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January, 2001 - The Legal System

I have a button that says: Why experiment on animals when there are so many lawyers? I actually like lawyers. In my training and work, I have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know a vast variety of lawyers and as a lot, like them, better than most other professions, if truth be told. Now when it comes to the legal system –that is another matter. You will notice that I do not refer to it as the justice system because it in reality has nothing to do with justice, truth or right or wrong. From personal experience, I have come to the conclusion that it is about three things: money, pride and politics. It is the "letter of the law" that is manipulated and interpreted around those three things. I have a belief that the legal profession is locked into an adversarial paradigm that limits open and productive communication.

In Canada, we seem more shielded from the regular litigation that occurs in the US. However, in the past 15 odd years, I have been threatened with a lawsuit professionally on two occasions and I have been sued twice personally. Even now, I feel it necessary to "explain" myself.

In the late eighties I bumped a car in front of me that suddenly was turning left in a four-lane road. I was clearly as fault. In the middle of the night, two years later, I was served papers that I was being sued. Despite that my brand new Nissan 240 SX did not even have a dent in the bumper, apparently the other jalopy sustained thousands of dollars of damage. The driver and passenger had whiplash and there was something about lost of marital satisfaction. I spoke with the insurance lawyers once to find out that it was completely out of my hands. I do not know the outcome. It was probably based on some form of actuarially tables of costs and trade-off. All I know is that my insurance went up and so did yours indirectly.

In training and development, we often say that there is no point in reinventing the wheel. There are lots of great models and materials out there. I remember spending over a year pestering a past employer to give credit to some material that they were using. I always strive to credit source material and purchase original material where required. In the early nineties, an associate of ours took the first public workshop on a new model and was under the impression from the creator and author that he was hence certified to use the concepts. In conjunction with him, we developed a course using this model, giving full credit to the source. There appears to be a difference between certified and licensed. We where unaware of the nuance – one was for internal use and the other for profit purposes. I never know HOW someone finds out but we received a letter of cease and desist from the lawyers. A call to the creator and training institution was ignored. We were angry, felt mislead and embarrassed. It could have been handled by a simple call to clear up any misunderstanding. Now, we refuse to use the model or recommend the institution. In the past I would just credit other people’s work; now, if at all possible, I seek written permission.

About five years ago, I was sued personally. After resisting going to mediation, I finally realized for "political" reasons that this was the best course of action. If your interested in the experience I went through and why I did what I did, please check out my article.

It is as if the whole process of the law is about who wins and who loses. There is only a bipolar choice and limited resources. I love law shows on the television, especially Law and Order. This concept of either or seems a fundamental piece of every episode. My latest experience with a nasty letter from a law firm came just two months ago. Again it was a simple misunderstanding that was turned into a threat. The letter told me in no uncertain terms to cease and desist from using a certain collection of words since they thought it was an infringement on a registered trademark. This time I looked upon the incident as a game to be played. To my mind they were completely unrelated both in wording and in services provided. But alas, even in the World Wide Web you have to be careful. However, the very words that they had trademarked in the US were still available as a domain name – so I purchased it. I clearly made it known that I would not use it but asked them why would it be available if it was so important to their client? Here is the good news. They bought the name from me and after the registration transfer, I will have made $100. Hey, it is the principle. Now where have I heard that stupid comment before? Read the article mentioned above.

Of course! I have two points. One, as long as we insist on limiting ourselves to an either or position, we will continue to have adversarial confrontation that will lead to increased anger, helplessness and even violence. Two, I believe that it is the very thing that we take great strides to practice is the place from which we will be attacked. It is probably based on the theory that you identify and play against someone’s strengths not weaknesses. In each of the four cases mentioned above, I felt attacked on some fundamental value or principle that I try to live by. It could be fairness, equity or integrity but somehow I had failed in the eyes of others to live up to some standard. For many years, I was embarrassed and hurt so I down played my encounters with the legal system. Only recently have I begun to properly identify my true feelings about these events. It is shame. Underneath the embarrassment and righteous indignation and bravado, I felt ashamed that I somehow was bad and wrong and stupid. So the legal system goes beyond issues of money, pride and politics, it goes to undermine our self worth. Well, I say enough. It doesn’t have to be that way. I chose to reframe the last incident and I will be ready for them next time as well.

December, 2000 - Papa Can You Hear Me?

Let me begin by laying the framework. I believe that each one of us is responsible for meeting our own needs. That being said, all of us and myself in particular continue to try to have our needs met through others. If you remember from one of my previous editorials about the problems with motivation, trying to figure out someone’s needs, let along your own is very difficult.

