Saturday, September 1, 2018

What Really Happened? (Or, Love Wins, Again)

Sometimes it is helpful to take a step back and ask myself, “what really happened?”  What I mean by “really” is… what was the visible, verifiable, observable, recordable by a drone flying overhead thing that occurred in real time?  

Because, my mind is very good at making up stories.  I can take a set of facts and have a field day writing a story of what I wanted to make whatever happen mean.

So, on August 23, I was with my Dad when he stopped breathing.  For several hours before, I had been quietly saying to him in his un-responsive place, “Dad, your job here is to breathe.  Just breathe.  And, you’re almost there.  You can do it.”  At 9:15pm he was breathing.  At 9:20pm he was not breathing.  A few minutes later, two nurses came into his room in the Care Center and declared that he was no longer alive.  Those were the verifiable and visible facts.


I have a belief that there is an invisible realm.  We can see neither our “mind” nor our “spirit.”  They are invisible and non-locatable.  So, while my Dad’s physical, observable, body was no longer judged to be alive, I make up a story that his invisible parts are very much still alive and well.  Actually, in my story, my Dad’s invisible parts are better off than they have been since he started slipping into dementia years ago.  And further, like many many people before me who have reported similar experiences, there was the briefest moment in my dad’s passing where I believe (and, beliefs are just another story I make up) that the invisible realm became visible to him.  I saw it in his eyes.  I saw it in the smile that spread across his face like the one that always followed that first bite of the McDonald’s ice cream sundaes I used to sneak in for him.  “That’s goooooood” he would say in his gravely voice.  He was seeing beyond what I or any of us on this side of the line can see.  There was no fear.  Only love.  And, it was good.

Love Wins.  It’s the title of Rob Bell’s groundbreaking book.  And, it’s a theme for my life.  After 9 ½ years in the care center and perhaps a decade of decline before, Love won with my Dad.  The visible gave way to the invisible and it was good.  Many raised in the Christian tradition are a bit sheepish about suggesting that God might win the day with every single life that transitions out of the physical and visible realm.  It got Rob fired as a megachurch pastor.  I know I was skeptical.  It’s a scandalous idea when you’ve been taught to think in terms of eternal heaven and eternal hell.  And today, I’m here to say, Love Wins.  Every time.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Who Was He?

He was a little league coach, a volunteer ski instructor for the elementary school, a Gra-Y Club leader, and gave the daily business report on the local TV channel. He took us into the outdoors in blue jeans and cotton shirts, got us lost, soaked us to the skin, and reminded us that even with all the mishaps, “I brought everyone home”. He was a regular fixture on the sidelines of his kids and grandkids soccer, baseball, football, basketball, water polo, and roller hockey games. He supplied 6oz Coors beers at teenager parties so “everyone could look cool but no one got drunk.” He made world-class French Toast and spaghetti feeds for the masses. When asked for permission to do just about anything, he was quick with “do whatever you think is best.” He was kicked out of USC for running a panty raid and landing on the cover of Life Magazine. He knew how to throw a party, twirl a girl on the dance floor, and to the end loved the attention of a pretty woman. And, to him, all women were pretty. If he walked into a room of strangers he saw a hundred people who wanted to talk to him. He could have a pair hanging around his neck and another on his head and still toss out a string of curses for whoever had taken his glasses. Those who cared for him the last 9 ½ years knew his smile, wit, and charm were just waiting for the right moment to pounce, and even when he couldn’t string a sentence together he would laugh at exactly the right moment in the story you were telling and do a little jig in his wheelchair to Darktown Strutters Ball. He was Joey, Dad, Uncle Joe, Grandpa and Great Grandpa. He was Joe Corsaro. Born in Redondo Beach on March 29, 1931 and peacefully left us for the adventure beyond on August 23, 2018.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

You've Got a Friend

Mo and I went to see James Taylor last night at the Hollywood Bowl after seeing him together in 1988 or so.  I first hired Mo when I was 23.  She was 18 and we’ve remained friends through the years.  It was a stellar evening in our box seats with a little cafĂ© table where we enjoyed an awesome picnic and a nice bottle of Petite Syrah.  I cried through most of the concert.  Tears of joy as the songs opened-up a vault of memories… appreciating all the moments which form the fabric of life and stitch together to form the person I am today.

On the way driving from Palm Springs to LA, I also had a chance to catch up with Marcia on the phone.  When I was 15, 16, 17, Marcia would put a stack of records on the turntable… James Taylor, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, others of that era… and we’d lie around on the white shag carpeting listening in her living room.  Her home was a place of refuge away from the chaos across the street at my house.  It was safe.  Peaceful.  Dinner on the dot at 6.   I’d often eat there before going home to eat again with my family.  Appreciative memories.  Her mom took me to the DMV to get my license on my 16th birthday.  They were my village.  

Memories of 17 anchor for me.  It’s when I was the youth director for our Countywide 4-H summer camp playing guitar in front of 300 campers and adult leaders.  It’s when I drove away in my green Chevy Vega to attend school at Cal Poly, SLO, full of myself as I jumped into the world.  

Life is full of moments.  Some I’m proud of, some bring me shame and heartache.  And as I rolled through the “tapes” in my mind last night the tears flowed.  And this morning, sipping a cup of coffee alone in my backyard, the tears continue to flow as James plays on Pandora. 

Today, I’m appreciating Mo and Marcia.  To both of you… just call out my name, and wherever I am I’ll come running.  You’ve got a friend. 



Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What is Your Choice?

When I hear a similar story three times in as many days, I get curious!

The western world of medicine has an amazing ability to prolong life these days.  So, when is it okay to choose not to?  When is it okay to say "I choose not to treat."  Perhaps, it's okay at the moment of mature clarity that says  "I see my choices and I choose to not treat."

The three stories this week came from widely diverse circumstances across the age spectrum.  To me, the details are less important than the personal resolve.  The utmost clarity.  Acceptance and appreciation flowing freely.

What do you think?



Monday, April 16, 2018

What have we learned?

