Reflections on Living

 

I provide mentoring to those who have both the courage and determination to make a truly transformational journey. My approach is heavily influenced by core principles of Zen Buddhism. I don’t offer quick fixes or follow the latest fads. If you are willing to make the long journey – if it’s time for you to come to know the person you really are and can become – if you intend to finally find the path you should be following – if you want to start living life you were truly meant to live – then perhaps we should talk. Send me an e-mail and we’ll arrange a time to chat.

It is my hope that you find the writings below helpful and a sincere effort to help you along on your journey. Nothing gives me a warmer feeling than having contributed to the life of another. We are all on this path together. It is my fondest wish to share part of it with you.

The Treasure of This Moment You are busy. There is so much happening around you. People, events – the general coming and going that makes up your day. All of these keep you distracted – sociologists and psychologists would describe you as engaged and involved. (Read More)

What’s In It For Me? This is a retelling of a post-modernist nightmare – a journey into the void of virtual relationships that never become real. It is a story about lost possibilities sacrificed upon the shrines of inattention, self-absorption and indifference. The interspersed poem is by Antonio Machado – The Wind, One Brilliant Day. (Read More)

Walking Together Alone – Searching For the Self There is an important difference between Coaching and Mentoring. Coaching tends to deal with the finishing details while mentoring focuses on foundational questions. I value the work done by Coaches and have done a considerable amount of it myself but, over the years, I have gravitated towards Mentoring because it tends to involve Transformational Journeys and the remaking of a life. Helping a person make that journey successfully is a source of great joy and satisfaction for me. (Read More)

Making the Possible Probable – A Mentoring Case Study When you awake each morning, the day presents you with literally thousands of possibilities. Human existence is chocked full of possibilities. But the important questions is, what is probable? And the more important question is, how can you make the right possible things probable – how can you select the right probabilities from all those possibilities? This is one of those areas when more education can be a real liability. (Read More)

The One True Thing What is the one thing in your life that is that certain? It has a reality and significance unlike anything else. Your thoughts, memories and aspirations are manufactured realities. The one thing that is certain is that you are alive in the moment and experiencing what it brings to you. (Read More)

Train, Shoot Self in Foot, Run Marathon Most behaviors are patterns – recurring tendencies – rather than one-off acts. People tend to do the same thing over and over even though it generates unsatisfactory results. They don’t seem to be able to take the most common sense advice. (Read More)

The Price of Intemperance Socrates observed that ‘a life unexamined is not worth living’. Nowhere is that more true than when we act against our own self-interests and suffer the consequences – pay the bills for our own rash actions. (Read More)

How Long? How often has that question occurred to you? And what did it mean when it did? Occasionally perhaps it appeared as “how long is this going to go on?” A variation could have been “how long do I have to endure this?” Although there are plenty of other meanings that might occur, that’s the one that I intend to focus on but perhaps not in the way you might expect. (Read More)

How to find a leadership mentor It is the dream of many executives in this world to become a great leader. Some are born leaders while others develop leadership qualities thorough perseverance and diligent work. In my long experience with leadership mentoring, the later group is the larger by far – and the most productive. The ‘natural’ is often beaten out by the ‘self-made’ leader. (Read More)

The territory behind rhetoric is too often a mind with equivocation There are times, in my role as a mentor, when the slightest action yields the most important result. Nowhere is that more the case then when I help someone break through their own tendencies and set foot upon the path which is destined to be their true life’s journey. (Read More)

Leadership – The Fire of the Mind I am often struck by how many successful leaders are also highly effective teachers … and struck even more by how the lessons that they teach result in changed lives and kindled, or rekindled, fires. The teams they build often set themselves apart with superior performance and seemingly impossible accomplishments. (Read More)

Yes You CanIt is a typical conversation which generally comes more than once during the initial months of most of my mentoring engagements. The client – generally younger and less experienced than I am – will insist that something is beyond their capability. I will insist that it isn’t. And so I urge them to attempt – and they demure. (Read More)

Eleven Habits of Self-Sabotaging People: This essay has its roots in a chance conversation with an old friend. He shook his head and wondered why one of his employees kept acting in ways that sabotaged his own interests. It got me to wondering – then asking – then asking some more. This is a journey inward as much as outward. After all, none of us are exempt from being human. (Read More)

