The Power of Accepting an Invitation

Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Every chance meeting is an appointment.

Pablo Neruda

When I was a sophomore in college, I had the opportunity to interview iconic feminist writer Anais Nin.  

She was warm and gracious and afterwards invited me to a party she was hosting at her home in Greenwich Village.  

I was ecstatic as I imagined myself being swept-up in a bohemian circle of literary sophisticates – okay, so even now, I still get caught-up in the memory! 

When I got home, my mother glared and said, “You’re not going. You don’t know what sorts of people will be at that thing.” I was crushed.  

All these years later, I still wonder – what sorts of people were at that party and what would they have done with me?!

Poet and business writer David Whyte maintains –

how we respond to an invitation can mark or maim us for the rest of our days

He believes that as we go about our day, invitations are continually hurled our way.  

The question is – do we recognize when we’re being invited and do we respond with any sort of regularity to these invitations?

Here’s the thing – invitations can come in all sorts of guises.  

For instance, in a NYTimes profile, Academy Award-nominated Michael Fassbender shared that when he was nineteen, he auditioned for the Drama Centre in London. Having already been rejected by two schools, he was nervous as he waited to do his Iago monologue.  

Right before the audition, he went to the men’s room and while standing at the urinal, he noticed “Hi, Cookie!” scrawled on the wall. As it turned out, he recently played the Cook in a production of “Mother Courage” and he used a Scottish accent.  

Hmm. . .Cook / Cookie.  

Opting to take it as a “sign” he did the Iago monologue in a Scottish accent, even though he hadn’t prepared it that way. He wowed them and the rest is history.  

In its roots, “invite” means to attract, entice, challenge or encourage. It would seem that even graffiti in a bathroom can be an invitation! 

Or consider – what’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?  

Every compliment is an invitation to become more of the good thing that people are noticing about you. 

Business guru Peter Bregman had a client who once told him, 

there is grace in being molded by your own gifts

I love that image and maybe that’s the greatest invite of all – the invitation to become more fully you.

Sometimes, invitations can be a pain-in-the-butt precisely because they challenge us to get off our butt and go outside our comfort zone.  

The unknown is scary and so it’s easy to rationalize why we can’t accept an invitation.  

But what would your life be like if you never received an invitation?  Now that would be scary.

So, the next time you receive an invitation, don’t rush to say “NO!”

A generous “YES!” may hold all sorts of good surprises.

now THAT is the business of confidence. . .


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:

How Strategic Is Your Communication?

photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash

We don’t receive wisdom.

We must discover it for ourselves after a journey 

that no one can take for us or spare us.

Marcel Proust

On the last night of class, Brad (names changed), one of my UCLA Extension students, thanked me for my work. He told me he had looked forward to every class and had learned a lot.  

But then he smiled and said these immortal words: “I still don’t see why I should have to change just to please people, so I’m not going to.”

With that one sentence, Brad graciously, and without realizing, had just assured me that he hadn’t “got” what the class was all about!  

My work is not premised in the belief that we should change so as to please other people.  I’m not in the business of creating “people pleasers.”  

Rather, I’m in the business of showing people how to be smart and strategic communicators.  


That’s the key word.  

The reason why we communicate is to get our needs met. Communicating is about mutual satisfaction.  

While that’s not always possible – for a host of reasons – that doesn’t mean it’s any less worthwhile a goal.

No one way of communicating fits all scenarios.  

If you talk the same way to every person you deal with, then you’re hitting a one-note and reducing your chances for getting heard and understood.

I learned this the hard way (is there really any other way?) early on in ministry when I was a priest.  

The summer after ordination I worked at a parish on Long Island, N.Y. A few days after arriving, I was assigned the funeral of a long-time parishioner.

I’d never presided at a funeral, so I was nervous when I went to the funeral home for the viewing the night before the service. I didn’t know the deceased or his family, so what could I say to them without sounding like a walking cliché?

The funeral director informed me that the deceased was survived by his three adult daughters. That’s all he told me and I was too inexperienced to ask him any questions.

I entered the viewing room and spotted three blonde-haired women near the casket, who looked like they could have walked off the set of Sex and The City!

I went over to one of the sisters, extended my hand, and in what ended up being a clichéd, somber tone of voice said, “I’m so sorry for your loss; I can’t imagine how hard a time this must be for you all.”  

The woman smiled and with a wave of her hand said, “Thank you, but that’s okay.  Actually, he was a mean s.o.b. and we’re all happy to see him go!”

