Outgrowing Your Mentor

As an entrepreneur and small business owner, I find it invaluable opening up and being vulnerable with an inner circle of advisors and mentors I trust. When I think of my professional inner circle, three words come to mind: Supportive. Protective. Inspiring. Beyond being brilliant, they each allow me the space and encouragement to learn, self-discover and grow.

Interestingly, there is one advisor who has been different. She has been a go-to for me for many years. When our mentor/mentee relationship began, she was very much supportive, protective and inspiring. I felt nothing short of honored that she took an interest in me and gave me the gift of her time and wisdom. 

Somewhere along the way, things changed. Around the time I was gearing up to leave my corporate job to form Solstice, her communication style morphed into more of a "tough coach" versus encouraging supporter. My creative blue-sky expressions were met with criticism. The advice that used to be eloquent became harsher in tone. I can vividly recall a particularly painful one-on-one session last summer when I did all I could not to cry right there in the middle of a New York City restaurant. She was challenging everything I said. She felt to me, in a word, mean.

I convinced myself that because of her wild business success and the many pearls of wisdom she shared over the years, I should toughen up and take in her expert advice. I should take the elements of her experience that made sense to me, and leave behind the rest. That got me this far... until now.

I scheduled a check-in call with her today. Always balancing humility with confidence, I explained a particular business challenge and asked for her perspective. Predictably, she doled out advice in a way that left me feeling bloodied and battered in a short 30-minutes. If a third party overheard the conversation, perhaps they would tell me "Yes, she was being supportive, protective and inspiring in her own way". Whether she was or wasn't, at this point, is irrelevant to me.

In my line of work, it is not about being right only. When you are a mentor or coach, how you leave a person feeling mattersI would liken it to a brilliant doctor with a poor bedside manner. They have there place and should be respected for their vast knowledge, but you ultimately have a choice about who you allow to care for you and how they leave you feeling. 

When our call ended today, I replayed the last few years of our conversations in my mind. I thought about how I felt coming out of every talk with her versus my other mentors. I also thought about my clients, and how it is a core value of mine that I create a safe space for them to open up and be vulnerable, and leave feeling empowered if not enlightened. Clearly, there was a disconnect for me here. Why would I keep a mentor in my life, or anyone for that matter, who leaves me feeling bruised? There was a clear misalignment here that was too big to be ignored.

Rather than dive into a deep self-assessment on why I feel this way, I decided to skip to the end and focus on the outcome I want both for myself and my clients: Peace, Harmony, and the Courage to be your authentic self without fear of rejection or failure. The bottom line is when you are ready to live your life that way, some people in your life will continue on the journey with you while others will fall away. 

While I could tell myself, "toughen up and take her advice", I instead decided to let this mentor fall away. "Today was the last conversation I will have with her," said the thought bubble above my head. While I am grateful for what she has taught me up until this point, I am most grateful that she shined a spotlight on the importance of how you leave a person feeling, especially when someone shows a vulnerability to you.

Who you surround yourself with and let in is your choice. As we learn and grow, we may outgrow people personally and professionally. It happens. As I share this story, I ask you to consider: Is there someone in your life you need to release who no longer serves your highest and greatest good for who you are today? Is there someone in your life that consistently makes you feel bad? Is it time for that someone to fall away? 

The more aware we become about who we are and what we value, the easier it is to see who fits us and who does not. And as with anything in life, the ending of something is the beginning of something new. That said, embrace you exactly the way you are today. Surround yourself with those who love and support all of you, and let the rest fall away. You will lighten your load mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and make room for the new YOU supporters who are right around the corner.

Mediums: The New Life Coach?

John Edward. Theresa Caputo. James Van Praagh. Whether you are a believer or non-believer, these world-famous intuitives have stirred things up, and in the process have helped millions of people profoundly shift their lives.

So what do people really believe? A 2013 Harris poll found that 42% of Americans believe that spirits exist. A 2015 Pew Research Foundation poll found that 18% of Americans have actually seen a spirit. Gallup notes that women and younger people are most inclined to believe in the unseen world. About one in three people do not disbelieve, but need some convincing.

