Why taking a risk is worth it

I was 28 years old in Astrakhan, Russia, with a KGB officer following me.

Our team of four – a scientist, a videographer, an expedition leader and I – had just arrived to the Caspian Sea basin for two weeks of research on the sturgeon crisis. We were representing a coalition of nonprofits seeking protections for the endangered, ancient beluga sturgeon species, which had seen its population drop 90% in the 10 years following the breakdown of the Soviet Union.

Even though we were on a scientific mission in Russia to help find solutions, we were not welcome.

Shortly after landing in Astrakhan, the world capital of caviar production along the Volga River, our meetings with local scientists, NGOs and fisheries experts were cancelled one by one. We arrived at our hotel and were told we couldn’t stay there. It took threatening to call the American embassy to get our rooms reinstated. Everywhere we walked around town there was a man in a cheap polyester suit and dark sunglasses a block behind us. Watching.

There was an organized campaign against us discovering any kind of truth from the people who would know what to do about the sturgeon’s demise.

We had two choices – give up and go home, or take a risk by staying and reaching out to new contacts we had no trusted relationship with.

Continue reading “Why taking a risk is worth it”

Get out of your comfort zone

For my daughter’s 13th birthday, she gave herself a new relationship with fear.

We were on spring break along the Gulf of Mexico in Florida, in one of those quaint coastal towns where you can still find cow tails and Big League Chew in the tourist shops and speed boats fly huge banners advertising All You Can Eat Crab! specials.

While playing in the water, we couldn’t help but notice the giant, yellow smiley-face parasails off in the distance. I’d watched them with zero interest for decades, but this time, I thought, see if you can get Isabelle (my most serious and risk averse kid) to go. Her big 13th birthday was a few days away, so I impulsively asked her if she’d like to go parasailing together as a birthday present.

Her reply: “No thanks, mom, I’m scared of heights!” My reply: “Great news! I am too, so let’s get over that fear together.” I then read her the great reviews of the company and its attention to safety. To my surprise, she agreed. (She wasn’t thrilled but she wasn’t opposed!)

The next day, as we sat on the back of the boat a mile offshore, strapped in our harnesses about to liftoff several stories high above bluewater, I told her how proud I was of her decision. I said, no matter what, whether you like this or not, you will have a new relationship with heights and all of your fears after this.

Because you will have learned that you are in charge, not your emotions or the limitations you put on yourself.

Continue reading “Get out of your comfort zone”

Why getting good at conflict is the top skill you need to develop NOW

You don’t want to read this. You’d rather not think about conflict, or you know you need to but you think it’ll require a lot of time and skill to do it well.

Think again. While it may not be easy, it’s simple and it’s the most important skill you’re procrastinating on. If you really want to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of these conflict struggles, the best way to do that is to learn these productive conflict basics now.

First, here’s what NOT to do…ever:

  • Don’t criticize
  • Don’t stonewall
  • Don’t condemn or judge
  • Don’t be defensive


Offering a critique of someone or giving feedback with compassionate intention is necessary and very different from these. To learn more about the differences, check out The Gottman Institute’s definitions, which are focused on marriage conflict but apply in the workplace too.

Steve Keating, leadership author and former Dale Carnegie exec, says:

“The very best leaders run to conflict. They know that needing a little time to heal is far better than dealing with a slow burning conflict that never ends.”

Continue reading “Why getting good at conflict is the top skill you need to develop NOW”

Don’t cheat the world of your gifts

You defied the odds before you were born. It’s time, once again, to make what seems impossible possible.

I just attended a storytelling training with the talented Bo Eason, a former NFL player and Broadway stage actor. He explained to us that everyone can be the best at something and to not strive to be THE best goes against Mother Nature. Here’s what he means by that.

When you were conceived , 300 million sperm were competing to connect with the egg. That was not an easy journey. It was a fight for survival, and you had a one-in-300 million chance of being brought into this world.

After this miracle, why is it that we give up on our dreams so easily? Why is it that we sometimes think our voice is not worth sharing on the things that matter to us?
The famous American dancer and choreographer, Martha Graham, said it perfectly.

“There is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.”

It’s time to start fighting for your dreams again. It’s time to figure out the most positive impact you can have on this world, and DO it.

In Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, he writes: “Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you got.”

5 reasons why you don’t have the career of your dreams

Why is it that some people seem to have an easier time progressing in their careers or landing the job of their dreams?

If you feel like you’re in a stuck moment or have a fear of moving forward in your career, here are some reasons why that may be happening.  The good news? All of this is in YOUR control to change!

