Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Each day I take a walk with my dog or children or both through my neighborhood in our beach community of Southern California.  Usually I take the same path - a tight circle around my block - but occasionally I try something new.  Today was a new day

 As I walked through the neighborhood on my new path, I came across a house I had probably seen a thousand times from my car driving by, but never really paid attention to.  It is a small, unassuming home, light brown and set back from the street.  In front of it are a vast array of tropical looking plants and trees.  It's hard to see the house through the 'jungle' in front, but once you arrive at the gate there is a beautiful walkway to the front door (which was wide open by the way).  Looking down I noticed that the bubbling noise I kept hearing was a coy pond with a small water feature sending fresh recycled water back into the pond.  Lilly pads and pond fronds completed the scene.  And even though there was no music playing, I could almost hear the sound of Tibetan bowls chiming in the very light breeze from the sea.

I stood there for maybe 10 minutes, just appreciating the scene, and all the time I was intrigued that the front door remained open, but no person seemed to be around.  The beauty of it... in the middle of a busy street in a busy neighborhood, a mile from a busy freeway, stood an oasis unto itself.  Clearly the resident of the house - having taken so much time and care to create such a peaceful and serene environment - felt no need to protect it by closing or locking the doors.

At the beginning of this year I made a New Year's resolution that I would be 'fine with what happens.'  Well this year has been extraordinarily challenging for me in many ways and being with what is so - a mantra I always teach to my clients and students - has been hard medicine for the doctor to swallow.  And yet, by finding that small oasis in the middle of my walk reminded me that no matter what happens outside of us, we still have the ability and choice to make our own little corner of the world as peaceful and complete as we want.  And when we keep our door open, instead of locking out the rest of the world, we invite prosperity to come in as well.

Know yourself, don't NO yourself.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Being In The Game

I’m a New England Patriots fan – have been since the year they first went to the Superbowl against the Chicago Bears in 1986.  My very first game was their opening game of that season.  My buddy Chris Braga – a Pats fan since birth – invited me to the game because he knew I had a car.  It was the very first football game I ever saw in person.  The Patriots beat their fierce divisional rivals, the New York Jets, and I turned to Chris at the end of the game and said “Wouldn’t it be great if they went to the Suberbowl this year?”  He laughed and pointed out that the Pats had never been to the big game, and this season would be no different.  Chris had long suffered through 2-14 seasons, losing all hope that his team would one day be great. 

But the Patriots did end up going to the Superbowl for the first time that year, and I have been a tried and true fan ever since, dreaming that perhaps my attendance on the first game of that special season played a small part in their success. 

Years later I became friends with a very powerful motivational speaker and business coach (and former New England Patriot!) by the name of Jeff Hoffman. Jeff now lives in Brentwood, California and is a successful entrepreneur and speaker.  At one of his seminars, I heard him tell a fantastic but true story of a friend of his, a football player by the name of Paul Hofer. 

In 1982, Hofer had a chance to try out for the position of running back on the San Francisco 49ers.  It was a tough training camp, and Hofer did his best to earn a spot on the team.  He had stiff competition, however, from another RB who already had the spot the year before.  Paul Hofer showed up every day, sometimes twice a day, and worked his hardest to earn the respect of the other players and coaches.  And he got it.  Many of the coaches told him that they thought he was the hardest working player on the squad.  But it wasn’t enough to earn him the spot, and when the final cuts for the season came down, and it was down to Hofer and the other player. The coaches chose the player with the experience over Hofer the rookie.

Paul Hofer found out about his cut the day before the last pre-season match-up.  That night he went back to his hotel room and decided not to go sit on the bench the next day.  Filled with disappointment, he packed his bags and called a cab to go home. 

But something stopped him.  He realized that he had played all spring with the other players – some of whom he would call friends – and he didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye.  He decided that he would end on a strong, high note and suit up for the final pre-season game anyway, even if he was just going to sit on the bench the whole game.

