The Season of Surprise!


Always there has been an adventure just around the corner –

and the world is still full of corners.

Roy Chapman Andrews



A down-and-out character in Tennessee Williams’ play “Small Craft Warnings” asks this question:

“What is the one thing you must not lose sight of in this world before leaving it? Surprise. The capacity for surprise.”


The Christmas story is one of the great stories of “surprise.” A virgin birth, an angelic choir to greet a long-anticipated savior in the stinkiest of settings, are the surprise highlights in a story that ripples with the unexpected.


No matter one’s religious beliefs or non-beliefs, I think it does us good to reflect on our own individual capacity for being surprised – by life and perhaps, most especially, by our own self.


Can you still surprise yourself?


The mad rush to year’s end, beginning at Thanksgiving, accelerates the freneticism of our daily routines.


We want some holiday cheer, some Christmas “spirit,” whatever that spirit actually means and feels and looks like. But because we’ve been planning, organizing, shopping and juggling we just end up losing sight of the “why” of it all.


For some that “why” has a religious answer and for others it has some different answer, or no answer.


But no matter – we’re still left with the reality that “surprise” is embedded within the DNA of this holiday time. 


Even the most famous secular Christmas story, “A Christmas Carol,” is the tale of a nasty old man who is given the surprise of his life – past, present and future!


The great gift of “the holidays” is the gift of being open to surprise. 


And why is this gift so extraordinarily crucial?


Because life without surprise is not life. It’s just a monotonous, deadening, robotic routine.


To keep Christmas in one’s heart all year round as Dickens urged is really a promise to be a bearer of surprise in all things great and small.


It’s mindfully being willing to do the unexpected, the unanticipated and the unlooked for. 


To surprise people with small courtesies as simple as wearing a mask or sending a thank-you.


To surprise the seemingly idiotic co-worker with patience.


To surprise a delivery person with a generous tip.


To surprise a friend with time for an actual phone chat.


And it means being willing to surprise your own self – to be kind to your own self – to not punish yourself with food that makes you sluggish, with delayed projects that derail your credibility or with dreams deferred that cause you to walk away from yourself.


To surprise your self by doing what you’ve put off doing because of fear.


In a year filled with more shock than surprise, this holiday season is a time for surprise and light and birth in ways unfamiliar and unnerving.


This is a time to once again resolve to live with courage.


Life, in all its messy and unexpected glory, is what animates the deepest yearnings of this season in both its religious and secular manifestations.


Merry Surprise!


The point is not to live long – we live forever anyway.

The point is while you are alive, be ALIVE.

Brenda Ueland


Memories Of Halloween Past

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. Yes, this is another Finn-inspired column!


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 all of nineteen now and so store displays don’t scare him, hugs are at a premium and he’d rather play an App 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 as I struggle with my resolutions to not let paper-thin fears paralyze me, to be generous with my affection and to challenge myself to do what seems not doable.




Well, really isn’t that the surest way to find and seize life’s treats?

How Not To Be Boring!


The point is not to live long – we live forever anyway.

The point is while you are alive, be ALIVE.

Brenda Ueland


Last month I invited David (names changed), an LMU grad, to speak in my online UCLA class “How To Talk To Anyone.”


A few years ago, David considered himself boring – and it was affecting his dating life.


Although he’s smart, athletic and good-looking, he was a self-described “loser in love.”  I invited him to my class because his story is rather unusual.


One Saturday night he came back to his dorm room a bit drunk and a whole lot discouraged. He’d gone to a party and failed to connect with any of the girls.


He went on Facebook looking for distractions when a pop-up ad appeared for a dating coaching site promising near-instant success with women.


The guy offering advice promised that his video would reveal, among other things, the secret to making every conversation have the “fun, seductive vibe all the best do naturally.”


Desperate and willing to try anything, David bought the video.


Somehow he was able to look beyond the cheesy hype and extract the key truths behind the hype.

He grew in confidence and learned how to engage girls (and guys) in conversation.

And, yes, he now has a great girlfriend.


David offered my class four key truths he’s learned – truths that extend beyond dating and that go to heart of being both engaging and confident:


First, HOW you say something is even more important that WHAT you say. 

