Maybe A Ghost Story

Photo by Vino Li on Unsplash

Discover something new every day.

James Still

I recently visited a store in Toluca Lake that I frequent. Julian (names changed) is the associate who’s been helping me for almost a decade. He knows I write and teach and coach and he excitedly told me that he had a story that might interest me.  

It did, so here it is!

Julian’s family has a home that’s two hours outside Puerto Vallarta. It’s been in the family for generations.  

Down through the years, relatives and friends claimed to have experienced hauntings.  

Julian himself claims to have seen and felt “things” that he can only label as “ghosts.” His father-in law, though, scoffs at such nonsense.

Early this past summer, Julian and his family went down for the Quinceañera of his niece. Per tradition, the local Priest came to hear confessions.  

Julian’s father-in-law has no use for Church ritual and took a nap when the priest arrived. He fell asleep and some time later awoke, feeling like someone was pressing down on him. His legs shook uncontrollably and he freaked out.  

He screamed; people rushed in and – nothing.  He insisted, though, that someone had been on top of him.

Hey, it’s Halloween and what’s a LinkedIn post without a ghost story?! 

I don’t think Julian made-up this tale. Since I don’t know his in-law, I don’t know if the man is a jokester, had a nightmare or – if he really was assaulted by a ghost.  

What I do know is that there’s more to life than we can see.

Not only is there more than we can take in at any one time, I think we’re so overwhelmed that often we don’t pay attention to the little that we can see.

In Thornton Wilder’s classic play, “Our Town”, the lead character Emily dies in childbirth. Soon after, as a spirit she asks the character of the Stage Manager if she can return home to live out just one day. Against his better judgment, he agrees.  

Emily is moved by the simple beauty of ordinary life and stunned by how people are unaware of that beauty. Although invisible to her mother, she cries out, 

“Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me – 

it goes so fast we don’t have time to look at one another.”  

Back at the graveyard, she asks the Stage Manager, 

“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?”

It’s easy to take life and others for granted.  

It’s also easy to take our own life for granted.  

The countdown for 2022’s end begins with the last piece of Halloween candy – so how do you want the year to end?  

. . .a few more pieces of Halloween candy. . .

When Chandler Massey won his first daytime Emmy for his role as Will on “Days of Our Lives” he was the odds-on favorite in his category, though he didn’t take the predictions seriously.  

In fact, he didn’t even bother to write an acceptance speech.  

He revealed to reporters that he hadn’t prepared a speech because he didn’t want to “jinx it.”  

He later regretted not writing one because he forgot to thank various special people, including his grandparents.

If I’m being honest – I am – the truth is I often have refrained from doing or saying something because I didn’t want to “jinx” it – whatever “it” is!  

So many of us engage in this primitive practice of superstition.

My father used to say, “Don’t get your hopes up because you don’t want to be disappointed.”  I followed his advice for years – and never got disappointed. I trained myself to focus on the negative and to downplay my talents, wishes and hopes. I learned to believe that hoping can only jinx happiness.

I’ve met many people who are reluctant to prepare for the best because that could be the direct cause of “the best” not happening. 

If you think about it, isn’t it amazing just how much power we think we have over the universe? Instead of, “build it and they will come” too many people assume the mantra, “don’t dream it and it will come about.”  

Had Massey written an acceptance speech, he still would have won since the mere act of writing would not have had the power to make all those winning votes magically disappear!

He engaged in superstitious thinking – and we all do it in some form or another.

Had Massey written his speech and lost, he would have been disappointed AND he would have had that thank you written so he could have sent it to those he loved.  

After all, he wasn’t thanking them for winning, he was thanking them for loving him and he didn’t need to wait to stand on stage with a trophy to do that!

Earlier I asked how you’d like 2022 to end – professionally and personally. 

Take a moment to jot down what you’d like to see happen. 

Then assess if your thinking or any of your beliefs are holding you back from creating the final months you’d like to experience.

Toss aside any superstitious thinking and with a clear eye see the possibilities. . .

Creating “the best” in your life is not about tricks or magic. 

Confident people know it’s all about strategy!

Now THAT’s the business of confidence!

Are You a Personable Person? (not a trick question!)

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

What is your relationship to life? 

I’m not sure there is a bigger question than this. It bears repeating: 

What – is – your relationship to life?