The next day, Hofer showed up, suited up, and as usual sat on the bench during the game.  The 49ers were losing, and by the end of the first half, it seem that they were going to go down to defeat and start the season with a negative (even though most people think that pre-season doesn’t mean much).  At the start of the second half, the 49ers coaches decided that in order to shake things up, they wanted to adjust from an air attack to a running game and began to call for the running back who beat Hofer out for the position.  The coaches were yelling and yelling his name, but he wasn’t there.  Turns out that player was off in a corner talking with a cheerleader.  Hofer saw this and knew it was his chance.   He ran up to the coaches and without letting them think about it, he simply yelled, “I’m here, coach, I’m going in!”

By the time Hofer got to the huddle, the coaches had called a passing play because they thought they didn’t have their running back, but upon seeing Hofer enter the huddle, the quarterback changed the play, and at the snap of the ball, handed the ball off to Hofer.  In one amazing run, Hofer not only got the first down, but he managed to elude several tacklers, get free, and get to the end zone. 


After the score, Hofer came back to the sidelines.  The head coach grabbed his facemask; Hofer thought for sure he was in trouble.  But the coach smiled and said, “Whatever you just did, please do a lot more!”   And he did.  Hofer played the rest of the game, scored two more touchdowns, and the 49ers won their final pre-season game. 

Paul Hofer not only helped the team win the game, but he also earned the spot on the roster as running back.  He played six seasons for the San Francisco 49ers, helping them win many games, including Superbowl XVl.  As for the other player… no one I’ve spoken with about this story can remember his name.

You’ll never need a better example of how that can work for you than Paul Hofer.  He worked his butt off, knew he belonged there, stayed even when he was cut, and made sure he was in the right place at the right time. 

What if Hofer had just gone home that night?   I still get the chills when I think about that story.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Memory Training - The Three Ways We Deal with the Past

A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen~Edward de Bono

Memories - the gift our creator gave to humanity - have allowed us to thrive as the dominant species on the planet.  Thanks to our memories we have communication, cities, infrastructure, faith, medicine, science, entertainment, joy and sorrow.  Our memories are what set us apart from the rest of the animals, and yet it is our memories which have also plagued us with doubt, guilt, remorse, regret, fear, trepidation, and more.

Our memories are what give us the filter through which we process life as it comes, and often that filter can work against us.   The filter works to serve the idea we have created about life and our place in it, so that when any contradictory information appears - good or bad - we process it through our filter and reach the same conclusion we held previously.

The Guard at the Wall
A client once told me he felt as if he lived behind a high wall which extended into infinity to the right and left.  On the other side of the wall stood his father as a kind of sentry, guarding the wall so that no information could get to my client without passing through the father first.  When someone would approach the wall, they would often compliment my client: "You're terrific"; "You're funny"; "You are so sweet" and so on.  After the person left, my client would shout over the wall to his sentry father figure and ask "What did they say?" to which his father shouted back "You're still a loser!"

Experiences in life do not have to define us.  YOU ARE NOT YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES.  What happened in the past didn't happen TO YOU, it just happened, and you made it mean something based on your emotional filter.

The Three Ways We Deal with the Past
For most of us, we deal with painful memories (or experiences which become memories) in one of three ways:

Feel it
Force it Down
Face it

For those of us who FEEL the experience, we can carry the pain of a perceived memory for years, allowing it to fuel our reasons for playing small in our lives, and not taking on the risks, challenges, or possibilities which could define us as being more than our pain.

Some of us FORCE DOWN our experiences. Resisting emotions that surround painful memories is like what the Ghostbusters did with the ghosts once they caught them - they locked them away in a specialized containment facility in their basement.  Although the door may have always been closed and they didn't see the goblins, they knew they were there... and the energy required to keep that door closed and locked was alarming, causing the city to intervene (much like a coach would with a client who was stuffing down too many bad memories and emotions).  They shut down the containment field and once the ghosts were freed, they could be dealt with .

And then there are those of us who FACE our demons head on.  There is a great saying: "What you resist persists, but what you look at disappears."  Stuffed down or not, once you face the feelings and acknowledge they are there, work through them and let them go, they go away and a feeling of freedom is left in its place.  That freedom is possibility - the possibility to take on something new - something that serves the person you choose to be now.

