"We Are All Scared of Showing Our Ugliest Parts to the World"

An interview with entrepreneur and coach, Astrid Schrader about her work at The Arc and the necessity for honesty.

by Julia Loewe, March 26, 2019
Astrid Schrader Portrait

Life ain't easy and work isn't either. Sometimes we need help from others to reach our goals - personally and professionally. That's why Astrid Schrader founded The Arc. The Arc coaches purpose-driven millenials to create work that has impact and actually fulfills us. We talked to her about her work, red flags and spirituality.

How exactly did you become entrepreneur/ founder of The Arc? What was your life like until then?

Astrid: I was always into coaching and training. I got my first certification when I was 19, facilitated large scale conferences and ran dozens of training events for international NGOs as a volunteer. It was in that crazy playground where we experimented with methods that average corporate training settings would never dare to apply.

Then – while volunteering as a UN Youth Representative at the UN – the financial crisis happened. And I witnessed how dozens of NGOs that did excellent work were cut off from funding, simply because they didn’t communicate their value well. That was the moment when I started to ponder: Can you teach people to be inspiring? Is that something coachable?

And in 2011 it hit me, and during some random coffee break at work I wrote down the first version of The Arc on a post-it, titled: “You are inspiring when you leave your comfort zone, because you trust your dream more than your fear.” So, I decided to make a training event JUST around that.

We organized the first bootcamp in 2012 in Spain. As I like to say today: “Worst case, just have fun”. And what happened has been repeated dozens of times since then: Many of our alumni completely skyrocketed. People found their own organisations, write their first book, find work that actually fulfills them or start an amazing passion project.

I always found entrepreneurship utterly scary. But in 2015 the team for the first time made it clear that they wanted The Arc to grow – and in 2017 I finally took the courage to quit my job in consulting. The ride since then has been crazy. Amazing and rough at the same time.

What projects are you working on right now?

Astrid: We organize bootcamps, retreats, coachings, reunions and – frankly – parties across Europe. The most amazing thing that came with The Arc was a community of impact-addicted people who challenge each other so so so hard but who also catch you when you fall. Many of us have only supporters or only challengers in our group of friends. At The Arc you basically get both. And it’s intense.

When picking coaches to work with, what’s important for you?

Astrid: Most coaches trigger the heck out of me. The whole “holding hands and sit in a circle”, that “kumbaya-my-lord”-pedagogy makes me nervous. When others loved yoga, I loved kick-boxing. And many of these “tolerant circles” didn’t feel very tolerant to me when it came to dealing with people who had a lot of energy and were ridiculously results-driven (like me). The feedback I mostly got was “This woman really needs to calm down”.

Today we have both “kickboxers” and “yogis” on the team. When we pick new coaches we look at: Do they have their shit together? Do they own their story? Will they bear the radical sincerity in our team? Do they have the ability to see all emotions as “ok” or are they rather triggered when being faced with extreme anger, sadness or fear, and seek to numb it? At The Arc we stand and fall as a team. We are all scared of owning and showing our ugliest parts to the world, but as an Arc facilitator you are faced with your inner ruins all the time. We have had different experiences with the readiness of coaches to stay open, vulnerable and humble. It’s not for everyone. But I personally consider it as the most exquisite, exciting and fulfilling journey a human can ever be on.

Are there any "red flags"?

Astrid: Ego and Guru-ism! The Arc facilitators easily get placed on a pedestal by participants. Big egos or people who get a lot from being “admired” are often too vulnerable to do the nature of our work.

If you are too attached to wanting to portray a certain image, we are not the right place. Instead: Arc people (facilitators AND participants) will likely cut beyond your façade and literally “force” you to be your authentic self. For some people though: Being themselves means crushing their identity, the world they built around themselves. Maybe it involves admitting that your marriage or your career failed – and not everybody has (or needs to have) the strength to do that.

A happy client is…

Astrid: … when they understand that we haven’t inspired them. But that they inspired themselves.

Do you think everyone has a life purpose that should be discovered?

Astrid: If that was so, I’d assume that there is a “fixed something” underlying our human personality. I struggle to believe that. But I do believe that everyone has talents, passions and values. And I believe that we should use them to contribute to make the world better. And I believe that much fulfillment comes from consciously finding a way to combine your talents, passions and values and build something from that which inspires yourselves and others.

How important is spirituality? And what relationship do you have with it?

Astrid: This is SUCH an amazing question! I think of myself as someone completely, consciously and vigorously non-spiritual. No hocus pocus. No esoteric bla-di-bla. And at the same time almost everything I do in my life is to the contrary. So my relationship with spirituality: Definitely a big paradox. I don’t yet know what the answer is, I guess.


Astrid Schrader ist the founder of The Arc, an international coaching master mind for impact-driven people who want to pull off something in their lives that inspires themselves and others. Whether that’s building their own business, publishing a book, finding a fulfilling job or an exciting passion project. 96% of Arc alumni have called The Arc bootcamps, retreats and coachings the best or one of the best programmes ever attended.

Prior to The Arc Astrid was a management consultant, but she also worked with 100+ non-profits across the globe and represented the German Youth at the United Nations.