Non-verbal sets the tone, i.e. the basics of the look in the eye, the smile, and an assured handshake.


Second, trust the “60/40” Rule – upwards of 60% of what goes on in a conversation is beyond our control. 

If a person has had a lousy day or is preoccupied in any way, then that will influence how they see and respond to you. You have to take care of and be responsible for the forty percent that’s in your control.


Third, understand the “value” you bring to an encounter. 

If you don’t believe you bring any value then why should you expect the other person to value their time with you?  Keep telling yourself that you’re “boring” and your words become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Fourth, learn from failure.

Not everyone will enjoy you, yet you can learn from every encounter.


So how did I meet David?


I was a guest speaker in one of his college classes.


Afterwards he asked for my card and a couple of weeks later we met for coffee (ah, the good old pre-Covid days!). I shared my story; he told me his and I was moved by his journey from “boring” to “engaging” as it reminded me of my own journey that I began in college.


What Dylan reminded my class is this –

No one has to be “boring.”

Boring is a learned trait and so it can be unlearned!



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:

  [email protected]




The Secret To Being Confident


If I am I because you are you, and you are you because I am I –

then I am not and you are not you.

But if I am I because I am I and you are you because you are you –

then I am I and you are you.

Rebe Kotzk


The question people most often ask me is – what do I need to do in order to become more confident?


Even though I’ve named my website The Business of Confidence it is the question I personally wrestle with – what is this thing we call “confidence” and why is it so elusive?


A few weeks ago, I offered a workshop (via Zoom) and Tim, one of the participants, arrived early. He popped onto the screen and with a broad smile said, “I’m excited to be here. What do you have planned for us?”


I’ll admit – his enthusiasm, his confident enthusiasm, took me aback. Most times people appear on a Zoom screen looking distracted as they fumble with audio and video and then stare blankly like they’re in a hostage video!


What’s at the core of a Tim-like sense of confidence?


Recently, I’ve been sorting through files on my computer – article links and past emails from clients and students. I came upon this note from Bria, a workshop participant (sent way prior to Covid) –

This past weekend I visited Nashville for the first time. Saturday night I went to dinner with a friend and on the way out the owner stopped and thanked us for coming, which turned into nearly an hour-long conversation. We talked about her restaurant, her son, her family and her upbringing, I found myself completely taken. What made this meeting stand out was the level of attention and interest I was able to have during a conversation with a “stranger.” Typically, I won’t bother putting much time or thought into a conversation with a stranger.


I was struck with her “Tim-like” enthusiastic confidence. What allowed her to engage in a conversation with a stranger? What allowed that “stranger” to engage her in conversation?


In a word – CURIOSITY.


I’m convinced that in order to be confident you have to be curious – about others, about yourself, about life.


John Donohue, a professor of mine in grad school, maintained that every person has three great themes that drive their thinking in life. I scoffed as I thought I certainly had more than three themes. All these years later, I realize he was right!


And for me, one of my great driving themes is the need to be curious.


Now the second most asked question I get from folks is – how did I decide to go into communications work?


I actually don’t recall being interested in communications. I was interested in figuring out how to connect with people. As I’ve written before, I was the bubble boy living in a bubble while growing-up.


My parents socially isolated (way before anyone had to quarantine!) and so I spent a lot of time wondering about people. What did “normal” people do? I thought I was boring and I desperately wanted to connect with people.


That desire to connect propelled me to move out of my bubble and the most significant thing I did was land a radio hosting job at KFUV, my college’s station. Each week I interviewed people in various fields of arts and entertainment around NYC.


I was nervous at first because I believed that they had lived and I didn’t want them to know that I hadn’t. They were, in my eyes, sexy, sensual people with enticing stories. I was intrigued. I was jealous. I wanted to be included.


The irony is – people responded to my being curious and being interested in them. They trusted me and opened up to me and my questions. And, yes, slowly, steadily, I connected with people. People who were very different from me. And the differences began not to matter.


I became more intuitive and less focused on me. I learned to be aware of the slightest nuance – the hesitation, the stumble, the smile. People became less strange. Through it all, I became more confident.


At the core of confidence is curiosity.


