Using the Lessons of a Plane Crash Trauma to Promote Empathy & Connections
Jennifer - talk to me

I met the bubbly Jennifer at a spiritual music festival in Bali, Indonesia.

In this new episode, we discuss how her plane crash survival has been a transformative experience that allowed her to deal with every trauma she ever experienced in life and reframe her purpose.

We discuss the feeling of being mentally prepared to die and survive instead, and how a traumatizing accident can push one to finally address (inner and outer) pain and discomfort in healing ways, rather than escaping it through multiple forms such as traveling, having sex, drinking alcohol and buying things…

As Jennifer used to be a school Psychologist, we also talk about the American school system, mental health issues and how to prevent it through empathy and connection, supported by technology and social experiments.

You Deserve to be Happy
— Jennifer, Plane Crash survivor

Find your way in the episode:

01:00 - Being a school Psychologist: the conflict of assigning labels rather than being a platform for real change

07:00 - The plane crash: seeing your life flash before your eyes and feeling at peace with dying

17:00 - Overcoming traumas

22:00 - Treating PTSD physically as well as mentally

26:00 - Becoming a Goddess of light and love without ignoring the shadow

31:00 - Creating ways to get people to reconnect through interactive social experiments

More Bali stories:

Maintaining Self-Confidence in the Modeling Industry
Vanessa Rebello

I met Vanessa on a photoshoot in Portugal. She was beautiful and appeared self-confident.

We quickly exchanged our Instagrams profiles. As I scrolled through her page, I noticed that she was writing long captions about strength, self-confidence and gratitude.

I asked her what led her to this mindset. Because no matter how stunning you look, it is difficult to maintain a high self-confidence in the modeling industry, where your worth is mainly based on your appearance and you face lots of rejections.

Here’s our interview:

You Don’t See the World as it Is, You See the World as You Are
— Vanessa, Model & Psychologist

1. Vanessa, you are a Model and Psychologist. What is your perspective on beauty?

“For me, beauty has much more to do with the inside, with how you truly feel about yourself. I mean, if I don’t love who I am, how can I expect others to? I believe that we are beings of energy, so we can be absolutely stunning on the outside (though there’s no such thing as universal beauty), but if we have a bad attitude, if we don’t believe in ourselves, if we don’t have confidence, if we aren’t positive, that’s how we will appear to others.

2. How do you define self-Love?

If you asked me what my beauty secret was, I would say: Self-Love, because without that, we can’t go anywhere, or at least we can’t go anywhere and be happy. For me beauty is all about that: in order to love others, we have to love ourselves first, and by loving ourselves, we are teaching others how they should treat us.

3. You talk a lot about gratitude. How did you find your inner peace?

Since I was born, my parents worked a lot, and had to find me an (almost) full time nanny. To make up for the lack of time for taking care of me, they made the mistake that a lot of parents do: Gave me everything. I say that it was a mistake because I didn’t have the chance to learn how to fight for things, I had absolutely everything I wanted and I didn’t learn how to take a “No” for an answer. That type of behavior led me to grow up as an ungrateful person, I used to take everything for granted.

I never judged my parents for not being with me 24/7 because I knew that they really had to work for me and my brother to have a better life, and nowadays, we have a lot of time together. I changed a few years ago and turned into a grateful person, grateful for everything I had, I can’t tell you exactly when or why I started to switch my perception of reality. I guess I just matured … 

4. How do you use social media?

Social media is not all about beautiful pictures, beautiful plates of food and tumblr quotes that mostly don’t even fit the person who’s posting them … I use my social media for much more than that!

First of all, absolutely everything I post it’s from my heart, it’s not a cute quote that I find somewhere and that is socially cool to write. When I write a quote, from anywhere, it’s because I truly believe in those words. I try everyday to pass on to my followers the way I see and live life, the way I see people, the way I believe the world can be a better place.

