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Conflicted Over Conflict? Stay Tuned In

You have a story about “conflict”, oh yes, you do. If you give me your definition of the word and some examples, your narrative about conflict  emerges.

Your story may include statements  like “She always battles my ideas!” or “He has to have things  his way or no way!” or “Our boss isn’t forward thinking -resting on past successes.” or hundreds of other reasons conflict arises in your life.

Your examples are unique. Yet, they share something with most people on the planet. Whatever examples you give, one of the chief causes of pain (call it anxiety, discomfort, anger, or other tough emotions to sit with) is caused by conflict as you currently define it.

And critical to note, your idea of conflict while conscious, is informed by your early experiences of conflict – emotional and physical experiences that have gone underground and may not be available to your consciousness.

For example, if as a toddler conflict (perhaps between parents or siblings) felt life threatening, you might have constricted your breathing, or tensed your small rib cage in panic. Perhaps you hid behind a large chair or under the bed until calm reigned again.

Today, when you encounter conflict, you “know” you life isn’t in danger, but your body resorts to the old pattern and you may want to run away or hide still.

Or perhaps you came out screaming at the adults in conflict, red faced, tear stained and furious.

That “puffing up” way of dealing is still there, only to be taken out when triggered.

Conflict still causes you pain – only more so because you worry about your reaction to it on top of worrying about the conflict itself.  Make sense?

And what do we humans generally do with pain? Avoid it –  at all costs. Avoidance comes in many flavors yet the result is that you never grow past an outworn way of dealing with conflict.

For leaders the cost of avoidance is higher than for most.

Awesome leaders, unlike the run of the mill type, don’t avoid conflict. They tune in to it because they have a definition that extends beyond  “pain”. They hold conflict as generative!

So, (take a deep breath here) what does that mean? And how does it work? And why should you care?

I’ll start with the last question first and work backwards.

Whether you lead a team, a non-profit, an entire corporation or a head a small business, you can be powerful and clear when the inevitable conflict arises and use it to move forward. That’s right, use conflict to move ahead with your vision. Conflict can be the impetus for great things – finely honed ideas, better strategic, streamlined  functionality, more inclusion, improved processes, better ways to serve your clients….

In the wind tunnel of your own mind, your ideas seem sound…and the fact that they are the only ones in there, supports that notion. Only when marched out into the light of other eyes and ears, can you evaluate your ideas –  and either modify, if that’s what’s called for, or stand tall behind them in the face of criticism or abandon them altogether and start over.

And when “The Idea” is being presented by some member of your organization, listening to the responses of others can often make a “good” idea – great!  The key is to get those others past reactivity – often the first impulse – to responsiveness.

Here’s how that works: You Must Model. Yes, you have to model a way of being with conflict that expands on your current definition! Model it again and again and people will notice. At first, in awe, then in curiosity and finally seeing the value. And you can incorporate this as a plank in the culture of your organization.

If you can find the value in conflict – what it offers – and stay out of your history with it – you can appreciate it and finally, welcome it. That process begins with unhooking the personal from the idea. They are not the same!

You, me and everyone we know are much more than the ideas we offer up. Holding conflict as generative means being able to separate the person from what they are saying, in the moment they are saying it. It sounds simple but it isn’t easy. It requires a shift – emotionally (staying out of the angry red zone) , intellectually (asking yurself ? what is the value of the what is being stated) and physically (how can you relax your nervous system and stay open). More to come on the specifics of this in the next blog.

Leaders make decisions. One way or another.

Great leaders have developed the capacity to handle opposing views, weigh the merits respectfully and then mobilize their forces behind a direction without excluding anyone. When a leader can do all this graciously, you can be sure she has learned to hold conflict as generative rather than as a problem. She has the ability to stay tuned in and grounded, open and curious and decisive.  Isn’t that the kind of leader you want to be?

