Life Coaching

January 21, 2010

Paiva is now available for additional telephone coaching in life, teen, wellness and executive coaching.


As a life coach, author, researcher, I tend to find the most value in others – in their experiences, stories, desires, inspirations.. I can only give you in part, the article my syndicator is working with, but I hope you do enjoy it just the same, even in it’s partial view…


Small Woman, Large Spirit

Michele Paiva

She is small in stature, a petite thing, with a crown of perfectly coiffed salt and pepper hair, an elegant ensemble and a look of youth, nothing that one would expect for a woman of 78 who has endured much hardship. She looks 58 if anything; perhaps much younger. Her voice is strong, her eyes are clear and penetrating. This is Nina Kaleska, Holocaust survivor.

I’m in the back of the room, she is lecturing and I am, while in my forties, one of the youngest of the large group. She is speaking in a heavy Polish accent dotted with suburban Philadelphia undertones, much like one would find on the “Main Line”, the more affluent area of the region….

Kaleska retells the story of her childhood and you can see that child still very much alive in her eyes. “I studied piano and voice, like every Jewish child did in those days,” she joked. She went on to outline how her older sister was the athlete and how she had fond memories of her rugged father and traveling with him on horseback in Northern Poland, to her cerebral mother who would sit on a bench and read, while looking after her as she played outdoors….

Her family was taken and separated soon after; she never saw her mother and father again at the arrival of the first camp. She was twelve years old. She explained that the younger children were immediately executed. Her sister knowing this, wrapped her face with a scarf and gave her clothing that would make her look more mature. Her sister also pushed her into a group, a move unnoticed by German soldiers and ironically, they were keeping only 85 prisoners they said to live; she was number 85. She was by far, the youngest victim surviving in the camp as the soldiers overlooked her.

“It was just I and my sister, Sala, and she would whisper to me to be brave. She would even try to tell me jokes to make me laugh. She was my first angel on earth”, and added, “She died three months later, from illness”. In Kaleska’s book “Nelli’s Journey” published by Dorrance Publishing, she outlines that even being sick one day could get you into the crematorium, or gassed. She begged her sister to try to get up and walk and work in spite of her sister being ill initially, as being ill was almost certain death….

Kaleska endured three camps; she carried dead bodies. She served as a message runner. She built roads carrying large rocks all day and night. She chopped trees and carried branches and logs. All of this, with one ration of old bread, water and maybe a cup of cold cabbage soup per day. She explained that often she wondered what would be best; to save the bread for when she came back, because she was so hungry after the long day of work with only a half hour break, or eat it for breakfast to have some semblance of energy to even carry out the work.

Those who did not have energy or passed out from fatigue, malnutrition or the elements, would be taken to be killed. She went on to say that she had many memories of young girls just a bit older than her who would pass out. She would be tempted to help them but helping the “weak” meant death for you as well. She would have to not show emotion and bite back tears while someone right in front of her was clubbed and killed or taken away to be killed. No goodbyes, nothing. This was her daily life. She was just a child….

“Luck and fate seemed to intervene; I had angels in my life” she repeated.

He wrote her a poem and a letter, because he was being sent away to fight the oncoming military, and he wanted her to know how he felt about her as he was so in love with her – and they often had little chance to talk; at the end of the letter he wrote her it said “I will search for you and find you, have faith in the future”.

She never saw him again, he was killed just days later….

Although Nina had just a seventh grade education, she went on to get her  GED, and then a masters degree; she studied voice and music and sang with the New York Opera and Philadelphia Opera to name a few venues; she taught music at Main Line Ivy League universities as well as private voice coaching. Nina has been a guest speaker globally and has been forging relations between Christians and Jews for decades; even speaking in many churches with in the company of Popes. “I never stop learning. I just did not survive the war, I studied the war. Everything about the war. I need for people to know, that the Holocaust is not a Jewish subject, it is a universal subject” she said with conviction…

She speaks of not only the Holocaust but other emergencies that humanity brings upon itself, “What price do we pay for ignorance?”…

At 78 years old, she has worked full time until four years ago. She has gone back to visit the concentration camps, and at one point visited a long hallway that had a photo of Hitler. What did she do?

She walked up to it and showing spunk and sense of humor, in spite of losing her family, love and all friends and relatives to this man’s idea of a society, she stood firmly in front of the picture and said “You Shmuck!”

Are you a Grey, Spectrum or Black and White Person?

Copyright Michele Paiva, Balletsa Inc

I am actually not someone who likes to label people at all. However, people tend to stuff themselves into boxes. The idea here is to try to put your self as a full-spectrum color person. Why? Because when you are full-spectrum person be it you are a manager, CEO, business owner, employee, spouse, adult child, parent, whatever- it helps you to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and in fact, to be able to see situations from every angle.

A person who is “grey” is often stuck in lower end jobs or positions, or in dead end relationships. This is the person who doesn’t fail nor, do they succeed. They stay often more in a safe position; this is fine however, if you are not happy in a middle of the road life, it doesn’t take much to expand this.

The brunt of my clients are black and white in their thinking, and thus, in their behavior. The problem with this, and the largest hurdle to overcome, is that when people are “severe” (and they don’t even realize it) they are incredibly stuck. They have a hard time seeing anyone else’s view but their own. They often feel very stuck. Successful or not in work or relationship, they often find that they have one area that they sky rocket with success but can’t seem to balance the rest of their life. Alternatively they may feel that they are just stuck in all areas but appear to be successful to the external world, i.e., their image.

Most people think that they are full spectrum. However, most people are actually black and white, and many are grey in behaviors and thought processes.

What I do for clients who I feel could benefit to learn more full spectrum thinking is simple yet effective, and you can try it on your own. Literally, play with a color spectrum. I don’t care if you are a stoic banker or a serious and busy stay at home mother; I want you to grab a box of crayons, paper, and start creating. Create a still life, a landscape, or a portrait. The idea is not to worry about how “good” the art is – in fact, I opted for crayons just because it’s incredibly hard to make something that looks serious by using them, as I want you to take it lightly. I also assume that it is harder to make an excuse to not do this project since crayons are so readily available at even most grocery stores.

Believe it or not, an exercise like this helps the client break out of some chains that they did not realize that they had wound around themselves. Of course, we do much more in coaching but this is an absolute freeing experience for clients and helps them literally wire their brains for more open, creative thinking that helps them see other situations more openly as well.

So, grab crayons and paper and go for it!

PS. The more bizarre you think this exercise is, the more you need it.