From a mental disorder to a strangely-wrapped gift

In our today’s fast-moving, demanding and stressfull culture, we have lived in a contradictory situation of no – or very little – care and attention to the mind, our engine. Nowadays, we are experiencing a long-overdue shift of attention from physical fitness to mental health in many ways: introduction of mental health education in schools, flourishing of mindfulness and meditation courses and apps, no. 1 trend in luxury travel and wellness industry, coaching is booming, to name a few. Mental wellness is considered to be more long-lasting. However, mental disorders are still a taboo, very little spoken and accepted, often hidden. Is there a strength or endurance disorder? No. So, it’s mental fitness as it is physical fitness. It is OCD, for example, as it is diabetes. It is psychotherapist as it is personal trainer.

We have met Gerardo Segat* to talk about his remarkable personal experience and its impact on his professional life.

Hi Gerardo, can you tell us a little bit about your personal story?
When I was a child, I progressively began to lose my dear ones and my belongings. In order of disappearance: my dad, my wealth, my house, my school, my friends, my mum, my sister, my wishes, my dreams, my childhood. I was left with my brother. When I left him to begin a life with my wife, I began to feel abandoned, scared and empty. To protect myself, my mind decided it was the right time to send me daily compulsive messages to check each and every belonging to make sure they were safe and in order: car, house windows and doors, rucksack, purse, mobile, PC, clothes, body, etc. Progressively, this compulsive checking consumed up to five hours a day.

The day I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), I sat alone, in my room and cried. With the fall of my tears came the rise of my soul. I said: basta! (with a “b”, not a “p”) – enough! Enough with this monster. And I started to build the life I wanted.

What challenges did you face because of your disorder?
The first hurdle was time pressure: my OCD practices reduced my day by 5 hours, hundreds of thousands of minutes and seconds! This affected every aspect of my life: partner, kids, work, friends, fitness, holidays, hobbies, sleep. You name it.

Then came anxiety, stress, shame, low self-esteem, fear, poor concentration and scattered attention. In addition, I was insecure, felt lost and lonely, and was full of self-pity. More specific to work, I exhibited poor presence and availability, excessive delegation, superficial decision-making, people pleasing and blaming, wrong expectations and judgmental attitude.

Overall, the biggest challenge in living with OCD was the resulting isolation and self-involvement.

What were your key learnings?
Experiencing an anxiety mental disorder has become a journey of hard work and invaluable and considerable learning, a gift, a blessing. It is my legacy to my future generations and one way to inspire others.

In broad terms, turning my biggest weakness into my greatest strength has taught me empathy. I see more and better now and that is of tremendous value also to my current job as a coach. More specifically, the most invaluable lessons were about the functioning of the mind and the approach to a personal monster.

We have a mind and we are not our mind. It is like a puppy you need to educate to do what you want it to do. The mind is fragile, often mean with bad thoughts and overprotective. By comfortably resisting mind compulsions, I learned how to educate and change the mind and how to divert the attention from our inner voice – the consciousness of thoughts and feelings – our seventh sense.

What about the approach to a personal monster?
With common personal monsters such as disorders, fears, obsessions, addictions and traumas, we tend to immediately jump into trying to resolve or delete. Instead, we need to take time to look at them, acknowledge and accept our consequent feelings and then store them and decide appropriate action.

We have to learn to love our monsters. By being compassionate, accepting peacefully and understanding the reasons. They have helped us be who we are, where we are and they deserve our gratitude. We should get them out, share them as soon as possible and then, face them with determination and resilience. They will go away, as will the side effects. Acting gently and smoothly, with no hard pushing. Finally, finding a way to turn our weakness into our strength and make it, what I call, a strangely-wrapped gift.

So, what is inside your strangely-wrapped gift?
Inspiration and coaching. YPO is the premier leadership organization worlwide: 25.000 members in 130 countries. By being a selected member of its Change Makers Club, I am invited to talk to chapters worldwide or at international events and inspire entrepreneurs and top executives by sharing my story. It’s called influencing the influencers. I changed to professional coaching because I wanted more human element and more alignment with my personal core values, identity and mission and my contribution to the successfull negotiations for the sale of AC Milan football club in 2015 further convinced me. A beautiful poem, “My Soul Has a Hat”, by Mario De Andrade, one of the founders of Brazilian modernism, explains it all and I like to share an extract* as my little gift to you and your readers.

What is the impact of this remarkable personal experience on your coaching activity
OCD has made me learn about the mind on the field: today, as a coach, it is like being a football manager having been an excellent player before. Lots of precious insights for me and my clients. Furthermore, OCD has made my coaching offering more complete and peculiar through Soul Training services. It has also affected my style: care and sensitivity can move mountains. And a strong focus on the negative/weaknesses (OCD) in the past, has pushed me towards a strong focus on the positive/strengths (coaching) in the present and future. Finally, thanks to OCD, I have maximised the skill of an unusual attention to detail that makes the difference in shadow coaching. To summarize, my OCD experience has built my competitive advantage as a coach today.

What is Shadow Coaching?
Noticing details/symptoms, in relation to specific agreed objectives, during a temporary and silent accompaniment over the course of one or more client’s work days, meetings (ie board, negotiation, etc.) or performances, in the field, followed by feedback one-to-one coaching sessions. We all know that the difference between failure and success, good and excellent is often details. Shadow coaching is a tailored mix between consultancy and coaching that stimulates continuous improvement and it is how I capitalise on my past entrepreneurial experience.

What are your plans for the near future?
Professional coaching brings self-awareness, authenticity and success, inspires change, maximizes potential and makes people feel good. The term “coaching” is professionally overused, often inappropriately, and this creates confusion and skepticism. I want proper professional coaching to have more visibility and public exposure so I am currently working on bringing coaching into public debates moderation and on a media format suitable for licensing at an international level. I also want to divulge it in the luxury hospitality industry, a perfect and ideal scenario for coaching, and within the celebrities community. They set an example for others and are amongst the ones who can benefit the most from coaching, considering their kind of life full of ups and downs, sensitivity and public exposure.

*I counted my years and realized that I have less time to live by than I have lived so far.

I feel like a child who won a pack of treats: at first, he ate them with pleasure but, when he realized that there was little left, he began to taste them intensively.

My time is too short: I want the essence, my spirit is in a hurry. I do not have much treats in the package anymore.

I want to live next to humans, very realistic people who know how to laugh at their mistakes, who are not inflated by their own triumphs and who take responsibility for their actions. In this way, human dignity is defended and we live in truth and honesty.

It is the essentials that make life useful. I want to surround myself with people who know how to touch the hearts of those whom hard strokes of life have learned to grow with sweet touches of the soul.

Yes, I’m in a hurry. I’m in a hurry to live with the intensity that only maturity can give. I do not intend to waste any of the remaining treats.

I am sure they will be exquisite, much more than those eaten so far. My goal is to reach the end satisfied and at peace with my loved ones and my conscience.

We have two lives and the second begins when you realize you only have one.


Read here the interview