How has your year been?

street size intersection of stress and relax

Holy Smokies 2019 is Almost Over!

In 2014, during my seven weeks in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, pain was pretty much a constant, but in times of extra special pain, my go-to expletive was, “Holy Smokies!” Said with an extra-long ō. Now just to be clear, I can actually swear like a sailor –– I’ve actually been a sailor –– but during times of my greatest stress, I somehow muddled through the pain with a bit of humor.

2019 has been, for me, a whirlwind of family and work pressures. Although much of the discomfort actually comes from good changes, the busyness still feels like overwhelming stress. More than once, I have found myself swearing like a sleep-deprived sailor over things that are definitely not life and death.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes the less critically painful situations are the hardest to handle? I have been facing minor league circumstances with major league stress –– not following my own advice and experience. With the year 90% complete, I am thinking that it’s time to turn a corner.

Do you need to turn a corner?

As we move into the final stretch of the year, with all of the extra hullabaloo of the holidays, now is the very best time to not just talk about “Peace on Earth” but to actually plan for peace in our daily lives. Where are the little gaps in your day that you can fill with mindful rest instead of mindless worry?

I got an app that a few times a day will remind me to BREATHE for just 1 minute. It’s extraordinary how long 1 minute feels and how just focusing on my breath during that time can bring calm to mind. In case you’re interested, the app is in fact called Calm. (For the record, I don’t get any sort of referral fee) See it doesn’t take much to turn a corner – just a microshift in turning attention from “stress” to “relax.”

What microshift will you make to bring moments of rest

to your otherwise busy days?

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3 Steps to Opening Boxes and Wholeheartedly Embracing the Contents

Shelves stacked with boxes

We define people by boxes. Our house is a box; car is a box; job title is a box; salary is a box; skin color is a box; gender is a box; and on and on and on….

The obvious answer then is: Think Outside the Box. Except that’s unoriginal…and wrong. People who advocate ‘outside the box’ ignore the reality that how we organize information matters, especially when referring to people. Categories carry consequences.

Occasionally someone will say, “I don’t see skin color ” or gender or ability or whatever. While the sentiment is lovely, I want to smack them in the mouth. Okay yes, I know…that wasn’t nice, but it’s true. You can’t erase labels simply because you want to pretend they don’t exist. Of course you see the categories. Every single person in your world fits into some kind of mental box.

A wise person doesn’t try to ‘think outside the box’; they recognize the categories and delve further into them with curiosity. Whether you talk about better understanding people or problems, the solution can be found by looking inside the box and noticing how it relates to the contents of other boxes.

Don’t ignore the container; get more familiar with the contents. 

Read more

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Why self-love matters in the end…and how to strengthen it

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

There was a time when I lingered between life and death. Fully aware of both sides. Fully aware of my in-betweenness. One side holds all the complex and painful emotions of humanity. On the other exists only love, pure and simple. It’s virtually indescribable and unforgettable.

Yes, I am talking about a near death experience (NDE). Don’t freak out; it’s a common question I get. Frequently after I deliver a keynote speech, someone will ask if I “saw the light” or had an “out of body experience.” No. Well sort of. It’s difficult and frankly uncomfortable to describe. And not to be rude, but the phenomenological details aren’t important anyway. One thing is undeniably certain to me, we don’t need to suffer near as much as we do.

Yet here I am in all my messy, complex, gloriously faulty humanness — just like everyone else. I suffer all of the same destructive ego-driven emotions and defenses that cause harm to self and others. Except I should know better. Shouldn’t I? I feel like I should. Wait…. Do you hear that? Do you hear all of the “shoulds”? There it is, my humanity showing. Read more

Lower Holiday Stress just by Breathing

December 1st and up goes our Christmas tree! And so it begins. Although the granddaddy holiday month of December sings peace and goodwill, the shopping malls and highways tell the real truth. You know what I’m talking about. If ever there was a time for practicing centering, mindful meditation it’s now. When you intentionally slow down and focus on one thing at a time, you’ll enjoy the true spirit of the holidays. You’ll also enjoy powerful lessons in stress reduction that can be applied any time.  Read more


How to Get Off the Leash

We live with continuous bombardment of interruptions – phone calls, emails, texts, Facebook messages, people dropping by, etc, etc rinse and repeat.