Is there ever a bad time to take a step back and ask ourselves, "What have we learned?"  I don't think so.  And, how often is the crazy thing we are doing right now directly in conflict with a "lesson learned" from the past!  Capturing and anchoring learnings seems to me an important part of living in my maturity while aspiring to be an effective and inspirational leader.

Today marks the 103rd anniversary of a terrible atrocity in what is now Turkey against some 1.5 million Armenians.  The Armenians were living in their homeland (it was Armenia!) but their land was arbitrarily given to the Turks as the Ottoman Empire unfolded.  The Armenians were then systematically exterminated.  Many of the survivors of the genocide escaped to Syria... and have now been displaced over the past five years by the civil unrest in their adopted country.

And, while I can't solve the complex geo-political issues of our time, I can always look at myself and stay curious about...
  • "How are my actions imposing my will on someone else?" 
  • "How am I taking 100% responsibility for my part in this mess?"
  • "How might I create a win-win solution in this issue?"
And the list goes on.  My desire is to remember the lessons learned and in order to do so, I do well to stop, reflect, and anchor what it is I've learned, every day.



Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Just for Grins...

In the first ten minutes of a conversation, the CEO said,
    “I make really good decisions.”
“I am good at keeping emotion out of my decision making.”

“I do things right.”

I stopped the conversation.  “So, just for grins are you open to not being right about any of that?  Are you open to an opposite point of view?”
“What do you mean”, he asked.
“Just try any of these on…”
  • “Sometimes, I make poor decisions.”
  • “Sometimes, my emotions effect my decision making.”
  • “Sometimes, I don’t do things right.”
“I don’t like those,” he said.
“I know.  But, how does it change the way you might act in the situation?  How might you shift your perspective?”
“Well if I was concerned about a poor decision being made or my emotions were driving the bus, I might engage some people smarter than me in the conversation.  I might not assert my opinion so forcefully.  I might be more open.”
“And, what might happen with your team in that case?”
“Okay.  I get it.  They’d buy in.  They’d have a chance to weigh in.  I’d be getting the best from the people I’ve hired to bring their best.”
“So, both can be true? You can believe you make good decisions and you can also derive value by approaching a situation as if you believed you might make a poor decision?”
“Yes, Vince.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Curious or Critical?

A million years ago I was coming off a successful operating executive experience and landed the CEO job I had always wanted.  I was 35 years young and eager to make my mark.

As you do at the beginning of a new job, I was meeting with people at all levels, key stakeholders, long-term employees and new ones alike.  The Board gave me great freedom to move about and explore the landscape.  In my enthusiastic self, everyone seemed happy to hear what I had to say and seemed ready to march to the new beat that I brought.  Perhaps.

Within a few weeks, I began to notice that while people were happy to talk, they really weren't all that interested in changing anything.  They were committed to the way they had always done things.  "But, where do I get to leave my mark?" I began to lament to myself.  "These people are stuck in an old mindset,  they have no plan, they are entrenched and all the power is being held by the wrong people.  Can't they see it?"  I became more and more critical.  Disillusioned.

About 90 days in, the HR Manager came into my office and shut the door.  Rarely is it a good thing when the HR Manager shuts the door.  So, I braced myself.

"You know Vince," she said, "This place has somehow managed to survive for almost 100 years before you got here.  From your questions and the way you are moving about, it sounds like you don't think we've ever done anything right.  You might get a better response if you showed up with a little more curiosity."

Hmm.  Her 2x4 upside my head hurt.

And, I heard her. I had been coming from a place of criticism.  I saw problems with the way things were being done and my questions were digging in to clarify and confirm that my criticisms were correct and that things needed to change.  Instead of appreciating what was going right, I had been on a hunt to verify what was wrong.  And, the troops were pushing back against me, defending themselves, and drawing the battle lines.  Yikes!

So, did I make a course correction?  I like to think so!  Within a year or so I looked around the room and realized that more people were paddling with me than against me.  I noticed that we were aspiring to a vision that seemed to be embraced by all.  A few people had left and I had made a couple of key hires which had helped solidify the team.  Appreciation and curiosity seemed to be more the norm than criticism and defense.

My sense is that over time, curiosity wins the day over criticism.  Not a big surprise, but sometimes surprising that I need to learn it over and over again.

As I look at my life today, am I coming from a place of curiosity or criticism?



Saturday, November 11, 2017


For nearly twenty years I have had a regular Friday morning coffee group.  First in south Orange County and then Palm Springs, these guys have become some of my closest confidantes and friends.  Someone asked me the other day, "How does it work?"
  1. Find four to six people.  Commit with one another. 
  2. Pick a spot.  I like public coffee shops with dispersed seating or a little privacy. 
  3. Pick a regular meeting time.  Usually 60-90 minutes.  I like mornings.
  4. Show up.  Even if only one of you is in town/available that week, still show up.  You'll enjoy coffee by yourself thinking about your friends.
  5. Agree on a little structure.
    • Quick Check In:  "What are three words that describe you today?"
    • Conversation Question:  Whoever is moderating today picks a good question and answers it first.  An example:  "If you could be world-class in anything, what would it be?"  No long conversation.  Just a way to engage.
    • Brief Personal Updates:  4-5 minutes per person, uninterrupted, no questions.  I like giving "three headlines" or quick summaries and then unpack one in more detail:  "Here are the facts... the stories I make up... how I feel... and what I want.  My next steps are..."
    • After everyone has a turn, close with appreciations and action commitments. 
The Big Idea is to create a space to give the story of your life some airtime, without being fixed, analyzed, solved, or judged.  Keep it safe and confidential.  Try it.  And, reach out if I can help you set it up.  Super easy.  Very powerful.



Monday, September 25, 2017

Where is the King?

Facilitating a team retreat the other day and I shared, "The King has every right to leave the castle and head off into battle. But when they do, they put the kingdom at risk."

"That's cool Vince.  What are you talking about?" the group asked.

Let's unpack this a bit.  When I think of all the great stories of knights and castles and courts and ladies, there are always certain characters that show up.  The King... The Warrior... The Lover... the Wizard... and what I've learned is that these characters (or archetypes) have a certain place in each of us right here right now.  We each have an "Inner King" and an "Inner Warrior" and I believe it serves us well to get to know these parts. 

