Monthly Blogs 2020

Hope, Humor & Resilience… Brighter Days Ahead


December, 2020

In this entry I offer you three of my favorite video clips, that take only a total of eight minutes to watch. I also include a transcript for each video. I hope you will be uplifted, humored, and strengthened, in preparation for brighter days ahead.

Hope, Video #1

Watch this three minute video, or read the transcript below, to help you anticipate better times ahead. It moved me deeply.
Click here to learn more about the creation of this amazing video.

The Phoenix

When will all this end?
When this will all end…

She sleeps. Our world, she slumbers. Beneath the moon, the stars, the midnight sky, she sleeps, perchance to dream. To her, Mr. Sandman goes.

To us he brings dreams, fever dreams. In dreams we remember what was. We think about what is. We imagine what might be, what can be, what will be.

In dreams we see those we love, those we have loved, those we will love. Do you think when this will all end will we love more? Because when this will all end, we will see things we could not have imagined.

We’ll see heroes jaded, and bloody, and exhausted, and sick and tired and glittering and loved. We’ll see entire nations come together to honor the bravery of those who showed up day after day, night after night, to serve them.

We’ll see a world coming out of hibernation from behind screens, a world that will stop staring and start again on a life less ordinary. When this will all end we’ll see waterfalls, beaches, crocodiles, speeches. We’ll see birds flying high, sun in the sky, and “Hi Nina, we’ll know how you feel, with a new dawn, new day, new life.” And damn it will feel good.

And when this will all end, our hearts will have broken, with millions of tiny shattered tears.

But hearts are strong, and they’ll mend. And as they do they’ll soldier and soldier and grow and flourish, and sew and flow with our souls together, and these souls will too be stronger because of this, and when this will all end we will all be reunited.

So now just for a minute, let’s imagine it. The moment you’ll hear that voice again, see that face again, feel that embrace again.
And we will embrace. The old, the young, the family, the friends, the friendly rivals, the rival rivals, those you would not have thought twice about touching before.

And we will cry. Oh we will cry. Fat, hot, wet tears will flow down our faces and we will hold each other tight, and for far too long, because when this will all end, it won’t feel right to ever let go again.

And when this will all end, you’ll ask me to dance, and I will say yah, let’s dance. For the dawn of a new world, for those we love, for those we have lost, for another chance. And you’ll put on your red shoes and dance my blues away.

And as we sway you’ll look at my eyes with my soul reviving, burning, arising, and those fat hot wet tears will fall and we will never ever forget it, and we will never ever let go again.

And this, this will all end.

Humor, Video #2

In this excerpt from the movie City Slickers, Billy Crystal delivers some good laughs, as he describes life stages to his son’s classmates. Pay special attention to the kids’ and teacher’s reaction in the video. This is a one minute cautionary tale. Spoiler Alert: Billy does find “that one thing” by the end of this uplifting movie.

Value this time in your life kids, because this is the time in your life when you still have your choices, and it goes by so quickly.

When you’re a teenager you think you can do anything, and you do. Your twenties are a blur. Your thirties, you raise your family, you make a little money and you think to yourself, “What happened to my twenties?”

Your forties, you grow a little pot belly, you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud and one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. Your fifties you have a minor surgery. You’ll call it a procedure, but it’s a surgery.

Your sixties you have a major surgery. The music is still loud but it doesn’t matter because you can’t hear it anyway. Seventies, you and the wife retire to Fort Lauderdale, you start eating dinner at two, lunch around ten, breakfast the night before. And you spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate in soft yogurt and muttering “how come the kids don’t call?”

By your eighties, you’ve had a major stroke, and you end up babbling to some Jamaican nurse who your wife can’t stand but who you call Mama. Any questions?

Resilience, Video #3
(after clicking this open, advance to the 15:50 minute mark and the video will begin in the correct section.)

This is a three minute excerpt from one of the most widely viewed and highly rated TED talks ever produced. Psychologist Amy Cuddy teaches us about resilience, using the phrase “fake it till you become it.” Her story will inspire you, and offer a powerful psychological tool for building resilience.

When I was 19, I was in a really bad car accident. I was thrown out of a car, rolled several times. And I woke up in a head injury rehab ward, and I had been withdrawn from college, and I learned that my IQ had dropped by two standard deviations, which was very traumatic. I knew my IQ because I had identified with being smart, and I had been called gifted as a child. So I’m taken out of college, I keep trying to go back. They say, “You’re not going to finish college. Just, you know, there are other things for you to do, but that’s not going to work out for you.” 

So I really struggled with this, and I have to say, having your identity taken from you, your core identity, and for me it was being smart, having that taken from you, there’s nothing that leaves you feeling more powerless than that. So I felt entirely powerless. I worked and worked, and I got lucky, and worked, and got lucky, and worked. 

