Posts Tagged ‘life’

Channel Yourself

Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
May 12 2012

For a time, I was a coach. A personal / life / business coach. I loved the work. Well, it didn’t feel like work. It was joyful and amazing.

It was not uncommon for a client to tell me that they felt that they were not yet what / who they wanted to be. When this came up, we’d discuss the question of who or what they wanted to be. We’d create an image of that future self, including the way they’d talk, the way they’d walk, how they’d hold themselves, their posture, their gestures, the presence they’d create when they entered a room, and so on. A rich, full vision of the future self.

Powerful.

“Wow! That’s who I want to be. How do I get there?”

Sounds tricky, right? I mean, if it were easy, wouldn’t we all be powerful or leaders or loved or in the job we want or…

Here’s the technique I shared with my clients.

I get that you’re not yet that person. You have a clear picture of that version of you, who seems like a different person right now. You have a clear picture of how that person would speak, what they’d say, how they’d stand, how they’d move, and the gestures they’d use, right?

Channel that person. Don’t try to be that person. Act like that person.

What would that person say in this situation? Say that.

What would that person do in this situation? Do that.

It has been successfully demonstrated repeatedly that we can change our feelings by changing our words. We can change our behavior by choice, repeating the changes until they become our real selves.

So rather than wondering what I need to do to become the person I am visualizing, I choose to act like that person until I become that person.

Take it on like a persona, until it “takes”.

As it settles in, my feelings will change to reflect the confidence I begin to feel. The behavior will become natural and mine.

One day, I will wake up and discover that I have become the person I was visualizing.

I’m still here

Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
Jun 09 2010

Fourteen years ago today, roughly five hours from now as I write this, I felt the beginnings of my heart attack. That experience – the whole heart attack experience – was a revelation to me, and I continue to celebrate my survival and growth.

Perhaps it seems obvious that a heart attack could change one’s outlook on life and relationships. Sadly, I’ve met too many people who survived and went right back to doing and being who they were.

As part of my annual celebration, let me share my three lessons once more:

  1. Don’t wait until tomorrow to say “I love you” – you might not have a tomorrow, and wouldn’t it be sad not to let people know how you feel about them.
  2. Don’t wait until tomorrow to say “I’m sorry” – those words don’t mean that you’re wrong or that you’re apologizing, and they do contribute to someone else’s happiness – what does it cost you to say?
  3. Don’t wait until tomorrow to say “thank you” – gratitude, as love, friendship, regret, sympathy, and so many other expressions, is best served up warm.

Thank you, whoever you are, for being a part of my rich and continuing life.

Don’t wait until tomorrow.

Sigh: a tale of relationship

Coping and Communicating | Posted by Doc
May 05 2010

It had been a long day, and at around 4pm Michael found himself sitting in his favorite recliner, dozing off. You probably know the feeling – it’s just the right moment, regardless of what’s going on, and you slip off. At that moment, it doesn’t matter what’s on TV, how loud the TV is playing, who’s talking about what – you’re going to doze off regardless. And that’s where Michael was.

And just at that magical moment when Michael reached total peace and balance – just as the recliner was at the perfect angle and his mind was like a still pool – a small voice said “Daddy? Daddy? Will you take me to the store? You promised!”

Oh, my. There was nothing Michael wanted less at that moment than to sit up, get himself in gear, and get in the car to drive his daughter Megan to the store.

Of course he’d promised. But it wasn’t really that important, was it? It wasn’t something that couldn’t wait, was it? And if he just held on, he could regain that place of peace and balance. Just for a few more moments, maybe?

“Can we wait just 15 minutes, honey?”

“Well, umm, okay Daddy. Fifteen minutes. You promise?”

“You betcha, honey! Fifteen minutes.”

By the time that last word was out of his mouth, Michael was back in Nirvana. Ahhhhhhhhh.

In what seemed to Michael to have been just seconds, there was that voice again.

“Daddy? Daddy? It’s been fifteen minutes Daddy. Can we go now?”

Michael struggled. A promise is a promise, after all, and everything we do as parents teaches our children, right? But how often do we, as adults, find that wonderful moment?

Sigh.

