In a couple of months a new wave of graduates will be making their entrance. And I’ve been thinking about what kind of coaching would help them. Remember your twenties? If that question made you smile, maybe you lived them like I did:

  • Learned to be on my own and moved about a dozen times; traveled a lot
  • Made some decisions about what I wanted to try on professionally and where I wanted live
  • Took interesting jobs and started learning what I was good at and wanted more of and less of
  • Learned the nuts and bolts of life via numerous roommates
  • Figured out what made me a joy to be around
  • Figured out what made me irritating to be around
  • Got close to people–we worked hard, played hard and got scared together
  • Learned the difference between trust and wishful thinking
  • Got my heart broken yet survived
  • Found a few mentors
  • Pushed my limits yet survived
  • Experienced the fruits of some really good and really bad decisions
  • Got lost and found several times
  • Learned about keeping my word
  • Started making agreements with my future self about money and health
  • Found out what mattered to me
  • And figured out what constituted “magic” for me in the flow of life

I wrote last spring about today’s twenty-somethings, aka the “Millennials”. Of course they want all the things on that list too. But the world they are stepping into is different:

  1. In 1960, the vast majority of men and women had experienced a major life transition (left home, graduated college, established a career, gotten married, had a child–usually in that order) by the time they were thirty years old. In 2012, that’s true for only a minority of young men and women.
  2. Not surprisingly, 37 percent of twenty-somethings are currently unemployed or under-employed.
  3. College was more of a given until 1990, and people left college with manageable debt. Graduates today are likely to be lost in tuition debt, wondering if and whether they will ever be able to repay it.
  4. Curiously, one in four Millennials think it is likely that they will be famous.
  5. There are long-term social and societal implications to all of the above–for all of us.

I know it’s early. But if you know and love a Millennial, here’s an idea for a graduation gift this year. We at SeattleCoach are designing short-term intensive coaching opportunities for our favorite twenty-somethings. We’ll launch this spring.

If you’d like to know more as we develop this (or know someone who might), contact us directly.

Peace out.

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Which Way Do You Look?

“I’m not doing another not-fun job ever!” She says with so much emphasis I laugh out loud.

She’s fifty-something, successful, confident and skilled in her craft. A leader in her profession. And like so many of the people I work with, Jennifer is restless and longing to do something different and even more significant with the next couple of decades of her life.

I stop laughing and invite her to look towards the future: “OK Jenn, imagine we’re sitting here two years from now and you’re grinning at me because you’ve created a great new chapter. What are some of the things you see? What’s going on out there?”

Though many of the people I work with light up with that question, Jenn looks puzzled. My question hasn’t inspired her. We look in the other direction, “Jenn, tell me about a time when you were at the top of your game—great professionally, knowing you were making a difference and having a blast.” Jenn’s eyes sparkled and she leaned forward in the way people do when they’ve got a great story to tell. I take notes on what I hear in the next few minutes.

Whether you are a Millennial (born between 1980 and 2000) or, like Jennifer, an “emerging elder”, you can probably identify with her restlessness. Sometimes we’re ready for a major shift, sometimes a tune-up will do. You can probably also identify with having a preference for consulting either the future or the past.

What usually happens when you get quiet and think about the course of your life? Maybe especially this time of year. Do you get energized by visioning the future or by reflecting on your history?

  • Some of us love to dream, envision, brainstorm and imagine—your focus goes to the future.
  • Some of us (like Jenn) are more energized as they reflect and remember and look back—your focus goes to what you’ve experienced.

Both of my questions are poignant, both are powerful. You may want to eventually answer both. Both help people to make choices about what to keep and accelerate, and what to diminish and leave behind. But probably, like Jenn, one of those questions inspires you more. Here’s my challenge for you at the end of 2012/the beginning of 2013. Trust your gut to pick the question that most gets your attention:

Door #1     “Imagine we’re sitting here two years from now and you’re grinning at me because you’ve created a great new chapter. What are some of the things you see? What’s going on out there?”

Door #2     “Tell me about a time when you were at the top of your game—great professionally, knowing you were making a difference and having a blast. What was going on?”

