It all began with a list of dates and venues. I was scrolling through Facebook back on August 7th and saw this:
I emailed as soon as I saw the notification of the Freestyle Insider course and the description above – I wanted to be involved, no question – mostly because I’ve watched the evolution of Carl’s work over the last few years with great interest and admiration. My wife and I first attended one of Carl’s Freestyle Connection seminars back in 2012, when his work seemed entirely grounded in the practicalities of skill development. That seminar remains one of the most memorable I’ve attended, largely because of Carl’s charisma and generous, humble approach to coaching. Subsequently anyone following Carl on social media has seen into Carl’s personal life as he’s shared significant moments and struggles with a degree of honesty that can be shocking (to a somewhat reserved middle-aged Englishman, at least). It was clear that his work was developing beyond coaching skill development, into an approach to lifestyle. Even this sounds too trite – I just knew that Carl was into some interesting stuff, and I wanted to know more.
I was lucky enough to be accepted, at the time unaware of how much the course – I probably wouldn’t have applied if I’d known how much it was (it has been a tough year on a few fronts) – so I’m really glad that I didn’t know (I mention this only in the hope that no-one else will fall into that trap).
Step 2 was a video call with Carl, to lear more about the course content, for him to learn about my hopes for the course, and to establish a common understanding – essentially a commitment to come ready to participate fully and to be totally open.
I started the journey to the venue with very little overall sense of what was ahead – we’d been introduced via Facebook to the different presenters, but I didn’t feel equipped to explain to anyone else what this course was that I was attending, but I had a clear sense of what was required of me – disguises off, defences down. From the beginning of the day it was apparent that we all understood that we were in the process together – there was a shared sense of commitment and readiness to do some deep work, or to face up to some tough questions. I felt entirely safe, even with the people that I didn’t chat to or ‘hit it off’ with straight away. Why? I believe that this sense was a result of Carl as the unifying agent – he was the reason that we were all there, and his ability, and willingness to be an example, to model radical honesty, to admit failure, frailty, vulnerability all served to bind the group together.
The running order of the various presenters and the specifics of their delivery don’t seem to be relevant now (and I imagine they may well be different in future iterations of Freestyle Insider). That’s not to disparage or diminish the impact of any of them but rather it’s indicative of the course being greater than the sum of its parts. I’m writing this nearly 2 months after the course, and it’s taken this long for me to begin to distill the impact into words.
Day one gave some valuable insights and lightbulb moments in identifying our purpose; communication (making me reflect on how I interact with a few of the people in my life); mindset; and personal branding. Our homework for that evening was to write a personal mission statement, based upon the groundwork of the day and a template of 5 questions (I think you can find these on Carl’s social media feed and I recommend trying this exercise regularly).
Day two started with each of us declaring our mission statement, which I’d also recommend trying regularly – there’s a test of authenticity in saying your mission in life aloud and in front of people that you’re not intimate with that helps to hone one’s thinking. Helping and sharing were common themes, which should also give an indication of the kind of people that Carl brings together, and the kind of environment that he is able to foster. I didn’t feel under pressure to be up to my ears in the process of personal development, just in a space where personal development was encouraged, supported and celebrated.
The rest of day two focused on business and money, with more presenters and more lightbulb moments. Again, it doesn’t feel relevant to go into the details of any of the individual presentations. Let’s just say that I would happily spend more time listening to, or just hanging out with each one of them. I wrote above that the course was greater than the sum of its parts but I realise that’s not an accurate statement, because the course was Carl, the other presenters, and all of us in attendance and it’s the collective energy, inspiration and encouragement that’s influenced me most. I feel a connection to friends I made there that may only ever carry on through social media but still makes me happy, and also helps me to stay focused. To discover what Tom, Melanie, Tim & Jocko have already achieved, and to see what Heath, Kimmy and Lala are doing (to name a few, as you can see), and the work that everyone is sharing means that the small investment of time and vulnerability I made keeps paying me back.
Though they’re not at all, I’m aware that the social media aspect may not resonate with everyone (this was my bias before Freestyle Insider but I know better now…) and perhaps these rewards might seem superficial. So let me share something more substantial. For months I’d been working on the idea of writing a book. I had an idea of what I wanted to share, and the audience that I was writing for. I had flowcharts and mind maps of topics and content but I was struggling to organise the material and starting to think that I was deluded in imaging that I had something worth putting into a book. Within 2 weeks of Freestyle Insider, and after a few nights of my racing mind not allowing me to sleep (I suspect this was a common outcome of the course) I knew how to organise what I wanted to write, and how I would go about gathering the feedback to substantiate it. Yes, the timing could be a coincidence, but if you have the chance to enjoy the same experience of Freestyle Insider I believe that you’d know it’s not.
You can follow Carl and find out about upcoming seminars on Facebook and Instagram (@carlpaoli, @freestyleconnection).