Carole Levy – Skits, Cartoons, and Trust
Carole Levy is an avid cartoonist with a unique combination of wit and depth. She loves analysing the tricks of the human ego on her popular blog. And she’s published a humorous illustrated book called “The Bumpy Road To Collaboration” (paperback, Kindle, iBook).
She is a culture change partner and a senior executive coach and facilitator. She shares her life map.
“ I’m the fruit of a mixed marriage. And so my father was from Morocco, Jewish dark skin profile, and a naturalised French moved to France because at the time Jewish American people would come to France to study. There was a connection with France that was very special. My mother is white, French from Paris. She converted to Judaism to marry my father. And as a child, I was very aware of their difference, and that we were different. We are different because my father was different. I was really trying to fit in everywhere. I thought I was too Jewish for the French society of the seventies. And I wasn’t Jewish enough for my own family..”
“At 15, my parents also divorced. That was a big earthquake, and a big confusion. On the one hand that was the collapse of the family foundation. And on the other hand, I thought, yeah, free, I’m free, I can do whatever I want. It didn’t go well for me, because I had no structure. I just started to procrastinate and make choices that were easy. I sought immediate gratification”.
For Carole too much space, creates anxiety. As a young woman she lived in duty mode with a fear of failure and a desire to maintain appearances.
“I didn’t want to do anything that was too simple. I was this intellectual, I thought I was extraordinary. I didn’t want to type a letter. I didn’t want to do the small work.” Carole was repeatedly fired for her inability to work and her belief that she was above menial tasks. She admits, “I was really dysfunctional.”
Her life changed when she met Claire Neur in Paris. Claire placed her trust in young Carole, teaching her how to work and find her creative spirit. It was at the age of 25 Carole experienced the magic of personal mastery. She became part of the Learning as Leadership (LAL) family www.learnaslead.com, where I met her in 2007. She now runs her own practice with her husband Jean-Pierre. The Trust Factory focuses on leadership training and personal growth.
She continues to able to adapt to different types of people and facilitate connections in different groups. Contributions matters a great deal and Carole interest in an eco focus has led her to be in a continuous journey of learning and rediscovery. Carole is a great facilitator, coach, mentor and talent developer. Her clients span across industries, which include governmental agencies and private sector companies, such as “Invitae capital One”, “Metron Ocra”, “M&T Bank”, “TransUnion”, Harvard Business School. Some of her current clients, including “Blue Meridian Partners”, “Heron Foundation”, Overdeck Foundation, and “William Penn Foundation. Admittedly her desire to avoid arrogance and be humble leads her to a reluctance to celebrate her successes!
Thank you, dear Carole, for being part of my life jigsaw, being my coach, mentor and a safe place to fall.
00:00:00 Paula: Welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host Tesse Akpeki and co-host Paula Okonneh. “TesseLeads” is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space to share stories, hear stories, and tell your own stories, experiences and dilemmas. You’ll find a lot of these stories helpful as we, and you navigate the uncertainties and opportunities in our lives. The theme today is And our guest is Carole Levy, who you my journey of discovery, skits, cartoons, and trust.probably have heard on the other podcast “TesseTalks”. I’ll tell you a bit about Carole. She grew up in Paris or Paris, France, and moved to the bay area, which is in California in 2001 to join “Learning As Leadership”. Which is a leadership training organization based in San Rafael, California. Carole holds a master’s degree in classical literature from the University of Paris, Sorbonne. She studied group facilitation and conflict resolution at the University of Tours in France. And is certified as an “ICF”, which is an “International Coaching Federation Coach”. She’s also certified to deliver the X 360 feedback. And when she’s not exploring new tools and resources to support leadership development and culture shaping, Carole is either writing or drawing. She’s also an avid cartoonist with a unique combination of width and depth. She loves analyzing the tricks of the human ego on her popular blog, which you will read about, we’ve put in the link. And she’s published a humorous illustrated book called “The Bumpy Road To Collaboration”. Welcome. Carole. I could go on and on about you, but I’ll stop here and I’ll let you talk about yourself.
00:02:20 Carole: Thank you for that.
00:02:21 Tesse: I’m just so overawed by your brilliance, that I’m quiet and Paula knows that takes some doing. I’m so excited to have you,Carole as our guests, because you’ve been my coach over many years. And in the days that I met you, just loving how you impact my life and the life of other people. And what actually, I’m very curious about your life map. I’m curious about your journey kind of highlights of your life. Those kinds of moments that you say memorable moments, and you can start anywhere, any age. It’s your space.