If so,  return to your definition of conflict and expand upon it. Here’s how. Extract your painful history with conflict  from this moment. Look at only what is on the operating table now. Ask yourself:

[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”lifted-both” width=”450px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#B3AC52″ ]

  • What do I need to stay open and curious?
  • What can I gain from hearing all points of view?
  • How can I appreciate different perspectives?
  • Once I’ve determined the path, how can I mobilize everyone to action?[/dropshadowbox]

Armed with these questions, your relationship to conflict can soften, open and expand. And while you may have relapses, holding the intention (somatically, emotionally and cognitively) to see conflict as generative will ultimately make you a stronger, wiser person and leader.

Finally A Re-Do For A Meanginful Life

Neuroscience has been probing the mysteries of your brain. For a long time.  And the neuroscientists have discovered  the steps to  rewiring it so you can live bigger, better!

As you may have guessed, this involves more than just positive thinking or working hard.

Since your brain is made up of neural networks – like interconnecting freeways – the rewiring that needed is to lay down  new neural pathways – sort of like paving new roads for easy access.

And how is that done, you’re asking.  There are five pathways that must be activated in order to create new neural networks in the brain – a rewiring… Here are the 5 pathways that must be activated and how you can do it.

First, the act of thinking sets into motion a chemical reaction in the brain that can be likened to plugging in a string of lights. As you think about something—be it positive or stressful—you turn on a string of lights related to that topic.

Second, the more you think, feel and act the same way, the faster the lights turn on and the brighter they glow. Thus, the string of lights related to driving a car at 45 years old is much brighter and faster than the string you had at 16 years old.

Finally, we have trillions of brain cells, resulting in thousands (if not millions) of strings of lights correlating with our habits in all areas of our life. Donald Hebb’s landmark discovery in 1949, “neurons that fire together wire together,” best explains the process of wiring and strengthening brain pathways. The key is to activate as many of these pathways as possible given they work synergistically. One pathway alone is not enough to successfully rewire your brain. However, when you repeatedly align your beliefs, feelings, vision, and actions you will experience lasting changes in your brain.

1. Identify the beliefs that support your intention.

Seeing is not required for believing. In fact, you have to first believe it is possible if you expect to truly see it manifest in your life.

Solution: Examine your current beliefs about a desired goal. Identify those beliefs that align with the possibility of achieving your intention.

2. Embrace your positive emotions.

Emotion is the fuel, the juice or the power behind accomplishing your intention. Without emotion a thought is neutral, it has no real power. In other words, it is not enough to repeat positive affirmations if you are not feeling anything.

Solution: What emotions align with accomplishing your goal? Why is your intention meaningful to you? Spend time feeling these feelings as you focus on your intention.

3. Visualize.

The brain can’t tell the difference between something real or imagined. When you mentally rehearse your new habits, you strengthen your ability to create them in your life.

Solution: Identify images that align with accomplishing your goal and spend time visualizing them daily.

4. Take actions that support your intention.

Your actions have to match what you say you want and vice versa. You can’t think and feel one way and act another. In other words, you won’t rewire your brain if you eat donuts while repeating affirmations of being healthy and fit. Similarly, you won’t rewire your brain if you go to the gym but complain about how much you can’t stand working out.

Solution: Identify the actions that align with your thoughts and emotions.

5. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Change requires practicing a new habit. It follows the principle, “use it or lose it.”

Solution: Consciously practice thinking, feeling, visualizing and acting in alignment with your desired intention. When you do this you will stop the unconscious habit of recycling the past and activate your ability to rewire your brain in the present moment.

If you are an executive, entrepreneur, consultant or coach I invite you to join me for a high value, no cost strategy session. You will learn the most effective ways to be rewire your brain to be productive, powerful and resourceful…ESPECIALLY during challenges…so you can rocket to the top of your game and enjoy true success in your business and in your life. 

Based on a blog by BY DR. HILARY STOKES


“That can’t possibly work! The roll out time will coincide with our busiest season. And the engineers are scrambling as it is.  Siphoning off talent to work on this will handicap us.” Jeff bellowed, riled up by Amy’s presentation of a new product design.

The air was suddenly sucked out of the conference room. Amy stood stock still at the whiteboard – everyone’s eyes riveted to her face.

She was newly promoted talent; coming up fast through the ranks of design engineers as a hard-working, creative and highly efficient team leader. In addition to her design skills, she worked well with people, which is why, Michael, the CEO had promoted her.

