EVENT: Pig Catching Session 1 for 2015

Dear Pig catchers old and new,

We kick of our pig catching sessions this year with a session on Threshold Guardians. We will work metaphorically with our own TG’s just like we did with our pigs in the first session last year (for those who remember). You will work with different people in pairs to explore:

  • What does your TG look like?
  • What prize is he or she guarding?
  • How do you usually interact with him/her?
  • How do you win the battle so that you can claim the prize?
  • How does all this serve your coaching/facilitation practise?

If our sessions from last year is anything to go by, you will leave with a greater sense of understanding, freedom and victory, not to mention techniques that you can use in your own practise.

For those who don’t know what I am on about:

Catch a Flying Pig
Catch a Flying Pig
Pigs in this conversation represent that breakthrough, that elusive insight that we are always chasing while we coach or facilitate. Often the pig is just out of our reach taunting us with that little curly tail. Other times we jump and grab for it, and it slips out of grasp to leave us with a skinned knee lying in the mud. But other times, we grab and hold on, it thrashes and twists, but we maintain our grip and finally subdue it so we can take it home as a pet, or feast on its bacon with our clients as guests of honour.

NOTE: no real pigs get harmed during the course of our work, we play only in the metaphoric sense and all our pigs have wings)

In the session with the pigs I refer to above, we played in pairs exploring the exact nature and character of our individual pigs. Through embodiment and sound we examined how we usually deal with our pigs, how we try to catch them, and we experiment with different ways of catching – ways that can bring about different results from what we are used to.

All our pig catching sessions are geared to learning new techniques for helping our clients to insight, break through and sustainable transformation. More specifically, we look at using methods and techniques from the performing arts. We have found that this is an untapped world of wealth where metaphoric work, embodied experiences and group imagination can bring about powerful transformations.


Date: Fri 20 Feb
Time: 7 am to 9:30 am
Place: 305 Long Avenue, Ferndale.
Cost: R200 or R150 if you are still in the first year after attending the Playing Mantis Essentials Master Course in Coaching and Facilitation.
Coffee, tea, muffins and fresh fruit on arrival.

More on Threshold Guardians

You know when you really, really, REALLY want to do something, but something in you won’t let you? It tells you that you can’t, that you will make a mess of it, again, that others are already doing it, or that everyone else can do it better than you, so why try? It is the giant that guards the treasure castle of the evil wizard, the three-headed dog that protects the philosopher’s stone and the dragon that watches over the princess. He, or she, is not the villain, but the threshold guardian placed there to scare you away.

When you coach or facilitate, your participants or coachee are also facing their own threshold guardians, and the scary thing is, that until they are conquered, neither you nor your client can get to the prize.

The heartening fact is, that in the many tests and trials the hero faces on his journey, the battle with the threshold guardian is always won. There may be other defeats, but usually not the fight with this kind of resistance – except of course when you deal with a tragic hero, but we are not in business for those guys. Othello, Oedipus Rex and Macbeth stubbornly hung on to their fundamental weakness and would not let it go. They do not make good clients. We work with the Harry Potters, the Shreks and the Brave Hearts. These guys can win and so can you.

Click here if you want to attend

Story Secrets for Speakers #6 – When the world is against me


You painted a picture of the possibility (Secret #1).  Then you lead your audience past their doubts and reservations about their own suitability (Secret #2), whether or not they can trust you (Secret #3), the practicality of the solution (Secret #4) and the people that would be on the journey with them (Secret #5). Nowthey look at their context and go: “Great plan, but life just doesn’t work that way”.  They look at their reality and say: “What if the solution or the people having to implement it fail?” I call this cosmic resistance.

Cosmic resistance is what happens when everything is lined up to go and your budget is cut, or a key player gets sick and unable to continue, or the equipment simply fails. Through no fault of yours, or the people trying to make the difference, it just fails. What then?

In stories this is that devastating moment where all seems lost. This is when Andy Dufresne, in Shawshank Redemption learns that his eye witness was murdered by the prison warden, when Brave Heart is betrayed by one of his own, when, in The Great Escape, the fleeing prisoners discover that their tunnel is a few feet short of the cover of the trees.

In situations like these stories provide only one response: Reframe.

Here are 3 story tools to help your audience of participants reframe their situation:

 1. Humour

The Blonde goes to the doctor complaining of aches all over her body. “Where does it hurt?” The doctor asks. Pointing to her left shoulder, then her nose and then her right calf she answers: “Here and here and here”. The doctor takes her hand gently examining it and says “My dear, your finger is broken.”

This is a reframe.

