Who Made You Who Your Are Today?

While waiting in the office of my eye doctor, I happened on a tattered issue of Esquire Magazine from a few years back. The main article highlighted fifty men celebrities,  from entertainment to politics to sports, each of whom offer a snapshot of the person who helped to make them who they are today. Their answers are moving and got me thinking about who has helped to make me the man I am today.

I’ve been fortunate to have a number of remarkable men and women cross the path of my destiny. I am especially grateful to a man who taught me the gift of listening as well as the gift of utter graciousness. That man is Fay Vincent.

If his name sounds familiar it’s because in 1989 he became baseball’s eighth commissioner. I first met him a few years earlier when he was Executive V.P. of Entertainment for Coca-Cola, which, at that time, owned Columbia Pictures. I’d just resigned from ministry and was without work, hoping though to find my way into the world of film. I was the “bubble boy” coming out of the bubble and I was lost.

Through a friend of a friend (the true Hollywood way), I got a meeting with Fay. At the time, I was clueless as to his stature. I met him at the Beverly Hills Hotel where he was staying. And, yes, I was nervous and uncertain.

“Cordial” doesn’t begin to capture his graciousness. As I sat down, he picked-up the phone and called the front desk. He asked not to be disturbed for the next fifteen minutes.  He then turned and matter-of-factly said, “So, tell me your story.”

For fifteen, uninterrupted minutes, that’s what I did. And at the end, he simply said, “Well, we have to get you a job.” He told me to call his assistant the following Monday and she’d have names for me to contact.

Come Monday, I decided not to call since I thought he’d just been “nice” and didn’t really mean what he’d said. On Tuesday, his assistant called, wondering why I hadn’t contacted her. When I told her, she was taken aback and assured me, “If Mr. Vincent didn’t want to help you, he wouldn’t have led you on.”

Well, eventually I did get a job thanks to his introduction –  but that’s another story!  Ever since then Fay Vincent has been a hero of mine.

He listened when there was no reason to do so.

He gave me his full attention when I was desperate for someone to see me.

He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.

Those last three sentences are such clichés – yet so true.

I now try to be for others what Fay was for me.

What about you – who helped make you the person you are today?

Real Power Is Scary. 6 Questions to Help You Be Less Scared of the Scary

Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth, or power. Those rewards create almost as many problems as they solve. Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it.

Harold Kushner

Recently a couple came to me for communication coaching. Nina and Brad (names changed) claimed they were being snippy with each other and weren’t respecting each other in tone when asking or commenting.

Initially I was confused. They’d been together for eight years. They were three months away from getting married. Why, seemingly all of a sudden, were they being overly sensitive to each other?

And then it came out. . .Christmas Eve, while at a dinner party with close friends, Nina happened on Brad kissing her maid-of-honor in the powder room. Ugh! When I asked Brad what was going on, he blurted out, “It was the booze and drugs that made me do it!”

I was stunned by how genuine he was in his clichéd defense and how clueless he was in not taking ownership of his betrayal.

Nina then revealed that this was not the first time Brad had been indiscrete. I asked if they had gone to counseling – they hadn’t. Nina explained she didn’t know what to say and simply tried to “forgive and forget.” This time, though, that tactic wasn’t going to work.

Later that week I was brought in to a mid-sized manufacturing company whose finance department had received low yearly survey scores.

When I met with Clint, the VP, and his managers, they explained that the survey’s questions were ill-worded and that team members were lazy in articulating what they were dissatisfied about.

They wanted to use their time with me hashing out a bunch of excuses. Some may have had merit BUT Clint and his team were focused on discrediting the survey and not discovering any truth lurking in the survey’s responses.

I know from my own life that the mind has a wonderful capacity for mental gymnastics and so has an astounding capacity to ignore or flex the “truth” for all sorts of sabotaging purposes.

The “business” of confidence is about have the emotional courage to work through the truth of a relationship and the responsibilities of that relationship – be it with a partner or a team.

Emotional courage. That’s another way of saying – power.

Real power is scary. It demands taking responsibility. It demands being and acting a different way. Different can be scary.

How confront the scary? By talking it down. Here are. . .