Enter Spiritual Counseling.

Falling under many names such as "readings", "intuitive coaching" or "spiritual counseling", the category as a whole is gaining traction. With anxiety, depression and health issues at an all time high, and access to quality medical care at an all time low, people are increasingly open to non-traditional methods for feeling better.

My first experience with this genre of healing was in 2013 in Glastonbury, Connecticut at a place called The Healing in Harmony Center. This center offered a variety of Mind-Body wellness services such as massage, reiki and metaphysical classes. One-on-one sessions were also available the intuitives on staff. I wasn't quite sure what to make of it at first, but went in with an open mind. I participated in a 2-day workshop that emphasized meditation, creativity and shutting off what center owner Priscilla Bengtson called your "monkey mind" to open us up to higher level guidance.

In this workshop, twenty-five students learned how common it is to receive information from a place none of us could see or touch. We learned to be more aware of our hunches, and noted just how often we experience synchronicity. "How often have you thought of a song and it immediately came on the radio? How often do you pick up the phone to call a friend and instantaneously, that friend calls you?", asked Priscilla. "That is how energy works. We are all energetically connected. We all possess the ability to connect with other beings as a natural part of our daily lives," she explained. We went through a series of exercises that proved exactly what she told us. Turning this ability on can help better navigate through life so we can make decisions that serve our highest and greatest good.

Some call it "trusting their gut" or "street smarts". From a brain-science perspective, it's considered "pattern analysis". On a subconscious level, our brains are constantly evaluating patterns, reading things like body language, tone, habits... We do this in a fraction of a second without even realizing it. A psychologist would say our brains are making "mental short cuts". We sense, then act.

Now how does this connect to mediums and psychics? It is all part of the same phenomenon, but explained in different ways. Those who trust their gut over logic are actively using intuition to guide them. They may not self-identify as psychic or intuitive, but that doesn't make it any less real. Consider the best professionals in law enforcement... they need a keen sense to solve crimes and outsmart criminals. Consider those in the healthcare field who intuitively diagnose what traditional tests miss. Consider those who play the stock market with a winning record that exceeds the norm. We can agree there is IQ and perhaps even EQ at work here... but perhaps there is more to it.

We all have an internal compass that helps steer us clear from harm. Unfortunately, we have been taught to ask others for advice first rather than trusting ourselves. This whole world of intuition is all about learning to turn within and listening. Mediums, psychics and intuitives are simply translators who can receive messages for you. Some will teach you receive messages yourself.

More and more, intuitive counselors are being consulted for advice on relationships, health, finance, life stage transitions... Think of such advice as an input in your decision making process. Since my Healing in Harmony experience, I have seen hundreds of people, including CEOs, transform their lives after having their own spiritual experiences. Intuitives can offer a perspective that is unique, and just may give you the permission you silently crave to make otherwise scary changes in your life. Leave that job... stand up for yourself... end those toxic interpersonal relationships... you deserve more...

My hypothesis is that this alternative form of counseling will continue to rise in popularity. What was previously deemed "weird" and "woo-woo" will become more and more main stream.

Ultimately, no one knows better than you what is best for you. Act only on what feels right to you. In the meantime, explore this space. Attend a local expo where you can sample several spiritual counselors. Go see John Edward live as he tours the US. If you want a more intimate first experience, reach out to LPN, spiritual counselor & hypnotherapist Rita MacRae. It's been an honor watching Rita work with hundreds of individuals over the last few years, and seeing people reach their highest potential in a short amount of time.

If after reading this, your "gut" tells you to act, then DO IT! See what this world is all about, and be your own judge. I am going to see John in Providence for the first time on March 8th... maybe I will see you there!

Until then, happy exploring! :-)

Knowing When It's Time To Fire Someone

You've coached.  You've done reviews.  You've given constructive feedback... and its just not working.  But..... you have a block on it. 

Firing an employee for performance is not easy, especially when the final decision rests with you.  Typically, we question ourselves and wonder, Did I not do a good enough job of managing & mentoring?  Are my expectations unrealistic?  Should I give him/her another chance?  Maybe this is my fault...