Humour is fantastic for helping your audience reframe their situation and see it in a fresh light. The right story at the right time can break cosmic resistance.

2. A true story

My husband hates it when the local minibus taxis stop directly after a traffic light it really gets him angry.  Taxis all across South Africa do this driving the other motorists insane causing hoots and honks at every intersection. The are the fiends of the roads.

Then I move to Johannesburg – the big scary crime ridden city fill of bad guys. As usual I am reliant on public transport because of my bad eyesight, and I need to make use of taxi’s. Can I make peace with having to drive with a fiend behind a wheel?

I get into my first taxi and as he pulls into the road he does it with gusto exactly in the fashion that most irritates my husband. “What is he doing? Can’t he use his eyes??” I can almost hear him saying.  Behind my taxi a 4 X 4 family van swerves out of the way and honks loudly. The taxi driver honks back, leans over to me and says: “It must be a friend”.

Fiend or friend, it is all a matter of perspective, and choice of attitude. What a beautiful reframe and one I have used many times to break through cosmic resistance.

3. An interactive exercise

Yet, as I have mentioned before, it is really only when the audience can apply what you offer to their own individual life stories that break through is really possible. The following is a story structure to help your audience do this. It comes from the world of Applied Improvisation.

Step 1. Reflect on an issue in your personal or professional life that you would really like to change. Complete the following sentence:

Concerning this issue, I really want  … (fill in what it is that you want to see happen).

But… (list one to 3 things that are in the way of you achieving this outcome – things that are blocking or frustrating your efforts).

Step 2. Cross out the ‘But’ and replace it with the word ‘and’. Now the obstacles become mere conditions for the solution, they are no longer blocks.

Step 3. Complete a final sentence:

So what if … (what alternatives can you think of that accepts the conditions for the solution.)

Anexample from a workshop participant:

As the event co-ordinator of a large networking evening, I really want my guests to feel at home and set the scene for a wonderful event. I also want to enjoy the event myself.

But  AND I am not a good speaker, my hands shake and I am afraid I will forget important information. I stress so much that the whole evening is a blur usually.

So what if I rehearse a short welcoming speech to set the scene and then get an MC to co-ordinate the rest of the event, so I can sit back and enjoy it.

When all is lost, it is time for a reframe. A story that beautifully illustrates this reframe is the recent Lego movie. All seems lost when Emmet, the main character fall into the void, the abyss. His friends believe he is dead and their cause seems lost. In fact, Emmet simply falls off the table where the humans build their lego models. He is picked up by the boy playing there and from this big picture perspective Emmet’s entire world is reframed. With this insight he returns to save the day.

Humour, stories and interactive exercises all help your audience to reframe their failures and see them from a fresh angle braking through cosmic resistance. Now there is just one more thing left to do…die. Read more in the final of the series: Story Secret 7.

Dr. Petro Janse van Vuuren

Researcher, Speaker and Coach

Need a speaking coach? Contact Petro

Interested in a course in facilitation and coaching? Click here

Looking for a speaker or storyteller at your event? Contact Petro




Cosmic resistance – When the world is against me

Emmet from the Lego movieYou have lead your audience past four types of resistance: 1. their doubts and reservations about their own suitability (Personal resistance), whether or not they can trust you (Relational resistance), the practicality of the solution (Practical resistance) and the people that would be on the journey with them (Social resistance). Now they look at their context and go: “Great plan, but life just doesn’t work that way”.  They look at their reality and say: “What if the solution or the people having to implement it fail?” I call this cosmic resistance.

Cosmic resistance is what happens when everything is lined up to go and your budget is cut, or a key player gets sick and unable to continue, or the equipment simply fails. Through no fault of yours, or the people trying to make the difference, it just fails. What then?

Read more and find out  how the Lego movie helps answer the question…

How do you get people to deliver high quality work and enjoy doing it?

Ahoy, business, not-for-profit, and organisational explorers, rebels and pirates! 


Welcome to the next Thrivable World Quest event!  On Wednesday, June 18 we explore the “Island” of Mastery.

We’ll be on a treasure hunt to discover:

  • What does mastery look like for you?
  • What enables people to do their work with mastery?
  • What does mastery look and feel like, and how does it evolve, in an organisation when that organisation is explicitly in service of life?

Berlin, Johannesburg, Manila, Milan, Montreal, and Tehran will lead the Quest.  Then, a few days later, Amsterdam and Cape Town will collaborate to verify our map and explore areas we missed.  Come play, explore, share and learn with us on our fourth Thrivable World Quest event.

Come play, explore, share and learn with us on our fourth Thrivable World Quest event.