From my early twenties, I figured out that the one true think that I really wanted form others was acceptance. I would have liked to have been understood, but I realized quite young that that was an impossibility. So I settled for acceptance. Not that acceptance without expectations was readily forthcoming either. I have been very fortunate. I have a handful of the most wonderful friends whom I believe give me that total acceptance and I for them. It is the gift we give each other. I have continued to hope for it in my family and partners. They love me very much, but I never felt fully accepted. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until recently. I have also looked for acceptance in my encounters with others that come into my life. In this later case, I have sought approval more than acceptance, but they have come form the same source.

Let me see if you can figure out what has taken me years to deduce and not without some guidance from other s. The title of this month’s editorial is a dead giveaway. I make my living using my communications skills. I love to present, educate and coach. I have also developed a great ability to ask the key and profound questions to help others get past how they currently view things. I am learning to reframe a situation to create new insights.

I remember talking and talking and talking as a child. I was so inquisitive about my world and wanted to share and discuss everything. Apparently, adults had some trouble understanding what it was that I was trying to say. Not uncommon I suspect of adults trying to figure out the minds of children. In particular, I remember my mother pretending to listen to me but I was constantly trying to get her attention. I think that I just wore her out. I think it took my therapist telling me three times that II was not listened to as a child for me to begin to see the bigger picture. You can easily tell when I feel that I am not being listened to. I talk more and I raise my voice. Sometimes I get aggressive or defensive. It isn’t being about approval or acceptance or being understood (although that is closer). I just want to be heard.

Asking good questions was one way that I found to be heard. A good question gets the other person to take note, pause and then think about an answer. The best questions always speak directly to the other person’s needs and wants. More importantly, they convey the message that you are listening. Now here is my roadblock. If being heard by someone outside of myself meets my needs, how is it possible to be responsible to meet those needs myself? I could surround myself with the kinds of people who will listen. In part, this would work. The qualities of the people who care enough to listen are the type of individuals that I want to be able to call my friends. However, I needed to find a way to reframe the situation and find ways to meet my needs instead of relying all of the time on others.

Lately, I have been trying to listen more closely to my own truths and to myself. I then spend a little time reviewing what I have heard and what it means to me. I have taken to writing some of my insights down. One format is these editorials. It has been wonderful to read your responses or your own stories about the topic of the month. It makes me feel heard. In the beginning, I wrote them for myself and then fell into the trap of what you might think. I am pleased to say that I have come full circle. These editorials are for myself. However, please continue to send in your own stories and truths. I hope to share some in the coming months.

If a tree falls over in the woods and no one is there to hear, does it make a sound? If no one read this e-zime, would I continue? I don’t know. I do know that if there was only one reader out there, I would continue.

If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people.  ~ Virginia Woolf

November, 2000 - Gifts

As I take pen in hand to write this month’s editorial, – yes I am using the old fashion way and will be typing it later – I am at the end of my vacation. Here I am in South Carolina looking out from a condo onto a beautiful beach that meets the Atlantic Ocean a few meters away. I am reminded of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's wonderful gem of a book: "Gift from the Sea". (Please give yourself a gift and check this book out.)

I chose this topic on ‘gifts’ about two months ago but decided to wait until this month to write down my thoughts. November represents the first year anniversary of this Newsletter / Ezine. At the time, it did not occur to me how fitting this topic would be. This month also represents the time of American Thanksgiving. (We Canadians celebrate our Thanksgiving in October.)

Here is my premise – It is not more blessed to give than to receive but rather true blessings come in the gracious act of accepting these amazing gifts all around us. By receiving, I do not mean taking. Even when something is freely offered to us there is a great difference between taking and receiving that which has be offered. I have been pondering this idea for sometime when I came across the perfect quote to express this far better than I ever could. What I think are wonderful insights has been determined long before by someone else.

"I have come to believe that giving and receiving are really the same. Giving and "receiving" – not giving and taking." Joyce Grenfell, English writer and performer.

As I have moved more of my work into being a coach versus doing coaching, I have come to see each and every individual with whom I have contact as a complete gift in and of themselves. The process of coaching usually looks at what our gifts or strengths are and then releasing ourselves from the roadblocks or blockages that prevent our full expression of these gifts. While I support this analysis in principle and ask my clients to do this work, I am also recognize that this approach tends to reductionism. In other words, it looks at each of us as discrete and separate parts, not holistically as part of a bigger entity. It is, in fact, our totality and complexity that makes us whole and complete gifts in and of ourselves. Each and every person is an amazing unique gift – flaws and everything else that makes up our humanity.

When I am fully open to the experience of another, I not only become connected to the universe, I m more a receptive vessel to the offerings around me – those gifts offered consciously and unconsciously. In this space, it becomes less possible for me to be a taker. While connected do the natural flow, back and forth as the waves, giving and receiving, learning and changing, crating and understanding.