Now he was watching her from behind his owl-like glasses, waiting for a reaction to Jeff’s
attack, calm and curious.

Amy, took a few long breaths, lined up her feet on the carpet for balance and looked at Jeff directly. Then, quietly but distinctly, she said “I appreciate your perspective. You make some good points. Let me address why I think this the right time to begin development on this product and perhaps you can help flush out the details.”

Oxygen returned to the room. MIchael, nodded and said to himself, “This conflict is going to be productive.”

Conflict comes with a bad rap. It’s never pleasant, easy or what you’d choose off a Chinese menu. Yet, if you work for a healthy organization, it is an important part of  big decisions. So you need to know how to “be with conflict” in a way that supports your brilliance, the organization you work for and yourself. (And for women, it is often particularly challenging.)

Learning to exhale goes a long way towards funding the ability to handle conflict.  And balancing, in your sweet spot, is required as well. It also helps to depersonalize the conflict – not feeling that you are under attack, but rather your ideas – a hard stretch but necessary.

Yet these skills, hardwon for sure, and absolutely necessary, are insufficient if you want to be brilliant at what you do!  They are critical first steps, but not what is at the heart of living into your brilliance.

So what is?

The big leap, a mile-high  one, is to see conflict as generative.

Yep, generative…. a welcome arena to enter into armed with the knowledge that different perspectives often hone, polish and improve your idea…build it out or repair the parts that may be slightly flawed. Sometimes, conflict acts as the much needed fuel that allows you to bolster a design, a concept, a process. Sometimes only in the conflict can you find out the strength of your commitment. And if  doesn’t serve up any of these, it may simply  allow other’s energy a valid place to come to rest.

We grow up taught to “play nice”. And in most situations, it feels right. Yet breakthroughs in medicine, science, art – any human endeavor  –  did not come about by “playing nice”. Instead, questioning, arguing, debating- subverting the dominant paradigm – brought us breakaway advances in technology, architecture, health care and so on.

If we stifle our best ideas, our controversial designs, our “outside the lines” concepts from fear of conflict, what are we really doing? And how does that playing small in the face of conflict shrivel us more and more over time? It isn’t a way to work (or to be) and you don’t have to take it on.

Sure, there are times when a great concept dies on the drawing board, or is aborted in the conference room – sometimes for good reasons, sometimes not.

Yet, killing your own ideas or more often allowing them to wilt in the face of conflict untimately shuts you down – not to mention the loss to the group, company, corporation.

So what does seeing “conflict as generative” consist of? It’s a huge mind shift. A way of taking your outworn perspective and turning it on its head –  in service of something greater – your brilliance! And it takes practice.

In the next few blogs, I’ll be guiding you through the steps that move you into this way of seeing and handling conflict. (I’ve mentioned a few of the physical ones already). If you are ready to
stand up for your brilliance, watch for the next in this series on Conflict is Generative.

Oh, and what happened to Amy? Jeff heard her out fully. He reluctantly helped her craft a plan that brought her design off the screen and into 3 dimensional reality. As they worked on it together, he became more enthusiastic, adding some of his own ideas. Jeff also grudgingly, developed some respect for Amy along the way. The new product went on to add significantly to third quarter profits, not just earnings, for the company.  And Michael, the CEO proudly honored both of them at a celebratory dinner.

How have you handled conflict at your workplace? Share your comments and ideas below.


“Flight 918, now boarding” blared the speakers. Tired after my day at a major university’s school of management, I prepared to return home, brimming with satisfaction.

It had been a good day, filled with wonderful women. These MBA candidates were poised to grab the leadership reins of various institutions. And they had let me lead them through a brainstorming session to identify specific needs of women leaders.

With the assistant dean sitting in, I began by sharing a model of embodied leadership that rocks.

It pointed out that people operate out of a story they have about “how things are”. Its their “default” understanding. Out it they act. To expand the story requires first seeing that its only one story – not reality. And in response to realizing that, people can take on a few new practices that expand their repertoire of responses to their situation.

