Category Archives: Life Experiences

It’s Been Too Long & Life Goes On

It’s been a long time!

My last blog came just after the election.  I felt inspired to write and request some space, some time to think and not have to answer questions about how we could possibly elect someone like Trump.

I didn’t think it would be this long.

Life moved on.

I have a business to keep moving forward and a community of friends that remind me that even if Trump has won, we will go forward.

I did find some peace for myself.  Politics is a crazy, impersonal sport that has very little to do with the true hearts of people.  I say this because when I spoke to people I knew that voted for Trump, they were not racist or sexist people.  They were frightened, angry, disheartened about their own circumstances and lives and somehow thought that Trump would do things different.

I may not have agreed with their choice and I get we are here now.  There’s no turning back.  We got Trump.

I admit I lost a little heart when I saw the front page headline of the NYTimes with Obama saying he would have won a third term over Trump.  That just sort of pissed me off!

Really – Obama, can’t you do better than that.  Personally I think that was just a cheap shot on your way out.  Not really like the man I think you are.  I got use to hearing that talk from the likes of Trump – but not you – disappointing!

Anyway it’s time to move on!  We, the people, each have a life to live and people we care about to protect and make sure politics don’t continue to get in the way of talking, connecting, bridging and actually making our country and the world a better place to live  for everyone!!!

img_05772016 is coming to a close and even though this election has made a lot of it challenging there’s much more to a year than what makes the news!

We each have our lives that often don’t have a whole helluva a lot to do with headlines.  Even the people who are making those headlines usually are so much more than what we read about or see on the screen.

Life is NOT lived through media and politics!

So for me, this year has been about finding my Mojo here in Montana. Of course I still visit many other places for work, for connections with family, friends and some strong doses of chi building and heart healing.

However, this year I have wanted to do more right here!  It helps that I found the world’s best horse whisperer, Bobbi Hall and some very special horses.  I love the work I am getting to do with clients, friends, teams and myself out at Stillwater Horse Whisper Ranch!

I love that CrisMarie and I have our book written and will be launching, The Beauty of Conflict – Harnessing Your Teams’ Competitive Advantage, early in 2017!  It’s been a journey writing this book and I am thrilled to get it out into the world.

We’ve also been speaking and connecting more here in the valley.  We are engaged in PowerHouseMT, spoke at AERO and got to meet and write about some awesome couples here in the Flathead doing business together!

I found out there’s a Haven right here in my own hometown.  It’s for writer’s and it’s quite a amazing experience, offered by our local NYTimes bestselling writer and good friend of Bobbi Hall, Laura Munson.  She’s awesome and I believe we’ll be doing some more work together!  It’s amazing when the dots connect!!

The year’s also had some low points.  There have been some friendships ending and programs canceled.  It’s hard letting go of something that you think is going to be solid and yet it’s not.  Sure that’s been hard.

Still I don’t regret, the time spent or the acknowledgement of the need to let go.

It’s provided important lessons, I don’t like to say, “I quit”.  Especially when it comes to people.  But may be sometimes that is just what’s needed for all to be able to move on and build from the lessons learned!

We haven’t had our best financial year and that plays a factor in how we each deal with not meeting our expectations.  Were we successful?  Yes – but revenue/profit does matter and so even with some great learning, fulfilling work and new lines of business – it’s not easy looking at the final numbers.

This year, I traveled back to my hometown.  It’s been thirty plus years since I left.  I went with my mom to take my father’s ashes.  (Now that is a funny story worth writing and sharing but not today!) It wasn’t an easy decision but it was a good one.  I made it and I stayed okay with myself.  Visited the old homestead.  Acknowledged my Dad’s wishes for ashes scattered across Virginia and managed not to get reactive!

I reconnected with a friend from way back.  We shared some stories and some similarities about our journey living with our own versions of ‘crazy’.  I honestly never expected to have that type of connection.  Actually no longer thought I needed it and may be that is just why it was time for it to happen, I didn’t need it.  But it sure felt like something worth having.

I enjoy this time of year.  Reflecting, imagining and celebrating.

So the year is wrapping up and it’s been a good one.  I hope you will be inspired to take some time to reflect and share your year.

