Interview with Eddy Smits
about his life and his coaching
Tell us about you, your career, and how you started with your coaching career!
I was a professional clown for 25 years. During my 10 years as a hospital clown, I visited more than 10.000 sick and palliative children. To be able to do this work I needed to demonstrate great leadership.
You are not only dealing with a sick or dying child, but also with hospital staff, nurses, doctors, and overprotecting parents. As a clown, you’ve got no authority at all, but still, you’ll have to find a way to deal with all this and still do your work with the children. Being a hospital clown requires more than a red nose and big shoes.
Through hospital clowning, I learned so much about life and people. I discovered there is something like a universal truth. More than 2000 years ago, great philosophers talked about the same challenges as we have now in human relationships and the solutions are also the same. Technology changes fast, but the human mind doesn’t follow.
In 2012, I used these insights to write the book, Model C, about how you can use these universal principles used by the hospital clown in your daily life and business. Writing this book gave me a boost in my personal development and was the foundation to start coaching.
In 2015, I suffered burnout and stopped working for two years. In 2018 I started coaching. During the pandemic, I had to take my business online and educated myself in coaching by taking several online courses. I soon found out that the principles I used as a clown came in handy to coach people. There were a lot of similarities with the work I did in hospitals. That motivated me and I decided to make coaching my full-time job.
How do you innovate with coaching your clients?
My approach with clients is the same way as I worked as a hospital clown. The most important thing is to focus fully on your client and to be in the now. That’s also what a clown does. Of course, I work a lot with humor. Humor opens people up and takes away the heaviness. No challenge or problem must be taken too seriously.
There is always a positive side to every problem that’s the way to overcome your problems. I learned it the hard way as a hospital clown. When you visit a child that has only a few months, weeks, or even days to live, finding a positive side can be a challenge, however, when you do find it, the child and its parents receive a priceless gift.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your clients? Did it affect you at all?
If anything, good has come from the pandemic then it is that many people started to reflect on their life and realized life is short. Most people have picked up their old habits in the meantime, but there is a group that has turned their life around. A coach can help orientate this new direction or help those who don’t know how to do it or who need accountability.
The Coronavirus changed my way of working completely. I started working 100% online and I have been doing it since. I won’t go back to coaching in person. By working online, I created more time for myself and my family and reduced my stress level so I can serve my clients better. I also can serve more clients. So, looking back at the pandemic, I did what I teach my clients and that is seeing the positive side of a negative thing. How bad it may seem; you can always turn it into a positive thing.
What was the biggest obstacle that you had to overcome in your life that made you who you are today?
I wanted to be a clown late 80s. That was no internet back then. I lived in a small village in Belgium, and people thought I was crazy. My parents didn’t understand me and were devastated I gave up a good job as a teacher. It took a while too before my friends took me seriously.
How could I make a living, being a clown? That was what everyone was thinking. So, I got little support. Again, it was pre-internet so I couldn’t find many peers. But my passion drove me and slowly I started to find the information I needed and take the necessary action.
I had no experience in being a clown or having a business. People often forget that being a clown is a like any business, especially when you want to make a living out of it.
The only thing I knew was that I wanted to work with children, but not in an educational way as a teacher. As a teacher, I wasn’t fulfilled at all.
Finally, it took me 10 years to make a living out of it. I encountered some rough times but looking back, I needed my failures to become a good clown and do the things I dreamt of. I performed for 100-thousands of children, made 25 theatre productions, directed a movie, developed several education projects, did a lot of voluntary work, and had a world-class balloon act. I traveled to 20 countries and if I could, I would do it all over again. There is not a single regret. In short, I made my dream come true.
What are the biggest lessons that you learned during this pandemic?
We need human beings around us, we are social creatures, not made to be alone. We bloom around people and perish in solitude.
I also saw a lack of leadership in how the pandemic was handled by most countries and governments and saw how people followed these leaders without thinking for themselves and accepting non-logical measurements.
That’s why I am more than ever convinced that coaches can play a positive role in society. I believe that coaches can bring a lot of well-being into this world. I also believe that the work of coaching should be a skill, teachers learn in their education.
As a society, we would benefit a lot from it. Many problems we have today could have been avoided.
The pandemic forced me and a lot of other people to stand still and observe what’s going on with themselves and with the world.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned in your life?
Self-development is the way to well-being, performance, and relationships, in other words, all we need to be happy.
What’s unique about your coaching approach?
I coach with the same attitude and techniques as a hospital clown. Curious, open, non-judgmental, in the now, positive with a clear goal in mind but no fixed plan. Sometimes it takes a while for people to understand because they don’t have a clue what a clown does, but once they understand, they get great results.
What benefits do your clients get after working with you?
My coaching allows them to be able to see things from another perspective. People look at life and their problems through a very narrow window.
As a child, we looked at our teachers, adults, and our parents and how they resolve problems and accept this as truth or the only way to go. But most teachers and parents, however well-meant, fail to arm children with tools they can use when they become adults themselves, and again, you can’t blame them. You can’t teach what you don’t know yourself.
The society we currently live in changes very fast and we need sustainable tools. Tools that can be used throughout our life until we die. Tools that are based on human connections and self-knowledge because no matter how technology will change, interhuman connections will never change. These are the tools I equip my clients with, so they can improve their overall well-being.
If you had a super megaphone that, when you speak into, the whole world will hear your message, what would you say?
If tomorrow, you will die, did you have a fulfilling life?
If not, start changing the things you don’t like NOW.
Don’t wait until tomorrow.
Do you use any specific tools to be efficient with your clients?
I work with an app that allows me to create new neurologic pathways with my clients so that they will have faster results with my coaching afterward. They do exercises and follow the app for six weeks. I believe this is the future of coaching, using technology to speed up the process. It’s a little bit like installing a new operating system that gives your clients a lot of self-knowledge so they can start working on themselves. It is also a way to speak the same language and not have to explain things over and over.
Your final thoughts.
Coaching is one of the easiest sectors to get into, but the hardest to succeed in. The only thing you need is a computer and a WIFI connection but there is more to it than meets the eyes and making a descend income with it, is a challenge. The statistics confirm this.
I encountered the same kind of challenges when I wanted to be a clown. Anyone can say he or she is a clown but making your living with it is not as easy as it may seem.
I encourage however everyone that is aspired to become a coach to do so. Getting into coaching is a great enrichment for your self-development and well-being. To be able to coach others, you need to first become the person you want to be. Even when you never will coach others, learning how to coach will give you so many insights into yourself that otherwise would have taken years or that you maybe never would have seen.
I believe coaching can show you the way to happiness.