When did you come to Berlin and what brought you here initially?
I initially came to Berlin at the end of 2014 from Dubai where I lived and worked for 10 years. In 2016, I returned to Dubai to establish a rehab center. It was just a year ago, that I made my way back to Berlin.
The reason I came to Berlin for the first time was that I realized it was time for a change. This was a result of a series of realizations I had as a part of my own personal and professional development and transformation. I knew it was time to leave but had no idea where I wanted to go next. Vietnam was one of the places I was thinking of going and so was the UK. The UK made the most logical sense because of the language and familiarity I had with the people, education and work systems there. However, upon talking about my plans to a friend — my now husband — I decided to move to Berlin. He had suggested I move there, as he had done so a year prior and liked it. So I moved and liked it, too. Decision made!
One of the biggest challenges upon arriving here is finding a network of friends and collaborators. Did you struggle with this? What were some things that helped you to expand your network here?
If you’re lucky enough to come and start working in an organization, this is where you would first typically meet people. Your work colleagues become your friends and through them, you meet even more people. That was my experience when I first arrived in Dubai in 2004, not necessarily the case for Berlin.
My challenge here was adjusting my expectations with reality. I had to realign what I thought life would be like here with what it actually was. I remember being scared and a bit lost in the beginning but it’s all part of the process in adjusting. I started attending meetups and language courses. I eventually found an office where I saw my private clients. There I met people to collaborate with and exchange ideas with (and still do today).
What helped me the most was being comfortable with being uncomfortable. It may sound strange but hat alone, though, takes away a lot of unnecessary thinking that’s often in the way of our progress. Arriving somewhere new or doing something new is by nature, uncomfortable. You are out of your comfort zone. It’s good to remind yourself of this.
When and how did the idea for The Mind Takeaway come about?
It came through fruition with no intention, or at least, not a conscious one. Peter and I were taking a Clarity Coaching Course at the time. And after going through lots of different pieces of training and courses in psychology, coaching, and leadership, we both realized something was missing. We were craving simplicity.
It was clear after this ‘clarity’ course who we are and what we wanted to create in the world. It’s not like I want to change the entire world, but rather contribute to make it a better place through my new-found knowledge and experience.
Through the journey of the course, we ended up working closely with leaders and creatives — they are the ones shaping the world in which we live. So we came to realize, if we wanted to create this better world, we needed more authentic leaders to get us there. We needed people who were disrupting, rebelling and creating this place we want to call home, one without wars and poverty.
It’s also interesting to think about how our experiences shape our role in life. I grew up in a country torn by wars and was a refuge from the age of 12. Peter was a creative child who traveled most of the world with his parents. Through his travels, he learned about new amazing places and cultures but had trouble adjusting to the education systems.
The idea for The Mind Takeaway eventually came about in an exchange of text messages. Peter was in Berlin and I was in Dubai at the time. We were texting back and forth on the topic of creation, discussing what we wanted to ‘create’ knowing what we knew so far. And boom: The Mind Takeaway was born.
Has co-founding the organization helped you to feel more rooted in Berlin? Do you feel that it's supported you in "finding your people" / expanding your network?
I’m not sure that being in London would have been any different than being in Berlin or any other city, for that matter. Berlin has its own challenges, however. Being in a city that is so diverse definitely helps one to widen perspective, meet various people, collaborate and hear some amazing stories that inspire. For example, I met Nobel Laureate, Jody Williams, who inspired me with her story and supported our efforts in growing The Mind Takeaway. I met Frauke a wonderful woman with whom I share ideas. She’s my friend and mentor. I met so many people in relation to the business — people we collaborate with today. These friends, mentors and clients are people I would never have met if I had been on a different path.
Do you have any advice for new expats in Berlin in regards to reaching out and finding like-minded people to collaborate and socialize with?
Throughout my life, I have lived in four different countries, some of those decisions were made by me and some by others. Each time finding my way and meeting people was different. This said, I doubt there is any one way someone should go about getting themselves acclimated to feel at home in a new place.
I also work a lot individually as a coach and counselor with expats and they all have very different challenges. What I found, as a rule, is that when we approach people in new environments with love and curiosity — like when we travel on a holiday exploring new cultures — it’s much easier, less stressful and more fun. However, when we go somewhere full of judgment and comparison, we are setting ourselves up for struggle. Embrace the new and unknown with curiosity and an open mind, and life can be very different.
As one of the masterminds behind The Mind Takeaway, do you have any advice for other newcomers who are considering starting their own businesses and projects?
There are a few things that come to mind. First, starting your business like everything in life is a process, so brace yourself for the ride. We all experience ups and downs, we get stuck, we fail, we make new decisions and change old ones daily. There is no perfect business plan and there is no perfect decision. When we get stuck it just means that we need to change something — we need to engage our creative mind to find different solutions. There is nothing wrong with getting stuck. It is merely a signal that you need to change something, which most of the time is changing the way you think. New creative ideas are born from that place, you just need to be willing to be patient and listen.
Don’t be afraid to fail. Often failure leads us to new ideas and discoveries and is a part of our personal and professional growth. Whenever it happens, when you get stressed or scared, take the opportunity to ask yourself the following questions. What is the worst thing that can happen? What could you do about it? What are some possible solutions? Don’t stay there for too long because it will distract you from what is important — the present moment.
Be kind! Be kind to yourself and others. It will take you far, much further than your business. You don’t want to end up being a miserable, stressed and lonely individual. I heard Robert Holden once say something along the lines of: if your definition of success doesn’t have the word love in it, change your definition. Because success is nothing without love.