Truthfully, Michael was feeling put upon. Of course Megan couldn’t get to the store by herself. But it just wasn’t that important and Michael really wanted to enjoy his stolen moment of peace and she could go any time – it’s not like it really had to be today and now!

Sigh.

Michael straightened his recliner and forced himself up. He went to the bathroom to rinse his face and pull himself together. Somehow he found a smile and a wink for Megan. Off they went to the store.

Of course, Megan being Megan, it didn’t quite turn out to be a direct trip to the first store.

“Daddy?” Megan asked.

“Yes, punkin?” Michael responded with some trepidation.

“You ‘member those school supplies I need? We haven’t gotten them yet. Since we’re already out, can we go by that store too and get my school supplies?”

Sigh.

“Sure, sweetheart. Might as well.”

Somehow, Michael had a feeling that this wasn’t going to be quick.

And then Michael figured that as long as they were out, he might as well stop by the book store and pick up that book he’d been wanting. But before they got there…

“Daddy?”

“Yes, sweetie?”

“I forgot that Mommy said that we should pick up her prescriptions at the pharmacy while we’re out. Can we please do that too?”

Sigh.

“Sure. I guess we might as well go there first, since the pharmacy closes in a few minutes.”

Of course, that meant going a couple of miles in the other direction. And since it was about 4:30pm, it meant going through rush hour traffic as well.

Sigh.

They made it to the pharmacy before closing time, but had to wait behind three people.

Sigh.

And then they made it to the stationery store, and realized that Michael had most of the supplies that Megan needed at home. If only they’d checked before they left.

Sigh.

And when they got to the store that was their original destination, they found that Megan hadn’t called and they didn’t have what she wanted.

Sigh.

Finally they made it to the book store. Megan got fidgety and squirmy while she waited for Michael and finally asked if she could get a book too.

Sigh.

When all was said and done, they’d been out for almost two hours, much of it spent driving, and driving through rush hour traffic no less! And for almost no result.

Sigh.

When they got home, Megan had a sheepish, slightly unhappy look on her face, and said “Thank you very much, Daddy.” And she gave him a big hug and a big kiss and ran off to play or watch TV or whatever it was she was off to do.

And Michael settled back into his recliner with a sigh.


There are moments when, if we’re lucky, we catch ourselves.

As Michael settled into his favorite chair, he heard himself sigh.

And he realized that Megan had heard every one of his sighs for the past two hours.

Michael realized what the look on Megan’s face and the hug and the kiss were all about. Michael had been blaming Megan for his “hardships” and his sighs were messages to her that he was frustrated and that it was hard work and that he’d rather be napping in his recliner.

That wasn’t the message that Michael wanted to give his daughter. His children were special and important. And there would always be times when they were dependent on him to go somewhere or do something, and those times might not be convenient for him.

Michael went upstairs to Megan’s room. She was working on her homework, having gathered up the school supplies she needed.

Michael sat down on the floor next to Megan, put his arm around her, and said “Thanks for the outing, sweetie! I know I was a little tired and cranky, and that’s not your fault. I had fun.” And he gave her a kiss and he gave her a hug.

And she gave him a smile that made him happy from his toes to his cowlick.

We’re all born selfish. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn to be selfishly giving and rejoice in the happiness of others.

[Perhaps this is not just about parenthood, eh?]

…likes me

Coping and Communicating | Posted by Doc
May 01 2010

Michael woke up on Monday, and without rolling over to touch Joan or say good morning, he headed off to the bathroom. This had become his usual practice. If he thought about it at all, he just thought that it was easier – morning greetings had been turning into arguments lately, and it wasn’t the way he preferred to start his day.

As Michael thought back over the past few days and weeks and months and years, he realized that this situation had been developing slowly but steadily. It scared him to think that the tortoise of discontent and frustration was going to win this race.

Michael loved Joan. He had loved her almost from the first time they met, over twenty-five years before. Of course, they were babies then, and didn’t have babies of their own. And they had all the time in the world. And they both knew how things were supposed to work and that they were going to make them work that way.