Eventually I graduated from college. It took me four years longer than my peers, and I convinced someone, my angel advisor, Susan Fiske, to take me on, and so I ended up at Princeton, and I was like, I am not supposed to be here. I am an impostor. And the night before my first-year talk, and the first-year talk at Princeton is a 20-minute talk to 20 people. That’s it. I was so afraid of being found out the next day that I called her and said, “I’m quitting.” 

She was like, “You are not quitting, because I took a gamble on you, and you’re staying. You’re going to stay, and this is what you’re going to do. You are going to fake it. You’re going to do every talk that you ever get asked to do. You’re just going to do it and do it and do it, even if you’re terrified and just paralyzed and having an out-of-body experience, until you have this moment where you say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m doing it. Like, I have become this. I am actually doing this.”

So that’s what I did. Five years in grad school, a few years, you know, I’m at Northwestern, I moved to Harvard, I’m at Harvard, I’m not really thinking about it anymore, but for a long time I had been thinking, “Not supposed to be here.” 

So at the end of my first year at Harvard, a student who had not talked in class the entire semester, who I had said, “Look, you’ve gotta participate or else you’re going to fail,” came into my office. I really didn’t know her at all. She came in totally defeated, and she said, “I’m not supposed to be here.” 

And that was the moment for me. Because two things happened. One was that I realized, oh my gosh, I don’t feel like that anymore. I don’t feel that anymore, but she does, and I get that feeling. And the second was, she is supposed to be here! Like, she can fake it, she can become it. 

So I was like, “Yes, you are! You are supposed to be here! And tomorrow you’re going to fake it, you’re going to make yourself powerful, and, you know — 


And you’re going to go into the classroom, and you are going to give the best comment ever.” You know? And she gave the best comment ever, and people turned around and were like, oh my God, I didn’t even notice her sitting there. (Laughter) 

She comes back to me months later, and I realized that she had not just faked it till she made it, she had actually faked it till she became it. So she had changed. And so I want to say to you, don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it. 

My holiday wish for you is that the words and videos within this blog will help you have a more hopeful holiday season, followed by a happier New Year.

Here’s to hope, humor, resilience, and brighter days ahead!



How to Go Solo Together… A F.A.N. Club Can Help


October, 2020

Could going solo professionally be your future career direction? I began to think seriously about this option in 2001. That is the same year author Daniel Pink published Free Agent Nation, The Future of Working for Yourself. This book has been an inspiration and a compass ever since.

In 2004, long before my 2010 shift to solo entrepreneurship, I took advice from Daniel Pink’s book and formed my first F.A.N. (Free Agent Nation) club with four former clients. We still meet twice yearly. I created my second group, composed of eight solo career and executive coaches, in 2006. We still meet monthly. These groups have been instrumental to my success and well being as a free agent. In this blog I’ll describe F.A.N. Clubs for anyone wishing to go solo, and go farther, by going together.

F.A.N. (Free Agent Nation) Clubs

In 2002, I heard Daniel Pink give the keynote presentation at a conference for career consultants. He had recently published the first edition of his Free Agent Nation book. Pink made a strong case for the inevitable growth and benefits of free agency. He also paid special attention to the needs of his audience, and discussed how solo entrepreneurship could offer great opportunities for both career coaches and their clients.

Before this conference ended, several of us met to discuss both the up and down sides of free agency. There were an abundance of positives already described by Pink in his lecture and book, but we also needed to discuss approaches to the biggest land mines of free agency. We decided that the areas of greatest concern were social isolation, intellectual isolation, inability to leverage resources, and workaholic tendencies.

As it turns out, Pink had already anticipated each of our concerns. In the second edition of his book, published later that same year, he added a resource guide that offered many helpful remedies for the problems we noted.

I listed Daniel Pink’s 101 free agent survival strategies in my January, 2012 blog. Click this link to see this list. In another section of his resource collection, Pink offered 10 suggestions for starting and maintaining a F.A.N. Club.

Think about what you want to accomplish.
Recruit one pal.
Balance similarity with diversity.
Choose the right meeting locale.
Meet at a regular time.
Stick to an agenda.
Meet in person when you can.
Remember that groups evolve (and sometimes devolve.)
Invite me.

My first group successfully incorporated Pink’s suggestions for starting and managing our F.A.N. club. This included inviting him to one of our meetings! At the time, he was working on his book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. During our one hour phone session we discussed his and our ongoing and anticipated challenges and opportunities in free agency. Topics that day included writing, living a free agent life, growing a client base, and dealing with risk and uncertainty.

In our discussion, and over the next several years of regular meetings, my two F.A.N. Clubs have helped us understand free agency from both a wide angle and a finely focused lens. With mutual support, regular meetings, wide ranging discussions and strategic exchanges, both of these F.A.N. clubs have helped us evolve as successful solo entrepreneurs.

