25 Oct ilana wetzler
Ilana is undefinable. But if we tried, we might say she is a
Transformational Coach. Creative Facilitator. Speaker.
We have all been witness to exclusion at some point in our lives. As children, we lack the broader understanding of human nature, so the scene on the playground where we weren’t picked for a dodge ball team can have long lasting effects. Many of us can recall the high school party where everyone in class failed to mention the entire school was invited.
And unfortunately age does not always inspire good behavior. At some point, we have all suffered those moments of rejection in the workplace, and worse yet, some of us have witnessed exclusion from grown-ups while standing at the bus stop with our kids, the very place where we are teaching by example. Adulting can be utterly frustrating.
However, it is important to recognize that there is always room for improvement, and inclusion always creates space for ideas, growth and even new friendships. Allow me to introduce you to a leader who believes in creating a more conscious society. This is a woman who inspires us to examine every day actions towards ourselves, and those around us. She encourages us to observe our behavior, honestly, so we can learn how to be more inclusive, and subsequently, live happier lives. Adulting can be so very fascinating.
Ms. Wetzler travels the globe teaching organizations techniques to exist with purpose while creating a more productive environment. With her unique approach, she informs business leaders, politicians, and entrepreneurs on how to be game changers in their personal and professional lives.
In short, Ilana Wetzler is a breath of fresh air.
How did you choose the life you lead and was it a conscious decision?
I think in my soul I must have chosen a life of adventure and exploration and a commitment to being a conduit of some kind. That said, I live with the question of how best to do my work — and the question is sometimes effortless and sometimes excruciating.
I really like the Parker Palmer line of “Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you”.
I feel like there have been many times where I have consciously chosen what I wanted to do and then thrown it to the skies, trusting that it would unfold on its own if and when it needed to. It seems that I have actively chosen to travel into the jungle, to not have my life dictated to me by another’s map, be it a person or a system. I often fantasize about what the other routes would have looked like, the predictable, reliable, steady ones — and I wonder if the two will meet one day and form into one.
I love both making things happen and letting things happen and the relationship between the two. To actively bring something into being can allow doors to open and roads to unfold that could never have been dreamed of otherwise. The dance is to unfold and to meet the unfolding at the same time.
I have consciously chosen to bend and manipulate time. I learned that time changes shape when working in flow, so I wanted to understand flow. I loved learning that flow happens when you choose to immerse yourself in whatever you do, so I found myself immersed in life. So much so, that I had to learn how to come up for air.
I learned that it’s easier for me to remember ideas, events, feelings when they are experienced in different places instead of sifting through memories that all happened in the same place, like remembering school as one big merged memory. So I learned that if I wanted to feel expansive and like life was being pulled through infinity, I needed to go exploring — whether working in a new context, visiting a new continent or even just walking home on a road I’ve never been on. And if I want to rest and let all time melt into itself, I needed to stay in the same place.
There was a period of a few years where I could remember every day because I was somewhere new doing something I’d not done before with people I didn’t know and so every moment was located in me. Then I got tired and needed to stop moving for a very long time and let life blur into itself again for a while.
I also come from exceptional parents. They both are artistic, entrepreneurial, holistic, conscious, open, peace-loving. So on one level, I’ve inherited the freedom to be creative and entrepreneurial. Perhaps the most rebellious thing I could have done was something definable and predictable. I also didn’t realize this until I got older, that so many of my peers were having to battle parental and societal expectations that I didn’t even know existed until I was in my twenties.
I have vivid memories of adults telling me that youth is wasted on the young and I remember feeling such sadness coming from them when they said it, so I became determined for my youth to be time preciously spent. And so, my pursuit began, without understanding yet that even to have a pursuit is one of the most extraordinary privileges of all.
What does an ordinary day at the office look like for you?
At the moment, I’m sitting in an enormous empty loft in Berlin. It’s part of a co-creation project we’re working on. Last weekend I was in the English countryside for a meeting about the movement in Europe. Before then, I was in Stockholm and The Netherlands and Spain. On Friday I fly to Greece to run a summit for purpose-driven entrepreneurs, then to Portugal and Egypt. This is what is ordinary. Every day is different, which weirdly makes them feel similar.
My work and life are very connected so it’s difficult to distinguish which is what. A pie chart of my working time would be mixed between traveling, writing, programme design, facilitating, developing ideas, strategy development, volunteering, coaching, managing teams, editing, research and the usual dose of meetings, mails & Skype calls for good measure.
If I have two weeks in one place — that’s what feels radical. I’ll set a really rigid structure to make sure I do what I need to and rest when I can and play as much as possible. I thrive when I have a loose structure to be free in – structured freedom. I suppose this is my ordinary. I don’t know how long this phase will last for, but I’ve decided to enjoy the ride for now.
What training and education did you take to prepare you for your career?
I didn’t study to do what I do now, it just so happens that a lot of the experiences I had fed into it and so many pieces merged together into as essential aspects of my training.
Drama classes during school, an art room at home, adventure weekends with my dad, joining an improvisation group, studying film and narrative, learning to write, starting a company, creating things from nothing, making people laugh, helping people cry, saying yes a lot, not knowing I could fail — all of these have led to this.
