Joy Based Living – Meaningful Conversations

Joy Based Living – Meaningful Conversations

Joy Based Living is a community led by author and life-coach Debbie Happy Cohen who help entrepreneurial women access the options and opportunities they’ve always dreamed of; Michele Stone, artist and teacher, is her co-host. Joy Based Living run a regular podcast series and this week it was my turn to join their meaningful conversations.

“Love is our superpower. Meaningful conversations are our world.”

The conversation was unscripted and spontaneous, so please forgive the parts where I sound a little disjointed – I feel more comfortable playing with words on my laptop than on the radio. The interview took me outside my comfort zone and gave me the opportunity to give a glint of the person behind the author. If you wish to find out more about me, where I am from, why I wrote my book, how I learned to let go and why I like oak trees, then I would encourage you to visit the link and listen to the podcast or read the transcript below.

Thank you to Debbie, Michele and Joy Based Living for being such wonderful hosts.

Where I Got My Accent

I am French National I was born and raised on the French Island of Reunion located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar. I left the Island when I was 20 to study law at Exeter University in England and what was supposed to be just one year trip abroad as part of a student exchange program, ended up being a life time experience, with me meeting my English born husband at Exeter University.

Reunion Island

We got married in 1999 and have been together for more than 20 years. We have two daughters, Maya who is 17 and Alize who is 15. We live in South Korea. We came here for work, both working for a big construction company.  Our two daughters go to an American school.  When people look at us as a family unit, they are a bit puzzled because they see a  French woman born on an island – married to an English man – who lives in Seoul, South Korea and who is the mother of two daughters who speak with an American accent.

Life in Seoul, South Korea

We have been living in Seoul for 10 years now.  Coming to live in Korea in 2010 was a big adventure and a bit scary. Korea was not really on my radar and the only thing I knew about Korea at the time was the problems between the North and the South; but the work opportunity that was offered to us was so good that we took a leap of faith and came here.

Life in Seoul

Korea is also known as the Land of the Morning Clam but I describe it as the Land of Contradiction because to me, it is the safest place to live and also the most dangerous.  The safest place because on a day to day basis it is a very safe place to live; I am so glad that my daughters grew up here, they have a lot more freedom being here in Seoul than they would have had if we stayed in England. At the same time, it is also the most dangerous, a few years ago we were still worried about the possibility of missiles from the North flying over our heads. All the apartment buildings here have several stories underground car parks built with reinforced concrete and they are all used as shelters.  Emergency drills  happened on a regular basis where everyone including school children are trained to head to the nearest shelter in case of emergencies. This is why, I describe Korea as the land of contradiction being the safest place to live and at the same time the most dangerous.

South Korea’s Efficient Response to the Corona Crisis

Korea is very good at crisis management; this came from the experience they had with the Korean war where life was extremely difficult for the population. It also came from years of tension with North Korea. Koreans are familiar with emergencies and crisis, it is part of their geography and history. They are also very good at learning lessons from the past, they pay attention, they take note, they put together guidelines to make sure they are ready and prepared if/when a crisis happens.

In 2015 Korea had to deal with an epidemic of MERS; and they learned a lot of lessons from this episode. So as soon as news came from China that there was some kind of virus that was created a lot of problems, their reaction was immediate and they responded very quickly by putting together all the necessary measures medical, financial, and technical to address this problem in the most efficient manner and it worked. The medical facilities here are amazing, hospitals look like 5 stars hotels and they have a lot of resources in terms of the equipment and qualified staff.  Nobody panicked. No panic buying here.  Everybody focused on what they have to do.

The gouvernment policy has been to be totally transparent from the start and this strategy of openness and transparency was effective; people here trust their government and everyone cooperate and do their part as an individual but also as a member of their community. Korea was one of the very few countries who managed to flatten the curve without imposing a lock down; and this in itself is amazing because they managed to protect the public health whilst maintaining freedom of movement and personal liberty. That is extremely difficult to do, but Korea managed to do that with amazing results.