I just want to free people from hatred. Do you realize what a game changer this would be if people hated less and loved more, especially themselves? I meet too many people more worried about criticizing others and letting them down, than empowering them. The thing is they do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their own character.

5. Who were you before starting modeling? How did you feel?
I had a few friends, never liked to go out much, slept early and always dreamed to be a model. I felt happy but knew something was missing, I always knew what my passion was and I always knew that someday I would run after it and then when I turned 18 I did … and here I am.

6. What led you into this business?
My passion. It’s all about it. It’s all about how it makes me feel, how my blood races every time I’m working.

I can tell you a true story that happened to me almost 3 years ago and gave me the absolutely certainty that I had to go after my dream at all costs: I have only had 2 boyfriends: the first one was my first love back when I was a kid, we all know how it feels. But with the second one, we stayed together for almost 8 years and when it was over, I saw my life falling apart, I could barely breath, sleep or eat, I just cried non stop. I was feeling this inexplicable pain, I looked into my eyes and prayed for God to stop this. How could it hurt me so much since it wasn't even physical? One night, I remember looking at the window and thinking how easy would it be to end that pain. And the next day, I had this one modeling job and was crying at home and telling my best friend I didn’t want to go. I ended up going and guess what? While I was shooting, my pain just went away. I didn’t feel anything except how blessed I was for being able to live my dream job.

That was what literally made me feel alive. That’s the day I decided I’d do anything in my power to relive that.

7. Tell me about the number 8 and its meaning to you.
The number 8 is the bad luck number of me and my family. I once had a sister (I wasn’t born yet so I didn’t know her) who got really sick and died a few days later on the 8th. My brother and mum both got cancer and knew about it on the 8th. I had an uncle that had cancer too and died on the 8th. And my father had 2 accidents and both of them were on the 8th.

So, neither of us make important decisions, go on long trips, nor make doctor appointments or anything important on an “8th”.

Is it a coincidence? I really don’t think so … 

8. Which specific moment or event has been a turning point for you to decide to be more grateful, strong and positive like you are now?

Like I said, I don’t know exactly when I became more grateful, but I can tell you when I started loving myself and when I achieved complete self-love, because those were 2 different stages for me.

I started loving myself when my last relationship was over and I hit the bottom.

I hit the bottom because I loved him more than I loved me, and I think that’s the real problem. I told you I had 2 boyfriends until now and it’s true, but in my life I loved 3 persons, and one of them was so … overwhelming, and so intense, and so strong … That I forgot about me. I ignored my values and my principles to be with that person. I always loved more others (and I’m talking about friends too) than myself and once again, I was loving him more than me.

One day, I just woke up, and I told to myself “What the hell is this?”. “Why am I accepting something less than I deserve?”. On that same day, I said it’s over and it was. On that same day, I started to value myself more than anything, I put my standards right where they belonged, so high no one was capable to reach them. No boy, no friend, no one. I can say I can count on one hand the people who really matter to me, and I can say that I don’t complete the 5 fingers of a hand without counting my family. Those are my people, the people I care about the most, my home team, the only ones I love as much as I love myself, nothing more, nothing less. 

It was a smooth transition in a way that I didn’t force it, it just happened overnight, but a painful too because the whole reason of it almost killed me.

10. What helped/helps you overcome challenges?

When I became aware of my value and gained complete self-love, I became so strong, like a bulletproof mind. Now, when I have a challenge and I accept it, I do everything to get it right, but if I don’t it’s okay, I think that people and opportunities always come when you are ready for them, if they don’t come or they don’t go as you wanted, it’s because it was not the right time. I trust this a lot.

11. Looking back at your turning point, what have you learnt from it?

I learned so much, so much that I don't wish that hadn't happened to me. I’m glad it did because it made me grow, it made me a stronger human being, it made me unstoppable. I learned that there is nothing more volatile than people. I learned that you can’t put your life and happiness in the hands of others. I learned that you have to be grateful for whatever comes to you, for everything you have, for your family, for your real friends. I learned not to give credit to negative people nor let them bring me down. But most of all, I learned to love myself and believe in myself at 100%, and this is priceless. 