The Principle of Least Effort: Mentoring The Ready: The process of mentoring is different than that of coaching. I describe coaching as ‘teaching you how to do something better than you have been doing it.’ Those of you who pursue the sport of golf may understand what I am saying. If you want to get better at your short game, you get a coach who can help you improve it. Maybe you are not happy with your prowess with a putter. Again, get a coach that really knows how to putt and learn from them. The objective of coaching is to make you better at what you have chosen to do. (Read More)

Some Unexpected Benefits of Mentoring: One of the reasons that I like to mentor is that we are dealing with the whole person rather than just a part of their life. Coaching is most often focused on generating improvement in one or another area – make you a better leader or better at being a team member – learning how to use a CRM effectively or pull together a financial report. But mentoring deals with fundamental issues like ‘what should I be doing with my life’ and ‘how can I become a better version of who I was born to be’. (Read More)

Leaving the Rut Means Growing Your Life: Mentoring is about change. Most of the time a person comes to me after some years of rising dissatisfaction with the course their life has been taking. Ad some point, the dissatisfaction has given way to determination. Often there follows a time of trying but not succeeding. They try to ‘do it alone’. Mostly this isolation is driven by a sense of shame or self-doubt. Then comes the realization that ‘it is my life and it is slipping away before my eyes’. That’s when things get serious. (Read More)

Life Mentoring – The Propose of a Compass: It’s not the compass that finds your true north – you need to find the compass that points to your true north. Short of that, every other compass will send you in the wrong direction. (Read More)

Wondering Why? Many of my mentoring engagements begin with a focus on the kinds of questions that a person has been asking themselves. It may seem strange at first to suggest that it is the questions rather than the answers which are important; but that is the case more often than not. The seminal indicator that this is the case is the ‘why’ question. (Read More)

A Visionary Leader or a Program Manager? – A Mentoring Story I don’t believe that someone who has not had a series of superlative mentors can be a mentor. You have to be on the receiving end of mentoring before you can start giving back. That is why, after I came to learn this very important lesson, I spent a lot of time with each potential mentor asking about the mentors in their life. That time and effort always paid off. (Read More)

Don’t Do What? Mentoring is about helping a person to reclaim their life and find the true path – the one that they were made to travel. One of the major differences between mentoring my way and how many practice either mentoring or coaching is the agenda of the person rendering aid. I have encountered so many who aspire to such a role but who seem to be engaged in an exercise of self-validation and a demonstration of superior wisdom. These promulgators of postulated preeminence are easy to spot. They have a packaged approach – a one-size-fits-all perspective. They proscribe much like your typical sixth grade teacher does. “Now children, don’t do that and never say that!” (Read More)

Partisanship – the Great American Swindle Those alive in the closing years of the second decade of the 21st century have a front row seat to the culmination of the largest and most effective swindle in human history. Not since the Middle Ages has the distribution of wealth and power been so skewed towards a small group of the wealthy and powerful. In this article, I want to deal with one of the strategies that the perpetrators of this swindle have employed – a highly effective one which has made it significantly easier to bleed the not-ultra-rich-and-powerful for the benefit of the ultra-rich-and-powerful. (Read More)

If you are falling, dive It was a favorite saying of the Great American mythologists Joseph Campbell. Like most profound things, an initial interpretation is almost guaranteed to miss the point. It’s not about falling or diving at all. As with the Zen Koans, the saying is simply an indication of a door that we might go through towards a deeper understanding of the experience of being alive. (Read More)

Mentoring Means Charting the Course for Change and Then Making The Journey Most of my mentoring clients come to me with some sort of change in mind. They are responding to a general feeling of dissatisfaction. Most want to change something about themselves or their lives. The depth and detail of understanding that they have is one the early indicators of what kind of progress we are going to be able to manage. The more they have come to realize that a change is necessary, the better the progress we will be able to make. The best mentoring engagements begin with specifics and gradually focus on more general issues. Those tend to be the ones with the truly ‘eureka’ moments. Those are the ones where the lights suddenly go on all over the house and a life is changed forever. Those are the ones that really make coaching worth the effort. (Read More)

Shall you live authentically who you are meant to be – the beginning No matter what the specific reasons are that brings a person to me seeking mentoring, the focus almost always ends up on that question. Perhaps the understanding of “authentically” or “imagine yourself to be” is not what it needs to be but the feelings of inauthenticity and of being a virtual presence in a real world are there and growing. The results are unsatisfactory. (Read More)