Because if I can understand someone it will be less likely that they will have intimidating power over me.


If I understand my responsibility in a relationship, I can feel and be empowered.


We are most afraid when we are most not in control and we are most not in control when we are most not curious.

The truth is, we all live inside a bubble created by our thinking. Inside the bubble are the things we know, the people and the experiences we’re familiar with. Anything outside of the bubble is threatening because it’s unknown. And so, we tend not to venture beyond our bubble.


Being curious is how we venture beyond our own bubble.


How do we BE curious?


By asking questions.


My client Nick’s favorite question is to ask his clients, “What can I do for you?”


Gia changed her relationship with her business partner Luke by becoming unwilling to let him off the hook in difficult conversations.


Luke is a proud man who doesn’t want to appear to need help – not even from Gia. Gia shied away from those conversations that demanded emotional courage on her part.


She committed to being more curious about Luke’s fears. And she demonstrated that caring curiosity by learning to not end a conversation too soon – by finding one last question that could potentially open the log jam of Luke’s silence.


Her new fav question is to ask Luke, “if you did need help, where would you need it?” She’s discovered that an unexpected question, asked from a place of respectful curiosity is taking tough conversations to a new place.


Business guru Robert Middleton tells the story of when he sold his 2012 Toyota Highlander, the potential buyer had only one question for him after Middleton had countered his offer – “If you were selling this car to a family member, what other things would you fix or tell them about before you did?”


An unexpected question, sprung from genuine curiosity, turned an impersonal negotiation into an honest conversation about safety and reliability.


The buyer was satisfied with Middleton’s answer and accepted his offer.


Being curious and asking good questions can produce clarity and focus and in so doing change the tone of the conversation.


Being curious demonstrates interest that, in turn, generates trust. Real conversation can begin to happen.


How do you develop an attitude of curiosity?


Well, short of nabbing your own radio interview show, here are three curiosity-generating exercises that are easy to practice. Commit to any one exercise for a week and you will emerge from your bubble in ways that will surprise you!



Motivational speaker John Izzo believes that:

We can wake up each morning and the first question that emerges is: ‘I wonder what life will do for me today?’ But our days can begin with a very different question: ‘What can I give to life and the world today?’ The most deeply happy and fulfilled people I have met have been people who knew life expected a great deal from them.

Every morning for a week, begin your day by asking (and answering) that simple question: what can you give to the world this day?



At the end of each day, take five – ten minutes to reflect on what did you learn / relearn this day about yourself – your work – your life? What and who surprised you? Why? How?



Coaching guru Peter Bregman’s favorite question with which he challenges himself and his clients is –

What do I not want to see? And why am I afraid to see what I don’t want to see?


Of course, the answer inevitably is – if I see, I most likely will have to change or my life will continue to be uncomfortable.



My client Alice laments that she wants to be a better coach to her team – but claims she doesn’t know how to coach.


Being a better coach is rather simple – be more interested in your team. Be curious. Ask them questions that demonstrate you care beyond the perfunctory, “is everything good?” type of question.


Alice counters that she doesn’t have enough time to ask questions. When I asked what she thought was holding her time captive, she was stumped. And so has begun a series of tough – and eventually productive – conversations.


Here’s the thing –


The Business of Confidence is really the business of making the potential of you into the reality of YOU.

You can’t become you without being curious.


Business of Confidence = Business of Curiosity!

9 Core Truths From Frontline Managers


The real me isn’t the person I describe.

No, the real me is the me revealed by my actions.

Malcolm Gladwell


I recently concluded a training program with a group of managers who work in the hospitality industry. I Zoomed with them once a month for six months. During that time they participated in various other opportunities offered through HR.

At our final session I simply asked:

What have you learned that surprised you?

How will you follow through on that insight in the months ahead?


And so began a free-wheeling conversation!


The following nine insights emerged from our conversation.


If embraced and put into action by the managers these insights will set each of them apart from the pack and will help to make each of their teams a stand-out!



I used to care only about my agenda. I now see that aligning my goals with those of my boss will help me, my boss and our department.


How can you help your direct reports align their goals with yours?


I used to make them do it my way – now I see there’s more than one ‘better’ way.