During this time that some of us set aside for thanksgiving, I am reminded of all the people in my live, past and present, without whom my life would not be the same creation. I acknowledge them all here for their support, love, learnings, challenges and heartaches. Some of these gifts have been received, while others were either rejected or taken. I strive to be a more gracious receiver in the future. Thereby I hope to be able to offer myself up as a gift to others. A very special thanks to all of you who have shared my journey this year.


October, 2000 - Making A Commitment

The topic of making a commitment is a natural outflow of last month’s theme – "letting go".  In fact, I have come to the conclusion that it is the flip side of the same coin.  Perhaps the best way to understand this is to take a look at William Bridges’ model that is found in his excellent book: "Transitions". He points out that when a change is initiated, the first stage we experience is endings. Then we move into the neutral zone and finally into beginnings.  Traditional wisdom has often forgotten about the endings or letting go stage and focuses on the new things that lie ahead. Bridges points out that we need to acknowledge and take time to work through the endings and identify potential opportunities. Otherwise, people may feel frozen and resist change.

Even with careful planning for endings and grieving, what makes someone willing to commit to the next stage: a process that is full of uncertainty and disorientation? In this darkness, it is hard to imagine any possibility of a light at the end of the tunnel. Part of the problem is that if the change is imposed, we will naturally resist. Another part is that most of us seek out stability in our lives and a lack of equilibrium is uncomfortable. I don’t have a full answer, but I think that I have stumbled upon another key piece of the puzzle.

About ten years ago, I attended a workshop by Tony Robbins that included his Fire Walk Experience.  I didn’t know what that was at the time.  However, when it was explained to me that in three hours most of the 1,600 people in the room where going to walk across burning coals, I said: "Not in my lifetime!"  Over the next few hours, a shift occurred as I claimed my fear and then began to let it go. Also, I was told what to expect and how thousands had completed the fire walk successfully.  The truth is – no one could adequately explain what the experience would be like for me personally.  It was pressed upon us that if we could do this activity then it would symbolize our capability to do anything.  Part of me began to feel intimated, if I didn’t agree to do it, while another part became excited about the possibilities.

I remember distinctly when the shift in my thinking took place.  I stood on a small mount of dirt over looking the hypnotic activities below me and said: "It is now or never."  I calmly walked down to the others and got into line. My decision was made. I could have changed my mind but at the time it did not occur to me to do so. It seemed like a rational analytical choice but, in truth, it involved all of my feelings and intuition. Sometimes you make the leap and there is no going back. I don’t want to suggest that it was an act of faith but it was an act of spirit and soul. So here is the key to making a commitment – in order to make a decision fully and act on it without reservation – one must embrace that decision.

On a more recent note, this is my experience ever since I publicly told everyone that I was now a Business Coach.  Prior to last month, I felt like I was sitting on the fence. I was trying to play it safe and my coaching practice was developing very slowly. After much internal conflict, I decided that I had to go for it or nothing would happen. I embraced my decisions and things began to change. I was very clear about what I wanted to do in my business and people responded positively.

Making a commitment isn’t about resignation, reluctance, or giving in. Nor is it about attitude but there is an element of acceptance.  Making a commitment is about embracing, encompassing and welcoming.  Sounds simple – of course all the great truths are. Unfortunately, putting this simplicity into practice is another matter.  The first step is to remove words like " try", "should" and "if only" from your vocabulary. You will either do it or you won’t.  The second step is to acknowledge that what is happening to you right now - just is.  There is a lesson to be learnt. It is up to you to identify your own needs and take responsibility to meet them yourself.  The third step is still open. I look forward to hearing some of your suggestions, which I hope to share with you in future months.


September, 2000 - Learning to Let Go

Things in the universe do unfold as they should and things happened for a reason. It turns out that this is the perfect topic for this month’s e-zine. I first got the idea of a newsletter exactly one year ago and began working on it. After a year, I have decided to revamp the look of it and may make some more adjustments in the months to come.

In the fall of last year, I set up this web site, in the hopes of moving my business towards coaching. I began further studies in earnest and enrolled at Corporate Coach University. I started to look inside and do more of the work on myself to be a better coach and human being. Things in my life began changing.

This fall, I am consciously focusing to be a Business Coach full time. Please take a look at my web site. You should be able to find answers to any questions you may have about coaching and what I have to offer at: FAQ  Briefly, my strength is critical thinking coupled with humour. When someone you know mentions that they are thinking about getting coaching, I hope that you will mention me.

