The Power of Expecting “Nothing”


If you want your life to be more rewarding, you have to change the way you think.





At the end of my UCLA Extension course, the Dynamics of Interpersonal Communication, I ask the students simply to write a two-page paper in which they tell me what, if anything, they’ve learned.

Here’s what one of my students wrote. I share it because what he learned is what each one of us needs to learn and relearn!


The last twelve weeks have certainly been enlightening; however, I can unreservedly say that I, without a doubt, have learned nothing.

. Seriously…nothing

. Absolutely……NOTHING

. Nada


Now before you go thinking the people at the Landmark Forum have abducted me, let me explain:

Before I started this class, I had a boatload of “intentions” and “expectations” for how life was supposed to work out.

My mind, much like my life, was filled with one-liners and quips that I used to help rationalize my actions and setup frameworks that more often than not, let me down in the end.

I kept wondering why things always fell apart or at least didn’t stay glued together for very long.

I initially took this class because I had a deep conversation with my mother – the pillar of my life thus far (don’t judge – I’m Jewish). She told me I needed to examine the scope of my life and how I planned to live it a little better.

I’m glad to say she was right – but don’t tell her I said that!

You see, I’ve always been convinced that if you act a certain way, dress a certain part, do what you’re supposed to do, things will all fall into place as intended.

That is not only a naïve way of living, but also one that can be blinding. I felt, for a very long time, mislead and resentful to the fact that my life hadn’t worked out the way I was told it would.

I was always waiting for things to happen as I expected they should.

It never dawned on me that I was waiting for ten years and would continue to wait and wait if I didn’t wake up. All these expectations I had fell short of reality.

Although this class was about the dynamics of interpersonal communication, I learned something a bit more useful: how to deconstruct my thought processes and discover the reasoning behind my attitude and approach to life, loving relationships and personal fulfillment.

As a Los Angeles native, I think I can say I’ve seen it all: a fully grown man with a five o’clock shadow wearing a pleated green tutu and a wig riding a unicycle down Santa Monica Blvd., a homeless woman taking a crap on the sidewalk of Fairfax and Melrose in broad daylight (true story), a group of twelve-year-old kids who were able to spend more money in five minutes at Saks Fifth Avenue than some small countries earn in a year.

I conditioned myself to think that because I acted differently than those people that made me “better.”

As it turns out, that’s not quite true.

My own ignorance often times turned into arrogance and that was a source of many misconstrued observations.

I’ve learned that the basis of any real relationship starts with NOTHING and that the most challenging dynamic is often times the one you have with yourself.

I’ve recognized the many ways in which I am hard on myself, the areas of opportunity I can grow within myself, and most importantly – discovered the ability to be surprised again; something I thought was long gone.

I am at a phase in my life right now where everything is uncertain.

If you would have asked me three months ago what my “plan” was, I would have given you a road map I created foolishly thinking I could walk it through without falling.

Now I see that expectations can be a demise to almost anything.

At work with colleagues, at home with family, or out in the world with friends,

if you face each setting expecting nothing, you have everything to gain.



Do you want to break through the negative thinking that is preventing you from being influential and heard?


To explore how one-on-one communication skills coaching can help you present you with enhanced confidence,

contact me at:




Bitter – Because You’re Not Who You’d Set Out To Be?

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail.

If you can’t be a sun, be a star.

For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

Martin Luther King Jr.


Last week I met with Clay (name changed), a client who is a manager in the IT department of an international company.

Clay hates his job.

He’s the classic case of a person who was promoted not because he showed managerial promise but because he was good at what he did.

Although he has the potential for becoming a solid manager, he has no desire. Rather than take charge of his career he’s resigned to failure.

In fact, I think he welcomes the idea of getting fired.

Oh, how we complicate our lives!

I asked Clay what he’d like to do instead of managing an IT team.

Without hesitating, he said, “I’d like to write operas.”

Wow – I hadn’t seen that coming!

He explained that he had wanted to pursue a career as a classical musician, but his parents guided him down a more stable professional path.

And sometimes stability can come with a steep price tag.

