Geneen Roth – author of Women, Food and God – Interview

Coming soon.


Recipe for a Wonderful 2013

Purpose: Create the best possible 2013.

Cooking time: 1 1/2 – 2+ hours


  • Post-it Notes
  • Pens/markers
  • Flip chart page – or large sheet of paper
  • 2012 calendar
  • 2013 calendar (optional)
  • Delicious food and beverage of your choice
  • Yourself & Loved one/s
  • Musical instruments, dance music, inspiring images/photos, recorded music to play, clay for sculpting – whatever is handy

Overview: This is a process for setting the direction and creating a path to a wondrous 2013. It begins with a celebration of 2012, harvesting all that you learned, and bringing the resulting wisdom into 2013. It is an opportunity to acknowledge the contributions others make in your life. It ends with contemplating 2013 and letting go of all hopes and fears you may have about it. Why let go of hope? Because while you’re busy hoping, you’re not getting done what needs to be done (or resting), and you’re not living in the present. Ditto for fear.

Step 1: Set your intent to celebrate 2012 and envision what you want in 2013. Divide the large sheet of paper with a vertical line. At the top of the left side, write “2012” and “2013” at the top of the right side. Looking month by month through your 2012 calendar, find the significant events. Write them on Post-it notes, and place them on the 2012 side of the paper. Declare each event aloud, and express appreciation for the role others (and you) played in it. You can talk about how that event developed you and others. If it was a challenging event, talk about what skills and capacities you had to draw upon to meet the challenge. If the situation was difficult and/or still unresolved, make note of it. Honor your challenges.

Step 2: Step back and reflect. What did you learn and accomplish in 2012? What got done that pleased you? What amazed you? As always, express appreciation for your partner/s. If partners are not with you, think about how you can later convey your appreciation to them. What challenges did you face and what values did you embody/express/learn as you met those challenges? Were their failures? What have you learned from them? If you like, you can dance the year. You can sing it, draw it, or sculpt it. Make sure to write the lessons you learned on post-it notes.

Step 3: Scan and reflect again on 2012. What do you want to take with you into 2013? Take all the Post-it notes that express the positive capacities, values, and lessons learned from 2012, and move them to the 2013 column. These are the gifts and hard-won lessons which will help cook up a wonderful 2013 for you.

Step 4: Imagine the future. Imagine it’s 2015 (or even farther out into the future). You can go out hundred or more years, if you like. There is no limit. From that date and perspective what positive events would you notice that had their start in 2013? What seeds of future accomplishments were already present in 2013?

Step 5: Now, write what you imagine you will to accomplish in 2013. Write your goals on Post-it notes and place them in the 2013 column. You can imagine them as events leading to accomplishments or the final results – whatever seems most natural for you. As you write them down and post them, say out loud what the benefit of accomplishing that will be. And then brainstorm more benefits and say them out loud. Who will benefit if these things are done? Who else will benefit? (BTW these are particularly inspiring questions from Solutions Focus).

Step 6: Making safety your highest priority, find a safe way to burn all the leftover post-it notes from 2012. Express gratitude for 2012 as you burn them. Declare what you are leaving behind in the old year and what you are carrying forward to be part of your life in 2013.

Step 7: Listen to the audio instructions to remove obstacles to achieving your goals.


Step 8: Notice in what ways the seeds of your 2013 success are already present now, even in the smallest ways. Express gratitude and appreciation to others – offer toasts, libations, dancing, and expressions of love. Congratulations! You have already begun your brilliant new year. (If you are doing this solo, love those who will help you and receive benefit from your success. None of us is alone).

I Was Herded by the Grapevine – The functions of gossip

One of my clients worked for the boss from hell. Her boss gave staff members goals that pitted them against each other. As you might imagine, the office was rife with gossip.

Because the boss was despised and feared by many, telling stories about her felt particularly delicious, and it also offered a measure of protection against her “let’s you and she fight” leadership style.

Some excellent research illuminates the positive function of gossip. In one study, social psychologists measured the heart rates of players in a game. When they observed other players cheating, their heart rates increased. When they were able to slip a “gossip note” to fellow players to warn them, their heart rates went down. This is a nice illustration of how people feel compelled physiologically to “spread the news.” Other studies showed that simply knowing that one’s actions would be visible to the group, curbed selfish behavior.

Groups help us survive. Early humans who stuck together had the best chance of living long and raising offspring. Being expelled from a group and its protection was a death sentence. Well-functioning groups helps us survive, and we are hard wired to protect them from deviants. Gossip is a highly efficient control mechanism for that purpose.

The darker side of gossip shows when people use it to enhance their own status in a group at the expense of others. It’s the whispering voice that has launched hundreds of celebrity gossip magazines and that torments teens with cyber bullying.

In my client’s case, even though there were times when her gossip was counterproductive, she couldn’t resist. I asked her if she knew how to politely excuse herself when talk turned to gossip. She did, but she did not want to, because she was “the queen of office gossip.”

Now, one does not meet The Queen of Office Gossip everyday! I asked her if for five nights in a row she would, as The Queen, write her memoirs. This story emerged in her writing.

She is a young girl, maybe 10 years old. Her father is a mean drunk who, in his alcoholic rages, withholds her mother’s insulin. Her job is to keep her mother alive by finding insulin and sneaking it to her. To succeed, she must pay attention to every gesture and voice tone that lets her know how to accomplish her mission.