Thank you,


I want to discuss the concept of "letting go" under three slants:

  1. Forgiving ourselves past mistakes so that we can live more fully in the present.
  2. Letting go of unresolved issues from our past so that we can move into our future
  3. Letting go of people, places or things in the present so that we can move more fully towards our future

Forgiving Ourselves
It seems to me that I can remember every mistake that I ever made and wish that I could fix it. And here is the key that I have discovered for myself personally. You may find some of it resonates with you. I am able to let go of some mistakes – those that others may not know about. I am also able to forgive myself, if I am able to go back and correct the error. It is the errors in judgment that are the most difficult. I think it is because it is a reflection of me and who I am and what others may think of me. As if not making an error has in some way protects me from any opinions others have of me – negative or positive. But with mistakes, others then have a legitimate reason to think poorly of me. I don’t think of myself as a perfectionist but clearly the logic is that if others are not aware of my imperfections then they have no legitimate reason for thinking badly about me.

It isn’t about what other people think but what we think about ourselves. In truth, we continue to practice self-loathing by not forgiving ourselves. It may seem a little silly, but I have been trying out the following affirmation that is found in the exercise section of my e-zime, and it seems to be working. "I give the past permission to be exactly as it was, and with intentional self care, I start my life anew right now."

Unresolved Issues
I hate not knowing why things happen in my life or why someone does something. I am almost obsessed with the question "WHY?" I am always coming up with reasons or explanations for another person’s behaviour. When nothing seems to make any sense at all, it makes me crazy. Over time it bothers me less, but still it nags on in the background. I try to remember that whatever happened is another piece to a complex puzzle and that there is a reason, even if I may never find out. I think about what impact it has had on who I am and then project out to see if it is some aspect of my character that I want to keep as part of my future. Perspective can often bring a new direction.

Moving on
Why is it so hard for us to let go of things that just are not good for us? Why do we continue to hang in there, long after any good can come of it? For me, I think it is because I have this unrealistic belief that, if I try harder, figure it out and keep on believing, then things will change. It is not that I believe that things will change on their own accord. Rather, I think it is this: deep down I believe that I really can "fix it". If only I could just figure out what to do differently. The corollary of this is of course that I can control what goes on around me. I know this to be a false truth. I can only "control" my reaction to what happens to me. It isn’t giving in or giving up but giving way. Each one of us is precious and we need to treat ourselves with the same respect that we believe all of us deserve.


August, 2000 - Balance or Lack Thereof

What image comes to mind when you think about balance?  I picture a circus person on the hire wire gingerly walking across the tightrope. There in the middle, they begin to juggle all sorts of items, often swinging back and forth with great effort to maintain their position.  Sometimes when I think about balance, the concept of the fairness enters my mind and I can visualize the Blind Lady of Justice holding those scales of justice.  What is interesting about these images is that they are bipolar. Most of us, and I included, often have a concept of balance being about an either or choice and the best we can achieve is some sort of compromise – where it becomes a fifty-fifty split.

We get caught up in the belief that life is about trade-offs. So we try to steal time by sleeping less, becoming more efficient, cutting corners and pretending to believe in platitudes such as it is the quantity but quality of time that matters.  We need a better paradigm. I am reminded of the marital arts.  Now it was many years ago that I took a few lessons and my knowledge of judo is very limited, so forgive me for this simplification. However, I remember, the first key lesson was that there are many points of balance when a person is standing still. The important thing to maintaining balance is about being aware of these weak points and being as centred and grounded as possible. And here is the key. We cannot begin to create external balanced lives for ourselves if we are not at peace internally. It is by learning to become centred and grounded that we can hope to achieve any semblance of balance. Hence the quote for this month’s newsletter: "If we are not within we are without."

For my 21st birthday, my parents bought me a lovely pendulum clock under a bell glass cover. I always had trouble getting it to keep time properly. The clock, in itself, was perfectly balanced but had to have a solid and firm grounding to run properly. This brings me to the other point that I want to raise about keeping balance in our life. Once the balance is achieved as in the smoothly running timepiece discussed above, there is no such thing as remaining constant or static. Balance also involves movement, change and the passage of time. Even in many bipolar examples that we usually think of when contemplating balance – jugglers, the titter totter in the school play yard or the Foucault Pendulum. None are fixed or unmovable. Perhaps that is why the statement "A change is as good as a rest" rings true for many of us. And so here is the great paradox and challenge: to have balance in our lives means to stay grounded in ourselves amid all the changing and shifting sands around us.


July, 2000 - Motivation as a Misleading Concept

You have probably noticed that I am a little late this month in getting the newsletter out. (A little? – you where over a week!)

