The spot was outside Centralbadet.
Isabella had not been on a plane for a long time, but today she was off to London in the afternoon. She had left her son at school in the morning, promising that she would buy him something “cool” in London and went home to pick up her bag. She knew the Airline was pretty picky on the size of the bag and also the weight. She had packed the bag twice, weighed it and then repacked it a third time. “Why can’t they make airplanes that can carry filled suitcases?” she sighed. She guessed that it had something to do with not using a lot of fuel and making money. As a coach she dealt with that problem all the time. Well, not the fuel issue as much as the making money bit. Almost every client wanted a way to make more money in a more interesting and less time consuming way. “Dreaming is essential of course – but there should be some realism too!” She remembered the old SMART model from the beginning of the eighties, a model so old and used so often that “If someone says SMART again I will through up!” But there of course sometimes are relevant things even in old stuff. Coaching sometimes refers to both Socrates and Aristotle so coaches have nothing against the “Old Geeks”. Isabella giggled. She always loved it when someone made a linguistic joke. Marcus had made her laugh and then she had followed him home. Laughter is a strong medicine. There are actually laughing classes now, arguing that if you laugh you will be happier. Apparently the brain cannot tell the difference between a laugh as a involuntary reaction to something funny and a laugh produced by will. The brain will in both cases tell you “I am happy!” Marcus used to whistle a lot and people told him “You must be happy as you whistle!” Marcus had reflected on that and the next time someone said the same to him he had replied “No, I whistle because I want to be happy!” Isabella was going to London not because she was wise, but as she wanted to become wiser. “Go West, girl!”
As Isabella fell asleep in her small hotel room in Belgravia a murderer was making the last moves to start the process soon, soon, soon….on the table crammed in between all the boxes was a bottle and a glass. The glass was half filled with Cinzano Bitter. Bitter is of course the flavour of the day. “Bitterness floating down through the body pouring into every vein making you warm but not satisfied.” Tomorrow will surely be another day – but frankly nobody will give a damn! The rest will then follow.
A killer wakes up in a small rented flat in the part of Stockholm called Östermalm. The place is cramped with boxes and bags recently transported here from France. Now, 25 years later, Stockholm seems like a very weird place but this is not important at all. The Plan is all. The killer has waited enough. All sorts of tools, equipment and accessories is purchased i the little town on the Loire river and cannot be traced. Most things are prepared for the attack…
In Södermalm, only a half hour away, Isabella also wakes up. She has also preparation work ahead of her today. The plan is for her to go to London to take part in a coaching conference there. The conference is hosted by the Association of Coaching (AC). She is not a member but that is not a requirement to take part. A different rate though. The conference starts on the 11th so she need to get things sorted quickly now. The flight tickets are already purchased and she has booked a room at a small hotel in Belgravia, just walking distance from the Victoria Plaza hotel where the conference is held. Half the hotel rate was a key factor. Now Isabella is focused on making sure that everything will run smoothly here in Stockholm while she is away, especially regarding David, her son. Marcus has of course promised her that “everything will be fine”, but Isabella really has a hard time letting go. She always wants to be in control, even though she realises that it is seldom possible. Then there is the packing. The airline company had strict rules for bags and weights and Isabella tried to figure out the best composition for a three day trip. She had to leave for London the day before the event in order to get there on time. Isabella thought “Too much trouble for so little time!” but she had a feeling that the event would be great and widen both her coaching experience and her network. So she kept on packing believing that the near future would be great fun and a perfectly happy time.
In Östermalm the killer was unpacking instead. Unpacking crucial stuff to prepare for events to come and smiled in a way showing lines that had not been seen in that face for quite some time…A kind of joy that had nothing to do with happiness- On the surface nothing was to been guessed. Nothing revealed the process that was going on here and nothing should. Practice makes perfect.
Isabella was in the “office” early. She wasn’t happy with calling it an office so she had many thoughts on calling the place many different things. “Studio” was one, “atelier” was another. Neither of them was perfect. She tried “practice” and “clinic” too but none of them covered the fact that the coaching relationship as she saw it was a combination of informality, intimacy and privacy. The idea was to have an “at home” feeling – both for the client and the coach. Isabella decided to call it “My Place”. She could then simply say “I have a place in the Old Town, we can meet there!” And the clients could feel like they were invited to the “home of ISIS”. When you feel comfortable at your coach you can free your mind from your daily struggles and start to see ahead and what you and your coach can accomplish together. Isabella was making the efforts necessary to make her first ISIS client for the day at ease. She made coffee, bought some milk and cookies and some oranges to put in a bowl. And to top it she had bought a bouquet of fresh flowers. All was set.