There are a billion moments in life, each one holds the possibility to create within us joy or sorrow.  If the sorrowful memories are only serving to continue the sorrow, then you are hanging on to them for the wrong reason and you have to release them.  If you want a painful memory to 'unhappen' then you have to face it and let it go.  Otherwise you will be like that man behind the wall, always waiting for word from the outside that life is going to get better - and yet that message never comes because you left the wrong person at the gate in charge of your happiness.

Know yourself, Don't NO Yourself

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kicking The Habit

Today I read something that gave me hope.  A young, attractive, destined-for-greatness news anchor, 28-year-old Laura Diaz, Orlando’s WKMG morning news anchor since 2007, announced this week that she’s leaving television, claiming the emotional toll was too much for her to continue.

Read Laura's story here

“I don’t think I can do television anymore,” Diaz admitted in the Orlando Sentinel. “It’s just a lot of pressure. I got into it young. I moved up quickly. It’s really a tough job to do. You have to have a certain thick skin.”

Diaz has been living the dream of many young people for a very short time, having started just a few years ago in the business, rising quickly to KTVE-KARD in Monroe, LA, where she served as the evening news anchor before returning to her hometown of Orlando and WKMG.  It's a meteoric rise which could make any young person's head spin.  Some could handle it, some could not, some would sabotage the opportunity, others would relish it and thrive.  But very few would ever take the moment to reflect on weather they actually belonged there or not.  This is what Diaz has done, and done so boldly.

I'm sure everyone remembers Brian Dunkleman, the co-host of the original season of "American Idol" who left the show citing 'creative differences' and claiming he didn't want to be a part of that scene - who later admitted it was the dumbest thing he'd ever done.  Other famous quitters include Jackie Martling of the Howard Stern Show, Andy Richter of The Conan O'Brian Show, Mclean Stevenson of M*A*S*H fame and David Caruso who left after the first season of NYPD Blue to pursue a movie career.  All of the above examples believed that - based on their perceived self-importance - they could do better.

What Ms. Diaz is saying is that she has done the best she can and it doesn't fit with who she is as a person. She is - at 28 years old - knowing herself enough to put down the microphone and focus on what is most important to her, understanding her true place in the world.

“I’m too down-to-earth to be an on-air personality,"  Diaz explained,  "There’s a lot of wondering in my mind and heart. I don’t want to wait another 10 years and be too far in my career to make a switch.”

Trust me - being on television is like smoking crack (although I've never smoked crack, you get it).  The more you have the more you want.  As you get more attention, and people begin to respond to you in new and exciting ways, the lure of the job becomes intense.  Like any career you want to do your best and rise through the ranks, but with a television career that rise is intensified by fan clubs, people stopping you on the street to say they love you, and all the the other trappings fame (even local news personalities - type fame) can bring you.  Who would give that up?

Laura Diaz.  She took a long hard look at herself and realized that the person she is does not fit the person she's being and she made a change.

The reaction I've been reading has been mixed.  Some hungry news people incredulous at the thought of her leaving, some others praising her wisdom.  But the bottom line is when you can look at yourself in the mirror and realize that the addiction you harbor no longer serves who you truly are inside, and you can kick that habit with no regrets or remorse, but instead be at peace with yourself, you are truly knowing yourself, and not being a no to your possibilities.

Bravo, Ms. Diaz.  Thank you for setting an example for the rest of us.

Know yourself, Don't NO Yourself

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Making a Better Man Part Two: The Woman in the Mirror

Part of my coaching involves a radio program called "The Bottom Line" where I take calls from people all around the country  who are struggling with issues they can't seem to overcome.  One such call I took recently involved a woman who was - according to her - 'stuck' in a toxic relationship that she couldn't seem to break free from... one that was damaging her 14 year old son.  She knew the abuse she accepted from her husband (not the father of her son by the way) was doing damage to her son's world view and she called me to help her out of it.

