For today’s interview we’re going international, folks. Vlad Dolezal is a really fascinating life coach (and life explorer) who experiments with all types of self-growth (his eating, sleep schedule, etc), in order to find ways to enhance his life and wellbeing to live with passion. Vlad and I Skyped from his new home in the south of France (i.e. my dream destination) to talk about growing, building a blog, becoming a coach, and finding peace in the unknown. Off the record we also talked about his polyamorous lifestyle, which he agreed to write a guest post for me about on my blog, MsMorphosis, if you’re interested in reading that, just click here.
Jen: To start, you are living all around the world. So, how are you able to do that? Why are you doing that?
Vlad: I live around the world because I have a job that’s location independent since I work online. I work as a life coach, which involves phone calls with people or Skype calls, and I also write a blog, so I can do this from anywhere in the world that I want. Currently I’m in the south of France which has been my dream for quite awhile now.
Jen: How long have you been staying in each place?
Vlad: Well so far I haven’t been moving around too much since I’ve been doing my university degree in England. I finished that in June so I’ve been moving around since then.
Jen: So then the internet – your blog and coaching – is what has enabled you to do this?
Jen: How did you get started with coaching?
Vlad: I had thinking about writing a blog on personal development for quite awhile. It was something that grabbed my interest back when I was in high school, so I decided to start this blog and share these ideas I had with people. Later, I came across the concept of life coaching because of another blogger, Dick Branson, who lives in the U.S. I found the idea really intriguing of working with people one-on-one and helping them achieve what they want from life to live happily and feel more alive. So I got into that about a year and a half ago, maybe longer actually. I found out what life coaching is actually about and decided it was something I would really like to do because it aligns a lot with what is important to me which is one of the things I really encourage clients to find for themselves.
Finding out what’s important to you is one of the most important things I work on finding when I’m working with clients, and then we talk about how they can go about looking to achieve it. I found one thing that’s important is to have a personal connection with people. Coaching allows me to work with people one-on-one and seeing them from when they aren’t really happy in their life and then seeing them take massive action to really get what they want out of life
Jen: And is that your main philosophy? That things are really in our control and we have to change our habits or pro-actively work to seek out what we’re looking for?
Vlad: Uh, yes.. what else would there be?
Jen: Well, I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but in America there’s been this huge deal about the book “The Secret,” which is the idea that if you just think about things you want and just create this positive energy then you’ll have it. And although I’m definitely a believer that you attract what you are or what in believe in will come into your life – if you want to attract good people then you need to be a good person, you can’t con the world into being what you want – but I also believe that you have to break it down into steps, into concrete actions. I know here in America we’re renown for always looking for the easy fix – the pill or religion, or the magic thoughts or the magic bullet that will fix our problems – and that was what I enjoyed so much about your site, was the way that you explored with the tangibles. You’ve experimented with your sleep cycles, or even your showering habits, to see what will work. So, all of that said, what have you learned from all of these different experiments?
Vlad: The first and most important thing I learned is that it takes a bit of tweaking around and trying things until you find what actually works for you. And if you stay in your current regimen and don’t change anything things aren’t going to get any better. So it’s a little bit about figuring out what you like,or how you would like your life to be, and then trying things to figure out what works. I’ve been playing around with my sleep schedule, my diet – I’ve actually be vegetarian for about 4 years now – and, that’s worked for me great. I like it. But I’m also open to trying other experiments about that. I’ve been playing around with my sleep schedule because I’ve been trying to find what works for me, so I did this experiment of trying to transition to Uberman’s sleep schedule, which basically means taking 20 minute naps every 4 hours, and that experiment failed horribly. I absolutely couldn’t do it.
Jen: I’ve read about you doing Uberman’s and I’ve wanted to try that! Why didn’t it work? When did you crash? Was it just too hard to stay awake?
Vlad: I just never really got through the transition phase. Most people say that there’s a transition phase between trying to take those naps and being awake, and when your body starts realizing you’re doing that and throwing you straight into REM sleep as soon as you take that nap. Since I never really got through that phase I was tired most of the time and then I would just oversleep. I would be able to stay awake well for a couple days and then oversleep for a bunch of hours so, it just didn’t work for me.
Jen: That makes sense. I feel like that cycle would make it hard, over time, to function in normal society on such a strange schedule.
Vlad: Yeah that’s why I wanted to give it a shot back when I was a student, because it allowed me to nearly not miss out on anything.
Jen: Yeah, that would help! I pulled a lot of all-nighters in college. A lot! That was how I built my blog! Umm… ok, so experimenting, vegetarianism. How’s that one working for you? I was a vegetarian for awhile and I had so much energy. I felt so good.
Vlad: Works fine for me.
Jen: Why do you do it? For the health or for the animals?
Vlad: I started for the health, for the selfish reasons. I can’t say I’ve noticed anything immediately obvious with it as a change, but I’m happy with it so I’m sticking with it so far. I definitely want to try going vegan at some point and avoid all animal products and see how that works.
Jen: Awesome. Well to change gears a bit I wanted to ask you a bit more about some of my MsMorphosis-type questions.
As a life coach and someone always working towards personal development, how do you reconcile the struggle to find contentment and peace – learning to live in the moment – with the ambitious struggle to constantly be improving your own life? This is something I struggle with – I’m very self-improvement and future oriented, and I know that sometimes because of this I can totally miss out on the here and now because I’m always working.