Mentoring Change Aversion – Coming to Terms Change is the one unavoidable aspect of living. Time and our lot as humans see to that. A good way to see personal growth is as the process of responding positively to that change. We all know that the idea of change can be unsettling. Many people see it as stepping from the known to the unknown. However, the only way that you can see it this way is to ignore that change is an unavoidable part of your every day and the only real hope that you will live to find a life better and more fulfilling than the one you are currently living. But there is a deeper reason why it is important to embrace the process of change. You are changing all the time. The world around you is changing all the time. Change is constant and it doesn’t stop to ask your permission. (Read More)

A Self-Serving Understanding That Misses the Point: The day after the shooting Congress was all the bloom with bipartisanship. One after another Republicans and Democrats came forth to say that it was time to tone down the rhetoric. As reasonable as that might sound to reasonable people, my view is that these were simple acts of self-preservation. Once these sudden converts to civility realized that they were very soft targets and that there were people out in the country who were feeling desperate enough to undertake such an act, they came together in an attempt to deflect the threat. (Read More)

The Elephant in the RoomI have been occasionally asked to “look” at a company that was stuck in a narrow range. The question is always close variation of ‘how do we grow, build a real company?’ The answer is frequently ‘you can’t’. What has recently taken my attention is the underlying reasoning that so frequently leads me to that conclusion. (Read More)

Pure drivel tends to drive out ordinary drivel. Oh, for the good old days. When somebody said something that you found hard to believe, you looked them in the eye and asked about it. You gave them a chance to defend their position and, if you didn’t find that defense credible, you let them know. (Read More)

Train, Shoot Self in Foot, Run Marathon: Most behaviors are patterns – recurring tendencies – rather than one-off acts. People tend to do the same thing over and over even though it generates unsatisfactory results. They don’t seem to be able to take the most common sense advice. (Read More)

Crossing the Boundary – Surviving the ExperienceMany companies fail for reasons that have little to do with their core product or service. It is often the afterthoughts or ‘under-thoughts’ that cause failure when success has been looming on the horizon. (Read More)

Ten Minutes That Will Change Your Life: Sometimes mentoring is about teaching very simple techniques and helping a person turn them into habits. Its not that someone is unable to see what would be very productive or have the insight and energy to try a new way. Often it’s just a matter of bringing a new eye to the situation and offering the steady support that makes the change become the new normal. (Read More)

Working with a Mentor: People I meet at networking meetings often ask me ‘what is it like to work with a mentor?’ It has happened so often that I almost have it down to a regular patter. I try to help them understand the nature and purpose of a mentor and work through some of the common misunderstandings that people have. I also focus on the difference between a mentor and a coach. Most of them have a general ides of what mentoring means – mostly using sports metaphors – and what it entails. However, they do not have a clear idea of how a mentoring works and what is involved. They do have a sense that mentoring might make a real-world difference in the lives, careers and fortunes of people and businesses that they know. However, the ‘how’ eludes them. (Read More)

For every problem, there is a neat, plain solution: The structure of simpleminded solutions is always the same. Massive amounts of reality are sheared away, complexity ignored, subtlety abhorred and the principal project of organizing the remaining facts to ratify prejudice is all that is left. (Read More)

It works better if you plug it in. It’s a silly thing that defines most lives. The disconnect from the fundamental fact of being alive. It’s as if life was a blender or some other appliance and we spend our time wondering why it’s not working. We press this button or turn that dial and nothing seems to happen. (Read More)

Your Life as a Work in ProgressOne of the first steps in my mentoring engagements is to have the client begin to understand that their life is a work in progress. The deeper we get into it, the more detailed that understanding becomes. Then there is the recognition that life is a process which begins at birth and continues until death. But recognition is only the first step. It is an important one to be sure, but the best comes after that. We can begin to focus on the value of each of us and the positive impact that we can have on the lives of others. (Read More)

What’s in a Name? The initial focus of my mentoring engagements centers around the words that an individual use to describe themselves. I generally start with a detailed self-assessment. The process tells me a great deal about how a person sees themselves and the labels that they choose. (Read More)

Sex is hereditary. If your parents never had it, chances are you won’t either. You know, there is something to that. But there is also something beyond that. A fundamental insight into the experience of being alive. Every living thing that has existed or will exist shares in a basic experience – that of continuance. All have been or will be links in the incredibly diverse phenomenon called life. (Read More)

Talking to Yourself Authentically: Have you ever had this experience? You meet with someone for the first time. First thing you know you’re listening to their elevator speech. They go on about the business that they’re in and the latest deal there working on. They go on and on with this rehearsed performance. With the worst of them you start to wonder if you really need to be there at all. (Read More)

