Paper Governments

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m trapped in the series “La casa de papel”, where the goal is to save time while continuing to print bills. Our paper governments make us dizzy without compassion to continue fabricating votes.

We should mark the day when the US elected a Hollywood movie actor as president, Ronald Reagan. This inaugurated this very confusing phase in which politics, celebrity and entertainment have merged. Voting is increasingly like giving a good Netflix series likes.

Now our political leaders reason as a Ronaldo or a Kardashian would: What photo should I take with whom, and in what prefabricated instagram style to be trending topic today?

All his statements to the press are strategic exaggerations to pressure each other, or to make us believe something that makes us value each other more and less in the polls: Pablo complains that Pedro has not called him once since this summer – as if he were a lover ignored by his beloved – and Pedro has become the first to tweet the sympathy – calculatedly poetic and full of high feelings – to every disaster, tragedy or death that occurs across the globe.

Those on the other side are not doing better, with Santiago and his declarations to the cowboy of the West, or Cayetana and his airy outrages. What to say about Trump, Boris Johnson, Salvini or Macron and Trudeau with their colorful, cartoon-designed socks.

This seems more like a casting of Oscar-seeking actors than the showcase of the political leaders in the developed world. We will never forget the photos of Pedro with aviator glasses in the Falcon … I would give him the Oscar, if only because he works more than anyone, or spends more than anyone. After all, he is optically profiting from all the national resources he has access to thanks to the position of acting president.

All of this gets a lot of laughs and saturates rivers of printed and online ink. But frankly, what are we playing at? As Greta, the environmentalist girl with Aspergers said, “the house is burning and you aren’t doing anything to put out the fire!”

What exactly is burning? Well, our right to hear the truth to begin with. They are treating us like viewers lying on the couch in flat encephalogram mode with hours (or months) ahead of us with nothing to do. So much so that the economy slows down, operations remain on hold and leave us with more free time, held captive by the daily media show of our elected leaders.

The real problems of the country and the planet are without solution, without plan, without budget and without resolution. All are television declarations of measures without any anchorage in experience or practice. A wild brainstorming where punctuation points raise more headlines than they demonstrate intelligence, responsibility or maturity. To such an extent that if someone says something mature, it results in a general laugh, accompanied by more statements to the media among all the participants.

And now what? What do we do? Vote???? But we have planted a hidden camera “innocent” or what? Let’s see how many times we will vote submissively again before getting enraged? Will the Pablos, Pedros, Alberts and company then laugh and applaud our faces of disbelief at such a sinister joke, while shouting “innocent”?

Unfortunately, we don’t have the upper hand. The upper hand is the main kidnapper of these paper governments. Only they can end the movies and wear the good shake of reality.

In my business, change always begins by taking responsibility for the results: “I have realized that I have done or said, or I have been wrong …” It is called personal growth. It is hard and tastes bitter, but it is the way to become a true leader and not a liar.

We could ask each of our political leaders to write a secret letter to themselves with all the failures and mistakes they dare to possess – as we say in English, “own your mistakes.” – Then we would have to force them to repeat the letter as many times as necessary until they stopped dramatizing like Paulina Rubio and began to feel her hand shake with the uncontrollable feeling of gravity that comes with writing the truth.

Or they could hire a coach to give them a damn review – sorry. If Rivera swears in congress, then the ban opens: we can all say shocking things when we want to call attention to him and all of his minions. They could invest some time and money into hiring someone to make them face what they say with their gestures and their media meltdowns while trying to convince us that they are forming a solid government for the nation.

But no. They don’t hire coaches like that because that doesn’t get them votes and doesn’t save them time that they don’t deserve in front of cameras or help them keep accumulating votes based on manipulated perceptions. They are able to spend a million in renting a television set to practice their calculated gestures and perfect credibility performances before a debate. It’s more of the same: investing in lies and fleeing from the truth.

In order to finally get out of this eternal Latin American novel and not have to vote fifteen more times, I gladly give you the coaching of truth, responsibility and civil service – instead of yourself – for first one, call me.

Pino Bethencourt 
Coach and Founder of the Club Comprometidos

Is it Possible to Lead Without Lies?

These days, plastic has invaded everything in such a way that a few brave – with a lot of suffering, so it is said – presume to live without plastic. They appear on television reports working like fools not to use a single plastic wrap throughout the day. You have to admire their discipline and their fervor. But more what’s more admirable is that they seem to without lies, don’t you think?

I am often surprised at how the amount of plastic wrap I have to remove from any product I purchase to use or eat has increased in the past years, I find that the lies to cover records have also been increasing gradually. Or perhaps they have only been modernized and scaled to a new dimension thanks to technology. Can you lead companies or countries #withoutlies in the era of #fakenews?