It’s a great opportunity to re-member and make space for whatever is due to come next!

Wishing you a wonderful end to 2016 and a great 2017!!


The Secrets About Boundaries and Me

I consider myself someone who is quite good at speaking up for myself in general.  As a result, I have spent years working with clients, supporting and encouraging them to find their own voice and risk speaking up even if it may create conflict in their most important relationships.

Truth is, surfacing conflict really did save my life.  So I have been passionate about it.  It’s not that I love conflict.  I don’t.  However, a lack of conflict and overly nice and calm is way more of a safety issue for me than loud and messy.


The easy answer is simple.  Not speaking up can and does lead to health issues.

Stay silent long enough and your body talks, in the form of headaches, backaches, joint pain, and even cancer.  If you want references check out Dr. Gabor Mate’s book, When the Body Says No.

My personal experience is that my cancer began to resolve when I found my voice and spoke up.  I believe staying silent creates ‘dis-ease’ in you, negatively impacting your health.

But please don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying if your are ill you must not be saying something.  It is not that simple!  However, speaking up and speaking your truth does help your sense of well-being and life energy.

But there’s more to it.

I’ve been in relationship now for over 16 years with a classic Conflict Avoider, CrisMarie. Yes, she has good reasons for having developed a super power in navigating and defusing conflict.  In many ways, it has served her well.  However, there has been a tremendous cost to her.  You can hear her story in our TED Talk, Conflict Use It, Don’t Defuse It.   It’s also been hard for me and our relationship.

See I do not pick up on her subtle cues. I am also the first to own up to being blunt, persistent and persuasive about my ideas.

As a result, I have gotten upset when I learned later that CrisMarie was quite uncomfortable with my strong debate style, but didn’t say anything at the time.

I am sad when I realize she was asking me questions and working to meet my needs without ever bringing up what she wanted.

I feel blindsided and betrayed  when she has addressed her unhappiness and even once thought she might want to end our relationship because she wasn’t sure there was room for her.


That particular situation was a horrible moment for me.  In my past, I would have quickly tried to change and  stopped speaking up.  Although, having done that before and knowing it did not work,  I chose I different path.

I stayed with me and my style, and I also encouraged her to do whatever it took to find her voice even if it might meant leaving me.

So far, that has not happened.  She’s been working on her own track for a while now and yes, it has impacted our relationship.  She is speaking up. We fight more or at least differently.

Things get tense we sometimes separate and each take space to settle ourselves.  When we’re with others she doesn’t often come to my defense when I get into my own reactive style. No, instead, she usually tells me what she really thinks.  Sometimes that stings.  Yet, I know I am getting straight feedback from her these days, and I like that – even when I hurt myself with it.

As a result, I have also discovered my own issues with boundaries.  For me, it’s not so much saying something I don’t like or think differently about. No. It’s often more about saying, “Ouch! That hurts.”

I tend to have a protective layer that can be more like a wall than a boundary.  I have a fight style that served me well in my past and now can be hard to dissolve.  So people may not know that they are having quite a significant impact on me, and my angry face or silence is a mask.  Underneath, I may be swimming in uncertainty or worse hurting myself with something they’ve said.

When I am at my best I drop the wall and stand forward in my vulnerability.  However, that’s at my best, and I am far from perfect.  I do still wrestle with my walls when I interpret an attack. It is often worse when I am blindsided by a situation where I thought someone was standing beside me, and later learned they were just too afraid to speak and tell me they didn’t like what, or how, I said something.

That moment.

When someone finally finds their voice after long time, and I didn’t know they were being silent to avoid conflict with me.

That moment.

When that truth surfaces, is the most painful for me and yet, the most valuable. It’s the reason I believe surfacing conflict, speaking your truth in real time and hanging in through the messy is so worth it.

I also know I have my own work to do.  Because when I don’t say, “Ouch!” or own up my wobbly vulnerability,  I am really just as dishonest and in avoidance for being real in that moment.

Walls are not boundaries.

Boundaries are not about defense but about self-definition.

Boundaries are for defining me and showing up – not about changing you.

When, and if, me and you ever learn that lesson – well may be then we can live in a more self-responsible relational world!

