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

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.