How an Italian boy became a ‘happiness coach’

Article published on Oct. 20, 2011
Article published on Oct. 20, 2011
Born in the land of ‘la dolce vita’, Bergamo-born Frank Ra, 32, travelled Europe before publishing a book on happiness. He offers his thoughts on spiritual scepticism, being a former erasmus student or ex-pat and how ‘no place is perfect unless we accept it with all its features’

My work isn’t about feel-good BS. It’s about cultivating joyful living for the benefit of all beings. I have been coaching and mentoring as an employee or consultant since the nineties, mainly in the new media area. I earned my accreditation as a certified coach after training in Vancouver over the last two years, where I still live. This came on top of other qualifications: seminars in physiology at the university of Arizona as well as a diploma in buddhism.

Estonia tech model

Moving around taught me that no place is perfect unless we accept it with all its features. As long as a place offers us a chance to practice our values, each challenge can be turned into an opportunity. I make use of my experiences living and working in different countries in my work as a personal development coach. My native country Italy taught the importance of values and family. These stay with us while so many people and things move in and out of our lives. After spending two years in London I moved to Silicon Valley in the US for a year in my twenties. That was my dream. Everything seemed possible. People were searching for opportunities, working together to make the cake bigger so everyone could get a bigger slice. I learnt the importance of doing things and not just philosophising about them. To reach out, collect feedback and then adjust my actions accordingly. Estonia, the most technologically advanced country I have lived in, had a new lesson: less talk, more action. I practiced dharma and regular meditation. I met my wife there. I was inspired by the Estonians’ example of resiliency. They are quiet people who rarely boast of their own accomplishments. Still, they silently managed to keep their spirit alive, despite being subject to oppression from all sides during the centuries.

'Estonians are quiet people who rarely boast of their own accomplishments'

I started a blog in 2009,, which lead to a free eBook. I published the book myself and it has now been accepted for distribution online and in bookshops. I don’t have a sponsor, so financially I’m entirely supported by readers and clients. For this publicity, you have to be both proactive and reactive. Sometimes I submit articles to journals for consideration, while sometimes I manage to get interviews. I noticed that the Asian media are generally more proactive in asking for interviews.

While many well-known researchers in the field of well-being are male, practitioners are often women. Most male clients are focused on career coaching; women have a more comprehensive view on their lives which is not limited to business. Being male, I tend to have a more ‘evidence based’ approach. I offer online seminars in addition to working as a coach in corporate environment and as a well-being facilitator with private individuals.

Interfaith and erasmus

There is a lot of criticism about the ‘self-help’ industry. It is often justified. There is a lot of advice out there which is harmful: putting the self first, the pursuit of happiness – this is bound to fail. In ten years time I imagine a more accepting society which doesn’t attach stigma to people searching for counseling, with a better understanding of the advantages of meditation and appropriate awareness about well-being. There may well be special taxes on unhealthy food because people will not be willing to bear the collective costs of junk food, while private companies pocket hefty profits poising their clients.

'Being Italian myself, I had to learn a lot about how to stay sane,' he jokesOn the spiritual side, the establishment will understand the importance of interfaith dialogue. In the past, theology became theocracy. That's why so many people nowadays are sceptical about everything spiritual. In reality, spirituality is part of who we are. We have to understand that the differences in religions are just an expression of how people interpreted the universe based on their own context. These differences are not a reason to discriminate. Every religion acknowledges the importance of personal development and healing, empathy and interdependence. Unfortunately, the message got watered down for political reasons.

'Every religion acknowledges the importance of personal development and healing. Unfortunately, the message got watered down for political reasons'

Former erasmus students, ‘homesick’ expats and Europeans with well-being challenges should take responsibility. Even if the situation is caused by someone or something else, you are the one who is affected by it. Improve your awareness, accept you are the only one who has the motivation to turn the situation in a meaningful way for you. Act upon your analysis and intentions, but be aware of the feedback you receive. Be resilient. Some changes come easily. Some don't. Respect other people; they too are trying to figure out their present and future. Keep going by eating properly and exercising, which ensures we can live most of our lives without relaying on medications, unless we have a life-threatening condition. This is a timeless approach. It is up to us to adapt it to ourselves.

Image: main (cc) 7meteor/ Flickr; in-text courtesy of © Frank Ra