It seemed appropriate that the last session of this year’s FIGT conference finished with a number of delegates sharing their stories.
The importance of telling our stories was a recurring theme over the last three days, but today is seemed to take center stage.
For an hour, the entire conference sat, riveted, listening to Sebastien Bellin telling his extraordinary story. Sebastien survived the bombing at Brussels Airport. That he did so is a miracle. Badly injured, he lost 50 per cent of his blood. When he finally made it to hospital, he was so weak that it was three days before surgeons could begin to repair the damage to his legs.
Sebastien’s determination to stay alive in the immediate aftermath of the bombing is a remarkable story. Despite his injuries, he never lost consciousness. Looking around, he saw opportunities to stay alive.
Today, he shared two critical lessons from his experiences. Firstly, fear limits us. It creates anxiety and stress; it prevents us from seeing opportunities and possibilities. It consumes energy. Sebastien believes he survived because he refused to let fear of dying overcome him. He urged us, as expats, to let go of fears that we have about new locations, new experiences, new people and embrace the moment – allowing us to open ourselves up to new opportunities.
Secondly, we need to focus on quality, not quantity. Its not about the things we accumulate – the clothes, the money, the expat perks, the things we want and not the things we need. Sebastien’s survival has been partly attributed to a huge pasta dinner he ate hours before the flight and its impact on his glycemic index. He attributes it to the friend who called him repeatedly until he agreed to meet him for dinner. In other words, he is alive because of the quality of what was in his life.
Sebastien reminded us this morning that love, friendship, education and opportunity are much lighter things to pack in our ‘luggage’ than all our ‘quantity’.
Asked is his expat experiences had an influence on his survival, Sebastien cited his open-mindedness to opportunity and his ability to just figure out a way to meet a challenge as skills he had developed as an expat.
While Sebastien’s story is extraordinary, the wonderful thing about FIGT is that everyone’s story matters. An afternoon session with A Career in Your Suitcase and other great trainers and coaches put delegates’ career and work stories back in the spotlight. An amazing panel led by Marilyn Gardner put the spotlight firmly back on individual stories.
Looking back over the tweets from the last few days, the importance of telling each other our stories comes through again and again – story telling is a means of integrating our experiences, making sense of them for ourselves; story telling as a means of finding and building our tribe; story telling as a means of connecting with those struggling with transitions who need safe spaces to share their fears and anxieties; story telling to help us find our identity.
The last three days have helped me work out my story – in finally saying out loud the challenges I have faced and am currently struggling with, the future is beginning to take a clearer and more optimistic shape. In sharing my passions, I’ve made some amazing connections.
Thank you to everyone who shared their stories this week. I hope you are as excited to write your next chapter as I now am.
Finally, a special word of thanks to all of those who worked so hard to put #FIGT17NL together – you did an amazing job. And a very, very special thanks to the amazing PPWR team and my fellow ‘extra’s – so incredibly grateful to have shared this experience with you!