Whether your way is to envision the future, or to reflect on your track record, life is too precious not to give yourself a little extra time this Holiday Season to evaluate where things stand for you. Enjoy!

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5 Big Questions

I have a new client who inspires me. Michael is one of those twenty-somethings aka “Millennials” whom I wrote about earlier this year. He is a member of that most documented, photographed, bubble-wrapped, awarded and applauded of generations. (So far, that is.)

Here’s why Michael inspires me: Through his first seven years out of college, he has worked very hard and learned about money and business and relationships and himself. But every morning he goes to a cubicle inside of a traditional command-and-control company. Because he can’t imagine four more decades of work in this environment, he calls me and we hold a strategy session. I begin to ask him “5 Big Questions”:

     1. What do you want more of?
     2. What do you want to offer customers and colleagues?
     3. How do you like to work?
     4. How do you want to be compensated?
     5. Who’s in your corner?

And Michael answers like a Millennial “Everyman”:  He tells me, “I want more complexity and opportunity to learn. I want to become expert and to be able to communicate my ideas well. I want to work with an energetic and respectful team. I want variety and I want acknowledgment that is specific and earned.” (Like most Millennials, Michael has figured out the “show-up-and-get-a-trophy” scam).

I pay special attention to the way Michael answers Question #5. According to Forbes last month, “More than twice as many Boomers than Millennials are doing any sort of offline (read: real world) networking to find employment.” They may have a thousand friends on Facebook and be more than a little isolated and socially unsure.

Every time a new client like Michael contacts me, I start with a free strategy session. Together we explore questions like these, and we find out if now is the time to dive into them. Give me a call if you think you’re ready for some big questions–and some significant next steps. Especially if you’re a thoughtful Millennial like Michael. I have a soft spot for you.

(And if you’re Michael’s boss, call me.)

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Who’s better at catching a Frisbee?

My clients demonstrate to me every day that human beings love accomplishment. And that along with accomplishment, we love acknowledgment. In this morning’s Wall Street Journal an article used the Frisbee metaphor to explain that as rules and analysis become more complex and voluminous (in politics, in managing people and goals, in running a business), we become less effective at making great things happen– and at giving and receiving acknowledgment when we see great character or great behavior in action.

The point of the Frisbee metaphor is that border collies usually catch Frisbees way better than people do, because they by necessity keep it simple. “The impulse of regulators, if asked to catch a Frisbee, would be to encourage the construction of long equations related to wind speed and Frisbee rotation that they likely wouldn’t understand or be able to measure.”

As a coach, I help people and teams to get reacquainted with both accomplishment and acknowledgment. After years of doing this, I believe that most people are starved for both. Along the way, these are my personal Frisbees as I work with my partners:

  1. I help people and teams to figure out what’s in their way, maybe what hurts. Mostly I think we just get afraid (of trying, not trying, of getting embarrassed, of not knowing, of saying the wrong thing–even the wrong word! of not being good enough, of disappointing or creating conflict, of getting sued or in trouble with HR, or of losing control, or of not being unique–or being too unique).
  2. Then I help them to identify their strengths and abilities and assets and restlessness and passions. (Those things can so easily get foggy.)
  3. Then I help them figure out what they want, what success would actually look like: We’ve all got our Mt. Everests and our basecamps to think about. And then crucially,
  4. In our partnership, we negotiate what needs to happen this week. What can each team member be counted on to do? My goal is for each client to leave each meeting with a next-step so clear and measureable that they could explain it to their grandmother and she’d get it.

So how about you today? What do you want to accomplish? How about your team? What’s your Frisbee?

Read the full article here:
Frisbee photo: AP/Bela Szandelszky

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A Rowing Coach Has to Decide . . .

A 13 foot oar hangs from the ceiling in my office on Lake Union. It was used for years in the big racing shells that row past my office, through the Montlake Cut and into Lake Washington.

For ten years I rowed these “eights” competitively, and practiced the lessons of this beautiful sport. The old oar in my office reminds me of how those lessons apply today as I coach the men and women who walk under it. The lessons are many, but as I watched the US Women’s Eight win the gold in London a few days ago, I thought of one that applies to the executive leadership of many of my clients.