We carry this feeling in our gut that it's just not working, yet avoid taking the step we have to take to send the employee home.  Why is that?  Often the biggest barrier to firing someone is personalizing the decision and feeling bad that we are rejecting or judging them.  We might consider their family, or see them as a friend versus a "just business" relationship.  Our emotions overtake our logical side... and the guilt sets in.  Ultimately, we don't want to be the bad guy. 

In a situation like this, the key is to step outside of "the story" about the person and evaluate the cold hard business facts.  A question set to ask yourself is:

  1. Is the employee making you money or losing you money?  If the answer is losing you money, you have to stop the bleed.  The longevity of your company depends on it.  
  2. Is the employee successfully executing on the job you hired him/her to do?  If you objectively read their job description and can honestly say they are not executing effectively, you are hamstringing your company to keep them around.
  3. Is the employee making your life easier or harder?  This is a question we don't often ask ourselves, but when you do, it may open your eyes to the fact that this employee may be making you work way too hard to have them work for you.  This cuts into your ability to lead and drive company performance.
  4. Is the employee negatively impacting morale on the team?  The answer to this question absolutely matters.  If there is a cancer on the team causing low morale, it impacts the performance of the whole and puts you at risk for losing the talent you want to retain.  It could also demotivate the rest of the team if they see a clear employee problem and are aware that you aren't dealing with it.  Your action or inaction has a broader impact on everyone else.
  5. Knowing what you now know, would you hire this employee again today?  This question is the kiss of death.  If you are on the fence about some of the above questions but can answer this last question with a resounding nothen it is time to do something about it.


At end of the day, the rest of your team is counting on you to make the hard decisions that protect the best interest of the company.  Rather than focusing how being fired will impact the one individual, pivot your thinking to the rest of your employees.  They trust you to do right by them, protect them and protect the company.  Consider how hard you work to run a successful business, and how important it is that your company continues to thrive.  

In the words of John Maxwell, "A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way".  

It's perfectly okay to acknowledge your feelings on it, but then invite your business mind to take over.  Take the step you need to take as a leader and trust your own judgment.  While no one enjoys firing someone, it is actually an opportunity not just for business growth, but personal growth as well for both you and the employee.  The ending of one chapter signals the start of a new, even better one for all parties involved.  Your business (and possibly the rest of your employees) will thank you for it.

Communication Danger Zone

Everyone has moments at work where a person or situation sets us off, shifting our energy from warm and open to red hot. When we feel a strong swell of anger come over us, oftentimes it is not the situation right in front of us that causes the anger but rather we are being triggered by a vague resemblance to a situation from the past. When this occurs, we enter into the Communication Danger Zone.

When someone or something makes us "hot-hot-hot", we are faced with three choices. 

1) React and express our anger. We react because we feel threaten on some level, and our "fight" instinct is set in motion. When this happens, we are not using the thinking (cortex) part of the brain, but rather the limbic center of the brain. The amygdala part of our brain is ignited, which is commonly referred to as the "storage house for emotional memories". What we end up expressing is not rational, but rather emotional and without clear purpose. 

2) Shut down completely. For some of us, "flight" is our default. We avoid confrontation and prefer to sidestep an uncomfortable situation rather than step into a heated exchange. This reaction is not conscious, but rather chemical. Our adrenal glands are activated, releasing a hormone called epinephrine, which leads to the release of the hormone cortisol, also known as the "stress hormone". Our brain is attempting to emotionally regulate us to reduce stress and emotional arousal.

3) Sleep on it. To see a situation most clearly requires us to be in an emotionally neutral place. It is nearly impossible to be emotionally neutral when our brains are flooded with stress hormones. If we consciously decide to respond rather than react, we allow ourselves the space we need to cool down, reflect and decide on the outcome we want rather than exploding or avoiding the problem. What makes this possible is time and space. Getting a good night's sleep allows us to hit the reset button so we can see things more clearly, and problem-solve more creatively.

The Sleep On It option requires self-awareness and self-discipline. If your tendency is to react in the moment, adopt these few simple go-to moves to help you short-circuit your impulse to step into the Communication Danger Zone. 