My second group, formed in 2006, has met every month for fourteen years. We have maintained the same eight person membership over these years, and have helped one another with the countless ups and downs of independent entrepreneurship. We have traveled far together, and anticipate continuing this group indefinitely as we navigate free agency as a supportive team of equals.


If you choose to leave a corporate working identity and go solo, be sure to get help and advice from both peers and seasoned veterans like Daniel Pink along the way. Don’t let yourself become isolated socially, intellectually or professionally.

Find a way to share the journey with others who can help guide and support your future success, and do the same for them. Create or join a group like the F.A.N. Clubs I have described in this blog. Chances are very good that you will go much farther than you could on your own, and you’ll be happier and more productive along the way. Happy trails to you!


The Portfolio Life Transformation… Five Words to Guide You


October, 2020

Take a close look at the graphic above. Do these words appeal to you? Is this five part description an attractive alternative to what you have seen, heard and read about retirement? If so, let me add five words that will help guide your portfolio life transformation: patience, trust, experiment, curiosity and generosity.

In my thirty year career transition practice, I have mostly served high achieving clients in their fifties and sixties. Many decided they were not going to return to the all consuming demands of an executive level job. If some version of retirement was a viable option, a portfolio life has been a common goal for them.

I pride myself on staying in touch with my former clients, many of whom are now in the retirement stage of their life. As I think about my most successful and happy former clients, their stories and reflections are framed by the words patience, trust, experiment, curiosity and generosity. This blog is about how these words can help you find a path to your portfolio life.


It can take one to three years to settle into a portfolio life. I rarely get pushback on this suggested time frame when asking former clients about their experience. Think about the typical forty plus year professional career. How can a person let go of a powerful working identity and embrace a transformative new identity without the benefit of patience and pacing themselves over an extended period of time?

It is natural to want to move quickly from an ending to a new beginning, but this rarely happens. In fact, there are missed opportunities and many other risks when one tries to move too rapidly from one life stage to another.

I used to run a career transition workshop that included taking class time to ask all participants to read a one page document and comment on what they learned. The most common response to reading that document was, “This should be required reading for everyone going through a career transition. After reading these words, I now feel that what I have been going though psychologically and emotionally is normal, and I am going to be more kind to myself in the future, be more patient and less hurried.”

Here is the link to that one page document. Read it, and you will understand how normal and necessary it is to be patient and self-forgiving as you experience the stages of a major work/life transformation.


Often the best advice, and the best opportunities, will come with an element of surprise. Trust that if you are open to new opportunities, and actively pursue them, answers will gradually come your way. Stanford psychologist, John Krumbholz, coined the term “planned happenstance.” Krumbholz has said, “A satisfying career, and a satisfying life, is found through actively creating your own luck and making the most of new and unforeseen experiences.”

The first word in the Krumbholz term is “planned.” The last blog I wrote was about the planning process associated with creating a portfolio life. Read Creating Your Future, Guided By Your Past, to learn how to do your self-assessment and exploration. Remember that happenstance can be both good and bad, and that your planning process will help you vet opportunities in each of the five portfolio life elements.

For many, trust includes the belief that a higher power is helping guide your life. If this is true for you, this will provide comfort and peace during your journey. For those who don’t hold this same belief, trust will more likely be found in the lessons of life’s experiences and the generous people who will help you along the way. Either way, trust will help you remain optimistic that a portfolio life will one day come together for you.

Experiment & Curiosity

I am a big fan of author and Harvard educator Herminia Ibarra. I have recommended her book Working Identity countless times, and consistently receive favorable reviews. Ibarra’s recommendation for big changes, like creating a portfolio life, is to not risk getting stuck in “analysis paralysis,” but rather to craft experiments and shift connections in order to reality test and learn from others about future possibilities.

Be adventurous by crafting experiments

In her book, Ibarra explains crafting experiments this way, “Try out new activities and roles on a small scale before making a major commitment to a different path. We don’t, as a rule, leap into the unknown. Instead, most of us build a new identity by developing the girders and spans as “side projects.”

Ibarra also offers a cautionary note in her book, “By far the biggest mistake people make when trying to change is to delay taking the first step until they have settled on a destination. This error is so undermining because we learn about ourselves by doing, by testing concrete possibilities.” Don’t just keep thinking about or planning to run experiments in the future. Do them now, or do them soon.

Satisfy your curiosity by shifting connections

Here again are Ibarra’s words of advice, “Shifting connections refers to the practice of finding people who can help us see and grow into our new selves, people we admire, would like to emulate, and with whom we want to spend time. All reinventions require social support. New or distant acquaintances — people and groups on the periphery of our existing networks — help us push off in new directions while providing the secure base in which change can take hold.

We cannot regenerate ourselves in isolation. We develop in and through our relationships with others — the master teaches the apprentice a new craft; the mentor guides a protege through the passage to an inner circle. Yet, when it comes to reinventing ourselves, the people who know us best are also the ones most likely to hinder rather than help. They may wish to be supportive but they tend to reinforce — or even desperately try to preserve — the old identity we are seeking to shed.”


