An interview with

PETRA KOLBER

Q: What one person – living or dead – would you most like having over for dinner? Why?

 

A: I want to invite three people to my table – Michele Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and my mother, who is no longer with us, she passed seven years ago. I would ask each of these woman how they’ve managed to navigate their lives – both publicly, in the case of Mrs. Obama and Ms. Winfrey and, for my mother, privately – and evolve with such amazing grace and dignity. Through their examples, they help us become better people. They each have consistently shown up in their own lives, especially in challenging times.

 

A better way to say this might be that they have inspired and taught us all so well through the lives they’ve led or are leading -- by being who they are versus telling us what to do. I would want to know what skills they’ve relied on in times when, I imagine, it might have been tough even getting out of bed in the morning.

 

My mother was so vibrant and full of life. My sister and I got to travel and spend time with her before and during her short bout with an aggressive form of cancer. We talked a lot but never deeply, perhaps because we are British (laughs). When it became apparent the treatments were not working, my mother said something I’ll always remember. She said, “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone but cancer has taught me one thing. I always knew that my daughters loved me, I just didn’t realize how much.”

 

Q: What one piece of advice would you give your 22-year-old self?

 

A: I would tell that young woman, “don’t worry so much.” Don’t worry about trying to do everything so perfectly. Enjoy this time in your life and live it with ease and joy.

 

Everyone says, “If I only knew then what I know now!” Honestly, we learn our lessons by going through tough times in life. In my twenties, I can remember having anxiety when I walked into a room. I thought everyone was looking at me, judging me. I remember my mother saying, “everyone is too busy worrying about themselves to be judging you.” She meant it, of course, in a loving way. I think about that now. It’s important to be kind and have fun. I would tell that young woman, “This is a great time in your life, enjoy.”

 

Q: What book will you give as a holiday gift this year?

 

A: Thank you for this question, it’s made me think about what I want to give and it’s The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. It is such a beautiful story of love and what love can mean for us --  love makes you feel as if you fit in. At the end of the day, it’s about recognizing in yourself all that you are – even if you’re a velveteen rabbit that is a little shabby. It’s about understanding you are beautiful just the way you are. This book is timeless and proves that, even in the smallest stories, we can find great wisdom. It’s also a great Christmas gift because the rabbit starts in the boy’s stocking.

 

Q: What are you reading now?

 

A: I’m in the middle of about 10 books because I’m always researching stuff but a book that is important to me right now is This Naked Mind by Annie Grace; it’s about what alcohol does to your mind and body. My father was an alcoholic and, while I don’t believe I have a problem with alcohol, I didn’t like what my nightly glass of wine was doing to my body. It was disturbing my sleep, making me feel less energetic. Even so, I was kind of addicted to the idea that wine was my treat at the end of a long day.

 

This book explained what was happening to my body and brain. It changed everything for me. It’s about your conscious mind being in conflict with your unconscious mind. You know it’s happening if you’re asking yourself, “Am I eating too much? Am I drinking too much?” The question is really about, is this a choice that is moving me closer to, or further away, from being my best my future self?

 

It’s a little tough because society attaches the idea of joy, community, and connectivity to social drinking. I love a good meal; I love great company. It’s interesting how we bundle things together instead of taking things apart to discover what brings us joy and what distracts from that joy.

 

I used to make decisions to make other people feel comfortable. I might have a glass of wine because everyone else was drinking a glass. I think I’m more present and more engaged now that I fill my wine glass with Perrier. I have no judgement on what anyone else chooses to do, it’s simply making choices that are in alignment with your values and dreams, and no-one can decide what those choices are, except us.

 

Q: Was there a time you almost gave up on your dream(s)? Why?

 

A: The closer we get to having a healthy self-esteem and a feeling of worthiness, the harder we work to fulfill our dreams. As I said though, I’m British, so we need to flip that on its head. You see, in Britain if you have big dreams, you don’t talk about it for fear people will say, “Who do you think you are?” It’s so crazy.

