Life Is Not A Peaceful River

I navigated for years on impetuous rivers and finally set ashore the world of coaching...

It was the last day of the Dragon’s year and the first of my humble life. Being a leap year, I was, in fact, born on the 366th day. A few hours before I decided to emerge, my mother was told that it could be that year or the next. Nothing since that day was ever going to be straightforward, either for my mother or myself. My childhood, spent in France, was a mixture of intense joys and immense pains. My grandmother was my shelter. I treasured her modest home where I was sent for summers, enjoying the run of the great outdoors and her delicious home cooking. Back at home, I lived in fear of my alcoholic stepfather stumbling home from goodness knows which town watering hole to harass my poor mother, already struggling with no money or help from him. Looking back I can see it must have been a relief for her to put me in boarding school or holiday camp when my grandmother could not care for me, and where she supposed I would be out of harm’s way. Of course these places are never as ‘safe’ in reality as parental faith supposes, but I was lucky enough to escape the worst, aside from some dodgy moments of ‘interest’ from educators and instructors. Like millions of children before me I learned from a young age that life was not going to be a peaceful river. It was formative experiences such as these, which would eventually lead to my life’s path. I have come to believe that in order to understand others, you first need to acquire some of the keys to unlock their doors. These keys are found along the path of your life. It is up to you to pick them up, whether some of them, all of them or none of them. I picked up every key that I found and found myself wanting to open everybody’s doors, sharing their joys, their dreams and even disillusions. Clumsily and almost unwittingly I was beginning my coaching career, for I wanted everybody to feel better, find answers and reach their goals. Simultaneously I was also making sense of my own life and exorcising my own dramas. The first impetuous river of my childhood was finally navigated but I could not yet analyse the importance of it.

The Police force was not my dream, far from it. I was into all forms of art, paintings, writing and even acting but certainly did not see myself in a uniform. However the Police were the only ones offering me a career when I left school, and it was the fastest and easiest route out of my parent’s house, so I took it. The first thing that struck me about the Police was the power given to a very few intelligent individuals trying hopelessly to command a large bunch of ignorant and uncultivated subordinates. I felt early on that I was not going to be happy as an entry-level cop. The psychological frustrations of existing in an environment of unbearable military uniformity (in every sense) soon took their toll, rapidly blurring my creative mind. I realised I had to get out of both uniform and uninspiring job not to lose what I was, an individual with a lot to give to others. The second river I had o negotiate would reveal itself to be as scary and impetuous as the first, even though I was now able to open my mouth and assert myself without feeling guilty. I needed to find a way of remaining in the Police a while longer, but do something more intellectually rewarding. So I applied to undertake various advance training, attaining a weapon instructor qualification, Martial Art degrees and Paramedic instructor diplomas. Since my mother was originally from Florence and my father, whom I had not yet met, was from Madrid. I also decided to study Spanish and Italian to reconnect with my roots. The completion of all these courses allowed me to become what the Americans had started to term a “Bodyguard”. It was still a far cry from my Coaching career, but it would enable me to start meeting interesting people living interesting lives, and convince them that I was more than just a close protection officer. My Police uniform was now replaced by a smart suit as I entered civilian life. The next 15 years would see me protect some of the most influential people in the political, religious and aristocratic world, visiting 162 countries in all. My extensive travels comprised 52 countries in Africa during a 2 year trip, 27 US states, 11 Chinese provinces, the whole of South America and the entire continent of Asia, except North Korea, where I was forced to convince my protégée it was a bad idea to enter, and would lead to a Diplomatic Incident. Christmas Island, Vanuatu or Brunei Sultana were places I had never dreamed of until I boarded the plane and learned where we were going next, as it was a manic schedule leaving no free time whatsoever! During my travels I witnessed wars, conflicts, misery, famine, corruption in Indonesia, drug cartels in Columbia, favelas in Brazil and the old Soweto in South Africa. I also experienced beauty, magnificent buildings and 5 star palaces. I experienced a humbling and dazzling world by turns, which led me to become more understanding about my own destiny and realize how lucky I was to have grown up in a relatively civilized country, despite less-than-ideal circumstances. I also realised that people in general do not know how lucky they are and don’t necessarily want to see what is happening elsewhere... Between travels I would return to base in Paris to present the final mission report to my superiors and head home for a while to see my wife, a down-to-earth Corsican girl. While there was a physical attraction between us, my wife’s personality was something I never did manage to fathom. In retrospect I think I probably married her because I did not want anybody else to approach her, but perhaps I can forgive myself all these years later, remembering I was only 19 at the time.

These 15 years of my second security career were augmented by the inevitable divorce from my first wife, meeting my step-sister, who eventually admitted to me she was a prostitute and my first encounter with my real father. I was 22 years old and wanted to know him. He was already half lost to alcohol and cigarettes. The following few years were an agony for him as he slowly died of a particularly nasty cancer, and an agony for me, having to work extra hours outside the Police to be able to pay his hospital bills. He was not supported by the government, and this, despite his participation in the Korean War. My mother had divorced him when my brother and I were still very young. By 24, I too was divorced, and ended up sleeping in my car parked on the Parisian streets. I could not afford anywhere to live as all my money went on loan repayments for the furniture that we had bought with my now ex-wife and my father’s needs. It was such a contrast with my professional life as a bodyguard that I often thought about telling my story to a good film director... The second river was now crossed and I could see ashore the first hints of wisdom. I was now convinced that I had a mission in life, but what?  I could see myself as an assistant, a private counsellor or similar. Meanwhile in America a phenomenon called Coaching was already showing as a possible alternative to therapy. But for now in France it was time to confront more rivers.