I imagine that you are as horrified as I was to hear this story. As it turned out, simply bringing that memory to light helped her relax about office gossip, and she felt less compelled to engage in it. I suggested that it would be beneficial to explore this issue in depth with a psychologist. Happily, today this client is thriving.

I hope this post gives you a taste for the complexity of gossip and the many functions it serves. Does it spark your thinking? I’m interested to hear your insights and stories. And in the meantime, here is a remarkable recording by the legendary Marvin Gaye and an article for further reading.


Here’s the excellent article in the NYTimes by Alina Tugend that inspired this blog post.







Emotional Freedom Technique

I’ve avoided looking into EFT for years. It seemed so simplistic and facile to me. How could tapping on a series of points on the face and torso while uttering statements bring relief from intractable psychological pain? However, I tried it a couple of weekends ago and it worked wonders.

For the uninitiated, EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Technique. According to Gary Craig, the author of “The EFT Manual,” a clinical psychologist named Roger Callahan was working with a patient in the 1970’s who had a fear of water. Dr. Callahan had been unsuccessful at treating this patient’s phobia. Because he was interested in the energetic systems of the body, he decided to tap acupressure points under his patient’s eyes. To his amazement, she reported that her disturbing thoughts about water had completely vanished. Immediately they tested this out in the backyard swimming pool, and indeed she was free of her phobia. Dr. Callahan went on to develop a series of protocols for various psychological condition that required tapping on a specific series of points which he called algorithms.

Later, Gary Craig simplified tapping procedures so that one set of points could be applied to many conditions. And EFT was born.

In writing this post I consulted Wikipedia, which maintains that no research has ever proved tapping more effective than cognitive behavioral techniques or other methods. The Wikipedia article says tapping is no more effective than a placebo. Given that placebos are often amazingly effective with no side effects, I call that high praise.

Richard Bandler (co-developer of NLP) was so impressed with the placebo response he wanted to create a product simply called, “Placebo.” “Think of the vast array of experimentally proven results you could claim,” he said. He even planned to roll out a second product, Placebo Plus (with twice the number of inert ingredients). His idea turned out to be particularly prescient. A year ago I ran across research that said the placebo effect works even when people know they’re taking a placebo! But I digress.

What made my weekend encounter with EFT so successful was my devouring of Jack Canfield and Pamela Bruner’s new book, “Tapping into Ultimate Success.” The book contains a DVD with some masterful demonstrations of EFT, and it also leads readers through exercises that remove resistance to achieving their goals. By the end of the weekend, working on myself in the comfort of my own home, I felt light, clean, and clear. It was as though I’d attended the best seminar of my life – all for $17.84.

Whether my results were due to the placebo effect, I cannot say. But EFT seems to be a format for all manner of skillful therapeutic techniques. I recognized elements of NLP, psychodrama, gestalt, inner family systems, and more. If you are a skillful change agent, I believe you’ll be able to apply what you know to the EFT protocols and get amazing results. If you are a coach, it could be a remarkable resource.

I encourage you to explore EFT.

Here’s a link to Jack’s website and book. Click here.


Kids Beyond Limits – A New Book by Anat Baniel

This post is a departure from our usual Dragons at Work fare, because I want to encourage you to read Anat Baniel’s  Kids Beyond Limits – here’s why…

Each year millions of children are diagnosed with autism, ADHD, Cerebral Palsy and other developmental disorders. Parents of these children want to know, “What is possible for my child?” Often the answers they get from physicians are devastating. I know of one child, whom I’ll call Jacob, who contracted meningitis at three months old and then developed encephalitis. His neurologist solemnly delivered the diagnosis and prognosis to the mother. “Your child has cerebral palsy. He will never walk or talk.”

I can only imagine how difficult it is to not only hear such a pronouncement, but to deliver it. The neurologist based his prognosis on scientific research. He did not believe it was pessimistic. Rather than give Jacob’s parents false hope, he thought it best to deliver the hard news straight.

By contrast, the waiting room at the Anat Baniel Center is a friendly and hopeful place. On a visit there I met a delightful six year old boy. By the graceful way he moved and his willingness to engage me in conversation, I assumed he was not a student of Anat’s. Perhaps he had a brother or sister who was being helped. Aside from the fact that he was especially alert and nearly luminously happy, he appeared completely normal.

Later I learned that this child was Jacob, the same child whose dismal prognosis so alarmed his mother. He walks and talks… fluently in three languages.

This extraordinary outcome was not a fluke. Not only can Anat Baniel reliably work these miracles, but practitioners trained by her achieve them as well. I find this remarkable. One can find rare practitioners of an art whose results defy explanation, but even more rare are the magicians who can not only articulate the principles by which they achieve results, they can transfer that mastery to others.

Through her new book, Kids Beyond Limits, Anat Baniel has extended her teaching to parents of children with special needs. Through reading this short volume, parents can develop the skills and the confidence to make a tremendous difference in the trajectory of their children’s path toward optimal functioning. It is also an invaluable and inspirational parenting manual for parents of normal children.

I mention Anat Baniel’s work in this blog for three reasons:

1. You may know (or be) a parent of a child with special needs. In that case, this book will change lives.

2. I recommend Anat’s work to my executive coaching clients. The same principles that work miracles with children produce astonishing results in high functioning adults. I believe leadership is a performing art, and possessing a body-mind brimming with vitality and mental acuity can make all the difference for an executive. Anat has produced excellent DVD’s which make home study easy. Using these DVDs has also enabled many people to eliminate chronic back, shoulder, and neck pain.