Recently a client told me how sick and tired she was having to play the game of photos and events to maintain her reputation as a credible executive and top council member. Fulanita, we will call her, is a woman with a professional career of over thirty years in which she has had to risk everything more than once to maintain her integrity and be faithful to her sense of duty. But for some years she lives divided between what she wants to be and what she has to be. And she is not the only one.

Fulanita escapes to make long trips until the end of the world three times a year. She leaves Madrid every weekend to enjoy the mountains or the beach compulsively like there’s no tomorrow. Her other self fulfills her duties as an executive and council member, Monday to Friday. So far everything sounds normal. The problem is that she often has to bite her tongue in critical meetings for not earning a reputation as a fighter. Or she should sit down to eat, smile and make conversation with other executives or advisors, even when we all know about their nepotisms, their twisted smiles, their abuses of power.

Fulanita tells me that she envies how well another important director moves, who we will call Menganita. Fulanita admires how well Menganita endures upheavals at her own events, like when certain “fluid” moral executives come to steal clients from Menganita’s carefully selected guests. Liars, businessmen who take advantage of situations, whose closest friends usually have that old look of white-collar criminals, and when they shake hands they take one arm and two legs.

I have witnessed Menganita in a row with an executive – full of noble titles, awards from magazines and various business awards – because she was teasing him with that dignified trust of having control of the situation: “because I am worth it ”they say shamelessly all their gestures just like the models of a well-known cosmetics advertisement.

Menganita chooses her battles. The necessary fights that she has entered to defend the truth, transparency, objectivity and justice have been expensive. They have had to pay with forced departures from prestigious positions, or the loss of juicy contracts. Or they have failed to stop publishing a sad review of their great achievements while they take a double-page report in color about how great it is to be a three time winner of the award “Best of all the best” of this magazine or that newspaper. Surely as you read this you remember all the Fulanitas, Menganitas and “fluid” executives – with or without titles – of your last ten years … this is not uncommon, and it is nothing new.

For many this is the price of doing business. It is the price that must be paid to belong to certain groups. It happens not only in elites, but all human groups have their little secrets and hidden exchanges. In all, a hierarchy of power has been set up, and in many, that hierarchy of power has resorted to poorly transparent practices that last for generations.

That is why it is much easier to live without plastics than to live without lies. Those who dare to challenge established orders must face the entire group that protects – and benefits – from the established order. You just have to walk around the Salamanca neighborhood to listen to the Chavista accent in any corner and see how that dirty money infiltrates the real estate economy of one of the most prosperous neighborhoods in Madrid.

But what is the price we pay for letting ourselves get into lies and infect the dirt of others? That price is not so obvious because it is not paid at the moment. We don’t stop earning money or receiving invitations to events immediately. No. We continue to play the game of lies unfolding in two, like Fulanita. We smile for the cover photo while holding the nausea inside. Nausea that grows year after year, looking for sedatives that placate the deep unease of knowing that one is more successful by lying and consenting than by what it really brings: alcohol, anxiolytics, drugs or sex, any compulsion that extinguishes that unpleasant feeling for a little while. Being a gigantic Fake.

Being a Fake also means living constantly with the fear of being discovered. It is a snowball that meets one, and then another, and rolls more and more in a frightful viscosity that shows in various faces and is seen in the look, especially the ones that hide it. It is a road that never ends well. Although one arrives at the grave with such a legacy rotting his soul, the physical and emotional memory that leaves his heirs oozing the same secret guilt. See the number of lavish heirs whose lives have been so spoiled that they have compensated themselves without warning.

Leading without lies is for the brave. It takes a lot of courage to fight the leader “because I am worth it” and lose everything in front of his army of liars and coverts. It takes very, very large hearts to bear the suffering, the misfortunes and the subtle – sometimes voracious! – humiliations that fall to those who question corrupt hierarchies …

And in a world dominated by twitter, Facebook, armies of bots programmed to spread hoaxes, or the new “Deep fakes” (technology capable of imitating the voice and gestures of a public personality in a video saying or doing something unimaginable), living without lies becomes a desperate adventure for sad dreamers or crazy people without dropping dead.

He aquí donde la poesía y los cuentos de héroes de toda la vida atrapan la política de altos vuelos y la élite ejecutiva del IBEX35 o el Forbes500. Donde todos los hombres somos iguales de nuevo. Donde nos definimos por nuestros actos y por nuestras omisiones. Más frente a nosotros mismos que frente a cualquier otro. Y donde todos, más aún los más villanos, admiramos profundamente a quienes se atrevieron a decir o hacer la verdad y sufrir las consecuencias.

This is where poetry and tales of lifelong heroes catch the high flying politicians and the elite IBEX35 executives or the Forbes500. Where all men are equal again. Where we define ourselves by our actions and by our omissions. More in front of ourselves than in front of any other. And where we all, even more so the villains, deeply admire those who dared to tell the truth or live truthfully and suffer the consequences.

