Borrowed Words: Lao Tzu on Dreams


“Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.”

– Lao Tzu

The Evil Mr. P…….Or Is It?


When it comes to self-treachery, he is the Master of Ceremonies, the Big Kahuna, the “He Who Will Not Be Named,’ of nearly all that is unholy.

Yes indeed-y.

And it’s not like we shouldn’t have sussed out by now that when Mr. P comes knocking at our door, (like a scene out of a Wes Craven film) We. Should. Never. Let. Him. In.  NEVER.  We know better.  We know we know better.  But just like that ‘her life obviously isn’t going to end well’ babysitter, we do.  Time and time again.

And we’ve tried everything to keep the evil Mr. P away.  We’ve set-up convoluted little motivational tricks; had countless ‘I really mean it this time’ self-talks; beaten ourselves over the head like Vince Lombardi during a losing game.  From bashing to bartering to bribing, we’ve tried it all.  Still, no matter how much we resist, procrastination persists.  (Even though we know––and this is what’s crazy––that the worst part of any task is never the task, but the angst that comes from avoiding the task.)

“Why, why, why,” you may very well ask yourself, “is procrastination so hard to beat?”

Bottom Line?  Procrastination is hard to lick because it’s a complicated little devil––a virtual multiple personality disorder of self-affliction.  There are so many combinations of drivers and causes, it’s nearly impossible to keep track.  Everything from situational (such as fatigue, temporary emotional turmoil, ‘first timers’ fear); to skills and habit-driven causes (such as task planning and organization); to chronic procrastination (such as the kind caused by perfectionism).  Add conscious versus sub-conscious ingredients to the mix, and pretty soon, you end up with a mighty bitter stew.

Depressed yet?  Don’t be.  If you want to beat it (and I mean really want to) and seriously commit to doing so, procrastination can be conquered.  There are strategies and resources galore to help you on your way––to insure that the next time Mr. P comes knocking, that door of yours will be bolted shut.  Coated in Kevlar.  Covered in Steel.

But that, my friend, (and sorry for this little blogging bait and switch) is a topic for another day.  What I really want to talk about is when procrastination isn’t procrastination.  The times when the subconscious forces that won’t let you write that book; or finish your medical school application; or say yes, even though he’s told you, ‘he’s asked for the very last time;’ are something different.  When the resistance comes from a place deep within you that knows––with every fiber of it’s being––that the course you’re currently on, is not the right one for you.  The times when procrastination is really…….wisdom.

“Great,” you say, “Thanks for the  eleventh hour monkey wrench…..Just one thing…..How the heck do I know whether it’s wisdom knocking or simply procrastination trying out its latest little trick?”

Well… with most things of a more metaphysical nature, the answer is rather… do I put this…..well, it’s actually rather annoying.  Because really, “You’ll ‘know when you know.”  Intuition and wisdom are a meta-cognition thing––a ‘knowing about knowing’––and meta-cognition is a skill that develops over time, as you become more attuned to your inner-self.

“Yeah, great,” you say, scratching your frustrated brow.  “But what do you do in the interim––before you’ve developed discernment skills?  When you have a hunch that your procrastination is actually your wisdom talking, but you don’t know for sure?”

Well, there are many things you can do, but here are a few of the more important ones to get you started:   (Number One is KEY.)

1) Don’t make any rash decisions.  Until you know whether you’ve got a case of procrastination wisdom, or just plain procrastination, make sure you leave every door open.  Think:  Insurance Plan.  Submitting your medical school application does not mean you actually have to go to medical school, but at least you’ll have the option.

2) Create a checklist of procrastination drivers and walk your ‘procrastination challenge’ through the list.  Are you not filling out that application because you are scared you won’t be accepted?  (Fear-based procrastination.)  Or, are you’re letting your Facebook crack habit get in the way?  Or, do you really, really, REALLY not want to go to med school?

