Sunday, August 21, 2016

THE Most Important Thing You and Me and Famous People Have In Common

In recent weeks I’ve been doing super late Spring-cleaning – not with tossing out “stuff” that’s been collecting dust, but rather by rummaging around old files that are scattered about my MacBook desk top. I’m constantly downloading and collecting links to articles and posts that I convince myself I’ll use someday in a workshop or in the classroom – or for this blog.

I came across the following five items about famous people who would seem to have nothing in common other than that they are/were famous.  However, what both moves and amazes me is that each of these people had to grapple with the question that each of us has to grapple with – WHO AM I?

Take a look at these “snapshots” and perhaps taken together they will challenge you to ask the hard question that needs to be asked. . . 

Charles Herbert, Mid-Century Child Star on TV and in Movies, Dies at 66

Charles Herbert, who was 4 years old when he was discovered by a Hollywood talent scout and went on to become a top-earning child actor of the 1950s and ’60s, died on Oct. 31 in Las Vegas.

. . . He shared the limelight with Cary Grant, Sophia Loren and James Cagney.  Mr. Herbert was making more than $1,600 a week at one point (almost $13,000 in today’s dollars), but wound up broke and, later, addicted.

In a 2006 interview, Mr. Herbert said, “The worst thing a person can lose is your identity,” adding: “It’s O.K. as a child because people look at the screen and say, ‘O.K., he’s Fred’ or ‘O.K., he’s Tom Sawyer.’ But when you’re an adult, people don’t know who the hell you are — you don’t walk around with your credits. They want to know who Charlie is. And I didn’t know.”

Ruth Reichl: Life After Gourmet Magazine

When Gourmet magazine closed in 2009, then-editor Ruth Reichl was shocked by the news. Knowledge@Wharton recently spoke with Reichl about her new book, My Kitchen Life: 136 Recipes That Changed My Life, which chronicles how cooking helped her to heal from the loss of the job she loved.

Reichl:  I’d been working since I was 16, and I had always identified myself by my job. I was a cook. I was a writer. I was a restaurant critic. I was a magazine editor. Suddenly, I was a nothing.  . .

It’s really pernicious to think that you are your job. . .Although I had been in food all my life, I had not been cooking for a very long time. I’d been too busy to do serious cooking. By really throwing myself into the cooking and paying attention to how much pleasure it gave me, I rediscovered that the secret to life is learning to take joy in everyday things. . .

. . .I realized that I wasn’t my job. That I was me. I re-found the person who was kind of always in there. . .those Conde Nast editor jobs are princess jobs. You live a very big life. You meet famous people, and you travel first class, and everybody is bowing down to you all the time.

All that stuff is just gloss. Who you are is more important than thinking that because you’re hobnobbing with famous people, you’re really somebody. You’re not.

Jennifer Lawrence Felt Lost After Breakup With Nicholas Hoult
The Huffington Post

In a new interview with Diane Sawyer, Lawrence spoke about her relationship with ex-boyfriend, actor Nicholas Hoult.

Lawrence opened up about the couple's split, which occurred around the same time she wrapped filming on the "Hunger Games" movies.

"These movies had been my life for so long and they had to come first in everything. I was also in a relationship with somebody for five years and that was my life," the 25-year-old actress told Sawyer.

Lawrence continued, "So my life was this person and these movies and we broke up around the same time that I wrapped those movies. Being 24 was this whole year of, 'Who am I without these movies? Who am I without this man?'"

Mary Lou Retton opens up about her struggle of discovering 'who you are'

Their Olympic moments happened 24 years apart, but the journeys of Mary Lou Retton (1984 Los Angeles) and Shawn Johnson (2008 Beijing) are similar in so many ways.

Both grew up away from the spotlight — Retton in West Virginia, Johnson in Iowa — before bursting onto the Olympic stage at the age of 16. Both won a collection of medals at their Games, vaulting each to sudden fame and a bevy of post-Olympic commercial opportunities.

