Coaching, communication, Change, Life Lessons, mental skills

Step Into the Ring: Hurt vs. Harm

In conversations over the years a good friend of mine has routinely said that she desires a relationship with someone who isn’t afraid to “get in the ring” with her. Someone who will call her on her shit when she deserves it, and who will put on the gloves to protect themselves from being knocked around. Someone who (when necessary) will stand up and fight because they know who they are and what they deserve.

For much of my life, I was not that person. 


Before we are able to get into the ring with someone we have to have confidence in ourselves as a fighter.

I was once someone who freely admitted I did not like confrontation. Over the years I have learned that confrontation – when practiced and done skillfully – is one of the healthiest things anyone can do for building trust within a relationship. I’ve learned that conflict and disagreement can co-exist with love and compassion. Most importantly, I’ve learned that building the body of a fighter who can step into the ring with anyone involves understanding what it means to set and hold boundaries. Without them, the hits will keep coming and getting knocked out is inevitable.
We often fail to set boundaries for fear for hurting someone’s feelings, never realizing that our failure to set boundaries eventually results in lasting harm – either to ourselves, the relationship, or both.

Hurts will heal, but harm endures.

Assuming that others should know our boundaries sets them up for failure. People don’t know where our boundaries lie until we tell them or show them, and most folks won’t respect our boundaries until we do.
We tend to think of boundaries as restrictive, but in reality boundaries are limits that promote integrity in our lives. Setting them allows us to live with greater energy and intention and we get to draw the lines in any area we choose; with our family, friends, partners, co-workers, strangers… in conversations, in relation to our bodies or to experiences or emotions… the list is endless.

If you’ve yet to set boundaries in an area of your life for fear of hurting someone, please consider the harm it may cause by failing to do so.

Remember: The only people who get upset when you set boundaries are those who benefited from you having none. 

Setting boundaries can be challenging, but it is absolutely worth it!

May you cultivate the ability to step into any ring with confidence and fight skillfully and passionately for our own integrity.

P.S. If you could use some help with your training, please reach out.


Perfect Timing

Lately I’ve had a blast doing my “Listen & Be Heard: The Art of Communication” workshop with various teams and organizations. The first part of the 90-minute interactive session covers 6 barriers to effective communication; context, tone, trust, timing, clarity, and word choice. Life continually throws new material into an ever-evolving communication overhaul that’s part stand-up comedy, part raw vulnerability as participants work collaboratively to hone their skills. 

The comedy comes from unscripted situations like a dinner conversation with Rita last week.

Rita is my 88-year old friend and a gem of a human being. Playful, classy, and full of spirit, Rita delights those in her company with a genuine engaged enthusiasm. One night we were sitting on her porch in Chautauqua watching the world go by and talking about “the kitty”.

Many guests come through the Chautauqua home and during their stay they put some money into a jar known as “the kitty” to help cover groceries and cleaning fees. With the summer winding down and no more guests on the schedule, Rita was telling me about the elaborate (aka ”expensive”) breakfast offered at the nearby hotel. In mouth-watering detail she described the menu then said with excitement, 

“We’ll take whats left in the jar and treat ourselves to a nice breakfast…We’ll eat up the kitty!!”

As we laughed I turned in time to see a couple walking past the porch with horrified looks on their faces. The woman nervously reached down and picked up their miniature poodle, no doubt fearing that if we could so joyously talk about eating cats then her tiny dog was surely next.

“Oh dear, “Rita giggles, “I dare say I don’t think we’ll see them again.”

Thanks to context and timing we made two less friends that evening, but gained one hilarious experience in miscommunication.

Life Lessons, Coaching

The Kayak

Thanks to the generosity of friends, I’m spending August at the Chautauqua Institute in a beautiful house on the lake. I can’t imagine a better setting in which to build a business and lay the foundation for success in my new venture. The grounds are breathtaking and soon after arrival I grabbed a life jacket from the porch and made for the dock to venture out in the homeowner’s double kayak. It was a bit windy, and as such there weren’t many boats on the water. 

“Perfect!”, I thought, “less chance of being run over by a speedboat.”

Having no idea how far it was, I set my sights on the opposite shore which I guesses to be just over a mile away. I wanted to touch it - to say I’d been across the lake. Excited for a new adventure I pushed away from the dock and into an experience. 

It took about 20 minutes to reach the other side and I pulled in next to a small floating dock with a giant bobble head owl meant to keep the seagulls away. As I sat on the dock basking in my achievement I looked at the owl, “Whoo… whoo” I said to myself with a grin. My inner dialogue took a serious turn however when the owl’s coo became elongated into questions like, “Whoo? Who are YOU to be here? Who are you to be coaching coaches? Who made you an expert in communication? Who?” As the conversation with my nodding companion began to get real I decided it was time to move on. Action has always been a great remedy for fear and doubt. 

Looking back across the lake I noticed the whitecaps were clearly present now and the wind had increased.  I aimed the kayak straight across and after a few strokes I noticed that already I’d been pushed further down the shoreline. 


Since it was an open top kayak the present danger wasn’t just in getting back, it was “how do I keep the small waves from inviting themselves on board??” My rowing across a windy lake in a double kayak experience was exactly zero. But, my paddling a surfboard into choppy break experience was high, so I did what I knew and pointed the kayak directly into the waves - and into the wind - and got to work. 

10 minutes later I looked sideways and realized I was only about 300 yards from shore and that it was going to be a long journey home. This was the same moment a twinge of panic set in. I quickened my stroke rate in an effort to cover more ground and minutes later recognized the need to pace myself. I stopped paddling to rest and felt the boat immediately drift south of my landing point. Long story shorter, it took over 3 times as long to get home, and I learned a lot along the way;

When you feel called to take an adventure, go for it! Whether or not you’ve done it before, whether or not you’re fully prepared, whether or not others think it wise or have found success in it. Jump in, start paddling, and see what happens.

Be your own cheerleader. On the way back I repeated “deep-stroke-strong-stroke” in rhythm with my paddle to stay focused on what needed to happen in the moment. 

When you reach a goal, celebrate it! I let out a little “WHOOP!” when I first reached the other side, and before my questions with the owl began I took a second to savor the view. 

- Meet challenges head on to get where you want to go. It will get tough. And the times you’ll want to rest are the exact moments when it’s crucial that you keep going.

Be mindful of how you spend your energy. If you’re gonna paddle, make each stroke count! Deep and strong, as skimming the surface will only take you so far. 

At times there will be doubt. LOTS of doubt! Who are you to do this thing? How dare you? And yet here you are… sometimes in the middle of a lake with the elements working against you. Remember that you have resources (a paddle, a life jacket, a kayak) and you have intangibles (work ethic, positivity, commitment) the combination of which is uniquely your own. Keep showing up. Again, and again, and trust that you already have all you need to make it.

- The path may not be what you imagined - `and it may take a lot longer than you planned - but stay the course. It’s absolutely worth it!

- Finally, when you do get to where you’re going, be grateful. And then in gratitude, set your sights on future adventures and enjoy!