12. How do you define success?

I don’t believe that success is achieving your goal, I believe that success is how much you expand in the process, and if it makes you really happy, then you are successful. Most people aren’t happy in my industry because success brings a lot of exposure, that leads to judgments, and not a lot of models are ready to deal with that so I think that if you can’t handle being talked about, lied to and disliked, then you’re not ready to be successful in any business. Life is too short to waste any time wondering what other people think about you.

In the first place, if they had better things going on in their lives, they wouldn’t have the time to sit around and talk about you. What’s important to me is not others opinions of me, but my opinion of myself. My advice is for you to develop a strong opinion about yourself so that you don’t accidentally start believing what others say about you.

13. What is your vision of the fashion world and the way it has shaped you?

I think that the fashion industry is already changing for better. They don’t ask for anorexic girls anymore, or at least not as often as before, they gave plus models a place in the industry, they start to value “real women”, and everyday I see the industry becoming more “realistic”, but of course they have much more to do!

I’m not expecting to change the fashion world, I used to say “I don’t made the game, I just play it” and this is true.

If I want to be a model, I have to be skinny, I have to take care of my skin, of my body, I have to go to commercial board at an agency because fashion board is for tall women (which for industry is above 175cm), so I can’t do catwalk because they see me as “too short” for it.

Now you can ask me: You do all of that because you want to be a model? And my answer is: No. I do all of that because I already did it before I became a model. I always loved the skinny type and worked for it even when people said that “big booty and strong legs rule", I always loved to take care of my skin and my body. I don't like to do catwalks so I don’t really mind that the industry doesn’t let me to, unless it’s Victoria’s Secret, every girl dreams about it right? It’s magical! So for me it’s cool, I don’t change my self to be a model, but what I constantly see is girls changing herselves to fit the industry and a lot of times they get sick, they start to consume drugs, they do everything to enter to this world but what’s the point of being anything if it costs your peace? Your dignity? Your health? I think in that case, it’s too expensive.

I wish that people loved themselves more because if they did, they wouldn't allow a lot of situations, they wouldn’t put themselves in bad places so often and they would value their dignity, which is something that unfortunately is underrated nowadays. I personally lost a lot of opportunities because I preferred to stick with my values and dignity than getting that one job … but I don’t see that in others, I’ve seen pacts with the devil so many times … 

15. Through your work, which overall message do you want to pass on to others?

I think that one of the best advices I can give to people is to be the type of person that they would want to meet. Energy is all about reciprocation, if you have positive energy you attract positive things and people. Be kind, but be truly kind, because nowadays everyone claims to be a kind person just because they do something for someone, but if you’re helping someone and expecting something in return, you’re doing business, not kindness.

16. In one sentence in Portuguese, what is your personal slogan and what does it mean to you?

It’s quite difficult to choose just one but I will choose the first that came to my mind and the one I tell people more often: “Tu não vês o mundo como ele é, tu vês o mundo como tu és”, in english it means something like this “You don’t see the world as it is, you see the world as you are”. That quote means a lot to me, because when I started to love myself 100% and be grateful, the world changed in front of my eyes, became more incredible, more magical, more positive. The way you see yourself is the very first step for the way you see others, and this is powerful

The Importance of Preserving Nature in Real-Estate & Valuing Connections more than Ownership
Photo by Christopher Brown (Studios)

Photo by Christopher Brown (Studios)

Over the last few nights, I had the honor of staying at the fantastic Palacio Belmonte while in Lisbon, Portugal.

Overlooking the tile roofs and the Tagus river.

Sleeping in one of the top ten most luxurious suites in the worlds and certainly the most exclusive private guest house I’ve stepped into.

Arriving on the premises right after a superstar singer and leaving just before an awarded actor.

It was a surreal experience, to say the least.

The cheeky and approachable owner, Frederic Coustols, welcomed us and I quickly got interested in knowing him more.