The adjustment to that new life, however, was not easy for either woman. And while both continue to be household names, they admit it’s still hard to balance fame and regular life.

“Finding my own voice was difficult,” Retton said during a recent conversation between the two women. “I’m a 48-year-old woman and I still struggle with it. But I’m getting better. When that physicality is gone and the title is gone, you have to find who you are. I’m really still trying to find that out.”

“That’s good to know,” Johnson replied. “Because I’m still trying to find it.”

“It’s a journey,” Retton said. “It’s a lifetime process.”

Landon Donovan Urges Athletes To Speak Out About Mental Health
Huffington Post - 08/12/2016

Retired soccer star Landon Donovan doesn’t shy away from talking about his experience with depression — and he hopes other professional athletes will be just as forthcoming.

Donovan took a three-month break from his professional career in 2013 to prioritize his mental health. While athletes can sometimes seem unstoppable, it doesn’t mean they’re not susceptible to mental health issues just like everyone else. In fact, Donovan suggested that retired athletes can be especially at risk for depression. . .

“I think our problem is we wrap our identity around what we do and it becomes who we are,” he told The Huffington Post. “So you see a lot of former athletes struggle with this, a lot of athletes that are no longer being recognized for what they did on the soccer field. They’re like ‘Well, what am I now? I don’t have this sport anymore.’”

The former LA Galaxy forward said therapy helped him become more open about his mental health, and he encourages others who feel affected to do the same.

Confidence = Love

For more than four years I wrote a weekly column in The Tolucan Times, a local SoCal paper.  Recently, I reviewed those columns in prep for a book I’m writing.  What surprised me (though it shouldn’t have) is that “Confidence” was the #1 topic I wrote about.  Maybe that’s why my website is The Business Of Confidence!

I’ve just finished conducting an eight-week workshop at UCLA Extension titled, “How To Talk To Anyone.”  Participants ranged from Millennials to Baby Boomers.  There was a lot of pain and confusion in the room the first night.  Swirling about were all the issues of feeling judged and wondering, “what if I screw up, what will they think?”  There was so much self-doubt.  Confidence was scattered about only in bits and pieces, as each of those first-nighters had only a vague sense of “self.” 

The thing is, though, you can’t talk to anyone unless you own your life.  You need an “I” with which to engage people. 

Over the course of the eight weeks nearly two-thirds of the participants dropped off.  On the last night there were only three people in the room.  Those three people, Michael, Sha and Keanna, acknowledged that they were qualitatively different from who they were on the first night of class.  Each sensed feeling more comfortable in their skin, more trusting of their own voice.

While each recognizes that they need to continue to practice and hone their conversational skills, each knows that there is no going back.

During the eight weeks of the workshop I continually asked myself, “What does it mean to be confident?”  Sure, I “know” what it means to be confident, yet there always remains an elusive dimension to confidence.

One day, while at a Starbucks waiting for a couple whose wedding I’m officiating later this summer, I jotted down the characteristics of a confident person.  Here’s what immediately came to mind:  
A confident person. . .

·      Is not threatened by people of different beliefs and backgrounds
·      Does not retaliate over real or perceived injuries
·      Is generous with time and knowledge
·      Initiates conversations in unfamiliar settings
·      Acts with the guidance of having pride in the understanding of who they want to be
·      Does not live life based on “committee decisions”
·      Is able to laugh at themselves in their dopey moments
·      Can readily say, “I’m sorry”

The couple arrived and I tucked away the paper I had scribbled the above notes on.  During the review of their ceremony they told me they’d like read an excerpt from Paul’s Letter To the Corinthians, chapter 13 – yes, the classic, “love is patient, love is kind.”

I’ll admit, when I heard they’d chosen that reading my eyes did a mental roll!  If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that reading. . .

BUT, later it occurred to me that ultimately confidence is a form of love. . .