Lately I’ve been doing spring-cleaning and for me that involves not just tossing out the “stuff” that’s been collecting dust. It’s also a time to sort through clippings and links to articles and posts that I convinced myself someday I’d use.

Here’s an edited obit clipping I passed along to Clay. It’s for Michael Masser who died at the age of seventy-four. A stockbroker-turned-composer, Masser wrote hits for Whitney Houston, Diana Ross and Roberta Flack.

It’s the kind of obit that I hope someday can be written for Clay.

Here’s how Masser made his career and life changing decision (as written by Sam Roberts in the New York Times).


As Mr. Masser biked to work as a broker in Midtown Manhattan in the 1960s, he would detour to the Juilliard School to putter on a piano. A self-taught pianist, an inner muse was urging him to switch careers and pursue his true calling.”

“‘I was working as a stockbroker in New York and had the seemingly perfect life,’ Mr. Masser told The Chicago Sun-Times in 1988.  ‘But I was unhappy, and someone I knew convinced me to see a shrink. I walked in and told the doctor I wanted to write music.

He said, ‘What’s the problem with that?’  I told him that didn’t go over well in my family. He listened, took my money and said: ‘Here’s a note of permission to write music. That’s all you need to clear your conscience.’

And it’s funny, because that’s all I was looking for: permission.  I had been the dutiful son and husband for so long, I had forgotten about living for myself.’”

What about you? 

Is there something you’d like to be doing other than what you’re now working at? 

What are you going to do about that desire?!

Do you want to break through the negative thinking that is preventing you from being influential and heard?


To explore how one-on-one communication skills coaching can help you present you with enhanced confidence,

contact me at:

20 Questions To Help You Figure Out What To Do When You “Grow-Up”

photo: david schap


Where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet –

there you will find your vocation.

Frederick Buechner


Since the beginning of the year I’ve had four new clients approach me with the refrain, “I need help figuring out what I want to do when I grow-up!”


Each of these folks has graduated college (one is a post graduate) and each works at an established company. And each is deeply uncomfortable where they are in life.


So how do you figure out what to do when you “grow-up”?


The first thing is to acknowledge that – You already ARE grown-up!


You are an adult – even if you may not always feel like one or act like one.


In addition, although you have a job or had a job, it’s critical to keep in mind that you are not your job – no matter what you do.


You are the sum of your relationships and your obligations to those relationships, along with your feelings and beliefs, your spirituality and psychology, your values and habits.


All of that guides and influences what you do and how you do it and why you do it.


The legendary theologian John Henry Newman believed that “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”


When someone says they want to figure out what to do when they “grow up” they are muddling the issue because the issue is not “when I grow-up.”


The issue is “given that I am today this grown-up, how will I reinvent myself?”


In the early years of my adult life I lived in a religious community and prepared for ordained ministry as a priest. When I resigned from ministry after twenty years of community life I had only a hazy notion of who I was. (And, yes, that it is a startling thing to admit)


My therapist told me that I had to find new ways of being “priest.” That required I do things that would force me to become realistically acquainted with the skills and talents I’d acquired and had taken for granted. I had to experiment, try on, risk and reevaluate.


Reinvention doesn’t necessarily require new skills. It does, though, require you to be familiar with the skills you currently have and become comfortable using them in new and possibly unfamiliar ways.


So how do you reinvent yourself – now that you are grown-up?


Cristina Nehring in her book, A Vindication of Love, writes that when she was in high school,

My English teacher told our class that the most important thing about life was to live it as if it were a good novel – as if, she said, it were a good film script. ‘Would audiences walk out during the movie of your life?’ She believes that by living deliberately, gracefully, inventively, and fearlessly any one of us can be “a piece of art.”


Here are 20 questions for you to consider as you create the “piece of art” that is YOU


  1. In your present job, what skills do you enjoy putting to use? What comes easy to you?

  2. For what skills do you get your most compliments?

  3. When you last were looking for work, what had you really wanted to do?

  4. What or who pushed you into taking this job?

  5. How do you think you’ll emotionally be if you remain in your current job for another five years? Ten years?

  6. What are the practical reasons for you remaining in your current job? How important are those needs? Are those needs really “needed”?