When a rowing coach puts together a competitive eight, she asks her rowers to compete for their seats: Who should be in this boat? Who should be in which seat? The same questions any good leader has to ask. The questions of strength, time, skill are pretty easy to measure. But veteran coaches also have to ask a very intuitive question, “Do I choose the eight best? Or the best eight?” Which eight can row as one? Each rower unique, committed and connected.

The eight best? The best eight? Guess which crew usually wins?

To read more Lessons from Rowing, click here to read my article, “Getting to Whoosh!”

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I’ll miss you Nora Ephron.

‎”At a certain point in your life you have to know that if things are ok, at some point they won’t be. In the meantime, do all the things that you say you want to do when you have those hypothetical conversations about what your last meal is going to be. Because when it comes time to have your last meal you’re going to be too sick to eat it or you’re not going to know it’s your last meal and you’re going to make the mistake of having a tuna melt.”
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Our graduates are in trouble . . .

You know if I blog twice in one month, something has to be especially compelling. So here goes. (This isn’t all doom and gloom–read all the way through to the end.)

I’ve been thinking about this year’s graduates. Here are a few factoids:

  1. In 1960, the vast majority of men and women had experienced a major life transition (graduated college, established a career, gotten married, left home) by the time they were thirty years old. In 2012, that’s true for only a minority of young men and women.
  2. Not surprisingly, 37 percent of twenty-somethings are currently unemployed or under-employed.
  3. College was more of a given until 1990.
  4. In the 1970s and 1980s, people left college with manageable debt. Graduates today are likely to be lost in tuition debt, wondering if and whether they will ever be able to repay it.
  5. One in four “Millennials” think it is likely that they will be famous.*
  6. There are long-term social and societal implications to all of the above–for all of us.

Whether you call them Gen Y’s or Millennials (i.e. people coming of age right now), our recent high school and college graduates are in trouble. They also bring with them unique gifts.

The opportunities are still there. And in today’s “freelancer economy”, we can coach twenty-somethings in the necessary skills and resilience for capturing them.

If you know and love a Millennial, here’s an idea for a graduation gift this year. We at SeattleCoach have designed a summer package that will help graduates:

  • To understand and begin to use their key strengths
  • To find vocationally where their interests and aptitudes intersect
  • To learn and practice key professional communication and networking skills (+ a good handshake)
  • To find ways in the market place where they can offer their best gifts professionally and inter-generationally
  • To complete a baseline resume and practical understanding of how to customize a cover letter
  • To practice interview skills and preparation
  • To establish a solid and simple web presence (and savvy about social media)
  • To get lots of immediate feedback
  • To know how to take a calculated risk, and
  • To create appropriate visibility for all of the above

This generation is longing to learn this stuff in the context of mutual respect.

Send them our way, and we’ll help them get it.

Contact me
directly for more info about this summer package, and forward this to others in the Seattle area.

* The Barna Group, 2012.

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The Gold Standard of Great Coaching

It’s true. Finding a coach who knows the craft and who “gets” you is key. But that’s not the main ingredient in a great coaching relationship.

This week I got a letter from one of my favorite clients. Like most of the spectacular human beings I work with, Jane seeks balance, satisfaction and contribution in her remaining decades on the planet. And for her, the focus includes her husband, their sailboat and some world travel. Now here’s the big hint about what I see as the Gold-Standard in a coaching relationship. Notice the number of times Jane uses the words I, my and me:

Hi Patty,
I want to share with you that I entered the next chapter of my life last week when I gave my resignation notice to my boss. I did it my way, with strength, courage, grace and conviction (and God’s help!). When I packed my lunch that morning, I had no idea that by 9:00 a.m. I would have resigned from the company for which I have worked for the last 13 years. So…thank you for the time that you spent working with me to prepare for that moment. I feel genuine, whole and liberated…My passion, courage and spirit of adventure were uncontained and clearly part of my being. My boss, who has the habit of firing people the day after they resign…told me to stay as long as I wished to do so.