Follow a path with a heart

Read this passage from The Teachings of Don Juan, by Carlos Castaneda.
It will help keep you on a path of generosity. I have framed a copy of this passage, and read it often. It keeps me grounded and reminds me that I both need the gifts from the world, and the world needs my gifts. My goal is to follow a path with a heart all the way to its end. Is this your path as well?

Lead with generosity, but take good care of yourself at the same time. A few months ago I wrote a blog entitled, Balance… What Have You Done For Yourself Lately? In this blog I reference the book Give and Take by Adam Grant. The book compares givers, takers and matchers.

The moral of Grant’s story is that both the most successful and least successful people are the givers. The least successful are the “martyr” givers. They give too much, then burn out and can no longer give abundantly if at all. The most successful givers are what Grant calls the “otherish” givers. They focus first on the needs of others, but have a healthy selfishness and self-protection that prevents them from burnout or becoming a martyred, failed giver.


Patience, trust, experiment, curiosity, generosity… these five words will help guide you towards a portfolio life that has sustainability, satisfaction and purpose. Keep these five words top of mind, and in your daily practices. They will help lay the foundation, and a path, to your portfolio life transformation.


Life & Work After 60… Create your future, guided by your past.


July, 2020

In this blog I will share some of the exercises I use to coach clients over age 60. The most commonly expressed goal of these clients is to one day create a portfolio life, described in the graphic above and in my 2019 blog series. The exercises in this blog will help you create your own version of a portfolio life.

Here are three quotations that make the case for looking back before creating a plan for your future:

“Life is lived forward, but understood backwards.” Soren Kierkegaard, Danish Philosopher

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward.” Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple Computer

“If a glimpse of the future is possible, it must come from an intimacy with the present clarified by the great works of the past.” Robert Kaplan, Journalist

What have been the main themes of your life? Can you pinpoint your most instructive life lessons?

What is Your Life Story?

In the popular play Hamilton, one question is asked repeatedly, “Who writes your story?” While others will contribute and offer their interpretation of your story, ultimately you are the main author. How will you write your next chapter? That is the task in front of you. Start by looking back and connecting the dots from your life’s stories.

Exercise 1) Recreate the above worksheet to record your thoughts. For each of the three life stages within this worksheet, list the highlights and low points of that stage depending on how you feel about that experience. If unsure, put the experience below the line as a “neutral” experience. At the end of this inventory, you will have material to help you complete exercise two.

Exercise 2) If your life were a play, in three acts, what would be the storylines within each act?

Start this exercise by reading my blog about three key elements of your life and work: pleasure, engagement and purpose. If you prefer to get started right away, here are some brief definitions:

Pleasure: This is about being comfortable and having fun. Typically the satisfaction of these activities lasts for a short period of time. You may need to repeat the activities over and over to get more happiness from them.

Engagement: The word “flow” is a helpful way to understand this experience. The state of flow is best described as the moments when your abilities are well matched to a challenging task. You know you are in a state of flow when you lose track of time and are deeply involved with a project or activity in a positive way.

Purpose: The use of your abilities in the service of something outside yourself, or something larger than yourself. Purpose is driven by your core values and by what you really care about in life.

Act 1 is the story of your youth: Birth to age 18

Act 2 is the story of your young adulthood: Age 19 to 35

Act 3 is the story of your adult years: age 36 to now

For each of your three acts, answer these six questions:

1) What you did for pleasure?

2) What you did for engagement?

3) What you did for purpose?

4) Highlights from this chapter of your life.

5) Low points from this chapter of your life.

6) What you are learning about yourself, and how these insights might help you plan your future?

Exercise 3) This exercise is about your thoughts and plans for each of the five portfolio life elements. Include responses to the seven items below when describing your future plan for each element. As you contemplate each question, think back to what you have learned from exercises one and two.

Five Portfolio Life Elements (linked to blogs)

1) Working in the Form I Want

2) Learning and Self-Development

3) Giving Back

4) Healthy Living (Mind, Body, Spirit, Financial and Relationship Health)

5) Enjoying Personal Pursuits and Leisure (Pleasure + Engagement + Purpose)

Seven Questions For Each Portfolio Life Element

1) What is working, or has worked in the past, that I want to continue?

2) Why is this important to me going forward?

3) What I would like to change?

4) Who are my connections inside, and outside, of my network, that can help guide me to achieve this?

5) What small experiments can I try to determine if this will fit and be sustainable?

6) Based on reflections, connections, experiments and happenstance, what have I learned?

7) My three to six month plan includes …..

Next Steps

As you are completing these exercises, discuss your findings with others you trust to be a good sounding board for you. Looking back and making future plans can generate strong feelings. Don’t go it alone.