This is the essence of “trust” – letting team members devise additional ways for reaching goals.

How can you foster more “better ways” in your team?


I hate failure – but there’s no getting around mistakes.


No one likes failure for a host of reasons. What do you personally do when you fail?

Beat yourself up or learn from your mistakes?

What do you do when your team members make mistakes?

What do they think you’ll do?


I easily get defensive – too easily – and I need to relax.


It’s so easy to get defensive!

What do you do when you have a difficult conversation with a direct report, colleague, customer

so as to help defuse defensiveness in them? In yourself?


I need to be a better active listener.


Listening is THE greatest gift we can give someone – and it is a skill that needs mindfully to be developed.

What can you do to make it easier for people to listen to YOU?



I want to do for my team what my favorite boss do to me –

she made me feel comfortable.


What do you do to make your team members feel comfortable with you? What does “comfortable” look and feel like?

Do your team members see you as someone with whom they can have a productive working relationship?



I do have a ‘little’ work to do with myself.


Smart people ALWAYS have “a little work” to do with themselves BECAUSE they know they’re a work in progress.

What specifically are you working on this week?



I have a lot of skills from having worked with a lot of personalities.


Strategic managers are familiar with the skills they’ve developed over the years and continually find ways to build on them.

What personality type do you find most easy to work with?

Most difficult to work with? What has each personality type taught you about YOU?



I feel good when I personally live out the values of the company.


Do you and your team all have a shared understanding of what those values are and how they are lived in daily practice?



All of communication is about PSYCHOLOGY and STRATEGY.


Understand what makes the other person tick, what makes you tick, and you can then strategize how to communicate.


The managers now have a keener insight into what makes each of them tick. And so each is in a position to take their key insight from the training and use it to strategize new ways of communicating in smart, healthy and effective ways.


Taken together, these nine insights will allow them to create connection, trust and surprise – the enduring hallmarks of THE BEST!




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:

  [email protected]


National Positive Thinking Day


Your attitude defines your altitude.

Zig Ziglar


This Sunday, September 13th, is National Positive Thinking Day.

I know –  with Covid + mass unemployment + national elections + raging fires here in California and the Northwest – why even bother mentioning this holiday?!


Well, because – that’s why!


My father was a great storyteller who had an appreciation for the absurd. With Scotch in hand, he was a jolly good-fella whom people enjoyed.


Although he had a great sense of humor, my father was not an optimist. While he could laugh so hard that he’d cry, the proverbial glass was ALWAYS half empty.


We were a Catholic family and like many Catholics of his generation, he could quote the Catechism. The first question in that book is: “Why did God make us?”


The classic answer is, “God made us to know, love and serve Him in this world and be happy with Him in the next.”


My father would quote this and point out, “It doesn’t say anything about being happy in this world. We’re not meant for happiness.”


This belief, which is a perversion of Catholic theology, allowed him to explain every disappointment, misstep and misfortune that happened in his life.


He was a fatalist and as such had low expectations for life.


Dreams didn’t amount to much because they most likely would be decimated.


Hopes were pleasant but did little more than aspirin.


I had to work hard to understand how his belief system was grounded in a lie – a lie that allowed him to aspire for very few things of value.


All these years later, I don’t think my father was unique in his fatalism. In fact, I think it’s far more common than we care to admit in this “feel-good” society of ours.


Mildred (85) is the oldest resident in my condo building.


She told me that she and her husband raised their family in this building although she had never wanted to live here. She wanted to own a house but her husband wouldn’t hear of it.


She lamented, “I’ve been miserable in this place for forty years. Can you believe that?” And I did detect a twinge of pride in her voice.


I laughed, saying, “Of course I can!”


It’s easy to surrender power and believe that ultimately life is controlled by forces outside our control.


Viktor Frankl, one of last century’s greatest writers and a survivor of Auschwitz, fervently believed that,

 We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: The last of his freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.


You don’t need me to remind you that the circumstances and events of 2020 give more than a little credence to my father’s mantra about happiness!




The haunting and enduring conviction of Frankle bears stark witness, reminding us to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.


National Positive Thinking Day is more than a cute, feel-good fabricated holiday. It’s an urgent reminder to:


Find joy.  Be powerful.  Think positive!