Princess Stephanie of Monaco possibly little thought that by introducing me to her British female Manager, she was going to change my life. I knew that I wanted to leave the Police, even now in my more senior capacity, but was hesitating between going to Italy, where I had retained useful contacts in the Vatican, or staying in France to consider pursuing a career as an actor. Kim Glover offered me a third alternative - the opportunity to go and work in UK in the Music business. I decided to accept and left the Police, a rare thing to do among policemen who had managed to obtain a better rank.  Was I brave or was I foolish? Happily I found that I loved the challenge and saw another way to assist people in my new career, managing impatient artistes desperate for success, helping them on the way to finding their own answers and persuading them they did not need as much makeup and other artifice as they thought. But deep down, something was telling me that this too was not my final goal. A subtle and hidden will to grab the real me was already starting to gnaw. But for now it was time to rock n roll! This was the period which saw me spend a lot of time in the US as Kim worked with many acts from “New Kids on the Block” and  Whitney Houston to “Snap” (I got the power!) and other artists wanting to be managed by the pop Manager. It was an extremely exciting time and I would jump as if anew onto a plane flying from Miami to San Francisco, or Boston and back to Los Angeles or London. My English at the time was quite poor and I quickly had to learn some Management skills myself if I wanted to gain my own wings in the future. It took me a good two years to adapt to English speakers, and switch smoothly between the coolness of LA and the more reserved British .The Music Business is a tough world and new artists do not have a clue. They expect glamour all the way and are shocked by the hard work and long hours required for both artists and Management. To make it you have to be dedicated as an artist and as a manager and you cannot afford to make any errors. If the artist is successful, he will say that it is because he is talented. If he is not successful, it’s because the management is not good enough. Knowing all this, I went onto co-manage the now famous presenter duo, Ant & Dec, and was on the road with them for more than 3 years. I like to think I helped build up the professionalism that they are now known for. My inner Coaching skills were starting to wake up. I could see in my way of handling them, the gentle but efficient instincts of a Coach. I would try not to judge them, making a particular effort to communicate with Ant who was a bit shy. Dec reminded me of one of my brothers, he was still very young but what a cheeky monkey! It was the era of Top of the Pops, Noel Edmonds’ House Party and the Radio One Road Show. I learned a great deal from Kim about the music business and life generally. She was particularly fond of sayings such as ‘rain is good for the ducks and the plants’, and ‘don’t trouble trouble, when trouble does not trouble you’ and other excellent quotes for a budding Coach and Mentor! This period would be a large stone indeed in the wall of my now obvious future coaching career. On a sadder note, this was also the period I lost my mother, and only 3 days later, my youngest brother. My brother died of AIDS, which he had had for many years, and which he knew would one day claim him.  He spoke 7 languages and was an extraordinary writer, but in the last few months he could not even speak his own language properly. It was not easy for me to recover from this double blow. However my career in the Music Industry eventually finished at the same time I met my second wife, the treasure of my life and my true inspiration. A beautiful mind and the prettiest nose I have ever seen in the middle of a splendid intelligent face. I love her so much.

The last river before the big jump into the Ocean was a mixture of various corporations such as Security, Corporate and Team Building events ,Stunt work and feature work in the Movie Industry where my old skills from the Police were appreciated. I am the only French man in the entire history of France to have performed in two James Bond/Eon productions. I was Martine Mc Cucheon’s bodyguard/actor in Spain filming “The Knock”.  I was part of an elite security team in Istanbul for the first ever Spice girls’ live gig. I was sent as a Co-ordinator facilitator to the Sydney Olympics. I gave my expertise, at random, looking after celebrities such as Michael Caine, David Beckham, Lennox Lewis and Alex Ferguson to name a few. It was during this period I started to study Coaching seriously, with a long stay in the US Coaching community before joining The Coaching Academy in London. Peaceful the river of life has never been. Today I feel stronger, wiser, and most of all, happier. I believe I had to go through all these experiences to realize how much I was eventually destined to become a Coach. It was just meant to be. I was now ready for the big jump!

What I would like to say to all future Coaches is the fact that established institutions such as “The Coaching Academy” in London are absolutely marvellous as they give you the irreplaceable tools to become a great Coach. I am glad, in my case, that I also brought along with me my past life experiences. It has given me the ability to understand people, to communicate better, to deal with comparisons and not systematically over react at any situation thrown at me. My bodyguard period certainly helped me to focus on priority and reel emergencies, whereas the Music business Management taught me to deal methodically with crisis, internal conflicts, artists’ stress and frequent stabs in the back. All of these factors make me what, I feel, I am now, a great Coach, however, constantly learning more and more about human beings and their search for happiness...My story is just a story among thousands of others people’s stories. For you too, your story is making you what you are. Do not hesitate to go and fetch stories which could be beneficial for you. They provide you for life with beliefs, values, dreams and goals. Keep this in mind if you want to become a great Coach for it will allow you to understand without judging not only your future clients but also understand yourself and the way you want to conduct your own life.

Dominique Ventura

I gather the fruits of your past and sow the seeds of your future...Dominique Ventura



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