Friday, March 17, 2017

The #1 Way To Become Confident

photo: freddy castro

Last month I was in in San Francisco to catch the performance of my friend Anthony in the riotously funny play “Speakeasy.” I was early and so popped into one of Little Italy’s many cafes. I was jotting down ideas – for this newsletter actually – when a man walked in and went over to the owner. Because I was sitting close by I could overhear their remarkable exchange. The man said, “I’ve not been back here in seven years but seven years ago I needed a cup of coffee. I was eleven cents short. You told me not to worry and you gave me the coffee. I never properly thanked you but I’ve never forgotten you.” WHOA! This guy stunned (and I think confused) the owner. He certainly blew me away.

A week later I received a surprise via LinkedIn. I had a message from Emanuela, a UCLA Extension student from nine years ago. She thanked me for helping her learn how to set boundaries and be more confident in expressing her needs and viewpoints. The class helped her change the way she does business and she wanted me to know that she hasn’t forgotten me. Once again I was blown away!

Emanuela and café guy reminded me that a confident person knows, remembers and acknowledges those who help them.  There can be no confidence without gratitude.

Consider this:
Denise is hurt because Marie hasn’t thanked her for all the strategic help she’s given her at work. Denise feels taken advantage of. Marie happens to be a client of mine and she is struggling with what she wants to do with her career. At the core of that struggle are her flimsy and wavering feelings of self-confidence.  

Marie wants to move into an executive position because she wants to feel valued and relevant. However, she’s unable to recognize and so is unable to give thanks for the gifts and talents she’s developed over an impressive career. Her personal lack of gratitude is crippling her confidence – and preventing her from being a gracious colleague.

Here’s the great truth – confident people know how to value others. They know how to show appreciation

In addition, they are willing to do the challenging work of shining a private light of recognition on their own particular talents and gifts. Confident people are willing to answer the question, “What are my strengths?” Not just skills but the strengths that undergird those skills. Gratitude lets them own their powers and from the gratitude comes the confidence to put those powers to good use.

One final illustration (for why I am fixated this month on gratitude):

Last Saturday I officiated a wedding where Nick, the groom, had big tears streaming down his face as he offered his personal vows to Teresa, his bride. I seldom see a man cry in public this way and, of course, the cliché is that a crying man is a weak man. But that wasn’t so with Nick. There was strength to his tears because they flowed with gratitude for the love of this woman. I have no doubt that Nick’s gratitude let him offer his vows from a place of confidence, loving what he knows of Teresa and trusting what he does not yet know.

A mindful “thank you” is the glue of all relationships – with self and others. Gratitude is one of the hallmarks of a confident person.

You know you are in the presence of confidence when you hear an emphatic, clear-eyed, strong-voiced “thank you!”

So the question I leave you with is – who can you thank you this day? This week? This month?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Real Secret To Being Confident

If you are not willing to risk the usual
you will have to settle for the ordinary.
Jim Rohn

If you’ve attended one of my workshops then you’ve probably heard one of my whack-a-do stories regarding my family! My father was a good man who was a confirmed pessimist. He believed that the glass was not only half-empty, but the water remaining in the glass was toxic. He led his life in the sure belief that “we’re not meant for happiness in this world.” Yes, he had an explanation for his belief, but that’s another story!

I resisted buying into his philosophy, but, truth be told, it did seep into my unconscious and so there is a part of me that doesn’t consistently pay happiness much heed. Since the last newsletter, though, I’ve been bumping into so many happy people that I’ve been compelled to reflect on this whole happiness “thing.”

Last month I treated myself to a four-day leadership coaching conference offered by Peter Bregman and his associate Emily Cohen. I’ve enjoyed Peter’s books and articles for years and his retreat was illuminating. I learned dynamic coaching protocols from him and I’m excited to integrate those techniques in future coaching and workshops.

Even more than the technical stuff I was gobsmacked (love that word) with his infectious joy. Peter is that rare creature – a smart, insightful guy who loves what he does and is remarkably generous in sharing that joy.  

Each afternoon participants practiced on each other the coaching techniques we were learning. For Peter coaching is all about how the person coaching can help the person coached gain maximum traction on their most important goal.