Do you recognize yourself in any of the above?

CrisMarie and I started Be BRAVE, a six week virtual program, because we believe that speaking up, learning to self-define and stay in your own shoes is critical for aliveness, health, success in business and in any significant relationship or partnership.

If you want to learn more join us for our FREE Training, September 14, How To Set Boundaries that Stick!

Also, we are so excited because we have added a 3-Day In Person Retreat for Be BRAVE!! It is right here in in our charming town of Whitefish Montana.

I’ll be working with you on boundaries using a horse in an arena! You’ll meet a real life cowgirl, horse whisperer, there will be a photo shoot with you and the horses, and mind-body work to help you settle your nervous system in the midst of conflict!

Plus you’ll be eating organic and gourmet food, staying in luxurious accommodations!

You just get yourself to Whitefish and we take care of the rest! Sign up now there are only 6 spots left!!

Check out our three options for Be BRAVE if you are ready to find your voice and speak up!



The Silence Isn’t Quiet

There’s this knot that aches in my chest.

It goes away when I see my dog play at the dog park or listen to a piece of music, but it doesn’t take long to come back.

susie2When I turn inward that knot belongs to a little girl inside. I promised her I’d take some time to write. To see if words or telling her stories would help heal, or at least allow, the grief.

There is so much about my life now that I love! I love my relationship. I love our dog Rosie who thinks life is all about play. I love living in Montana.

It’s true, lots of my life is good! Very good. So where does the deep ache come from?

Maybe it’s hard to be happy when I see so many people suffering. There is so much that goes on inside as I watch the news, read about the shootings of black men, and of white policemen, listening as people around me talk about racism, sexism, homophobia, politics, being white, being black, being young, being old, just being human. I often stay silent. But I am not quiet inside.

Maybe it is about how all lives should matter, not just white ones, and how some people have to work harder to get that point across.

The thing is, I am part of all this. I am racist, sexist, homophobic.  I probably don’t know the half of it. The events of my life color how I put my world together, and I make judgments in a heartbeat. Sometimes I’m conscious of it, sometimes not. I believe it is how we humans are wired. It is the best of us and the worst of us.

And so, I can certainly educate myself about cultural diversity and learn about the history of systemic white privilege. It’s important to know. But unless I pay attention also to the very personal and emotional filter of my life, it’s not going to make much difference.

And so, when I hear that little girl screaming inside, I must pay attention.

She asked me to tell her story, to write my book, and I keep getting stuck.

Stuck living in this moment or that next one, and the book goes background.

Until a day like today, when she feels so angry because she hears that she was privileged.

My little girl doesn’t get it.

I tell my little girl there’s truth to that – that white privilege is real, and that my life really could have been worse.

She does not agree.
It’s not that simple.

She remembers how it felt when she was raped at four (and again over and over). She remembers how it felt when she spoke up about his horrible acts and was called imaginative.
She remembers that overly liked camp director who preached goodness and for years chose to do whatever he damn well pleased after dark.
She knew. She tried to tell. No one listened.
She screams, “It’s not fair!”
It isn’t.

He wanted her silenced.
She got angry and punched a hole in the wall.
The doctor said she had an anger problem and gave her drugs.

Life moved on.

There was school and the dyslexic issue. But being laughed at for misspellings and not being able to read – that was nothing. You know – sticks and stones and rape and broken bones – that at least had passed – words would really never hurt her.

Except they did.

Then there was fifth grade, where she was at a predominately black school.
Charlotte bullied her regularly.
She spoke up. No one did anything.
So she ran for Student Counsel President on the platform to stop bullying.
She got one vote – hers, which got broadcasted over the public speakers in homeroom.
She wanted to cry and ran to the bathroom.
Charlotte was in the bathroom.
Needless to say tears were not going to help.
But what are a few more bruises and bumps when you are privileged – or will be some day?

She moved on and found a path playing tennis, hockey and basketball. She had loved little league but you know – girls couldn’t play baseball once they hit age 9 – even if they were much better than the boys.

But she was fortunate to be athletic. Baseball may be out, but there were other games to play and ways to run, run, and run from feeling the ache beneath her white skin.