00:03:05 Carole: You know, the anxiety of the space, too much space, creates anxiety. Anyway, I’m taking the space. First of all, I would say that I live now in California, but I am originally, as you say, Paula, from France. I never ever thought in my life that I would live in the United States or anywhere else. It amaze me sometimes, to think that I’m living the life I’m living right now in the US. Anyway, because I was a shy child, afraid of everything. Going to the bakery store to buy a bread would be challenging and stressful for me. I was really afraid of going in the world, connecting with people and all of that. I have two parts, one part that’s really, that was and still today, very afraid of everything. And another part, adventurous, bold, audacious.
00:04:14 Tesse: One of the things that you told me was, 15 year old Carole was a certain kind of person, teenager, maybe starting from 15. Then you mentioned what happened 25.
00:04:33 Carole: Okay. Okay.
00:04:34 Tesse: So there is something that is coming into my mind about those decades, you know, when we kind of see the threads that go through, it helps to reduce the space and also the anxiety. Doesn’t it?
00:04:47 Carole: Yeah. Okay. So it’s interesting because often when I tell my story, I actually start by saying that I’m the fruit of a mixed marriage. And so my father was from Morocco, Jewish dark skin profile, and a naturalized French moved to France because at the time Jewish American people would come to France to study. There was a connection with France that was very special. And my mother is white, French from Paris, foster child, and she converted to Judaism to marry my father. And as a child, I was very aware of that. I was very aware of their difference, and that we were different. We are different because my father was different. And I was really trying to fit everywhere. I thought I was too Jewish for the French society of the seventies. And I wasn’t Jewish enough for my own family. I need to fit in. I absolutely need to fit in. And I need to be perfect, because that’s the way to fit in. Hide my flaws, that’s a way to be perfect and be special and unique. Because if I am special and unique, then I won’t be compared to other people and I will have a sense of value. So that was my stuff as a child. And I had a happy childhood, by the way. I just had a lot of anxieties around, where do I fit? And what’s my worth? I wanted to become an artist, but rapidly around 10 years old, I thought I would never be good enough to be an artist. So actually what happened when I was around 15, I had two Professor of French literatures that were fantastic. Around 12, 13, I had no confidence in myself. I was dealing with what’s my worth. So I was in this continuation, I wanted to be an artist, but I wouldn’t be good enough to be an artist, so what’s my worth? And these two French professors really they saw potential in me that I couldn’t see myself. And they really helped me to express myself and I started to like writing and reading. And they initiated me to, what we would call the committed intellectuals. So people like Jean-Paul Sarte or Simone de Beauvoir or poets that would take a stand against social injustice in the world. And I was fascinated by that, and I thought this is my calling. I want to become a professor of French literature because I want to help expand narrow mentality, thanks to literature. Because I thought they had done that to me, so I wanted to give that back to other. And I was very clear, my calling is to help others. But at 15, I was also full of hormones. I was longing for love. I was a romantic. And Tesse knows about that, because she’s a romantic herself. So I think the longing for love, which is normal at 15, was also fed by this sense of insecurity around my value. But at 15, my parents also divorced. So that was a big earthquake, and a big confusion, because on the one hand that was the collapse of the family foundation. And on the other hand, I thought, yeah, free, I’m free, I can do whatever I want. And it didn’t go well for me, because I had no structure and I just started to procrastinate and I started to make choices that were easy, immediate gratification, things that are not challenging me. So I would do a lot of that, including watching TV at night instead of doing my homework. And then I also started to develop a persona and I was charming, and I had wit, but all that was very superficial. So I studied and I went to the Sorbonne and had a master’s degree. But it was incredibly painful. And I left at the end of my studies with a sense of complete failure. That I missed my studies, I had no pleasure to learn. I was just in duty mode and with a sense of pressure to fear of failure, but trying to maintain appearances. I was very much trying to maintain appearances that I was okay, my life was in control and I was all right, emotionally and even intellectually, I would say. But I didn’t know what I wanted to do at the end of my studies. I had lost my calling. I lost my passion. And a good friend of mine who was studying philosophy at the Sorbonne – so an intellectual. She just had spent the weekend in a workshop, and she started to tell me about her emotions and her relationship with her mother. And I had never heard her so emotional and open and vulnerable. And I started to cry and say, this is what you did, I want to do it. And that was my introduction to the workshop of personal mastery that I began teaching when I was 25.