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:

  [email protected]

















The Only Way To Break The Tyranny of Pefectionism


Perfectionism is not a quest for the best,

it is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves,

the part that tells us nothing we do will ever be good enough.

Julia Cameron



Sally is a multi-lingual, well-traveled client who lives an interesting and “good” life. Heck, I wish I’d lived in half of the countries she’s lived.


She came to me because she’s tired of being mean to herself. She wants me to help her learn how to be more forgiving of her imperfections.


While she was growing-up, Sally’s mother (a single mom) expected her to be “perfect.” And so she placed upon her an array of harsh and unrealistic expectations.


Sally knows she can never attain “perfection,” BUT that realization causes her to slip into an attitude of, “what’s the use?”


Since there is “no use” she freezes and gives up on goals and projects. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle in both her professional and personal worlds.


She sabotages relationships. She sabotages work projects.


Sally’s perception of herself is critically distorted by her insistence on a fathom notion of perfection. When she says that she wants to learn how to be kind to herself, what she’s really saying is that she wants to learn how to get freed of perfections grip.


I’m convinced that the pursuit of perfection has caused more harm than any other character or personality “failing.”

How break the unrelenting cycle perfectionism creates?


Consider these questions:

  1. Who said you had to be perfect?
  2. Why was it important to them that you be perfect?
  3. Did they ever take the time to explain what would happen if you were not perfect?
  4. Have those dire predictions come true?
  5. Since you’re not perfect, how has your life suffered from being imperfect?
  6. If you were able to achieve perfection, how would your life be different?
  7. And if you were perfect how would the lives of the people you work with be different? The people you love?
  8. Since it’s unlikely (seriously) that you will achieve perfection, what can you do to achieve excellence?
  9. Could “excellence” give you as much satisfaction as “perfection?”
  10. Whatever your answer to #9, how do you know that answer is true?!


My suggestion – strive for excellence. Get acquainted and comfortable with excellence. Then – and only then – if you want, begin to strive for perfection.


I think you’ll find that excellence is not too shabby a place!


But – there’s more – always more!


A while ago I came across this passage and it was like that cliched splash of cold water in the face!


While the passage speaks to the experience of gay men, I think it speaks to the experience of so many – gay or straight, male, female or non-binary. I think it speaks to Sally’s experience and she is a straight, cisgender woman.


What would you like me to be? A great student? A priest in a church? Mother’s little man? The first-chair violinist? We became dependent on adopting the skin our environment imposed upon us to earn the love and affection we craved. How could we love ourselves when everything around us told us that we were unlovable? Instead, we chased the affection, approval, and attention doled out by others.

The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World

By Alan Downs


What would you like me to be?

That’s the question Sally was trained to ask of her mother while growing-up. And her mother’s answer was always the same, “I want you to be perfect.”


It’s the question so many of us were trained to ask while growing-up. And the answer many of us received was, “I want you to b perfect.”


And then we grew-up and hadn’t a clue as to what “perfect” was supposed to look like and sound like and feel like.


Sally doesn’t know who she would like to be. She does know that “perfect” is no longer the right answer. From a place of confusion, she lashes out at herself and is unkind.


She asked me to help her learn how to be kind to herself.


The only way she will be kind to herself is if she learns and embraces who she would like to be.


And so, I’ll add two other questions to the above list of questions:

  1. Who do you want to be?
  2. What are you willing to do to become who you want to be?


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:

  [email protected]



Breaking Free From the Tyranny Of “Should”


Every next level of life will demand a different you.

Leonardo DiCaprio


Maybe it’s because the world keeps tumbling upside-down that in the last month I’ve encountered several people who spent a lot of time telling me how life is not fair and, in particular, how each of their lives shouldbe different – and not just because of Covid.


As I emphasize in my workshops, we’re prone to telling ourselves “lies” – statements of belief and attitude that are untrue and unrealistic. One of these self-deluding lies is that life should play out the way I think it should play out. And if it doesn’t, then something is critically wrong.


Ray (all names changed) is the Assistant Director Of Finance for a mid-sized business. He came to me upset with his performance review that landed him on a PIP.