So…to you, my gratitude runs deep. I’ll keep in touch as we careen toward casting off!

Did you see it? Jane is very clear about who is responsible for this tipping point in her life. The key to Jane’s delight is her powerful clarity about her own work and vision and courage. She’s worked hard and she (plus God) gets all the credit. And she demonstrated to me for the umpteenth time that when I pick clients who are this ready to work on their lives and on the key decisions of:
·         What they will leave behind,
·         What they will keep and
·         What they will create,

I get to experience the Gold Standard of Great Coaching every time.

I love my job.

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What’s so Good? . . .

About “Good Friday”? I guess it depends on what you mean by “Good”. It really is a very big word.

  • Since Good Friday is a Christian deal, (and I am one), today is when we think about forgiveness, relationship, having a spiritual way of dealing with our broken places. That’s good.
  • “Good” can be the word you speak softly in a moment of deep contentment. You almost exhale it.
  • “Good” can be an understatement. Also spoken softly. It’s what you say when you catch someone in a moment of unconscious competence, practiced excellence, disciplined character and attention to the right things, connecting and being best in the world (I’ve thought that when watching Bruce Springsteen in full-on rock).
  • “Good” can mean “kind and gentle” (Mr. Rogers of course).
  • “Good” can be a powerful and appropriate judgment about what’s right and fair when someone stands up to real evil in the world. (How about Aung San Suu Kyi?)

Whatever your tradition, see if you notice–and enjoy–some version of deep, even visceral Good this weekend. And let me know if I missed one.

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Every Four Years . . .

. . . it seems like I make a big change. Maybe it’s the embedded high-school-then-undergraduate habit. Maybe it’s temperament or attention span. I like to think of it as aspirational restlessness. Whatever, it’s just happened again. Right on schedule. Four years ago, I launched the SeattleCoach Professional Training Program. Since then, thirty-five spectacular people have finished eight months of training with me. Many of them continue to work inside companies like Microsoft and AT&T, and several are developing coaching practices. In addition to continued growth in their craft, I’ve seen a growing need for professional space to work and VOILÀ! (four years later almost to the minute!), the suite next door to mine on the Lake Union dock became available. Long story short, I’ve expanded, and the next-door “SeattleCoach Annex” will be shared by several of these wonderful coaches who are growing their practices. Sometimes change descends upon us. Sometimes we get to choose it. On this Leap Day, I challenge you to look to your horizon. Is there restlessness? Excitement? Are you “interested in big things, happy in small ways”? I’ll pray today for “eyes to see and ears to hear” for what might be out there for you. As I mentioned last time, if you are in that restless-but-scared starting point of big change, I’ve posted several of my favorite resources on the Free Stuff page of my website. You may especially appreciate the article at the top of the page, “Big Change”. Have some fun, come by and see our expanded space on the dock, and be in touch if you need a little extra challenge and support to take a leap.

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Nice Résumé Old-Timer

I remember my first résumé. I think it looked a little random, with lots of sweet-teenager factoids. I included my parent’s address and phone number and typed it on an extra-nice piece of paper. No typos, which took several careful attempts on the typewriter.

Luckily, my first employer read between the lines and saw an earnest, light-hearted, social kid. And at seventeen I became an assistant to four battle-hardened public health nurses who served the skid-row neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. After their long mornings of visiting and treating homeless men with tuberculosis, alcoholism and “venereal diseases,” I could hear them coming up the stairs to our ancient office. They’d drop their notes on my desk and growl, “Come on kid. Let’s go have lunch.” That’s where my education as a coach, mentor and counselor began, as I leaned over Formica table tops in the coffee shop downstairs to soak up their stories and their attention.

Fast-forward a few decades, and job-seekers, young and old have to figure out new ways to get noticed. Last week the Wall Street Journal reported, “No More Résumés, Say Some Firms. Instead, many companies are looking for links to your “Web presence” and for “short videos demonstrating (your) interest in the position.”

In other words, if you want to be noticed, you’ve got to have your key words and your sentence ready for the robotic hoppers than now narrow the field of interviewees.