If you take that classic scripture passage and switch out “love” for “confidence” then here’s a snippet of what you get:

Confidence is patient and is kind.
It is not jealous, is not pompous, and is not inflated,
It is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
It does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

Confidence is a gift – to self, to others – because it allows us to CONNECT in ways deep and genuine.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

12 Uncomfortable Ways To Not Be Miserable!

Every moment is utterly unique and will not be continued in eternity. This fact gives life its poignancy and should concentrate your attention on what you are experiencing now.
Joseph Campbell

A client recently told me that his boss confessed to him that he’s “given up” on life.  He’s not suicidal, but he is no longer interested in people, romance or relationships.  He just wants to work.

Kendra (names changed)  (25) shared in a workshop that she decided to look for a new job when she one day realized that she was “comfortable being miserable at work.”

Another client, Steven (46), asked me if I thought he was too old to reinvent himself.  When I told him he wasn’t he heaved a sigh of relief.  He said that what he’s most gained from our work is the realization that he has options, and that he doesn’t have to remain stuck in his job or in the routines of his life.  I was touched, but wanted to know then why he had asked me if I thought he could reinvent himself.  He simply said, “I just wanted to hear you say it.”

I’m in the “business” of confidence and so I frequently work with folks who are feeling miserable because of their seeming inability to assert themselves and with their stumbling efforts to find the satisfaction that comes from making confident choices.

Clients often come to me hoping I can tell them how not to be miserable.  Because each is miserable for their own particular reasons, there are no “six easy steps to not being miserable.”  However, there are things each of us can practice doing so as to vaccinate against “miserable-itis.”

12 At-First-Difficult Things You Can Do To De-miserabilize Yourself

1.     Anticipate resistance as you challenge your comfortable state of being miserable – but resist the resistance.
2.     Accept that happiness doesn’t last longer than that new car smell.  Joy and deep down satisfaction are another matter altogether.  Adding new things to your life doesn’t upend miserableness – losing yourself in something that grabs your fascination does.
3.     Choose a difficult feeling other than “miserable.”  You can experience that scary feeling we each get when trying something new.
4.     Figure out what you’re really clinging to when you cling to being miserable.  What are you really afraid of?  Answer that and you’ll have greater leverage over that miserableness.
5.     Adjust your expectations – simply wishing to not be miserable is not going to un-miserable you.
6.     Practice being grateful.  At the end of each day do a quick review of the people and moments you feel grateful for.  Even if you are atheistic in your beliefs, say out loud, “thank you.”
7.     Shake-up your ordinary routine.  Go to work or return home via a different route; order the chef’s special; take a walk down a street you’ve frequently passed and wondered what it looked like.
8.     Don’t hibernate.  Force yourself to be with someone(s) for some reason.
9.     Identify who told you that in order to live safely you had to live miserably.  What was their authority over you?  My father used to tell me that “life’s a bitch and then you die!”  for many years, too many years, I believed him.  He lied.
10.  Dare yourself to do something new, strange, or uncomfortable.  You figure out what that sentence can mean!
11.  Read – a book, a magazine, a blog post from someone you like or someone you don’t know.  Get other ideas popping into your head.
12.  Seek out a therapist if the quality of your suffering is acute.  If you don’t want the therapeutic approach, then seek out a coach who can hold you accountable for the change you want to become.

Friday, August 19, 2016

How To Become The Hero Of Your Own Life

David Copperfield

Jared (50) (all names changed) came to me for coaching because he doesn’t want to become his father, who was a verbally abusive man, who only had transactional relationships with his family and had no friends.  Jared is self-aware enough to recognize that, indeed, he has more than begun to replicate his father’s ways.

Mary(32) recently sought out my help because she’s exhausted from having resisted turning into her father, a workaholic who lives to make a buck and who is controlling in his family relationships.  Mary has carved out a life for herself and her family that contradicts the career path her father demanded she march down.  Mary, though, is riddled with guilt and has become adept at sabotaging herself professionally.