3) Detail all your options.  If you are having a difficult time completing ‘this’ book, perhaps it’s because you have a hunch that there’s a better book you could be writing.  Do a creative brain dump and see what emerges.  Be forewarned though––project fatigue can be a bit devious.  Make sure you’re not falling in love with the ‘new idea’ simply because it is the younger, sleeker, less troublesome (for now) version of what you’ve already got.

4) Keep moving forward.  Don’t let this period of assessment morph into a justification for inaction. (Doing nothing will only cause you to feel badly about yourself.)  If you suspect the reason you constantly battle procrastination at work is because you’re in the wrong field, don’t stop performing.  As difficult as it may be, keep pushing forward while you explore options.  Reward your perseverance by getting creative.  Take skills tests; look at job postings; talk to the pros who can help you finally find what it is that moves you.  But whatever you do, just make sure you keeping doing.

5) Consult your trusted advisers.  Lay out the issues and detail what you’ve already done to ‘stop what’s stopping you.’  You may just find you’ll get to the answer on your own––just by talking it through.

6) Meditate, get outdoors, get physical.  Find the place that allows you to connect (without distraction) to what is going on inside you.  And remember to listen to your body––it always ‘knows’––often way before you do.

7) Stay positive.  The answer will become clear.  It always does.

Finally, remember that procrastination––no matter what its form––always has something to teach us.  By confronting procrastination (versus running from it) we uncover tremendous opportunities for growth.  Everything from learning better project management skills; to developing strategies to conquer fear; to dissolving the root causes of perfectionism.

As long as you’re prepared, (as long as you do the work) you’ve got absolutely nothing to fear.  The Evil Mr. P is not nearly as bad-a** as he thinks.

Brand You: The Problem with Resumes

Resumes.  Ah.  Now that’s a tricky one.


Because resumes label and most people can’t see past labels.  So if your label doesn’t precisely match the one the organization is searching for, then you’ll get dismissed, straight out-of-the-gate.

It takes an out-of-the-box thinker to see that what you’ve done or where you’ve studied doesn’t equate to who you are.  It takes an innovator to understand that a person’s past (or lack of one) does not mentor their future.

But the real hurdle is not the question of whether the resume handler has the chops to get past your past…it’s whether or not you do.

Can you see how your film school background makes you uniquely qualified to manage new media initiatives?  Or that those CPA initials don’t forever brand you as a non-creative?  Because if you can’t, it’s a certainty that no one else will.

Re-branding yourself is not simply about dusting off and polishing up an old resume.  It’s more than that:  It’s about reinvention.  And reinvention ain’t for sissies.  It takes courage.  The courage to shed the labels of your past and redefine yourself for the future.  The courage to stand steady under fire.  The courage to act with fearless determination no matter how many times you hear the word ‘no.’

So before you begin to sell yourself, make sure you believe in what you’re selling.  And remember, the only devil at the gate is you.

Spreading the Valentine’s Day Love

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou

Remember the days when Valentine’s wasn’t just about overpriced dinners and ridiculous underwear?  The days of pigtails and innocence, and dime store cards and candy hearts.  When February 14 wasn’t just for lovers, or closest family and best friends, but a day in which we cast a wider net of appreciation––A card for our teacher; the neighbor next store who let you swim in her pool; the babysitter who painted your toenails glittery red.

Maybe it’s time to get back to some Valentine’s Day basics.  To remember that this is not just a day when lovers get to stare googly-eyed across linen tablecloths, but a day we each have the opportunity to express loving gratitude to all those in our lives who matter.  To the assistant who always gets things right; the product team for pulling those all nighters; and the unsung heroes in the warehouse who made sure you shipped in time.

A day to honor all the people who do things for you not because they have to, but because they want to.  Because you take the time to let them know how vital they are and how much they mean to you.  Because you know, the single most important thing, is how you make them feel.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all.


The Art of the Preposterous Proposal

(And why it’s not so preposterous after all.)