When you begin to take action, you will likely feel awkward in new situations, especially when new insights and progress take on an unfamiliar shape. Without the support and encouragement of others, you may retreat from growth opportunities, or misinterpret the responses of others. Who do you know that might serve this role for you? Consider a trustworthy advisor or friends who have successfully transitioned into their own version of a portfolio life.

Remain open to surprises and unusual opportunities along the way. Stanford psychologist, John Krumbholz, coined the term “planned happenstance.” Krumbholz believes that, “A satisfying career, and a satisfying life, is found through actively creating your own luck and making the most of new and unforeseen experiences.”


Begin your transition to a portfolio life by doing the first two reflection exercises described in this blog. After that, plan your next steps (exercise three), take action, and remain open to happenstance. As your transition unfolds, let your insights about your past interests, strengths and values be your filter and your guide. Create your future, guided by your past.


The Stockdale Paradox


July, 2020

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Many reading this blog will recall the 2001 book Good To Great, by business guru Jim Collins. This was one of the most widely read and discussed business books in the early 2000s. The book’s goal was to answer this question, “Why do some companies make the leap from good to great, and others don’t?”

As we navigate this Covid-19 pandemic, in these racially charged times, we are searching for success and survival strategies wherever we can find them. Watch this three minute video, featuring Jim Collins, or read his script below, and you will learn about the Stockdale Paradox.

The lessons shared by Admiral Jim Stockdale, born from seven torturous years in a Viet Nam prison camp, simply and brilliantly teach us about success and survival during the most difficult times of our lives.

Jim Collins, May 11, 2014, The Drucker Centennial Conference

Below is my transcription from the Stockdale Paradox segment of his speech. Click here to view this three minute Jim Collins presentation.

“I would like to give you a way of thinking that has been enormously helpful to me. It came from the Good to Great research for dealing with great difficulty, and it was what came to be called the Stockdale Paradox. The Stockdale Paradox was taught to us when we were trying to make sense of the great CEOs. While we were trying to do that I just, by chance, got to know Admiral Jim Stockdale, the highest ranked military officer in the Hanoi Hilton, shot down in 1967, and was there till 1974.

They could pull him out at any time and torture him, and they did. He was tortured over twenty times. I had the privilege to get to know Admiral Stockdale. We were going to the faculty club one day and I had read his book on love and war that was written in alternating chapters by himself and his wife about their years when he was in the camp. I got depressed reading the book, because it seemed so bleak, it seemed so difficult.

It seems like we can all endure something if we know it is going to come to an end, and we know when, but what if you don’t know if it is ever going to end? And you certainly don’t know when. So I asked Admiral Stockdale how he dealt with that, and he said, “You have to realize that I never got depressed because I never, ever wavered in my faith that not only I would get out, but I would turn being in the camp into the defining event of my life. That, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

Later, when we were up the hill, I asked him, “Mr. Stockdale, who didn’t make it out that were as strong as you?” and he said, “Easy, it was the optimists.” I said, “The optimists? You said that you were optimistic.” And he said, “No, I was not optimistic. I never wavered in my faith that I would prevail in the end, but I was not optimistic.” And I said “What is the difference?” And he said, “Well the optimists always thought we would be out by Christmas, and of course Christmas would come and go, and then we were going to be out by Easter or Thanksgiving and then Christmas would come again and they died of a broken heart.”

And that is when Admiral Stockdale grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “This is what I learned. When you are facing great calamity, great difficulty, great uncertainty, you have to, on the one hand, never confuse the need for unwavering faith that you will find a way to prevail in the end with, on the other hand, the discipline to confront the most brutal facts we actually face, and we are not getting out of here by Christmas.”


Powerful Words for Challenging Times


June, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic and the protests and riots about systemic racism have converged. Where do you turn for the right words to help you cope? In this blog I will offer two poems and four quotations that I have turned to and shared in times like these.

About the Soul’s Compass

The Winds of Fate

One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame winds that blow.
Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales
Which tell us the way to go.

Like the winds of the seas are the ways of fate,
As we voyage along through the life.
Tis the set of a soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox, American author


Out of the night that covers me
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley, English poet

Nelson Mandela, while incarcerated at Robben Island prison, recited the poem to other prisoners and was empowered by its message of self-mastery.

The photo below was taken from the shores of Robben Island, looking toward Cape Town, South Africa.

About Peace and Freedom

“You can’t separate freedom from peace
because no one can be at peace unless he has freedom.”

Malcolm X, civil rights activist

About Living a Long and Full Life

“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.”

Edith Wharton, American author

About Your Choices at the Crossroads

“Stay and accept it, stay and change it, or leave it.

These are your healthiest choices when facing extreme frustration. If the first two choices are impossible, then the third choice is imperative.”

George Dow

About Justice, and Faith in the Future

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader

I hope these words have provided you with some helpful guidance for navigating these challenging times.