While the language was new, the women were nodding along in understanding as I took them through each step.

Primed, they could now begin their part in the process. I divided the 11 program leaders into two groups.

I pointed to the guidelines for brainstorming on the whiteboard:

1. Judgment Free Zone: don’t edit and don’t judge anyone else’s ideas.

2. Add On’s Welcome: if something you hear sparks a thought, add it on to the original idea.

3. Shake it Out If You get Stuck: getting stuck is normal, so if it happens, get up and move your body.

Then, I asked 3 questions (well number 2 is cheating a little) :

1) What do women leaders need?

2) What would support look, sound, feel like to you?

3) If anything were possible, what do you imagine would have the most impact?

Questions when brainstorming is like oiling a finely engineered machine…

Armed with colorful post-its pads each woman got to work, in silence. Silence is important at the outset of a brainstorming process. It allows the anxiety of  comparisons ( “am I going to have ideas?” “what is she writing?” “what am I stupid? “to fade away. Enough silence creates an opening for something new to show up. In the silence, I could hear brain cells rubbing up against one another.

After the silent period, women in their groups, shared what was on their post-its. This was add-on time as one person’s idea sparked another. And add-ons proliferated. So did some stories.

Next each group pasted their post-it ideas onto a flip chart sheet, making a brightly colored display.

I asked the groups to move to  the other flip chart, review the post it notes their peers had put up and organize the ideas into into 3 or 4 themes. The conversation volume inched up a few decibels and energy rose in the room.

Finally, as a large group, we debriefed, coming up with common themes – the topics of choice.

We came away with subject areas like:

  • Conflict: When, Where, How & Why;

  • Confidence: Moving from Gravity’s Center;

  • Somatics: Leaders Have Bodies Too;

  • Creating Support Systems (Every Leader needs a “Wife”); and

  • Creating Opportunities: Effective Self-Promotion.

Wow! Suddenly these women were energized – their voices trilling up and down as they recounted tales of woe and glory! And I relaxed. Despite the shortage of time for our session, despite their harrowing schedules, despite juggling relationships, children, jobs and a rigorous program, they wanted more and more and more – recognizing that support was on its way.

Brainstorming can bring on a storm of passion…passion that gets funneled back through the body as energy and into ideas. These ideas, when broached,  sustain momentum. And in that university classroom, we were rocking it (from a place of mutual understanding and recognition of common frustrations).

And oh, the sweet clarity! I could return home to craft the workshops that would take these juicy ideas into interactive events where these women would flex their muscles, stretch a bit beyond what was comfy and grow some new skills. Naturally, the model I had shared to kick start our thinking would be a roadmap for these workshops.

It had gone well. Ten hours later, as the shuttle brought me to  my car, I sighed with the satisfaction of a day well spent.  Not only had my plane finally taken flight, so had the women’s ideas for much needed MBA workshops.

The Secret To Staying Calm In Chaos

I’m a coach, so my clients (executives, entrepreneurs, coaches, and other high performers)  show up in my practice for all sorts of reasons. If I had to categorize them, I’d say most clients were looking for ways “to stay calm in chaos”. That’s what “Sam” was looking for when he picked up the phone to call me one Tuesday morning.

Sam had accomplished so much already. Yet now, he was facing a new challenge, feeling stressed and overwhelmed and needing to be calm and centered. He needed to make powerful, effective decisions despite the chaos surrounding him.

Sam, a personable and intelligent man in his mid-30’s came to me when he was seeking work. He had left a prestigious position defined by constant conflict – a culture of anger and stress.

Happily married and the father of two little boys, he wanted to put his education and experience to work in a start-up with high potential for success.

Head hunters sought him out. He was getting impressive interviews, and getting call backs from HR, so what was the problem?

Sam wasn’t doing well in face-to-face interviews. Due to anxiety (leftovers from his last position, the confrontational style of some interviewers, money worries and problems with his young son) he came across as tense, slightly unfocused and rushed. His stellar education and previous experience weren’t shining through!

He knew he was reacting to the stress of interviews in a way that didn’t support his goal. He just didn’t know what to do about it, so we began working together.

