When you meet Vashti Whitfield for the first time, something in your being starts to shift. This self-described ‘Lioness’ is so dynamic and profoundly intuitive that when you’re one-on-one, honestly, you feel as though she is looking right into your soul. Vashti has a fearless curiosity, asking all the uncomfortable (and at times confronting) questions to provoke, inspire and facilitate the transformation and development of human potential.
I’ve never been a client of Vashti’s (although I do feel like I’ve received several passive coaching sessions over the years…) in fact, we worked together. Our paths crossed back in 2012 when Vashti was building an extraordinary following on her very honest, very real and super successful blog, Maybe McQueen. Vashti was looking for a Designer to help launch her next big idea! Within moments of initial introductions, I was in awe of this incredible lady. Vashti has a magnetic warmth and energy that is absolutely infectious. I couldn’t wait to work alongside this powerhouse – and boy was it a wild ride!
Since then, Vashti has published a book Spartacus and Me a story of Life, Love and Everything In-Between; and released the incredible award-winning film Be Here Now, The Andy Whitfield Story.
As an internationally-renowned facilitator and executive coach, author and speaker, I couldn’t wait for 12 Rounds with Vashti Whitfield, to reconnect and see what the next chapter holds…
Welcome to 12 Rounds, a series of one-on-one interviews with exceptionally creative people that we’ve had the pleasure of working with at KO Studio. Our network of creative experts reaches far and wide, from photographers to animators, marketeers to food stylists, writers to sound designers, event extraordinaire’s and life facilitators.
Our Creative Director, Miss KO thought it was time to re-connect over a cuppa (or a vino) with these creatives to listen to their creative journey, capture some juicy insights from the industry, and share their key learnings with you (our readers).
First up, we reached out to Life Facilitator, Vashti Whitfield. Hold onto your hats!
How did you become a life facilitator?
It’s an interesting term you use a ‘Life Facilitator’. Very early on I had two parents who weren’t terrific at communicating with each other, which is very much of that era. So, through my wonderful childhood, I very early on took on the role of (kind of) parent and facilitator. Being a ‘Life Facilitator’ was gifted to me very early on, in a role where I needed to create negotiations, peace and a better situation. That’s where it first begun… and then it manifested into always having the capacity to see the potential and the opportunity in others and voicing it. Back when I was doing my Masters degree, I started doing that for all of my incredible creative friends. That’s where the journey began from a professional context. But from a personal context, it was from the ‘get-go’ with my wonderful parents.
What are some of the most common reasons people seek-out a life coach or connect with you?
I think overtime that’s changed considerably. Primarily, people come to me because they see a dynamism and energy, vibrancy, a level of focus and clarity… And a bit like the moth drawn to a light, they go ‘I want that!’ It sounds esoteric, but that passion for all aspects of life, living and leading… they come to me for clarity on how they can obtain that for themselves.
Over time this has changed distinctly for people in a more of a professional sense. For creatives, corporates, or people from the entertainment industry, they are dealing with the pressures, challenges and expectations placed on them professionally. They come to me for a level of clarity and authenticity of self. So, instead of wanting the vibrancy, energy, motivation and the direction, it moves into a space of ‘how do I understand who I am?’, ‘how do I want to best serve that in my professional career, and my personal life?’, and, ‘how do I find my way back to that authentic sense of self?’
More than often now, people are coming to me with a much bigger context in mind for facilitation…. I call it ‘The end of life space’. Where people are actually dying, or they are losing someone who is ‘to die’, or they’re ending a career or a relationship. It’s all the conversations around loss and letting go and thinking much more about the impact of their legacy…. ‘What am I doing and how is it impacting others in the world?’, ‘Can you support me, hold me, inspire me, guide me in how to experience, manage or plan for that?’
Describe an ideal day in the life of Vashti Whitfield?
That’s easy. Wake up. I do something phenomenal, like an incredible, deep and challenging yoga class and/or run next to the ocean…some kind of physical moment. No talking, but very much being (just me in my body). I’m connecting with other people, not necessarily through words, but just sharing an energetic space. I also need to connect with nature in some way. This is followed by a jump to attention, hard-core delicious coffee at one of my favourite places (that can be in any part of the world). Then I have to see my beautiful children, enjoy breakfast with them and laugh in the sunlight. (It usually features some form of avocado and some of their golden locks in the sunlight). Then it’s about learning. I love learning. Whether that’s learning through others, facilitating a workshop (or being in one), or launching a webinar. I like to learn, connect and facilitate. If I’m doing any form of those three, I am deeply rewarded. It has to involve human beings, communication, relationships and learning – and obviously in some way making a difference. Then coming back to reconnect with my cubs (skate-boarding, homework, going for a walk or having a chat over the kitchen table). This would be followed by shared time with friends over food (with buzz and vibrancy). Then I’ll either read something gorgeous or watch something brilliant. And then a really boring, lovely, early night … cause I like to be in bed by 9:30 (laughs). And then I wake up at 4:30am and do it all over again.
Do you ever become frustrated with your clients? Why?