Many of us, (women especially) have a hard time acknowledging our value and establishing our self-worth.  We agonize over what a client can pay (versus what they should), or that our boss will wince when we ask for that raise.  And because we worry we’ll come across too arrogantly when we push those deal terms across the table, we sell ourselves short.  We let the fear of ‘no’ (the fear of rejection) stop us before we even begin.

How do we get past this? Well, the short answer is, “It’s really, really hard.”  In fact, the tendency to self-discount is one of the most difficult things in the world to overcome.  Why?  Because there are layers and layers of emotional, psychological and cultural complexities that underlie issues of low self-worth.  Conquering this big daddy, doesn’t happen overnight.  But it if you’re committed, and you keep working it, you will beat it.  You just gotta keep believing.

In the meantime, (as you’re working on the root causes) there are some tools you can use to help you push your way through and up; starting with an exercise I call the ‘Preposterous Proposal.’  Here’s how it works:

1) Next time you pitch a project, negotiate a raise, or put deal terms in front of investors, first write yourself a ‘Preposterous Proposal’––one that accrues so advantageously to your benefit, you can’t imagine anyone in their right mind saying yes to it. (This step should make you uncomfortable; even a wee bit embarrassed by the scope and scale of your ask.)

2) Once you’ve written your ‘Preposterous Proposal,’ SHOW yourself all the ways the essence of your shining star (your experience, your unique skill set, your commitment to the extraordinary, your company’s competitive advantage) makes what you’re asking for not so very preposterous at all. To help push yourself along, imagine you’ve hired a PR firm to put the spin on ‘you’, or an advertising agency to create your Superbowl commercial.  What would that look and sound like?  How might someone else sing your praises?  (It is important that you really give this part of the exercise an appropriate level of attention––you have to believe in what you’re asking for so make a case for it; pull out numbers and spreadsheets if you need to; look at customer testimonials; write a list of all your career successes.  Get to know yourself again––your true self––the one worth every penny she’s asking for.)

3) Take the first draft of your ‘Preposterous Proposal,’ save a version and put it aside.

4) Using the first draft as a starting point, eliminate any “I’m King of the World!” ridiculousness. (Those bits were only there to help you get over the ‘I’m not worthy’ hurdle.)  Professionalize it; put it in a form that you can pitch with a straight face.  (Selling is good; embellishments of truth are not.  Make SURE everything you infer factually is indeed a fact.)

5) Now here’s the telling part: Take your original ‘Preposterous Proposal,’ along with your revised proposal, to a trusted third-party (adviser/mentor/coach) and ask for their opinion.  Have you watered down your first ‘out of your comfort zone’ proposal too much? Are you still selling yourself short, or does your revised proposal feel like it is ‘on the money’?  (An objective opinion from a skilled professional will help insure you don’t leave money on the table.)

6) Next, a reality check.  This exercise is about helping you push the envelope so you get comfortable with making a much ‘bigger ask.’  But you simultaneously have to get comfortable with what doing so may mean.  You may indeed, hear ‘no.’  In certain instances ‘no’ will open the door to a negotiated ‘yes’ that creates a fabulous win.  In others, the first ‘no’ will be the end of it.  If that thought makes you a little nervous, I get it.  Sometimes you just can’t afford a ‘no’––especially when you’re first starting out.  But, here’s the deal: It’s better that you make a conscious decision to discount your services versus allowing your insecurities to discount you.

7) Finally, a note on civility.  Generally speaking, people don’t take issue with the fact you’ve asked; what they take issue with is how you’ve asked.  Remember this is an ask, not a demand.  Be respectful and gracious, even when you’re turned down.  And remember, don’t take any of it personally.  No person or company or ‘no’, establishes your self-worth.  You do that;  for yourself, by yourself.

Keep at this long enough and in time, it will become second nature.  And as with most things in this miraculous Universe of ours, once you get comfortable with who you are and what your value is;  doors will open and opportunities will find you.

