Shining through adversity

Dr Yene Assegid, a renowned Leadership Trainer and Executive Coach

‘I was in an ambulance for the first time in my life…I saw my life passing…I knew in that moment I had to make a massive change…’ says Yene, or better known as Dr Yene Assegid, a renowned Leadership Trainer and Executive Coach. From her time of darkness and adversity comes her new book of hope and strength, ‘Shine’. Yene believes passionately that her book will inspire others to rise from adversity and build themselves up overcoming their challenges.

Despite her wealth of experience and expertise – with clientele ranging from private individuals and corporations toUN and governmental and non-governmental agencies such as UNDP, UNAIDS and GIZ, and MSF, among others – Yene remains humble ‘I have always wanted to support people in reaching their goals,’ she says. And it is in this spirit of frank openness that she spoke to Capital about her third book, ‘Shine’, and the inspiration behind it.

Capital: Tell us a about yourself, how did you come about to being a writer?

Yene Assegid: It’s not that I intended to be a writer but rather that writing allows me to somehow reflect and meditate – it allows me to focus. When I write, I find silence from all the distractions of life. Actually, I believe there is a writer in every single person, because story telling is part of being human.

Capital: You are also an established Executive Coach and Leadership Trainer, have you always wanted to do that?

Yene: I may not have explicitly thought that I wanted to be a Coach and a Trainer; but I have always wanted to support people in reaching their goals, in changing their circumstances and in making their dreams happen.

Shine Relistic Book
Shine Relistic Book

And I have always done that in different capacities, long before I took up coaching and training as a profession. I become inspired when I see someone achieving their goals and creating the reality they dreamed of. It is simply amazing, and it is a continual confirmation loop of what I have always known – that ‘whatever’ we wish for, we can create.

My field of work allows me to serve and help others achieve their highest potential. I love to witness such things. People come to me with their ideas and I work with them to develop that idea further and bring it to life in the real world. It is an incredible process, and of course being a Coach and Trainer means that I have to continuously work on myself as well, to make sure that I am at my best to serve.

Capital: Most people go into such a career inspired by profound lessons from facing difficult challenges. Would you say this is true for you?

Yene: Yes, absolutely. I have had and I keep having my share of challenges, at times life-threatening. I also know that challenges will always arise in the future, because that is life. The main point to remember is that the more we work through and overcome one challenge, the better prepared we are to overcome the next, whenever it comes. As we go through our life journey, our attitude, towards the challenges and difficulties we face in life,directly defines our capacity to overcome these very challenges.

We can learn to be less reactive and instead learn to respond in athought-out manner. As we deal with challenges, we have two choices. Either, we can let it break us and reduce us; or, we can let it build and expand us. In the first case, the experience could leave us hurt, closed-off, bitter and sour. In the second case, despite the hardship, we end-up growing from the experience; we become stronger, more resilient and more conscious.

We will surely carry virtual scars from the pain and ordeal; and, we will also end-up being softer, more tolerant, kinder and lighter about life. It’s all about the interpretation of our experience in the present moment, which without a doubt defines the kind of life we create.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that we should rejoice when we are in difficulty or that it’s easy to go through it. I am only saying that challenging situations will occur regardless of our choice to take it on or let it negatively affect us; so, why not make the best of it and take it on? Better days are ahead; sometimes just around the corner so we must consistently keep showing up and one day we will look back and see how far we have come.

I become inspired when I see someone achieving their goals and creating the reality they dreamed of

Capital: You have been in the profession of coaching and training around leadership for over 20 years now. How has your work influenced people and communities?

Yene: I am deeply grateful for the opportunity I have had to do the work I do, because it allows me to champion dreams. I have worked as a Coach and Trainer in such extremely diverse settings ranging from some of the most precarious red light districts to isolated and risky places run by communities of former child soldiers to places of wealth and comfort among large multi-nationals in Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Such wide exposure has stretched my heart to a stage where my heart has become both amazingly strong and at the same time, incredibly raw and open. This polarity gives me the chance to bring this very profound stretch to the people I work with and the results we achieve are simply humbling.