First we discovered that when Sam experiences stress, his reaction is flight. This reaction is hardwired into his brain stem and showed up each and every time he experienced any degree of chaos. We’d have to address this!

He soon came to understand that “flight” showed up in  a concave chest (body language that transmits information), a raised voice, a rapid pace when he spoke which translated to “lack of confidence” and it happened each time he was triggered, even though he could now identify it.

Sam began practicing getting centered daily. With a few minutes of breathing practice – yes simple breathing exercises – in no stress and low-stress situations, he could create some space around his “reaction”.

In that space, he chose how to hold his body – upright and relaxed. From that posture, he was able to end his sentences with assurance, speak clearly and succinctly in his natural voice and stay calm, neutral and open to the interviewer.

For fun (and good practice) we role played interviews after centering practice to work on appropriate responses rather than his typical reactions. As he learned to respond, taking time to speak clearly, listen deeply and breathe, he smiled more, uncrossed his arms and leaned forward – always more inviting that his “collapsed” body language of early days.

Sam got so good at staying calm, keeping his body language open, being curious rather than intimidated and speaking with the confidence that showed off his knowledge and experience, that he landed a great VP of finance position in attractive firm (and helped his little boy through a difficult patch too).

Why did this work? Over 3 months, Sam was diligent about his practices. Oh sure, there were a few hiccups (like for most of us, progress wasn’t linear) but he kept improving. So much so that he he gave me a glowing testimonial on Yelp.com

And the truly “good news” is that Sam now had the tools to use in any and all stressful situations.

Stress is an inevitable part of life. Good stress like a promotion or marriage, or stress you categorize as negative around the loss of a job or a missed deadline all create the same reactions in your body.

Learning to recognize how you react, gaining the tools that support some centering – simply starting with your breath, allows you to be much more effective (and pleasant to be around) when that inevitable stress shows up.

You can begin the process by noticing your breath. Then without forcing a change in the inhale, begin extending the exhale – audibly, if you’re alone. Extending your exhale does a lot in relaxing the muscles of your face and upper body. It goes further by opening up the diaphragm. Fortunately, it also allows you to have a little more room in which to respond, rather than react.

Pretty simple but not so easy to remember when you need it most.

That’s why practicing in no-stress or low-stress situations is critical. If you practice for 28 days, you’ll create a new habit – a healthy one – that will pay off time and time again.

And how can you remind yourself to do this for 28 days? Set a calendar reminder on your computer, put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror, and put a sticky note on the dashboard of your car.

Take it from Sam, the rewards are tangible and huge.

If you are an executive, entrepreneur, consultant or coach I invite you to join me for a high value, no cost strategy session. You will learn the most effective ways to stay calm in the midst of chaos…so you can instantly assess each situation…and know the most effective course of action from your most powerful and resourceful state.


You’re smart. You’re resourceful. You’re motivated. Yet you aren’t hitting the target as a leader and wondering why.

Do you want to become a prized leader, sought after, influential, wise?

Perhaps you’re exploring the best thinking  on leadership? I bet your book shelves are sagging. So much is being written about the art and science of leadership.

The right brain folks gravitate naturally to the “art,” sometimes called “the soft stuff”.  What’s “soft?” Emotional Intelligence for example, the body of work done by Daniel Goleman and well studied. I recent years many leadership gurus have said “its ALL about the soft stuff.”

The left brainers grab onto the ‘science”. They look at models, formulas and prescriptions in hopes of “getting it right”. Time management seminars, organizational skills trainings, salesmanship workshops make it onto their “to do” lists.

“What to do? What to do?” you ask.

First, recognize it isn’t one or the the other!

What will make you a powerful, wise and effective leader is the integration of art and science. Yep, great leaders shine not in both arenas, but in the integration of the two…seamless, elegant integration.

They use tools, resources and other people that support planning, strategizing, marketing and customer service. Customer, for example is made up of “left brained” analytics matched with deep listening skills. Marketing requires a marriage between “right” brained discovery of what clients really want and “left” understanding of the demographics. And so on.