Ugly and athletic. That worked once she hit high school and was the only white girl in an inner city black school. Sure there are some down sides. Like being the poster white kid during the two weeks the TV Series Roots was on and getting beaten up each day for that great honor of being white and privileged.

She was a survivor, and really I think amazingly creative and resilient.

Of course, when being white might have finally been a benefit heading to college at University of Virginia, by this time she was, I’ll just say, different.

She tried to fit in and she did some things really well.

But still there was a lot about life that just kept hammering away at that creative spirit.

After a number of years of fighting cancer in her 20s, she did find a home, a place that welcomed her and made it okay for her to be different. She started learning to be self-responsible and relational.

Not that being self-responsible and relational were easy. Taking responsibility for her life was hard, lonely, hellish at times. But she found her way and finally found a way to integrate – not get rid of – her past.

She found her loving. She didn’t think that it much mattered that it was with a woman.  And it really didn’t, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t one more thing that made her different.

So back to me and today and my ache in my chest. Yes, on the outside I stand looking white, gray haired, and privileged. I get it. I am that white woman, who made it out of my past.

And I am privileged to still be walking this earth. But let me just say walking on this earth has not been easy. I haven’t often felt privileged and now that I do have a little taste of privilege, I guess I am not willing to make it wrong. I don’t have any desire to say my life matters more or less than anyone else.

My best friends in high school were black and when I needed people to stand by me when hate was running wild in a crowd – it was my high school basketball team that did. They circled me and the riot police circled them and we walked out of a crazy auditorium of people who wanted me dead. My all black team did not hesitate. We stood together, and I would stand with any one of them again.

I will stand with anyone for a while who thinks they stand alone. Sometimes that is enough to help someone find their own voice. People need to find their voice and legs again – to know they matter.

So back to my little girl, because, the heart of this story is for her – because she really didn’t think she was privileged.

And now it’s me that has to make sure she knows she matters.

When I do that I know that other people matter too. I don’t have an answer to all this pain, but I do believe that it starts by remembering that we are all much more than the color of our skin, our sex or sexuality. We each come with our stories.

The stories won’t go away, but we can take responsibility for what we do with our stories – and I think when we do that we can and will be much more curious, interested and loving when we listen to the story of another!

Living Life Full Out!

A few years back Kumi, a woman facing and living with cancer, came to one of our Come Alives.  She was inspiring because it was clear she intended to live fully!  She’s the one who shared one of my favorite quotes, “Live Life Full Out!”


I really like the intent of living life full out because it’s not saying live happily or lovingly or fearless.  Not that any of those options are bad – just somewhat idealistic for me.

I do have many happy moments.  I have actually become someone who does a good job of smelling the roses.  Meaning, I get great pleasure from visiting the dog park, watching a herd of horses, reading a good book, or just having a great cup of coffee (best on the porch but inside still provides the joy factor!)

I am also someone who lives through my loving.  Now, my definition of loving isn’t always about being sweet and nice. My form of loving is being honest and true, which sometimes creates discomfort.

Also, my face doesn’t make my loving all that obvious.  An earlier post Being a Grumpy-Faced Leader talks more about my face. Not that a smiling face as anything really to do with the depth of one’s loving, but I do sometimes wish my wasn’t quite so intense.

Fearless, me? Well, no. Most of the things I love to do the most, bring up fear!  I just feel the fear and do the best I can with it!

But that’s why Living Full Out – makes so much sense.  Living full out includes the fear, the pain, the anger, the joy!  Kumi knew that and so do I!

I have added my own lines regarding how to:

  • Connect with curiosity
  • Love wholeheartedly

My tag lines or how to’s  came from my years at The Haven.  It was at The Haven that I first discovered the power in curiosity.   Since then I have used my curiosity over and over again to help me connect to people who think and live differently than me.  I have come to believe it really is the secret sauce in any relationship.

Living wholeheartedly – well my heart can hold a lot – cracks and all.  To me, the wholeheartedly means embracing the cracks, the sorrow, hurt, and anger that is a part of living and loving.  The human heart is much like a lava rock – it can withstand tremendous heat!