What will you get from participating?

  • You’ll learn what thrivability is, what it takes, and how it can help your organisation to save the world.
  • You’ll gather and share stories about courageous pioneers who have made this shift in their organisations.
  • You’ll contribute to a world movement, a manifesto and a book.
  • You’ll experience practices, perspectives and ways of interacting that embody what we are exploring.
  • You’ll discover what all this means for you, your organisation/clients, and your world.
  • You’ll join a local and global tribe of smart, caring people interested in exploring these ideas.

The stories and insights we discover during the Quest are shared across the cities and around the world. Check out the treasure from our first three events blog. Then join us on June 18 to be part of this global initiative to transform organisations.

What is thrivability?
Thrivability is a growing global movement and an active leadership and organizational practice. The organizers of the Thrivable World Quest define ‘thrivability’ as the intention and practice of aligning organisations with what we know about how living systems thrive and people thrive.
For more about the Thrivable World Quest go to Thrivable World.

Session details:


  • Date: Wednesday, 18 June 2014
  • Registration: 14h30
  • Time: 15h00-18h00
  • Venue: Worldsview Academy, Worldsview House, 150 Kelvin Drive, Woodmead, JHB

Cost: R250
RSVP: (Click) here to register online! For more information contact Petro



Easing past social resistance when facilitating

Do I fit in?

EeyoreEvery coaching client or participant wants to know:  am I alone in this? Many times somewhere in a coaching session a client would ask something like: “Is it just me who have these issues?” or “I sometimes wonder of my situation is more messed up than other people’s”. Just yesterday one asked me: “Do other women also struggle with the fact that their male colleagues are allowed to rant and rave and get all emotional, but as women they get patronised when they get upset?”.

In facilitations, it is often feedback like: “we discovered that our problems are very similar” or “i am so glad I am not alone in this”, that helps the facilitator know that social resistance is breaking down. Yet, this is not one you can give a single blow and be done with, it can take some people a long time to feel part of a group. This type of resistance must be gently worked on throughout a coaching session or a facilitation.

In the Lord of the Rings Frodo has learned that he is chosen (breaking through personal resistance) he has learned that he can trust Gandalf  (relational resistance) and he has heard the plan (practical resistance). Now he trembles as he almost accepts his duty…”So I must go to Mordor and deliver this ring into the fires that created it. And I must go alone…” But Gandalf surprises him. The wizard gets up, opens the door and brings in Samwise who had been eavesdropping the entire time. Neither Samwise nor Frodo can believe their good fortune when Gandalf informs them that Samwise must accompany Frodo. Sam is thrilled because of the promise of adventure, Frodo is thrilled because he would not be alone.

Samwise becomes Frodo’s loyal companion and it is thanks to him that Frodo finally manages to achieve the objective. We all need loyal support when we accept a new idea, try out a new habit or open up to a new perspective. But there are other social forces too that are needed to make sure we succeed and we must work on all of them throughout a process. I will share six of them with you here. Note that they work together in pairs.

Read more on the Playing Mantis blog andfind out what Eeyore has to do with it.

Overcoming Practical resistance: What’s the plan?

The tool, the plan, the rules

Neo and his mentor from the MatrixEvery facilitator or speaker faces resistance. If you have done a good job of Painting a Picture of the Possibility , (Introduction), you can expect at least 5 types of resistance: personal, relational, practical, social and cosmic. Here we focus on the third kind: practical, also called contextual, resistance.

Apart from the personal and moral objections of that comes with the first kind of resistance and the doubts they may have about you as the mentor, the second kind, there is a very real practical resistance. How will I do what you ask? What are the steps \ the plan?  Can I see the path and see myself walking it?

Whatever your solution is: 3 steps to losing weight, 5 types of resistance and how to overcome them or 7 principles of effective leadership, your audience needs to know it will work for them.

Like Aslan in the Narnia series, Dumbledore for Harry Potter and Griet for Liewe Heksie, the guide in the hero’s story do three things to guide the hero so he or she can see the way forward… Read the reston the Playing Mantis blog and find out what Neo from The Matrix has to do with it.

Need a speaking coach? Contact Petro

Interested in a course in facilitation and coaching? Click here

Looking for a speaker or storyteller at your event? Contact Petro

A wedding Fairy tale

Burning Hands and the Fire Fairy

Petro telling a wedding storyI have told stories at three of my sibling’s weddings as a gift to the happy couple. Now it has become one of the most rewarding aspects of my speaking business. Here is an excerpt from a story I told in December of 2013 at a fantasy themed wedding near Stanford in the fair Cap.