For those who have made it this far in this article and have chosen to be heroes, I leave you with this song by the Mexican group Elefantes (“Soy Así”, available on Youtube):

“Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, but I prefer to be shipwrecked than never to leave the port. And I’m like that, just like you. I want to die trying again. I want to live and never regret it. Never more!”


Pino Bethencourt 
Coach and founder of the Club Comprometidos

The Drug of Power

Our political leaders are repeating the same news. The mediated dramatism keeping us hostage daily to tighten their negotiations makes the last weeks since the elections seem years. But what happens to these figures when they come into contact with power?

This week Antonio Garrigues released his new poetry book, “Living Loves, Dead Loves.” It was an intimate and meaningful event in which several of his poems were recited. Carlos Rodríguez Brown read the last one, addressed to our political leaders, and as he read it, without realizing it, two tears slid down my cheeks. We all were shocked.

Juan Fernández-Aceytuno, director of the Appraisal Society, asked Mario Alonso Puig and me, “But what happens to these people?” And as if it was a cocktail party in which they were going to interrupt us at any time, the three of us agreed to sum it up: “they lose their way when they come to power.”

The question is why. None of us think that we will lose our way if we are suddenly given the maximum position of responsibility in our organizations, and yet it can happen to anyone. We only realize it “a posteriori,” when we look back and reflect on our own excesses.

I think the easiest way to understand the effect of power is to imagine it as an ocean current of oceanic proportions over which we must flow or surf in some direction. Those who have not had power cannot understand what it feels like to have it. It is like a boy thinking from the sand on the beach about what world surfing champions, who risk their lives at every moment on waves tens meters high, are doing badly. The rush of adrenaline and the physical effort they use are literally life or death.

Directing a country or rubbing shoulders with the global elite of the G20 generates the same effect. On one hand, so much force under our feet dislodges us physically and mentally. Our emotional reactions are so intense that they overflow, and our minds escape to some pleasant place of fantasy. The pressure of the phone, the enormous opportunities that open before us and the terrible blackmails that come to look for us like hungry sharks, burn our skin and take away so much sleep, that our minds escape to a state of self-inflated drunkenness. Same as a line of cocaine (I imagine).

That is why power is a drug, because as it saturates us or drowns us quickly, our minds create a scenario in which we are all-powerful and invincible. It makes us supermen and superwomen who can see from the heavens what is happening down there among mortals. And this, you will find very curious, is basically what victims of violent trauma do when their minds do not know how to face the sensory reality of what is happening to them. They separate from their body and watch the scene from the ceiling.

Power, therefore, pushes us to our maximum limit every moment of every day. It intoxicates us with self-elevating pleasure and enslaves us with its pressure and unpredictable movements, thus discovering, in light of everything, any defect in the form or substance of our personalities.

Learn to surf

So, for example, we have seen how Nicolás Sarkozy strives to appear taller than his super model wife in this week’s Paris Match photos. How can a man with the success and charisma he has still feel self-conscious about his height? Marrying a queen of beauty and Parisian sophistication has raised his status socially, but in doing so he subjected himself to the scrutiny of his own self-conscious gaze. Nobody cares about Sarkozy’s height more than Sarkozy.

The more power, the stronger the wave we must surf. And it is easier to dislodge ourselves, lose out footing, or even fall suddenly from our brand-new Buzz Lightyear presidents table: “To infinity and beyond!” aviator glasses, Falcon pose and everything.

The challenge is, therefore, in learning to surf the wave of power without fading out, without saturating ourselves, and without letting ourselves be drowned by the intensity of the emotions from a position of maximum influence. The years of experience with all their troubles, deceptions and failures help a lot. If you do crazy things for love, you also end up doing them to stay in power.

Like a crush that is too intense, there is no bigger disappointment than to suddenly recover sobriety and realize all the stupid and/or terrible things that you have done in order to win the duel of guns at any cost. And if you suffer several disappointments, each time you lose less in your fantasies, learning over the years to accept the reality.

Giving advice to the oceanic surfers of the G20, here from the disembodied beach of executive coaching in a country very resistant to self-questioning, I can only say one thing: everything that you invest in personal growth will prepare you to surf big and complex waves. Coaching-the thing that questions us and makes us see new things; not that of praise and promise of solving the problem – practicing meditation and mindfulness to better manage our own reactions and emotions, returning regularly to spaces of reflection, are the tools that work.

Surfing is learned by surfing. If you analyze how you failed every time you get off the board, you will improve your way of catching the waves. Without miracles or magic, but with effort and time. The one who always knows how to look in the mirror and find points to improve on ends up flowing with authentic tsunamis of power without clinging or hanging onto them. And these influential surfing champions are those leaders who impact with their vision and serve their hearts.


Pino Bethencourt 
Coach and founder of Club Comprometidos