Do I lack motivation?
Hardly. Many of you sent me input and comments of support form last month’s newsletter about feedback. The topic of feedback seemed to strike a chord with many of you. This was great for me and answered my internal question as to why I continued to put out my newsletter. Despite the fact that I hate feedback, getting the positive re-enforcement was very encouraging. Notice, I was careful not to say motivating.

Did I procrastinate?
No, I work on parts of it all through the month but I did have a melt down on my computer last week.

Don’t tell me I have nothing to complain about.
Oh contraire. I have lots to say about Motivation. Primarily, we look at motivation all wrong. A new colleague and reader of this newsletter, John Ahern, asked me what my primary motivational tool was. This got me thinking about all sorts of things. So be prepared for a long dissertation

Motivation as A Concept is Lacking
It was twenty years ago that I developed the first of my models that I actually presented to others. It was on Motivation. Anyone who has every taken an Organizational Behaviour Course will remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Herzberg’s Hygiene Factors and Mayo’s GE Studies at the Hawthorne Plant. All that I have read about motivational theories works from the premise that we have these needs which translate into behaviours in order to meet those needs. Seems simple enough. But I have enough trouble being able to truly sort out my own needs, let alone others. Sure sometimes it seems very clear but most of the time it is mixed up with our beliefs and values. And here is my problem. When we talk about motivation it becomes an intellectual exercise. Unless we tap into the emotional response and visceral feelings, I think that we may be wasting our time.

Motivation as Energy not Meeting Needs
Let’s face it – we are all motivated; all of the time. So what is the problem? Replacing the word motivation with empowerment certainly won’t solve it. Goodness, there is a useless buzzword. I decided to focus on energy. We have a fixed amount, in theory at least, and HOW we use it seemed more important to me that wondering about needs. To picture how this works, imagine a big square and inside a large a circle as possible. 

The blue box represents our total energy available at any given point and the green circle is the maximum amount of energy we can use up that is doing "our work". By "our work", I mean when we are in the flow, doing our passion, fully fulfilled etc. Some of our energy will be required to do the day to day aspects of living, but it is possible for us to being truly living in the moment most of the time. Now add a triangle to the box. This green triangle represents our "job". It might be what we are paid for doing or it might be something else. Generally, I think of the job as most of the things that we have to do in order to do what we want to do. There can and should be as big an overlap between "or work" and "the job" for the best fulfillment.  The picture on the right shows us the maximum size that "our work" and "our job" can be within the available energy.  Unfortunately for many the circle is a small piece of the picture.  In other words, we spend all of our time and energy not doing what we love.

The Concept of Demotivation
Around this time, I came across a wonderful article that described the demotivation cycle. The author, Mary Coeli Meyer, ("Six Steps to Demotivation". International Management, November 1977) contended that in organizations despite talking about creating the proper environment, the culture usually a counterproductive process called demotivation takes place. Demotivation can be specifically examined as a step-by-step six-phase process of the employee’s attitude toward the organization and the specific work. These steps are:

  1. Confusion
  2. Anger
  3. Subconscious Hope
  4. Disillusionment
  5. Uncooperativeness
  6. Departure (mentally or physically)

This has proven a valuable tool for understanding what is going on with individuals in the work place even better than variations on the grieving cycle when it comes to change.  Figuring out where I sit in the cycle, has also proven valid in my own self-awareness.  It has helped me know it was time to find a new working arrangement.

Inspiration not Motivation
First, I want us to stop using the word motivation as in Motivational Speakers. I am tired of all these remarkable people who didn’t know they could do things and who pulled themselves up by the bootstraps to be a powerful force in the world making lots of money. Personally, I am not sure how valuable it is to be so driven and obsessed. I am just an ordinary person, whom I hope doesn’t waste the gifts that I have been given. But I am not out to change the world.

Second, there is a place for inspiration, all sorts of inspiration: spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, entrepreneurial, family, community, and on and on. I don’t think that a one-time event will pump us up enough to change our paradigms, actions and world.  Never the less, it is a part of the whole and we really do need that uplifting and holding of our dreams.  We need skills to carry on in the journey.  We need to surround ourselves with positive energy. We need to find all of the different ways that work for our own individual styles and disbelief.

What we think, we are.
In summary, we have motivation all wrong. It is about the inside and it is about energy and what we each choose to do with it.  You want to be motivated, empowered and inspired?  Then stop surrounding yourself with those who drain your energy and suck you dry.  Get on with life and seek out positive energy that nurtures you and supports you.