3. Anat Baniel’s work has done wonders for me. Not only has it improved my athletic performance, it has made me a better learner. I am more curious, more inventive, more acutely aware of my sensory experience, and more enthusiastic. Having studied her method for three years now, I understand why her work awakens such disparate and delightful qualities of experience.

One last point: the Anat Baniel Method appears deceptively simple. It looks a little like yoga or physical therapy, and because of that people may miss its unique power to change the brain. If Jacob’s mother had taken him to a physical therapist, the neurologist’s prognosis would have been confirmed. Instead, having found Anat Baniel, he will lead a normal life.

Last Saturday night Michal Merzenich spoke at a gathering celebrating the launch of Kids Beyond Limits. Dr. Merzenich is a preeminent authority on neuro-plasticity and brain functioning. He ended his talk with a fervent wish that the Anat Baniel Method will soon be the treatment of choice for children with special needs. The publication of Kids Beyond Limits is an important milestone in making that wish a reality.

I recommend you visit and see the results for yourself.


CHAPTER 52 – Ten Months Later…

Ten months later…

At first, he saw only her silhouette as she entered the restaurant, yet her upright carriage and her graceful movement made her unmistakable.  Michele smiled when she saw him.  She headed directly for his table, and greeted him with a look that was both appraising and appreciative.

“Looks as though you’ve kept up the good work, Dan.”

“I have. Life gets better and better”

“I’d love to hear the details.”

“How is grandfather?”

“Like a river, endlessly flowing, with undercurrents of impishness,” she said.  “Much the same.”

“And you?” he asked.

“A lot has changed for me. A few months ago I went to a weeklong retreat called The Hoffman Process that re-energized my life.”

“You? With more energy? That’s a scary thought.”

“It’s the quality of energy that’s changed. During the retreat I revisited and resolved some very old wounds. During the Cultural Revolution my parents were taken to a reeducation camp from which they never returned. I believe they died there.. I felt abandoned by them and stricken with inconsolable grief. Grandfather healed much of that, but the Hoffman process reached places in me that tai chi and meditation hadn’t touched. Life feels fresh to me now, innocent of the past. I’m  still dedicated to my work, but I feel more relaxed about it. There’s a lot more joy in my life, and business opportunities keep pouring in.”

The waitress took their drink orders and returned with a glass of Zinfandel for Dan and for Michele, Elijah Craig 18 year-old bourbon, neat with two ice cubes on the side.

Answering Dan’s unasked question, Michele said, “Bourbon is as American as you can get – declared America’s native spirit by a 1964 Act of Congress.  I like to honor my adopted country, my home.”

“What about your Chinese liver?”

“The secret of all medicine is dosage.  One ounce, sipped over an hour has a lot of flavor and Grandfather says it relaxes the nerves.”

“Here’s to Grandfather,” he said raising his glass.

“To Grandfather,” she said as their glassed clinked. “And the U. S. of A.”

“The last time I heard from you,” she said, “you told me that Bob resigned under duress.”

“Yes he did.  I gave him a chance to take the high road, but George discovered him falsifying data, and showed him the door. Bob went to work for a financial services firm in New York.  An old college friend arranged that for him.  I think he had that job lined up way before he left. Guys like Bob always land on their feet.  Or on other people’s feet.”

“Then what happened?”

“Then Catherine and I brought in Rob Evans.  With his help, we gathered all the stakeholders, redesigned and re-scoped the project, and it’s been relatively smooth sailing ever since.  Mind you, I say relatively. After all, this is enterprise-wide software integration. But, so much for Bob’s being indispensable.  People liked working with Rob so much that we used him to help us redesign other business processes.  The guy’s a gem.  I take back my every consultant joke, at least where he’s concerned.

“We’ll know better in a year, but the initial surveys show much happier policy holders and agents are enthusiastic again, especially after we removed the onerous parts of Bob’s risk management program.  Our revenues are up.  So, things are looking good.  And our group just celebrated a major deployment, which went as smoothly as anyone could have hoped.  My staff is happy and their teams under them are producing great work.”

Their waitress appeared, took their dinner orders and left.

“OK, Michele.  What did you do to me?”

“Dan, you were there for all of it.  What do you think happened?”

“I know what happened.  I want to know the thinking that guided your process.”

Michele took a micro sip of bourbon, put down her glass, and rested her hands, fingers interlaced, on the table.

“Now that’s a good question.  I don’t think a client has ever asked me that.”

She looked into Dan’s face and let memories of their meetings filter into her awareness.  She saw him in the Thoreau room, in meetings with his staff, and in Golden Gate Park with Grandfather.  She thought of the feedback interviews, his behavior chart, and their first meeting where she’d challenged him.  She remembered meditating with him at Half Moon Bay.

“I could tell you the technical details, but that’s not the heart of it,” she said.

“Then tell me the heart of it.”

“What I do is simple: I help people feel more fully alive. I reintroduce them to their natural vitality and gifts. I teach them how to appreciate others and bring out their best work. But none of this would work if the essential lesson didn’t take hold.”

“And what’s that?”

“Get over thyself.”

Dan laughed. “That’s it?”