She remembered that her son had found two toy animals on the sidewalk when they were walking to school that morning, a dinosaur and a tiger. “I wonder if my new client is a tiger or a dinosaur.” She smiled at herself for even thinking this. One lady had seen her carrying them on her way to the Old Town and Isabella had defended herself saying “Oh, they are not mine!” The lady had replied “It would have been more fun if they had been yours!” Isabella realized that the lady had been right. We should allow ourselves to play much more. Isabella had been so good at that before, but the divorce had drained her playfulness for a while. Today was a brilliant day for getting herself back!
There was a little noise coming from the waiting room so she went to greet Camilla, her new client, arriving perfectly on time. Camilla was a woman in her forties, informally dressed in jeans and a blue leather jacket. Isabella offered her a cup of coffee or tea and she chose tea. Her choice of tea was vanilla flavoured and that seemed to suit her. While Isabella was doing her best to make Camilla comfortable to start off their coaching session in a good way another person in a small flat in another part of town was making an effort to appear as normal as possible and to blend in perfectly. To be seen regularly at normal hours was the ideal way of not being seen at all.
Back in the Old Town the coaching had started. Isabella told Camilla everything about the absolute confidentiality, the ethics surrounding coaching and everything she would need to know to feel safe with Isabella. “So what do you want to be coached on?” Camilla hesitated for a second. And then another. Then she said “I am not satisfied with my marriage.” Isabella lost her breath for a moment and thought “I get the clients I deserve.” Isabella asked Camilla “What is it really about?” A classic coaching question. “It’s about infidelities and different sex and freedom needs. And the infidelity is also with a man!” Isabella’s mind was working over-time. “So Camilla’s husband had betrayed her with a man? And the reason being his higher sex drive and need for freedom? That would surely be a hard issue to resolve. “OK Camilla, what do you want us to focus on today?” Camilla replied that she would like to find a way to repair the relationship.”What does your husband feel?” “Not husband – wife!” Isabella suddenly realized that her image of the problem was totally off target. Camilla had a wife – not a husband. Isabella wondered if the rest was wrong too and began to ask some more questions to remove the uncertainty. “Is it she or you who has been deceitful?” Camilla responded slowly “It is me. I seem not to be able to keep to one person or even keep to one sex.” Isabella learnt the hard way that everything might not be as it seems at first glance but totally different. In this case it was clear that Camilla was nothing but “vanilla”. Isabella wondered if it was even more to this than has met the eye yet but hesitated a second before continuing. This was a complexity beyond most of her coaching experience so far. But she knew that this client really needed help so she continued the session. A bit more than an hour later the session ended with Camilla making the appointment for their next session. Seems like Camilla had felt the presence and trust necessary to continue. Isabella had learnt new things too. Never take anything for granted!
What a new practice needs, apart from clients of course, is furniture. Nothing fancy, a couple of chairs, tables and somewhere to keep papers and administration in. And to get the furniture delivered you need to be equipped with patience in abundance. Every dealer needed at least three weeks to deliver. Isabella was astonished on the inefficiency and thought “What if entrepreneurs reasoned in this way – we would all go bankrupt within seconds!” So to survive she had to get old stuff from her basement, really saved for another day as most stuff we keep in store without ever using but for dust collection. This was an exception though. She found 4 white IKEA chairs and two tables she could use. Nowhere for paperwork yet…”I feel like an absolute beginner.” She smiled remembering the old Bowie song from the mid-eighties and what had happened when she and her then boyfriend Robert saw the film. They had both been absolute beginners, really. But that was then and she had been just 18. More than a lifetime ago or so it seemed. Another time and another place anyway. Her mother still had some contact with Robert’s mother and said that he now lives in London and works for an oil company. Isabella could imagine herself living in London but never ever working for an oil company. Not after seeing what oil spills can do to the wildlife. “Stop!” She had to remind herself to focus on getting sorted to start receiving clients. Fortunately the furniture was pretty light and could be squeezed into two taxis so after a couple of rides she only had to decide where to put it. Carrying furniture up several stairs took some work, but work that was worth the effort. This was truly a miracle, to be able to be “a casa” as it were. Before she had to rent a room by the hour in different places in the city and there was always the risk of double booking, getting to pay for the room even if the client missed the appointment. Isabella was fortunate enough to get a fair amount of clients now and she had also a sub-contractor deal with a coaching firm that gets clients through the recently launched governmentally supported job coaching program. This program really put a new focus on coaching as a tool for progress and highlighting it as a possibility for everyone, not only executives, leaders and people with huge wallets. There was also stuff in lifestyle magazines on coaching now. Not all publicity had been good lately though. The tabloid press, represented this time by one of the two daily ones, had tried really hard to create a “scandal” of the job coaching program. Isabella guessed that the paper had mainly two reasons for their efforts – one being that this paper was not so keen on the government at hand and the other the classic trying to sell papers. Taking a closer look at these articles it was clear that the journalists could neither count nor show any facts to show that the job coaching program had failed. On the contrary statistics from the employments offices showed that it had been a success! Isabella wondered if there had not been other reasons for some people to get on a crusade against coaching and coaches. Perhaps extremely private agendas and even medical conditions. These persons would not be helped by a coach either – they would need therapy instead, and for a coach the ethical rules were clear – if a client is beyond coaching she should advice therapy. But even these negative people really helped to put coaching on the map for people. Coaching was discussed not only in the papers but everywhere: in schools, on buses and on TV. “Coaching is truly here to stay.” It was interesting times. And tomorrow she will have her first Old Town client…
“Not only does God definitely play dice, but He sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can’t be seen.”