So, when I think about the "King" in me (or the "Sovereign"), I am thinking about that part of me that holds, comforts, initiates, and decides things.  That's what Kings do!  I need my "Inner Sovereign" to be online and not get too caught up in the day to day grind of what's in front of me at this moment.  I need my Inner King to hold the balance between protecting and expanding my life.

And so, going back into many of the ancient stories, when the King leaves the castle bad stuff happens.  Evil wizards take over.  Lovers swoop in and wreak havoc.  Warriors raid and take their plunder.  Things run amok. 

"Okay.  Keep going," they said.  "And help us see what this has to do with our CEO?"

Think about the role of the CEO.  The CEO's role is to initiate, decide, align with purpose, comfort and celebrate... in short... a lot like the sovereign of days gone by.  But, before you go bowing and scraping to your CEO, let the metaphor just land on the governance role of the King... not the royal pomp bit.

Often, the CEO was the best damn Sales Manager this company ever knew.  Or the best CFO.  Or, the best COO back in the day.  So, it is no surprise that the CEO might have something to say about those roles now.  About how things should be done.  But, the CEO's job is not to direct activity.  It is to define outcomes.  It's up to today's hot shot Sales Manager to figure out the way to hit the outcome.  That's why he or she is the hot shot sales manager.  If the CEO defines the activity for the hot shot, well, the hot shot likely isn't all that hot.  He or she is just creating a dependency on the CEO... which drains energy and risks keeping the CEO from focusing on the more important issues of stewarding, protecting and advancing the broader work of the enterprise.

"Wow.  We get it.  But really, there will be no bowing to the CEO, correct?"




Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What Do I Do Now?

"For the first time in my career I now report directly to the CEO."
"Cool", I said.  "What are you noticing different?"
"It's weird.  The CEO doesn't expect me to really DO anything.  But I better be able to communicate what is going on in my area in just a few words and speak clearly to the end results."
"It sounds like you're being pushed a bit?"
"Well yeah.  I've always been measured by what I personally got done.  Now, I just make sure that an awful lot is accomplished, and more importantly I've got to be able to wrap it all up in a sound bite!"
"So, how's it working for you?"
"At first it was very uncomfortable.  Now, I'm learning that my job is really more about listening and asking good questions.  I used to think I had to answer all the questions to be valuable.  It's a shift."
And that's the difference between a producer (or an "operator", or "the front end") and an executive.  Producers get things gone.  Executives hold all the tension in an organization, all the risk, the biggest picture.  Executives ask good questions, communicate clearly, and make things happen.


Friday, February 3, 2017

How is that Working for You?

When I first headed out to build a leadership development practice ten years ago, everyone said, "Vince, you need to come up with a catchy name, create a website, write a book, get some products to sell in order to be successful!"  None of that sounded interesting to me so I decided instead to "do good work".  And, it works for me.

"If it works for you, keep it," I say!

So for now, this blog and simple introduction works for me!  My practice is full and vibrant and flexible and I love it!  Could I do more?  Probably.  And, I enjoy the life balance of time in the mountains, at the beach, and in the desert.  I enjoy coming alongside an eclectic group of clients who all want to dig-in and grow as people and leaders.  I'm also enjoying the process of welcoming others into this work and supporting their development as strategic accompanists, guides, and facilitators.

At some point, I may decide that "it's not working for me!" And at that moment, the possibility of change will arrive and I will assess the risks and benefits of moving forward in a new way. 

Until then, I'm off to the mountain.  2" of fresh snow last night.



Monday, October 31, 2016

What has changed?

One of my favorite pastimes is sharing stories of "benchmark moments"... the turning points, or directional shifts in our lives. I am always surprised at the granular nature of the stories.
  • A singular event on a school playground where someone learned they could stand up for themselves.
  • A moment a parent or loved one said "you've got this", and the success that followed.
  • A moment of decision to step into something we've always been passionate about as opposed to simply following a pre-determined script for our lives.
  • The birth of a child.  Becoming a parent. 
  • The birth of a grandchild.  Becoming a grandparent.
Moments are important. 

Last week I met my first grandchild.  In a moment following a warm welcoming hug, my daughter introduced me to her newborn daughter.  My son-in-law handed me his precious little girl to hold.  In a moment, they became parents.  I became a grandfather.  Life changed.

Mature leaders are always open to changing their viewpoint or position when new information arrives.  Well... new information arrived last week in the form of a baby!  So, what changes?  What long-held beliefs come into play?  How does this re-order relationships?  What are the deeper desires here?

My sense is the answers have less importance than the curious questions. 



Thursday, September 15, 2016

Who do you want to be?

Ten years ago today I was released from the executive cabinet at Y-USA and handed a severance check. It was 2006, I was 47, my youngest daughter Janelle had just left for college, and our divorce had been final for about 6 months. The plate of my life had been scraped clean.
Two phone calls came soon after which set the course for the next ten years. One was from Paul Andresen, a good YMCA CEO friend, who asked if I would do some consulting work for him. The other was from Jim Warner, a Boulder-friend and mentor who asked if I would come co-facilitate an executive retreat with him. I said yes to both. And, while I applied for a couple YMCA positions early on, I haven't looked back. My long-time strategy has been "do good work" and follow the thread of opportunity from one gig to the next. I've always believed that good work leads to good work. Take care of the people and the rest tends to sort out. It worked for 26 years in the Y and still works today.
Relationally, the ten years could not have been more unexpected. In 2006 I was committed to the single life. Connections with a few good friends along the way helped me open up my thinking and accept myself in a whole new way. Coming out and the resulting shift in energy and focus in my life propelled me in ways I never expected. Six years with Rocky was a learning experience I've written about before. Being single again at 57 is unexpected, and I'm okay.
Going forward, I've been asked something like "What do you want to be doing in ten years?" and I tend to shift the question to "Who do I want to be in 10 years?"  At this stage, it's a bit less about the doing, and more about the being. And, I want to be a man of curiosity, with a spirit of adventure and creativity. I want to live a life of good self-care and create a positive environment around me wherever I go. I want to connect to my deeper self and be with others as they connect with themselves. There's always more to do.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Why Don't They Call?

