Within the first one hour of your life you are given a name, a home and a religion; most people spend the rest of their lives defending that
Paul Thandi is a professional speaker, writer, life coach and digital media professional. Under his umbrella platform, Mindshift.co.ke, the 29-year-old father of 2 explores the human journey using various tools in an effort to help people find and better understand the ‘self’.
Paul speaks to Damaris Agweyu about his quest to help people unlock their highest potential through his work.
Is a life coach like a therapist?
No. A therapist tends to focus on the past and try to find where certain problems began; a life coach starts from where you are and works with you to find chart the forward. Having a life coach is like having a life mentor, someone who helps you plan, execute and most importantly gain the clarity on your life and the vision you have for it.
So you motivate people to achieve their goals?
There is some motivation in life coaching, but it’s motivation after I have given you a formula of sorts. With most motivation, things tend to be exciting in the moment, but when you wake up the next morning, you are back to your old self. With life coaching, you get the motivation and are given a formula to apply in your day to day life; it’s not a solution for everything but it’s the start of a journey.
How would a typical session with you play out?
The first session would be about getting your current status in your life: Where are you? What do want in life? Why are you where you are? People are different so we might get into some history to understand the context of your situation. If we find that there are deep-seated issues that need to be dealt with, I would refer you to a therapist. Once we have established the status, we work on a roadmap for the way forward. We do this by looking at the unique raw materials that you have and fuse them to execute on the vision.
How many sessions would one typically need to answer these questions?
It depends on the person. Typically, the first 3 sessions will generate results. We do, however, need time to create a roadmap so we could meet weekly, bi-monthly or monthly to do this. Life coaching does not have an end. The point is to find and work on a trajectory for your life.
Why do you think it’s so hard for people to figure out who they are?
Because people define themselves by the conclusions that others have made about them. Within the first one hour of your life, you’re given a name, a home and a religion and most people spend the rest of their lives defending that.
I take it, you know who you are?
Yes, but when I started this journey, I honestly didn’t know myself. I now understand myself and I’m in a place where I can confidently hold someone else’s hand and take them through their own journey.
Did you have a life coach or did you coach yourself to where you are now?
I did it myself. It started with a dream I had for a book I wanted to write, I’m still writing it. I did a lot of research in terms of reading, studying and talking to others. I ended up with a lot of content but I realized that was not enough, it was all just theory. I wanted to have the concrete experience for myself so I could speak from a point of authority and truth. I didn’t want to be like those motivational speakers who quote everyone else but have nothing to say for themselves. So I purposed to practice the principles I was going to write about. I started a journey which I called ‘dating myself’. I spent time with myself, getting to know who I am, having a relationship with myself and in that process, the idea of helping others through life coaching came up.
Most people start the other way round, they start with: “I am a writer, now what can I write about”, that’s the wrong approach- you should be writing and then get to a point where you realize what kind of writer you are.
How receptive are Kenyans to the idea of being life coached?
People are not receptive and this lack of receptiveness is from a point of no knowledge- it’s lacking to understand what you are rejecting. But the moment I engage with people they are like, "I never thought about it like that". Everyone I have sat down with and explained the concept to is willing to take a session.
People spend money, a lot of it, trying to solve life. They will spend on medicine, what they eat, working out, travelling and yet they never look at the person inside. When I talk about dating yourself, it’s creating time for yourself on purpose; you don’t spend time with yourself when you have nothing to do, no, it should be part of your schedule.
So this journey is about unlearning what you have been taught about life?
Yes. Our education system has really fixed us. In the first place, we have all these different subjects we’re taught all the way from primary school up to the PhD level, but no one teaches about the human journey. Simple things like how do you manage money? How do you deal loss, parenting- that is why you find someone died at 25 and was buried at 60, they’ve been doing the same redundant thing for 40 years and they call that life. That’s not life!
If the system we have works, why do we have 78 per cent youth unemployment in this country- we are looking at 84% on the African continent. Imagine, we have 10,000 graduates every year and close to 8,000 of those will not get the job they have spent their lives working to get. This template is a lie!