I have witnessed some unbelievable transformations, and this is what keeps me in my work. When you show-up just as you are, you allow people to also show-up just as they are, without the labels, the titles, the tags, the expectations or the pretentions that would otherwise come along.

This intentional authenticity creates a clear space where possibilities for new realities arise. I feel that my work influences and encourages people to live life as co-creators of their journey rather than being passive bystanders.

Capital: Have you carried out or do you plan on carrying out inspirational talks in Ethiopia? 
Yene: Organizing inspirational talks has been on my mind, especially being able to deliver such talks in schools and college campuses. I am looking for organizations to partner with to make that happen. I am hopeful and have faith that it will happen when the time is right. Until such time, my book is out there for people to read and to enjoy. Right now I am celebrating this and am grateful to have got to this point alive.

Capital: Tell us about your new book Shine. How was the process of writing it and what is it essentially about?

Yene: Shine is a result of a particularly challenging life situation I faced. While I was in the thick of it, when the bottom could not possibly get any darker, I felt that the difficulty I was facing is either an opportunity to transform my life or it’s the end of all. I knew I had two gifts in hand. First is the gift of having shared, witnessed and been part of the transformation of hundreds of peoples’ lives that I worked with professionally or encountered in my private life. Second, I had the gift of having lived through an extensive and wide range of possible human experiences.

I thought of bringing these two gifts together to explore what could be learned to source a massive transformation. I wanted to find a process that anyone could apply as an individual based on lessons learned from the collective I was part of. I wanted to create a road map that anyone can use to transform his or her life and reboot to a new reality.

Based on this, I started writing. My writing process is a time for me to zone-out and write from another dimension, where unrestricted thoughts can emerge without judgment. In this dimension, there is such openness that at times it puts me in a vulnerable space, but it is exactly this willingness to open-up and be still and steady in vulnerability that allows me to make space for the divine spirit within to emerge.

The process is really about being willing to stretch our boundaries – that is where learning happens. The more we are comfortable on the edge, the more we expand. Writing Shine has been a chance for me to not only reboot my own life; but also to truly reconnect with the Universe, the divine spirit; it is in me, as it is in you, as it is in every living being.

Capital: What inspired you to write this book?

Yene: I never intended to write a book this year. I already had my hands full so Shine was completely unexpected. I realize that sounds strange, but it’s the truth. I was not inspired per se – I had to write to reflect. 2015 was possibly the toughest year in my life in many ways. I see it as a year of intense fire from all direction.
It’s a year that marked a rite of passage for me. I was in an ambulance for the first time in my life. It was a very disturbing experience – scary actually. And a moment where I saw images of my life passing like a slideshow in my mind. As I lay on that stretcher, I remember feeling detached and observing the situation, just witnessing it from somewhere far. I knew at that moment that I had to make massive change, mainly in my perspective about the meaning of life.

Writing gives me peace of mind. It brings me soothing silence within. It’s like meditation or prayer. It takes all distractions away. So, coming back to your question of what inspired me – it’s the overwhelming pain I felt that prompted me to write. And in writing, I found the way out of crisis of the soul. At the end, I felt that what I had written might help others as well, and so came the idea of putting it down in the form of a book.

Capital: This is your third book, what kind of evolution have you gone through while writing these books?

Yene: When we look into the mirror each day, we see no change from yesterday. Yet when we look at pictures from a few months ago, it’s striking how much change we can see. It’s the physical change. At a deeper level, writing is like a mirror or picture for the soul. Each day we write, we might not see any difference from yesterday, but when we look at things we wrote some time ago, often there is a striking change in perspectives and opinions even if the core remains the same. My books offer me such a soul mirror and let me see how my perspective has shifted along the years.

Capital: Did you have a particular audience in mind?

Yene: Not really, I did not have an audience in mind at first. In retrospect though, I feel Shine can help many people – men, and women, young and old because we all go through crisis in life. It’s a book that can help shift mindsets so powerfully and help in taking charge of our circumstances so that we are in better position to make the kind of change we need to make to create the life we want.