  7. Who else is involved in your decision to reinvent yourself?

  8. What needs do they have? What fears are attached to those needs?

  9. Is there a specific field you’re interested in? Does it require new training?

  10. Do you know anyone who is doing what you want to do? Do you know anyone who knows someone doing what you want to do?

  11. Are you most excited by the idea of a new job or by having the opportunity to use skills you currently under-use?

  12. Is there any place within your current company that would let you tap more into the skills you want to be immersed in?

  13. A dream job is just a dream without a strategy. Do you have a dream or a strategy? What does your strategy look like?

  14. How will your life be different in your new job? Is this new job crucial to making your life different in the way you imagine?

  15. What will you miss from your current job and do you think you’ll find it in your new one?

  16. How will the new job make you more “grown-up” than your current one? What “grown-up” responsibilities will you have in your new job that you don’t have in your current?

  17. How are you sabotaging yourself now and would those techniques carry over in whatever new job you take?

  18. Do you have a tolerance for ambiguity, along with a dose of patience and grit?

  19. What is one skill you have that will come in handy as you reinvent yourself? What is one skill you need to develop?

  20. What do you want to be remembered for in this life? Will your future job help you be remembered for all the right reasons?


Answer these questions and you will have more insight into your next possible job and clarity into who you want to be, doing what you’ll be doing.


If you strategize with these questions, you will not just find a new job. You will experience transformation.


Leadership guru John Maxwell calls transformation the “journey to significance.”


Significance, according to Maxwell, is all about adding value to people.


Angela Duckworth, author and expert on “grit” believes that,

“Rather than ask, ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?’ ask, ‘In what way do I wish the world were different? What problem can I help solve?’


This puts the focus where it should be — on how you can serve other people.


Deep. Yes, I know!


Going deep, though, is what adults do. . .


I help people find their voice, showing professionals how to communicate in smart, healthy ways so as to develop successful relationships.

To explore how I can help you present you with enhanced confidence, please contact me at:

Why Complicate Your Life?

I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become



I recently received an email from Ida (name changed). She’d heard me speak at a luncheon and was hoping I might be able to help her because she hasn’t dated in ten years! Here’s a slice of what she wrote:


“I dated a guy for four years during college. We dreamed of getting married and growing old together. There was just one problem: Communication! He could never understand me. I’d try to communicate how I was feeling but it never ended well. It left me feeling inept and him frustrated. His family loved me, my family loved him, we had the same morals, the same religion, and the same aspirations in life, but in the end we just fought too much. It would take us days to resolve a fight because we wouldn’t be able to see eye to eye. I haven’t dated anyone for ten years because I honestly thought that if it didn’t work out with him it wouldn’t work out with anyone.”


I’m not a dating coach, but I think I can help Ida – at least help her see her situation from a new perspective.


Relationship is ALL about communication. 


The quality of our life is in direct proportion to the quality of the communication in our life.


I’m not able (at this point) to analyze where and how the communication broke down in her relationship BUT I can pinpoint where the communication broke down in terms of how she communicated with her own self.


Ida decided that because her relationship with her college beau didn’t work out, then, she had no chance with any other man on the face of the earth! This arbitrary decision was based on a sampling of just one man!


She convinced herself it was true and because she believed it to be true, she cut herself off from the possibility of romantic love. For ten years she has allowed herself to be held hostage by a lie.


If she wants to date again, then she can. The only thing holding her back is the lie she bought into ten years ago.


But here’s the thing – most of us, at one time or another in our lives, buy into a self-imposed lie that ends up sabotaging us.


Typical lies include:

I have to be “perfect” for people to appreciate me; I have to have everyone “love” me in order to be worthwhile, etc., etc.


Are you feeling constrained, trapped, or demotivated?

Chances are it’s because you’re believing a lie that you’ve convinced yourself is true.


Put the spotlight on the lie, bravely expose it for the nonsense it is and then do something that gives you life and doesn’t keep you locked away.


Oh, and Ida’s joining this week!


Do you complicate your life with lies that hold you hostage?

Do you want to have the confidence that will allow you

to engage others without crippling self-consciousness?


To explore how one-on-one communication skills coaching can help you present you with enhanced confidence,

please contact me