He speaks to colleagues abruptly and takes the rejection of his ideas personally, usually by raising his voice, storming off from a conversation, and shutting down. While he later apologizes, the drama is taking a toll on his performance record and on the climate in his department.


In our first session, he became heated as he explained to me how “they” SHOULD see the truth of his opinions.


Clinging to should makes him a martyr for his convictions.


Without intending to be, he is a harsh, demanding and unforgiving task master especially to himself.


He reminds me that people obsessing about how things should be are seldom happy people.


Oh, and in addition to all that, he asked me, “Why should I smile in the morning at my colleagues if I’m not happy?”


Alana, who works at an IT start-up, quickly explained to me that she has a high work standard – if she sees a need, she does it without being asked, she’s willing to go the extra mile AND she proudly told me that she doesn’t need to be complimented on any of her work.


This is what she expects from her team and she thinks she should not have to spell it out for them. They should follow her lead.


As she said (in an annoyed tone of voice), “I’m not here to hold their hands and I shouldn’t have to give them compliments for work they’re being paid to do.”


Say should in the tone of a mantra and you will charge up feelings of frustration and anger that will result in you either shutting down or blowing-up.

And then, when the other(s) reacts in kind to these energy-draining out-burts, the should folks label them “difficult.”


And so, the circle is formed!


BUT – here are some questions to reflect on –

  • Why should your team share a work ethic with you?
  • Do they know the benefits of doing things your way?
  • Why are you certain that if others do things your way, they will succeed and be happy?
  • What needs to be done so they know the benefits?
  • Why should they believe you? Trust you?
  • How did you develop your should beliefs?
  • Would you have developed them without the influences you had?
  • Is your should really THE best way?


And THE most important question –

If you truly believe that something should be done a certain way then

what is your responsibility in bringing that SHOULD to life?


YOU have the responsibility to help people see – understand – relate – to the benefits your SHOULD will bring them.


To manage means you agree to be willing to have hard conversations. Helping people understand your should is one of those hard conversations.


There’s more (of course!)

I’m reminded of David, a UCLA Extension student, who wrote about his struggle with “should.”

I had a boatload of expectations for how my life was supposed to work out. I kept wondering, though, why things always fell apart. 

I was convinced that if you act a certain way, dress a certain part and do what you’re supposed to do then life would fall into place as it ‘should.’ 

I resented that my life hadn’t worked out the way I was told it would and was always waiting for things to happen as I expected they should.

I’m now at a phase in my life where everything is uncertain. If you asked me three months ago what my plan was, I’d have given you a road map, foolishly thinking I could walk it through without failing.

Now I see that expectations of how life SHOULD be can be the demise to almost anything.

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


David believed life “should” be the way he envisioned and when he encountered disappointments he became disillusioned and discouraged. He couldn’t envision alternatives and couldn’t see the opportunities smack in front of him.


He hasn’t given up on his dreams; he has, though, given up on insisting how those dreams “should” become reality.


And so, his life has expanded.


Do you want to loosen your grip on SHOULD and so expand your possibilities – for your own self and for those you impact?


Practice these steps:

  1. Be aware of what you’re feeling, especially chronic irritation.
  2. Explore how your feelings affect your attitude. Do you believe you’re a victim? Hopeless? Helpless?
  3. Gauge the certainty of your commitment to “should.” How do you know it “should” go your way? There is a difference between needed technical procedures vs. mere preferences.
  4. What are you afraid will happen if life is not as it “should” be?
  5. What is your willingness to explore reasonable alternatives?
  6. Remember – experiment is not a permanent commitment!
  7. If your experiment fails, can you commit to learning from it?


Practicing these steps is what Emotional Courage is all about.

All emotionally courageous people are confident because they live free of the “tyranny of should.”

How about you –

Is there a “should” you need to let go of?


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:

  [email protected]




15 Things I Know For Sure About Talking To People


We cannot put off living until we are ready.

Jose Ortega y Gasset

This summer I’ve been teaching an 11-week on-line course – the Dynamics Of Interpersonal Communication.


Each week I give the participants an array of resources including articles, podcasts and videos. Because we typically have so much to cover in our weekly sessions, we seldom have a chance to talk about any of those resources.