Eckhart Tolle

A couple of weeks ago I met with my client Hailey (names changed), who is responsible for mentoring several people at her financial firm. She talked with me about two managers. Each is hampered in the same areas:

  • Lack of self-awareness
  • Too harsh verbally / non-verbally

This pretty much is the definition of someone who is Emotionally Tone-Deaf.

Denisse, one of Hailey’s managers, reached out to me to explore coaching. She sounded aloof during our phone chat. She had minimal energy and asked questions in what I took to be a suspicious tone of voice. I had to make a concerted effort to be present with her in this conversation.

Denisse contacted me because of a recent meeting with a client that didn’t go well because of the poor impression she created (as reported by the client to Hailey).

Denisse told Hailey she’s introverted and has a hard time creating a comfortable rhythm with a client. 

I hear this a lot from professionals and since I’ve got a strong introverted streak running through my personality, I know the challenges. In many settings I have to generate energy that doesn’t come “naturally” to me. What I’ve learned, though, is this:

Relationships are ALL about energy

Recently a colleague with whom I collaborated on an event thanked me for being:

“personable, professional and flexible.”

I appreciated the compliment as I like being known for those three qualities BUT I got to thinking – what does it mean to be “personable”?

I thought about it and I now believe that a personable person is –

A person who knows they are a person dealing with another person!

A personable person realizes that “it” is ALL about relationship.

But there’s more. . .

Hailey told me that she thinks the managers struggle with client relationships because they are either unable or unwilling to self-reflect.

Hmm. . .maybe that’s the “secret” to being personable.

Personable people know how to self-reflect.

In my classes and workshops I give participants “whacks on the head” – prompts to get them thinking about themselves as communicators. Many don’t know how to answer the introspective questions I ask.

While there are various reasons for their struggles, I suspect it comes down to this:

Reflection demands time, patience and a willingness to ask, “Why?” 

Why do I do what I do and say what I say in the way in which I do and speak?

Asking “why?” invites you to understand who shaped you into the communicator you are today.

Understand the influencers in your life and you can choose how to present yourself to people – whether you are introverted or extroverted.

You no longer have to be held hostage by the mantra, “this is just me.”

The more aware you are of the mystery of YOU, the greater is your “chance” of becoming aware of the mystery of others.

And so, you more readily approach others with care and avoid being. . .

Too quick

Too biased

Too afraid

Too judgmental

Too harsh

. . .in your dealings with people.

So, here’s the thing – 

The year is almost over. The Hallmark Channel soon will be rolling out its Christmas movie premiers!

What do you want to do MORE OF beginning NOW and on through to the end of the year?

A few days ago, while writing this post, I heard back from Denisse – she’s decided the problem is not with her – that the problem is with her boss Hailey who doesn’t see what a great job she’s doing.

I told her that I think she’s making a mistake in not doing the challenging (and freeing) work of self-reflection. She was startled by my directness.

How about YOU? 

How about spending the remainder of 2022 becoming more “personable” by focusing on your professional and personal relationships: nurturing the ones that are healthy and tend to the ones that might be frayed, tense-filled or neglected.



To help get you thinking about YOU and people, here are Ten Questions to Generate Curiosity for People:  

  1. Why do you like people? Why don’t you like about people?  
  2. What is the best conversation you ever had with a stranger?
  3. What makes a person boring for you?
  4. What makes you boring to people?
  5. Do you want people to like you?  
  6. Do you have anything to give to people that would benefit them?
  7. In what ways is your life richer for “excluding” people? (yes, trick question)
  8. Who was the kindest person to you?
  9. Who was the nastiest?
  10. Who knew you the best – the kindest or the nastiest?

Let focusing on your relationships help you become MORE OF in the remaining weeks of this year. . .

  • more curious
  • more aware of self
  • more generous in de-complicating your life
  • more grateful
  • more adventuresome

The Power + Relief That Comes from Setting Boundaries

Photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash

You have to stop setting yourself on fire trying to keep everyone else warm.


Last month I gave a workshop at UCLA where Lucy (names changed), one of the participants, shared that she’s frustrated with a co-worker who consistently criticizes her work while attempting to micro-manage her. Adding to the frustration is that the co-worker is a peer and not a supervisor. 

Lucy bottles up her annoyance and can’t leave those feelings at work. She doesn’t know what to do. 

We explored ways in which she could “retrain” the coworker by establishing boundaries. While Lucy was open to what I had to say, she ultimately admitted, “I don’t know if I can do this!”

A few days after that workshop I was doing an onsite with a client who brings me in once-a-year for a fine-tuning with her team. Ann, the department head, invited me to facilitate a four-hour session. 