00:11:05 Tesse: That’s such a powerful story. You can see gradually how the family relationship break down, the lack of structure, you know, your experimentations, all those things led to that point. Were you ever involved in any kind of acting of any kind? Because I was going through my collection of videos the other day and I saw you in one of them. It’s I don’t know, I saw you in a kind of sketch type thing.
00:11:35 Carole: Yeah. So the second part of the story. So that was from a 0 to 15, 15 to 25. 25 I decide to do the work on myself. And this is the only thing I want to do, is to attend workshop and do the work on myself, and understand my limitations, my patterns of my fears, all of that. And in this process, I have this longing to be an artist it’s there, it didn’t let me down. And that I cannot do anything because I have to be perfect and I have to be extraordinary, so I stuck. And through the walk on personal mastery, personal development. And also because I had met a group of people that were crazy and very supportive, so I started to work on this creative expression and to develop that. But indeed, what’s interesting in that, at 25, I was doing, I’m not saying that with the sense of I’m not good enough. But I’m trying to be objective. I didn’t know how to work. I was useless and I was working in the publishing house to have money, to have a little job, they fired me, because I didn’t want to do anything that was too simple. I was this intellectual, I thought I was extraordinary. So I didn’t want to type a letter, for example. I didn’t want to do the small work. And so they fired me. I had another job in a publishing house, they fired me again, because I didn’t want to do the job. It was too below me. I was really dysfunctional. And when I met this work and I met, you were referring to Claire Nuer, who was this very enlightened person, became a mentor. She put me in a retail business, where she was selling glasses. And she said, you need to learn to work with your hands. She told me, you go to my shop and you’re going to stay here and if you like it, you’re going to work there. I went there and they asked me to clean the glasses that were on show, and I cleaned the glasses and I hated that because I wasn’t intelligent. I wanted to be Simone de Beauvoir and here I am cleaning glasses. And at the end of this, I said, no way, I don’t want to walk there. But she insisted, and she asked me to create the windows of the shop. That was very creative and I liked it. So I started to work in the shop in doing the windows, and then I started to work in the shop. To learn, I needed to learn to work, and that unleashed my creativity.
00:14:40 Tesse: So you have the mundane thing of the glasses and then the window of the showcasing.
00:14:46 Carole: And I started to call the client to do some followup and business development. And the clients were coming to the shop. I wanted to be there to welcome them. And then I started to learn selling glasses. So I became responsible of the shop. At the same time, I was doing workshop of personal development. And during the workshop, I started to do skits and to write, I think my point is, I was able to redevelop my creativity by learning to work concretely in doing stuff with my hands and being disciplined and structured, which I wasn’t. Am I talking too much?
00:15:31 Paula: This is your story. You’re giving us a timeline and you’re giving us insight into how you became who you are today. The creativity, and the cartoons, and the drawing, it all came from somewhere and you’re telling us.
00:15:47 Carole: And that path was to develop more of my sense of working. Learning to work, doing simple things, then developing the creativity. But then really came the coaching and helping other people. And then I started to try to really develop all of that together. Meaning, keeping the creativity, keeping things concrete, the business development. Those are difficult things when you have to call clients, and then the coaching, and teaching part of it. So I’m trying to always keep the three right.
00:16:32 Paula: It’s amazing as I listened to you, I can almost relate to your story about, you know, not quite fitting in. Because my parents too, were from two different parts of the world. And we were’nt Nigerian and enough, but I wasn’t also Caribbean enough. And trying to fit in the two was difficult because I used to wish I were like them. I said, you’re either, my mom was pure Grenadian ,that’s from the Caribbean. And so she could understand, you know, certain things that we were struggling to even understand where that came from. And the same thing with my dad. So I understand that.
00:17:12 Carole: It’s interesting because there is something very typical for children from mixed marriage. So I can imagine that there is a variation depending on the ‘mixcity’,
00:17:24 Paula: Absolutely. And so that was some thing as you were talking about that, and I was relating it to myself. I was going to ask you, I mean, are there any patterns or themes you think now that you’re, I like to say we are more seasoned talking about myself. Are there any patterns or themes that you’ve seen from your experiences, your mixed heritage that you have?