They can all seem equally important and demanding. We don’t want to miss anything, disappoint someone or fail somehow because we’re not fast enough to respond to everyone at the moment they want it. But maybe we need to question whether the pressure to ‘multitask’ is valid.

Are we allowing ourselves to be trained into an ADD way of living? Are we allowing others to expect from us what is actually an unreasonable rate of response? In other words, are we the big dog or the puppy?

Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time. That is the truth and there’s a heap of research to back it. When we hop spastically from one interruption to the next we slow down productivity, accuracy and most importantly real connection to humanity. For more on “How Multitasking Hurts Your Brain (and Your Effectiveness at Work)” check out this Forbes article.

Insist on one thing at a time. Purposefully set your intention and focus on what’s right now. Protect your time and energy; it’s really all any of us have. Turn off the sound on your phone while you’re working. Be bold and turn off those ever-tempting instant notifications. You’re not ignoring anyone; just check notifications when it fits in your time and ability to give full attention. It’s OK to control the input in your life. We can respect the needs of others without allowing ourselves to be yanked around like a puppy on a leash.

Remember, a leader is the big dog – neither a lone wolf nor a puppy.

I help organizations build whole-hearted communities through ‘half-assed’ leadership. We work together in three ways: speaking, consulting, and executive coaching. Step up from the ordinary…. Contact me today.


How do you start your day?

Hi Research has shown that the busiest, most successful leaders in the world don’t dive straight into work; they begin with a self-care routine to get themselves grounded.

Even when my body was in such bad shape I couldn’t leave my bedroom most of my days began with meditation, prayer, and whatever exercise/movement I was capable of doing. Most days (nope not perfect) I read the Bible and sit in silent meditation, which centers me and calms erratic bouncing thoughts. I stretch and build muscle. For a long time, making the bed was a serious form of exercise! As I grow in strength and my energy improves I’m able to do a little more every day.

Read more


Shower with Attention

I get in the shower and do my usual shampoo, condition, soap, etc. I don’t think about what I’m doing; I think about conflicts scrambling through my head, or what I’m going to eat, or what I’m going to write on Facebook, or anything that has nothing to do with showering. Then something snaps me back….

Surgery. I’ve had a lot of experience being snapped back to a focus on the present moment. Let me be clear, pain sucks. It could be surgical pain, death of a loved one, or corporate politics. But if you pay attention you’ll find that pain, and all the activity around it, pulls your focus sharply into the present moment. It teaches us something very important about living right now. So back to showering….

Today, 48 hours after my latest surgery, I remove the firmly taped gauze dressing to see what will become my newest scar. “Not bad!” I think. The bathroom is starting to steam as I step into hot water cascading from an extra wide showerhead. I’m instantly reminded of each glorious, difficult, joyful shower that I’ve had since March 1, 2014. You may not remember any particular shower of the last two years, but I do. After 118 days hospitalized in less than 2 years, including 20+ surgeries, showers have become a precious achievement for me.

Today, I revel in the hot water cascading over my head still throbbing from anesthesia. I wash my hair twice, only because it feels amazing. Tension softens across my swollen left hip, held together with thread and bloodied steri-strips, as hot water and soap bubbles gently soothe the assaulted area. I step out onto a knobby cotton mat and dry off with a large, soft towel.

Ordinary things, little things, possess great value. The same goes for people. When we give the present moment, and all that it contains, our undivided attention we find magic. This applies most of all to our interactions with people, especially those who seem ordinary and possibly inconsequential. During my lengthy hospital stays my favorite people were those who mopped the floors and emptied the trash, unsung heroes all. I showered them with attention and in return my room was always immaculate. Where are the unsung heroes in your world? Is it the cashier at a convenience store? Or the receptionist in your office? If someone seems unimportant, shower them with attention! Magic happens when we recognize value in ordinary places.


The Miracle of Presence

How many times have you sat with someone and although they are right there with you and have said nothing you can feel the detachment? Perhaps you said or thought, “You are a million miles away.”

How often have you been having a conversation with someone but their head is on a swivel. Your brain is screaming “I’m right here!” but they aren’t right there, even though it’s to you that they are speaking. They’re looking for the next opportunity or a bigger fish or an excuse to escape this uncomfortable conversation. Conventions and trade shows are particularly rife with this lack of presence.

And then there’s this…. Have you been alone in the quiet and even then unable to feel ‘present’? Your mind is a million miles away and the uncomfortable conversation you can’t escape is the chatter of your own conflicted thoughts. Read more