Times had sure changed! Michael remembered a time when he and Joan would smile and kiss each other good night every night. They had made a pact, early on, to never go to sleep angry. In the morning, they’d start their day with a hug and… Well, that was then. These days, there seemed to be far too many nights that one or the other went to sleep upset, and far too many mornings begun with a grunted greeting. Michael felt close to despair on some days, longing for the relationship they had once had.


Joan lay in bed, listening to Michael moving around, getting ready for work. She could remember, as if it were yesterday, laying in bed and listening to Michael in the early days of their marriage. Then, she remembered, he would stroke her brow or her arm, give her a gentle kiss to say good morning, offer a warm smile, then reluctantly climb out of their bed to start his day. The sounds of him moving around, preparing were reassuring. They made her feel warm and loved. Now they just reminded her of how different things were.

She tried to figure it out – what had happened between them? She knew that Michael still loved her. Well, she was pretty sure that he did. She wasn’t sure that he liked her, and she wasn’t sure that he wanted to be with her. He said he did, of course. What else could he say?

It just seemed like he was always criticizing her and challenging her. He always wanted to do things his way, and seemed to have a knack for making her feel small, stupid, or useless. Why did he do that? Couldn’t he see how he was hurting her.

Joan lay there and struggled with her feelings. She so often felt like crying, at the start of her day. But that would just start a “discussion”, which would end up with her crying and Michael acting frustrated and disgusted. Better to just push it down and deal with it on her own. They didn’t really communicate well any more, anyway, so why bother?


Michael could feel Joan. He knew she was awake, and knew that she was avoiding talking to him. He didn’t know what was bothering her, and was frustrated that she wouldn’t talk to him and wouldn’t let him help. That’s what we do for each other, he thought, isn’t it? Help? But Joan seemed to have shut him out. He didn’t understand, and the whole thing was making him both scared and frustrated. And sometimes angry.

Michael tried not to let it turn into anger, but it just kept building up. He’d never yelled at Joan, nor hit her, nor abused her in any way. He just wanted to figure out what was going on. But nothing he tried worked.


Joan knew that Michael wanted “to help” – what he didn’t realize was that his “helping” was part of the problem. Why couldn’t he just understand that she needed his sympathy and empathy and support? Why did he always have to try to change things, to “fix” things? Joan didn’t need fixing, she just needed his support.

There was that time that she was so upset about the broken chair. For no reason, a chair that was only weeks old had just fallen apart. Joan was indignant! This was shoddy workmanship and she felt ripped off. She was determined to get the store and the manufacturer to set things right. But when she called, she got the run around. She was determined to get justice! When she told Michael about it, he just smiled one of his incredibly frustrating, condescending, “there, there, sweetheart” smiles and told her to call the credit card company and they’d refund the money.

He just didn’t understand! Sure, she wanted the money back, but more than that she wanted justice! This wasn’t right, and it wasn’t just about money. It was about her feeling violated and cheated and wanting that to be set right. She wanted an apology. Michael didn’t get it – he just wanted to “fix it” and make it go away. That made her so angry!


Michael knew he was missing something. He’d try to help when Joan was upset about something, and not only didn’t he seem to be able to help, he seemed to make things worse. Like the time that Joan was all upset about that broken chair. “Just call the credit card company,” he’d said. She looked at him like he was crazy and left the room. That one had taken days to calm down. He still didn’t understand it.

And there was the time that Joan was gone visiting her folks, and he cleaned and reorganized the kitchen cabinets. He was so proud of how logical and clever the arrangement was – pots near the stove, glasses near to hand, cooking utensils arranged near the stove and oven! He thought, all the time he was doing it, how excited and pleased Joan would be when she saw what he’d done.

Then she came home. He was excited, and showed her what he’d done, and explained how logical and efficient it all was. She just stood there with tears running down her cheeks. Why? What was wrong? Why hadn’t she loved it? Didn’t she know that he’d done it for her?


Joan had just about given up. Yes, she still loved Michael. And she thought he still loved her. But they just didn’t seem to be able to communicate. If she tried to tell him that she disagreed with him, he’d get all defensive and then turn it all back on her. And he was always criticizing and questioning and making her feel like she couldn’t do anything right.


