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My attempts to make some teaching videos for my website had my insides twisted and my mind bent. It was important – critical even for the new direction of my business – and I was deeply enthusiastic about the much needed transformation. A lot rested upon these efforts – the evolution of what I had worked so hard to learn and wanted so much to share with a wider audience, a coming of age within the new way coaching was done and financial stability – sorely lacking for some years, but it was not happening.

I was stuck. Frustrated. Fearful. The fear felt dark, clammy and spoke in a child’s whisper. “What if I can’t do this?’ Frustration came on as a nasty adolescent snarl, “Attempt number 74 and failing.” A well modulated adult voice offered good coaching, “You’ve overcome challenges before,” – to no avail. As I tried yet again, that coaching voice was drowned out by the others.

Attempt after attempt proved either boring, slow or worse. The voices in my head got louder. I faltered, then came to a dwindling halt.

Funny, because teaching and presenting to live audiences was a joy, a high that I loved and found effortless. But this new format, offering insights up to a screen with built-in camera, went stale. I felt dull witted and lonely alternating with frozen and stiff. And there was no “juice” coming off the silicone, juice that informed a live presentation and helped hone the contents, tone and energy…something to work off of and with, as I navigated what was needed. The juice had dried up and I was beached in this never never land.

Ironically, for much of my life I had taught educators, organizational leaders, entrepreneurs and coaches that learning involved discomfort, a willingness to forego feeling ease and confidence, and the courage to continue past wanting to quit. I had had the experience myself many times, learning to ski, lead ropes courses, speak a new language in another country, teach new curriculum, co-author a book, but now, well, now I was giving up.

I had to blame someone or something. I lined up the usual suspects. “I am too old to learn a new technology.” “It has to be a stellar video or nothing.” “This technology is not responsive to the human factor.” and so on. The rationalizations weren’t very satisfying, but I couldn’t work ‘round them.

I tried taking a break and coming back “fresh”. I watched other teaching videos – so many they became a blur. I listened to the supportive echo of family and friends cheering me on. Nothing helped.

Then a colleague, collaborator and friend, Ben Gioia, www.marketingwithheart.com asked me what my true objectives were for the video. I told him I wanted to offer folks a most basic understanding of how they were hardwired for stress – a reptilian brain function that limited them to fight, flight or freeze and what they could do to move from reactivity to responsiveness as the basis for all other change in their lives.

Stating it clearly for him, I felt a ruffle of returning enthusiasm, quickly followed by the taste of defeat. Someone else might be able to bring it off, but once in front of the camera, I went into marionette mode. And I shared that experience with him.

Ben then said something simple, heard elsewhere. He said, “Imperfect action, beats perfect inaction, every time.” And his words exploded the cement blockade I had erected.

My video didn’t have to be perfect. I didn’t have to exude ease and confidence in this very first one. It didn’t need to reach the entire western world. It didn’t represent all of who I am or all of what I am capable of…My video could be a simple, imperfect offering of a useful strategy, I knew to be helpful.

The next morning, after a strong coffee, I began again. I tossed away my scribbled notes. I deleted all the previous attempts from googledocs. I forgot about my hair. I imagined a friend sitting across the table from me and just spoke about something I knew almost as well as the shape of my son’s hands.

As I filmed, I shared my own experiences with the move from reaction to response, including the pain and triumphs. A quote from one of my teachers arrived unbidden. And suddenly, I found myself smiling, inside and out.

No, the video wasn’t perfect. There were many redos in its future. But something had shifted. I dropped the need to create “perfection”. My self-image went on holiday. And when I clarified again and again the purpose for what I was doing without the sticky attachments, I was free to be creative.

Imperfect action became the rule as I continued with a series of videos necessary to this project.
And now, as I approach bringing this part of my business transformation to a close, I feel deep gratitude for the stuckness, the fear and the frustration. I can accept them as well traveled companions who will come again and again as I take on new challenges, grow and learn. And to each I can say, “well met” and go on about the task at hand.


” I know, I know, “Paul said over lunch as I explained my many challenges and discoveries. I was talking to a friend about the process of moving from “live” presentations into the medium of video and what I was learning along the way. The content of my share was less important suddenly, than his need to pretend a knowledge he didn’t have. He had never made videos, or made the switch I had launched. Yet, he often “knew” whatever was being shared. And NOT just bout this subject. So what did his need “to know” mean?

I began to ponder the very human desire to manage Reality by eliminating uncertainty, the dark place of not knowing. Yes, there is a strong desire to feel safe… in the familiarity of certitude. And while the issue I had mentioned wasn’t major in the overall challenges of life, Paul’s response was a gateway into a BIG fear. We naturally fear the unknown – from death and dying to the mundane stuff.

