What I Learned About ‘Confidence’ From A Trick-or-Treater

When I was growing-up in the Bronx, my mother wouldn’t allow my brother and me to go trick-or-treating.  She claimed it was begging and if we wanted candy, we should ask her.  And, no, we didn’t open the door to trick-or-treaters as they were considered beggars!  Over the years, I’ve always had ambivalent feelings about all the Halloween hoopla.  My favorite Halloween memories, though, are of the times I spent with my godson, Finn.

When he was three years old I took him to a party goods store the eve of Halloween.  It had a great candy aisle, but to get to the aisle we had to pass by a mechanical scarecrow that made weird, jerky movements.  Finn called it a “scary” and was petrified.  So I hefted him into my arms, had him close his eyes and then I stood in front of the “scary” telling him that if he ever tried to hurt Finn I’d beat him up.  Reassured, Finn jumped from my arms and ran down the aisle.  It did wonders for my ego!

A few years later, it was the week before Halloween and I picked him up from school.  As we were walking to my car, he let go of my hand and ran up to a kid who was half-a-block away.  Finn grabbed him from behind in a bear hug.  The two started laughing.  I was baffled.  When I asked why he’d “attack” the poor kid, Finn matter-of-factly told me that he tries to hug a different person each day.

We then headed off to a pumpkin patch where he found a medium-sized pumpkin that was too big for him to lift – or so I thought.  He insisted on carrying it to the cashier at the front of the lot.  It was quite a haul for him with a lot of grunting and a lot of dropping of the pumpkin, but he got it to the clerk.

Straw fears, generous hugs, challenging feats of determination – this is what I now think of when Halloween rolls around.  Okay, and also how weird it was not to go trick-or-treating as a kid!

Finn’s sixteen now and so store displays don’t scare him, hugs are at a premium and he’d rather play a video game than lug a pumpkin.  That’s how it should be – we grow, we progress through the stages of life.

Still, though, I cherish those memories – especially as I daily commit to not let paper-thin fears paralyze me, to being generous with my affection and to challenging myself to do what seems not doable.

After all, isn’t being faithful to that commitment the surest way to finding and seizing life’s treats?!

Did You Go To Work On Your Wedding Day?


Here are three vignettes that for various reasons took me by surprise:

#1.  My friend, Becky, is a regional sales director for a discount chain.  She works hard, long hours.  When not working, she enjoys spending time with Stacy, her seven-year-old goddaughter.

While Becky loves having “girl days” with Stacy, of course, she always brings her Blackberry, which is like the third “girl” on their outings. Becky apologizes to Stacy whenever she takes a call or responds to a text.  “It’s work” is her catch phrase.

On their last outing, Stacy commented that Becky sure works a lot.  Becky laughed, assuring her that she did.  And then Stacy asked, “Did you have to go to work on your wedding day?”

Becky laughed at the “cute” question, but ever since Stacy asked the question, she’s been wondering about her priorities.  Becky asked me, “Does Stacy see something that I don’t?”  Just as I was about to answer, her phone rang and she had to take the call!

#2.  At one of my workshops last month, Casey chatted with me during a break and told me that she wished she could do what I do, i.e. work directly with people in a coaching capacity.  She said that many of her friends consider her to be their personal life coach.  I asked her if she thought about making a career change (she works for a national insurance firm).  She said that she’s thought about it, but isn’t sure how to go about it.  She’s hoping that sooner rather than later the right path will appear.

I pointed out that the “right path” only appears if we’ve done the necessary prep work to make sure we can recognize that right path when it appears.  In an oddly wistful tone she said, “I know.”

When I commented that she seemed sad, she sighed, “It’s just so hard figuring out how to do what I want to do!”

#3.  In one of my workshop exercises, I ask participants to complete this sentence: “I matter most when I. . .” One woman shared with the group, “I matter most when I get a large bonus.”  We all laughed but she looked surprised.  “No.  I’m serious; my self worth is directly tied to my bonus.”  I was stunned.  Why would anyone give so much power to someone making what ultimately is an arbitrary decision?

The question we each must grapple with is, “Am I happy with the quality of the life I’ve created?”  

If not, do you deep down want to actively work to improve the quality of your life?

If so, start now – not tomorrow!

Being a HERO At Work

In recent weeks we have been presented with numbing news –

Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico (as well as other island nations in the Caribbean) were ravaged by hurricanes; an earthquake hit Mexico City; wild fires rage in northern California – and Las Vegas was under a massacre attack.

Stressed. Overwhelmed. Confused. Angry. Heart-broken. These words are part of a national litany. BUT they don’t fully capture the feelings that crowd in on us BECAUSE

After each catastrophe images have abounded and stories have been told of –



Unexpected help


Each of which and all of which is as real as the catastrophes’ aftermaths AND even more powerful in ways that surprise and comfort.

