Interview with Rachel Paling by George Kokolas on the NeuroHeart Education Foundation, social entrepreneurship and the current, radical changes in education worldwide

Rachel, let’s get straight into the main topic. We have discussed many things on different occasions. But I think one topic that we haven’t discussed a lot is…the NeuroHeart Education Foundation. So let’s get the things from the beginning. What is this foundation about? When is it starting although I feel it has already started…And also would like to know what are your aspirations regarding this foundation?

Well, George, firstly, I want to say thank you for all those multiple questions. You’ll have to help me remember each of them. But, yes, let’s start from the beginning. You know, this has been one of my dreams, it has been the primary driver of everything that I’ve done in the last 12 years. And very few people have known that, but key people along the way have known, that was my vision. And it’s always been very interesting and this is because, you know, for me it was that enigma of when you become an entrepreneur, how do you then become a social entrepreneur? And the concept of social entrepreneur absolutely fascinates me, it really does. And that entrepreneur that is really in that position to bring back to society and to create a business that is generating and bringing back.

So, that was my vision, and it was always that question of how I do this? Because obviously as an entrepreneur you have to get the business going, you have to get the business in profit, you have to get prosperous, to be able to then take money out of that, and then put it into something that is going to be a non-profit. Non-profit organizations are very hard to set up, and you need a lot of money, which obviously all of us don’t have. So, last year really the opportunity came with the online conference that we held, which maybe we could say is one of the positive sides of what happened to all of us last year. I mean there were lots of negatives last year and still in the world. But one of the positive aspects was by holding a conference online with over 250 participants, and we were really able to syphon that money off, put it apart and say, “This is to start the ball rolling”. And that’s what we did. And in June we started the process, and with all of the Covid restrictions, with bureaucracy, with restrictions of people being locked down and bureaucratic institutions not working, it took until November-December to get the bureaucracy moving.

In December we did sign the constitutional documents, the NeuroHeart Education Foundation was officially born, with the official deed of the company. And now we are in a process where, like any company, it has to be registered, so we are in that waiting for registration process. However, we are launching and by the time this interview comes out we may have launched what we call a soft launch, on Valentine’s Day, because that really is honouring the name of the foundation, which is the NeuroHeart Education Foundation. So…

A launch on Valentines Day! Oh, this is so sweet! This is so nice, I didn’t know about all that. Tell us about your forthcoming activities regarding the NeuroHeart Foundation. What is the main objective of the foundation? What are the first things that you are going to deal with? Through what activities do you plan to implement this vision of “the social entrepreneur” ?

Yes, well, I put my hand up to say to everybody –  I have never in my life run a foundation before. So, this is going to be learning by doing. Like any entrepreneur worldwide, this is how we learn, this is how we move forwards. And I’m sure there are going to be a lot of bumps on the road and ups and downs, and we are going to have roadblocks. So, at the moment, one of the first things that we have done – we held a competition for children under the age of 14 to draw pictures of the heart and the brain and we’ve just this week decided the five top drawings. And those drawings will be imprinted onto some products that we want to be brought into the world. Simple products just to start the ball rolling with a little bit of funding coming in: T-shirts, baseball caps, sweatshirts, mugs with the NeuroHeart Education on it. And that’s let’s say a small thing that we are going to be doing.

The two major focus points of this foundation will be teacher training and bringing neuroscience to teachers, emotional intelligence, coaching, so they change the way that they deliver courses. But also we’ll be bringing some courses to teachers, for example, courses in mindfulness, meditation, yoga, courses in nature, courses in entrepreneurship, that they can then be bringing to the children in their schools, in the institutions worldwide. Now the idea is the funding that we receive will be paying for the teachers` training, but our coaches who are part of that foundation, the ones that are connected with us or the ones that we are asking to deliver those training courses, will be paid. So, for me it’s about generating work for educators, and their work will be delivered for free, but they will be paid for it. That’s my idea, you know, there we are really bringing in employment for teachers worldwide, we’re giving that service to teachers worldwide, and the funding is supporting that, and teachers are getting paid.

Now, that’s the first focus point. Second focus point we are going to be setting up some mini curricula, for homeschooling. And here what we’re going to be looking at is delivering these homeschooling courses again with teachers that are maybe connected with us. We ask them to deliver these courses with the slight difference, that these courses will be focused on being practical, applicable topics. So, we’re talking about languages, we’re talking about science that children can apply, that mathematics they understand what it’s for in everyday life, entrepreneurship for kids, yoga for kids, meditation for kids. So, actually a curriculum which is quite holistic and very practical. And again, the idea is that these children would be receiving that homeschooling for free, but the teachers delivering it would be paid. So, in a nutshell, that’s the idea. By the way, just as the third point, we’re going to be looking at how we can also help with remote schooling, trying to maybe bring laptops to remote schools worldwide, if we can, try to see just how we can set up some help networks, logistic networks. Even you and I have had a little conversation about old books, how could we get those to, you know, remote schools etc. That’s another section, that is going to be coming out.