Six Questions to Help You Be Less Scared of the “Scary”


  1. Do you really want to recognize the truth? Have you had enough of the mental gymnastics? For Nina and Brad, it’s only because they can no longer stomach the lying that they are willing to do what’s needed to understand neglected truths about their relationship.
  2. What are you afraid will happen if you stop being defensive with yourself and others? If what you’re afraid will happen does happen what are the chances you will suffer catastrophic consequences? For Clint it would mean acknowledging that he is not perfect. Tough to do – but the consequences would not be catastrophic!
  3. What do you really want to see happen? How realistic is that want? Clint wants the people in his department to do their jobs and not ask so many questions. Essentially, he wants them to be like him. Hmm. . .not realistic and that’s what he has to grapple with.
  4. Are you convinced that you deserve what you want? Nina has never said to herself what she deserves – and so she settles.
  5. If you “do the scary” will it allow you to engage the world in a meaningful way? Will it add value to your life? Meaning and value always generate a feeling of satisfaction that can’t be ignored.
  6. If you “do the scary” will it allow you to add value to others’ lives? Nina and Brad have complicated each other’s life by pretending all is good. Clint has complicated his team’s life by asking them to machines and not people. Too many people complicate others’ lives. Why add to the complications?

Tony Robbins maintains that “We are the quality of the questions we ask.”

You crumble the scary by asking quality questions.

That’s the “business” of confidence!

What Makes The Best Pros “Best”

Don’t ask what the world needs; ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.

Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.

Howard Thurman

When not offering confidence-building seminars or helping clients hone their presentational skills and strategies, you can find me officiating non-denominational wedding ceremonies (it will make sense if you check out my Bio!).  Last month I participated in a wedding fair hosted by Dior Chase, Events Manager at the legendary Castle Green in Pasadena, CA. I usually don’t do fairs but Dior always creates a fun, intimate experience. At day’s end, I looked for Dior to say good-bye and spotted a laughing couple hugging her.

Moments later, Dior was beaming as she told me that the couple felt relieved and no longer stressed about their wedding because they’d met such great vendors. With pride Dior said she loved her handpicked vendors because they were the best (thank-you, Dior!). What’s more, she said she only wants to work with the best because she wants her couples to feel confidently happy when planning their wedding.

In the weeks since, I’ve thought about what Dior said – that she’s in the business of helping people not worry during one of the most important (and stressful) times in their lives.

What an incredible thing to say about yourself, “I’m in the business of helping people not worry!”

What does it take to succeed in the business (whatever the business) of helping people not worry?

The reality is that there are hoards of professionals who are competent at what they do and who do quality work. However, competence alone doesn’t create what business guru Seth Godin says is in short supply – “trust, connection and surprise.”

In order to help people not worry, we need to connect with them at more than a superficial level.  Connection, though, only comes about when you:

  1. Know your self. Know what you enjoy and have a system that lets you efficiently do your craft. When you know your own self, you know your brand – and so know you can’t be all things to all people.
  2. Surround yourself with top people. I’ll go so far as to say – be a snob and insist on working only with the best. You see others as collaborators and not competitors and so you let “the best” know you think they’re the best by being generous with your compliments. You respect your colleagues and admire their skill wanting to know, “how did you get to be so good at what you do?”
  3. Stay grounded, knowing that the unpredictable is unpredictable because it can’t be predicted! You go about your business always having in the back of your mind the belief, “I’ll handle it” – no matter what the “it” might be.
  4. Understand that you’re dealing with real people with real needs and every real need has an accompanying fear. You understand that people can be whack-a-do and so presume nothing about your clients. You know how to effectively manage a difficult client – as well as manage your own difficult emotions. You can convey understanding and still be able to establish boundaries.
  5. Recognize your biases and so are able to listen to what is being said and not said – and, in return, you make it easy for people to listen to you.
  6. Understand you’ve been hired to give your perspective – and so you can say the hard stuff – because you care.
  7. Know how to have a conversation and so you are extravagantly hospitable with your talent, energy and passion.
  8. Share your knowledge even if there might not be an immediate return. People remember people who help them, even if they don’t hire them on the spot.
  9. “Seriously” – there are precious few jobs where humor is not going to help you go a long ways.
  10. Treat your clients like colleagues and your colleagues like clients. Think about this one!

Surprise people with trust and connection and they will hug you and say, “Thank you – what a relief it is not to have to worry.”

Mark Twain claimed –

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

The best of the best, no matter what their field, work from a place of heightened awareness of the client, and so

the best of the best know their “why.”