Time on Her Hands

I spent 6 years here working as a contract lawyer for Samsung Engineering and my husband is working for the same company as an engineer; both our contracts are on an annual basis, so from year to year we are not sure whether our contract will be renewed or not. We have been here 10 years and we got comfortable in the knowledge that our contract was going to be renewed from year to year. My husband’s contract is continuing but mine was terminated in 2016, which was a bit of a surprise to me and suddenly I found myself with a lot of new-found-time and I didn’t know what to do with it because I have always been working, and have always been busy juggling life as a working-mum.

In 2016 I found myself with a lot of time not being sure what to do with it. In a way, it was a revelation, because very quickly I decided that I should take this opportunity to do a lot of the things that I never had the time to do. So, I put a list together and the first thing I did was to take my daughters to school everyday on our bicycles. It was springtime and the weather were really nice, so we enjoyed this daily ride to school very much. Another thing that I had on my list was to volunteer to work in an orphanage, so I did that. Funny enough writing a book was not something that I put on my list.

Meditation, Creativity and Divine Inspiration

Naturally and without any formal training to do so, I started doing a lot of meditation and I had a revelation during one of those meditation sessions. It came to me that I should write a book, which came as a total surprise  because this was never something that I planned to do. So, I let this feeling and this idea passed for several weeks, because in my mind the idea that I could write a book was a bit ridiculous.

Writing a book about what?! I had no idea what I should write about. Still the feeling that I should write a book was kind of precise; it wasn’t about writing an article, an essay or a short story, it was definitely writing a book. I let his feeling passed, but then several weeks later another feeling came to me, but this time it was even more precise, the whole idea of the book and the structure came to me very clearly.  It was a very strange feeling  to experience but too strong to ignore, so I got to my computer and started writing which is now the preface of my book.

Writing and Getting Published

As soon as I started writing a flow of ideas came to me and I wrote 15 pages in one go, which is now the Preface of my book. The whole thing started as just thoughts on a piece of paper; that’s all it was.  But then the more I wrote, the more things just kept coming and soon I realized that from just being thoughts on a piece of paper, it turned into a full manuscript. At that point, I started thinking, what should I do with this? I started to do a bit of research as to how you can get published; and at the same time this was happening I bumped into an  online Ad from an English-based publishing house; they were having a competition for new authors – the winning prize being a publishing contract.  I entered the competition and wrote like crazy to finish the manuscript before the deadline and managed to submit a very rough manuscript on time. I didn’t win the competition but managed to grab the attention of some publishers. So, to cut a long story short I ended up receiving 3 offers from 3 different publishing house and I decided to join Booklocker which is an American based publishing house located in Florida.

Springtime in South Korea

I don’t watch TV – I switched off my TV years ago. I realized that when you are still, when you don’t have too much distraction and when you switch off all the noise around you, you find yourself switched on to a different frequency. If  you listen the radio and you tuned into a hard-rock channel, you have to switch to a different frequency channel to get some rhythm & blues or classical music playing; and just by switching off all the noise around me I was able to switch on to this frequency where I was becoming very intuitive and very aware; and this is the reason why I picked up those signals that led me to realize that I was very creative, that I had a lot of things to say and that what I had to do at this particular point in time was to write a book.

This Is Your Quest: To Discover Happiness Along the Way

The Title of my book is “This Is Your Quest” and the sub-title “To Experience Happiness Along the Way”. I didn’t decide to be a writer I discovered I was one. I was also inspired by what Toni Morrison said: “If there is a book that you want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you should be the one who write it.” 

This quote really resonates with me because I hadn’t found a book yet where you could find in one place all the subjects, I was interested in. I wanted to find a book which was educative and also challenging. I wanted to write a self-help book; If I had to say anything of value, I wanted to share it and somehow if the words I had written could educate and could illuminate all curious souls out there. All the better.

In the preface of my book I say that I am not an academic, a historian, an economist or a psychologist. I am just curious. I read a lot and I found out through my reading that there are a lot of wisdom, a lot of hidden history, there are a lot of interesting tales that have been forgotten. I wanted to bring all those stories to the surface and share them with the people.