And yet, the reality is that in the midst of all this extraordinariness we have our own ordinary routines to live out – jobs and personal lives – with all their pleasures and satisfactions and with all their stressors and uncertainties.

No one of my clients is dealing with the particular stresses of the destruction we’ve been witnessing BUT many of my clients are dealing with stress – work stress that is real.

Stress that is impacting the quality of their spirit and life.

When you listen to the survivors of the Vegas massacre, as well as disaster relief responders, you hear people plainly state, “I couldn’t leave him alone” or “I had to help – it was nothing” or “I wish I could have done more for her.”

We are riveted listening to ordinary people tell of how they got caught-up in extraordinary circumstances. And for virtually all of these folks, the heroic work they did was just the work they knew they had to do in order to be who they knew themselves to be.

Last week, as I was listening to one of these interviews, a thought popped into my head. I share it with some reluctance, as I don’t want you to think I’m being glib or gimmicky.

My thought is this –

In the midst of so much emotional pain at work could we not challenge ourselves to do the unthinkable?

What is the unthinkable?

To be a hero to someone at work who is in need.


What would it look like to be a hero in the office?

On the last night of my summer class at UCLA Extension I asked the participants to reflect on someone they personally know who is “powerful.”

In the group sharing we heard stories of colleagues, managers, supervisors and business owners who displayed power in various ways. Women and men who know:

  • How to say a respectfully assertive ‘no’
  • When to speak and when to be quiet
  • What it means to respect both their strengths and weaknesses
  • There is no upside to giving in to drama
  • How to reassure a person by ‘normalizing’ a mistake
  • Connection is their primary duty
  • How to trust your ability
  • To back you up and make you feel like an equal
  • How to make “it” better
  • They are not superior to you
  • What Generosity looks and sounds and feels like


A hero has:

Moral power –

Mental power –

Decision power –

Physical power –

And whatever the combination, a hero distinguishes themselves by generously exercising that power.


There’s a reason why Marvel movies make a ton of money.

There’s a reason why in the seemingly overwhelming heartaches of the recent weeks that we have been deeply affected by the sudden appearance of so many “ordinary” heroes.

They give us HOPE.


And there is also a reason why my Extension students remembered the women and men they did.

In a world gone mad, those ordinary workers, within their spheres of influence, were generous in their powers.

They made life less anxious and more respectful, they created less anonymous drudgery and more appreciated collaboration.


When it’s so easy to turn the workplace into a soul-numbing, psychic-draining pit, they acted as heroes.

They were GENEROUS.


And that’s why my Extensions students remember them with gratitude and are determined to emulate them.

During these days of “breaking news” I invite you to consider ~

How can you be a hero?

How To Fly A Plane When You’re 83!


Last week I presented at a breakfast meeting for an association of folks in the events industry. Before my talk I was mingling and happened into a conversation just as a woman disgustedly exclaimed, “it’s true, youth is wanted on the young.” I then was quickly sucked into a conversation on “growing old.” Of the four people in the group, the oldest was probably no more than forty! One of the men said that when he got old, he wanted to be like his favorite uncle who, at the age of eight-three, was still flying a plane.

On the drive home I got to thinking – is youth wasted on the young? Well, yeah, there are SO many things I wish I could have told myself when I was in my twenties or I wish someone else had told me. But, really, how could I have known then what I know today?

“Youth” isn’t wasted on the young because youth is prime time for learning how to live – learning how to live from a place of silliness and fun, stupidity and failure, dreams and adventures. Youth is about not playing it safe – at least for a brief while.

The great English theologian, John Henry Newman, maintained that, “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” Youth most especially is a time to learn how to practice the art and skill of “change.”

When people fixate on “growing old” I think it’s a sign that what’s really happening is that they’re not changing. It’s because they’re stagnating that they’re feeling old; if they were “growing” old, they wouldn’t be feeling “old.”

It was the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw who said that “youth is wasted on the young,” but he also said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

The truth is there’s no creating life without hoping.

In his book, “Making Hope Happen,” Shane Lopez claims that hopeful people share two common beliefs –

  • The future will be better than the present
  • We have the power to make it so, though there will be obstacles

Much like Shaw, Lopez maintains that when we choose hope (it is a choice) we define what matters most to our own self.

At the core of the book is this challenge:

“Five years from now, what do you want your life to look like?”

That question implies that we do grow older and that all along the way we choose how we’re going to “grow”. That eighty-three year old pilot is flying today because of choices he made decades ago.

What about you – what do you hope for your life five years from now?