NLP and Coaching Practitioner course, a year and a half before. I came into that experience, as one of my colleagues put it, “stiff as a rake.” I used to be so drenched in unconscious fear, that I didn’t even recognize it anymore. I swam through the fear, like a fish in the water, taking it for granted.

It was only when I went through the Time Line Therapy® part of the course, that I became aware the fear was not me, it was merely a story running in the back of my mind. I could gaze upon its representation, and I asked my unconscious “let’s puke this sucker!”

I fell flat on my face

I, then, felt something literally snap in my solar plexus, as though my innards had been tied into a tight Gordian knot that I hadn’t previously realized. A sense of joy, courage, and relief flooded my body, as I realized that for 26 years, I had been living in a prison of my own mind’s making. And only now could I understand what genuine freedom meant. I could see, hear, feel, and dream beyond the fear.

I started crying and laughing with glee all at once, and everything that I secretly yearned for started to finally bubble up to the surface of my conscious mind, popping like champagne corks or fireworks. What had previously seemed impossible suddenly showed itself within reach, and I was determined to lunge for it and make it happen.

One such goal was running my own business, and supporting people with what I had come to realize was my life’s purpose – connect the dots inside your mind in order to plug knowledge into action, align with like-minded people outside, and turn your most daring goals into a foregone conclusion.

I knew I had the tools for it. After all, I made it work with my fellow course buddies, and I experienced massive change myself. I went from the dour, morose guy who looked ten years older, to the wide, beaming smile of the playful kid who I really had been all along. 

Training at work became a seamless joy, I finally connected with my students, and they actually applied what I was teaching them. I put an end to toxic relationships and reshaped how I engaged with my family. It’s what inspired me to pursue the Master Practitioner, and then, ultimately, the NLP and Hypnosis Trainer’s Training in Vegas, where the founders of the NLP school I trained withheld their practice.

But when I returned from the U.S. and started to piece together my fledgling practice with cold calls and sales meetings, it seemed like all that upsurge fizzled out. One prospective client interaction after another, I fell flat on my face and started to doubt myself in the process. 

After all, I thought I was applying everything I had so heavily invested to learn – in terms of time, energy, and a total of over $10.000 in the course, travel, lodging fees. And I suddenly couldn’t even make ends meet, let alone break even on all I’d spent. 

Coaching is NOT about the content of their work

The botched sale with the personal shopper proved the straw that broke the camel’s back. I could take no more, and I realized I needed some fresh informed outside perspective. So, I called Camelia, my trainer, who had introduced me to the field of personal change-work, and I recounted the whole affair.

With a simple reframe, she turned my whole approach on its head. “This lady said there is nothing she can learn from you. And she’s right,” Camelia swiftly confounded me. “The… what now?!” was all I could reply. 

“You heard me,” Camelia continued. “Look, deep down, everyone really knows what they need to do in order to make their goals happen. Then, the question is, what’s stopping them? So, what if instead of *learning* anything from you, what she could actually benefit from is UNLEARNING all the subtle patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting by which she’s unconsciously holding herself back?” 

And this drove home something I learned from the very beginning of my instruction. See, most people tend to expect that a coach should have and impart extensive practical knowledge and experience (WHAT they acquired) in the same field they are advising on.

But, in fact, this is what a mentor does. Instead, you can be an excellent coach without necessarily being excellent in the same field as your client. Because coaching is NOT about the content of their work. 

It fleshes out the mental and emotional structures and processes that underlie HOW people are doing whatever leads to their current (undesired) results on auto-pilot, in order to enable and empower them to make a deliberate switch for the better.

Most often, we tend to lead our lives at chance, like a ship dragged by the greater undercurrents of family, society, or culture. Coaching makes you aware of yourself and others. It guides and nudges you to realize there is a helm on the boat, to begin with, and that you can turn it, as well as adjust the sails – to change course in your favour. 

It calls to mind Alvin Toffler’s seminal work, “The Third Wave.” As early as 1980, he predicted the tremendous impact that the wide spread of Information Technology would have on our global society, and wrote: “The illiterate of the future will no longer be one who cannot read and write, but rather one who cannot learn, unlearn, and then re-learn.” 

This applies not just to how I serve and benefit clients, but even more closely to how I approach my “mindhacking” practice overall. My talk with Camelia made me realize that as much as I had honed the techniques for NLP in business, I still had a lot to learn about the business of NLP.

Learning always continues

Just like my prospective client, there were still plenty of my own self-defeating patterns that I still had left to become aware of and dissolve. For instance, I let go of the fear that had prevented me from starting on my own, but only then could I realize the fear of someone saying “NO” to my offer, or the fear of promoting myself online. It’s like peeling an onion that goes on for as long as you live, and just like with onion, I might be shedding some tears with every peel.

With every obstacle I would overcome, I would gain the insight and perspective that allow me to set even bolder, more far-reaching goals, which in turn bring even greater challenges and learning opportunities along the way, and so on.

And as much as I had grasped my mentors’ acumen, there were plenty of fresh strategies for marketing, prospecting, sales, and overall business administration that I had left to learn, apply, test, and continuously improve. 

After all, in a world that is quickly and constantly shifting, learning always continues. What worked brilliantly yesterday might blow up in your face tomorrow, and the best you can do is shrug it off, let go, and keep adjusting until you hit your sweet spot. 

That’s why, as I like to tell my clients and students to this day – I don’t present myself in front of you as an “enlightened guru” or some “wise-cracking know-it-all,” but rather precisely because I’ve hit rock bottom, tripped and bumped against more thresholds than most have even considered crossing. 

But every time, I learned something new. And I’m paying it forward so that you might apply it in your everyday lives, and it would enable you to reach faster, further, and more smoothly than I, for one, could even dream of.

In the end, I wish I had some “wonderwall” aspirational conclusion to my botched sales meeting. But the truth is, I never came across the lady ever since (I was about to write “ever again,” but who knows what paths life might take us?).

What I do know now is that the lessons our encounter taught me ended up worth far more than whatever deal I might have closed with her as a client. And they keep paying rich dividends all the way down to now.  

Keep feeding your curiosity, my friends,

Contributors of this story: Adrian Munteanu wrote this gem, Oana Filip provided feedback and edited it, Andrei Ungurianu put it all together, George Olaru designed it, Răzvan Onofrei was in charge of the development.

A question by Adrian Munteanu, the author of this story:
I’ve hit multiple rock bottoms in life, and I feel grateful that I came up renewed and refreshed every time. What was your most significant experience of the sort? What old notions of yourself did you shed in the process, and what did you learn instead?

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