I am writing about this today because sometimes living life full out isn’t easy.  Since returning from leading the Living Alive Phase I have been struggling to find my Montana rhythm.  But riding through the melancholy is just as important as riding the big waves of joy, especially if I want to live full out.  Got to love the dark spots too!

Putting Action Foreground At The Haven

onlineslide-words-jumpingJust wrapped up our in-person day with the ESG (Education Steering Group) at The Haven. Was a very productive day as usual.

As is often the case, we spent a good portion of our time looking at programs and educational direction. However, one piece that came up and I am really excited about working on going forward, is emphasizing putting action foreground in The Haven models.

So what do I mean?

Well we spend lots of time focusing on program content and what happens at the Haven. We got to talking this time about how could we start talking as much about what happens next! Meaning how do people take action with their learning and experiences at Haven.

Haven really isn’t just a center for personal development. It’s a center for self-responsible relational living and that has a lot more to do with how people live their learning than just how they get it!!

I know for myself. I love coming to The Haven and taking a program or connecting with friends. But really what I love and value most about The Haven is how I have transformed my life, my relationships and my world outside of The Haven as a result of engaging in the programs and living that learning when I left!!!

For me, I changed my relationship to my cancer and my relationship to the medical model. As my health changed, I focused on building relationships that were based in open, honest dialogue. This has lead me to leadership at The Haven but also out in the world with my work and life partner CrisMarie through thrive!

I transformed my relationship to my family, where for years we did not speak, Now we have deep connections based on who we each are as people. All of this came from learning about self-responsible relational living and taking action!!

I think sometimes I can forget to talk about just how important the action part of the Communication model and the Selves Model really is!

Sometimes in a program, I may not talk enough about what comes next. I know I do usually mention my favorite motto: It’s not what you do – but what you do next. For me that motto is immediate and intentional in regards to taking whatever I learn into what I do next!

When people ask me, what does the Haven offer. I often answer with information about the programs and that may be the intent in the question.

But really what Haven offers is so much more than the program.

Haven offered me a choice in how to live my life and face whatever came my way by responding – not just reacting. Now I don’t always do that! But I do get I have a choice! Sure I still make a choice to react, to blame, to self-hate …. the list goes on. However what The Haven offered me was the opportunity to fully own my choices and basically with that comes freedom.

My relationship to myself and to the world around me becomes something else entirely when I really get the meaning of that!!

Indeed the programs at The Haven are amazing but what is really even more amazing is what the people who have come through the Haven have done next! I do believe those stories are worth sharing. Those stories are about how Haven is changing the world.

Tell me – how did you take action with what you learned at The Haven! What did you do next!! How have you changed the world through self-responsible relational living!

I would love to know!!

Next Up At The Haven:

Living Alive Phase 1 – April 17, 2016 with Toby Macklin

Also check out my new Leadership Mojo Intensives – Equus Coaching in Montana!


Bridging Worlds: In & Out

I started this post, sitting in an Alaska boardroom about to head back to Whitefish. Before this, I had a fly-by visit in Seattle to celebrate my sister Penny’s 60th birthday!

Penny’s official birthday was November 19, and there were a variety of celebrations that started on that day and continued through the Thanksgiving holiday. When I visited at the end of the week, I was told it was the culmination of the celebration and was going to include all I love about her family, the Reids.

Penny's new Book!
Penny’s new Book!

Yes, there was going to be a party, and at some point the singing of the traditional birthday songs! But even more importantly, this evening marked the release of Penny’s first book, Bridging. Both Clarke and Carolina, my amazing niece and nephew, would be there too. Clarke planned to play music with a couple members of his current band, and Carolina was driving from Portland with my Mom. Rob, my brother-in-law, ensured me that the party would include awesome food. Plus, I had a bed to sleep in! Perfect!

Reflecting back, I have no regrets making the journey, even if I did miss Melissa, my other sister, who had made the trip for the official birthday date, and CrisMarie was just not able to fly over for just a 24-hour visit. (Someone had to take care of Rosie, right!)

Now sitting in the boardroom, I had an opportunity to read my sister’s book, Bridging; a book about one woman’s, my sister, journey to bridge two very different cultures while also dealing with a much more universal journey of living and dying. The book is touching, human and a great read.