She was a popular Hollywood celebrity.  Perhaps not A-list, but certainly recognizable after many years in the business.

"And, the hardest thing is this.  No one ever calls me to just have coffee, or to do the things that friends do.  We don't get invited to informal dinners, to just hang out.  No one just stops by.  Everything is fabulous and formal or nothing at all.  Sometimes I feel like the only reason anyone wants to be with me is to get something from me. I think people just assume I'm busy.  It's exhausting."

"Wow," I said.  "How would you like it to be?"

"I'd like to have people who feel comfortable just hanging out.  No agendas.  People who know I'll say 'yes' if it is possible.  People who know that if I say 'no' it's an authentic no, meaning I've already got something booked."

"So, what you really want are friends who are authentic with you."

"Not just authentic, but who are okay with me saying no three times without it counting against me!"

"Okay."  And then, I got quiet.  You see, I get in this same pickle.  My schedule is erratic, un-structured, and un-predictable.  I can be anywhere or nowhere anytime.  I fall off the radar screen regularly and rarely get casual invitations from friends.  I had no solution to offer.  Which is perfect, because I'm in the business of helping people find their own solutions.  So, back to it, Vince.

"I wonder how you might be creating the very results you're complaining about?"

She looked at me quizzically.  "Are you playing one of your mind tricks on me?"
"Well, perhaps.  And, perhaps I'm playing it on both of us.  But, really, what are the things you do that create the exact results you're getting?"

"Let's see.  I tend to only talk about the projects I'm on, or the places I've been lately.  I rarely talk about the mundane and normal things in life.  I don't tend to talk about the supermarket having a special on tomatoes this week."  She gazed off in the distance a bit.

"So, what do you think others make that mean?"

"I suppose it makes me seem above the mundane.  Maybe others are intimidated to talk about tomatoes when I've just gotten back from a month-long location shoot. Maybe I put people off a bit."

"Keep going," I prodded.

"Do I really want to talk about tomatoes?"

My sense was that there was a part of her that precisely wanted to talk about the mundane and normal things of life, like tomatoes at the local market.  I also sensed there was another part of her that had absolutely no interest in talking about tomatoes and only wanted to talk about the exciting and interesting bits.  Perhaps there was a path...  "It sounds like we have competing voices here.  On the one side we have..."

"Be normal!  Enjoy and appreciate the mundane and simple life!  It's about connection, not about amazement!  You are okay when you're ordinary!" 
"And on the other side?"
"You have to shine.  You have to be entertaining!  Everyone expects you to be interesting!  They will leave you in the dust if you're not!"

I could tell something was landing for her.  She fell silent.  "That's exactly what my dad used to say to me."  And then, tears.  "My Dad always wanted me to perform.  He'd have me sing at family events.  He only seemed to notice me if I was performing.  I think he was afraid I would disappear or be a nobody if I didn't entertain well."
"So, it sounds like you keep performing even when the cameras are off.  Tell me what the tears have to say right now."
"My tears like the other voice.  My whole body just wants to let down my guard.  To just be normal, ordinary, mundane.  To just connect.  I can breathe when I think about that."
"Okay.  What would that look like," I asked.
"Well, maybe I can be more conscious of what I share and engage with others about.  Maybe I can talk about tomatoes now and then.  And, not how fabulous my homegrown crop is.  You know what I mean.  Just, ask others about the simple pleasures of their lives.  Share the ordinary.  It doesn't need to be fabulous."
"And if you did that, what might you get?"
"Well, I think it would just be more authentic.  And, frankly, that's worth it, regardless if anyone ever calls me for coffee."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

React or Respond?

"But I feel so guilty when I take time for myself.  It's like I'm taking something away from my wife and kids."

"So, how's that working for you?" I asked.

"It's not!"

"So, what's the risk of making a change?"

"I suppose the risk of me changing is that others won't like me and my life will fall apart."

"And the possible benefit?"

"Ha!  That I'll be happy.  That I'll feel good and be more available to my family."

"So... are you willing to take the risk?"

"I have to.  I need to."

"Well, that's arguable," I said.  "What if instead of 'needing to' you simply framed it as 'I choose to?' 

"Interesting.  One is kind of a victim's reaction to what's going on.  The other is a more mature posture in response to living the life I want to live.  I like it."

Well said.

Friday, July 1, 2016

On Reflection

I was talking with a CEO today. He was sharing how he closed a meeting last week with two of our classic forum questions…

“What worked well today?”
“What could have been better?”

… and how the folks at the meeting gave him a ration for it. “What did you do with our CEO?” they asked.

Taking a minute to reflect and evaluate sometimes feels awkward. And, it makes us think. It makes us own our experience. It makes us show up. Try it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Appreciation Appreciates

The morning had gone well. There had been some difficult issues to debrief and plenty of good generative discussion as well, but the energy wasn't quite where I wanted it to be for the closing.

I almost always close by moving into a place of appreciation. What I've learned is that all of the worries about the future tend to take a back seat when we are appreciating what we have... as opposed to worrying about what we don't have. It's like when I'm walking on the beach with a friend... we can look toward the shore and the bazillion dollar McMansions and feel bad about what we don't have... or we can look toward the sea... and the waves, clouds and breeze... and reflect on the beauty and the splendor of what we do have. So, I chose appreciation as a way to end the retreat.

Because, at the end of the day, what we appreciate appreciates. It gains value. It gets bigger. It becomes something more.

So the group began to appreciate. One another. Their successes. Their challenges as an opportunity to grow. Their history. Their future. And you know what, the energy shifted and the group grew bigger. Stronger. More alive.

What is it that you appreciate today?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Up all night inventing the Camcorder?

Back in the day Al Gore was quoted as saying "I invented the Internet."  The media grabbed it and was poised to have a field day.  That he did not exactly say it was irrelevant.  It became an overnight lightening rod to skewer his annoyingly arrogant persona.