Vlad: Yes, that’s something I’ve been playing around with for quite some time now, because it’s tricky to balance those two things. On the one hand you want to be making plans and thinking about the future, and on the other you want to be in the moment a lot of the time. So, in the past, I found myself being a little too much in the moment and losing track of my overall goals, so I’ve actually been doing an experiment on that for the last two to three weeks. In this experiment, I just try to think about my life everyday for half an hour. For half and hour I think about anything that comes to mind. It’s been working really well for me because it’s actually helping me keep on track of my big goals and what’s important to me. But I’m actually a big believer of once you do this thinking and you know what you want to do to move towards where you want to go in life that most of the time you want to enjoy life just being in the moment, whether it’s being with friends or working on something, most of the time you want to be in the moment.
I find that once you stop thinking of peace and contentment being found only in a static situation – like getting in a certain static situation having this job, being in this place, knowing these people – I think of it as it being happy and comfortable in the process of constant change and growth – that that is the natural stage you are in and you realize that after awhile it actually becomes comfortable and that it is the natural state of a human who feels passionately alive.
Jen: I think part of what I was referring to is that when we’re growing there’s also a sense of unknown. There’s a sense of unknown in the present, but there’s a greater sense of unknown with an experiment, or with a life change, or with a move, and that feeling of unknowing and that unrest and finding comfort in that unknowing can be a different sort of feeling, it’s a different sort of emotion. What helps me get through that is a fierce passion to make things better, or figure out “what’s going to become of this,” and to be constantly evolving forward. Really a deep curiosity. But in that deep curiosity I stray from the contentment of the moment and how things are now. So maybe it’s just about learning to live in both of those places. Peace and curiosity.
Vlad: Yes you definitely want to strike your own balance, which also kind of depends on your core values, which are the things that are most important to you, which are different from person to person. So for me, one of my high core values is novelty, which is important to me, which tends to be why I’m comfortable doing all of these experiments and moving to new places. Someone else might be having being much more grounded as one of their core values and they might be very happy moving to a place and staying there for their life and just going on holiday or vacation somewhere. So it also depends on figuring out what’s important to you personally.
Jen: So then, on a more technical level, you use your blog as a platform for writing and coaching, and so this series is about people who want to take control of their life and use their blog personally or professionally. So how did you grow your blog? How did you market and spread your reader base and get these clients and create this cool life for yourself?
Vlad: I started by just writing about this topic that was interesting to me, that I was passionate about, where I had ideas I wanted to share with the world. At first there was probably nobody reading, and I would get like 5 people a week, but then I was lucky that one or two of my posts got featured on some big websites and from that people came in and started reading it.
So in that manner, one of my early successes was luck, I’m not going to deny that. But since then it’s been about connecting with like-minded people and offering guest posts for other blogs and just generally producing interesting content that people like, want to talk about, and want to share with others.
Jen: Well, I feel like the beginning for everyone has this piece of luck in it. You have to have something end up on Reddit or get retweeted by a big blogger, and then you get this swarm. At that point, if the site is crap, no one is going to be come back. But if it’s good, hopefully you’ll retain 5%-10% of those people and they’ll become regular readers.
Vlad: Exactly. And you can take this luck into your own hands a little bit. If you write something that you think is good, you can mention it to some people and let them know that it actually exists. If they like it, then maybe they’ll share it with others.
Jen: So then in a technical sense, how did you make that bridge to coaching? Did you just put up a page and set a rate and hope someone would call? Or did you start with one or two people and then rely on word of mouth? What was your business strategy?
Vlad: Initially, when I learned all about coaching and how coaching works, I offered free coaching sessions for a bunch of people. I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing and that I liked it before I started to charge for it. So once I did that and was comfortable with it I started charging. From the free people I started with I got some testimonials, basically them saying that they did these sessions with me, and here was what they got (or didn’t get) from it. So yeah, I had these testimonials on my site and a page that said “hey, I’m a life coach, hire me” (laughs) and yeah, now I just kept getting a nice stream of customers from my blog.
Jen: Well you demonstrate your own value well. You actively demonstrate that you’re willing to take these things into your own hands and try them and I think people really trust that. A lot of times I feel like in the traditional business world it’s about looking perfect, or looking like you have it all figured out, and that’s what you market to people – that we, our company, is perfect – and it creates a very sterile work environment. The internet, on the other hand, feels like the opposite – we gravitate to who is the most authentic and, in a way, going through the journey with you. Those are the people that we have come to trust. You’re so actively working on yourself that we trust you with our own experiences and processes and that you’ll have insight into that.
So how long have you been doing this now? Coaching and blogging?
Vlad: I’ve had the site for about 4 years now. It started as a hobby, and slowly it turned into something through which I actually earn money through selling information products – I’ve written one ebook so far, and am working on another one, and then also the coaching. I’ve been doing the coaching for over a year and a half now. So I’ve slowly gotten into that. It went slowly because when I started it I was working on my university degree as well, so at first it was side thing. I’ve only started putting all of my energy into my coaching and blog recently.
Jen: How long do you usually spend working with a client? Over the span of weeks? Months?
Vlad: Coaching is very quick and effective so I don’t work with people for long, drawn-out periods. If you look at my site I offer two coaching packages, one of four one-hour phone calls, one of six four-hour phone calls and most of the clients just go for four of the calls. It really is enough to help them get unstuck and figure out what they want from life and start taking massive action to improve their life and get that momentum to get that change going. So I usually work a client for a month, two months tops, and after that they’re able to just carry it on themselves. Coaching isn’t something you need to be getting all the time, it’s more of an extra boost for when you’re reaching a sticking point.
Jen: So those are all the questions I had, are there are final words that you’d like to share for people that are thinking about starting this or getting started with their own blog?
Vlad: I would say yes, definitely, try it out. Blogging has been very interesting for me, not only from the perspective of all the success I’ve had but also from the opportunity of getting to know like-minded people. So even if you don’t want to do this professionally, it might be interesting just to start a blog as a hobby and write about ideas you find interesting and maybe it will turn out to be a life passion, like it was for me. Who knows?