June, 2000 - Giving and Receiving Feedback 

I hate getting feedback. I know, how dare I admit it.  Isn’t feedback what It is all about in my business of change and coaching?   Well yes . . . and no.  I tend not to be so sensitive to feedback from people whom I know don’t have any other agenda.  Maybe that is why we are prepared to listen to total strangers.  On the surface at least, they seem more neutral. I am very fortunate to have a few friends whom I truly believe have my own interests at heart.  When they ask to give me feedback or when I ask for input, they evaluate their own motives before responding.

As some of you may know, I am teaching Organization Development this summer for the Human Resources Certificate Program.  There are two basic underpinnings of OD: action research and open systems theory.  Aside from the jargon, the important point that I want to make here is that both theories stress the importance of feedback. Feedback is essential for both life and continued development.

Now having said all that, I generally think feedback is devastating.  I don’t always know what to "do with it".  It is easy for me to get defensive.  Funny how we tend to think that feedback is negative.  Generally speaking, I just don’t like it and I am not talking only about "constructive criticism".  I think even the "good" stuff is misleading.

So what is a person to do.  Well, I have found something that usually works for me and perhaps it will work for you as well. I constantly tell myself: "This is just one more piece of information, nothing more or less." I can do whatever I want to information since it is raw data.  We have to deal with millions of separate pieces of data or information every day and we do it quite effectively and simply.  The trick to this process is to ask ourselves: "What is important here?"  Otherwise we will suffer from information overload.  I think that the same is true of feedback.

So dear friends, unless I ask, don’t give it to me.  And even when I ask, think twice. Oh by the way, did I tell you that when you . . .


May, 2000 - Ethics and Professional Conduct

I really thought that I would have a lot to say about this topic. On one level I do but on another, I am not sure how to express myself coherently. Some of you might wonder just how coherent I really am, even on a good day. For example, I am renowned for creating my own words. Brian Grainger’s four questions in May’s Newsletter have been of immeasurable benefit to me and I encourage you to make a note of them for future reference.

Ethics is one of those words like honesty. We all think we practice and possess the quality and it is only others who aren’t honest or ethical or whatever is the flavour of the month. To begin with, let us start from a common base of understanding. Here are some standard Funk and Wagnalls definitions of a few words that I think are related to this topic.

Ethics: A philosophy or system of morals

Morals: Related to conduct or character from the point of view of right and wrong

Truth: Conformity to fact or reality (ooh, there’s an interesting idea); A statement or belief that corresponds to reality

Reality: That which is real (And here are my two cents on this thought from my favourite quote: "I live in another dimension, but I have a summer home in reality."

Trustworthy: Worthy of confidence, reliable

Trust: a confident reliance on the integrity, honesty veracity or justice of another

Integrity: Uprightness of character; honesty; the state of being complete or undivided

Honest: Having full worth of value; genuine; fair; acting honourably and justly

Honourable: High regard, respect or esteem

Just: Fair; impartial; morally right; legally valid

Aren’t we back were we started? You can see where this is taking us. Semantics is only one part of the issue; culture is another part. On top of that there are a whole bunch of other parts that I don’t want to get into here. The one thing that I think is interesting is one of the definitions of integrity - the state of being complete or undivided. To be in such a state, I would imagine that an individual would have to be clear on personal standards and consistent in behaviour. Hence they would be ethnical to their set of morals that may not be based on another’s reality.

In organizations or professions, some body often establishes a code of conduct Conforming to a set of behaviours is then expected but not necessarily "enforced". Hence a clear idea of what is considered ethical or not is known by participating members. Even in the absence of clearly written "rules", we know what is right and wrong for our cultural biases and for ourselves. The issue always comes down to a simple truth. Do we do what we know we should do or don’t we? And the correct answer is . . .


April, 2000 - Courtesy and Good Manners

I am going to start off this month by talking about road rage. Don’t you think that it is getting a little scary when one mother, with small children and no past history of any brushes with the justice system, shoots and kills another mother? I think that this is indicative of society as a whole. As we feel that we no longer have control over our lives and destiny we cease to operate as decent human beings. We still try to take control. By tailgating we think we can make the other person speed up or by slowing down in front of a driver we think we can teach him or her a lesson. It is as if we, personally, have been insulted and have to make things right in our world. Remember, it is how we choose to respond and not the other person "making us" angry or whatever.

OK, OK, I am not saying that lack of common decency and courtesy is just about loss of control. Goodness knows, I think it has a lot to do with poor offspring training. But I also think that as you get older, you think that you have paid your dues. My mother, for example, was always adamant about lines. If someone butted in line she was the first to raise her voice and demand the person go to the back of the queue. (She is British, by the way) Well ever since she turned 70, she doesn’t think lines apply to her anymore. Duh? In fact, she doesn’t think a lot of things apply anymore. No wonder older persons are embarrassing.

