I met Maggie at a business breakfast where she gave a talk about the untapped human potential and I immediately knew I wanted to interview her for this series of deep insight with the Wisdom Seekers.
I particularly enjoyed the clarity of her logic and the simplicity of her message on a topic which feels often abstract to many people. I also had this sense that Maggie is someone who knows how to hold deep paradoxes with gentleness. As I got to know her more, I became even more attracted to her ability to hold space without judging others. Maggie knows who she is and continues her self discovery while she being able to be with others in full respect of where they are on their own journeys. This is a rare quality to learn from.
Her invitation is to direct our attention inwards to live with purpose and coherence: “One thing we really need to do is to discover our unique spiritual DNA. If we don’t know who we are, we will either take actions according to others’ expectations or act without clarity. Only when our actions are coherent to whom we are on the inside, we are in full alignment. In this way, you have that incredible power to express yourself and reach your full potential“.
Maggie’s life journey is not only diverse, but also confronted her to a very broad spectrum of human paradoxes on beliefs, values, wealth, education…. Maggie was born and raised in China after the Communists seized power. Her family, well educated and established, fell under the category of the anti-communists in this new regime and was deprived of all their possessions, living in poverty.
In her adult life, she lived in four different continents, mostly in the west and traveled extensively around the world. She was educated in engineering after considering a career in journalism or piano, but eventually moved into business management.
While I met her in Zurich, where she lived at the time, Maggie seems more of a nomadic person than one who settles down in a fixed place. She lives with few belongings and material baggage and has consciously embraced a minimalist lifestyle to dedicate herself to her work as a Teal advocate (more about that later).
Maggie conveys a relaxed attitude to Life, a flowing connection to her own center and an acute sense of observation. I caught myself imagining that if a meteorite would fall right in front of her, she would look at it with utmost curiosity and excitement but no emotional drama. She portrays my own yearning to flow through life with ease while holding at sight all its contradictions and being content with what IS in complete detachment.
The choice of her business name – Fish in Water – feels very adequate: it expresses the simplicity of her self-expression and Maggie’s water is not a fish tank but rather an ocean. She demonstrates the depth of those who have seen and understood the complexity and the infinite richness of humanity.
She describes herself as an outlier and a misfit: “I have lived on the edge, observing the world. I participated in the world but I didn’t buy into what others define as right or wrong. It is almost impossible for me to fit in any social structure or a neat box. No label could describe me accurately, because I transient nationality, profession, age, gender and social stratification. To me, things in life don’t have a clear beginning or end… all is connected… somehow, the Universe had created the experiences for me to see the possibilities and the big picture with a strong desire to blur the separation”.
It is a fascinating place and yet it is a very lonely place too. I ask Maggie how she relates to that loneliness: “I gave up wanting to be understood, which is a luxury to me. All my life, I always felt I was very different from other people but not in a bad way – I was secretly very proud of my difference. But on the outside, I enjoyed harmony so I didn’t show it”.
Maggie is a leadership coach and has decided in the recent years to dedicate her life to spreading the Teal way of doing business and accompanying executives in this journey. The name Teal comes from the colour assigned by Frederic Laloux to those organisations who have grown around three breakthrough principles: 1) self-management; 2) evolutionary purpose; 3) striving for wholeness. (See book: Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux).
When I ask her what on her journey has triggered this clarity about her life purpose, I wish to hear the ingredients of a recipe others could apply (including myself) and I am reminded by her answer that life is organic; it gives us at any time exactly what we need and so there is no general recipe:
“I don’t know if I am a person who has transformed. Rather I feel that I am continuously on this journey. It’s a lifetime accumulation of changes, some are small, some bigger. There is the story of this man who was a hunter and who sold meat for a living; one day, as he saw the deer that he had just killed, dying while licking her baby, he was overwhelmed by guilt and made a decision to never kill animals again and became a vegetarian. This was one big event that totally shifted his life. For me, it has not been like that. Just continuous change. There are lots of events that have triggered bigger shifts but overall, there is not one big event that has triggered a transformation”.