Kim(46) was recently demoted at work, the victim of office politics.  He came to me wanting to find a new job, a job that will give him money – lots of money.  Job satisfaction is his #2 priority, so he claimed.  As we explored his goals, what became apparent is that he wants money because he wants to prove himself to his father.  He’s never allowed himself to go after a job that he actually wanted because he thought it would bring deep down satisfaction.

Jared, Mary and Kim each feel frustrated, angry and helpless.  Each repeatedly said, “I don’t know what to do!”

I’m jotting down the first draft of this post on July 31st which, in the Catholic  Church, is the feast day of Ignatius of Loyola, the man who founded the religious order that became known as the Jesuits.

When I was twenty years old, I entered the Jesuit novitiate to prepare for a life as an ordained priest.  I was filled with idealism and determined to please my New York Irish-American parents.  I was hell-bent not on saving the world, but rather on making the world a better place.  Almost twenty years later, I left the Jesuits and resigned from the priesthood, not in rancor but in the conviction that I needed to “find my voice”.

I left not in repudiation of all I had done, but rather, in the conviction that there was more I needed to learn and do and that it couldn’t be done within the safe borders of religious life.

When I joined the Jesuits, I thought that religious life would allow me to become the hero of my own life.  From this vantage spot in my life, I realize that was just the first phase.  And now, these many years later, I’m listening to a growing number of clients who are struggling with how to become the hero of their own life.

So, here’s what I now know about becoming the hero of your own life – and it’s what I did not know and could not know when I was that idealistic twenty year old.

1.     Recognize the courage that was needed to get this far – which may not be where you ultimately want to be – but you’ve outsmarted some of your demons.
2.     Grieve and feel the anger for choices made that did not bring you to where you had hoped to go but do not beat yourself up.   Being harsh isn’t going to aid you.
3.     Come to terms with the reality that change and newness of life will never come as quickly as you would want.
4.     Resist saying, “Yes, but. . .” when options appear in your life.  The forces of darkness don’t want you to heal.
5.     Decide which pain you want – the pain of healing or the pain of self-injury.
6.     Brutally answer this question, “Who do I want to be?”  Describe in detail what you would look like and feel like, how you would move and think and react.  And then make peace with the fact that that person cannot be the original version of who you wanted to be because you are changed by pain, loss and, yes, successes.
7.     Those early impulses in your life – impulses of generosity and idealism – they were real, genuine and enduring.  They may have been half thought out, gingerly or callously handled BUT they are still your North Star.  How can they be reinvigorated?
8.     Expect self-resistance.  Old habits resent newly forming habits especially when the new ones are healthy and effective.
9.     Believe that what you’re doing is a gift – to your self – to those within your immediate circle – to those within that small slice of humanity you interact with.
10. Find a mentor, a coach, a “mid-wife” – someone you can trust, who you don’t have to idolize, and who can assist you in your heroic becoming.

JP Reynolds helps people find their voice, showing professionals how to communicate in smart, healthy ways so as to develop successful relationships.  JP teaches at UCLA Extension and blogs with The Huffington Post.  To explore how he can help you present you with enhanced confidence, please contact JP at:

Sunday, July 24, 2016

10 Characteristics Of Truly Confident People

I recently met with a woman who has a Ph.D. and works as a researcher at a national policy institute.  Nicole (name changed) is bright, funny and personable – and claims that she doesn’t feel “confident.”  She’s worried that she’ll disappoint clients, internal and external and that she won’t know her material well enough to make competent presentations.  She feels intimidated with colleagues who she deems know more than she.

Each week I’m approached by people who want to figure out this whole confidence “thing.”   More times than not, the folks coming to me are wonderfully competent at what they do and so I’m puzzled by their claims of not having “confidence.”

Go to Amazon and you’ll find more than seventeen thousand entries related to “confidence”!  At the risk of sounding arrogant, here are my Ten Characteristics Of A Confident Person. 