Many of the people I coach are in the midst of a career transition. So after I remind them to breathe, I start challenging and supporting them to think about their key words, sentences, images and, yes, their Web presence. What will help them to communicate what they most want to do and whom they most want to serve?

If you are in that restless-but-scared starting point of a transition, this month I’ve posted several of my favorite resources on the new “free stuff” page of my website. So, come on kid. Have some fun and be in touch if you need a little extra challenge and support.

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Remaining alive

I confess to a little life-reflecting this morning. So far, this quote by Edith Wharton is the quote of the day. She probably wasn’t think about Christmas when she wrote it, but it fits.

“In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow: one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.”

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Some of My Favorite Pilgrims are Indians

A few years ago I was in London during Thanksgiving. Or as it’s known there, Thursday. Having planned ahead, my American friends and I were equipped with a large candle in the shape of a turkey. And we placed it in the center of the table at the Indian restaurant we picked for the big dinner.

Our waiter approached with a smile, and with that lovely, lyrical East Indian accent, looked at our candle and asked, “What is the peacock for?” “It’s not a peacock,” I think I sounded defensive, “It’s a turkey.” Unfazed, eyebrows still up, he continued, “What is the turkey for?”

We explained Thanksgiving to him and found an immediate ally who was clearly well-acquainted with the concept, and helped us to create an evening I’ll never forget.

Since that Thanksgiving, I have been delighted to cross paths with more and more East Indians, most of whom have come to my homeland as pilgrims. I respect that, like all pilgrims, “they are people journeying in a foreign land.” But what I love and am grateful for this Thanksgiving is that each one of these people makes me, and America, better.

What I see in people like Nick and Priya and Astha are some of the virtues and values I admire most: Bravery, sweet humor, ambition, balance, social intelligence, kindness and clarity. (I know there are probably annoying Indians, I just haven’t met any yet.)

In other words, having each one of these Indians in my life makes me a better pilgrim too. I loved the further definition of “pilgrim” I’ve placed below, and I hope it challenges and inspires you too this Thanksgiving Week.

        “To journey without being changed is to be a nomad.

        To change without journeying is to be a chameleon.

        To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.”

Mark Nepo

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Examining Your Adventure

I’m sure you’ve read this quote before: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates said that at his trial for heresy.

Friday is my birthday. In fact it’s a particular birthday. I first thought about this one as a kid, “Someday, when I’m really really old, my birthday will be 11-11-11. I wonder who I’ll be, what I’ll do, where, how and with whom?”

Maybe questions like that have prompted me to use my 11-11’s through the decades since to do a soft little review of things. In recent years, I’ve written a one-page exercise to reflect on—and now I offer it to the amazing clients and coaches I work with. (I tend to work with kindred spirits who are as as deeply interested in sculpting a great life as I am. You’ve probably landed on my mailing list because you’re like that too.)

This month I’m including my exercise for you use the next time you are inspired to do your own “soft little review of things.”

What I know is this. When you find a way of following the moving, growing target of your own “sweet spot”, life becomes an adventure. And you begin to experience your own sense of “calling” for your years on the planet.

And that’s a blessing.

Click on the boat to go to “Finding Your Vocare Intersection”
SeattleCoach Office

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An Entrepreneur’s 10,000 Hours

In the inbox this morning was a note from one of my favorite entrepreneurs. Steven has turned a passionate avocation into a business, and he wrote, “A year ago today, we were exhausted from three years of work…And a year later I’m still exhausted, but energized and cautiously optimistic that we might actually make it to a 2nd anniversary!”

Then he went on to talk about his dreams going forward for “Seattle’s 1st distillery since prohibition.” And then he thanked his customers and supporters and talked about how much fun he was having.

Malcolm Gladwell talks about mastery of anything requiring about 10,000 hours of focus, passion, practice, course corrections, set-backs and learning from experience. And I always add, “If you actually arrive at 10,000 hours, you are doing something you love and feel passionately about. No one could pay you to take the ride to mastery otherwise.”