It was a remarkable morning as these five people put aside phones and work to focus on each other – individually and as a team. 

With insight, humor and candor they examined the changes of the past year: where they are now as a group that has several new members, as well as what further improvements they could commit to making.

What quickly surfaced was the reality that as a group they’ve not been effective at Setting Boundaries. Saying NO does not come easy to this generous and competent group of women.

Because of the pressures on their time, it’s often easier to say, “I’ll do it” since they can get the “it” done fast and right. Because they’ve gotten into the reflexive habit of saying “I’ll do it” they’ve almost forgotten how to say “No.”

Their organization’s culture enjoys a glossy reputation to the outside world and its leaders are focused on keeping that prestige pristine. However, internal reality doesn’t match-up as those same leaders do not generate the needed appreciation for the work people do.

Within this culture they’ve become so good at what they do they’ve developed a mindset that they are responsible for saving people and events. 

And so, the conversation circled in on issues of respect – for self and others.

The group recognized that they can’t change people or systems or culture. 

So, what can they change?

Their own behavior and attitude.

I reminded them of the three core truths:

  • We train people how to treat us.
  • Old habits die hard. 
  • Change happens only when we are aware of how we trip ourselves up.

And then came the “Ah, ha!” moment.

During one of our breaks, Cathy received an email from Karen, executive assistant to the president, who asked if she’d arrange parking passes for client guests the president was going to meet with later in the day. 

Cathy pointed to that email as a perfect example of what contributed to her own and the team’s frustration. Why can’t Karen get the passes herself?!

Good question!

Of course, the answer is – why should she? 

In the past, whenever Karen has asked Cathy to do something she herself could do, Cathy has said “yes.” And in saying “yes” Cathy was training Karen to be helpless!

Cathy used the email as an opportunity to immediately practice setting boundaries. She created a short, polite response saying she wasn’t able to fulfill the request.

What happened next?

Life went on. 

Karen arranged for the passes and the guests were able to park.

Other examples quickly surfaced and the group was amazed at how easily they’ve allowed people to steal their time and snag them in drama that had little, if anything, to do with them.

They re-embraced the truth of the truth: 

Bottled-up frustration eventually leaks out in weird (if not explosive) ways. Readjust your attitude, take responsibility, address it, AND then it’s easier to let it stay at work.

But – there was the lingering echo of old mantras: “I can’t set boundaries” because. . .

“It’s not worth the trouble.”

“I don’t want to not care.”

 Of course, you CAN set boundaries – if you choose.

Is it really not worth the trouble?

Why is it not worth it? 

Why is being treated with respect not worth it? 

Why is your sanity not worth it?

I don’t think it’s about “not caring.” 

In the case of Ann and her team they do care. It’s about readjusting the look and feel of their care.

It’s about caring so much you’re not willing to be a doormat or do other people’s jobs for them.

It’s about caring to form a new understanding of “respect.”

How to say NO?

Have a coaching session with yourself and answer these questions:

1.         How do you normally respond when someone oversteps a boundary?

2.         How normally do you feel?

3.         How would you like to respond?

4.         How do you want to feel?

5.         What would you have to do to feel that way?

6.         Why are you reluctant to do what you need to feel that way?

7.         Is there something else you could say/do so as to get closer to your desired feeling?

In the weeks since that four-hour, eye-opening conversation, Ann has reported that the team has had opportunities to practice setting boundaries in ways they have not done previously.

In the process, they are not only retraining others how to treat them – they’re retraining themselves in how to treat their own selves.

now THAT’s the business of confidence!

TRUST – Do You Know How To Create It?

Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash

Business, like life, is about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.

Danny Meyer, “Setting the Table”

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. I’ve also wondered what had happened to make my mother think of a simple childhood ritual in such an odd and distrustful way.


Ironically, although I did a stint in ministry and now coach people in how to communicate with confident authenticity, it is a value I seldom write or talk about.

As you can glean from my Halloween childhood, trust was actually not valued in my family. We had three locks on the apartment door because you couldn’t trust your neighbors – even though it was a boringly safe working–middle-class neighborhood!


 This is the one time of year when I’m acutely mindful of this value because I find myself telling folks of my odd relationship to the holiday.

In recent weeks I’ve had several clients unexpectedly raise questions about “trust.”