Self-help book are often written from the perspective of the writer who is an expert in their field and who write the book using their own perspective, their own professional experience; Usually what they do, they put together a set of rules together and then the reader will have to go through those rules, adopt them in order to achieve whichever objective that they have. I didn’t want to do that; my approach was totally different. I wanted to write a book from the perspective of the reader; and this is why the title is what it is: “This Is Your Quest”. I didn’t want to put together a set of new rules. I don’t want to tell people what they should do, because I don’t feel qualified to do that. I am just bringing them food for thoughts in order to help them in their own Quest.

I travelled a lot, I lived in several countries and I noticed that wherever you are in the world, people want the same thing. Everybody wants to be happy. It is basic but it is what it is: everybody wants to be happy. But the concept of happiness is very fluid, what will make you happy is not the same thing that will make me happy; so I do not think that there is one definition that fits it all. I don’t think that you can set some rules and tell people that if you do A, B and C then that’s going to bring you happiness. I don’t believe that it works like that, because everyone has to find their own definition of happiness. I wrote the book with the objective of getting people to have an open-mind, to challenge their way of thinking and also to give them food for thoughts so that they can go on their own Quest and they can find the right path for them.

Joy Based Living: You come across as very respectful and very humble.

Joanne: Humility is something that people should practice. The more I read and the more I research a subject the more I realize that I don’t know much.

Joy Based Living: My experience has shown me that a lot of people use humbleness not to show up fully and use it as an excuse; and the world misses out on their genius and on their love, it gets blocked. What I see in you is a combination of both you have humbleness but at the same time you have enough of  confidence and self-esteem to promote your book, and I really like the juxtaposition of being humble and at the same time showing up and being present.

Extract from the Preface of “This Is Your Quest”

“I am a qualified lawyer by profession, working in the construction industry. I am also an entrepreneur and a property investor. I am a wife and a mother of two teenage daughters. I am currently living in Seoul, South Korea. I am not an academic. I am not a psychologist or an anthropologist. I am neither a scientist, nor an economist or historian. I am an observer. I am a thinker. I am curious about the world. I am curious about people.

Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Writing a book is a great privilege but it is also a gift. A gift to myself, because I have a lot of untold stories bursting to get out, and a gift to other people, as it is my desire to share those stories with the world.

I believe that people should live the story they want to tell. It is not my desire to write a piece of fiction. My objective is to write a book that will change people’s lives, not by giving them advice as to how they should live, but by exposing them to concepts, philosophies and ways of thinking, that have perhaps not been so obvious to them before. I want my book to be a story that can be understood by anyone, a book that will resonate with people from all walks of life; a book where all the little stories will come together to form the BIG picture;  a book that can be a road map for people who find themselves disorientated and lost, and if they are, to read it and find their way again. Most people don’t dare to think big and follow their dreams because of the fear of failure, or of being ridiculed and rejected. The end result is that their dreams will always remain just that, a dream.  The dream made them feel good while it lasted; but their ideas will remain known to them only. Their songs will only ever be sung in their heads, with no audience to listen and no one else to appreciate them. The books they could have authored remain only thoughts. Most people won’t even reach for their dreams because they are unwilling to feel uncomfortable, to have their limits tested, to live on the edge, to be outside their comfort zone, to be criticized, to be let down, and to be challenged.

See How Far You Can Go

Wayne Gretzy once said: “You miss 100% of all the shots you don’t take.” What could be the worst outcome if you did take that shot? Failure? A bruised ego? Loss of money? And what might you gain? Knowledge? New connections? Insights and experience? From my perspective, I believe that people should not focus so much on how often they fall, they should instead focus on learning, having new experiences, picking themselves up, and seeing how far they can go.

Don’t Block the World from Experiencing You

There is a certain vitality and energy that exist when you operate in a state of creative flow, and that creative expression is very unique to you and nobody else; so if you block that there is not going to be another medium to which that expression is going to express itself; and what you are doing by blocking it is that you are denying the world to experience that through your art that never was.