Well, she put me in my place – and taught me a pivotal lesson.  

I’d gone to the viewing on autopilot and didn’t strategize. I presumed that because it was a funeral, and the people I directly was dealing with were family, that my goal was to comfort them. But, they didn’t want my sympathy and didn’t need my comfort.  

I learned that just because a certain context calls for a presumed emotion, that doesn’t mean the person(s) involved is going to be feeling that specific way.  

All effective communication is about strategizing, which means it’s important to consider these three questions: 

  • Who’s involved?  
  • What’s the context?  
  • What’s my goal?  

Answer these questions and you can then strategize how you’re going to approach someone.

This is true in our personal lives and equally true in business where the stakes are high.  

Therefore, your primary goal isn’t to please people.

Rather, it’s to create a mutually satisfying (i.e. beneficial) relationship.

That’s done by figuring out how to communicate with the other person in a way that makes it as easy as possible for her or for him to hear and understand you.  

Only then can our goals have the chance to be mutually satisfied.

now THAT is the business of confidence!

Do you want to be more strategic in your communicating –

so as to develop and nurture successful professional relationships?

To explore how communication skills coaching can help you

present you with enhanced confidence – and joy 

please contact me

10 Ways “Excellence” Differs From “Perfection”

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.
Maya Angelou

At some point in my workshops, I like to tell folks that I’m a “recovering perfectionist.”
This usually gets a laugh and usually a couple of people flash me a smile that telegraphs “I’m a perfectionist, too.”

I then remind them that a perfectionist is doomed to a life of misery because no one can ever be perfect. Perfection is unattainable – in our relationships and in the way in which we communicate.

There’s more nervous laughter and from the perfectionists lurking in the room there’s another flash of, “yeah, you’re right, BUT. . .”

One of my favorite venues in Southern California is The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach.

Beginning with the valets on through to the managers, the service is impeccably gracious, attentive and laced with light-heartedness.

The Director of Catering once told me that the resort’s guiding motto is –
the pursuit of perfection

He explained that “pursuit” acknowledges that perfection is never fully attained and excellence can only be found in the pursuit.

He was spot on.

My experience, personal and professional, is that people who obsess over perfection often slip easily and unknowingly into difficult behavior.

As a “recovering perfectionist” I will admit to this.

What does a perfectionist behaving difficultly look like?

When your driving goal is to get whatever needs done perfectly right, you’ll become a contortionist to avoid a mistake.

When you feel thwarted by obstacles that are preventing you from achieving your “perfect” vision or when you cave to the demon voices that tell you perfection is lost, you can become a wallowing pessimist.

However it plays out, you’re miserable and unable to function energetically and strategically.

The demand for “Perfection” causes anxiety. The smart, healthy, effective person provides platinum service by being committed to the “ongoing pursuit of excellence.”

Excellence is attainable. Pelican Hill is a shining example.

So, what does excellence look like?

Excellence can be summed up in THE best tweet I’ve ever read –
“What can I do for you?”

Perfection is focused on “me.” Excellence is focused on the “other.”

Pursuing “excellence” means consistently asking the questions that challenge us to be more attuned to genuine service:
• What more can I do in order to offer service more smartly, more strategically?
• How can I do what I offer differently so as to be more efficient?
• Am I doing anything that self-sabotages me?
• What did I learn/relearn in the past week about how to better serve my customers / colleagues?
• Is there anything I should be doing that I’m not doing because I’m afraid to do it?

Perfection is rigid and unchanging.
Excellence is fluid and adaptable which comes about from asking self-reflective questions.

What did I learn and relearn from the good folks at Pelican?

  1. Saying something is not the same as communicating. Always check for clarity and understanding.
  2. Customer service is more than reading from a script. It’s about tuning into the nuance of the encounter.
  3. Caring is rare. People know this and so react when felt cared for.
  4. You can and need to take charge of what you offer no matter your title or position.
  5. The needs of the moment require an agility in being resourceful.
  6. Trust can be easily lost – and almost as easily restored by acknowledging mistakes.
  7. The chronic challenge is not to get caught-up in frenzy created by the customer. If we do we then lose the ability to be strategic in the service of excellence.
  8. People crave to be recognized. This is an eternal truth.
  9. There is a kindness to excellence. You cannot be kind and perfect as perfect is too harsh to be kind.
  10. We are all inter-connected and so excellence is not isolated. It seeps into the DNA of a culture.

Now THAT is the business of confidence!