A confident person:

1.     Knows their stuff – maybe not inside and out, but they know what is required of them in any given circumstance and knows how to find the helpful answers when they don’t readily know an answer.
2.     Knows how to reassure the other person(s) that they are in good hands.  Confident people don’t waste other people’s time.
3.     Believes they have something worthwhile to give – whether it’s the key to the stock room or the solution to a program malfunction.  What they have to give may not be life changing, but it will make the other person’s life a bit easier.
4.     Knows they are “odd” – and in what way they’re odd.  Hey, we’re all a bit whacky and we can only be confident if we understand our own quirks.
5.     Has a sense of humor – they can laugh at themselves and even help the other person laugh at their own mistakes. 
6.     Is willing to risk making a mistake for the sake of doing or discovering something new, better or bigger.
7.     Doesn’t make their audience into something that they’re not.  They understand that the audience (no matter how intimate or public) shares much in common with them and that commonness gives them access to their audience.  But, they also understand the specifics of what makes their audience unique and do all they can to speak to that unique reality.
8.     Is not afraid of being nervous and recognizes that it’s a healthy feeling. 
9.     Can make adjustments on the spot.  Because they’re sure of their material and overall goal, they can tweak as they engage.
10.  Understands they can’t do everything within the allotted time they have with an audience.  And that allows them to not feel frustrated because their “gift” fits within the box created by the allotted time.

I think these ten traits can be condensed into just one:
A confident person has realistic expectations of their own self, the other and their relationship AND based on those expectations, a confident person is happy to give an audience whatever gift they’ve prepared for them, believing that good can come from the mutual experience.

What about you?  What does it mean for you to feel confident?

Monday, June 06, 2016

Crazy-Making Communication Dance Steps!

My friend Valerie’s dad, Ed (names changed), had a heart attack last month.  Valerie’s mom didn’t tell her until a week later as she didn’t want to worry her.  Valerie was ready to dash over but her mother said, “Don’t come.  If you want, stop by on Saturday.”

Valerie felt bad, but decided to honor her mother’s wishes.  Saturday morning she called her dad and asked if she could bring anything.  He told her not to come over.  Upset, thinking he didn’t want to see her, she went over nevertheless.  Her mother’s car wasn’t in the driveway and when she rang the bell there was no answer.  Worried, she called her dad’s cell.  Not realizing she was at the door, he told her to stay home.  “You’re not going to let me in?” she pleaded.  “Oh, you’re here?” He sounded surprised, which annoyed her.  “Yes, I’m here.  I’m outside.”  “Why did you come?”  Exasperated, she said, “Because I wanted to say I love you and give you a hug.”  “Oh, you didn’t have to do that.”  And, yes, he did sound touched.

Later, Valerie told her mom the saga.  Her mother sighed and asked, “Why do you pay attention to what he says?  You know how he is!”  Valerie laughed because her mom was right.  Her dad doesn’t like anyone making a fuss over him and he’s never been an affectionately demonstrative guy.  Why would she think a heart attack would change him?  Well, she thought it would change him because she wanted it to change him!

Valerie has shared numerous stories about how exasperatingly independent her dad can be.  This latest fits within a pattern, so I asked why she’d been hurt when he told her not to visit.  I know that was an annoying question, but Valerie knows that his first reaction in time of crisis is to rebuff people.  Why take at face value what he says?  He was happy to see her and was touched by her care.  Why does Valerie always allow herself to feel bad when he initially rejects her help?

Old habits die hard.  When people are in a relationship communication patterns develop and take on a life of their own.  This is especially true in families.

Valerie continually gets tripped up by her dad’s fear of imposing on her and so she finds herself trapped in a cycle of worry, anger and relief.  It’s draining.  Valerie’s dad most likely isn’t going to change, but Valerie can.  She can change her attitude and more readily see through her dad’s fear (and her own).