The groom’s surname is ‘Brand’ meaning ‘to burn’. He is a south-African and the bride is from Germany. They met in Namibia. I told the story as part of the ceremony. I began as the groom waited in front for the bride to enter…

Burning Hands and the Fire Fairy

One day in the City of Gold in the Kingdom of the Freedom Sun a boy was born with burning hands.

“How do you know he has burning hands?” the people would ask the old  village hag.

Everyone knew that such a gift was given to one boy child every 500 years. They also knew that a gift like that only surfaced once the chosen boy is a man grown.

Then the old hag would gaze into the distance and recall the ancient prophecy:  (Music)

“Every 500 years our Freedom  Sun must revive, every 1000 years Love must come alive

When 5 and 5 makes 10 Burning Hands and his Fairy will come again.

Lest the flames of Freedom dwindle

and the fires of Love un-kindle”

“We know we know”,  the villagers would cry and the old hag would put up a withered hand and chant:

From the man who knows the law and tills the earth, on which our dear sun daily shines

And the woman who can straighten hunched backs and align skew spines

Will come a boy with burning hands

And you will know him by the mark of the Brands”

“The mark of the Brands?” They would ask and she would point a bony finger to the dimple in the boy’s cheek and with hushes and sighs this would settle the matter.

Far from there in the cold North a Fire Fairy was born in a Fir Forest, stepping forth from the heart of a snow flake that fell from the stars.

(Bride enters as music reaches its first cadence. Once  Bride has joined Groom in front, the story is resumed)

The rest of the story belongs to the bride and groom and lives in the memories of the guests who could identify themselves and their loved ones in the characters and the details of the story…

“Petro’s story provided a beautiful framework for our non-traditional wedding, reflecting our personalities and inviting people to share into our love story.” – the bride

Do you want a fairy tale for your wedding? Click here.

How to avoid dropping the energy in the room

2014_CONV_logo_opt3The Role of the MC

This week I am preparing for the Professional Speaker’s Association of Southern Africa’s annual convention themed ‘Walking our Talk’.

I will be one of the MC’s for the Saturday 12 March together with Dineshrie Pillay and Siphiwe Moyo. My job is to help the participants digest some of the input so they are less overwhelmed. Our experience of past conventions were that it is like drinking from a fire hose: it is a fabulously exhilarating experience, yet very little goes in and so much is wasted. It happens, of course, because every single talk is delivered by a high energy, well seasoned professional speaker.

what to do?

Our solution was to create five moments of pause dotted throughout the programme so that people can move around and reflect on how their bodies, feelings and thoughts are responding to the input. As I described the intention at a meeting between all the MC’s and convener, the audio-visual wiz (also a professional speaker, Robin Pullen)  asked a very good question:

Wouldn’t reflective exercises cause the energy in the room to drop??

What a great question. It really made me think, thanks Robin. Here is my response:

There are more than just ‘up’ and ‘down’ energy in a room full of people. There is also ‘in’ and ‘out’ energy.

If ‘up’ energy is when people feel enthusiastic and motivated and eager, and ‘down’ energy is when people feel lethargic, slow and unresponsive, surly you want more of the first kind and less of the second. Now consider ‘in’ and ‘out’ energy.

‘Out’ energy would be the kind of energy that the speakers are exuding. They are speaking out gesturing outward and pouring their passion out as gift to the audience. The audience receives this with enthusiasm and energy until they are full. Now where does that energy go? It is washing past them and getting wasted – it is being dropped.

What if we could turn some of that energy inward?

In this way an audience member can begin to nourish his or her own thoughts and ideas with it, begin to manage it and put it away safely for absorption. This will mean they are already channelling some of the energy and making room for more input, helping to keep the energy buoyant.

I believe firmly that unless an audience member is able to connect the story in the room with his or her own story, the whole event and experience will remain locked in time for them when they go home. Sure, they will have a notebook full of stuff to use and do, but how much of it will they really implement?

My job at this convention will be to facilitate moments of intensified energy: energy being focussed inward to serve and nourish the work and life of each audience member.

So how do you avoid dropping the energy in the room?

By managing it’s flow in and out like breathing.


Breaking through Personal Resistance


Call on the hero’s Character

Once the audience catches on to a new idea, a new way of viewing a problem reframed as a possibility (Introduction), they must be enrolled as the heroes who can make that possibility happen.

As soon as your audience starts dreaming about new possibilities their status quo is threatened. This automatically leads to at least five kinds of resistance. The first kind is personal resistance. You can also call it moral objection. Your audience is asking: Why me? How is this relevant to me?

