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.


From Worrier to Warrior in 7 Steps

Dragons At WorkAre you a Worrior…? A Warrior…?
Either way, this is your time!

For worriors, it’s an embarrassment of riches. There’s an old joke about a Jewish mother who sends her children a telegram that reads: Start worrying…details to follow.

Here are the worrisome details that follow us these days, wherever we look.

If we adjust our gaze towards the macro-economic picture, we can worry about sovereign debt and insolvency on a global scale. In the USA, the same regulatory structure that brought us the 2008 financial debacle is substantially unchanged and vulnerable to the next multitrillion dollar derivatives black hole. Or we could worry about natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes. And let’s not forget the political paralysis in Washington and upheavals in the Middle East. Many people are a pink slip or an illness away from losing their homes. Pensions are evaporating, and it looks like a jobless recovery is no recovery at all. GDP growth for the first 6 months of 2011 is 0.7%

Against this backdrop, there are the challenges in our personal lives. This is a good time to adjust our disposition toward life and move from worrior to warrior.

In the cowboy movies of my youth there was often a moment when things seemed darkest for the hero. He would gather his gang or posse, and we would see a narrowing circle on the screen and our hero say in a near whisper, “Here’s my plan.” I found that very exciting. It’s good to have a plan, a strategy, and a backup plan.

Regardless of the plan, it’s how you carry yourself that makes you a warrior.

Worry, by definition, is future related. Imagined problems are the fuel of anxiety. If we tune into the present moment and take a deep breath, we find to our surprise we are all right. If we really are in life-threatening danger, chances are we’re too busy dealing with it to worry. Being in the present moment leaves no room for worry, and it clears the mind.

The question is how do we stay in the present so that we’re effective and free from worry?

Like many of the skills and capacities that are the foundation of a successful and fulfilling life, this one is not developed overnight. With advances in neuroscience we know that the brains of meditators are different from those of non-meditators. The trouble is many of us need relief now, and changing the brain through meditation is notoriously slow.

Moving from worrier to warrior today:

1. Do nothing. Take a longer, slower, easier breath, and shift your attention to a more panoramic focus – a diffused attention that includes all sensory (auditory, visual, touch, smell, and taste) experience. This puts you in the present moment and enriches your experience of it. Enjoy the moment. Chances are, you’re all right.
2. Plan the future – mind map it, then prioritize it. (Either by yourself of collaboratively).
3. Network – call colleagues, key players, experts, friends and loved ones. Run your strategic plan by them and make adjustments. Even the Lone Ranger had the help of a posse now and then.
4. Get organized and tactical in your implementation. Rather than multitask, stay focused on one task that is the best use of your time at this moment. (Your planning will have helped choose this task and the proper sequence of the tasks to come. Stay agile, look for emergent solutions and adjust your plan.)
5. Stay open to emotions that arise, along with opportunities.
6. Dissolve the emotions into the bigger field of your awareness. This will make you courageous without blunting your emotions.
7. Optional: set a repeat timer to go off every ten minutes. When you hear the chime ask yourself the question: How am I attending? Adjust your attention from a narrow focus to a more panoramic, present centered one. Enjoy yourself in this moment. Even the tough stuff is enjoyable right NOW! (Thanks to Les Fehmi, author of Open Focus Brain for this suggestion).

Each day, before you plan and spring into action, ask yourself: What’s better today? What’s emerging that informs how I can be agile in moving in the direction of my goal. (Thanks to Mark McKergow for Rutenso and Solutions Focus Work).

Practice improves all of these skills. As Dragons at Work chapters appear on Mondays and Thursdays, you will periodically receive detailed instructions and audio instructions on how to master these skills and more. You’ll also hear more from Les Fehmi, Mark McKergow and other fascinating experts.

You’ll get the first chapter on Labor Day, Sept. 5.

Have a great weekend!

Stay tuned.

Why I No Longer Teach Executives How to Meditate

After 46+ years of daily meditation, I am willing to admit all the positive things they say about it are true. It lowers your blood pressure, boosts your immune system, makes you emotionally resilient, decreases anxiety, and makes you more available to life. If there were a drug on the market that did all of those things and had no side effects, its sales would be in the billions. [Read more…]

Those Who Would Take Over the Earth

Part of the delight in writing Dragons at Work was including the poems of Lao Tzu, the great Taoist master. When I first encountered his work I was surprised that poems written 2,500 years ago could feel so fresh and relevant to contemporary life.

Consider this one… [Read more…]

A Fire-Breathing Bundle of Joy

Hooray! We’re expecting the birth of a Dragon on September 5, 2011.

Apparently dragons have a long gestation period. This particular dragon was conceived at least five years ago when a seminal question found its way into my thoughts…

Could I write a story that captures how an executive profoundly transforms from a command and control boss to a better leader, father and husband? Could I make the story a compelling, instructive and delightful parable to be invaluable to leadership development professionals – HR VPs, coaches, and executives?

Dragons at Work was finished a couple of years ago. Early readers enthusiastically assured me it accomplished what I had hoped. Still, it needed an imaginative media platform to make it accessible, selected experts to help readers delve more deeply into subjects of interest, and comic book illustrations to make it fun.

Now it possesses all those elements, and it turned out better than I possibly could have  imagined!

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll let you know more about what to expect while we’re expecting. I’ll tell you about the experts I’ve interviewed and the great value they contribute to the mix. You’ll also hear about the free home-study materials you’ll receive, so you can work on your own transformation as the story unfolds.

Make sure you sign up to be notified of new fire-breathing chapters, as they come rolling hot off the press.

Stay tuned…