Category Archives: Life Coaching

It’s All Invented!

A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying:


The other writes back triumphantly:


This simple story used by Benjamin and Rosamund Stone Zander in The Art of Possibility is their invitation to possibility. They suggest that in the world we inhabit – “it’s all invented”. How often have you shared an experience with someone (a meeting, a movie, a meal, …) and, in discussing it afterwards, you find little that the two of you can agree on? Perhaps you both heard the same key points in the meeting but understood them differently. Maybe one of you fell asleep from boredom in the theater while the other was riveted to the screen. And that meal? Well, each of us interprets delectability based on our taste buds so the exact same food will produce different sensations in each of us. In the same way, ears hear different frequencies and eyes may be 20/20, 20/100 or color blind.

We take in information according to our sensors. Beyond that, we actually don’t know what we’ve taken in until the sensors have passed the information on to our brain, and our brain has interpreted these new data and categorized them in the library of our memory banks.

Pause and take that in for a moment.

The world you inhabit and the world I inhabit are not the same world! From our sensory organs to the computer in our heads and its storehouse of previous experiences (along with the storehouse in our emotional memory bank), each of us creates the world around us:

It’s All Invented!

What could that mean to us? Consider:

  • We could get curious about another’s reactions before making assumptions and passing judgment
  • We could get curious about our own responses and wonder “What’s that about?”
  • We could realize how much power lies in this truth – and use the power to invent other interpretations, scenarios, outcomes
  • We could choose to believe in expansive possibility once we realize that the key to this universe is in our minds!

What limiting invention have you created?
What glorious opportunity is waiting for your recognition?

What is possible?

How do you limit yourself with either/or?

Think about it. How often do you fixate on “the way” or “the right choice”? When you know like this, do you notice that you can quickly list all the reasons why “this” is right and “that” is wrong? This way of thinking can drive a wedge between two people in relationship, each of whom thinks they are right and other is wrong. In business this can show up, for example, in one group focusing solely on quality, regardless of price, and the other insisting on cost control.

How do we move beyond these stuck points?

In the third chapter of The Zen LeaderGinny Whitelaw offers a helpful tool to expand our vision when we get stuck in this either/or  mentality. She offers a simple 3-step approach:

  1. See 2
  2. Map 4
  3. Manage the figure 8

I find that even just the first two steps are extremely eye-opening and powerful. Try it for yourself. Call to mind a situation where you know you are right and someone close to you has a different opinion. Draw this simple 4 square diagram:

Replace “MY WAY” and “YOUR WAY” with your dichotomy. Then, start in the upper left-hand quadrant and list all the reasons which positively support “MY WAY”. Proceed to the lower left-hand quadrant and, yes, list all the drawbacks to your way! Now, head on over to the upper right and list all the supporting factors for their way. Yes, you can do this! Now travel down to that lower right, a place you know well, and list the reasons why their way doesn’t stand a chance.

What did you notice?

If that was impossible, I encourage you to share this exercise with the other person(s) involved or with someone who holds the situation differently than you do. Open up and get curious! Be willing to see and hear the expressions from all four quadrants.

Where to from here?

If you value the relationship or the business, you will seek out:

  • the “win/win” that draws from both sides
  • not “mine” or “yours” but something magically different!

Or, you may check out chapter 3 in The Zen Leader and learn about “managing the figure 8”.

What topics lock you in to “either/or”?
Whose perspective do you refuse to see?
What’s possible when you explore the “wrong” way?

(*) If Zen Leadership is peaking your interest, check out:

The Zen Leader book discussions September-November 2017
The Institute for Zen Leadership

Be True to YOU!

When was the last time you paused to wonder:

Who am I?
What really matters to ME?
Am I being true to myself?

Some of you may be thinking, “How selfish!” There is too much good work to do in this life to worry about what matters to me. There are so many less fortunate than me and my job is to give what they need.

Will you stay with me awhile to explore this? Continue reading Be True to YOU!

Amp it up – really!

What is alive inside of you right now? Stop to notice. Breathe in deeply. Is it freedom or stuck? Fear or love? Anxiety? Worry?

If what you notice is “positive”, give yourself a gift and “amp it up”! Fully feel the freedom or the love, the joy or the satisfaction.

If what you notice is “negative”, give yourself a gift and “amp it up”! WHAT???!!!!!! Yes, take time out, step outside of your activities, and turn up the volume. Let your being fully experience the depth of the discomfort, the depth of stuck for fear, anxiety or worry. Then ask:

What if nothing changes?
What is impossible from here?
What is possible?
What shift am I willing to make?

Then what …

You are facing an obstacle, a situation. Your mind has jumped into the whirlwind of confusion and perhaps all the way to stuck and unmoving. Worst of all, you’ve got fear and it has taken over. Consider this tool. It might not even be new to you. But in case you haven’t tried it in awhile, here goes!  Ask yourself:

What’s the worst that can possibly happen?
If it happens, then what?
After that, what?
What next?

Now, give yourself the gift of this alternative:
Continue reading Then what …