The most effective strategy to overcome this kind of resistance is… read the rest on the Playing Mantis blog and find out what The Lord of the Rings had to do with it.

How to have a great chemistry session with a new coaching client

A Case study

When a new client really loves me, it makes me sweat, my teeth chatter and I very nearly wet my pants. I had a really great chemistry session this week with a new potential client. It terrified me

The background

This client is the HR Exec of a small but lucrative company in the insurance business. When she had been in the position for a short time, her boss told her in a feedback session that she should consider voice coaching. He thinks she can do with a stronger and more commanding presence and gave her a number for a coach that might help her. She did not want that coach, so she kept putting it off.

Then she saw a presentation of mine at an Organisation Development Conference and loved the energy I created. “This woman can help me”, she thought and immediately bought my book, Grow your Voice to Speak with Confidence, which was for sale at the conference, and emailed me for an appointment.

The appointment

Now we were having our chemistry session on the phone. We wanted to do it face to face, but there were labour issues at her company, so she could not leave the office. We wanted to skype, but we kept having breaks in our network signal, so she called on the company phone and we had our session on the phone. The fact that she did not cancel at any of these obstacles told me something of her commitment, so I wanted to know wherein the commitment lay.

After she told me her story, I asked: “What was it about the other coach that you did not like?”

“Oh, I don’t know, I never talked to him. There was just something in the way. I never made that first phone call.”

“ OK, I say, “What makes this different?”

“It was your talk, I really liked your energy and approach. I have to click with someone and trust them.”

“Thank you, I appreciate you saying that. What do you trust me to do?”

“I think you can tell me exactly what I need to work on and how to fix it.”

And that is where the terror hits me.

Immediately I am thinking: So, she was impressed with my ‘magic’ and she thinks I am going to wave a wand and fix her. Her commitment is to me, not to herself. This does not bode well.

“How do you think that will work?” I ask. She picks up on my fears: “Oh, I know I will have to put in the effort and do the work. I realise there is hard work involved, but I trust you to know what is wrong and help me fix it.”

My terror increases.

Now I am going to be held responsible when things go wrong. I begin to sweat.

“I have a feeling you already know what is wrong and what you need to do to fix it. Can we explore this possibility?”, I ask cautiously, clutching at straws. There is silence on the other end. My mouth is dry.

“You said earlier that breathing might be playing a role, but you don’t know.” I venture,  “And you have read my book and heard me talk about the importance of breathing for confident speaking. This may or may not be your issue and may or may not be a solution for you. You want me to tell you yes, it is one of your biggest problems, and here is how you fix it?”

“Can you?”

“I don’t know, “ I confess, “There is a story here that says: “Breathing is important for confident speaking. The question is, how does this ‘best practise’ story relate to your own personal issues or story regarding speaking? So, let’s find out. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the kind of situation you described earlier where you typically lose your confidence. You mentioned speaking to large groups of strangers as being the worst kind of audience for you. There they are in front of you and you have to ‘be present and commanding’. You hear the boss’s expectation in your head, you look at the people. Now, what is your breathing doing?”

“It is fast and weak”.

“How do you want tit to be?”

“Deep and calm.”

“Can you deepen the breath now?”


“Can you slow it down?”


“Ok, you can try counting too. See if that works for you. Breathe in for four counts and out for four. Counting takes your brain out of the limbic system that makes you panic and into the rational part of your brain.” I give her a few moments and then ask: “How do you feel now?”

“Much calmer. Much more confident.”

“So, Is breathing an issue for you?”


“How do you fix it?”

“Oh breathe more deeply and slowly. I’ll have to play with the idea of counting, it is new to me”

“If it does not work for you, drop it. Did you know, ” I go on, “that some people’s breath stops altogether? Others report that their breathing comes out it big heavy sighs. Not all go fast and weak like yours.”


“Each person’s story is unique. Tell me, can you use what you discovered now in your real life story  the next time you speak?”


“So, we have just had a rehearsal for your own future. How does that feel?”

“Great, empowering.”

“Who decided what the problem was?”

“I did.”

“Who decided how it should be fixed?”

“I did.”

“So, can we keep on working this way?”

“Sure, but it will be hard work.”

“For whom?”

“For me”

“You’re right, but then, you knew that coming into this. You said you knew you would have to work hard.”

“So I did.” I hear a smile in her tone, “ Send me the coaching engagement letter. I’m ready.”

I sigh a deep sigh of relief.

This is going to be a walk in the park for me. The commitment is now in the right place. My client has committed to doing the work. That means she is also taking the responsibility and ownership. I am off the hook and she is in for real success.