There is this line by Byron Katie… ‘Who am I to judge where you are and where you are not…?’ (or something along those lines…)
I have this incredible gift where by one weekend I can be partnering/being beside somebody who is dying, and then 24 hours later, I’m in a board-room listening to someone talk about a situation as if it were life and death – and the level of anxiety that they are feeling, and the pressures they are describing, are all very relative the experience that they’re going through. There are moments where I can feel frustrated at their inability to have a gratitude for what is, and their inability to see the self-harm that they are causing for themselves. In the same breath, we only can see, what we can see. So, if I am experiencing that, I’ve made it about myself and not about others, and that’s where I have to bring it back to that responsibility of what am I there for? Am I there to prove them wrong? Or, am I there to help them experience life in a different way?
I have to bring it back to that responsibility of what am I there for. Am I there to prove them wrong? Or, am I there to help them experience life in a different way?
How do you stay energised and inspired in your role?
I think the three ways I stay energised are managing my well-being, through physical exercise eating well and laughing as much as possible (which I don’t do enough of). I live on the other side of the world to my old friends who and make me belly laugh, so connecting with them as much as possible is critical. Learning for me is SO important. It could be how to do a new trick on a skateboard (and fall on my arse), or reading something about Neuro Science. I need to be learning. And lastly, (which is fairly obvious) keep checking back in with my core-values, because they do shift. Making sure that how your life is playing out, the actions you are taking, and the choices you are making are in alignment with your core values. When you start to feel demotivated, it’s usually because you’re not honouring those core-values.
What brands or individuals in your industry do you admire? How have they inspired your own approach to coaching?
There are the obvious people, Dr. Brené Brown, Michael Neill, Byron Katie, Anthony Robbins… They ARE brands in the business world. But they are also human beings who have found an incredible balance of how to make an extraordinary difference to the well-being of human beings and humanity, while simultaneously, creating extraordinary businesses. I’m deeply inspired when what you’re doing and how you’re doing it is aligned with you and your authentic self. These people have all made a name by showing up authentically as themselves. In their commitment, and with their brilliant minds, (they) have created viable and successful businesses, important organisations and education systems – where they’re giving back remarkably. That trifecta is the one that I will always to aspire to in my lifetime. Partly for ego, and partly to know that I’ve done my best to give back.
What has been the biggest learning curve in your career?
Honestly, becoming a single-parent and the breadwinner. It took me a good few years to really get this and to really understand it. The sequence of events that happened in my life – I felt a victim of. In order to get through it and provide for my babies, I had to get very clear on my career…. how I was going to turn my work around and become more business savvy and leverage what I had to offer the world to manage three things; to make a difference, provide for my children, and to know that I was using my authentic offering (whatever that is) to give back in the world.
If you weren’t a life coach, what would you be?
I think my role is always to facilitate others. I think it would always be in the creative field. I’m a writer, and I love writing. I also love film-making. BTW, there’s plenty of time (laughs). There’s still time. It’s not a life sentence. I’ve chosen my work because I get to work on a (shit) ton of creative projects (laughs).
My secret weapon is that we don’t have to be happy all the time. That is not what life is about.
What’s your secret weapon to living a happy life?
My secret weapon is that we don’t have to be happy all the time. That is not what life is about. We are emotional beings, to be happy all the time, you’re probably smoking too much weed, and/or not living reality. Life has ups and downs, peaks and troughs. Sadness and loss and all those other emotions that we avoid and are terrified of are just as important as happiness.
What are you working on at the moment?
A multitude of projects… A book/workshop experience on grief and growth. I’m about to launch Vashti-Whitfield.com. I’m also building a program that allows people to work with me on life, loss and legacy – from anywhere in the world.
What’s the vision for Vashti Whitfield. What does success look like?
It’s about having this wonderful freedom and time to collaborate, co-create and live with my children. Which means the freedom to travel, the freedom to bring them into my work more…I learn from them and then I create opportunities out of that. For example, my son going to Camp Woodward, and the opportunity for me to go and speak in The States. I’m trying to correlate the things my children really want to do, with opportunities for me to do my work. That’s alignment and that’s success for me. If my kids can say to me, ”Mum I really want to go to this cool skatepark in Paris”… and I can book an event there. So, we are giving back, so we are travelling together, experiencing adventures, and I’m also making a living and inspiring human-beings to reach their human potential – to live, lead and die. Secondly, (similarly to the brands/humans that I mentioned earlier) success would be to nail that balance of doing what I love and really making a difference with my work – and building a successful business. But, I’m not attached to that. It’s a lovely vision and a goal to aspire to. And the last aspect… I have been without a long-term partner for 8 years (in September). There have been wonderful relationships (very short and brief), but it’s not been right. I feel I have grown into the person I was supposed to be (so far) after losing my husband. It would be lovely to partner with some body, and walk beside them to share and experience this rich life. That would feel like alignment.
What song pumps you up before you head into the ring?
‘Bird’s flying high…’ Feeling Good, Nina Simone…. It’s evocative and powerful.