00:17:48 Carole: Great question. Definitely, I had a tendency that I want to fit everywhere. I hate when there is a group that I’m attracted to, but I cannot be part of it. I mean, before and now it’s very different. But I think that was really the pattern when I was in my young years, I needed to fit in and have a sense of. I mean, fitting in is different than belonging, but yeah, the fitting in was really the pattern. There is a sense of which I like actually, the sense of being able to adapt to different types of people and different groups. So that’s more on the positive side of the pattern and understand different perspectives I would say.
00:18:40 Paula: I agree, you know, and I love what you said.” Fitting in is different from belonging”. Yeah, absolutely. And even, I mean, on a different note Tesse and I could relate to that. Because when I met her, she was, I mean, we met in Nigeria. We were trying to fit in as being foreign Nigerians. That was tough.
00:18:58 Carole: Yeah. So you two met in Nigeria?
00:19:02 Paula: Yes.
00:19:03 Tesse: It’s really interesting, and this is why it’s so beautiful that we have this kind of triangulated conversation. Because Paula I stayed in different countries at different times. The only country we stayed in together at the same time was Nigeria. I was already there from Northern Ireland, and Paula came from Guyana. And then we met in Nigeria and state many years as friends. And then Paula went to London, did A levels and things in London. I stayed in Nigeria, and then Paula came back. You know, all that Nigeria. And then Paula went to the States, and I went to England. We were just kind of like that. But the irony of it all, it’s ironic, is that we kept in touch somehow in all those kinds of shifting, you know. So Paula had children and, you know, it was all that kind of thing. So I actually think it’s kind of a miracle that we feel, given that we actually had this moving thing. But one of the things that it brought out in this conversation,l is the importance of recognizing what is happening in us and then seeing how it works out. So I think Carole I connected with you in 2008, I think it was 2007, 2008. And we got on well, on the phone for a year, we talked for a year with each other. Because emotionally we had that connection of trying to fit in, of trying to belong. And the first time I saw you in 2008, I felt I’ve known you all my life.
00:20:50 Carole: That’s true. We really had an emotional connection and I think it’s at this level of the fear of not fitting in and this sense of self-worth, wounded self worth, I would say.
00:21:06 Tesse: Yeah, I think that it might be that kind of thing about self-worth. But also that wonderful work that you do with the “Ego actually transforming the ego to the eco. I think that that is what freed. I think it is it freeing energy, like focusing on a noble goal on a core piece. I think that is a freeing platform. One of the words that I learned from you, was “efficacy”. Because people usually talk about efficiency and effectiveness. They don’t usually talk about agency or efficacy. And I think that is that bit about what is it in my identity that can get in the way of me being all I can be. But also what is it in the focus that can get it to a higher level to have that focus which beams out and with the building up and the letting go that becomes that space to be with others. And I think that’s such a powerful way of being. But I didn’t know that until I met you and the work of “LAL (Learning As Leadership) to know that there was this mattress and all those things that the actual make that mattress the place where I want to be, because I think that’s where I need to be. Because if there is a question on the line that in a way about, you know, what do you have now when you look back? Where you see those pieces coming together to be where you are now. And we don’t know tomorrow, but we know what gifts we have that can equip us for an unknown future.
00:22:56 Carole: I really like what you said about all the previous pieces that really pave who we are today. There was a piece of me that it doesn’t exist anymore, but it’s really a pavement to come home. I mean, that’s the way sometimes some people say you’re coming home, and I feel today much more at home with myself. Also I’m still feeling there are missing pieces, but I’m still much more at home with myself connected with my purpose. And maybe also that’s the other thing we had in common, a strong sense of purpose, covered. But the strong sense that, oh, I have a role to play in this life. I want to make a contribution. What is my contribution? But I know I want to make a contribution. So today I’m certainly very grounded into why I’m here.
00:23:54 Tesse: What I love about is, it’s also a commentary which is that kind of existential question about why am I here? What’s my purpose? What’s the meaning? That old age book of Viktor E Frankl , Man’s Search For meaning. It’s still my favorite, because for me, that question of why am I here? What’s my purpose? is really important to keep me grounded in reality.
00:24:26 Carole: I totally agree with you. And I believe that everyone also has a purpose. And maybe that’s the work I’m doing with people, is helping them to remove the blocks to cover the armor would say Brene Brown. And being more in touch with their purpose. Or what you said, the flow of energy, meaning there is something about our basic goodness and a natural flow of energy that we obstruct. So how are we going to remove the obstructions? That’s what I love doing with people.