Frederic is someone who’d rather read a good book and have a one on one conversation than attending mundane dinners.

All that is not given is lost
— Frederic Coustols, landscape collector

He’d rather share his home with guests, than owning an immense property alone and looking through the window.

He mingles with people from all walks of life, smoking cigars with a world-renowned artist in the morning, and talking about life with passers-by in the afternoon. It’s about human connections.

He’s seen both sides of the coin. Making his way up to becoming a multi-millionaire, losing it all and back again, he understood that happiness is within. And in accepting ourselves for who we are, and others.

Taking action by focusing mainly on vernacular architecture (a style that reflects local traditions) and starting ecological initiatives of environmental restorative projects rather than sitting still and watching the capitalist and consumerist model destroy the planet.

Frederic’s project, DaST, Develop a Sustainable Tomorrow:

The DaST projects value the relationship and connection with the local landscape, architectural history, traditional activities and social habits, introducing a new sustainable and contemporary way of life.

Find you way in the episode:

1.30 - Finding harmony in architecture, preserving its beauty and quality

3.30 - Happiness has nothing to do with money, still we want more

9.00 - The happiest people don’t travel

12.00 - From “my house” to the house of many

14.00 - Dream your life rather than living it & be lazy to succeed

19.00 - All that is not given is lost

Experiencing Rebirth with Underwater Photography

I met Gisèle Lubsen at her art gallery in Los Angeles.

She is a Conceptual Underwater Photographer who noticed that the combo of both water and photography can help people go through traumas and in general boost confidence by overcoming challenges.

Magic takes place.

In this podcast, we discussed how she applies her inspiration of Renaissance painters into her photography, and the emotional process that her models go through as they spend seconds or minutes without breathing to do the shoot, from fear to excitement, pride and sometimes healing.

Never Lose Your I
— Gisele Lubsen, Underwater Photographer

Find your way in the episode:

1:30 - Finding inspiration at the Louvres 

4:00 - The 3 particularities of art:

  • Be stunning

  • Create emotions

  • Have an empowering message

5:00 - Overcoming the lack or air to improve self-love & how underwater photography can heal and empower

10:00 - Turning your fears into excitement  

15:00 - You stop doubting yourself once you know that you’re doing the job you are supposed to

Hélène ClabecqComment
Turning Mental Illness into a Superpower

I met Thomas at an art gallery. 
When I mentioned that I specialized in portraits of people who had fought limitations, he suggested I'd write his story. And I wasn't prepared for what I'd hear.

"Let's say that the last couple of years have been intense since I moved to Los Angeles. 
I'm originally from Atlanta, but I grew up in Austria since I was six years old. So when I moved back to the States as an adult, I almost felt like an immigrant in my own country.
I moved here with my Austrian girlfriend. Because of her immigration status, we took a leap of faith and married even though we didn't have a strong foundation.

Be True to Yourself
— Thomas, Bipolar & Superhuman

Just two hours after the wedding ceremony, I received a call from my future boss and accepted a corporate job.

Unfortunately, the stress of moving to a different continent without our social support system or job pushed us to our limits.

Soon after the wedding, my now ex-wife and I were both diagnosed with mental illnesses. I felt lonely in our marriage, there was little kindness, patience, or empathy. Neither of us felt safe in the relationship, and safety is the single most important aspect of mental health. After months of individual and couple's therapy, I eventually asked for a divorce.

Once again, timing: as I was going through the divorce, I got laid off.
At that point, the emotional pain became eventually too much to bear. My body shut down completely, and I had suicidal thoughts. It was like all my childhood trauma came to the surface at the same time. I have never experienced anything that intense before. I called the suicide hotline, hoping they could direct me to a free mental health facility where I could get emotional painkillers.