Let the World Decide

A lot of people are focusing too much on the outcome instead of focusing on the process.  Everyone wants fame and fortune. Writing starts in solitude and you are alone with your words for months, but then once the work is done, you want to share it with the world; you want people to appreciate it. It can be quite tough out there for new authors, especially when they don’t see that appreciation for their work. People should try to let go and focus  more on the process and less on the outcome. It is not your business to try to figure out if this is going to be valuable to someone or not; your business is to put yourself out there and let that creative flow goes through you and let the world decide.

Having an Audience and Being Appreciated

Having an audience to appreciate my work has been a lot more difficult that I expected. Authors tend to spend a huge amount of time and effort producing the work and then when the work is produced, they leave it out there and they expect people to find it, buy it, read it, consume it , appreciate it. That works if your name is JK Rowling or Stephen King but not if you are a new author.

New authors have to put themselves out there and do a huge amount of marketing, trying to get people’s attention, and trying to get them to read your work; and it doesn’t come easy. That is why I had to do a lot of social media. If I had the choice of promoting  my book successfully without having my face splashed all around social media, I would do it in an instant but the reality is that if you want to be seen you have to be on social media. I have an audience now, but I had to build it from scratch. It takes a lot of effort and dedication. Authors should think of themselves not as sprinters but as marathon runners. I believe that the message that I have is worth sharing. I know this is the case from the comments that I receive from my readers. I like engaging directly with my readers on WordPress and via my blog. Blogging is a perfect training ground for me to try different styles, try lots of different things and to get immediate reaction as to what works and what doesn’t.


Pause and Pay Attention: Diving Deep Down

The feedback I receive from my readers is that the message and wisdom I share really resonates with them and touched them, and that my articles really open their mind to a different perspective. I ask simple and hard questions. Those questions seem to be very obvious but not a lot of people spend time thinking about those questions. Questions such as “Who are you?” “Why Are you Doing the Things That you Do?”What is the meaning of life?” Those questions are philosophical in nature because those are the questions that the philosophers spent most of their time thinking about.

What I do through my blog is to pause and shine a light on some subjects that not a lot of people pay attention to. A lot of people stay at the surface, I am diving deep down, I am taking a really good look at what’s under the surface and when I bring those concepts up to the surface to share it with people, they find these of value to them. I make a point of not telling people what to do; but my writing seems to help people. It acts like a compass. This concept of a compass was very important to me and that is why I had it designed on the cover of my book. The idea is that if you are lost, I will be here to hold your hand and help you find your way again, not by telling you what to do, but by helping you find your own way, your own path.  

Meaningful Conversations

A lot of people don’t have meaningful conversations. I love the fact that this is part of your tagline.  I love having meaningful conversations and I like listening to your podcast, yourself Debbie as the author and Michele as the artist and you go online, you press the record button and it flows, it is very eloquent. You have interesting and meaningful things to share; and this really resonates with me.

Letting Go of Expectations

For me as a writer, learning how to let go was very difficult. It is all about the expectation. When you start on a project, whether you want to admit it to yourself or not, there is a great expectation that the work that you are doing is going to be impactful. That is what everybody wishes for. Sometimes, when you are trying too hard to be impactful, it is just the opposite that happens, because you are too rigid, not fluid enough. For me the past 2 years have been very rigid and very stiff, I was feeling very tense about the whole process. I was focusing too much on trying to get more readers and more followers. I was thinking, I have something worthwhile to say and I really want people to listen. A lot of the articles that I write are for myself, so that I can give to myself the necessary advice and motivation to keep going and to learn how to let go.

Something that really helped me to let go is the image of an oak tree.  Picture an oak tree sitting outside; an oak tree is not trying to create a significant impact on anyone, it is just sitting there, in a calm and assured state of being; being very strong and solid; and that is the only thing that the oak tree is doing, it is just sitting there. But then if someone just walk past that oak tree and imagine that it is a very hot summer day and they just want to rest and cool down a little. That person can just sit under that oak tree, take a rest, take refuge under it, and that person will appreciate the shade and the fact that the oak tree was just there on that particular day on that particular time. That oak tree by just being there had a tremendous impact on that person. When I am becoming a bit too rigid, too forceful or trying too hard, I just say to myself “be like an oak tree!”