“Recently, since I am so clear about my life purpose of advocating Teal internationally, I am changing my relationship with the outside world. I am the same person as before but instead of keeping my thoughts to myself, I am learning to be more vocal and share my thoughts through writing and speeches. It feels like a seed that must express itself by breaking the ground and become visible. The more I do that, the more I attract people that resonate with what I say and this is my transformation. The core hasn’t changed, but the expression has changed”.
We debated about the definition of purpose which seems to be an intangible element, it is a resonance within us rather than an action or a cause, a content or an interest. It is like the container that best directs our actions. When we live through purpose, the noise in our life reduces; our energy comes together. It is like listening to the radio with no interference, crystal clear tuning into the vibration of who we are.
Here is Maggie’s suggestion on building our lives around our sense of purpose.
“In the process of becoming a coach, I became clear and capable of articulating my purpose, which is to advocate Teal. But everything I experienced in my life prepared me for this purpose. In a way, all the pieces of our lives eventually fall into place. I feel very blessed to have this clarity“.
I ask Maggie if she has recommendations for those of us who don’t have that clarity about their purpose: “I want to recommend a book called The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope. It’s about purpose. Life purpose is not necessarily a single big overarching purpose. It’s about being drawn into something you resonate with. Knowing from day one your life purpose is too much to ask! What we need is to know the innate desire to express ourselves right now; purpose is not about a specific action. It is a focused intention. All our life, we are guided by our own wisdom when we look inside for guidance and drop the outside noise. This clarity comes from within. At any point in our life, we can tune into our inner guidance. This starts from a very young age. As a teenager, I wanted to become a journalist interviewing interesting people, so I could inform and inspire other people with their stories and wisdom. I didn’t get to become a journalist like Christiane Amanpour, as I had hoped, but today I have the opportunity of interviewing the brilliant minds of Teal CEOs which fullfills my dream without the war zone!”
Maggie continues: “Purpose, Values, strengths, talents – Being a coach, I have become very clear about these aspects in myself. When I am in alignment with my purpose, I become an instrument to my life purpose. What used to scare me no longer has the same power over me. For example, I used to hate being in the spotlight, I wanted a very private life. That was my happiness. But now in service of my purpose, I am willing to do what it takes, including being in the spotlight. My priorities shift.
I can imagine the enormous power a sense of purpose can give us to face our fears and get through. Yet, I wonder how she lives this change in her life, having to face so many inner fears in order to become who she really yearns to be: “I am going through a big phase of letting-go right now. When we move from survival to self-actualisation, we go through a rebirth process that is about shedding the old habits, identities and beliefs. The process is not easy at all but it is extremely liberating. Sometimes I don’t want to do something but then I receive a kick from the Universe and I do it!”
Letting go of who we think we are requires to embrace something that is totally unknown, that doesn’t have any guarantee and is totally uncertain and we embrace a trade off that the mind cannot accept and yet something pushes us towards the shedding. I ask her what helps us to go against the safety we want to cling on to: “It’s a strong inner desire to align our outer reality with who we are on the inside; it’s like a chicken hatching and your soul needs you to break the shell. I live with fear every day and I fail, I procrastinate, I get scared and then eventually after stumbling enough, I do it and then realise that its not that difficult at all. The challenge is all in my mind. A while ago, I was asked to be a keynote speaker and that was hard for me, but I said yes anyway and did it. today it feels much easier. Now my motto is when in doubt, say yes!“.
As I leave this interview, I want to take in my life the beauty of measure, some steady stillness from the inside. Being a woman of extremes, I have this tendency to fly high and fall low and feeling alive only when navigating in turbulent waters. As you read this, maybe, it is also relevant to you to ask yourself where you are inviting too much noise and drama in your life in order to feel alive and maybe Maggie’s wisdom can invite you to let it go and turn your attention inwards to the silent voice of who you are underneath the noise of the world.
Maybe, there is really no need to make huge movements to play our notes and actually, wouldn’t this be a much more efficient use of our energy? Like a fish in water, effortless, in tune, in flow.