I love him who is ashamed when the dice fall in his favour and who then asks: Am I then a cheat?
Amazing how terrible things can turn into greatness. Isabella Strand knew that this day was a new beginning for her and a chance to get a new base for her. She had been a hobby coach, beside her work as a journalist, for a couple of years after attending the coach training at an accredited school. She had recently achieved the qualifications and last Friday she got her ACC certification from the International Coach Federation. The last six months had not been easy for her as she and her husband just separated and all the paperwork was done just recently. As Isabella and her now ex husband Marcus also had a child and a cottage there was some angry words shared during the process but all in all the divorce was fairly civilized. Much of the reason for the divorce was that Isabella for many years felt she tried failingly to reach out to Marcus to make him open up and also trying to make him take a more active role in their marriage and more responsibility for their son. After six years of trying she gave up and told Marcus that she wanted a divorce. Marcus, as a standard introvert man, was totally shocked and had not realized until it was too late that something was wrong at all. Isabella once ironically said “I should have written it in your Outlook Calendar.” Her son David, who was now 8, was to be every other week at his father’s new apartment pretty close to hers in Södermalm at the centre of Stockholm. The cottage was pretty well located and fetched a fair price which Isabella and Marcus split evenly between them. So the divorce actually gave her an opportunity – some cash to invest in a coaching practice. She had never really appreciated the countryside anyway. Too much fishing and too many mosquitoes.
Today, after leaving David at school, she would sign the contract for the new practice. By some odd fluke she had come across an ad for a small place located beautifully in the oldest part of Stockholm. The Old Town was truly a picturesque place to run a business in and such a perfect location for coaching. Every building here had been used for so many things over the years and there were even medieval buildings close by. Change was written in stone here at the same time as you could say that you always bring history with you. Isabella was so happy that this chance had appeared on her horizon and grateful that she could take it too. What she didn’t know was that the next few months would be more surprising to her than she could ever imagine and that events would develop in unexpected ways and directions. But today everything was all well.
A few hours later she stood outside her new business “home” waiting for her landlord to arrive. It was a grey day but her sun was shining from within so it didn’t matter. Finally a blond lady appeared on the stairs and said “Hi, you must be Isabella! I am Anna.” And sure enough she was right on both. Isabella thought that Anna looked nice and trustworthy, not so bad for a landlord…
The two rooms plus a waiting room were rather small but on the other hand the rent was fair and it would not take too much furniture either to fill them. Isabella started to imagine herself here and came to the conclusion that”Yes, this will be just fine!” Anna had brought the crucial bit of paperwork in a folder and it was time to fill in the necessary stuff. “Isabella Strand Inner Search (ISIS)” was the first item to fill in at the top and since her business not yet was a limited company she had to use her social security number. She noted “680404-1744” and realized that not only could someone tell that the company was owned by a woman but also that she was born in a certain county. “Never mind!” she thought. It was obvious to anyone seeing her that she was a woman, and the county thing she usually told people after an hour of conversation anyway. No secrets at all there. “A company these days has to be transparent”. Anna informed Isabella that the former tenant had been a private investigator. “The rooms are already tuned for search!” she said. Isabella smiled and wondered who would be her first client here. Amazing synchronicity that Isabella had a “one liner” that in some weird way was connected. “Detect Yourself!” After signing all the copies and getting her own she received two sets of keys containing two keys for the practice door and one for the main door to the building. And there was a door code too. She tried to memorize it “1789”. She suddenly realized that the code was a simple one to remember – it was the same year as the French Revolution and also the same year that the house was built! “This place will surely be a revolution for me too!” she said a little too loud, making Anna jump a bit by surprise…Then Anna had to run to meet another appointment so the two created the usual separation ritual and Anna was gone…
Isabella was alone in her new empty practice but she did not feel alone at all. She felt she had just met a new friend – and it had walls and a floor! Here she could do great things – great coaching, great business and just feeling great too. Tomorrow she would scout for the right furniture but right now it was time for one word, one shout “YES!” She had finally a home away from home….
Next week she will start her new life and right now she will be busy planning all the details. Right now someone else is also planning details – but not for life but quite the opposite!