A Path with a Heart


May, 2020

A Path with a Heart

This is my thirtieth year as a career coach, and my ninth writing blogs. This has been a year like no other. Each of us is navigating personal, professional and community pursuits that have been radically disrupted by the Covid-19 crisis.

Fortunately, most of the suggestions from my nine years of blogging remain valid today. As you prepare for your next step, however, consider one additional tool for your discernment process. This tool consists of just one question, “Does this path have a heart?”

In a time of massive disruption, displacement and political polarization, this question becomes even more important. At risk is our fragile humanity and inherent goodness.

In this blog I will be sharing a book passage by writer Carlos Castaneda. I first read this passage in college, and have returned to it often when facing personal, professional or community decisions.

To help get you in the right mood and mindset, watch this emotionally engaging and inspirational three minute video from Thailand, sent to me by Hilary Beste.

You will hear Thai narration and see English subtitles.

Early in the video, a man puts a donation into the outstretched cup of a small child sitting by her mother. Her sign reads “For Education.”

This is one of many kind acts the man performs in his day.

The Narrator says:

“What does he get in return for doing this every day?

He gets nothing.

He won’t get richer.

Won’t appear on TV.

Still anonymous.

And not a bit more famous.

What he does receive are emotions.

He witnesses happiness.

Reaches a deeper understanding.

Feels the love.

Receives what money can’t buy.

A world made more beautiful.

And in your life,

what is it that you desire most?”

The following passage from The Teachings of Don Juan, by Carlos Castaneda, is about following a path with a heart.

“Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary.

Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.

Before you embark on any path ask the question: Does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose another path. A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it.”

I encourage you to ask yourself, “Does this path have a heart?” at your next personal, professional or community crossroad. I also suggest you reread and edit the path with a heart passage. Replace the words “a heart” each time they appear in the text with integrity, purpose, love or your own preferred word(s). This exercise will help you find your path of least resistance and greatest fulfillment.

Take care, stay well, and remember to follow your heart.


Finding Hope in Words & Images from Ireland


May, 2020

With all the personal losses and unending disruptions that began just a few months ago, this month I write about hope. I have chosen to feature an uplifting new video to help us imagine our world beyond Covid-19, while still grounded in the realities of the present. I have included the video’s background and full script in this blog. Thanks to Hillary Beste for bringing this amazing video to my attention.


Irish actress Eva-Jane Gaffney speaks Sarah Coffey’s words in The Phoenix, a three minute Covid-19 inspired video about love and loss, hope and strength. The production is from Dublin-based creative agency The Tenth Man.

Over a collection of Irish and international film footage, the narrator looks back, grounds us in the present, and asks us to imagine the future.

Sarah Coffey wrote the script after a conversation with her creative director Richard Seabrooke, “We wanted to create something raw and honest that came from the heart, so what you see in the video is my first response, which I wasn’t expecting!”

The Phoenix

When will all this end?

When this will all end…

She sleeps. Our world, she slumbers. Beneath the moon, the stars, the midnight sky, she sleeps, perchance to dream. To her, Mr. Sandman goes.

To us he brings dreams, fever dreams. In dreams we remember what was. We think about what is.We imagine what might be, what can be, what will be. In dreams we see those we love, those we have loved, those we will love. Do you think when this will all end will we love more? Because when this will all end, we will see things we could not have imagined.

We’ll see heroes jaded, and bloody, and exhausted, and sick and tired and glittering and loved. We’ll see entire nations come togetherto honor the bravery of those who showed up day after day, night after night, to serve them.

We’ll see a world coming out of hibernation from behind screens, a world that will stop staring and start again on a life less ordinary. When this will all end we’ll see waterfalls, beaches, crocodiles, speeches. We’ll see birds flying high, sun in the sky, and “Hi Nina, we’ll know how you feel,with a new dawn, new day, new life.” And damn it will feel good.

And when this will all end, our hearts will have broken, with millions of tiny shattered tears.

But hearts are strong, and they’ll mend. And as they do they’ll soldier and soldier and grow and flourish, and sew and flow with our souls together, and these souls will too be stronger because of this, and when this will all end we will all be reunited.

So now just for a minute, Let’s imagine it. The moment you’ll hear that voice again, see that face again, feel that embrace again.

And we will embrace. The old, the young, the family, the friends, the friendly rivals, the rival rivals, those you would not have thought twice about touching before. And we will cry. Oh we will cry. Fat, hot, wet tears will flow down our faces and we will hold each other tight, and for far too long, because when this will all end, it won’t feel right to ever let go again.

And when this will all end, you’ll ask me to dance and I will say yah, let’s dance. For the dawn of a new world, for those we love, for those we have lost, for another chance. And you’ll put on your red shoes and dance my blues away.

And as we sway you’ll look at my eyes with my soul reviving, burning, arising, and those fat hot wet tears will fall and we will never ever forget it and we will never ever let go again.

And this, this will all end.