00:25:01 Tesse: You know, this recording has really let me know something. I knew unconsciously, but became more conscious, is because of your steps in life and because of your journeying from a very early age, trying to know what you didn’t know and work out what you could know. Dealing with the unknown unknowns. But that actually is what makes you such a fantastic coach. Because for me, I have in my life found meeting you when I did that important piece of identification in leadership, you know. The unconditional acceptance, your quiet smile, your questioning eyes, and unconditional acceptance as a coach. That’s so beautiful. It’s really beautiful.
00:25:56 Paula: And that’s why I call her a success. I mean, I said on the previous podcast (TesseTalks), “the success is sitting right here in front of us” Tesse. You said something, Carole, that you pulled it from what’s something that Tessie had alluded to, which is “the pieces that we’ve left behind and the pieces that we’ve forgotten”. All of them contribute to the piece that we are today, you know. And you’ve been able to obviously understand that because of your walk and help people. You said you love helping people, help people to understand themselves too. And I see you as a success. Do you see yourself as a success? I see you as a success. As I said, I’m looking at somebody in front of me that I have seen emerge, and she talked a lot about Carole Levy, and look at her today.
00:26:51 Carole: I cannot see me as a success, because if I start to look at me as a success, I am sure that the day after I look at myself as a success, something bad is going to happen. And oh, maybe I have an issue with the word success, because it’s too much in this paradigm of loser failure versus winner success. So maybe I have an issue with the word success.
00:27:22 Paula: Let’s change it then, should we say, do you see how you have impacted the world? Maybe not we should remove the word success and put the word impact.
00:27:31 Carole: It’s triggering my dreaded image of being arrogant. So I can’t say the word. I can see how I am attached, so that’s my ego. I am attached to be humble. And it’s hard just to appreciate, I can appreciate the solidity of. Even, I cannot say the solidity, because I know things are here today they can be gone tomorrow. So I think I’m anxious to fix and label things and say, it’s a success, it’s great. Because I know it’s going to change. And so I’m trying to keep my head grounded in reality. But I think the trap for me, is that I tend to dismiss my success. I do that for sure. And it’s not good either to not appreciate how good we are at something, or to not appreciate that we make a difference and have an impact. It’s a convoluted answer. I’m sorry, Paula.
00:28:41 Tesse: I find it very intriguing.
00:28:46 Carole: Yeah, I had the, it’s a, it’s an ego moment.
00:28:54 Tesse: It’s such a grounding thing. And in feeling grounded, I want to use this moment in many ways, Carole, to thank you for what you are in my life for sure. It’s not every opportunity that we get to say thank you to people who have been our role models or who have been a mattress in a good way. And who have shown the way in order to get to a place of impact or a place of knowing that we are able to walk alongside others as an ally and actually be a champion. In my life you’ve been that person for me. So thank you for being that person.
00:29:38 Paula: I want to say thank you also for being a guest on this show. As I said, I looked a lot at your website for many reasons, and the testimonials jumped out at me. I know you don’t like the word success or impact. But how I’m removing internal obstacles from people, or helping people recognize internal obstacles that keep them from growing. I think I’m going to associate that phrase with you, because when I read through the testimonies, I see that as a theme running through them. So thank you for coming onto “TesseLeads”, being such an inspiration to me to Tesse, I know for sure, and I’m sure many others.
00:30:19 Carole: Thank you, you too. I’m absorbing your compliments and. But I really appreciate also that you invited me to the conversation. So to be continued.
00:30:34 Paula: Absolutely, to our wonderful and loyal listeners, thank you for again listening to this episode. Your precious stories and lives matter as do those of our guests. And so we encourage you to share them with us. And we always say this, please head over to Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to your podcasts and click subscribe. And if you have found our amazing, wonderful guest, Carole Levy to be an inspiration to you as she has been to many, please let us know in your review. And if you have any questions or topics you’d like us to cover, send us a note. And of course, if you’d like to be a guest on our show, “TesseLeads”, please head over to “www.tesseakpeki.com/tesseleads” to apply. Thank you.
00:31:33 Tesse: Thank you, Carole, you’re awesome. Thank you.
00:31:37 Carole: You’re Awesome. The two of you together are fantastic pair.
00:31:43 Tesse: Thank you so much.
00:31:45 Paula: I take all compliments.
00:31:49 Carole: That’s my learning curve.