One of the participants I coached was Deb, an international executive coach who recently rediscovered the joy of dance. When she turned fifty she decided that she wanted more happiness in her already successful life. When she was younger she trained in dance. During the twists and turns of her life, she “walked” away from dance and found satisfaction in the world of organizational coaching. Now, at the marker of fifty, she wanted more and so she became certified to lead dance classes. She admitted she was afraid to embrace dance again. She has no desire to leave her work, but is she being frivolous in wanting to do something with dance?

Through our session Deb realized that she was sabotaging herself with an either/or mentality. She can find ways to embrace the dancer within, and so honor a legitimate part of who she is, without abandoning the career she’s carved for herself. The idea of this “expanded life” is energizing her.

My client Nick, who works in a nuanced technical world, is focused on becoming an engaging presenter. He’s challenging himself to step back from the typical PowerPoint deck and experiment with how he can present material. To his surprise, he’s finding that he’s actually having fun with all of this. In our last session he asked, “I’m not supposed to be having fun, am I?” Duh! How many books are in Amazon precisely on the topic of business innovation / creativity / fun?

Patty recently gave an in-house seminar at her company, helping orient new hires to the culture. She was surprised by how much she enjoyed both the prep work and the delivering of the information. She saw it as an opportunity to give a bunch of Millennials a group coaching session. Now she’s wondering if she can find a place in the company that would let her tap into this skill set. She enjoyed herself so much that she senses she needs to put these skills into more consistent use.

There have been others who’ve talked to me about happiness and satisfaction – trying to find it, trying to figure out what, if anything, to do with it. I’ve felt challenged by these encounters because here’s the thing. . .

I’m in the business of confidence and what I’ve seen with all these people is that their confidence has soared because they’ve been surprised by – satisfaction, happiness, desire. All strong emotions that are not easy to dismiss.

Or is it that they’ve experienced happiness because they’ve grown in confidence?

Each of the people I’ve bumped into these past weeks is marked with the courage and commitment to do something they’ve not done before or to resume doing something they once enjoyed and then carelessly neglected. Each is surprised that in the doing has come a confidence laced with a satisfaction that seeps over into happiness.

And the real surprise is that they show up to all the other aspects of their life with more assuredness. They feel powerful. Embracing happiness is the genuine secret to being confident.

My father was wrong – we are meant for happiness in our relationships and in our work. Life without confidence is nerve-wracking. Happiness without confidence is inconceivable.

Friday, October 14, 2016

10 Questions To Help You Look At A Fear You'd Rather Ignore

I collect and frame menus that hang on my dining room walls.  Last Christmas friends gave me a framed menu from a long-gone New York establishment.  I loved the menu but not the frame, so I decided to get it reframed.  Well, here it is October and I’ve yet to get the menu reframed.  I haven’t forgotten about it – it’s on a table near my bedroom closet.  Every day for ten months I’ve walked by it! 

Why haven’t I gotten it reframed?  Am I lazy?  Kind of.  Am I cheap?  Sort of.  I want to get it reframed but I don’t necessarily see the value of spending money when there’s other “stuff” I value more.  Besides, there’s no dire consequence if I don’t get it reframed.  Though I’ll admit, I’ve not had my friends over for dinner!

I marvel that several times a day I’ve gone past this frame and have never made a decision as to what to do with it. I mean, it can’t stay on that table forever. Or can it? Most days, I don’t even see it.

I shouldn’t be surprised because the reality is that if we don’t see value in something or someone we most likely will ignore it – or them.  How often do you say, “we have to do lunch” and then never do.  Why?  You know as well as I that if we saw value in having lunch with a person, we would!  We keep at bay people and obligations for which we see little or no value.  BUT, what determines if I “see” value?

The answer to that question varies widely among us.  However, business guru Peter Bregman challenges his clients with the flip side to that question – “what do you not want to see?”  Hmm. Ignoring a menu is easy but what are the areas of my life I don’t want to rummage around in and “see” what’s there?