The expected move here would have been for Gore to defend himself.  To explain that he had been mis-quoted, to apologize for a mis-speak, to back pedal and correct his statement.

But that's not what he did.  His response was:
"I was pretty tired when I made that comment because I had been up very late the night before inventing the camcorder."

What's brilliant about that?

It's the counter-intuitive move.  He took the accusation "you're annoyingly arrogant"  and over-owned it.  With no defense, he made fun of his own arrogance.  And, it stopped the media in its tracks.  He skewered the story.

What can I learn here?

The importance of the counter-intuitive move.  When I am feeling accused, I can get curious and consider that there is possibly some truth in the accusation.  It wouldn't sting if there wasn't!  And then, I can own it.  I can let myself (and my audience) know that the accusation has no sting because it's something I've already dealt with.  I know myself and I've got this one.  Next.

When I first came out many years ago, I was terrified of the "gay accusation" from any group I was working with.  I was unsure of myself and unsure how to respond.  Over time, I worked my insecure edge and today it has no power over me.  And occasionally, I will toss some stupidly stereotypical comment into the mix... "If you think that was gay wait until you see the matching napkins and flower arrangements."  Because, I've learned that those who are compelled to comment about my sexuality are doing so often from some insecure place in themselves.  And that's their stuff.  And, that's okay.  I'm here to help with that.

What accusation are you defending yourself from?  What part of it might you own?  What might be the counter-intuitive move?



Sunday, April 24, 2016

How would you play the hand?

I was thinking about the world of political theatre that we are all witnessing at the moment.

What if Trump is playing this game as if it were a season of Survivor? Or, what if he were coaching someone to "get the job" on his reality TV show? How would he coach them?

First. Set the outcome. In this case, get the nomination. Not the election yet, just the nomination. On Survivor that would mean eliminate the field. Do whatever it takes to clear out the competition. Check. And then, strike the emotions of the disgruntled Republican voter. Go after anyone the disgruntled voter can vilify in order to become their hero. Ethnic differences and illegal entrants were slam-dunks for this. So is anything that will bring a sense of security to an unprepared near-retirement aged individual (read "baby boomer"). Check and check.

So, let's assume he gets the nomination. First objective achieved. Good job.

Then on to the general election. Objective: Get the job. Win the electoral vote.  Is it the same strategy? Vilify Hillary? Make promises to the disgruntled? I don't see that. The disgruntled, un-prepared, insecure electorate are on both sides of the aisle.  So what's the strategy? How would Trump coach someone here? Who needs to be persuaded? The pundits would say "look to the swing states." So then it becomes a vote counting exercise and crafted message to the specific target market at a precinct-level campaign. We'll hear all kinds of speeches and gnashing about but the general election can be predicted by the voting of incredibly narrow bands in specific States. 

My sense is that Trump will prevail. He gets the game. And to him, it is a game.  We're seeing it already as he softens his rhetoric and reinvents himself.

And, it gives me guidance on the good question when contemplating how to navigate any issue!  "What might the other side be thinking?"  or "How would you play the hand if it was you?" might help me see any thorny issue with more clarity.

Enjoy the theatre.



Friday, April 15, 2016

Grab a Beer?

Close your eyes for a moment and get in the helicopter with me. We'll only go up a couple hundred feet and just hover there.

Now, imagine that you can look back and see that you are in fact still right where you are... and that you are able to look down on your life from the helicopter view. What's going on? Are you someone you'd want to have a beer with after work? How about someone you'd want to confide in? Go take a hike with? Seek advice from? What do you think of you?

When we're able to get honest about how we are judging or assessing ourselves, the door opens to accept ourselves right where we are. This is the truth of this moment... and it won't always be this way. It also opens the door to learn from those inner critical messages that we berate ourselves with... the "you're really not all that good..." and the like. We all have some version of this and it is in when we detach and take an outside view that we are able to recognize it as simply the critical voice inside.

In any event... maybe today is a good day to go grab a beer with yourself... or an ice tea... and have a little heart to heart.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Whose Voice Was That?

And then he told me about a spat with his wife the night before. They were visiting one of his construction job sites and his wife had said “Wouldn’t it look better to extend the awning over this whole section?”

He had gone ballistic. “Don’t you know I’ve been working on this design for months and that it is way too late in the process for changes like that?” And on and on. Everyone had retreated into their corners before it was over.

“Huh,” I said. “So, what did you make her comment mean?”

Silence. “Good question. I’ll have to write that down.”

“Well? It sounds like her comment landed in your universe as something more than just her comment. What did it mean to you? What was the message you received?”

“That I’ve fallen short. Didn’t do it right. That I never do things right.”

“Wow. She didn’t say all that. Whose voice was it you heard?”

Silence. “I hate you. It was my dad. I could never do anything right in his eyes.”

“Sounds like you emptied your truck at the wrong dump, huh?”

“Yeah. Thanks. “

“What do you want to have happen now?”

And on it goes…

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Could the Opposite be True?

The last couple weeks have been a roller coaster ride.  My house is half empty (both figuratively and literally) after Rocky moved out.  His artwork and aesthetic touch are missing.  It's quiet. 

At points I begin to feel lonely and sink.  Lots of scripts play in my head... "Alone at 56?  Loser!"  "Without chaos at home there is no life!"  "You drive people away!"  And, it's a good opportunity to explore if the opposites might be as true or truer than the voices of lonely despair!

"Alone at 56.  Freedom to explore your own wants."
"Without chaos at home, there is sanctuary and grounding."
"You attract like-wired people."
So, I can ride the roller coaster down into the despair of inner chaos, and I can ride it back up into a place of acceptance and appreciation.  It's a choice.

Friday, January 15, 2016

We've Got Issues

When people ask me what I do, my response back is often, "Well, what are the issues in your life right now?"

Because that's often what I do... create a pathway for identifying and clearing issues... those things that drain energy from our lives. So, if you have no issues, celebrate! But, if you find yourself feeling stuck, or beat up, or unclear, or out of integrity, or notice that you have lied to protect yourself, or hide, or are confused, or emotionally overwhelmed, or angry, or... well, you get the idea.