I think the two main qualities that prepared me for my career are both naivety & audacity (and naively not knowing I was audacious) as they got me into conversations that I was completely out of my depth for and gave me opportunities that I was too inexperienced for – and yet it’s those rich on-the-edge encounters that sparked something in me and brought me alive and offered me clues for where the next steps were.
What project are you most proud of?
What a wonderful question. It’s easy for me to feel proud of a lot of my early work, but when I think of what I’m doing now, I’m still in so much of it that it’s difficult to move my perspective to one of pride because it’s still living in me.
I look back at my early twenties and it just makes me smile. I don’t know who I was racing or what was driving me, but I was on such a mission and I was doing it with such blissful ignorance. I didn’t have any experience and was just making it all up and enjoying the thrill of it all.
When I was 21, I produced a music show for up and coming female singer-songwriters called Like Honey. The male version, Like Fire followed a year later. There were 8 acts a night with 3 songs each and it ended up running for 4 years with over 40 artists. For years, I was so blessed to spend at least a night a week being immersed in the South African musical talent. I really loved that time.
I also loved directing a wild satire called, Eurafrica. We traveled to festivals with an incredible reception and I learnt the power that humour has to both unify as well as heal unbearable pain.
I’m proud of facilitating 50 entrepreneurs to come up with policy change for the Chinese Government and EU on live TV in Beijing. I’m proud of the time I was going through hell in my private life and managed to run a programme with genuine joy. I’m proud of getting through my fear of traveling. I’m proud for the times I got up after failing, even though I can still feel the hurt of some of the falls.
I’m proud of launching myself into industries without any understanding or experience and then swimming upstream until I found my own place in the current. I’m proud of the people I’ve been so blessed to meet and to work with. I’m proud of the extraordinary places I’ve been able to see.
I’m proud that I’ve answered this question even though my whole body struggles with it. [Thanks for asking.]
What has been your greatest obstacle in life and how do/did you navigate it?
I think perhaps I am my greatest obstacle and so I have to navigate myself on a regular basis. My most distinctive qualities are both my gifts and curses, they all are my fuel and all are my drain. My appetite to learn is exhausting. My constant enthusiasm can be a bit much. My drive to improve things can be boring. I often feel too much. I often care too much. It can get pretty tiring. I would like to let more wash over me or not touch me. If I am tired or stressed or have lost my centre, everything wobbles very quickly – and so my biggest obstacle is and has been harnessing the universal love I feel for ‘all’ and cultivating it as self love to look after myself.
What was your greatest lesson learned?
For many years, I believed that I had unlimited capacity. It’s funny to look back on it. I genuinely thought that when coming from a place of love, the reservoir couldn’t ever be emptied, because love is self-charging. My body disagreed and I burnt out, more than once. I had to learn how to look after myself, saying no to people, to opportunities, to work, to volunteering, even to adventures.
As I got better, I then found myself on the other end of the seesaw and noticed how difficult it had become to say yes at all. So it would seem my lesson is around continually coming back to the center of the seesaw, gentle leaning on one side or the other or dancing close to the middle, both centered and gently moving at the same time.
Then there is something about letting go and falling. I left home, city, relationship all at the same time — and fell into the unknown, knowing it was what needed to happen. I had no money and no where to go — and I let go, falling into the abyss, only to be caught on the wings of an exquisite phoenix that led me to impossible new adventures.
What is your best advice on how to live a graceful life?
This word. Grace. Even the thought of word is humbling. It is the extraordinary balance between full assertion of our true power and love and our full surrender. I hope I continue to make space for grace, to breathe and listen and trust, so that she can feel the openness in me to move through.
I think to not take myself very seriously helps. The times when I’ve been really hard on myself, expected the most, tried to be something I’m not, it’s as if I was closing down the doors to grace.
When I’m fully open, I feel Grace move through me. She watches me doing handstands and cartwheels, swimming in reservoirs, running barefoot on grass and rolling down hills. So, the best way to live a graceful life, as I see it?
- Surround yourself by people who bring you alive
- Listen to people’s hearts
- Hug too much
- Be the person that brings other people alive
- Notice beauty in everything
- Slow down, slow all parts of you down
- Tell yourself you’re bananas (this is from a friend of mine, Simon, and is my favorite advice of all)
- Cultivate your inner authority
- Be naughty
- Greet the trees, they’ve seen more than we could ever dream
- Slurp milkshakes
- Try things you’ll never be any good at
- Delight in your age
- Enjoy doing the dishes
- Be amused by people in bad moods
- Be amused by your own bad mood
- Stay in bed longer
- Get out of bed earlier
- Say yes more
- Say no more
- Go on a date with yourself
- Go on a first date with your partner over and over again
- Embarrass yourself
- Dream more
- Play with children
- Play with your partners
j. jane side notes:
Ilana Wetzler has not one, but two TedxTalks. You’re Welcome will inspire you to continue the journey of self awareness and remain open to creating a more conscious world. How Do You Know? offers a wonderful reminder of the importance of our hearts and that “We are are born and we die …. and in between there is just love.”
To learn more about Ilana’s work and services provided, connect with her via website.
And just a friendly warning… her love of life and desire to make the world better is contagious!