In today’s coaching life interview, I’m speaking to Luke Hancock. He trained as a coach at Animas after 18 years in the corporate world. He now runs Sacred Place, a holistic health project in Laos which offers coaching and counselling alongside business, nutrition and permaculture consultancy.
Claudia: Again, thank you very much for agreeing to tell us about what you’ve done with Sacred Place and how coaching has become a part of your life I suppose. I wonder whether you could tell me how long you’ve been coaching? How long coaching has been a part of your life?
Luke: I think about 4 years, I think it was 4 or 5 years. 2012 I believe, I took my coaching course with what was then the Smart School and now Animas.
Claudia: What led you to take that course?
Luke: It was actually a conversation with my sister. I had just spent 17 years in the corporate world working in global sales and in internet start-ups and large multinationals and I basically burnt out in 2006 and then I made the decision after burning out that I would follow my intuition and so in 2008 I went travelling for about a year and a half and when I came back, I was speaking with my sister and I was discussing what I wanted to do with my life and I had already had some thoughts about that and one of my passions is the environment.
So, I began studying [ecologists 00:01:19] and thinking and during those conversations with my sister, one of the things that came up was talents and skills, not just passions but gifts and talents and I always used to work with people in teams and sales environments, customer relations and I was in that space of having time, money, health to create the life that I really wanted and not a life that I was paid to lead and so I allowed myself to explore and another area that came up through our conversations was life coaching and personal development, which I had been focusing on for myself with the work of Anthony Robins, John Rowan, these sorts of people and I sat with the idea and it just sort of resonated.
I said “Yeah – that makes sense. It could be a really useful bow in my toolkit,” and, as an entrepreneur, as a self-employed person, I’m aware that it helpful to have complimentary tools and not just one sort of silo expertise but to have some holistic perspective of the areas that you like to work in, so that’s how it came about.
Claudia: I see and I imagine a lot of people are looking to study coaching to add it to their skillset. I wonder whether you have any idea about how you would really put it to use after you’d graduated.
Luke: I just have one idea because during my travels I was made redundant and very interesting dynamic with my parents. One was, “Oh no, what are you going to do? You’re going to prepare your CD” Or… but then the other time it was, “Oh, it looks like the chess pieces have been moved for you and now your path is clear,” and so after I was made redundant, I had a golden handshake so I just immediately extended my travels but when I came back, part of my package, my redundancy package was a 12 step career transition coaching course.
It wasn’t really a course but it was with a career transition coach to help me get on with my career and I wanted to change careers and so I went through this 12 step process with this lady. I took my time about it, I think we took about a year in total to do the whole process and I really enjoyed it. I really benefited from it and I remember thinking at the time “Oh, that’s a useful bit of information, I’ll copy that. Well, that’s a useful bit of da, da, da, I’ll keep a note of that.”
So I was already thinking “Mm-hm. That’s really useful.” I mean I’m finding it useful so I’m sure other people might find it useful if they wanted to change career and so that was already; I hadn’t started any life-coaching work, I was just going through that process on myself but I already realised the real value when someone reaches a certain age of maturity and they realise what they started when they were 18 or 19 actually does is longer fit for purpose and they’ve spent a little bit of time discovering who they really are and what they really want from their life and how they can be of service to theirs and then what can happen is that you change careers, you change direction and so intuitively I felt that this piece of work that I was doing on myself could be applied to others later on in my work life.
Claudia: And so has that impacted the kinds of people that you like to work with as a coach?
Luke: I think it’s impacted the kinds of people that are attracted to work with me because for example I don’t focus on nutrition or weight loss, I focus a little bit on personal development; so gifts, talents, limiting beliefs, emotional or mental barriers a little bit and I focus a lot on career transition where I feel quite comfortable with the framework and the process having been through it myself and having facilitated others to go through that process and I also quite like business coaching and business consulting because I have quite an extensive experience in the world of business, whether it’s marketing, sales, finance, project management and so that has also arisen where I’m consulting and then with their permission I may move into coaching.
So it’s more I start with the business consulting and then because it can be a delicate topic, someone may say “Well, there’s nothing wrong with me.” Well it’s not that there’s anything wrong with you but something’s could be done more effectively or more efficiently or you could delegate or you know, “Why do you keep repeating that behaviour if it’s not serving you? What’s the payoff?” So then the business coaching comes in on the back of the business consulting once I’ve developed a good rapport, a good relationship with the person. Susanna and I, we are quite complementary. We’ve both been on quite the journeys.
I started my journey back in 2006 and when I say journey, I mean journey of self-discovery, journey of healing, journey of empowerment and she started hers even a few years before that and we both coincidentally went travelling for 18 months at the same time around the world and met back in London in 2010 and when we met back, it was a very… within 3 months of meeting each other, we knew that we had very similar personal values, very similar life goals and we intuitively just started developing an exit strategy out of London and towards what we wanted and what we wanted was to create a centre for healing or health or education for sustainability and to impart our experience and knowledge to others on a larger scale or in a different way.