Michael had just about given up. Yes, he still loved Joan. And he thought that she still loved him. But they just didn’t seem to be able to communicate. If he tried to tell her that he disagreed with her, she’d attack him, telling him that he wasn’t perfect and that she was doing her best and somehow she always ended up crying. And she was always making him feel like she didn’t need or want his help.


On this particular Monday, they had a date to visit Grannie. Grannie was not actually related to either of them. They’d both known her most of their adult lives, having met Grannie when they were first dating. She seemed ancient then, and that was twenty-five years ago! If they thought about it, they could remember her real name, but they’d been calling her “Grannie” for so long, well, that was who she was.

Both Michael and Joan were looking forward to seeing Grannie. As difficult as things were for them these days, they particularly enjoyed the time they spent with Grannie. She had such a lovely outlook on life – generally everything was simple and Grannie just listened and seemed to enjoy their company. She mostly didn’t put up with any “nonsense”, and had a habit of exposing the simple truths at the heart of things. Sometimes that could be hard for Michael and Joan, since Grannie didn’t allow them to hide things behind “polite lies” to protect their own feelings.

But on this night, both Michael and Joan were feeling both anticipation and fear. Each knew that Grannie would see through their public faces to what was in their hearts, and they were afraid of hearing her say it out loud. And yet, there was something in each of them that hoped…

Grannie is no fool. She’s lived a long life, surrounded herself with people she cares about, and paid attention to those people. As she gets older, her tolerance for “pussyfooting” and “shilly-shallying” goes down. So it’s no surprise to Joan or Michael when Grannie, early in their visit, asks “What’s wrong with you two?”

Naturally, they both leap to denial. Wouldn’t you? This is difficult stuff, and Joan and Michael haven’t been able to deal with it themselves. How can they talk about it with Grannie? But Grannie is not easily put off. With love and care, she draws them out.

You can imagine the discussion and the stories and how each describes the other’s behavior. Lots of sentences begin with…

“He/she makes me feel…”

Grannie lets it go on for a while and finally says “Hold on! Joan and Michael, you keep telling me that the other ‘makes you feel’ some way or other. Now I don’t doubt that Michael wants to ‘fix’ things, and Joan wants ‘support’ and that you two have come to be at odds somehow. That’s making me sad. I’ve known you two for a long time, and there’s no doubt in my mind that you truly love each other. So let me ask you a few questions, okay?”

Michael and Joan, as couples do, look at each other. Each gives a small, shy grin, and they both say “Sure, Grannie, go ahead.” And then they look at each other again and grin nervously. They know that Grannie won’t pull any punches, and are sort of nervous about what’s coming, but they also sort of hope that Grannie can cut through to the heart of the matter.

Grannie starts with a clean shot – “First of all, I don’t think that either of you ‘makes’ the other feel any way. I think each of you feels the way you feel because that’s the way you feel. Sure, the other person’s behavior is what triggers those feelings. But they don’t ‘make’ you feel, now do they?”

This is a tough one, and both Michael and Joan take a minute before answering. There’s a bit of flailing before they both accept that their feelings are their own, and not under someone else’s control.

“So then,” Grannie continues, “if your feelings are your own, and you are responsible for them, why are you finding yourself upset with and about the other so often?”

This isn’t getting any easier. Michael and Joan look at each other sideways. Grannie has, as always, started to cut through the distractions and into the heart. But both Michael and Joan have been struggling with this, and neither has an answer. And they each say so. Grannie watches them. Joan looks at Michael before answering, as though hoping for help. Michael looks at Joan before answering, as though looking for support. The bond that Grannie knew was always there is obviously still there.

“Joan, let me ask you a few questions directly, okay? Michael, you just listen for a minute.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

“Joan, do you love Michael?”

“Yes!”

“And do you like Michael?”

A moment for thought, then “Yes, most of the time.”

“And, Joan, do you believe that Michael loves you?”

Without hesitation, Joan says “Yes, I do.” And smiles, almost wistfully.

“And, Joan, do you believe that Michael likes you?”

And now Joan stops, and thinks, and looks under her eyelashes at Michael, and thinks some more. And says “I’m not sure any more. I think so some of the time, but some of the time I think he just doesn’t like me.”