It can be scary to see aspects of life that we prefer to walk by because once you see something, you can’t un-see it.  And if you can’t un-see it then you have to change and change can be uncomfortable. 

I work with clients who stay in dysfunctional “romances” or emotionally abusive jobs, who stay in a mindset of doom and gloom, because they have trained themselves to no longer see the price their fear-laden complacency exacts from them.

Why do we stay in a relationship or job that has so little value?  Fear.  Fear that the place of higher value will demand we become braver than we now are.

After writing the above, I took a break and met my goddaughter, Maddie, for lunch. As soon as we sat down she announced that she had some news she wasn’t sure I’d be happy about. Yes, that got my attention and my mind began racing in all sorts of weird directions!

Turns out, her boyfriend received an offer at his job to relocate to Austin, Texas – more responsibility and more money. It’s an offer he can’t refuse. He told her that he understands if she doesn’t want to relocate and that they’d make a long-distance relationship work.

Since graduating college two years ago Maddie has struggled to find satisfying work in the entertainment industry. She’s always wanted to live outside southern California and she senses that she’s ready for that big adventure. She wants to make the move, BUT. . .

She doesn’t know if she should and the “what if’s” are swarming around her. She has a nagging sense that she’s not supposed to move away from family and friends. Why? Because no one else has ever made such a move.

She’s afraid and yet she recognizes that her desire to TRY is not going to easily fade away. She’s even more afraid of giving in to her fears. BUT “How do I know with certainty that I’m doing the right thing?” she asked me.

Ah, you don’t ever have certainty – that’s the catch! The real issue, though is how do you focus your attention on what could expand your well-being?

10 questions to help you focus on what you’d rather not see!

1.     Where in your life are you feeling uneasy or anxious?
2.     What are the “should’s” and “supposed to’s” that are making you feel uneasy?
3.     Who told you that you’re supposed to be or do a certain way?
4.     What would happen to your relationship with that person(s) if you did not do as they thought you should?
5.     If you act on your instinct and desire, what are the potentially life-giving aspects of that decision?
6.     How would that decision be detrimental to your well-being?
7.     By whose assessment are you labeling the potential decision life giving or detrimental?
8.     What would you have to do in order to be satisfied in your current state of life?
9.     Is the price for that satisfaction reasonable?
10.  What is it that you’re really seeking?

Maddie worries that because no one else in her extended family has moved to another state that she’s wrong in her desire to experience another region of the country. Because LA is the entertainment capital, she worries that she committing career suicide.

As we talked, she came to terms with the fact that she is not obligated to stay in southern California simply because no one in her family had ever left California. Austin doesn’t have to be a permanent move.

She also acknowledged that in order to commit career suicide, you have to have a career to kill. Since she’s in the early stages of figuring out how best to use her abilities, she doesn’t have a career to kill off!

By the time we finished dessert, Maddie recognized that the only thing her fears did was to distract her from seeing the value of embracing this opportunity.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, Maddie “reframed” the challenge and so with a clear eye is ready to create a relocation strategy with her boyfriend.

The bravest act is an act of one’s own.
What menu do you need to get reframed?!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How To Confront Fear That Clouds Your Judgment

True freedom can only come from doing things differently.
Susan Forward

Elizabeth just gave notice at her dysfunctional job. The company is tanking – checks are bouncing. She’s been invited to join an international start-up. It’s an exciting proposition and she’s so right for it. Yet, in her words, she’s “scared shitless!”

I know Elizabeth and so I’m not surprised with her reaction, BUT, still, I asked her, “Why the fear? The handwriting has been spray painted on the walls of your current job. What do you have to lose? Even if the venture bombs, what’s the worst that can happen? You get another job.”

She said, “I know” in the tone of voice used by a child who doesn’t want to admit that the other person is making sense. It’s almost as though she feels that she “should” feel afraid and that it would be wrong to feel excited.

Her fear is simply running on automatic pilot.

She knows this new venture is a great opportunity. She knows she has a steep learning curve and she knows she’s up to the challenge. Knowing all that, why not be excited?
She admitted, “It doesn’t feel right to get excited.”  Huh? Where does this belief come from? Yes, family mantra comes into play AND it also comes from years of believing that professional satisfaction is too risky because it can’t last. Therefore, so goes the reasoning, why enjoy the satisfaction of meaningful work?