You Got to Feel to Heal

Oh, how I wish it weren’t so.  Wish you could just push aside all those fears and hurts; regrets and false moves.  Wish you could hide them in the back of your closet alongside all that other stuff you own but would rather forget–––like camping gear and that very odd hat you bought two summers ago.  But it is doesn’t work that way and no amount of wishing will make it so.  Simply put:  You got to feel to heal.

But wait a minute.  What’s that you say?  Denial is working just fine, thank you very much!  Well, maybe it is…for now.  Maybe you can hold on and out for a little bit longer, but eventually, denial will come looking for you, wanting his due.  And if denial and his thug friends have to track you down, well, it won’t be pretty my friend.  No siree.  It will NOT be pretty.

Fine, you say, but what the heck does this have to do with my business, anyway?  Unfinished business effects your business––that’s just the way it works.  As much as we’d like to believe that we can compartmentalize, we can’t––there is interrelatedness in everything we think/feel/do.  Derail yourself; and in time, your business will follow.

So you can do this one of two ways––on your own terms, and in your own way….Or, you can fall prey to those cosmic forces that will even the score in ways that are infinitely less subtle; less gentle than if you head them off at the pass.  Either way, you’re gonna have to deal.

But you get to decide:  Are you going to make friends with your past  (heal it, purge it) or are you going to let it rob you of your future?  One of the two of you ain’t getting outta here alive.  It’s your choice.  Him or you?

Wobbly Legs and Wisdom: Finding Your Way Through Change

Growth Strategies.  New Business.  Divorce.  Second Chapters.  Reinvention.  Kids Gone.  Mid-Life.  New Life.

Transitions:  Unpredictable.  Exciting. Terrifying.

Especially when most everyone around you is shaking their heads and thinking you’ve gone crazy.  You mean you’re going to quit that high six-figure job to…..what?….did you say write a novel?… you know no one gets published?  Cutting a demo? Uh, huh. Sure.  You want to…what did you say….let go our largest customer and change market strategy…now?…..uh, how exactly do you expect to make payroll?

Big and bold.  The only changes that really matter;  the ones hardest to make.

So how do you know you haven’t lost your mind; that you aren’t quixotically chasing windmills and showing the first telltale  signs of self-delusional mania?  Well…I hate to tell you…but in the beginning, you often don’t….But you go forward anyway because you just know there’s no other option for you.

But what do you do when you’re not so sure?  When you feel like you’re about to risk it all and the only thing you know for sure is that you don’t know anything for sure?

Well; you begin at the beginning.  You search and investigate; read and ask; experiment and fail; in short, you seek.  You assemble a team: Coaches and mentors, boards and advisers, therapists and healers, psychics and tarot card readers–––whatever suits your fancy and floats your yet-to-be honed internal wisdom boat. You ask for feedback; you gather reference points; you take it all in.

And you do all that…only….if you are also willing to cast it all aside.  To take that which resonates and find your own way.  And that’s tricky in the beginning.  Tricky and majorly scary.  But trust me, over time those wobbly legs of internal wisdom develop enough heft to support even the weightiest of all your big, bold moves.

But warning! wisdom newbies…as with any tale of heroics, there’s a cautionary one here as well.  And it’s important so please, listen-up–––Because of anything, this is the one thing that can capsize that adventure-seeking boat of yours before it’s even left the dock:

When you’re about to do something new and exciting; something that is a departure from everything you’ve ever done; the big thing that will undoubtedly redefine who you are and who you are destined to become: It’s often the people who love you most whose advice will matter the least.  Paradoxically, and sometimes even tragically.

And why? Because the people who love you most, have a vested interest in who you are today; in preserving the status quo.  They’re the people who’ve paid for your education; who’ve met you at the end of the aisle; loaned you the money; have known you since you were ‘knee-high to a grasshopper.’  If you change; a part of them is forced to change as well.  Ooh.  Talk about scary….and threatening.