Our brains are pattern making machines. We try to push everything into an already established patterns. More so, we humans as Maslow pointed out, know “security” as a primary need. These two combine as a potent force: physiology and psychology. Humans want to file everything away neatly and feel safe.

But when, if ever, are we truly safe? And what, if anything, do we really “know”?

We think we “know” until our lover leaves us, or we marry our true love or the market crashes, or the housing market collapses, or we are offered a new job in a new city, or we hold our first child in our arms, or we are promoted, or our first feature film is in the can, or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, or we start our own business, or we’re robbed or worse… the list goes on and on in the same curious way that life unfolds.

What do we really know? Facts? Figures? Even our memory is unstable. How does data like that impact our inner world, our sense of Life? Is having the answer on exams the same as managing our future?

Sure, uncertainty is painful. It gives us the free-fall sense of being “out of control.” Most people hate that and the fears and anxieties that accompany the feeling. But certainty is a myth! The next moment could bring about a life-shattering shift (the Boston Marathon) or the delivery of unexpected news: “Your pregnant” and can change the direction of our life for years.

Isn’t it time to embrace the gifts in the very real “not knowing”which booms and barges through your life? Rebecca Solnit, well-know essayist and sociologist says “Leave the door open to the unknown,the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself come from, and where you will go.”

We are uncertain about the forces of nurture and nature, about WHY “the Big Bang,” about when and how we will die!

Trying to ease our anxieties by “knowing” is like trying to blow back a cyclone with a straw. Impossible! So what shall we do instead?

More useful is embracing the generous offerings of uncertainty. They are many and profound. Humility comes to mind. How would life be if we moved through it with more? Who would be attracted to us? What opportunities might become available? How would our compassion grow?

Another offer of uncertainty is curiosity. Not only the small spurts that take us Wikipedia or google, but the larger undertakings of a travel adventure, or a university course, a new degree perhaps or a retreat, the pleasure of new book in a different field and so on. With even more impact comes the curiosity that allows us to try on new roles in the world, take on new responsibilities from the stance of “Wow, wonder what I’m capable of?’

Which leads to another offering – creativity! Breaking through the false concrete of “knowing” into the freedom of creative uncertainty allows for trying on new streams of attention – photography, opera, salsa, writing haiku, entrepreneurship, travel. And think of all the learnings and joys that unfold there. Even if living the “ordinary life in an extraordinary way” doesn’t look like a technicolor change from the outside, how precious the shift may be from the inside.

Now these ways of going into the “dark place” are painful. In the that country, we experience fear alongside enthusiasm, suffering alongside wisdom, frustration alongside delight. Or whatever emotions arise, there is always an alchemical mix of which not knowing is the catalyst.

So the next time you are tempted to prematurely “know” take a long, deep breath… pause and allow all that you don’t know about whatever is directly in front of you to arise with its cacophony of feelings.

Perhaps curiosity will arrive arm-in-arm with creativity. Regardless of whether humility shows up or any of the other players, staying with the uncertainty will be an invitation sent out to Truth.


Whether you are afraid of greatness or afraid of failure, fear will stop you mid-step. Not once, but again and again.

So whether you have clarity, a strategic plan, actionable steps and a strong vision, if you don’t deal with the fears that will inevitable arise, you won’t reach the finish line.

The first step is overcoming this “enemy” sound counter-intuitive. Befriend your fears. Study them, understand why they arise, what they are trying to protect you from. Compassion makes a better friend than resistance. Be kind to your fears, chat with them…let them speak.Once you’ve better understand your friend, fear, you can begin to work  with it. Read more [+]


Where does your attention go?  Is it a homing pigeon roosting in the trifling things that are “wrong”?  Does it land on the gossipy or “dish the dirt”? Does it take you higher, to the “big picture”?

G. K. Chesterton says, ” A weak mind is like a microscope which magnifies trifling things but cannot receive great ones.”

What is your attention magnifying?  Does it play on the fields of “stuff” – things – what you have, want, desire, covet, need? Or perhaps it lands on the “people square” and gossip, celebrity talk, reality TV and the shortcomings of colleagues, even friends, looms large?

Does it hang out higher up the food chain? In the realm of the  Arts, big ideas – perhaps even Causes or service to the planet?

An easy, but not simple, practice to tame your attention begins with noticing first, where you hang out, mostly. Note by stopping a few times a day and reviewing what you’ve been a) thinking about; b) talking about; c) posting d) journaling. Is it the winter of your discontent with stuff or people or have you launched into the stratosphere of BIG ideas?  How are you feeling about what you notice? How do you know?