Her satisfaction may not last. And that’s okay. Just because satisfaction may not last, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the moment, can’t enjoy the adventure.

A new opportunity has presented itself. Is it not ingrateful to refuse to give thanks and embrace the opportunity? 

Come to the edge, he said.
They said, we are afraid.
Come to the edge, he said.
They came;
He pushed them – and they flew.
Guillaume Apollinaire

Gerry is a VP who has worked at her current position for five years. During that time she was a major player in helping to secure $40 million in new business from just one client. Her bonus this year was less than $5000 – essentially a Starbucks gift card! Sam, her boss, is mercurial – one day praising her at a company-wide meeting and the next chastising her in front of external customers. Throwing people emotionally off-balance is a sport for Sam.

Gerry’s being wooed by a start-up whose founders recognize what she can bring to their team. They treat her with respect and professionalism. They have now point blank asked her, “What will it take to get you to join us?” Gerry’s afraid to name what she needs and wants.

She has paralyzed herself by focusing on how this is a big risk and by indulging feeling guilty because the company gave her a decent job for the past five years. Yet, last week Sam rejected a suggestion she offered to improve internal communications on a particular aspect of a critical project. He snapped that he was in charge and didn’t need her input.

Phantom guilt can have a powerful hold on a person. As distasteful as it sounds, Gerry has been in an abusive relationship with her boss – and so she spends her energy concocting reasons why she shouldn’t leave them.

A sampling of Gerry’s self-inflicted paralyzing questions (with my answers!):

“Am I worthy of this new opportunity?” Gerry is accomplished, talented and is bolstered with the gracious strength of her emotional intelligence. I’d say that makes her “worthy.”

“I don’t think I’m as good as they think I am.” Classic fraud syndrome. Most of us are “frauds”!

“What if I tell them what I want and they say ‘NO’?” Hmm – it’s called “negotiation” for a reason.
“But maybe Sam will change?” Perhaps, BUT I doubt it as he has given no indication that he desires to become a more effective, emotionally intelligent leader.

“I guess I have the right to reach for my dream job, yes?” YES!

I asked Gerry a question of my own, “What would you tell your daughter if she was dating a man who treated her the way your boss treats you?” She quickly said that she’d urge her to break up with him.

So then the question remaining is, “Why wouldn’t you give your self the same advice you’d give your own daughter?”

It is a psychological and spiritual principle that when we draw to the “light,” the forces of “dark” do what they can to sabotage us. It is inevitable. What is not inevitable is our succumbing to our dark thoughts.

Fear is fine, normal and to be expected. Feel it and then once our eyes and minds and hearts have been opened choose against it. Embrace the desire, the goal, the plan.

10 Things To Grapple With As You Demolish Paralyzing Fear

1.     Do you feel on edge at work? If so then Remember – that’s not the feeling you deserve to have, even though so many of us have it that it’s now considered “normal.”
2.     What does your dream job look like?
3.     How do you look in that job?
4.     How close to reality can you get to your dream job?
5.     What are the risks of the new job? If the worst happened, could you recoup?
6.     If you don’t pursue new work, what would you have to do to stay in your current job?
7.     Can you do what’s needed to stay in your current job?
8.     Are your doubts helping you gain clarity or simply making you feel confused? Then why pay attention to them?
9.     Rephrase a question such as, “Am I worthy?” to “What do I bring to this new venture?” Rephrase a question such as, “Am I a fraud?” to “How long will it take me to acquire the skills I’m lacking?”
10.  Recognize that most situations are not black/white. There are options within options. Play with options!

Friday, September 09, 2016

How To Figure Out What To Do When You "Grow Up"!

Where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet –
there you will find your vocation.
Frederick Buechner

Over the summer I’ve had four new clients approach me with the refrain, “I need help figuring out what I want to do when I grow-up!” Each of these folks has graduated college (one is a post graduate) and each works at an established company. And each is deeply uncomfortable where they are in life.