So, yes, Sacred Place related to those elements and I guess more specifically, Susanna works in the space of counselling and therapy so she will work with a person and deal with the past to resolve trauma, pain, fear issues so that they can move forward with their lives and I’m working with a person in the present moments but then looking toward what they would like to create and develop with their skills or gifts or maybe let’s see if we can just uncover what those skills or gifts or talents or passions are. So that’s quite complementary and then there’s another area that’s quite complementary; I share it not from a ‘salesy’ perspective but more to plant seeds.
I am working in a space with permaculture which is about creating sustainable systems whether it’s for people, communities, water, food etcetera and what came to me was that nutrition is simply the other side of the coin of permaculture and I talked that through with Susanna and we were both very much interested in nutrition because it’s part of health, mind, body, spirit but we hadn’t really explored it seriously through education and through practice and through being with knowledgeable teachers and so that was an insight that I got and then we started our journey to learn about nutrition and health, liver detox and weight loss and just detoxing the body.
So, yes, that is another complementary area where I’m working in food; the growing of, the designing of landscapes and waterways etcetera and bringing that into the kitchen and then Susanna is going very much into detail of the vitamins, the nutritional values of certain foods and whether some people may have some aversions to some foods, like either it could be ginger or it could be cinnamon. It may be helpful to one but not so for another depending on your composition. So that was another are that was very complementary much like the counselling and coaching, the permaculture and nutrition was another area that is for us, well I think for the world (laughs).
Claudia: That’s very interesting, I think it’s incredible the multitude of ways that coaching can be combined with other things and it sounds like Sacred Place has a very unique offer and you said to me in our conversation before something about creating a physical space, a physical manifestation. Can you tell me a bit about that?
Luke: So just to go back, so right now we do coaching in nutrition. I don’t, Susanna does and so that’s another are that the coach should work in. So in relation to the manifestation of Sacred Place, we have just bought some land here in Laos where we live, in the capital and we are in the process now of submitting the paperwork to get the purchase through and going through etcetera. So that’s taking its time, it’s doing its process. We need to have everything in order so it’s stamped by the correct government authorities.
Then, our plan, our intention, what we’re going to do is we’re going to build a space that will be for offering workshops for the areas that we’re interested; So coaching, life coaching, counselling, nutrition, permaculture, at sustainability, so help all people and communities and we’re going to build a place of work and a place of home and within that there will be [Nimpo 00:09:41], Pagoda, Han’s, all the things that we feel are conducive to that inner journey, that inner work or being in a peaceful, playful, joyful sanctuary in nature.
Claudia: Wow and as you described that, I’m just struck by how different that must have been to your corporate life less than a decade ago. You’ve mentioned; obviously, you’ve described your life then and your life now and spoken about the journey of personal development and I’m wondering in your mind, what are the key differences between your life now in coaching and in nutrition, in permaculture versus the corporate life that you had?
Luke: I must add that I was really grateful for my time in the corporate world. Thankful I did have the awareness in one way that I do have now about myself and the world otherwise I probably wouldn’t have embarked on that journey in the first place. So that’s already one difference, my awareness of myself and the outside world and I have been speaking with many participants of the courses that we give that are young people; so 20-year-old people who are switched on, very aware, very in tune with their intuition and the environment and they already know that going down a route of 9 to 5, getting a payment, getting a mortgage is not for them, so they’re already going on a different journey.
So, for myself, I was really grateful to go down that journey because it helped me to develop and discover skills within me that were there that I didn’t know that I had because I was like an 18-year-old kid when I started working and started living abroad and working and paying bills, having an apartment at the age of 18 and so that whole process, that whole journey of 17 – 18 years, at large even corporations spending money on me because of excelling to have solutions selling… sales courses, relationship pay sales courses.
This all helped me to understand more about my skills and my strengths. It was the burnout, it was the crash that made me realise that I was living a lie, that I was living somebody else lie, that I was people pleasing, that I wasn’t following my heart and I knew that myself as well, for example when I sabotaged my intuition whether it was something on the menu, something in the supermarket or whether it was a holiday or whatever, a job and my intuition said “Go that way,” and I just ignored it for whatever reason and in hindsight I would have regrets, so I already knew that I was not living on purpose. So that crash in 2006 was the ignition, the starting point of me actually acknowledging to myself openly that “This is not the life I want to live, this is not why I was born. This is not my purpose and things must change.”
Claudia: And I’m interested in this particular edition of coaching life, we kind of came to be exploring what coaching is like now versus 10 or 20 years ago and I wonder whether you feel there is more of an appetite for the kinds of holistic health work that you do since the age of kind of collaboration is starting to dawn and self-empowerment and so on?
Luke: Totally, totally, so from the people that I speak with; so I should let you know I’m moving away from one to one work and more maybe towards one to many, so group work because from an energy draining perspective, it is becoming too much when I could spend that same energy with 10 people but also I noticed that in the group there is a lot of healing and growth that takes place because of the community that’s created by the group and because of the relationships in that group.