Finding Comfort in Music


April, 2020

Borrowing from the lyrics of Bob Dylan, this month I’ll give you “shelter from the storm.” In difficult times I turn to music for comfort, connection and inspiration.

The songs I will highlight in this blog offer these three elements in ways that only music can. If you click the links, you’ll learn how the songs of Simon and Garfunkel, Marvin Gaye, Carole King, James Taylor and Bill Withers bring me comfort and a whole lot more. You can make your own list of comforting music if you like.


Simon and Garfunkel sing Bridge Over Troubled Water,1970

This song came out when we were still in the throes of the Vietnam war, deeply divided as a nation. Music was a unifying force for my generation, and provided the soundtrack for our anti-war protests. Songs like this one offered a reminder that we are not alone in our struggles. It helped us remember our need to comfort and support one another as we bridge to what lies beyond the current struggle.

Why I love this song

Art Garfunkel told Paul Simon that the song needed one more verse. Simon thought he was done after the second verse. He said it was to be “just a simple little hymn.” That final verse helps prepare us for life beyond the struggle, beginning with the words “sail on silver girl.”

In this video, created in January of this year, you will hear the stories behind the song. Included is studio footage from 1970 and present day commentary from Paul Simon, with references to the song’s gospel inspiration and how and why that additional verse was added.

Comfort + Connection

Carole King and James Taylor sing You’ve Got a Friend at the Troubadore in 2010

This is another song from the early 1970s. This video clip is from a wonderful 2010 reunion of the originator, Carole King, and the person who first sang the song commercially, James Taylor.

The late Bill Withers’ Lean On Me was originally written and performed by him in 1972. This version was performed by artists from around the world in 2015.

Why I love these songs and videos

I love how Carole King and James Taylor came together in 2010 to sing You’ve Got a Friend. This is a tribute to their friendship and collaborations over many decades. Their 60+ year old voices are strong and beautifully matched in this video.

I also love how the performing of Lean on Me became an international tapestry in this expertly produced video, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Minnesota Public Radio recently asked us to sing each of these songs from our open front doors on April 16th (You’ve Got a Friend) and April 24th (Lean on Me.) Public Radio offered us the musical accompaniment, words and the cue to start singing. We followed along with our shared voices to help lift the spirits of our neighborhoods.

Comfort + Innovation + inspiration

Marvin Gaye’s Star Spangled Banner, at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game

You have heard this song hundreds of times, but I bet you have never heard it sung like this. Marvin Gaye takes it to a very special soulful place.

Why I love this version of the song

When Marvin Gaye sang the national anthem his way, he turned a routine, predictable experience upside down. In so doing, he invited us to experience the thrill of transformation along with the comfort of national pride.

Take care and stay well. May your music comfort, connect and inspire you in the challenging and transformational days ahead.



Balancing Head & Heart


April, 2020

On Monday morning I noticed this headline in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Trooper’s gesture moves doctor to tears. For a good example of a person whose head and heart are in balance, and in the right place, read what state trooper Brian Schwartz did to move Dr. Sarosh Ashraf Janjua to tears and hope. Have some Kleenex handy.

In this blog I will share two excellent writings, one from an academic and one from a minister. In the first, titled It Might Be, the author helps us rethink what is happening now, and what future implications might be. The second piece is titled Pandemic. It speaks of our hearts and the emotional and spiritual adjustments we can make in light of what we are all experiencing.

It Might Be

by Tanja Draxler, Austrian Academic
Sent to me by art teacher and friend, Amy Hart

It might be that ships in Italian ports will lie idle for the next few days, … but it might also be that dolphins and other marine creatures will finally be allowed to take back their natural habitat. Dolphins have been sighted in Italian ports, the fish are swimming in Venice’s canals again!

It might be that people feel locked up in their houses and apartments, … but it might also be that they are finally singing together again, helping each other and experiencing a sense of community again for a long time. People sing together! This touches me deeply!

It might be that the restriction of air traffic means a deprivation of freedom for many people and brings with it professional restrictions, … but it might also be that the earth breathes a sigh of relief, the sky gains in color and children in China see the blue sky for the first time in their lives. Look at the sky today, how calm and blue it has become!

It might be that the closure of kindergartens and schools is an immense challenge for many parents,…but it might also be that many children have been given the chance to finally become creative themselves, to act more self-determined and to slow down. And also parents may get to know their children on a new level.

It might be that our economy suffers tremendous damage, … but it might also be that we finally realize what is really important in our lives and that constant growth is an absurd idea of the consumer society. We have become the puppets of the economy. It was time to realize how little we actually need.

It might be that you are somehow overwhelmed by this, … but it might also be that you feel that in this crisis lies the chance for a long overdue change, that
– makes the earth breathe again,
– puts children in touch with long forgotten values,
– is slowing our society down enormously,
– can be the birth of a new form of togetherness,
– reduces the mountains of rubbish at least once for the next few weeks,
– and shows us how quickly mother Earth is ready to begin her regeneration if we make people consider her and let her breathe again.