“Yes. Until you begin to care about the world beyond your personal sphere, you are not useful and not fully alive. Lao Tsu says, ‘The invincible shield of caring is a weapon from the sky against being dead.’”

“Some people use their work to avoid their humanity. These people inevitably create organizations where telling the truth is dangerous, where overwork is a virtue, and work-life balance is scorned. So I introduce sanity into the system, like a positive virus.”

“And I thought we were trying to get an IT project under control.”

Michele laughed.  “Yes, that’s why you hired me, and that’s a result you got.  But to make it happen, to paraphrase Einstein, you had to approach it from a new level of understanding, not from the level of thought that created the difficulty.”

They sipped their drinks.

“How are things at home?” said Michele.

“Janice may have gotten at least as much out of coaching as I did.  She listened to all the ALIVE MP3s, and the Sedona Method CDs, too.  She’s happier, and more willing to say what’s on her mind.

“How’s Maggie?”

“If I said I knew, I’d just be fooling myself.  Adolescent girls mystify me, but Janice and she have grown closer, and that makes me feel better.  These kids are so locked into their phones and social networks, it’s a little scary.  But Maggie seems to want to connect with me, too and I’m grateful for that.”

As their conversation began to wind down Michele asked if Dan wanted to learn something new.  He did.  Most dinner guests had left and only one other table remained occupied.  It was quiet.

“Dan, part of our work has been about letting go of emotions that block you and working with the physical body to feel fully alive.  There is another way of working that removes energetic blocks. I learned this from Bruce Frantzis, an American Taoist, who learned it from his teacher in China. Sit quietly and tune into your breathing.  Let your posture naturally find its balance.  Bring your attention to just above the top of your head and feel any sensations of energy there.  Can you feel something?”

“Yes,” he said.

“Now, imagine there is a downward flow of energy from the heavens.  It’s like a mist, like a gentle rain that dissolves all knots, all obstructions.”

She waited until his breathing deepened.

“Now keep that going and extend your awareness to the space that is both outside and inside you… like we did at Half Moon Bay…and rest in that space… as this dissolving energy works to soften you…remove energy blocks.  I am doing this meditation with you.”

Dan felt the top of his head tingle with energy.  Then he felt as if his brain was being saturated with a calming mist that continued descending.  After fifteen minutes he felt it fill his torso down to his belly and finally to the bottom of his feet.  His breathing became effortless.  He felt both clear and full at the same time – filled with soft energy and empty of thoughts and concerns.  He opened his eyes and looked into Michele’s, and for a moment he saw endless space.  She asked him to sit quietly and rest in the experience.

They sat silently for a while longer and then said their goodbyes.  They agreed to touch base in a couple of months.  On the way out of the restaurant, he noticed the feeling of softness was still with him.  And it was there in the car on the way home.  Softness and peace.


It was almost 10:00 when Dan pulled into his garage.  The house was dark, save the few dimmed lights Janice had left on for him.  Through Maggie’s opened door, he could see her sleeping.  She liked the door angled just so – not completely closed, not wide open, and the night light in the corner adjusted to cast its glow on her stuffed animals.

Looking at her face he saw no trace of dreams.  He quietly lifted a chair, placed it next to her bed, and settled into it.  As he gazed at her, he remembered when she was only an hour old.  The same mouth, the same lips, in miniature.  The same ears.  The color of her eyes had changed but the feeling of Maggie, the person behind them, had stayed and remained in his care.

Dan smiled as he noticed his own breathing had fallen in with the small rise and fall of the quilt covering her.  He let his ribs and spine catch the rhythm, too, until his smile, his breath and the movement of his torso sang this simple song with her.  After a time he stood, replaced the chair and left Maggie’s room, leaving the door just the way she liked it.

In his own bed now, he carefully reclaimed some of the covers that had migrated to Janice’s side of the bed.  She stirred lazily, turning under the sheets. Close to her, lying on his side, he reached out and placed his hand on her back and felt her body through her silk pajamas.  She rolled onto her back, cradled his hand in hers and took it to her breast. He slid his other hand under her and they lay still.  She kissed him and they lay still again, then kissed and laid still, alternating this way until stillness was no longer possible.


Michele entered the front door of her house.  At 10:30 Grandfather would have just begun his evening practice.  Moving though the kitchen she could see the outline of his sitting form in the garden, motionless in the moonlight.

She changed into her cotton pants and tai chi slippers and stepped into the back yard.  Night blooming jasmine mingled with the moisture of the evening air and its softness called forth in her the gentlest of tai chi forms.  She settled into each movement – stately, yet yielding and poised.  With each successive posture, she eased into deeper connection to the earth beneath her feet.  She sensed and absorbed the profound peace of her grandfather’s meditation, until her every motion was both still and vibrantly alive.  She continued this way, with stillness in motion, motion in stillness, until the distinction between them, and in fact all distinctions, vanished.

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CHAPTER 51 – Bob, Dan, and George

George Summons Dan

“Excuse me, Dan” said Sue through his partially opened office door. “Mr. Corbett just called. He said he wants to see you in his office immediately. Five minutes later Dan stood in George’s office.

On previous visits, Dan had been struck by the size of the room, the oriental rug, the rosewood desk, and the view of the grounds through two abutting glass walls. Now it was George’s direct gaze from underneath his heavy brow and his big voice that captured Dan’s attention.