The person on the suicide hotline suggested I call 911.
Operator - "911 - what's your emergency."
Me - "I’m in pain, I want it to stop..."
Operator - "What do you want to stop?! What’s your address?"
- "Wow, Jeeze. I lost my health insurance and was wondering if there was a free mental health facility I can go to now".
- "Let me see..., we have an alcohol clinic, tobacco addiction clinic..."
- "You know what, never mind, I’m fine”

I hung up and continued with my nap. The authorities called me multiple times and said that three police officers just wanted to check on me. I eventually gave them my address.
As I opened the door to three police officers, I felt threatened and knew that from then own I had no rights. They were talking at the same time and their body cameras were beeping, which was annoying as hell. I was also supposed to take my bipolar II medication, but they wouldn't let me, because it was against protocol. It felt like torture.
I had just awoken from a dream state and felt threatened, irritated and embarrassed as they handcuffed me and took me to a police station for further evaluation. I felt like I was being punished for having suicidal thoughts and calling 911 for help. I was sitting in a cell, arms uncomfortably handcuffed behind my back, with a smile on my face and while chanting "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo".
Finally, I was transported to a mental health urgent care facility.

The officers apologized for putting me in handcuffs and stated that not everyone was as nice and collected like me, but that they had to follow protocol without exceptions. They then expected me to sleep in a couch chair in front of the TV that was airing replays of the mass shootings in Florida, only interrupted by loud commercials.

I couldn't help to be humored by the irony of the situation.

I was finally allowed to take my medication, which make the situation slightly easier to handle.

The next day, after talking to a psychiatrist, I was rushed out the door because "it wasn't safe for me to stay there any longer". The whole experience was so awful, it was hilarious. I had no idea where I was, but I was fine. I thought, if I can survive the torture of going through the system during an emotional breakdown, I can handle anything.

Now, I'm grateful I had this challenging experience.

After that day, I stopped my prescription medication. I didn’t want to be dependent on it anymore and instead rely on a holistic approach without medication:

  • healthy diet,

  • loving supporting environment,

  • surfing, yoga,

  • spirituality,

  • and time in nature.

I started to see the beauty in my bipolar disorder (or as Kayne West calls it, my “superpower”): I realized I could deal with intense and uncomfortable emotions and had the courage to face my demons. We live in a polarized world, and I have the bipolar ability.
I rediscovered who I was without limitations, parts of me I hadn’t explored in a long time.
This emotional breakdown was a spiritual awakening for me, a wake-up call to live my own truth and stop playing along to other's rules.
I realized that if I am not true to myself, life keeps reminding me, first slightly and gradually with a slap in the face.

Eventually, I got knocked out with what felt like a sledgehammer to the chest.
Now, for the first time in my life, I’m not playing a role. I live my authentic truth. I feel like I’m liberated from fear, not led by it and I hope that my story will inspire other people with "mental illness" to see the beauty and strength in it.

Embrace what is! Ask yourself, why is it here? What can I learn from it?

Healing happens when there is acceptance without judgment.

Hélène ClabecqComment
Seeing Life as a Game can Help You Getting Outside of Your Comfort Zone

In this episode, I've interviewed Hanine Mhannd, the creator of Goodbye Comfort Zone, a blog and app to help you see life as a game and reach your your highest potential through daily challenges and with the help of gamification techniques.

Hanine started 2017 by giving himself a new challenge for a year, such as stopping sugar, meditating, skydiving or shaking stranger’s hands, in the hope of becoming gradually more confident, efficient, healthier, etc.

In this interview, he shares his story with us on what led him to go from one extreme to another and completely transform his life into an exciting adventure, how he went from almost giving up on life to grabbing the bull by the horns and facing fear to reach higher levels, like in a game. Hanine is now a conference speaker on the topic of Comfort Zone.

Here are Hanine’s top 3 tips to stop procrastinating and stepping outside of our comfort zone:

  • Add external stimuli to measure your advancement, for example by announcing your goals publicly

  • Add hazard and excitement, for instance draw your daily activities from a hat

  • Surround yourself with mentors, mentees and people at the same level as you and with the same objective

Hélène ClabecqComment