Family Response to your Creative Work

When I was in the writing phase, the manuscript phase, when I was putting my thoughts on a piece of paper – not actually thinking it was going to turn into a book that will be published – I didn’t say anything to anyone not even to my husband, my parents or my children. There are two reasons why I did that. The first reason is that I didn’t think it was going to turn into a book, it was just thoughts on a piece of paper and that’s all it was, and I wasn’t ready to share that with anyone.  And then it  became more than thoughts on a piece of paper, when I realized that it was turning into something a bit more substantial, and when I decided to make something out of it , I decided that I should not say anything to anyone still because I wanted to be left alone with my own thoughts and I didn’t want to be influenced by anybody.

It was something that I had to do alone. The process for me had to be just me, myself and my thoughts. I didn’t want anyone to come in and mess -up with my thoughts, inserts ideas that I didn’t want there or just influence the way I wanted to do things. It was my project and it had to be 100% me; I didn’t let anyone in. I came out when I got the publishing contract and things were looking pretty good. 

Everybody was surprise, my whole family, my friends, my whole entourage, everyone was shocked.  They said to me “You can write! How come you never mentioned this to us? My answer was: “I didn’t know myself?! “When people start reading your work, they see something in you, that they didn’t see before.  I am wearing lots of hats: the mother, the wife, the contract lawyer, the daughter, sister, auntie’s hat etc… and when you are interacting with people, they only see you through one of those hats. Now, people are seeing me as something extra. Wearing the author’s hat has been a really deep experience for me because it is the only hat that allows me to express the true essence of who I am.  So now people around me are seeing a side of me they didn’t see before.

Réunion Island

Réunion is a French Department located in the Indian Ocean. The US has Hawaii and France has Réunion. I have been living abroad longer than the time I have spent on the island; but the island is obviously a part of me and it is who I am. I do describe myself as an islander first. Réunion is a real melting pot, there are a lot of ethnicities living in harmony with each other. In Reunion people are not looking at you according to the color of your skin, because very often you will find all shades of colors within the same family. 

Réunion Island

The color of your skin does not matter whatsoever, people there don’t see the world as black or white; what they are seeing is the person first. I always have great difficulties filling up those forms where they ask you your ethnicity – There are a lot of different ethnicities in my family tree and each time I am thinking: “ I have no idea how to answer that question?!” I usually tick the box: “Other – Mixed” but having said that I like to describe myself as an islander. I really treasure the childhood memory of me playing with my cousins and the large family reunions. We were spending a lot of time out in nature. TV wasn’t a big thing back then and we were outside a lot either at the beach or up in the mountain.

I had a very good family upbringing. I love my parents and love the way I was raised and the values they gave me. I go back there regularly to visit my parents, or they come over to visit me overseas. When I travel to the Island I really enjoy all that the Island has to offer, which is quite a lot in terms of outdoor activities, food and connection; but at the same time, it feels very insular when I am there I am happy to be there and I am also happy to leave after a while and go back to my own space.

Being Comfortable with Duality

We were talking about duality in the pre-interview telephone conversation. We are living in constant duality. You want to be there and then you don’t. Being comfortable with duality is something that we should embrace instead of fighting it. It could be strange for me to say that I like to go on my island, but I also like leaving it; but it is true.

Looking at yourself as a person, I think it is all right to look at yourself with your own brilliance and also be aware that you are full of insecurities. It is normal to have those dualities. I am not ashamed of it. I think we should embrace it.

The Gift of Clarity

I am working on a new Ebook right now. It is in progress, I am working on it at a slow pace, because I am not happy with the way it is right now. The title is “The Gift of Clarity.” If Clarity was a commodity, I think that Clarity would be the most precious commodity that you could have; because it you have clarity, your thoughts, your emotions and your actions are congruent with each other. It’s a big subject and this is my next project. Till then … Wishing Joy Based Living and all of you the best in your own Quest!

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For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on