Anything is possible, but nothing is easy. Not any more!! It’s an old saying and it used to be true. As children, when we were asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, we responded with all sorts of possibilities. Some of us wanted to be firemen or policemen. Others wanted to be doctors or nurses. A few decided that they wanted to be astronauts and go to the moon. (Read More)

The Fabric of Friendship: The other day I was leading a discussion focused on the ways that the digital revolution was impacting relationships. The group of eighteen were evenly divided between those under thirty and those over – with two in the latter group over sixty. About a half hour into the discussion, the question of the nature and meaning of the word friendship came to center stage. The discussion that followed was so defining that I want to summarize it. (Read More)

Johnny Can Read and Why It Doesn’t MatterI came of age during what might be considered the flowering of the American educational system. The Lockean ideals dominated. The purpose of education was to help us learn how to think. Whether it was a civics class, English studies or science, our high school and university teachers were almost uniformly focused on developing our ability to think critically and question what we were told. We were individuals and the educational system saw, as its primary purpose, to help bring out those unique qualities within each of us that would make us exceptional members of society. (Read More)

Decisions, Decisions: Many of my mentoring engagements are with CEO’s who are dedicated to improving their abilities and growing into their ever changing and expanding roles. One of the areas which we tend to focus on is the decision-making process. Interestingly, it is actually the pre-decision part which gives most of them problems. I regularly encounter clients who spend a great deal of time and energy dreading the meeting or situation in which they will have to make and implement an important decision. Then there are clients who, under the pressure to make such a decision, race right to making it in order to relieve the tension. Both end up with unanticipated first and second order effects from their actions. (Read More)

A Question of Identity: According to many modernist social theorists, questions of identity center on an ‘authentic knowledge’ of the ‘self’ and of the shelves of others. It was generally accepted that there was a unique core within each person which formed the very foundation of who they ‘were’. According to these theories, most of that foundation was laid down during the early or ‘formative’ years. Those early ossification constituted the fountainhead from which the mature individual arose. (Read More)

An ounce of application is worth a ton of abstraction. In a world where increasingly what passes for knowledge is based on a passive interaction with predigested information, it is increasingly rare that individuals get the opportunity to have hands-on experience in any part of their life. (Read More)

Making a DifferenceI always take a few minutes at the end of each day to journal. I have found this time is always well spent. First I re-read the entries from the prior week or so – it helps keep things in perspective – to connect with what some Native Americans call the ‘long view’. Then I turn my attention to the day. I think about each thing that I did – the people I met – experiences I had – things that I learned – and how it felt to live through the day. (Read More)

Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died:  One of the true joys of long-standing friendships is that political correctness and faux conversations become unnecessary. For me, such friendships are central parts of the true joy of life. In the dreary landscape of grayness – of acquaintances – a virtual friends – of pseudo-friends – of meaningless and neutered rituals, these wonderfully varied and nuanced flowers grow and bloom. Their aroma is heady indeed. (Read More)

“You can observe a lot just by watching.” Yogi Berra:There is a saying in Buddhism, “Life is simple, we make it complicated.” I am always amused when I meet a person who claims to be a “people watcher” who has never experienced that fundamental reality. (Read More)

Be Resistant to Change (From Self-Sabotage: 12 Nasty Habits):  OK – I’ll admit it – “over my dead body” is an offer that I have sometimes found very hard to refuse. I make a distinction between serious dedication to exhaustive inquiry – constructive engagement – and the kind of pig-headed obstructionism that this behavior evidences. (Read More)

Self-Sabotage as a Way of Life: When I started the research for Self-Sabotage: 12 Nasty Habits, I was responding to a single experience – a chance occurrence that lead me to consider why this person acted in a way that was clearly against his own interest. But, as I got into the research and began asking more and more people about self-sabotaging behaviors, I came to realize that I had wandered into a large, dark room that was filled with furniture with sharp edges. (Read More)

The Recidivist’s Waltz: An old friend was fond of saying things that boiled down a situation and focused on the core.  I always enjoyed his company and wry observations. One of the things he was fond of observing wss that “People get to deal with the same problem over and over again until they solve it. Then they get to move on to the next one!” I always responded with, “What circle are you re-rounding now? And when will you move on to the next one?” (Read More)

The Consultant’s Disease: I get approached by consultants who want to expand their business. They have been profitably (most often) supporting a small staff for some years. But the ‘bigger’ bug has been whispering in the principal’s ear for some time. (Read More)

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