  • Put down the phone! Your iPhone can be a weapon. Rarely is it a good idea to tap out a communication when you are hot. You could say things you don't mean, damage your credibility as a professional or even hurt the other person with your words. Texting can be especially damaging since it is a one-way communication that is void of tone or clear intent. If you need to, literally power down your phone. It serves as a symbolic reset that can help you break the negative energy pattern you are in and gives you the forced pause you may need. 
  • Do NOT hit send! If you are in front of a computer and reacting via email, you are more inclined to vent in a long, unproductive ramble. Writing can be a powerful way to organize your thoughts and emotions, but if you are writing raw, you are in a communication danger zone. Do not throw a grenade in the foxhole. Hit "save" and reread in twenty-four hours. Almost never will you send the communication in its original form, or send it at all. If you are working on a laptop, close it and take three deep breaths. If you are in front of a desktop computer, literally get up and go for a 5-minute walk (ideally outside) and get some air. This will help change your vibration so you can continue on with your day.
  • Do not push for an immediate conversation. If you are verbally inclined, you may want to say what is on your mind, especially when provoked. This is never a good idea. Give yourself a phrase that will buy you the time you need to cool down. Your phrase can be as simple as "Let me sit with it", or "I need to think about this". A mentor once coached me to say "This sounds like an important conversation, and its one I'd really like to have. Let's schedule some time later in the week to talk about it". I have personally used this phase a hundred times! In giving yourself time and a go-to phrase, you are taking your power back, relieving yourself of the pressure to react in the moment.

Regardless of whether you are a React or Shut Down person, the most important step is to identify the outcome you want before you communicate. This step is best when executed when the heat subsides. Ask yourself, what is the ideal resolution to this situation, then thoughtfully respond to drive this outcome. If it helps, reach out to an impartial friend or advisor who will allow you the safe space to talk it out. Sometimes it takes another person to ask us the question, "what is the outcome you want?" for us to become aware of it. Once we know, it is important that we do communicate it. This isn't always easy, especially for those of us that "shut down". But getting out what we need to say when we are calm, rational, and focused on the outcome we want is important so we stay emotionally clear and have healthy, happy relationships at work. 

The more we practice circumventing the Communication Danger Zone, the easier it becomes to be a masterful, composed communicator. And in modeling this behavior at work, we show those around us to do the same. 

You can begin your practice today by talking a hot coworker out of the Danger Zone with a simple, "Do NOT communicate when you are hot-hot-hot..." and follow up with a "What is the outcome you want?" Give it a try and see how you, and the culture of your workplace, shift for the better.

Love Is All You Need

Years ago, a wonderfully wise mentor of mine named Carmine once told me, "Every human behavior ties back to one of two emotions: Love and Fear".  At the time, it seemed like an oversimplification of people.  But as I have assumed the role of mentor and coach to many as they transition through their lives and careers, I have found it to be that simple.

Love is an easy one to understand.  When we demonstrate compassion, forgiveness and charity, it is clear what actions are love-motivated.  With love comes light.  However as we know, the opposite exists.  Anything outside of this is rooted in fear.  Anger, insecurity, and conflict stem from a fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of failure, fear of judgement, and even fear of self.  

Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung believed our fears manifest themselves through our "shadow side".  He maintained that we all possess a duality - we can act in line with the light (love) or the shadow side (fear) in any archetypal situation.  We as the archetypal "ruler" can inspire order (light side) or impose chaos (dark side).  We as the "explorer" can discover new things, or succumb to a life of wanderlust.  As the "caregiver", we can provide stability, or we can over-control.  In order to grow professionally, emotionally and spiritually, we must acknowledge that we are both light and dark.  It is not meant to be an exercise in judging ourselves, but rather an act of self acceptance.

Ultimately, growth is about seeking truth.  Fact finding.  Exploring with an open mind and open heart.  Allowing ourselves to be open to the possibility of seeing things in a completely different light, and letting go of the people, emotions and limiting beliefs that no longer serve us.  This requires courage, and a intentional releasing the fear of the "What ifs..."