Too many times I see groups and people embark upon "solutions" before they have clarified "problems". My hope is to get clear on issues and current conditions... both problems and opportunities... then identify what the desired condition looks like... and then get to work on the solutions.

So, the starting question is almost always, "What are the issues that are draining energy from your life right now?" And then, "What is it you want to have happen?"



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Who Wants Ice Cream!?!

I love ice cream.  It's simple.  I love it.  I love the memories it evokes and I love the taste, and the coolness.  There is nothing about ice cream that I do not love. 

Except that I sometimes love it too much.  You see, when I get going on ice cream, there is no stopping me.  If a pint is enough a quart is better.  And let's do it again tomorrow night.

So, when I get the urge for some ice cream, a whole chorus kicks into gear in my head.
  • "Your gut isn't as slim as it used to be."
  • "Just eat some.  You deserve it!"
  • "There is a McDonalds 1.2 miles away.  You can make the stop in less than five minutes.  Just make the decision and get it done!"
  • "Those Hot Fudge Sundae's are tiny.  Go for it!"
  • "What is it you are really wanting right now, Vince?"
  • "Let's invite someone else to go with us and make it a social event!"
  • "You know what happens when you have "just one".  It's a week long binge!  Careful now!"
So, I kind of get this stuff.

There is a part of me that protects me from myself.  Protects me from harm, hurt, vulnerability.
There is a part of me that says "go for it" and "let's connect" with some others along the way.
There is a part of me that wants to step back and assess what it is I really want and make a mature decision.
And, there is a part of me ready to kick into action and get it done.

Which means that it really isn't about the ice cream.  It's about living in a place of ease and flow, managing the competition between the head and the heart, finding my soul.  It's about getting clear on what I want and then acting from a place of maturity.  It's about honoring desires while also managing risk.

Uh oh.  Just spilled some ice cream on the keyboard.



Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Remorse, Relief, Risk, and Renewal

"It's excruciating to think about coming clean.  I've been carrying this for so long, beating myself up for what I've done, feeling bad about the impact.  I can't imagine unpacking it." he said.

"I get it.  You've been carrying this for a long time and it feels excruciating to think about unpacking it and coming clean.  What's the real risk?" I asked.

"Clearly that she'll throw me out.  I'm a scumbag."

"Got it.  Your relationship might end.  What else?"

"I don't know.  It seems like it might also be a relief to not carry it."

"Is that a risk, or a possible benefit?"

"Ha!  You got me. That would be a benefit.  To me at least.  Would it be a benefit to her?" he asked with curiosity.

"Now, that's a great question."

Getting something off our chest, letting go of the remorse or guilt that we have carried around some issue or action can bring incredible relief.  AND, it brings risk.  Risk that the relationship might end.  Risk that coming clean with what we've been carrying may result in harm or hurt.  AND, it brings a significant benefit of possible renewal.  The authentic ownership of an issue or action opens the door to the renewal of the relationship both with ourselves and with the other person involved.  But there's a catch.

The thing that has been carried for so long is new information for the other person.  So, while there is relief on the one side, there can be all kinds of emotional responses on the other.  They haven't been living with the remorse, guilt, and fear.  So, your sense of relief can be viewed as a "dump and run."  Some compassion is in order!  And, this is true anytime we speak a courageous truth.  At its best, coming clean creates compassion for ourselves and the other person while promoting authenticity in the relationship.  At its worst, it becomes an emotional dumping ground and an escape from responsibility.

What to do?

Talk about talking about it.  Let the other person know you have something you'd like to unpack that might be difficult.  Ask for permission and create a supportive space.  Unpack the issue with an uninvolved friend or counselor to get your own feet on the ground first.  The pathway to renewal opens up when both parties understand the idea of 100% ownership... both parties take 100% responsibility for their part in the relationship.  What will it look like for you to take 100% responsibility for your part?

And on it goes...


Friday, June 26, 2015

Love Wins

When in doubt on how to respond or handle a situation, I can always land on "How might love win in this moment?"

Shifting my perspective to "Love Wins" opens up my thinking.  It raises my consciousness to a higher level.  It gets me out of any narrow or fear-based thinking and finds solid ground.  It helps me discover the positive intent.

The Supreme Court decision today seems to be doing this for us as a Nation.  The court said Love Wins.

Many years ago I wanted to fire a lifeguard because she insisted on wearing a nose ring.  In a random airplane conversation I shared this incredulous story with the guy next to me.  I was hoping for support and a common battle cry!  But, he challenged my thinking.  He asked if I was generally a loving and merciful person. He challenged me to move to higher ground and see her simply as a person with a different viewpoint.  Her nose ring didn't inflict harm on me.  It didn't mean I had anything less or more.  She kept lifeguarding.  And I learned a good lesson. 

Love wins.

Monday, June 1, 2015

What is it you are committed to?

"It's all the blaming and complaining!"

"Silos.  Everyone just stays in their silo."

"I can't get a straight answer from anyone!!!"

"Wow.  That's some tough stuff," I said.  "What would it look like to take 100% responsibility for the results you are getting?"

"These aren't our results!  This is what everyone else is doing!"

They had stepped into my trap.  You see, I have this crazy belief that whatever results we are getting in life happen to be a reflection of our commitments.  And sometimes, those commitments are unconscious. 

"Here's what I want you to do.  Own these results as something you are committed to."  Blank stares.  For example, say "I am committed to perpetuating the blaming and complaining."

"What?!?" they cried.  "Try it," I said.

Okay, says the VP of Engineering.  "I am committed to the blame game.  I don't like saying that."

"I know," I said.  "Now, read me a few pages out of the training manual you have written for the blame game."

The VP of Engineering grimaced, and said with slumped shoulders, "Well, you tell everyone that it's the corporate office that wouldn't approve the expense.  And then, you be sure the team knows that if marketing had just done their part we wouldn't be getting blamed.  Okay Vince.  I get it.  I hate you."