So how do you figure out what to do when you “grow-up”?

The first thing is to acknowledge that –You already ARE grown-up!
You are an adult – even if you may not always feel like one or act like one.

In addition, although you have a job or had a job, it’s critical to keep in mind that you are not your job – no matter what you do. 

You are the sum of your relationships and your obligations to those relationships, along with your feelings and beliefs, your spirituality and psychology, your values and habits.
All of that guides and influences what you do and how you do it and why you do it.

The legendary theologian John Henry Newman believed that “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” When someone says they want to figure out what to do when they “grow up” they are muddling the issue because the issue is not “when I grow-up.”

The issue is “given that I am today this grown-up, how will I reinvent myself?”

In the early years of my adult life I lived in a religious community and prepared for ordained ministry as a priest. When I resigned from ministry after twenty years of community life I had only a hazy notion of who I was. (And, yes, that it is a startling thing to admit) My therapist told me that I had to find new ways of being “priest.” That required I do things that would force me to become realistically acquainted with the skills and talents I’d acquired and had taken for granted. I had to experiment, try on, risk and reevaluate.

Reinvention doesn’t necessarily require new skills. It does, though, require you to be familiar with the skills you currently have and become comfortable using them in new and possibly unfamiliar ways.

So how do you reinvent yourself – now that you are grown-up?

Cristina Nehring in her book, A Vindication Of Love, writes that when she was in high school, "my English teacher told our class that the most important thing about life was to live it as if it were a good novel–as if, she said, it were a good film script. ‘Would audiences walk out during the movie of your life?’" She believes that by living "deliberately, gracefully, inventively, and fearlessly” any one of us can be “a piece of art." 

Here are 20 questions for you to rummage around in and grapple as you create the piece of art that is YOU. . .

1.     In your present job, what skills do you enjoy putting to use? What comes easy to you?
2.     For what skills do you get your most compliments?
3.     When you last were looking for work, what had you really wanted to do?
4.     What or who pushed you into taking this job?
5.     How you think you’ll emotionally be if you remain in your current job for another five years? Ten years?
6.     What are the practical reasons for you remaining in your current job? How important are those needs? Are those needs really “needed”?
7.     Who else is involved in your decision to reinvent yourself?
8.     What needs do they have? What fears are attached to those needs?
9.     Is there a specific field you’re interested in? Does it require new training? Do you know anyone who is doing what you want to do? Do you know anyone who knows someone doing what you want to do?
10.  Are you most excited by the idea of a new job or by having the opportunity to use skills you currently under-use?
11.  Is there any place within your current company that would let you tap more into the skills you want to be immersed in?
12.  A dream job is just a dream without a strategy. Do you have a dream or a strategy? What does your strategy look like?
13.  How will your life be different in your new job? Is this new job crucial to making your life different in the way you imagine?
14.  What will you miss from your current job and do you think you’ll find it in your new one?
15.  How will the new job make you more “grown-up” than your current one? What “grown-up” responsibilities will you have in your new job that you don’t have in your current?
16.  How are you sabotaging yourself now and would those techniques carry over in whatever new job you take?
17.  Do you have a tolerance for ambiguity, along with a dose of patience and grit?
18.  Do you think you have what it takes to reinvent yourself?
19.  What is one skill you have that will come in handy as you reinvent yourself? One is one skill you need to develop?
20.  What do you want to be remembered for in this life? Will your future job help you be remembered for all the right reasons?

Answer these questions and you will have more insight into your next possible job and clarity into who you want to be, doing what you’ll be doing.

If you strategize with these questions, you will not just find a new job. You will experience transformation. Leadership guru John Maxwell calls transformation the “journey to significance.” Significance, according to Maxwell, is all about adding value to people.

Angela Duckworth, author and expert on “grit” believes that, “Rather than ask, ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?’ ask, ‘In what way do I wish the world were different? What problem can I help solve?’ This puts the focus where it should be — on how you can serve other people.”

Deep. Yes, I know!
Going deep, though, is what adults do. . .

Sunday, September 04, 2016

How To Stop Feeling "Not Enough!"