 

Anytime I’ve almost given up on a dream, it has normally been right at the beginning when I’m facing the first challenge. The place, where I know what I want to do but don’t necessarily know exactly how to get there. If this is happening to you, it’s probably because you are at the point when you have to ask for help or learn something new. You realize it’s going to require work and yet you are not far enough along to be certain it is going to work out. In addition, you don’t have the trust in yourself that you will actually do the work necessary to make your dream a reality.

 

On some level, perhaps you are asking yourself, “Do I trust myself well enough to show up and do the work? Does the world have a place for my dream? Who am I to have this dream?”

 

In the past I have asked myself, “Am I smart enough to do a Ted Talk?” and then that evolved into, “Am I smart enough to write a book?”

 

In addition, I’ve had to push through giving up on my dream more than once because, once I reach a goal, I create bigger soul goals.

 

I’ve recently started being a DJ (disc jockey) in New York City. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I went through some “enough-ness,” but now the question changed to me asking myself, “Am I young enough” “Aren’t most DJs young and male?” It’s not that the disease of “not “enoughness” goes away, I believe we all struggle with this at some point in our life.  But the more self-compassion and awareness we can bring to these inner conversations, the better able we are to make sure that they do not overstep their boundaries and step on our dreams.

 

Before I got to the place of being able to say, “I DJ,” there was a lot of work I had to do. I did an intense internship in Washington D.C. and have worked a few parties and events in which I did not get home until after midnight – when 10:00pm is my bedtime. Yet, I love inspiring people. I love energy making and, in being a DJ, I can lead people through a journey of joy. People love to dance and I’m going to figure out how I can create a way for that to happen between the hours of 7pm and 10pm.

 

As your dream stretches and grows, it becomes more challenging. I call that “dream building.”

 

If you have a dream, you must put it in writing. Put it on paper and talk about in public, otherwise life will get in the way and you’ll give up on your dream before your dream gives up on you.

 

We’re all human, after all. We need to recognize that, in the end, it is not about reaching the goal that counts, it’s about who you become along the way, and never forgetting the world is waiting for your dream too.

 

Q: Other than the written word, what’s another great way to tell a story? Why?

 

Interviews or podcasts are great ways to tell a story because it is really just a conversation. The written word is good if it builds a relationship with the reader -- a conversation through a podcast does the same thing. One question can open up memories for the listener and the interviewee that he/she might not otherwise remember. Podcasts are fabulous ways to open doorways to and collaborate with an audience as they remember their own stories and relate them to the person being interviewed.

 

Q: If you were unable to do you’re doing now – what would you do?

 

A: I would travel the world. In fact, this might be my next project – my next book. I’m thinking of not taking a year off but, instead, taking a year to travel to twelve different countries. I’ll spend a month exploring each one.  Here’s how I see it working: I’ll spend the first week getting rooted, moving in and learning the ropes. The second week, I’ll invite a friend to join me to explore the area. The third week, I’ll find a way to do something that gives back to the country I’m visiting. And finally, the last week I will leave open for unexpected adventures.

 

Q: If Martians landed and you were asked to represent all of humanity by giving them one book, what book would that be?

 

A: I would give them The Four Agreements – by don Miguel Ruiz. If we truly lived by these four agreements, we would represent the best of humanity.

 

  • Be impeccable with your word.

  • Don’t take anything personally.

  • Don’t make assumptions.

  • Always do your best.

 

I did a program called Stand for Five trying to get people to sit less. I did a whole segment on the four agreements and got a shout-out from don Miguel Ruiz himself. Such fun to get a shout-out from the author!

 

No matter what it is, I believe you can read it and learn it to teach it. But you have to live it to preach it. You have to embody the lesson. So how do you teach courage and positivity? You embody it. You teach it by living it. Showing up each day and doing the best you can. Now that is perfect.

2019

Subscribe to BookFest Updates

2019 BUCKS COUNTY BOOK FESTIVAL