Capital: You talk about partnering with the Universe in your book, what do you mean by that?

Yene: Well, for me the Universe is God and God is the Universe. It’s the all of life, now and forever. It has always been and always will be. The Universe is an expression of the divine power that is a living loving energy. It’s something anchored in our souls, in our hearts. When we understand that all things are one and that we are all inter-related, then we start witnessing the power of the Universe. It’s amazing. Believe me, it’s simply amazing because in the one-ness, our soul can rest.

Capital: Is this a religious book?

Yene: We get too caught-up in religion, unfortunately. We get so caught-up that we completely forget the spiritual dimension and rather get stuck on dogma. It’s sad. We are spiritual beings, all of us.

We can express our spirituality in so many ways: through worship and religious inclinations, as well as through art, through living, through simply being or through whatever resonates with us. Even the way we relate to one another is an expression of our spirituality. Shine is not a religious book. It’s a book about spirituality and the application of spirituality in our modern lives.

Capital: There are so many books on “how to change your life” out there, what makes yours different?

Yene: My book is different simply because all books are unique, even when it’s the same topic that is covered. And yes there are a lot of books out there on the subject. Some are great books and some are less so. Mine is a book that anyone can pick up and read and apply to their present lives to see immediate results. If there is one major difference with my book, it’s that it is both deeply spiritual and very practical. It opens a space of vulnerability, which is where we need to go if we are to engage transformation in our lives.

Capital: At one point you talk about the gift in falling. How can falling be a gift?

Yene: Because falling – and by that I mean going through setbacks and failure – is often associated with negative outcomes. Yet, falling is actually a gem in terms of learning. The best teacher is a challenge. When we fall flat on our face and we still choose to get up again; we get-up stronger.

Going through crisis and failure could potentially be a time we build core strength, if we choose to. It’s a time to earn the calluses reminding us of having walked the journey. I am not saying that it is easy and that it is not painful. It’s hard to fall. It’s unpleasant and painful. But this is what makes us, shapes us and molds us into our greatness.

It is the collection of all the times that we have fallen and got up that builds our capacity to tackle any challenge, to cherish every break we get and remain well ground and humble all the way. So, falling is a divine gift. Wouldn’t you agree?

Capital: Do you have any regrets in life?

Yene: Not really. Of course there are things that I wish I did or things I wish I didn’t do. But I can’t change that. The best way to deal with regrets is to learn the lessons and hope to become an even better person for it.

It’s not helpful to beat ourselves down with all the things that we could/should have done better or different. That cannot be changed, so it is best to take a deep breath; own-up what has been and keep moving forward. Make it an opportunity to change our ways in the present and for the future.

Capital: What’s in store after this book?

Yene: I have been meaning to write about leadership and wisdom. So, maybe that will be next.

Capital: What word of advice do you have for our readers?

Yene: I would say two things. First is to stay real and authentic; it will give you space to tap into your own unique strength. It will give you a chance to be the best version of yourself. Plus, it’s a lot easier to be real than to try to be what we are not. Being real is more sustainable and it will keep you healthier.

Second is to be kind to everyone – we never know how someone feels inside, or what someone is going through in life. A bit of kindness makes it so much more pleasant for everyone. It makes life easier even in times of hardship. It’s more fun and will keep you and everyone around you, happier.

Capital: Where can people get this book?

Yene: It’s available as an eBook at the moment on the following link:

Capital: Are you on any social media platform so people can keep up with what you are doing?

Yene: Yes, my Facebook page is called Yene Assegid and my Twitter handle is @yeneassegid. I would love to hear people’s reactions and comments, thoughts and insights they have gained after they have read the book.

Capital: Are you working on a new project now? What are your plans?

Yene: I would like to use the proceeds from Shine to create a platform where civil society and the private sector can come together to encourage, inspire and support communities in Africa to take charge of their circumstancesand systematically achieve their dreams.