Prized leaders learn to listen in a particular way,  to their teams, peers, colleague, competitors, all the stakeholders. They learn to hold conflict as generative. Rather than seeing disagreement as personal, they operate from curiosity, learning all they can from opposing positions or differing perspectives before making executive decisions.

In viewing problems, they consider both sustainability and change. Prized leaders know how to strike a balance between sustaining the organization and moving into a larger vision.

These leaders are skilled in supporting and developing their people, with tools from both camps – the right and left brain proponents. In other words, they are aware of the gifts each side brings and seek methods that integrate the two.

Want some of that?

Investments in integrating the art (people side) and science (business side) of leadership has big yields. If you read the stats on how hard companies find it to develop internal talent, how often they import (or steal it) from outside and the salaries they offer to likely candidates, you’ll see that great leaders, those that skillfully integrate the art and science, are a prized resource.

Ready to go for it?

Here are first steps: Get support! Period. (You might think you can go it alone, but without objective feedback its hard to correct your blindspots.) Support comes in many forms – a mentor, a coach, a group of peers…folks who have “been there”.

Join a Mastermind Group. Mastermind Groups, according to Napolean Hill bring the brilliance of two or more “minds” together to synergize for greater results than the individuals, hence creating a “master”mind.

Get leadership coaching. Today, most Fortune 500 companies use executive coaches. And many executive MBA programs offer leadership or executive coaching too.

Read, read read – executive summaries if you have to, full books if you can.

What on? On Emotional Intelligence, Difficult Conversations, Negotiation (Getting to Yes) Time Management, Marketing and Focus.

If you’re a leader, new to the organization, read The First Ninety Days and implement it.

You’ll have preferences ( we all do) of course. Do a bit of inventory. What are your strengths? Celebrate those. What challenges you? Get support for those. Assess those preferences carefully. The coaching comes in as a balancing act to what you’re strong in – to build your muscles around skills that are challenging.

Remember its the integration of the art and science of leadership that separates the wanna- a- bees from the awesome!  Pick a developmental stretch. Set a goal for the next 3 months. Get support and go for it.

There’s an African saying: If you go forward we die. If we go backward we die. Better to go forward.



Diana: I’ve been stuck in molasses. Trying to write my weekly blog post felt impossible – like struggling to get one hand free and feeling my heels sink deeper. Yuck!

Ralph: Did you get it done?

Diana: Yep, amazingly – with a little help from my friends.

Ralph: Well Mercury is in retrograde for a few more days, you know.

Diana: And that’s affecting my blogging? Really? I thought that was the reason my teleclass had glitches.

Ralph: Both! You’re cut off from your natural rhythms. Not flowing. Technology, creativity, and communication can all be impacted.

Diana: Wow – that explains it. That’s why it was so hard yesterday. When will it end?

Ralph: November 11th! But don’t be discouraged if what you write is not up to your personal standards. You can use it! Your blogs are about communication, right? Well tell folks about what happens when communication is…

Diana: Sticky? – would be the word you’re looking for…. not happening. (Laughs.) And as usual, you’re right. I did have a breakthrough after the 3 day breakdown.

Ralph: (sipping his coffee) Sticky – okay. Yeah – so what did you do? What was the breakthrough? And more importantly, what should your readers do?

Diana: (smiling) Ahhh. I wrote a blogpost about “stuckness”. What a grand idea. One thing that worked for me was simply owning it. I mean confessing to Marci and – you, in this case. That freed up some of the energy being burnt up in spinning, in frustration. You can’t imagine how much ‘round and ‘round was going on.

Ralph ; So step one is admitting you’re stuck, right?

Diana: Yep and next comes, stepping away to do something completely different. I cooked up a storm yesterday – a yummy split pea soup and grilled chicken, some fancy ice dish with spinach and a marinade for baked yellow beets.

Ralph: (laughing) I’m coming over for leftovers.

Diana: (with a twinkle in her eye) Sure, come at 7:00. But seriously, Ralph, cooking is fun for me – something I really enjoy and since I don’t use recipes – creative too. Concrete too. So getting off the computer into the kitchen – putting on a little cookin’ music and creating delicious, nourishing food is liberating.