“Bob sent me your report on our risk management program. I just finished reading it. Seems like you went on a fishing expedition and came up with very little. Why are you wasting time on this crap?”

Dan sensed tightness in his chest and his belly, and he automatically began to breathe into his torso. He waited. Something didn’t make sense. His breathing felt more even now.

“Is that the report?” asked Dan, motioning to the document on George’s desk.

“Of course, that’s the report.”

“May I?” Dan said, reaching for the document.

“By all means,” said George, still with an edge in his voice.

The first page contained an executive summary, authored by Bob, followed by Peter’s table of contents. Dan sensed the heat of George’s impatience emanating from across the desk.

“Look, Dan, I want an explanation. I don’t need to watch you reread this thing.”

“George, you asked me questions that need answers. May I have three minutes to look this over? Then I’ll be able to shed some light on it.”

“Three minutes!” said George, looking at his watch.

Shed light? Right now it’s all heat, he thought. Ah, but look at this! A ray of light. Bob, you son-of-a-bitch! Nice work. Or rather, nice try.

The table of contents had remained the same, but Peter’s numbers had been altered, the conclusions changed, and the executive summary not only exonerated Bob, it pointed to the outstanding value his program brought to CSI. Dan reached inside his briefcase, pulled out Peter’s report, and placed the reports side by side on George’s desk.

“George, this is Peter’s original report, and this one is Bob’s new and improved fictional version. He changed it to make himself look good, thinking that you wouldn’t ever see the original. But as you’ll see, the original shows Bob’s program is costing us much more money than it saves.”

“Let me get this straight. Bob altered the report to make himself look good and to hide the real data?”

“Yes. Frankly, this is shocking. I thought Bob was smarter than to falsify a document that’s so easy to check against the original. He’s slipping.”

“Show me what you’re talking about.”

Dan walked George through the discrepancies between the two reports. He could hear George’s breathing get more ragged as they progressed. He could use a few lessons from Michele, he thought.

“And this is Peter’s original conclusion,” said Dan, “the one that Bob didn’t want you to see.”

George read it to completion; his lips mouthed every word, as his eyebrows progressively raised. He slammed the report on the desk. “Unbelievable,” he said, as he reached for the phone and dialed. “Bob, I’d like to see you here in my office, right now. Regarding? It’s regarding you being in my office in five minutes.”

When Bob entered George’s office and saw Dan, his expression fell.

“Ah,” he said looking at Dan. “My favorite IT guy.” Looking at George, he said, “What’s going on?”

“Sit down,” said George.

Bob took a seat.

Handing Bob the first report, he said, “This is the report you gave me, is it not?”

“Yes,” said Bob.

“And this is Peter’s original report, do you agree?”


“So Bob, can you explain to me why there are discrepancies between these two reports?”

“George, the first report was amateurish, and I didn’t think all its conclusions were supported by the data, so I wrote something more readable and accessible with an executive summary.”

“Bob, I just read the original. It’s far from amateurish.”

“I was trying to simplify it so you wouldn’t have to spend so much time to grasp the essence of it.”

“Bob, I read both reports. You altered the data. That’s the essence I grasp.”

“I reformatted some of the charts –“

“Bob, now you’re insulting me. I don’t like phony data, and I don’t like to be played for a fool. Regardless of the reports, your behavior in front of me, right now, is enough to get you fired.”

George stood, placed his hands on his desk, and leaned toward Bob. In distinct, measured tones he said, “Bob, I want your resignation, effective immediately, on my desk in half an hour. And then I want you out of this building.”

“George, trust me. This is not what it appears. My program achieves solid results, and Dan here wants to make me look bad, so he can divert attention from his own mess in IT. I think we need to take a moment to  understand what’s actually going on.”

Looking at his watch, George said, “You now have twenty-eight minutes to get me your resignation. I don’t want to have to say this again, Bob.”

“OK,” said Bob, “If that’s the way you see it.” He stood, turned without looking at Dan, and left George’s office. George and Dan watched the door close and looked toward each other.

“Dan,” said George, “I owe you an apology. I imagine Bob has made it difficult for you, and you’ve had enough on your hands without his interference. I should have seen through Bob’s act a long time ago. I guess I wanted to believe it. I know that you and Bob have had your share of conflict.”

“Yes. Thanks for saying that. Honest conflict is healthy. Unfortunately, this was not the honest kind. But I believe we have a good shot at making this a great company, and it will be a lot easier for us to get it done now. I appreciate that you can set the direction and clear the path for that to happen.”

“Dan, I know you understand the delicacy of this situation. I will make a formal announcement about Bob’s resignation, and figure out an interim plan for Customer Service. The communication about Bob’s departure needs to come from my office, so I want to be the sole source of information about this. Understood?”

“Understood,” said Dan.

“Good. You let me know if there’s anything I can do to make your project a success,” said George, sitting straighter.

“I’d like to give that some thought and get back to you. Can we set up a three way meeting with you, me, and Sean?”

“Definitely. Put it on my calendar.”

“I will.”

Dan felt a sensation of warmth in his chest, hands and feet. He was happy. Happy that Bob was out of his life? No, that wasn’t it. He looked at George.

“George, it may not be my place to say this, so forgive me if I’m overstepping my bounds, but I feel happy to be working at this company and glad that I work for a stand-up guy. Thank you. It means a lot to me.”

“Thanks,” he said, shaking Dan’s hand. “Thank you.”