“But you believe that he loves you and you know that you love him?”

“Yes!”

“Okay,” Grannie says, “Michael, now it’s your turn. Joan, you sit and listen.”

And Grannie proceeds to ask Michael the same questions. And much to Joan’s surprise, the answers are almost identical!

Since Joan and Michael are paying attention, they grin a bit and look at each other, maybe even a bit quizzically.

Grannie continues. “Now here’s my dilemma. You both tell me that you love the other. You also both tell me that you believe the other loves you. And you both tell me that you like the other most of the time, but that you aren’t sure that the other likes you. And there’s the dilemma.”

Grannie pauses, smiling beatifically at them, one eyebrow arched as she says “What I don’t understand is this: if you both feel and believe as you say you do, why doesn’t the belief that the other loves you deeply outweigh anything and everything else?”

Joan and Michael get a thoughtful look in their eyes. Joan looks at Michael and asks “You like me?” Michael, with a nervous grin says “Most of the time.” Joan smiles and says “Me, too!”


Michael and Joan are in love. Everyone that knows them has always known this. But their family and friends saw their difficulties. Being cautious of interfering in someone else’s relationship, and being careful of their own relationships with Michael and Joan, most of their family and friends had been treading carefully. And now?

Now everyone notices that Joan and Michael are acting like they’re in love, again. And when someone asks Joan what’s going on, Joan just says “He likes me!”

And when someone asks Michael what’s going on, he says “She likes me!”

And they smile at each other.


I wrote this around 2002 or 2003. I hadn’t read it for a long time, and just reread it today. I’m reminded that these lessons apply to far more than the marital relationship. It’s valuable to remember that our feelings are our own.

Fame

Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
Sep 27 2009

I went to see the new version of the movie “Fame” this afternoon with my wife and daughters.

I will say that I loved the movie, and plan to see it again.

It raised some interesting feelings and thoughts for me, which tie into a talk I gave at St. Edwards University Career Symposium on Friday.

I should mention that when I was growing up in New York, I applied to and auditioned for the High School of the Performing Arts, on which the movies have been based.  I didn’t make it.  I didn’t have the talent or skill necessary. Watching the movie led me to wonder what would happened had I gotten in.

There are some great messages in the movie. Jennie’s monologue about success toward the end is a wonderful piece of writing.

What it brought up for me was that many of the things that helped to determine the direction of my life and career have been pretty random.

I moved to San Francisco after college, because that’s where my two best friends settled after driving across the country.  I met my wife, started graduate school, got a crummy job, fell into the computer industry, moved to Silicon Valley, had children, started my martial arts studies, had a heart attack, changed my view of life and the world… and all because my friends ended up in San Francisco.

Professionally, I left that first job at Control Data and went to my first startup in Silicon Valley.  That led me to other startups, my own company, my move to Austin, and ultimately my job at ThoughtWorks.  None of these things could have happened without the others preceding them, and yet it all seems so random.

So here’s the thought for my readers: are there ANY decisions you’ve made in your life that have NOT helped to determine the path of your life? Whether big ones like which school you attend or who you date or marry, or little ones like whether to go to the movies this afternoon.

After all, going to the movies today may shift my perspective on something else, which will influence a decision I’ll make, which will lead me…  well, you get the idea.

Every interaction I have with someone else has the potential to change their life or mine or both. While this is an awful responsibility, it’s also an awesome opportunity.  It shouldn’t freeze me. It SHOULD lead me to think about the things I say and do and how I say and do them.

I had an interesting small example of this when I was at Agile2009.  Walking to dinner with a group of people, most of whom I’d never met either physically or vitrually, I began introducing myself.  There were these two fellows from Finland.  As I introduced myself to the second, he said “Doc?  Doc LIST?”

Who knows what impact things I’ve said have had on him, or could have on him.  The fact that he knew who I am was pretty stunning. Thank goodness he seemed happy to meet me. 🙂

Remember my name.
Fame.

I’m gonna live forever
I’m gonna learn how to fly
High

I feel it coming together
People will see me and cry
Fame

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