What did he get?!?  Perhaps, he began to understand how we actually do things that produce the results we are getting in life.  Sometimes the things we do don't make sense, but when we dig deeper we find that the crazy things we do somehow protect us from vulnerability, criticism, exposure or other unpleasant stuff.  So, we do things unconsciously. 

The good news is that once we become conscious of it we can choose a different path.  Unless, we'd rather just blame and complain, that is.



Friday, May 8, 2015

Whose Problem is This?

When I was in college I lived for a year with five guys in one house.  Four of us had dogs.  And, the dogs were not all that well trained.  Imagine that.

Late one night, one of the pups left a present (read:  pooped) in the living room.  One by one, each of us four dog owners came out and said, “Nope, that’s not ____’s” (fill in the blank with our pups name) and proceeded to go back to whatever we were doing.  No one wanted to own the problem.  Finally, the guy that didn’t own a dog cleaned it up I think.

That’s kind of how my body and the western medical world are getting along.  No one wants to own the problem.  They all agree that there is a benign tumor in my head but they can’t agree on who owns the problem. 

There are moments when I lose balance, can’t talk or swallow right, break out in a full body sweat… essentially , come to a ground halt for about fifteen minutes until things re-balance and off I go.  It started this winter early in most every ski day and it continues just about anytime my heart rate goes up or my breathing gets out of whack.  Too much pressure on the right-side jugular vein.
  • Neurosurgeon in the Desert said, “Too many lions and tigers in the tumor’s neighborhood.  Not mine.  Go to UCLA.”
  • UCLA Surgeon #1 said “Nope.  Not a Glomis Jugulare.  You’re not mine.” 
  • UCLA Surgeon #2 said “You might be mine with a Meningioma, but come back when you can’t talk or swallow.” 
  • The Internal Medicine Doc said “It’s not of interest to our office.  That’s the Neurologist’s."
  • Last week the Neurologist said “The tumor hasn’t grown and you’re not dizzy or debilitated enough to go back to UCLA.  I’ll send you to a cardiologist…” 
So, I guess it comes back to me as the owner of this body.  I think I will stick to my previous commitment… choosing to live well… and accept that moments of disorientation and slurred speech are just part of what it means to be me. 



Monday, April 27, 2015

What is Keeping You From Being Fully Present?

The other night I was watching an older movie and it was starting to drag a bit.  I noticed my mind wandering.  My phone was next to me.  I picked it up. 

There was nothing on my phone that needed my attention in that moment (Is there ever?!) but in the micro-second that I began to feel bored with the movie I reached for it.  And then I stopped.  I put it down, and remember having the conscious thought... "I'm going to stay present with this movie and experience it fully, even if it is boring." 

Unless you are completely off the grid, this is a familiar story.  We have become a society with the inability to maintain attention to whatever is before us.  Attention Deficit at the grandest level.

So the question, "What's keeping me from being fully present?" is a way I can name whatever is happening ("I'm feeling angry that this movie isn't entertaining me fully") and help myself choose to get back to wherever I am.

Pass the popcorn, please...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What are you Tolerating?

All of us put up with stuff.  Little annoyances.  Things that are broken and have been broken for a long time.

This year, one of my focus areas is to "eliminate tolerations" from my life.  Those things that I put up with, annoyances, stuff that drains energy, or that I accept as "it is what it is" when I don't really need to.

For four years, the flashing on the dishwasher has fallen off anytime anyone sweeps. It's annoying.  A missing screw on one side and a missing washer on the other.  Anytime the floor was swept, the flashing would fall down with a clank and it would have to be propped back up.  Until the next time.  What a pain!  And today, I fixed it.  A ten-step trip to the garage to find a new screw and washer, five minutes to vacuum out all the gunk behind it, and a minute to put the screws back in.  Done.

Am I the only person who puts up with this kind of stuff?

For as long as I can remember, I have had these two bumps right on the top of my head.  Anytime I hit my head, they take it.  And, they hurt.  And, I'm 6'2" and hit my head a fair amount.  And, every new hair stylist has to run into them at least once before learning to steer clear.  You could only see them when my hair was cut short and they were annoying.  Until yesterday.

I had them removed.  The Doc put me under, froze the little suckers, cut away the skin, sucked them out, stretched the skin back over (felt a bit like what I imagine a face lift feels like!), stitched it up, and voila!  No more bumps. 

I feel lighter, joyful, and more at ease, just knowing the bumps are gone.... and the dishwasher flashing will never fall off again.

I love reclaiming energy in my life!  So, what are you tolerating?



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What have you Done For You Lately?

Since launching off on my own intentional pursuit of well being a few years ago it seems as if the world has jumped on the same bandwagon.  Ariana Huffington (founder of the Huffington Post) has weighed in with her latest book, "Thrive", and, Outside Magazine this month offered up "27 simple habits guaranteed to improve your body and mind."   

So, the question is... "What have you done today (or yesterday, or in the last week) to support your sense of well-being?"

We can easily jump to "I brushed my teeth and that's good for me" and perhaps get some well-being credit.  But, better to think about the things that we do in an intentional and purposeful way because we've thought about it and made the choice that says, "Yes, I believe doing this will enhance my well being!"  Might be physical well-being, social, spiritual, mental... you get the idea!

Things I've heard lately...

   ...Took a walk in an area that wasn't familiar to me.
   ...Started teaching myself guitar using online videos.
   ...Made a ski weekend happen with a college buddy.
   ...Had an intentional conversation with my wife about something more than "the schedule."
   ...Read a book for pleasure.
   ...Made three crock pot dinners that I've never made before.

It's motivating and inspiring to hear about the things people are doing on purpose and simply because it makes life more interesting and enjoyable.

So... your answer?



Sunday, January 18, 2015

HELP!!! Getting back on Track

There were about 15 people in the room having a thoughtful and engaging discussion about their future.  They were playing with vision and desire, and what it is they wanted to create.  I love this stuff!  (And, I was not facilitating!!!)

But then... things started to get hot.  Someone interrupted someone else.  Someone's voice got a little louder.  Three people started to talk at once.  The moderator began to lose it.

And then... someone said in no uncertain way, "freeze!"

