by Achim Nowak

A Year of Big Things

December 18, 2023

Smack in the middle of 2023, I had a double heart-valve-replacement surgery.

The surgery was a success. It was followed by a month of doing nothing. 3 months of cardiac rehab. As of November, I’m back training with my trainer Chris who has trained me on and off for the last 10 years.

This was a transformative experience. I feel stronger than I did before the surgery. I am well.

Amidst it all, I had lots of time to think. And the word “transformation” kept coming up in my thoughts.

These thoughts have been especially prevalent as our year comes to a close, Christmas is upon us, the world is in turmoil, and 2024 is knocking on our door.

When I get phone calls from clients about someone they’d like me to coach, this is a phrase I hear not infrequently: Eric needs some transformational coaching.

I have learned that this is usually what the caller means: Eric needs to show up VERY differently in the world.

Definitions about what personal transformation actually is are hard to come by. Here’s a psycho-social lens I like: Transformation is a dynamic, uniquely individual process of expanding consciousness whereby individuals become critically aware of old and new self-views and choose to integrate these views into a new self-definition

Christianity has a not dissimilar take. Individuals experience a change of their very nature or a change at the heart of who they are. They do so when they receive Christ. They become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). They are born again (1 Peter 1:23) to become children of God (John 1:12).

I remember a conversation I had with Hugo Sanchez, the Relationship Manager at my firm, earlier this year. Hugo referred to an email he had received from Jean, a client of mine.

I almost don’t recognize her, Hugo said. She sounds so different.

An example of everyday transformation in action. The sort of change we work for in coaching.

In the conversations I get to have on the My Fourth Act podcast, guests often talk about transformative life changes with me. More often than not, what looks like a transformation is the amplification of something that was inside of them, all along.

Dana P. Rowe is a celebrated musical theatre composer. Two of Dana’s musicals were nominated for London’s prestigious Olivier award. About a decade ago, he began to work as a coach for other creative artists. This year, Dana added being a voice-over artist who records audio books.

Transformation? More like an expanded flexing of professional muscles that had been flexed before.

Heather “The Heat” Hardy, the guest on my current podcast episode, is a former IBO Featherweight World Boxing Champion. Heather didn’t have her first boxing match until she was 28. She won her world title 7 short years later.

Boxing transformed Heather’s life. I realized in my first boxing match that I knew how to fight, Heather tells me. I had actually learned how to fight at home, from a young age on, when I was fighting with my mom. The fighting spirit was in me.

The very week that I was having my surgery at Cleveland Clinic, my book “THE DIFFERENCE: Essays on L:oss, Courage, and Personal Transformation,” which I co-edited with Rosemary Ravinal, was released by Balboa Press, a Division of Hay House.

That irony did not escape me.

What surprised me and Rosemary most was that when we approached our brilliant co-authors about writing a personal essay about the one event or circumstance that most transformed the course of their lives, many of them wrote about an experience of loss. What looked like a dark and difficult time, at first, turned out to be the very thing that made the most profound difference in their lives.

I invite you to look at the perhaps difficult and not obviously triumphant moments in 2023 in that light. They have the potential to be your most transformative events.

The possibility of transformation lurks in every moment.

I leave you with a 90-second video. On September 10, 4 of my co-authors in The DIFFERENCE and I held a book event at the legendary Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn. Muhammed Ali, Roberto Duran, Jake LaMotta and many other boxing legends trained there.

Sonya Lamonakis, former IBO World Boxing Champion, was our guest at this event. She trained there.

I am most definitely not a boxer. But what I realized as I was inside of Gleason’s and listened to Sonya talk was that this awe-inspiring place IS a temple of personal transformation.

Boxers learn to face loss. Boxing requires loads of courage. And for every boxer, becoming a professional is a profound act of personal transformation.

Lamonakis is a New York City public school teacher turned world boxing champion. Go figure.

Enjoy this little video for some fun and inspiration. The footage was shot by EMMY-winning cinematographer Sam Henriques. The video was created by videographer Sebastian Verde.

For more inspiration, consider getting your own copy of “THE DIFFERENCE: Essays on Loss, Courage, and Personal Transformation” or giving it as gift to someone you wish to inspire.

May your holiday season be filled with peace and love. Thank you for being in my world.

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