As you go throughout your day today, pause and ask yourself before you act, "Am I acting out of love, or fear..." If it is anything but love, ask yourself "What am I afraid of?  Why am I afraid?"  It is okay if the answers are not immediately intuitive.  Keep asking.  The process of growth and discovery begins with you asking you.  

Only after we identify the fear can we examine and dispel the fear.  With each fear we release, the more clear, open and whole we become.  That is how we grow, and become lighter and happier.

Perhaps John Lennon said it best:  "There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life."

You can choose love, or choose fear.  You are in control of your own destiny.

I say choose love.  When you choose love, you choose your highest and best you.

Why Do People Lie?

A few years ago, I was out with my single male friend "J" after a St. Patrick's Day Parade in downtown Hartford.  It was one of those fabulous days in our Capitol city where the streets come alive with people, transforming our quiet little city into a high-energy big city for a day.  We popped into a packed bar for a celebratory Guinness when a beautiful woman began chatting with J.  The chemistry between them was immediate and mutual.  

After a flirty 15 minutes, the magic moment arrived when she offered him her phone number.  Score!  The conversation flowed naturally until the woman asked J, "What did you study in college?"  After a pause, he said "Engineering".  It was clear she liked his answer and said "I hope you call me!" before leaving with her friends.  

As we navigated through the crowd to leave, he said " I know I just lied about being a college graduate".  I asked why.  He simply said, "It would have been a deal breaker if I told her the truth".  Unfortunately, J never ended up calling her because he was too embarrassed to come clean if they ended up on a date.  

If you are like most people, you tell at least 1.65 lies in an average day.  Psychologists who study deception report that we lie anywhere from 1.65 times to 200 times per day -- talk about a big variance!!  Lies can be white, black and every shade of grey in between.  If we count innocent white lies like "I like your haircut" when we are indifferent, or say "I am fine today" when we have a headache, it is safe to say we all lie at one time or another.

So why do we lie?  Does the why matter?  Let's explore the why behind lies.

1) We lie to protect or bolster our self-esteem.  Most people care what people think of them.  On some level, we all crave acceptance from people we know and sometimes people we don't know.  If we feel our self-esteem is threatened in some way, we may bend the truth so we are seen in a more favorable light.  J was clearly trying to preserve his self-confidence and secure approval from the woman.  So, he lied.

2) We lie to avoid punishment.  No one likes to be "in trouble" with with their friends, family members, bosses or anyone else for that matter.  Whether the punishment is minor like a criticism or major like being fired, lies are sometimes our unplanned go-to move to save us.  J certainly did not want to take himself out of the running that day and risk losing the interest of the woman.  Thus, the lie.

3) We lie to preserve social harmony.  While there are "brutally honest" people out there who will punch you in the face with the truth, most people protect the feelings of others and will lie if they know the truth will be hurtful.  J was protecting against a possible awkward moment that could have made the woman feel bad for assuming he was a college graduate.  Enter, the lie.

Some lies have all of these elements beneath them while others have just one.  While our parents taught us to "never tell a lie", the reality is lying is a part of how many of us communicate, maintain relationships and protect our self-esteem.  We may not even realize we are doing it, especially when there is positive intent behind our lie.  

The next time you detect someone is telling a lie, ask yourself "What is the why behind the lie?  Was the lie told for the sake of harmony? Is this lie bad?"  

The answer is a matter of perspective.  What do you think?  

Creativity Allows Us to See Infinite Possibilities

Creativity?  Who has time for THAT!  

How many times in the last month did you hear yourself say, "I don't have time!" or "I need more hours in the day!"?  If you are a Type-A adrenaline junkie like me, you feel most alive under pressure.  And despite saying you wish for more time, you would just fill the extra hours back up with the 1,000 things you wish to do.

The upside of this work-style is you are analytical and get a TON accomplished on any given day.  Your friends and colleagues think you are superhuman.  Your left brain is saying, "That's right, I'm a stud."

The downside is busy-ness is the ultimate creativity killer.  When you move at warp speed all the time, you are suffocating your right brain.  It keeps your thinking linear and more narrow than it could be.  Regardless of your profession, that is not good!