And finally already a lot of Neurolanguage Coaches are volunteering and doing volunteer coaching for free. So, the volunteer program that we now already have will be coming into the foundation and that will still be running as a volunteer program.

That’s amazing but I would like to know, what significance do you feel that this has for you and for the rest of the world? Why social entrepreneurs? What is the role? Do you feel maybe that in these difficult times that we are going through, maybe it’s another path that we should all be looking to take? Irrespectively if we do it through the foundation. I mean, as a mentality, as a mindset, because, to tell you the truth,I find this really intriguing and very challenging for mankind.

Well, you know, for me when I was thinking about this already 12 years ago. If you like, I had a gut feeling that somewhere down the line we were going to have very big changes in life in the world. And I think now we are living those changes. So, whatever gut feeling I had, whatever sort of idea, there was always that question of, when we were in the 2000s, it was very clear that we couldn’t continue as we were continuing, as we were at that point. And I think all of us would agree that, the world as it was, before Covid, we were on a path that was kind of unsustainable. And the one thing that Covid has done, it’s made us all stop, think, reevaluate. And definitely we think what are the values of life, what is it that we all want. And not only as individuals, as egoistic individuals, but also as a collective, and as a future and what about the children of today and the children of tomorrow, what do we want in this world. And already in the 2000s I was reading, there were some social entrepreneurs, and for me it struck very deeply inside, you know, wow. People that are setting businesses up to give back. And in those years I think it was Daniel Pink, one of the top psychologists, he had a very famous video where they did some studies and they demonstrated that people are not motivated by money. People are motivated by altruism, by giving back, that’s what motivates us in the core. And you even get, you know, when you start to come into that, giving back, helping others, you really start to get those endorphins and dopamine, the runner’s high, it’s proven, and it’s true.

When we sit down and we think, okay what’s bringing me joy in life? Each and every one of us, I think, we can really understand that it’s not money. Money is a temporary joy that runs out very quickly. And what do we do to get that everlasting feeling? You know, many people know that I lived in Germany. And when I left Germany, what people don’t know is that I actually got rid of everything except for what fit in my car. I bought a roof box and I left Germany with what fit in the box, what fit in the car, plus my five cats, and that was it. And that was actually the second time in my life that I actually walked away with very little material possessions, because I just didn’t want them. And this is something for all of us to think about, you know, how do I want to live my life, what is it that I want to achieve, what is it that I can bring to others? I’m passing through this life, like everybody else, you know, at some point we are all going to depart to wherever we go. And the question is, well, while I’m here, what can I do for others, what can we all do? So, that concept of a social entrepreneur, firstly it’s about, yes we all need to survive, so we all have that need to… you know, our own survival is first. And I would say that, everybody, you need to get yourself solid, first, bringing your own survival, so that you are securely with your feet on the floor grounded, and then you can start developing and bringing to the world around us. So that, I think, George, is where it comes from, and, you know, we are coming to the Buddhist principle of not needing. When you stop needing in life, you start to become peaceful.

Absolutely. And maybe that’s another way to realize that we cannot move alone, there is no way that we can achieve things, there is no way that we can manage things, without other people around us. And if we don’t have the mindset of wanting to help, being altruistic, as you said, or even collaborate or respect others then …we will end up completely alone. And this is not the best realization that someone could have.

That’s right, that’s right. And I lived many-many frustrating years of the question, “How can I help?”, “What can I do?” and then the answers, “I can’t do anything”, “I’m stuck”, “I don’t have the resources”, “I don’t have the money”, “I don’t have the…” You know, I needed to work all the time, so for me there were many-many frustrating years of wanting to help and not being able to help. And what really grounded me in those years was to say to myself , at this part of my life I cannot help the wider public, but I can help the people around me, I can have a great impact on all of those who are in my life at the moment. And in those years, 2008 and 2012 I was working a lot, I was training a lot of clients, and for me that was the question every single day, “How can I touch their lives positively every single day that I am out there?”. And that was for me, you know, that sort of… in those moments you are in a local helping area, then little by little it gets wider and wider, and I think it’s the patience of developing it. I wanted big guns at the beginning, you know, “Why can`t I help the world?” I even did a Masters in Human Rights and we were 90 something Masterini on this course. It was a European Union program, sponsored by the European Union. We were “the crème de la crème” of Europe. You know, not many people get on that program, only the top 90 law students from all over Europe get into that program. And each and every one of us from all different countries of Europe, we all came in with that same, same, same vision and feeling of “We want to help the world!”, which is a fantastic feeling, but it’s very naive.