The greatest number suicides today are happening among young people, why? Because you are told to do this is and do that and you get to 20 years, and what you were told would be there is not there. People need to question some of these things.
Our religious beliefs have also fixed us, they teach us to just take in information without question. Do you know how many religions we have?
We’re looking at over 2000 and this is without the African deities. And everybody believes that their way is correct. Who says it’s correct? You are denying yourself life by believing in things without questioning them. Question that religion! Question what you see and what you read. Even, as you listen to me talk about these things, question my content! It takes guts to decide to unlearn what you have been taught, and it's scary but you need guts to live a better life.
Do you have children?
Yes I have 2.
Are you teaching them to question life?
Always. They shouldn’t have to settle for what they have been told or given. They should remain curious.
Did you have the same kind of upbringing?
(Chuckles) No. I was raised the same way that most people are. This is a journey I took up on my own.
Catch Paul on The New Day Show, Ebru TV
What were you doing before life coaching?
I was working in the media industry, doing coverage using photography and videography. I now own Visible Online, a digital media company. We create, produce, distribute and market content online. It’s what I studied on campus and I got into business soon after I finished. I decided very early on that I didn’t want to get into employment.
I am a creative person by nature. Having worked with media houses during my internship, I would work on news pieces and by the time senior editors were done with my work, it would be so different from what I had created. My creativity would be doctored with so many gatekeepers standing between the real information and the end product that people consumed. I wanted to create and set the tone of my own content.
How’s that working out?
It’s good. It took a while to fully understand the world of digital media because when I started, not many people were doing it in Kenya. In fact, when I was doing my initial research I had to call companies in the UK posing as a client so that I could get more information on how it works. Now there are many players in the market and I’d say the biggest challenge here is justifying my costs to clients- the entry point for digital marketing isn’t too high- if you can afford the tools you can get into the field, it’s the execution that is the difference. When you are asking clients for 2 or 3 times more than someone who just has a camera they tend to go for the cheaper option. But cheaper doesn't guarantee quality so interestingly, they will call you next time after they have experienced disappointment. And the great thing with Visible Online is we are a one-stop-shop for all digital marketing needs: We will create the content for you and distribute it wherever you want- most of the time companies have to work with two or three other companies for this but we are all-inclusive.
You mentioned a book you are writing, tell me more about that
It’s called The Power Hour. It's about a focus time within the 24-hour cycle where you are alone with no distractions, your phone is off and you are doing one thing that will impact your future. Again, the principle was born from my own experience and I started my Power Hour with 15 minutes, today its 4 hours long and starts at 7.45 in the morning.
Your Power Hour does not have to be done at a specific time of day or for a specific length of time. It’s a flexible schedule that works for you as an individual. Observe your personality, understand who you are, find out when are you most productive then use that time as your Power Hour.
I have also been studying sleep and wow! You need to respect sleep- you know when you sleep, 60% of your brain cells shrink but you have to allow them to do this by switching your brain off before you go to bed. So the question is, are you switching off your brain? What did you do 30 minutes before going to sleep? Were your words bitter? Were you stressing about your life? Those last 30 minutes of your day are crucial, if you don't check how you spend them, you wake up tired or annoyed because your brain cells didn’t shrink and so you slept but didn’t rest. It sounds like a small thing but it contributes to the quality of life.
When are you publishing the book?
I’m not in a rush to publish. I’m giving myself time to create something impactful.
Do you meditate?
Define success in your terms.
When you are living your life on your own terms, when you’ve found yourself, when you’re happy with who you are and are working on maintaining that every morning you wake up, when you don’t feel like there is something more you should be doing, when you don’t feel like you will start living when this time comes or when you have this thing, then you are are successful.
After having taken this journey to discover myself, I am a much happier person. Yes there are still difficulties I experience but they don’t phase me because I know who I am; I am confident and happy with the man I am.
For more wisdom and insights from Paul Thandi, get your copy of Different Paths, One Journey HERE.