Creativity is not just about the arts.  Creative thinking allows us to see possibilities and opportunities we may have otherwise missed.  Sitting at our desks surrounded by the same 4 walls keeps us tethered to solving problems the way we always have, and seeing the same answers we always saw.  

Now you might say, "I'm not the creative type."  While that may not be your default style, we all have the ability to awaken our creative, right brain.  Here are a few simple things you can do to activate the other side of your brain to expand how you see the world and solve problems.

  • Move your body: Go for a walk outside, do yoga, stretch, or play Twister!   
  • Listen to something new:  A new-to-you genre of music, people speaking in a foreign language, the sound of the ocean (real or digital), or the sound of an airplane passing overhead.
  • Hydrate! Believe it or not, drinking water helps brain function.  When your body gets a full 80 ounces of water a day, you will think faster, be more focused, and experience greater clarity and creativity.  And no, coffee doesn't count!
  • Seek out stimulating visuals: Go to a museum, draw your attention to the architecture of the buildings around you, or people watch!  Bring your awareness to the subtle things you may usually overlook like the buttons on a stranger's coat, or color!
  • Practice neurobics: A term coined by the late neurobiologist Lawrence Katz, neurobics is about engaging different parts of the brain to do familiar tasks.  Writing your name upside down, taking an alternate path  to get to work, and brushing your teeth with your non-dominate hand are all simple examples.  

While routine is a part of life, and being good at our routines got us to where we are, we could make small changes in our day to day to see more possibilities.  Creativity is not superfluous, it is the enabler.  Adopt this mindset and share it with your colleagues.   

So start your day with a glass of water, a little Telemundo, and bust out your best downward dog... and see how your mind opens to new possibilities and solutions.  :-)

Befriending Your Inner Saboteur

One of my favorite questions to ask professionals in my coaching practice is, "What do you do to self-sabotage?"   Regardless of a person's title or years of experience, I generally hear 3 common themes:

  1. "I don't set boundaries"  
  2. "I am indecisive when problems arise"
  3. "I avoid confrontation"

Once a behavior is identified, I ask three Why's.  Common answers to why people don't act when they know they probably should include:

  • It could create interpersonal or team conflict
  • The employee/boss may not like me anymore
  • I may be seen as uncooperative
  • It may tarnish my reputation
  • I may get fired
  • I may be wrong

What do you notice about these Whys?  They are rooted in fear, full of assumptions, and ego-based.  Most of us default to the status quo and prefer to keep things the same even if the situation is less than ideal rather than act and initiate some sort of change.  However, change is often needed to inspire a better outcome, and even if we do nothing, change is inevitable anyway.  And as my good friend Carmine always says, "Bad situations have a way of self-correcting..."  (and Carmine is never wrong!)  

So if things will eventually change anyway, why fear it?  Life is dynamic and nothing stays the same for long.

If we get into the Jungian psychology of this, we learn that our inner Saboteur is actually there to protect us rather than harm us.  When our inner Saboteur is working in the positive, it is highlighting the fear we have about changing our lives for the better.  It is simply making us aware that fear is a normal emotion when it comes to change.  However, when our inner Saboteur is working in the negative, it leads us to self-destructive behaviors or causes us to undermine others.   

Here is where we have choice.  We can admit we have the ability to self-sabotage and feel bad about it, or we can view our inner Saboteur neutrally without judgement.  In fact, we can use our inner Saboteur to our advantage by having a brief conversation with it.

If we pause and ask our inner Saboteur why we aren't setting boundaries or avoiding confrontation, then ask what we are afraid of, it may give us the higher level perspective we need to take that step forward.  We can likely rationalize why each fear stems from a low-to-no risk possible scenario.  More than likely, you will not lose your job, any potential conflict will resolve and people will still like you.  

So give it a try.  Ask yourself, 1) What do I do to self sabotage? 2) Why Why Why and 3) What am I afraid of?  When the answers come to you and you feel more at ease stepping outside of your comfort zone, you'll know your inner Saboteur has become a powerful ally working for you, not against you.

In the process, you will become a more conscious leader.  And, you've made a new friend. :-)