Next, if you find that the majority of your attention is on the lesser (in order from least to great – things, people, ideas) spaces to inhabit… move up those notches. Rather than wondering if a new iPad will solve all your problems, you might wonder how you could solve a babysitting problem for overextended friends, or if you wonder why your neighbor thinks her cooking is great when you get indigestion after her every meal, you might wonder about who you could feed in the ‘hood that is clearly going hungry.  You get the picture!

Of course the doing of these “wonderings” is MOST important ultimately, if you are putting your energy behind your thoughts,  but it  all begins with attention!!!!

So where are you hanging out attention-wise? Don’t be an attention deficit detractor from the common good (including your own). Step up – man-up, woman-up, whatever.  Begin moving your attention to the larger realm of ideas… on a regular basis and watch the launch… new energy, deeper connections, more meaningful conversations and encounters.

Tame your attention and live a bigger life!


I failed yesterday. I missed a conference call with two esteemed clients and friends. Irrelevant is the fact that a minor crisis interrupted my morning. The missed call, while unacceptable, wasn’t the failure.

It was what came after.

I failed yesterday. There was an emergency situation that derailed me but the failure wasn’t there! It was in the hour plus after  where I felt shame, guilt and self-hatred over not checking for the call before dealing with the unexpected crisis.

It took some hefty processing to first surface what I was experiencing, relating it to some core wounding, understanding what the shame and guilt were really about and “being with” the deep, dark discomfort.

After some time, I could come back to a more centered place and then move forward, limping and haltingly as we humans sometimes do, but forward nevertheless.

What was forward in this case? I wrote to my friends, told them the truth of what had happened before, during and after the missed call – sharing the painful process. I recommitted to the relationship by apologizing and offering to make it right by discounting the makeup call  fee by half and allowed whatever was to be, to unfold.

Why am I telling you all this? Because, whatever coaching wisdom I have acquired over the years, there is little more valuable to my understanding than exploring the way of self-hate and the means to moving beyond it.

Self-hate is insidiuous. Whether one calls its awful voice, the “inner critic”, “cruel judge” “Super Ego” or something more glamorous, the self-hatred that frequently descends generally has very little to do with what is actually showing up in the present. It is the carryover of our past. As Cheri Huber states in There is Nothing Wrong With You” Going Beyond Self Hate, “You have been taught that there is something wrong with you and that you are imperfect, but there isn’t and  you’re not.” When we’re young,  we seek to find unconditional love and wisdom outside ourselves rather than inside.  We begin to believe the messages we receive and are sure “we have to earn it” by being a certain way. This is taught to us from early childhood by unwittingly  self-hating parents who were taught by their unwitting self-hating parents and so on…

Yet, every spiritual paths teaches that everything we seek is within – love, compassion, understanding, peace and so on.

It is cyclical in several ways and  a BIG topic. Too big for a short blog…but worth decoding, exploring, mining for its very rich vein of gold!

Clients, readers, friends, family have heard me say, over and over, hold yourself with the compassion and love you would display to beloved others. Yet, yesterday, for a piece of the morning, I failed. (I required support to do that – thankfully present in my life!)

So I am sharing that we are all works in progress, that we all fall down, scrape our knees or our souls, and need to get up. How quickly we stand and move again is the work!!!

We attempt, we make mistakes, we understand that failure is feedback, we learn, we attempt again.

It was when I found out I could make mistakes that I knew I was on to something. ~Ornette Coleman (jazz impressario and GREAT)

Enough said. Hopefully this is helpful.


All our lives may be charted as a series of “letting go” experiences.  Sometimes we choose and let go graciously, often we are forced to let go and most often of all, we let go by “making them wrong”.  To be born into this chaotic, inspiring frightening, beautiful,  painful rich life, we ‘let go” of the womb. Soon after, we “let go” of mother’s breast. We let go of our childish stuffed animals and move onto more sophisticated toys… and so it goes.

People, experiences, ways of viewing the world – as we mature and grow we “let go”of what is outdated, too narrow, too small for our larger selves. And in this “letting go” we gain new experiences, new work, new friends, lovers,  a broader world view.

Some people make these moves with grace while others struggle and chafe as they make their way through life. What is the secret to this grace?  Is it a gift for a special few or are we all equally capable of bringing it into our daily lives?

“Making them wrong” is the way many of us “let go”. We qualify our decisions by finding fault in the people or places we are leaving, the organizations we no longer support, the teachers we no longer go to. By finding fault, the responsibility rests elsewhere. We are absolved. Furthermore, any movement away is seen as a wise move.

Yet, if we closely observe those we admire, we see that they too “let go” only they do so without blaming. Instead, they are able to appreciate what they received, honor the gifts, the lessons learned and experience true gratitude while moving on. The energy of gratitude is very different from that of blame.  Gratitude invites us in, asks us to come near the campfire to warm ourselves. Gratitiude is expansive, creating space for wonder and awe – for feelings of blessing.