So, I was raised by a British mother. Need I say more? I know all about behaving in public and good manners, but I must confess, I don’t always follow protocol. In fact some people might think that I can be rude. I prefer to think of myself as refreshingly blunt. Here is what I do that shows a lack of respect. I interrupt and change subjects all the time. I need to work on this. There is another thing that I do that sometimes gets me into trouble with others. I try to be direct about what I want (if I know) and I also communicate truthfully about what I think. Although I strive to be neutral in my comments, I know that it can be perceived as not always tactful.

There is this fantastic article by Adrienne Rich entitled "Women and Honesty: Notes on Lying" (or something to that effect). It has been over 15 years since I read it but it still sticks with me. Let me see how well I can paraphrase her views. She says that we often think we shouldn’t say something to someone else in order to be kind or considerate. So instead, we tell what we call little white lies. In reality, we are only protecting ourselves from dealing with the consequences of being truthful and in the end cheat ourselves out of truly authentic relationships. So it seems to me that truth and courtesy is how we remain authentic and develop meaningful relationships with others. And that is what I really want. . .


March, 2000 - Are we having fun yet?

Let me begin by putting things into my perspective. My motto is: "Work is for people who don’t know how to play." I can honestly say that half of my life, both work and personal is fun. Sure there are times when I feel overload and anxious. Take this time of year with lots of bills and taxes. To be honest, I am feeling quite frazzled. But never, for one moment, think that causes me to cease all play activities.

Dave Barry, cartoonist, was recently asked: "Why isn't work more fun?"

He responded as follows:

"When you meet business people, they're pretty funny and cynical. They've been through every kind of stupid meeting, seminar, and motivational thing, which they know are ridiculous. But I discovered when I was teaching the writing seminars that people who were funny and smart individually felt they were being subversive when they acted that way at work."

I think Dave Barry has a point. Everyone is so afraid of being seen as silly. I know that I can name three friends that I have helped to learn how to play. They say I play too hard. Great. The problem is when some people label me childish. This really annoys me. I think that is important to nurture these wonderful child-like qualities that so many of us lost years ago. Just some are:

Wonderment and pure enjoyment
Suspension of disbelief and judgment
Amazement and curiosity
Unbridled optimism and innocence
Resiliency – perhaps the most critical attribute in this day of exponential speed and change

The qualities listed above are so important in the creative stages of problem solving. They can help us move through difficult and stressful times. I suppose the challenge is to keep one’s maturity and discernment while not loosing site of the joy of life and all its unlimited possibilities.

So have you heard the one about . . .


February, 2000 - Seeing the Forest for the Trees

The real reason that I decided to pick the topic of "Big Picture" is that I thought that it fit nicely with the puzzle. Brother, was that a mistake. There is lots of material out there on strategy, vision, innovation etc but not a lot about what I really wanted to talk about.

I love concepts, ideas and models. I am often labeled as not being detail oriented. And that is partially correct. It is important to me to see how things fit into the whole. Then if I am asked to focus, I can really concentrate on the specific details – but only if you ask me to do so. Each one of us will always have an inclination for one over the other but we can and should develop both skills.

What I am really talking about here is perspective. A few years ago, I went to see the Barnes Art Exhibition when it came to Toronto. It was amazing to be able to actually see, first hand and close up, the amazing artistry of so many masters. It was only by standing back and taking in the whole picture were you able to truly see the details and intricacies. As one drew in close to look carefully at the details, all one could observe was the technique. The context was lost. So too for us in life. It is by keeping the whole in mind that we can properly understand the pieces. It is not a question of either or but rather both that are simultaneously important. The eye may only be able to take one or the other in at a specific moment in time, but we must be imagining the other when we are concentrating on one.

The challenge comes when we try to discern between principle and perspective. We often let our emotions dictate our direction. We mistake our values with our emotions and loose sight of the bigger picture. Don’t get me wrong; I am a great believer in principle. Sometimes I think it call us to a higher level of accountability. However, that is only when it is put into the framework of the bigger picture. In my own life, I lost sight of this when I was issued a lawsuit. It took me well over six months to work through my emotions and begin to have any perspective at all. Finally, I was ready to try mediation as a way to resolve my problem. If you would like to know the process I experienced, you can go to this link:        

I like to think that each of us is an artist in his or her own right. Besides the 15 minutes of fame that Andy Wharhol claims that we will have, I prefer to think of the work of art that we are creating, one brush stroke at a time. Occasionally we may have to do sections over, but as long as we continue to see the whole picture in our mind’s eye, we will get better at the details of day to day living. And in the end . . .


January, 2000 - Time flies: You cannot: They fly to fast!