This past week I divided the class into three groups of four people and I met with each group for a one-hour Zoom chat centered on their reactions to their favorite resources.


It was a risky move on my part as I wasn’t sure how any of these conversations would pan out. To my surprise, relief and delight each group conversation was a revelation. Lively, engaging, free-wheeling and no conversation ever came close to duplicating the other two in terms of topic, range and insight.


Once again, I was reminded that good things can come from good conversation!


Currently I’m working with three clients who sought me out because each feels crippled by shyness.

Each wants to figure out how to talk tactfully, intelligently and spontaneously in a variety of situations and with a broad range of people.


These three clients are diverse in terms of age, life and professional experiences.  While each has their own particular issues and goals, each wants to become more comfortable while engaging with others.


While they won’t gain traction on their goals in “6 Easy Steps,” I think I can help them reach that place of ease and sociability because each has a “fire in the belly” to break through what is holding them back.


Are you wanting to break through a shyness that inhibits your social success at work?


Here are my Top 15 life-learned truths about talking with people –

people of any generation, position or experience.


  1. Generational differences don’t matter when having a good conversation. Lively talk is lively talk.
  2. Observe the other person and their surroundings – and ask questions based on those observations of what you see and don’t see.
  3. Remain open to being non-defensively challenged from anyone’s odd or probing questions.
  4. A compliment can go a long way in creating a relaxed climate.
  5. Be present in a conversation – don’t leave the work of a conversation up to the other person because then you could be taken conversationally hostage.
  6. Have some kind of animation and know how to modulate it to the other’s personality.
  7. Don’t expect people to fully understand what they’re saying – heck, far too often I don’t understand what I’m saying!
  8. Most people want to present themselves in the best possible way, though their tactics may not always be the best and so you need to be on the look-out for that best.
  9. You will not always understand the other person’s p.o.v. and that’s when curiosity expressed as a “why?” question can illuminate.
  10. Recognize that you are biased – it only makes sense that you click more readily with some people than with others. You may not always like the other person, but that doesn’t diminish the potential for productive conversation.
  11. Recognize that everyone has a particular instinct that helps or hinders them. Personally, I am guarded and have a residual, knee-jerk lack of trust – so I need to recognize this instinct and be vigilant that it doesn’t trip me up.
  12. With some conversations the stakes are just not that high – and it’s too much effort to care about the outcome – and that’s okay.
  13. Remember the conversations you have had with generous people and also remember that you have an obligation to be for others what those generous people were for you.
  14. Everyone has the capacity to surprise you – and me – because everybody has a story and IS a story.
  15. You never know what a conversation will lead to – friendship, love, employment, or just a hangover!


To explore how communication  skills coaching can help you present you

with enhanced confidence – and joy

please contact me

  [email protected]


The Power Of Being a Dynamic Speaker


I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life –

and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.

Georgia O’Keeffe (American artist)


Today’s post is a sneak peek for my upcoming Aug 26th speaker training with the awesome Marla Diann of marladiann_mentor_to_creatives where we give our best in a 2-hour training from our 40+ years combined experience of delivering presentations and how to turn those into qualified leads!

Early REGISTER only $99.


I’m afraid of heights and especially hate rollercoasters. So, of course, last year what did my godson Finn want for his birthday? He wanted me to take him to Magic Mountain!


When I got strapped into each ride I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. I was determined to keep fear in check, but when the ride rocketed, I just screamed my head off.


After each ride I felt like vomiting, yet I also felt satisfied. I hadn’t let fear win. More than rollercoasters, I hate being afraid. I don’t want to be controlled by fear.


I regularly work with people who are paralyzed with the most common of fears – the fear of Public Speaking. Of all the communication skills I coach, public speaking is my favorite. I think it’s because I was painfully shy in high school.


While I’ve not discovered a “secret” formula for overcoming fear, what I have learned is that fear is fueled by clinging to a lie – a lie that seems so true that to deny it seems to be a lie in itself.