Ralph: And we all benefit – I mean Marci, Sarah and me. (takes a bite of his croissant). But when did you get back to work? That cooking didn’t use up your day?

Diana: Good question! Nope, 2 hours plus a little. And after I had a success – that’s how I’d describe it. Okay not an Academy Award or anything, but the good feeling I got from making good food carried over. I used it.

Ralph: So you came at the blog with renewed confidence?

Diana: Yep! Even though the confidence was in another area completely, I felt capable – you know? Like I could do things – do them well.

Ralph: I get it. Then what?

Diana: I started fresh! I saved what I’d been working on and started a new doc – blank screen, clean start. Something about that felt good – liberating somehow.

Ralph: How’d that go?

Diana: Well, perhaps it wasn’t the greatest blog I’d ever written, but it did wend its way onto the screen pretty painlessly. I got 936 words done in a flash – almost without stopping. I didn’t edit ‘til it was all there.

Ralph: Want the rest of your bagel?

Diana (Shakes her head): So that would be part of the methodology. No editing ‘til completion.

Then step away for it to settle and come back with fresh eyes. That’s when my rigorous, relentless editor takes over. And I ask for other eyes to give me feedback.

Ralph: That sounds like pretty good advice for writing in general.

Diana: True. The big discovery for me though was around being stuck. It’s hard to admit – even to myself. Once I was able to do that – a powerful shift began. Owning up to it – speaking it aloud, really opened up some space. And in that space, I found vitality -an energy. As to to the great Western cookoff part – well – that ‘s just a good practice, generally.

When stuck, step away. Do something very different, preferably something you love. Shake it up. Then come back fresh and the bang of increased confidence puts you into a better mind state.

Ralph: Sounds like you’ve got the skeleton of your next blog, right there. Helpful and real!

Diana: Why thanks, Ralph. Great idea. (Smiles) Even if it did cost me a bagel and coffee.


Steven is an amazing videographer who takes risks to capture the feeling of the products he helps market. He is building a thriving business. Eight months ago though, Steven called to tell me about burnout and his “bleak” prognosis as an entrepreneur.

The big secret of successful entrepreneurs that few talk about is sustaining passion. Yep, successful entrepreneurs know how to sustain passion – beyond the initial honeymoon phase of the big dream.

Naturally, when the rush of a brilliant idea floods an entrepreneurial spirit, passion greases the engine of activity. They don’t sleep much, food becomes less important somehow and the hours they happily put in exceed twelve a day.

But what happens six to nine months later…when hurdles grow high or sideways? What happens when the revenue to keep the enterprise afloat isn’t flowing? What happens when supporters begin to quietly voice their doubts or fears? When even the entrepreneur experiences self-doubt?

I’ll tell you about one successful entrepreneur I’ve worked with closely – Steven, yes the very one.

Steven scribbled a “note to self”: My passion is ebbing! What to do?

He took a hard look at all the domains of his life: a check-in, of sorts. What was happening for him cognitively, emotionally, relation-wise, spiritually, somatically (with his body) and across all five – integration-wise?

He found some seriously unmet needs. Cognitively, it had been months since he read anything of interest besides sales figures. He felt his mind going numb and his conversations becoming stale.

And emotionally, well, he had so immersed himself in working at his dream, he had forgotten the feelings that it originally evoked…sort of like going on “auto-pilot”. In fact, he wasn’t feeling much of anything these days.

Steven was wise enough to recognize that to sustain passion, he needed to care for himself – all of himself, not only the entrepreneurial part. So he had to go out and find support for the domains of this life where he was experiencing unmet needs.

What did he do? First, he signed up for a class at the Academy of Science – something he had always wanted to do. He figured the stimulation and ideas of classmates would juice up his own thinking an imagination – get him cogitating again, in a wild, new way.

And next, he asked his girlfriend for recommendations of her favorite poetry (he had observed her emotional responses to poems over time). Though poetry hadn’t been high on his list of favorite things to do with very limited spare time, he tried it on.