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CHAPTER 50 – War

Dan and Bob

“I read your report,” said Bob.

“Peter’s, actually,” said Dan.

“Peter’s.  Whatever.  Anyway, I think it’s very clever, but it’s full of shit.”

They sat opposite each other, separated by Bob’s substantial walnut desk.  Bob leaned forward as he spoke, pushing the report toward Dan.

Dan leaned forward to meet him and said, “It sounds like you’ve got some alternative ways to interpret the data.  Before we get to that, could we start by talking about what we want to accomplish in this meeting?”

“I’d like to talk about what you’ve already accomplished, which is to launch a frontal attack on my program which has been working perfectly,” said Bob.  “You just want to deflect attention from the failure of your people to deliver on your hopelessly mired IT project.  And frankly, I think the people who count around here will see through your tactics, and you’ll be out of here.”

“Oh, I think it’s worse than that,” said Dan, “I’ve been thinking about it from your point of view.  You bet your career on this risk management strategy.  You built a little empire around it.  And now some asshole, who you’ve never liked, is declaring war against you, and you want to obliterate him.  This conflict used to smolder underground, but now it’s all out war and you’re going to fight with everything you’ve got – all the political capital you can muster, and you won’t stop until you annihilate me and return peace to your domain.”

“What is this, some kind of fancy negotiation shit you learned from your dragon lady?”

“Yeah, this fancy negotiation shit is called telling the truth, so let’s see if we can put our cards on the table here.  Am I right that you’re going to fight me all the way?” said Dan.

“You bet your ass, Sonny, and you’re going to lose big time,” said Bob.


“So is this your best shot? No more salvos from nerdland?”

Dan laughed.  “Nerdland!  Cute.”  He was smiling now.  “You know, it’s too bad we’re on opposite sides.”  Dan’s smile faded.  “But let’s get back to being enemies.  It’s so familiar and comfortable.  Here’s what it’s like from my side.  You’ve been a colossal pain in the ass, obstructing and complicating my process at every turn.  And now I find out all your requests may not only be unnecessary, but they further develop a program that damages the company.  If you were in my shoes, wouldn’t you be just a little pissed off?”

“If I were in your shoes, I’d be worried that I’d stuck my neck out to discover that Bob isn’t just going to roll over and capitulate.”

“I didn’t expect you to roll over and capitulate, but I think you’re smart enough to consider alternatives to war.”

“Like what?” said Bob.

“First, this is only a report.  As we know, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.  If the statistics in this report are distorted, I want to know that as much as you do.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet you do.”

“Bob, no one else has seen this report.  I can keep it that way.”

“Why would you want to do that?”

“Because I trust that somewhere in you is a canny strategist who can course-correct if that’s what the situation calls for.  You may even come out looking like a hero. With your political skills, it’s possible.  But if you don’t, you can still come off as someone who’s wise enough to admit mistakes.  That’s a rare and valuable quality in a leader.  You can rethink your strategy, adjust your program, and get us on a more productive path.   It will all be your idea.  Not invented by some IT nerd like me.  What do you think?”

“If I say your idea is a good one, I’m admitting that your statistical slander has some validity.  I’m not willing to admit that.”

“And you shouldn’t admit it.  You should go over the figures carefully, and see if they make sense.  You can debate this with me and try to poke holes in the argument.  I’d be happy to do that.”

Bob reached for the report and glanced through the first two pages.

“Bob, my intent is to make this company run smoothly and profitably.  And if in the process you come out smelling like a rose, that’s the way it goes.  I’ll just have to find some other way to annoy you.  What do you say?”

“Let me think about it,” said Bob.

“When should we talk again?”

“Let me think about that, too,” said Bob.

“Bob, I need a definite date for a next conversation.  I want this resolved quickly. I’ve had a lot of trouble getting on your calendar.  Today is Friday.  If I don’t hear from you by Wednesday, I’ll assume that you’ve  decided to fight me on this.”

Bob glared.

“And, if that’s the case, this report will no longer be just between you and me,” said Dan.

“If you go up against me, you’ll wind up fired.”

“So be it. If this company can’t look data in the face, I don’t want to work here.  It’s your choice. Will Wednesday by the end of the day give you enough time?”

“Yes,” said Bob.

“Will you let me know one way or the other?”


“One more thing, Bob.  I don’t want to go to war with you.  I want to work with you to make this company great.  You’re a smart guy.  I’d like to see what it’s like if we were both pulling in the same direction.  That’s my preference.”

Dan could detect no change in Bob’s facial expression, although he did draw his head back slightly and his eyes looked away for a moment.

“Is there anything else we need to discuss now?” said Dan.

Bob shook his head.

Standing, Dan said, “I’ll wait to hear from you.”

Click here to read Chapter 51.

Have you given enemies a way out, rather than vanquish them? How did it work out? Please comment.

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CHAPTER 49 – Bob’s Game Falls Apart

Bob and George on the Links

As Bob and George sat together on a bench at the sixth tee, waiting for the foursome in front of them to hit their second shots, George asked, “How do you think Dan is coming with the IT integration?”

Bob sighed, shook his head, and paused as if he were searching for just the right words.  “I think he’s doing as well as he can, given the circumstances.”

“Bob, I know you want to be diplomatic, and no one wants to speak ill of a colleague.  Still, I need to know what you think.  There’s a lot at stake here.”