I see this in many of the people I coach. Take Ralph, for instance ­–

My greatest fear is not being “enough.” When I think back to my childhood, I remember I thought I was invincible. I did well at so many things, I knew I would have a successful life. However, sometime after high school, I lost faith in myself; faith turned into fear. Fear of not being “enough.” This fear has led me to play it safe, because I am trying to avoid situations where the attention is all on me, or to do things that would embarrass me.


Ralph was a participant in a six-week workshop I offered on breaking through the fear of presenting. For his first presentation, Ralph told an odd story that had the class laughing. Yes, he was obviously nervous, but his nerves didn’t derail the tale. The class gave honest, encouraging feedback. His accent didn’t distract them (Romanian); his nerves didn’t distract them. He surprised them and they wanted more.


For some folks speaking in front of people is as frightening as riding a rollercoaster. But is my fear of rollercoasters the same as Ralph’s fear of speaking?


In a way, yes, because both fears are grounded in the expectation of the worst happening. Both are grounded in believing a lie.


Here’s the thing – we only break through fear by believing in and building on our strengths.


To build on those strengths, we have to know what they are AND we have to know why we have those strengths. If we don’t understand what we’re good at, then we can’t break through fear.


Oftentimes we resist taking a hard and grateful look at our strengths because it’s more comfortable believing the lie that we suck at something. Being helpless can be consoling in an odd sort of way.


True confidence means owning one’s strengths and acknowledging one’s weaknesses – and using both to reach a goal. No one becomes great at something by focusing solely on mistakes.


To learn what you’re good at, embrace the compliments people offer you. They’re not simply being “nice” – they’re acknowledging your strengths.


You have to believe you’re worthy of people’s attention. If you don’t believe you have anything worthwhile to offer then that will come across and people will ignore you.


AND there’s one more piece to all of this –


My 85-year old neighbor, Martha, told me that when she was younger she used to be a pack-a-day smoker. I was stunned as she’s fit and active and I can’t imagine a Virginia Slim dangling from her lips. She went cold-turkey when the doctor told her that if she didn’t quit, she’d die.


Cold turkey.

No support-group.

No patch.

Just a lot of Tic-Tacs!


Is it possible to go cold turkey with fear? To just say, “I’m not going to be afraid any more” and pop a lot of Tic-Tacs?!


Martha’s fear of dying was greater than her fear of not smoking.

My fear of turning into a boring person was greater than my fear of speaking in public.

My fear of disappointing Finn was greater than my fear of heights.


The secret to breaking through a particular fear is having a fear that is stronger and more compelling than a lesser fear!


We always have fear. The trick is can you find a fear that will propel you to take action on your own behalf and so smash through that other crippling fear?


The truth is you can lead a happy, successful life without speaking in public. Hoards of people manage to do this. BUT– why limit yourself?


If you develop the skill of speaking something profound will happen.


You will become more YOU.


You will find your voice AND you will learn how to use your voice for the common good.


Do you believe YOU are a “gift?”


Do you believe YOU have something to offer that is a “gift?”


Let your fear of not becoming YOU shatter any crippling lie that mutes you!


I am EXCITED to tell you that I have teamed up with renown Success Coach and Business Strategist @MarlaDiann_mentor_to_creatives to offer a 2-hour Speaker’s training on August 26th.

This Zoom training is for entrepreneurs, authors, coaches, creatives, consultants, and thought leaders.

Registration is now open.


Speaking is the best lead generator on the planet. How’s it working for you?

Leadership and brand presence have taken on a whole new meaning since Covid hit our lives. As an expert, you have the world at your fingertips like never before due to our required online pivot.

Marla and I are here to help you excel at your speaking platform. Our collaborative and humorous style will put you at ease as you learn what it takes to deliver a compelling, much talked about speaking presentation that creates the reputation you desire and the leads you most want.

Between us we have over 40 years of inspiring and entertaining audiences large and small to help you excel!

I’ve lived the past two decades+ teaching and coaching confidence and purposeful communication to professionals from more than thirty countries, in addition to officiating weddings, writing and keynote speaking.

Marla has three decades of PR, branding, speaking, coaching and leading workshops.

What this means is that you’re in for a jam-packed FUN and enlightening 2-hour training!

Stories – Insights – strategies – inspiration and encouragement guaranteed as we hang out together!

Register early rate at