What about you? 
Are you trapped in a dance that is continually tripping you up? 
Don’t wait for the other person to change – make the first move!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Life Changing "Permission Slip"

Last week I met with Clay (name changed), a client who is a manager in the IT department of an international company.  Clay hates his job.  He’s the classic case of a person who was promoted not because he showed managerial promise but because he was good at what he did.  Although he has the potential for becoming a solid manager, he has no desire.  Rather than take charge of his career he’s resigned to failure.  In fact, I think he welcomes the idea of getting fired.  Oh, how we complicate our lives!

I asked Clay what he’d like to do instead of managing an IT team.  Without hesitating, he said, “I’d like to write operas.”  Wow – I hadn’t seen that coming!  He explained that he had wanted to pursue a career as a classical musician, but his parents guided him down a more stable professional path.  And sometimes stability can come with a steep price tag.

 Lately I’ve been doing spring-cleaning and for me that involves not just tossing out the “stuff” that’s been collecting dust.  It’s also a time to sort through clippings and links to articles and posts that I convinced myself someday I’d use. 

Here’s an edited obit clipping I passed along to Clay. It’s for Michael Masser who died last July at the age of seventy-four.  A stockbroker-turned-composer Masser wrote hits for Whitney Houston, Diana Ross and Roberta Flack.  It’s the kind of obit that I hope someday can be written for Clay.  Here’s how Masser made his career and life changing decision (as written by Sam Roberts in the New York Times).

As Mr. Masser biked to work as a broker in Midtown Manhattan in the 1960s, he would detour to the Juilliard School to putter on a piano. A self-taught pianist, an inner muse was urging him to switch careers and pursue his true calling.” 

“‘I was working as a stockbroker in New York and had the seemingly perfect life,’ Mr. Masser told The Chicago Sun-Times in 1988.  ‘But I was unhappy, and someone I knew convinced me to see a shrink. I walked in and told the doctor I wanted to write music.  He said, ‘What’s the problem with that?’  I told him that didn’t go over well in my family. He listened, took my money and said: ‘Here’s a note of permission to write music. That’s all you need to clear your conscience.’  And it’s funny, because that’s all I was looking for: permission.  I had been the dutiful son and husband for so long, I had forgotten about living for myself.’” 

What about you? 
Is there something you’d like to be doing other than what you’re now working at?  What are you going to do about that desire?!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Does It Matter What "They" Think?

The #1 refrain I hear from people who come to me seeking to build-up their confidence is, “I’m afraid of what people will say / think of me.”  So much time, so much energy is spent worrying about “them.”  And certainly I get it – I’ve wasted so much time worrying and I’ve silenced myself on way too many occasions out of concern and fear.

Recently I came across an item on the Huffington Post that caught my eye.  It’s short and so I’m reprinting it here. . .as you read this, imagine (if you can) that you’re Ryan Gosling. . .

No one likes Noah. At least, according to author Nicholas Sparks, no wanted to play the part of “Noah” in the screen version of “The Notebook.”

During a conversation with IMDb Asks on Wednesday, Sparks revealed the difficulties he had casting the famously romantic leading role.

“It was really interesting because a lot of the actors said, “Well, what’s Noah’s arc?” Sparks said. “It’s a guy who falls in love and then he just kinda does nothing, and then waits for her to show up and then he’s there and he’s still in love and then at the end of the film, well, he’s still in love. Where’s the arc? Ryan Gosling came in and he really brought that story to life.”

Gosling managed to bring the story to life, but he apparently landed the part because he wasn’t considered traditionally handsome by Hollywood standards and the film’s director. 

“[Director] Nick Cassavetes called me to meet him at his house. When I got there, he was standing in his backyard, and he looked at me and said, “I want you to play this role because you’re not like the other young actors out there in Hollywood. You’re not handsome, you’re not cool, you’re just a regular guy who looks a bit nuts,’” Gosling told Company magazine in 2011.

Definitely the kind of stuff that boosts your self-esteem, right?

I think it’s fair to say that Gosling’s life would be radically different today had he worried about “what will they think?”
Certainly gives me something to think about!