Blame is stiff, hard and cold. Blame is strident and points a crooked finger. Blame makes our eyes squint, thus limiting our vision. It is contracted, thus limiting our movement. Rather than possibility, blame subtracts from what is possible, keeping our attention on  staying hurt or anger and being a victim.

The choice is yours. Will you choose the gains in letting go or blame?


“Before you can see the light, you have to deal with the darkness.”

– Dan Millman

Some people hear the word shadow and go silent with fear. They assume that whatever lurks in the dark must be monstrous. What we know about our very human shadow is that it can also contain our brilliance, our intelligence, our generosity, our kindness. Unacknowledged, those parts of ourselves can also hide in shadow – for our conditioning comes in many flavors.

A compelling question to ask  ourselves is, “What  shadow element am I supporting by keeping this door shut?” What discomfort am I avoiding?”   As Nelson Mandela said,  “…Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

In our families, we learned that being “powerful beyond measure” was taboo or dangerous. We were taught to conform to the family culture…subtly,  if we were lucky and with harsh repercussions if not. Bypassing our own wants, desires, needs,  we “metabolized” these messages without deconstructing them. They became our shadow – deeply etched into our response patterns.

If the time has come to shine a light on these areas of your life, to liberate the trapped energy for more creative endeavors, look no further. If you are finally willing to go into the dark to integrate ALL of you for a richer, bigger, more meaningful life, begin a dialogue with us at The Valiant Group.  We love working with the shadow – our own and yours and we have the experience to guide you on this courageous journey.  Call now!

Presence: An Invitation to Courage

We speak lightly of Presence so often – in working with ourselves, in working with our clients. Yet, we don’t often think of it as the key to developing courage!

This morning as this quote came across my screen, I began to ponder it more deeply.
First the quote:

There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hand. ~Thoreau

When our strongest intuitions arise in technicolor, they come from dropping deeply into the moment. And what does “the moment” provide when entered into fully?

The Truth – yes with a capital “T”.

If we are able to be with the Truth of whatever is arising – no deflection, no avoidance, no belittling, no judging – no resistance of any kind something profound occurs. We begin to become more permeable, less stiff, less rigid, allowing more spaciousness. And in that space, courage blossoms as we notice that we’re actually okay!

A little known aspect of being Present – not planning or manipulating or dreaming or wistfully longing is that our Presence ultimately transcends our anxieties and fear. By entering into what is up for us – pleasant or unpleasant and exploring it fully, it begins to move, to breathe in and out… and with practice, staying tuned in rather than tuning out – we transcend our fears, our anxieties by noticing that we’re actually okay – the roof isn’t collapsing, the arresting officer isn’t at the door. We have clothes to wear, food to eat, shelter from the storm. More than most people on the planet can say!

And what is most amazing? When we are Present with this moment and the next and the one after that, our capacity to stay Present grows. And moreover, our Presence invites others to courageously move into Presence as well.

So not only we developing more courage to meet Life as it arrives, but we also invites others into this action. As we stay grounded in Presence, they too, find ground beneath their feet to be with Life – and their experience of it. As so much of wisdom, this is simple but not easy. Yet, what precious quality is easily developed? Most require commitment. As we commit ourselves, we begin to engage more fully with others, ourselves and Life unfolding.

So, let’s pause in the endless cycle of “Next,” and not sacrifice the bloom of the present moment!


The man who believes he can do something is probably right, and so is the man who believes he can’t.  So what’s it going to be? Are you attaching to your very sticky, very clingy limiting beliefs about what you can’t accomplish or taking garden shears and cutting through  the velcro to make a shift?

You may trip over words such as “discipline” and “practice” as you move along the path. You may stop cold at the first setback and never take another step. You may begin to stroll in the general direction of your dreams humming a tune of defeat all the while and wonder why you can’t progress..

What does it take to make the shift – slight or grand, that will move you towards your unique contribution?  Two important strategies taken together are critical.

First,  we MUST plan for setbacks. Setbacks are a part of the natural process of change. Forgetting to plan for them is often the preventative factor in achieving our outcomes.  This planning may take many forms i.e. financial planning  for a slow period, or setting up a support group for times of discouragement.  Accepting that setbacks are normal while stepping  out  on the road to change lowers the hurdles on the path.

Second, rehearse relapses. Folks giving up smoking usually relapse on the 60th day. Knowing what you’ll do on the 61st day allows you to move past the relapse without losing energy in bashing yourself. Writing down the steps you’ll take immediately, if you relapse, supports your  forward momentum i.e.calling your coach; acknowledging you are human in an email to a friend.

Change IS possible. Use proven strategies to shear through the beliefs that prevent you from moving through the roadblocks. Then celebrate big!