It’s not! Actually, I think it’s the best thing I have recently heard

Well, you know, it is, because at that point you are not able to do anything. I did a stage in the United Nations in the summer of 98 as a law student. And I sat in those rooms in the United Nations in Geneva, watching talks about human rights with governments that didn’t care less about human rights. When you sit there and you think, “I can’t do anything about this” and I even sat listening to a man who had been tortured. And he sat there crying, telling his story. How do you deal with that? So, yes, you go from that impotence of “How can I help?” to “I`m not able to do anything” to “Okay, well, I can start with where I am now”, and then gradually you can move forwards, and I’m so grateful that I’ve actually been able to do that, to get to this point.

You know what? I think what you have just told me about the foundation, your story, the things you have achieved, the difficulties you came through, the facts, the people you were around, they can serve as an inspiration for many-many people. People who haven’t even reached this moment of realization that they have to do something. I`m talking about people who are not even there. You literally got up one day and you said, “I want to help, but I cannot do it”. And you worked on that, and now you made some progress after many years. There are people out there, who haven’t even realized that the only path is that you need to help the person next to you. And this has nothing to do with religion preaching or life coaching or philosophizing or whatever. It’s what you said… It’s the role of humanity right now and the recipe to success. The world has become very cruel. As you said many times this is “the world of egos”. Of big egos clashing together. We are talking about human beings, and, as you said, “It makes me feel good when I help other people”. And people who haven’t realized that, they need to. And then, yes, start doing something about it, which is again a long path, a long and winding road, but I think it’s very noble and it’s a virtue, a real virtue, like an ideal.

Yeah. I have to say, George, you know, along the journey, and I think this is true for each and every one of us, you cannot help other people authentically until you and yourself are whole. So, you know, there are a lot of people who think they are helping, who help with manipulation, you know, they do it because they want something back. Helping is about giving without thinking about getting anything back.

Absolutely, that is the secret of life, it’s this unconditional love, unconditional giving. That is the essence of life. So when you detect somebody who is giving because they want something back, it’s not authentic and somehow I think people sense that. People sense when there is authenticity and when there isn’t. And to be able to give even if it’s people around you, it’s about each and every one of us working on our souls, and as you said, backing with our own ego. You know, I see so many, people clashing with egos out there. There is no battle with anybody else out there, the battle is with ourselves. I’ve battled with myself for years and I still battle with myself. And that’s the key, you know, when we start to unravel ourselves, when we start to calm ourselves, we start to find that center. And that, you know, that peaceful being inside of us, that’s when we stop needing anything else outside and that’s when we stop every battle that there is out there, because they’re not worth it. And I must say that this reflects, you know, you always reflect this. Because as a person you’re always smiling, you are always bright, there is always this broadcasting of positivity, which is the proof of all the good things happening inside.

I have my days, George. I have bad days too

Absolutely, we all have, yeah. And I think also another, maybe it will sound like a cliché, but I think it’s very close to what you say: all the big realizations start if you wake up every day and say, “What’s the best I can do today for me, for the people around me?” If you have this as your motto, you always motivate yourself, even when you have your days, because obviously we cannot be uninfluenced by what’s happening around us. Sometimes, you know, you may lose control, sometimes there are going to be hard times as well. Times of frustration. You always need to think: what’s the best thing I can do and how I can do it, and this will keep you moving.

Yes, absolutely, and every day say thank you, thank you, thank you another day that I am here. I’m not on planet God knows what, but I am here on Earth.

We can’t wait to see the Foundation…!          

Yes, and just to fill everybody in. We’re going to do the soft launch on Valentine’s Day and then there will be that sort of period 6 months where we are putting everything into place. We’re going to be doing a crowdfunding, where we are asking people worldwide, to come and, you know, really help us to get this off the ground. We’ll be creating the curricular, creating the programs. We’ll be starting to set up the criteria for schools, institutions, teachers and children to actually receive this service that we are going to be offering. And we are going to be contacting those trainers, teachers, coaches who are going to be involved in delivering those services. So, lots of work coming in, we’ve got a great team in the background. If anybody is interested, definitely do contact me. We have the new websites coming out as well at the moment, we are launching our websites.

We’ve got the, which is the top website, and this is very much about moving education into that neuro-heart so it’s taking neuro-education one step forward, bringing in the heart.      

I must say something that I have discussed with many other people in the field around teaching right now. I think teachers are reluctant anymore, and they feel it. Maybe they don’t know exactly what’s happening but they feel that they need to move into other fields in order to completely change the perspective of teaching. We need to adapt and that on new needs, new fields, and bring them into the classroom, what you said before, practical things, from other fields, from other sciences, from       neuroscience, from positive psychology, from motivation in general, everything, and bring it into the classroom. It cannot be like we still think of techniques, language techniques, that we think that they work, but the majority of the time they cannot work. Because the success for this lies outside the classroom, and this is where we need to target, with our being, psychology, how we feel, our mindset, everything.    

Absolutely. And the teacher him- or herself has to go to that transformation first, to then be able to deliver the new way. Progress! Evolution! And I think the most important thing for all of us is to hold the vision of that beautiful world that we are changing into.