Sharon (names changed) is the head of a department in a small, faith-based high school and she lamented that she doesn’t trust Gail, the head of another department. Gail in turn doesn’t trust Sharon. But, wait – this is supposedly a “faith-based” high school!

Jack does strategic capital planning with the Boards and Administrations of colleges and universities. In a recent exercise, he asked Board members of a particular private college to list the values they want their school to stand for – and that are currently in short supply at the college. “Trust” ranked #1.

The Board, to a person, revealed they felt afraid of retaliation from the Administration if they did not toe the line.

And then there’s Nathan. The golden son of Richard, who returned to LA to take over the business his dad, Richard, founded. Only problem, Nathan is alienating most of the team and not winning over the hearts of clients.

Nathan lamented, “I don’t think my dad trusts me.”

 I asked, “Do you trust your dad?” He replied, “I think he’s a hard worker.” Ah – that’s not what I asked! “Do you trust him?”

This time he admitted, “No. I think he lets people take advantage of him.”

But that still didn’t quite answer the “trust” question I posed.

Here’s the thing – 

Not only do you need trust in order to go trick-and-treating, you need a climate of trust in order to get your work done with confidence and poise. 

And as a leader, you need trust so you can guide your team in hard conversations for the purpose of bringing about clarity.

Nathan grew annoyed as I pressed him, “I have a vision – it’s a solid plan – we’ll all benefit – I don’t see why they’re too stupid not to get it.” Hmm. . .your team is too stupid??

Nathan is arrogant, dismissive and non-empathetic – on a good day – and he doesn’t understand what makes people – PEOPLE!

He’s not alone in not knowing how to trust his team and so help them be energized by that trust.

 What is your relationship to trust?

Who do you trust? (I’m hoping you can easily answer this question.)

And I’ll make it a tad harder by asking you, “Do you think people trust you?”

Why? Why do people trust you? What do you consciously do to generate “trust?”

Dr. Heidi Larson, founder of the Vaccine Confidence Project, who has spent much of her medical career helping peoples and nations overcome their fear of vaccinations, when asked how a bridge could be built between health experts and skeptical members of society, she simply said, “Start a conversation. Find a way to talk to people who don’t necessarily share all your beliefs: Look for an entry point.”

Described by peers as a “patient optimist,” her outlook is partly anthropological, grounded in an understanding of and empathy for the messy complexities of being human.

It also comes from the relative simplicity of her diagnosis: Building trust is an everyday action.

The line she repeatedly quotes is often attributed to Teddy Roosevelt: 

People don’t care about what you know, unless they know that you care.

Yep, that’s the trust dilemma.’”

Nathan has not been able to generate trust because he is not able to have a conversation with his dad or his team members because he thinks they are “too stupid” to understand his plan.

Sharon and Gail have been too focused on accusing each other of incompetence to be able to have a real conversation.

I suggested to Jack that in his next session with the Board he ask them, “If you trusted each other more what would need to happen?”

Here’s what I hope their answer would encompass –

If “trust” begins with the brave act of having a curiosity-based conversation, then that means we are committed to being –

Consistent in our prep for those conversations + entering into those conversations with an attitude of curiosity + being generous in our perseverance for mutual clarity.

If “trust” begins with the brave act of having a curiosity-based conversation, then that means we are committed to –

Empathetically embracing the “messy complexities” of being human means embracing that people can be –


Confused in their thinking



As they strive to trust themselves and others.

If you are committed to generating “trust” then you know through and through that –

words mean something

you must follow through on your words

you are committed to creating clarity of thought

If you are committed to generating “trust” then you know through and through that –

You must listen.

People come to me and say, “I want to be more confident.” Confidence can mean a whole lot of different things.

But here’s the thing –

You can only be confident if you are trust-generating


only if recognize that by being trust-generating you’re doing something vital for society.

The Business of Confidence is really The Business of Trust!

BONUS : 12 Trust-Generating Phrases

1.    I don’t need to answer that (phone)

2.    It’s a common mistake – one that I’ve made

3.    We’re not in any rush

4.    It only makes sense you’re feeling frustrated – this is difficult stuff

5.    You’re right – I was wrong when I said. . .

6.    Let me tell you a story

7.    This is why I love what I do

8.    There’s no need to be embarrassed. Pause. Okay, maybe there is, but, hey, what’s the use in that?!

9.    Talk to me – what are you thinking?

10. What do you think you learned from all this?

11. Is this something you really want and if so help me understand why

12. Laugh! (when appropriate)

now THAT’s the business of confidence!