Being disciplined about diet, rest and exercise, Steven didn’t change much in the somatic area, and he felt fortunate that his relationships were strong and vibrant. So he concentrated on the unmet needs in the two areas he recognized needed help. And he went out and got support; a class (with instructor and schedule and accountability) and his girlfriend’s suggestions.

You might wonder what all that had to do with his business enterprise? And while Steven knew there wasn’t a direct line he could draw, he understood that HE WAS HIS ENTERPRISE, and if he didn’t take care of himself, really care for himself, the passion that fueled getting his dream into the marketplace would run dry.

Sustaining passion rests on two important questions every entrepreneur must ask himself or herself:

What unmet needs do I have?

Who/what  can support me in taking care of myself?

And though successful entrepreneurs may use different language for the questions, they know that sustaining passion over time, requires self-care and support.

Oh and Steven? He went on to successfully grow his business by landing a well known and creative client…which led to more work. Today he has 4 employees and his enthusiasm is almost uncontainable when he talks about the future.

And you? What are you doing about sustaining your own passion when the inevitable hurdles and dips appear?

Check-in with yourself across the domains of your life. What’s happening for you emotionally, cognitively, relationally, spiritually, physically and in the integration of those? I hope you’ll take note of ALL of yourself; find what needs aren’t being met and gather the resources to fulfill them. The world needs you and your passion.



Jubilation!  I don’t use that word often, but its what I felt last week! Jubilant.

Why, you ask? Ah, it’s been a bubblin’ and a steamin’.

For a over a month,  I wended my way through all the ups and downs of creating my first ever webinar, “21 Days from Timid to Awesome” which came off despite some technical difficulties (always, always learning). There was a store to set up, email blasts to send out, a change in publishing to undertake, a software program to master and more. Yet, I undertook all of it.

And then, along the way, I got good news.

A prestigious university’s business school  was interested in the material and invited me to fly in for a brainstorming session. The questions? How to serve female MBA students on the cusp of leadership? How to support all MBA grads in taking on their new roles?

It happened because I had chosen to “step it up.”

Years of working with amazing women who flinched a little at standing fully in their power, led me to designing a course. And broadcasting the key components of the much needed shifts, the ways to stop undermining or diminishing themselves, the steps to cultivating their capacity instead, was a commitment I took into the market place in a new medium, with technology that I had to master. Not to mention my own fears. BY the way, you can read some of the beginning steps on my blog: http://www.thevaliantgroup.com/5-secrets-brilliant-women-in-charge-need-to-know/

I had to model the “stepping up” by making big changes to way I had done things up ‘til then. (I didn’t name my company The Valiant Group lightly.) What that meant was a lot of learning, asking for support (and getting it) and widening (often with a crowbar) my perspective about where change can happen. It was a wonderful though frightening process. Change is not easy!

Yet, look at what happened!

Not only did I create a course I am loving teaching, but I also ventured into avenues I hadn’t imagined.  Isn’t it great when life steps in to surprise and support you?

After conversations with the Dean and Associate Dean, we agreed that the business school was poised to support students in becoming emotionally intelligent, strategic and resilient leaders. Many offerings could support that transition. And my input was useful. THEY WANTED MORE. Yay!

How wonderful that business school might become the place to break the mold of “old school” leadership, often held in place by entrenched ways of doing things from the last century. How wonderful that business school might prepare leaders for dealing with themselves, their colleagues and bosses, their direct reports with compassion alongside the skills of strategic planning, process orientation, customer service, operational excellence, accountability and so on.

As the title of  a Marshall Goldsmith book states eloquently, “What got you here won’t get you there.” And the new “there” includes leadership of a different order.

As for myself, the new “there” keeps opening up. As I design new workshops, courses and programs…as I learn to interface with clients in ways other than face-to-face, as I reach out beyond my geographic area, I grow more fully into what’s possible. I learn new skills, hone some of the existing ones, master new technology, expand my vision around learning and teaching, and trust myself and my team to find direction, correct course and bring value forward.

As I said, “Jubilation.”


Yes, real change is possible regardless of your age. Dr. Siegal  is the foremost expert on remapping your brain.

Watch this video and see how you can change your brain too.