But as soon as I got her to see what the real issue was - the fact that she would never leave her current husband because he fulfilled in her a deep seated need for abuse - she got furious with me and began to yell at me, telling me I didn't know her and that I was dead wrong.  "How dare you assume who I am!" she exclaimed.

I then asked her a few simple questions: "how long have you been in this abusive relationship?"  She told me 8 years.  "Was it always abusive from the beginning?"  She admitted that although the abuse got worse as the relationship progressed, that it was violent from the beginning.  Finally I asked her the most important question - the one that most people simply can't answer: "Why haven't you left?"  There was silence after that one.  I then turned the mirror on her:  "You've been in a relationship that was abusive from the beginning... you've stayed in the relationship despite the damage its done to you and your son... you refuse to leave or make the situation better, and yet you find it very easy to scream at me when I point out the one thing you refuse to see:  "You need to be in that relationship because it serves you in some way.  If that wasn't the case, you'd be long gone."

There was a long silence as I could tell she was contemplating the truth I laid before her.  Finally she spoke up:  "So what am I supposed to do?"  Again I confronted her with the glaring truth that had been slapping her in the face - literally - for 8 years.  "LEAVE!" I said.  "And not just for your sake, but for your son!  Do yo really want him to grow up thinking that its okay to hurt women, or disrespect women?"  She answered a soft "no."  "Well then, I said, you're doing a pretty good job of it.  Whatever you need out of this relationship is not as important as what your son needs to learn and grow in this world."

Ladies, life is tough and we make difficult choices based on the needs we have at the time in our lives.  But deciding on a partner based on a need which is based on a past pain, mistake, or abuse can only lead to more of the same.  Relationships are not fixes for the past - if you treat them as such, you will simply repeat the past, not cure it.  And remember... if you have children, you're not teaching them to learn from your mistakes, you're teaching them to repeat them.

Know yourself, don't NO yourself.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Making a Better Man Part One: "Monkey See, Monkey Don't"

As a young man I grew up watching my mother take daily abuse - mental and physical - from my father.  I grew to see her as weak and disconnected.  A sensitive person by nature, I taught myself to avoid any abuse of women when I began to get into relationships, but doing the opposite of what my father did was a trap that I set for myself based on the lie that if I didn't do the opposite of what my dad did I would be destined to be exactly like him.  And so my early life in the company of women was based on a lie about myself.  As a result I was compensating for a flaw I didn't possess and I wasted a lot of time in the wrong relationships.  Here was my thought process:  As a very young man I saw my mother abused by my father.  I look, sound, and think exactly like my father.  I must be just like him in all ways.  I must not become an abuser.  I will avoid relationships which lead to marriage so as to not destroy the lives of my wife and future children.  On the outside I will seek the 'perfect' woman and resent and push away any and all women who do not live up to my standard of perfection - thus never having a committed relationship.  

Once I got clear on the fact that not only was I NOT an abusive person, nor would I be the same person in a relationship as my father was, but also that any mistakes I did happen to make would be just that - mistakes, I was set free.  From there I was able to chart a new course for my life which led me straight to my wife.

This is what we do... we base our behaviors and beliefs on a decision we make early one which says "I'm not going to be like this, or I'm going to be just like this" and it's all a sham built from an original misunderstanding.

Whew!  Anyone exhausted?

Imagine living a life unburdened by the misguided decision a child makes, which still ripples through your daily actions and choices.  It's virtually  impossible to stop a child from misunderstanding an event in life, but it's entirely possible to raise a child to choose a life that is powerful based on who they truly are.  The best way to do this is based on a great saying my grandfather once told me:  "If you want to give your children the best gift possible, simply love their mother."  Women - you are our first best defense against the bad choices men make early on.  Mothers who constantly seek out or stay in toxic relationships are teaching boys that this is all women are worth.  Don't stay in a bad relationship for the wrong reason ... your children will see that you respect yourself enough to choose something better.  And they will too.

The worst thing we can do to our kids is give them an example of what NOT to be - it sets up a life of avoiding character traits they may never actually possess.  Instead, be the example they can look up to, the example they can live into.

Know yourself, don't NO yourself.