“I know.  And that’s why I’ve been trying to work with Dan every step of the way.”

“How are the project manager and her team doing? Are they bringing this under control?”

“According to Catherine, Dan keeps presenting her with problems, reasons why we can’t get the kind of system the company ultimately needs.  She’s good but she can only manage a project that can be professionally executed.  I’m afraid Dan has gotten to the stage where he’s trying to cover his ass for his team’s miserable performance.”

“How’s he doing that?”

“Have you received the report that he’s circulated?”

“No. What report?”

“I managed to get my hands on it the other day.  It’s supposedly an analysis of the results of our risk management program.  It’s amateurish and statistically so full of holes I’m a bit surprised Dan has shown it to anyone.  I’m meeting with him tomorrow to talk about it.  I think he’s just trying to deflect blame and get out of having to program the software with the changes we need.”

George had the honors at the tee.  He drove his ball into the center of the fairway about 175 yards out, just short of the traps on the par 4.  He would still need his fairway wood for the next shot, but he was in good position.  Bob said with more fervor than usual, “Nice shot, George.”

George turned and smiled at Bob.  “I liked it,” he said.  “By the way, I talked to Chuck Sumner.  You know him, don’t you?  The former CEO of United Insurance?”

Bob nodded.  “Yeah, they’ve always been strong players in the market.”

“He told me that they had an aggressive risk management program like ours, and it ended up losing money.  It was a lot more trouble than it was worth, and they had to recover their image of being evenhanded and a prompt payer of claims.”

“That’s surprising,” said Bob.

“Yes, I was quite taken aback.”

“Maybe he doesn’t remember the details anymore.  It doesn’t sound right to me.”

“He’s just a few years older than I am and his mind is still sharp as a tack. You don’t have to lose your edge, you know”

“Absolutely” said Bob.

“Anyway, after you meet with Dan, send me the report.”

“Sure, I’ll get it to you as soon as I can.”

Bob’s practice swing scooped a fairly deep groove in the grass at the tee.  He replaced his divot, stepped up to his ball and drove it 275 yards into the adjacent fairway.  He slammed his driver back into his bag and said to George, “I’ll take you to your ball and after you hit, I’ll go find mine.  My shot may take me a while.”

“Take all the time you need to get back in play,” said George.

Bob chose to shoot over the trees.  His ball met the trunk of one that soundly returned it to the fairway not far from where he stood.  Then he played it safe with a seven iron back to the first fairway.  A five iron landed in a trap by the green.  Two sand wedge shots got him on the green for a three-putt finale.  He was down for a 9 on a par 4.

 Click here to read Chapter 50.

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CHAPTER 48 – We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

Dan and Michele Contemplate Dealing with Enemies

Dan paced, waiving a folder in his right hand.  “You should read this, Michele.  It’s unbelievable.”

“What is it?”

“It’s a report from Peter.  It shows in lurid detail how Bob’s highly praised, praised mostly by Bob incidentally, risk management program is costing us hundreds of thousands of dollars and eroding our market share.  There are survey results that show growing dissatisfaction among our policy holders and our independent agents. Bob had access to all this information, and he’s been sitting on it while he continues a program that’s tarnishing our brand.  And all the while, he insists that I program in all the minutiae that bloats the software and makes our project nearly impossible to execute.”

Dan dropped the report on the conference table and sat opposite Michele.

“And to top it off, Bob’s program was supposed to lessen the risk of litigation, but in fact it’s increased both our litigation and our settlement amounts.  All this, and Bob parades around here like he’s a freaking hero.”

“What are you going to do with this information?” said Michele.

“I don’t know.  In the old days I would have gone straight for revenge.  Now, I’m not so sure.  I need some help on this one.”

“What makes you think revenge is such a bad idea?”

“Because, it’s not what your grandfather or Lao Tsu would recommend.  Aren’t you the person I engaged to get me to not go for the throat?”

“Yes, but revenge would still be satisfying, wouldn’t it?  Do you want to get Bob fired?”

“I would love that.”

“And do you feel like even that wouldn’t be enough?”

“It would be a start,” he said.

“How about something physical?  Would you like to beat the stuffing out of him?”

“What are you getting at?”

“I’m thinking about a Sedona Method process that could help you clarify what’s worth doing.  It’s not for the faint of heart though; it involves generating some violent fantasies.”

“Gosh.  That’ll be a stretch, but I’ll give it a try,” he said.

“I know you’ll do your best.  Imagine this: If you could do anything you wanted to Bob and there would be no consequences to you, him, or anyone else, what you would do?  That includes anything –  torture, beating, dismemberment.  In your mind’s eye, just let it rip.  There is a next step in the exercise, but it only works if you do the first part without holding yourself back.”

“Anything I want?”

“Anything.  And you won’t tell me what you imagine.  I don’t need to know.  Ready?”

Dan nodded.


Dan closed his eyes and imagined himself at the top of a building with Bob.  As Bob pleaded for his life, Dan listened politely and kicked him over the edge.  Bob fell, screaming. Dan was airborne beside him, saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll talk you down.  It’s not the beginning of the fall that kills you, anyway.  It’s the last couple of inches.’

Bob hit the pavement flat, bleeding from many places.  Dan scooped him up and brought him back to life.  Then they were in Dan’s back yard where the tree guy had left the shredder, which Dan put to steady, methodical use.  In a bucket at the output end, Dan collected what he could find of Bob and fed him to the piranha at the aquarium. All in a day’s work.