Which is not to say you secretly take out a loan without your spouse knowing, or quit a job with no way of paying the rent, or blow up the landscape around you so that it is as empty and barren as a moonscape.  Nope.  That would be foolish.

But sometimes, you will find that there are people in your life you will have no choice but to leave behind.  Who refuse to see you in any other way than how you used to be; who for whatever reasons of their own, can’t let go.  So when those naysayers and fear mongers surround you, smile at them and forgive them….and let them go.

And remember, at some point, you’ll need to quiet all those external voices anyway. You’ll need to go deep inside yourself to look for the answers on your own.  And you’ll find that they are there–––where they’ve always been–––right from the very beginning.

Good luck,  pioneers!


Monthly Mitzvah

One good act.  A simple gesture of kindness.

Helping the elderly shopper at the drugstore find the right battery when she can’t quite see the label.  Letting the one item customer cut ahead of you in line––making his day, or so you’re told.  Smiling at the homeless man even when there is a part of you that is scared by those crazy eyes.  Giving an assist to your frazzled co-worker, knowing that none of the credit for that sparkling presentation will go to you. Choosing to not go off on the customer service rep when your flight is delayed––for the third time that day.

That’s it.  Just one little act;  just once a month.

And not like you need a reason, but know with unshakable certainty, that the joy you’re spreading will be returned to you.

Vision: The Land of Great Imaginings

Ah, Vision…..The Land of Great Imaginings where your Inner Fairy Princess waves her virtual wand and makes all your dreams come true.  A magical world where hope grows on trees and the rivers flow with the sweet elixir of the possible.  A land of illimitable yes.

The Land of Vision is a place where no desire is too fantastic, no dream too fanciful.  A place where the you of your greatest imaginings (wearing Tom Ford, of course) accepts her second Oscar with a speech that will have them talking for years–––without the wardrobe malfunction.

There are no Naysayers or Bubble Bursters in the Land of Vision.  No editorials or ‘yeah buts.’  They live in another world––a cold and scary dominion that you will eventually have to visit, but not now; not yet.

For now, you are going to let yourself dance with joy from the sheer, magnificent possibility of it all.  You are going to walk the Red Carpet; launch the next Internet powerhouse; find the cure for cancer.  Script that Ted talk; pack for your book tour.  You are going to imagine yourself exactly where and how you want to be.

So yes, reality will eventually try and strip the sparkles from your wand.  But not today.  Today, you’re rocking it.  And the stadium is sold-out.

The Art of the Possible: Goal Setting For A New Year

Ah, the exuberance of a New Year.

When all your infinite imaginings seem possible.  When you just know all you have to do is will it and write it and it will happen.  And so you do.

You write your lists with your new pen (bought ‘specially) on your new paper (it cost $1 a sheet so it has to work). You rip pages from magazines with furious vigor and cut and paste them onto vision boards. You plot and schedule and create spreadsheets and color-coded calendars layering in all those things you’ve promised you’ll do.  And then you lean back self-satisfied, because after all, this is a new year.  The year.  You just know it.  Really.

And of course, we all know what comes next…..The end of January sneaks up and along with it the overwhelming realization that no matter what your best intentions were, you’re back in the same place you were the year before.  Nothing’s different, nothing’s changed.  And to top it off, you feel even worse than than you did before you set out to conquer that mountain of goals.  Feel worse for having broken that umpteenth promise to yourself.  Yet again.

It’s not that goals and lists are bad; because they are not. In fact, the right goals can generate remarkable results.  It’s just that we tend to go about it all wrong.  We start with what feels like punishment (losing weight=giving up things I love) and expect the results to be different than they were the last forty times we wrote down that goal.  Or we task ourselves with achieving more things then is humanly possible (all by next Thursday) and then wonder why we feel so badly when we don’t do what was never doable in the first place.