It figures. We have entered the new millennium, on time and with no significant glitches. I, on the other hand, am a week late in getting the next issue of our newsletter out to you. Like many of you, I was raised to believe that being on time meant arriving ten minutes early. About ten years ago I gave up wearing a watch and have been ten minutes late ever since. There was always too much to do anyway. If it was really important to know the time, everyone around me had a watch. In the old days, I could look over the shoulder of strangers and read the analogue dials. Digital watches changed all that. I hate them and their little hourly beeping capabilities. Do you know how irritating it is to be giving a presentation to a room full of people only to have these beeping sounds going on and off for a couple of minutes?

My point, and I do have one, is that keeping track of time seems rather futile. We tend to remember so little of it. It is the moments in time that we remember. Nevertheless, we remain obsessed with time. We worry about losing time, wasting time, saving time, taking time and passing time. Perhaps that is why I believe that buying time will be the great purchase for the early part of this century. Already we are seeing the explosive growth of the service industry. There simply isn’t enough time to get all the things done that need to be completed. This is where Pareto’s Rule of 80/20 is the key. Pareto hypothesized that 20% of our efforts achieve 80% of our results and we spend the remaining 80% of our time for merely 20% return. We can’t do it all. So step back and identify those activities that give you the proper return (however you define it) and cut out or buy the services for the other tasks.

Oh, by the way, I started wearing watches again a couple of years ago. Maybe it was that I viewed them more as cosmetic jewelry. Or maybe it is because I have slowed my life down and simplified it wherever possible. Whatever the reason, I am still ten minutes late. Now don’t get me wrong. I do have one time fetish. I am committed to ending on time. Fin!

The Coaching Option Newsletter is published monthly.  I look forward to submissions from all of you on the newsletter as well as suggestions on what you would like to see in either the newsletter or on the web site.  Please feel free to forward this email in its entirety to friends.  If you would like to subscribe or unsubscribe, please simply click here and following the instructions.


December, 1999 - Reflections on the Past

It has been a wonderful year.  I have had the opportunity to do more of the type of work that I enjoy.  Coaching others has led me to reexamine my own direction and personal vision.  Maybe it is the millennium or that I am approaching the half century of living.  Whatever, I am more comfortable in accepting what is happening around me and less convinced that I can control anything or anyone other than myself.  This can be quite freeing.  Contemplating the past makes me realize that it is true what C. S. Lewis said;  "The present is the point at which time touches eternity."  Even if it sounds corny, the universe is unfolding as it should and life is good.  So I will strive to remember the past, live in today and build for tomorrow.

The Coaching Option Newsletter is published monthly. I look forward to submissions from all of you on the newsletter as well as suggestions on what you would like to see in either the newsletter or on the web site.   Please feel free to distribute this notice to anyone you think might enjoy it.  If you would like to subscribe or unsubscribe click here.

November, 1999 - Why a Newsletter?

I'm an ideas person.  I love to think up new models but I don't always put my thoughts down on paper.  Consequently, they don't usually become practical.  Also, I love to learn and I have discovered that the best way to learn something is to try and "teach" it to someone else.  Maybe that is why I have decided to expand my business coaching practice.

Sure, I hope that the newsletter will be a way that I can market myself.  A good friend showed me that I use my web site, and all that is associated with it, as a business planning tool.  So the real purpose of the newsletter is for my own personal direction, vision and growth.  My hope is that you too will find it useful and enjoyable.

The Coaching Option Newsletter is published monthly. I look forward to submissions from all of you on the newsletter as well as suggestions on what you would like to see in either the newsletter or on the web site.   Please feel free to distribute this notice to anyone you think might enjoy it.  If you would like to subscribe or unsubscribe click here.



Each newsletter has six sections that are loosely joined around a theme.  Originally, it was meant to fit all onto one page but I just couldn't make it happen and get a decent layout.  It is still meant to be short and snappy, either a quick read or for later reference.  I also wanted to be able to tap into all of the different ways individuals like to learn.  That meant some graphics and so the newsletter is hosted on a web site and you can go to it by clicking on the location.   Here are the six sections and why they were chosen:

1.   Quote - for inspiration and for audio learners.
2.   Cartoon - for humour and for visual learners.
3.   Puzzle - for creativity, experimenting  and sometimes physical learning.
4.   Tips - concrete suggestions for practical learners.
5.   Articles - for reading; I certainly don't have all the answers. (Sorry, but we can't guarantee the links after a couple of months.)
6.   Additions - to let you know what's new at
The Coaching Option.



The Coaching Option is intended for reference and imagination purposes only. This newsletter is not intended to substitute for professional advice and we assume no liability for any actions taken by anyone in response to material presented here.





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