 

1. You’re not flexible with your style or your strategies: Ever heard the saying that the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again expecting a different result? How we approach the people, events and work that can propel our careers can be the difference that makes the difference. If your current career development strategy isn’t working, try a different strategy. If your current interaction style with others might be limiting your success in collaborations, try a style that you see others using toward better results.

2. You don’t know what you want: Have you asked yourself in the past two months what it is either big picture or specifically that you want for your career? Either is a great place to start. Ask yourself what’s most important to me in the context of career. Is it leadership, teamwork, travel, financial stability, recognition, diversity of experiences, or other? That will help you to find your big picture values for your career. You can also ask what specifically do I want for my career in the next year? Make sure it’s something that largely depends on you to initiate, visualize what you’ll be seeing and feeling once you get it, and take the first step in that direction within a week.  Continue reading “5 reasons why you don’t have the career of your dreams”

Here’s the 3-step user manual for your brain

You’ve heard the saying, “I think, therefore I am.” 

René Descartes’ words spoken in the 17th century point to the power our thoughts have over us. 

Gaining control over how you interpret the up to 70,000 thoughts that come to you is the first and most important step to mastering your mind and achieving what you want in life.


That’s right. Don’t believe everything you think. We are humans, not perfect machines, so can’t help but to let bias, values, assumptions, limiting beliefs and emotions into our thinking process when interpreting the world, people and events around us. Thoughts can build us up and thoughts can wear us down, stress us out, and yes, even make us sick. Thoughts can build relationships or weaken them. Many thoughts are simply a waste of our time, which is the most precious resource we have.

For instance, let’s talk about that thing called worry. Worry or anxiety is a fear emotion, but it’s a fear of something that HAS NOT HAPPENED. Researchers have studied worry, and to summarize their findings, they discovered that the things we worry about pretty much don’t happen (85%) and when they do happen it’s largely things we didn’t have control over anyway and we do a better job handling it than we thought we would. Worry is a wasted emotion.

So how do you get control of what your thoughts mean so you make better choices with the words and actions that follow them? Here are 3 steps to take now:

1. Be an observer – Listen to your thoughts in a disassociated way as if you are your own coach and question the ones that are negative or not empowering toward you or others. Ask yourself, what do I want to believe instead?

2. Pull out the weeds – Don’t let weeds grow in that beautiful garden of your mind. We have a tendency to have the same thoughts over and over again. When we get stuck in this looping of thoughts that don’t serve us, all we have to do is pull the weed out by saying, no thank you, I don’t need you. By bringing awareness to those unhelpful thought patterns, you can redirect yourself toward my next point.

3. Focus on what you want – We see what we look for, so look for the best. Put all of your energy toward what you want, and stop wasting energy getting exasperated by others or when things don’t go your way. It’s often easier to think about what we don’t want or to move away from something rather than towards something. Please avoid that trap that keeps you operating at a lower level, sapping your enthusiasm and spirit.

What if you reverse the quote above? I am, therefore I think. You are not your thoughts. Nor are you your beliefs, words or actions. You have a thinking mind and you have intuitive mind, and when you learn to leverage both to interpret your thoughts and in communication and decisionmaking with others, you’ll set yourself up for even greater success.

Why you should “own it” vs. blame others

Have you ever felt ignored, blamed or stuck, or like you have little or no control over a situation? We all have, and some psychologists say that our thoughts are in those places (aka, “below the line”) up to 80 percent of the time.

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The key is to learn how to be aware of and accept the moments when you’re feeling below the line. Ask yourself, “How did I get here? What has been going on in my life?” And, when you’re ready to move forward, ask yourself, “What can I do to take responsibility for how I feel? What do I want to believe instead.” When you answer the latter, you regain control of your interpretation of the event, which means you regain control of your circumstances.

Yes, mastering your thoughts means mastering your results. Have you heard of the law of attraction? The point is that our thoughts are more powerful than we think they are, and we attract the things into our lives that we focus on. So when we always see the problems, we stay in the problems. When we are waiting for others to do something, we hold ourselves back from moving forward. When we refuse to see our role or our choices in creating the situation we are in, we cannot get ourselves out of it.

Your personal power lies in noticing that there’s a choice in how you interpret the world around you. You have the control, if you’ll just decide to take it. Once you open your curiosity by deciding to learn from criticism or difficulties, and get courageous by seeing effort as a path to success and persisting in spite of setbacks, you are developing a growth mindset, as written about by Dr. Carol Dweck and illustrated below.

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Her research has shown that those with a growth mindset reach higher levels of achievement and fulfillment. You’ve heard the phrase, you are what you eat. You are what you think too.