So, before you let yourself get swept into the Bermuda Triangle that is the New Year’s goal-setting vortex, let me make a suggestion:

Put down the pens and paper and the spreadsheets and goal-setting apps for now.  Take a hike, go for a jog, make love to your partner, meditate.  Whatever suits your fancy.  Give that lizard brain of yours a break because this year,  I’m going to suggest you to do things differently.  I’m going to encourage you to be more fluid, more creative; to think abstractly.

And when you’re ready I’m going to ask you to sit back, relax and take some time to ponder.  To let that big, active positive brain of yours take a walk through the land of the possible. I’m going to ask you to really think about what would need to happen for you to end 2013 feeling really great about yourself.  What would a successful year look like? How might it feel? What would you need to change, initiate or achieve to help you get there––to make you feel like you’ve moved your life forward in an extraordinary way?

Now, from all the things milling about in your head,  I’d like for you to create a short list of the ones that resonate most and once you’ve got those clear, I’m going to ask you to narrow it down even further.  I’m going to ask you to identify the one high-level commitment you could make this year that would fundamentally change your life.  Then, take a moment to imagine how your life would be further transformed if you were able to keep this high-level commitment to yourself for the rest of your life.  Wow.  How powerful would that be?

And whatever it is you’ve come up with, I can pretty much guarantee that losing 10 pounds didn’t even make it to your short list––It’s just not big enough. But perhaps, making a commitment to healthful living did. And while ‘spending less’ isn’t there either, ‘creating a positive relationship with money’ just might be.

What happens if you allow your thinking to grow even more expansive?  To consider broad, sweeping goals that may, on the face of it, seem so abstract and high-level as to not be actionable?

Imagine what your life would be like if you ‘always kept your word?’ Think about that for a second.  You would never say ‘yes’ when you meant ‘no’. You would think clearly and rationally about the things you committed to before you pledged your word. Think of the disappointment you could avoid––with yourself and with others.  Marriage vows would either be kept or turned upside down and written entirely differently.  Does this mean you would install a trapdoor and parachute into everything you did?  No.  Absolutely not.  You would still challenge yourself––but only with the possible.  You wouldn’t set out to write a best-seller, but what you would do, is set out to write the best book you possibly could and work diligently (even in the face of rejection) to secure its success.

Imagine what it be like to ‘overcome fear’ or even better, to commit ‘to show up in spite of it’?  What would your life look like if you decided to live without shame?  How would that impact the choices you made on a daily basis? Or what if you went on a campaign to ‘banish regret’ and ‘conquer procrastination’?  Or determined to be proud of yourself everyday?  How might the lives of the people you touch be impacted if you vowed to ‘practice kindness’ and ‘live with compassion’?  How might deciding to ‘leave a legacy of love’ change the lives of your children?

These things seem big…I know…sometimes too big…. But I assure you, these are achievable goals.  Profound commitments which when made (and kept) will have the most far-reaching positive consequences on your life of anything you ever endeavor to do.  And ironically, goals which are easier to keep than committing to achieving a 10% increase in revenues.  Why?  Because they are within your control.  Entirely.

So this year, I encourage you to start here.  Start with the big things––the perspective shifters; the game changers.  The broad sweeping goals that you, (being you) will eventually take out and look at; dissect and contemplate; create intentions towards and myriad action lists and to dos for.  But not today.  Today, on this glorious first day of the New Year, put your spreadsheets back in the closet alongside that dusty old inventory of last year’s goals.  Bury them along with the ‘punitive’ and ‘never would work’ and slam that door shut.  And once you have, sit back and smile at the marvel that is your family, squeeze your lover’s hand, or simply delight in the way the morning light illuminates the landscape.

Take a breath, a sip of coffee and make your first commitment of the New Year.  Commit to make way for the positive.  Even for a day. For this day be willing to suspend judgement; silence your inner critic; muzzle the “A”.  Open your heart and mind and commit to the art of the possible.

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