So, from speaking with those people and I’m speaking just these last weeks and months when I was in Thailand doing courses that were in march and may, I know from speaking to those people and they’re mainly westerners whether they are Australian or Danish or whatever, they’re mainly westerners. They are not interested to go down the route of developing a single expertise; becoming an employee, getting a pension, essentially getting a mortgage so they can rent it out.
They are more interested in exploring themselves, looking at the world, what’s happening with food, agriculture. The business world, how corporations, their primary charter, their ‘raison d’être’ their reason for being is to maximise shareholder profit, so that means make money above the wellbeing of people and the planet.
So this charter does not sit at all with the ethics and values of the young people that are now rising up. There’s a complete clash of ethics and this is what we call the paradigm shift. So these people are courageously going their own way and even if they don’t have money, they are doing it through volunteering in areas that they are interested in, often volunteering abroad in areas that they are interested in and what I’m seeing is there is a move towards health of the self, so that means the mind, that means healing and developing a strong inner foundation first before trying to do something with your life and trying to have a positive impact on the world.
They’re looking at themselves first and seeing what needs to be looked at. They are looking at how they can collaborate with others and become self-employed entrepreneurs and I believe that we’re going to see a big shift away from employees to entrepreneurs at least for the people who are becoming aware that the existing paradigm is not sustainable in its current setup. It’s not sustainable on an emotional level, on an environmental level, on an economic level.
Claudia: Something that I meant to ask you earlier is where do your clients come from? And do you coach them mostly remotely over Skype or how does that work?
Luke: So I used to do remotely over Skype, so they’d be from Europe, the UK predominantly, not really from the US or Australia. I think I did one from Australia but now I’m doing more group course work to do with healing and empowerment, so coaching work but in a group setting and those clients are coming from the west, so Europe, America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. Some are from china, Korea, Thailand, some, so a few Asians but many westerners either because of the language or the commonwealth language English or what it is but yeah, and they’re between the ages of 20 and 40. Men and women, all walks of life and they’re looking for change and they’re looking for change now, they’re not waiting for 3, 4, 5, they want to get on with their life, they want to crack on. They realise there’s even an element of urgency to wake up, switch on and tune in to what they’re going to do with their lives.
Claudia: And in the few years that you’ve been coaching, have you seen a shift in people’s requests for coaching, like the reasons that people come to coaching or has it been mostly the same over the last few years?
Luke: Sure, it might be the same. There’s often a dissatisfaction with something in their life or with something about themselves that often triggers them to take action because the pain is becoming too much, becoming more than the payoff of ignoring or denying something and so that creates the trigger for them to take action and contact someone like you or me or whoever who is working in this space.
Claudia: And how much does coaching feature in your average day?
Luke: With people, not so much. With the preparation of working with people, a lot, so as far as doing one to one video Skyping, it’s less now as I’ve said and now we’re spending more time on developing or putting together our resources or knowledge or experience in forms that are digestible that can be experienced, that can be learnt, that can be felt, so then our day would be focused on developing that or the next course let us say.
Claudia: And I’m wondering does it feature in your conversations with each other that you’re talking about business?
Luke: Well I think our dynamic is there’s definitely an element of coaching and counselling and communication, non-violent communication that definitely these elements/modalities come up in the way we communicate and react with each other; not react, just interact with each other because that’s kind of who we’ve become and I guess dealing with a problem, we may look at it from different ways, whether it’s looking at it from a corporate way or whether it’s looking at it from a permaculture way or a coaching way where we may, you know, we’d just be spontaneous and just see what works, if it’s not working, [if he looks at that 00:18:02], fine tune and progress.
Claudia: Absolutely. It’s impossible not to bring in a little bit of a coaching approach when you are a coach in some sense.. I wonder if there’s anything else that you felt that you wanted to share about your life and work as a coach?
Luke: I would like to share that when I came back from my travels, I was writing a blog and I had a lot of positive feedback, for example when I did a 10 day meditation course and my experiences that came up and that was basically one of the times where I realised that it was all a charade and things had to change and what came out of me writing that blog was when I came home, during that period of transition after my travels and moving into coaching and the environment, I wouldn’t have made a transition which can be a little bit scary, it can be a little bit daunting.
There’s an oscillation between the old and the new; the older, the newer, where you were and where you want to go towards and I started writing about what I was going through, what I had been through, my travels, my journey, my challenges and what I was observing in India, in Bolivia, in Indonesia or wherever I was and I put it together in a book called “The inner revolution.” You can get it on sacred (hyphen) place dot com, “Inner revolution” on there it’s called the book and you can download the PDF or the E-book or the audio-book. I think that would be really helpful for someone who is in this space that we’re talking about now of what they should do, where they should go.
Claudia: Wonderful, thank you. That was a really interesting conversation and insight into a very spiritually and socially conscious manifestation of a coaching career.
For me what’s interesting to reflect on is how different Luke’s corporate and coaching lives have been but also how his previous path taught him about himself and ultimately led him to build Sacred Place. I think it can be very valuable to reflect on all the ways that our past experiences in life, whether that’s career, travel or personal life can enrich our coaching practice in the present, both the way that we are when we’re with our clients and what we can offer them and the kids of businesses we can develop.