An archeologist went out on a dig and hired a guide with supplies. The caravan moved along but would stop every so often, more frequently than the archeologist thought necessary.  When he asked why they were making so many stops, the guide replied, “We rest so that our souls can catch up.”

Funny what we remember from childhood. . .

I graduated from grammar school #1 in my class and received The General Excellence Award.  I worked hard for that medal – though not for the right reasons as perfectionism was the great driving force. At my graduation party I remember my grandmother marveling at how nonchalant I was about the award. She claimed that she’d be jumping out of her “pelt” with excitement and pride had she gotten the medal. Although I diligently worked for that medal, I simply shrugged it off. And, yes, it wasn’t the last significant achievement I’d shrug off. I’ve perfected dismissing the good I do with a weary, “Yes, but. . .”

I thought back to that General Excellence award this week as I met with three clients each of whom has the marvelous capacity to shrug off the good and important in their lives. I found myself echoing the words of my grandmother, “you should be jumping out of your pelt!”

Patty (names changed) is plagued with an ill-defined feeling that her team, along with management, doesn’t take her seriously. She worries she’s not able to be who her team needs and wants her to be.  Throughout our session I poked and prodded to determine if her worries stemmed from her own insecurities or were they grounded in office politics. About five minutes before session’s end, Patty casually mentioned that after a recent, particularly grueling, meeting with a client who was demanding more than the company was willing to give, her boss told her, in front of key team players, “I’m proud of you and your team.  Thank you for the great work you do.” 

I was floored. When I asked, “Do you think he was lying?”  Patty quickly said, “No.”  Then why is she insecure?

When Gloria’s company had a leadership change, downsizing was soon introduced and she was one of the first to go. Gloria is accomplished in her field, has an enviable string of academic degrees and is emotionally intelligent. She’s been uncomfortable in her position for some time.

She recognizes this as an opportunity to do what she’s been dreaming of doing – strike out on her own.  She worries, though, if she’ll be to attract lucrative clients. If she does, will they trust her enough to do business with her?  As we talked, she revealed interests and accomplishments that I didn’t know she had.  I was blown away. When I asked, “Why would a client not want someone who is as wildly competent, gracious, engaging and honest as you?” her response was a fumbling pause followed with, “I suppose. Do you really think so?”

Tarek has been in the U.S. for a year. He is well-educated, well-traveled and fluid in three languages including English.  On top of that, he’s engaging and likable.  He, though, worries that people don’t take him seriously because he’s not as familiar with U.S. pop culture as he thinks all Americans are.  He feels that he’s missing out on conversations.  When I pressed for examples of times when he was shunted aside, he couldn’t provide one compelling example. 

Two months after arriving in the States he was offered a position at a top ad agency. In addition, recently, several international venture capitalists have expressed interest in backing a pet project of his. Still, though, he has a vague sense that he is socially lacking in some way.

Given all that he has so far accomplished, I asked, “What more do you want?”  He couldn’t answer.

What more do YOU want? 
What more do each of these wonderful people want? 
What more did I want after nabbing the General Excellence medal?

It is easy to bludgeon our own self with the mantra, “I’m not enough” – which is another way of saying, “What I’ve accomplished is not really real because what I’ve accomplished is just the result of luck, kindness or sloppiness on the part of the other(s).”

Intellectually, each of my clients can reject such stupid talk.  Emotionally, though, each has become seduced with the harshness of the words they lob at their own self.

What to do?  Easy – be kind to oneself and say “thank you” if not to a god, then out loud to the Universe.  Simply acknowledging what really “is” is an expression of thanks. 

·      Being kind to yourself means acknowledging the courage it has taken to do what you have done.
·      Being kind to yourself means honoring the instincts that have allowed you to take the risks that got you to today’s place of gain.
·      Being kind to yourself means being happy in the desire to do more and be more.

To be kind to yourself means to rest in the moment and decide: of all that I have and all that I am what will I take with me as I go forward in creating my life?

Here’s the thing – how do you build on what you’ve accomplished if you do not see what you’ve accomplished?

How do you become who you want to be if you don’t see who you are today?

When you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears.
Anthony Robbins