What was this? And then, he said it again.  "Freeze.  And breathe.  I'm calling a time out."  And he just sat there.  No words.  It was powerful.  And everyone stopped in their tracks.  (It turns out, this was a norm they had agreed to previously.  Note to self...)

And once everyone had found their breath again, taken a step back, gotten their own feet back underneath their own selves, he asked a couple of AWESOME questions:

Are we on track right now?
What would be helpful?
The questions really didn't need to be answered.  The answers were self-evident.  In less than a minute, the group as a whole had their feet underneath them, figured out how to continue the discussions, and moved on. 
It reminded me of how important it is to know how to get back on track... to get myself back on track, and to perhaps help another as well.    Want to pack another tool in your kit?  Download the one-pager... "Getting Back On Track".



Monday, December 29, 2014

What is the truth?

This morning I was feeling sluggish.  Heavy.  I've eaten way more bread, pasta, cookies, and cakes in the last two weeks than anyone deserves.

When I'm feeling this way I resist stepping on the scale.  My commitment is to live at 190 +/- five pounds.  The last time I checked two weeks ago it was an all-time high of 199.  I don't ever want to see 200 so I simply stopped checking.

But this morning, something compelled me to step on to the scale and get ready for the inner barrage of criticism and justification.  I didn't want to do it, but I knew I needed to.  I needed to know that I had tipped 200.  I needed to see the results of all those biscote.  I needed to step on to the whipping post for some self-flagellation.  Bad Vince.

So I stepped on.  Wait.  192?  Can't be.  Step off.  Step back on.  192.  Huh.

So, the truth is, I feel sluggish, heavy, and simply bad for the way I have eaten my way through the last two weeks.  But, the data shows that I am seven pounds lighter.  What's is the truth?

Is this a trick question?

No.  Because the truth is... I felt sluggish, heavy and bad.  That's the truth.  The FACT that I weigh seven pounds less than two weeks ago is really un-important.  My emotional experience is my truth. 

Now, the truth is also that when the scale said 192, my mood shifted.  I smiled.  I felt less sluggish. 

What I am learning is that much of what we call "truth" are really "beliefs."  Things we believe to be true.  I was believing that I was heavier and my emotions followed with feelings of guilt and slothfulness.  What changed?

Is there a nugget here?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Letting Go

"I share my thoughts so that they can benefit from my experience," he said.

"Did they ask for your thoughts?"

"Well no, but people don't always know what to ask for.  They need help."

"Okay.  Let's look at it from their side.  How might your thoughts influence their choice, their decision?"

"Well, I want my thoughts to influence them!"

"Right.  So, who is taking responsibility for whose life in this."

"You frustrate me, Vince."

"I know.  Do you want to keep going even while frustrated?"

"Of course."

"Okay.  So, when I share what I think, or even ask a clarifying question, I am almost always at some level trying to influence behavior. What if I let go of my need to influence, and instead allowed the other person to pursue their own options, their own choice?"

"Well, they might screw up."

"Indeed.  There is that risk.  What else might happen?"

"They might succeed.  I hate you, Vince."

"I know.  It sounds like you just connected a dot.  When we allow others to make their own choices, then their wins are their wins.  They are owning their own life.  They are becoming leaders.  They are successful because of their own effort and resolve."

"So, I just have to stay quiet?

"Not necessarily.  But perhaps pause first.  Allow them to develop their own options.  Ask some good questions.  Be non-judgmental and non-defensive.  Some people resonate with the idea of "accompanying" someone on their journey.  Because, at the end of the day, it is their journey."

And, on it goes.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What's your Vision?

I'm curious about the difference between people who have a big vision for their life or their business  and those who have a very small vision.  Some people just think in the 1's and 2's while others think of the 100's and 1000's.  What's the root?

After listening to hundreds of personal and organizational stories over the years, I have begun to form a hypothesis that goes like this:
"The only difference between people who achieve big or small visions is that those who achieve bigger visions believe they are worthy of achieving bigger visions."
It all seems to come down to belief. 

Someone was commenting the other day that a big CEO was hired because he had "an awesome rolodex", meaning he had all kinds of juicy connections that the hiring Board thought would be advantageous.  After ten years though, the CEO's alleged file of connections had not produced any fruit.  What happened?

What I learned was that the CEO came in and found an organization that didn't believe it was worthy of a big vision.  All they wanted was to protect their historical significance.  So, there was no entry point for his "rolodex" to connect.  People with big vision don't tend to connect with people with small vision.

My desire is to have a vision for my life that aligns with the gifts, capacity, and experiences that I have been afforded...  To leave behind a world that, like a campsite, is cleaner then I found it… a world of people living on purpose and using their gifts and talents for the greater good… a world connected by a common concern for the future and the belief that all people are resourceful and whole with the capacity to love and be loved.

I know how easy it is to slip into complacency and comfort.  My desire then is to stay on my edge, to stay in what makes life challenging and sometimes uncomfortable, to continue the pursuit of the uncertain outcome. 

What about you?



Thursday, October 9, 2014

What's Next?

Three young adult leaders of the Syrian Armenian YMCA in Yerevan were at a forum last week and we were able to meet up for a few minutes.  Amidst all of their current challenges and opportunities they have found the YMCA to be the place for their self-expression and contribution.  The three leaders were from three different political parties in Syria and would never have associated had it not been for their displacement and unified desire to support their Syrian community.  What they discovered was they had more to bring them together than to keep them apart.  While facing significant challenges in their current situation, we talked and began to break things down.  We addressed some fears.  We talked about what they were wanting.  As we progressed, I could sense a calming and a resolve to action. 
It occurs to me that this is how change comes about.  When challenged, we can hunker down and protect ourselves and likely not change or grow as we focus on simply surviving.  Another way is to face the challenge, honor our fears, and dig into our deeper desires.  From there, a clarity emerges that ultimately drives and motivates our forward action.
So, it's not so much a single question as it is following a path of exploration and inquiry.  What's going on?  What are you wanting?  What's blocking you?  How are your fears playing in the situation?  What is it you really want?  What might you do to get that?  What's next?
I love what I get to do.