We are shaken up because we were not ready to do it ourselves. Because our future is at stake. It’s about the future of our children!


by Lynn Ungar, Unitarian Minister
Sent to me by U of M professor and friend, Lou Quast

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath-
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love-
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.


Balance… What have you done for yourself lately?


March, 2020

In the next two months I was scheduled to conduct four workshops with this same title. All but one were postponed, like just about everything involving groups over ten people. In this blog I will share a version of my workshop. It feels like the right time for this message.

The inspiration for this workshop comes from Wharton Economist, Adam Grant. In his book Give & Take Grant discusses three broad styles of interpersonal dealing: taking, matching, and giving. Takers are those who try to take more than they give. Matchers are those who try to give and take proportionally and conditionally. Givers are those who give more than they take. Takers are primarily self-oriented, matchers are other-oriented as a means to being self-oriented (I’ll help you, when I think you will help me.) Givers are primarily other-oriented.

Here’s the counter-intuitive part. If we look at the most successful people – the happiest, the most likely to be promoted, etc. – they are generally givers, and if we look at the least successful, they, too, tend to be givers. The failed giver is a person who gives to others, but fails to care for him/ herself.

The most successful givers, according to Grant, are what he calls “otherish” givers. They lead with sincere generosity, but have a healthy selfishness that protects them from burnout, illness, or being taken advantage of.

The first half of this workshop focuses on updating your personal, professional and community giving strategies. The second half focuses on what you want to continue, and what you want to change for your mental, physical, spiritual, financial and relationship well-being.

Leading with Generosity…
Building a legacy of personal, professional and community giving

Over the past thirteen years I have been one of the presenters at Leadership Philadelphia. This is a civic engagement/ leadership development program led by my sister, Liz Dow. In my session I ask the participants to answer this question: “If today was your 75th birthday, and life has gone really well for you, what would people be thanking you for?”

The Leadership Philadelphia program includes a full day of immersion into a different civic theme each month over a ten month period. I tell each participant that one of the most important outcomes of these deep dives is to ultimately discover and pursue their next community calling. Each year I have these 120 for-profit and non-profit leaders do this exercise because their 75th birthday vision can help shape more immediate priorities and actions.

Round one involves asking three imagined 75th birthday guests of your choice what they would like to thank you for. These guests include one each from your personal, professional and community life. Each table guest can be one person, or a composite of multiple people. If you were in this class, what would each representative be thanking you for?

Round two asks these same three people about today. What would each representative suggest you continue to do, and what would each suggest you change in order to achieve your 75th birthday vision? Please note when you do this exercise that each representative may be alive or not. Go ahead, try it.
After you are done, ask yourself, “What do I want to continue, and what do I want to change?”

The Counterbalance to Giving…
What is your well-being/self-care strategy? What have you done for yourself lately?

Key elements of a self-care strategy include our mental, physical, spiritual, financial and relationship wellbeing. Even though we are now more isolated and limited in the things we can do, it is time to find some safe forms of interpersonal, mental, financial, spiritual and physical activities.

What are you reading and watching these days? How are you taking good physical care of yourself? Do you have a spiritual practice? Are you keeping up with your relationships that matter most? Have you found a financial coping strategy, and the right people to discuss this strategy with? There are many good resources and people to tap for ideas.

For some excellent practical and creative advice, take a look at this recent article that includes links to self care resources in most of the areas I have highlighted in this blog: Morning Brew’s Guide to Living Your Best Quarantined Life.

In my workshop, I ask participants to pair up and identify the well-being strengths and strategies they can give to others, and what advice they would like to receive in areas of well- being that they wish to develop and improve.


I am happy to offer this blog as an alternative to the workshops that were scheduled for the next two months, and have now been postponed due to the coronavirus. I encourage you to try the exercises yourself, and team up (virtually) with others as well. In the workshop I did complete, participants had the opportunity to rethink and adjust their personal, professional and community giving strategies while focusing on the legacy they wish to shape in each of these three areas of life.

Another outcome of the live workshop was participants’ appreciation of at least one strength each had to give and the advice and support they wanted to take to improve their well- being. Each participant also left with an accountability partner to check on their progress the following week.

In addition to rethinking your giving and well-being strategy, please remember to read the article I referenced about living your best quarantined life. It is rich with ideas and links to help you now, and touches on most of the well-being elements highlighted in this blog.

Here is a humorous and helpful coronavirus coping video that came my way this week. Recorded in China, it is a five minute video from a Chinese speaking American comedian, Jesse Appell.

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Victor Borge

Let me know what you have done for yourself lately. How are you strengthening your well-being while at the same time giving to others? Let’s help one another get through this crisis, by sharing our best ideas and offering support along the way.

Take care, stay well,