So here’s a question as you launch into a new week:

“Where in your life are you enthusiastically
racking up 10,000 hours?”
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What’s Your Story?

We are wired for stories. Stories are featured in our best moments of learning, we tell them to calm ourselves down, to join with other people, to make sense of things and to honor the few decades we get on the pebble.

Here’s one of mine—and I share it with you in hopes of hearing one of yours.

Ten years ago this week Kari and I and some good friends were in rural Tuscany learning to paint with water colors. Idyllic, huh? We were in the small hill town of Pienza when I sensed the mood in the central square of the village shifting from content and peaceful, to alarmed. People began to huddle, and I walked up to a fellow painter who had turned noticeably pale. “Our nation has been attacked,” she said quietly, uneasily. Nearby, I heard a soft Italian voice, “Tragedia.”


With no smart-phones to consult, we joined the cluster around a television in a nearby bar and watched the crash of the second airplane. Together–Italians, Americans and Australians and Brits—we stopped breathing and then we gasped and groaned. After a few minutes, noticing that the tv reporters were nearly as speechless as we were, an Englishman said to no one in particular, but to all of us, “There’s a chapel across the way. We should go pray.” And we did. Our little temporary, international tribe crossed the narrow street and entered a small church where hundreds of candles were already burning. And in my life, the calming, the making sense and the honoring began right there.

What’s your 9/11 story? I’ve never heard one that didn’t help me know the teller better. Even if (like me) you’re being careful to not watch too much media this week, I encourage you to tell your story—write a little bit about it on my blog, or just find a few of the people in your life who want to know you better and tell them.

Like me, you are wired for stories.

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Best Reads Links and Podcasts

All week I’ve been asking people how they’re doing with the headlines. Most seem to be retrenching into the tried-and-true wisdom of their lives. And a few are exploring how they can use this moment in history to enrich their lives and fortunes and sacred honor.
I’ve noticed through the years that their explorations—and mine!–usually land in eight categories. So those are the categories I stay current with. If you’re ready to turn off the media for a few minutes and dig into on one of those eight great categories yourself, I’ve just beefed-up the Best-Reads-Links-and-Podcasts page on my website.
Now what do I need to do to make this list go viral in Washington DC?
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Who’s in Your Corner?

I spent yesterday afternoon with a dozen people who are in my corner.

I bet you know the type. They cheer when you walk in, expect you to be your best most of the time and don’t write you off when you mess up. Not that they won’t tell you. And they would defend you in public. You share stories from years ago and talk about being younger next year.

I have long believed that the people most likely to be in my corner are the ones with whom I’ve worked hard, played hard or been scared to death. On purpose. These particular people qualify because for years I trained and competed with them as a competitive rower on Seattle’s big lakes.

So here’s my big coaching question this month: With whom are you intentionally working hard, playing hard or getting a little scared? People don’t just end up our corners via the passing of time. We earn them–and they earn us. Click here to read more.

I may need to get back on the water this summer. A little more work, a bit more play and a few good risks would help to keep fresh the treasure of these people in my corner.

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Just One Last Thing . . .

My all-time favorite TV detective died today.

For most of the hour, Peter Falk’s Columbo would watch and listen and take in information. And then he would pay a visit to the always-dapper-and-dismissive guest villain. Ever so gently, he would begin to muse about his conclusions. And then came the moment. Columbo would start to leave and then he would turn, pause, raise an index finger scrunch up his face and say, “Just one last thing . . .” This came just before he calmly explained to the bad guy what crime he’d committed and how he’d done it.

As a young woman watching in the 70’s, I watched and learned.

  • Good things happen when you listen calmly with all of your senses,
  • You can do good work and keep a light heart all at the same time,
  • And conflict can be gentle and still effective.

Click here to see the master in action . . .

Rest in peace Mr. Falk.




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I just spent a few minutes listening to Conan O’Brien’s commencement address at Dartmouth College last Sunday.

If you don’t have time to just laugh, go to16:16. At that point, if you’re like me, you’ll stop and listen (for the next 7:31) to a good man who has just walked through his own reinvention. From necessity to a happy ending/new chapter. Cool stuff. 

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