“OK,” said Dan. “Done.”

“Okay.  Get in touch with the emotions that you felt as you were doing whatever you imagined.  Take a few moments to feel it fully. Good. Now answer this question: What do you want?”

“I want to stop him and make him do what I want.”

Michele took Dan through many rounds of releasing.  He wanted control of Bob.  He wanted Bob to feel humiliated.  He wanted Bob and others to approve of all his hard work.  He wanted to protect his reputation.  He wanted to be recognized for his expertise.  He wanted applause for outing Bob’s idiotic strategy. Revenge was multifaceted and rich, yet at the end of all the releasing, he could take it or leave it.  To complete the exercise, Michele instructed Dan to see Bob as whole again.

“Here’s another exercise that will give you additional insight.  It’s more of a Taoist take on your situation.  First, bring to mind memories of Bob.  What are some of the things Bob does that particularly irk you?”

Dan shifted in his chair and scowled.

“The more fully you can give yourself to this, the better it will work,” she said.

“OK.  I see his office and I recall our last conversation.”

“Observe his behavior. What would you call that?”

“Self-important.  Arrogant.  Mean-spirited,” he said.

“Even though it’s not the way you act, just for a moment imagine that you are acting like Bob – self-important, arrogant and mean spirited.”


“And let yourself experience the emotions that would have to be there for you to act that way.” she said.

Dan described a tight feeling in his chest and tension in his shoulders.

“Take the energy behind that tight feeling and bring it to your face.  Let your face express the emotional energy from your chest…What would you call that expression?”

“It’s like a mixture of anger and fear – like they’re vying with each other for prominence,” he said.

“Good.  Now, never mind what the fear and anger are about, just experience the constellation of sensations in your body.  Now feel the vast space outside your body, out to the stars.”

Michele waited until his breathing and skin color changed.

“Good,” she said.  “And now, can you feel the space inside your body as it extends infinitely inward?  Got that?”

Dan nodded.

“Now, simply rest in that space and allow those sensations to exist, as they do, without having to adjust them in any way.

She waited until his breathing became even and deep.

“Now, let those sensations dissolve and change at their own speed, as you rest in the expanse of space, infinite space with no center.”

Michele led Dan through a few more iterations of this process until the tension in his body dissolved.

“I hate to admit this…” he said.

“If you hate to admit it, then you have more dissolving to do,” she said.

“Actually, I don’t hate to admit it, I’m just using outmoded language.  I’m more amazed, because I now know that under the right circumstances, I could act like Bob. I could act exactly like Bob.”

“Yes, we all could.  That knowledge keeps us humble and allows us to connect with our enemies.  I’ve been carrying around a scroll of calligraphy that Grandfather asked me to give you at the right time.  This feels like the right time.”

Michele opened her briefcase and took out a scroll tied with red ribbon.  As she unrolled it and laid it flat on the table, Dan took in the beauty and balance of the Chinese characters.  The brush strokes, alive and free, formed a composition of uncommon grace.

“He made this for me?”

“Yes, he did.  He told me that you would need the wisdom of this poem someday.”

“Please thank him for me.  I’m overwhelmed.”

Absorbing the intricacies of the brush strokes, Dan said, “What does it say?”

“This is the 69th chapter of the Tao te Ching, Lao Tsu’s famous book.  I wrote out Witter Bynner’s translation for you,” she said.

Dan read the translation aloud:


69 – Witter Bynner Translation –Used with permission.

The handbook of the strategist has said:
‘Do not invite the fight, accept it instead,’
‘Better a foot behind than an inch too far ahead,’
Which means:
Look a man straight in the face and make no move,
Roll up your sleeve and clench no fist,
Open your hand and show no weapon
Bare your breast and find no foe.
But as long as there be a foe, value him;
Respect him, measure him, be humble toward him;
Let him not strip from you however strong he be,
Compassion, the one wealth which can afford him.

Click here to hear the poem set to music as song. 

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“That’s beautiful. I’m afraid I don’t have enough compassion to afford Bob right now, but I’d like to get there,” he said.

“The Dali Lama tells of a monk who was tortured by the Chinese.  The monk told him that throughout his experience the only thing he feared was losing compassion for his torturers,” Michele said.

“I’ve been in circumstances like yours, where I wanted to retaliate against someone who had wronged me.  I wasn’t clear what actions would create positive results in the long run.  If you keep calm and offer your enemy the opportunity to act his best, then a solution may appear.  And if not, as Grandfather would say, ‘If you want to make a point of it, you can push.’  In that case, if you prevail, Lao Tsu says, ‘Conduct your victory as a funeral.’ ”

Dan felt a clever remark arise, but it simply fell into vast peaceful space.  As he picked up the scroll, he imagined the old man smiling at him.

“Thanks, Michele,” he said.  “I’ll let you know how it goes.”


The next day Dan sent an email to Bob that summarized Peter’s analysis. He asked Bob if they could meet in the next few days to discuss it.  Bob’s administrative assistant contacted Dan immediately and set up an appointment for Friday.  She requested that he send Bob a copy of Peter’s report. Dan complied within minutes.

 Click here to read Chapter 49.

Have you been in situations where your or someone else’s anger has been so intense that it blocked all solutions? Please comment.

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