It can be a bit of a scary proposition when a family member writes a book and you get one of the copies. Sure you want to be supportive, but what if you don’t like it! Plus, I opened the book while the Seahawks were playing on the big screen. I was not confident I would successfully stay focused.

But soon into the read, I was more deeply engaged in my sister’s journey than in the Seattle Seahawks!

It’s not that I haven’t known that my sister was a strong writer. She is. I have read various shorter pieces authored by her and know that she has a strong literary style. She has also been a strong supporter of my writing process. But I believed our writing was very different. She is much more poetic and literate in her style.

But as I dove into Bridging, I was engaged by the humble and real storyline of Penny’s efforts to become fluent in Spanish and emerge herself in a lifestyle so different than her own.

I loved reading the book. I read most of it on the plane and finished it the next day.

I enjoyed the team effort reflected in her decision to intersperse pieces written by others who were either family, friends or travelers like herself. I loved that the writing, mostly English with Spanish words and phrases weaved in, was able to reflect her own developing language ability. Toward the very end, there was much more Spanish. And yet even someone like myself was able to understand while also acquiring a taste of what it had been like for her.

I even enjoyed her references to religion, hope and faith even though I am on a much different path than her. I found myself connected and appreciative of the importance her faith and spiritual community is to her. I liked that she spoke about the challenge she faces as someone who works in education and values the importance of separating church and state.

But what was most surprising was what I interpreted as our deeply shared passion to not stay restricted and limited by our own story or narrative. It is so to easy live a lifetime thinking our story is the only story.

Her version of expanding her story was truly multi-cultural. It was literally about traveling beyond the border of America, listening to and appreciating the culture of others who have a completely different language, history and socio-economic experience. My focus is much closer to home. Yet, as I lived in the pages, I was touched by the similar deep desire to find a way to bridge beyond our differences.

I was also moved by the storyline that was not quite as obvious – her dealing with death and dying. I loved how the book weaved in my father’s process of dying, which for her had been such a profound journey. Then she closed with having to let go of Roxy, the family dog. Though Roxy did not have the same long-term storyline or heavy impact on her own making, Roxy clearly had a huge impact on Penny’s heart. Both connections for Penny, so profound, yet so different.

In the end, the weekend and the book, reminded me that our differences are both our greatest challenge AND our greatest opportunity.

I encourage you to go Amazon and get a copy.

I know I won’t likely be one who dives so deeply into a language or culture as Penny has done. But I get that her journey is not that far from my own.

I think we both long for the same possibility – a bridge that connects us through differences, and values the richness that comes from having the courage and faith to venture and explore both sides!





Tools for a Highly Reactive Person – Access to Now

CrisMarie introduced me to a book, The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) by Dr. Elaine Aron. Though I am not generally fond of labels, as I listened and learned, a great deal of the information fit CrisMarie and my experience of her.  I, on the other hand, do not think that I am a highly sensitive person.

No, I think I am more of a highly reactive person. Is there a book for that? There probably is.

Over the years, I have worked very hard to take responsibility for my reactivity. Early on I was determined to rid myself of it. I don’t want to say that effort was pointless, but it was somewhat heartless. Yes, I taught myself some self-management techniques, but I was making myself wrong more than helping myself. That approach isn’t sustainable over time.

There are so many books out there about how to be different, how to change and become better: more authentic, more productive, more alive, happier, healthier – better! Some of those books have great ideas. However, I do tire of hearing about how I need to change to become someone other than I am.

To tell you the truth, I am not so sure change is really possible.

For me, over time I have developed some self-compassion and discovered that my reactivity developed for a good reason and did serve me early in my life, and it even has some valuable information for me. In other words, my reactivity was not really my biggest problem.

No – it seems the biggest issue for me, and frankly, I think for most of us trying to live and thrive as humans, is finding acceptance and compassion for ourselves, whether highly sensitive, highly reactive, or any other label out there.

I have shifted the amount of time I spend stuck in high reactivity or making myself wrong through self-hate. Though let me be clear, I am still someone who can catapult myself into a spin of “compare and despair,” or flare when I interpret someone is acting without regard to their impact on others. However, I am much quicker to notice, to pause, and to acknowledge what is happening.

More recently, having just completed a program called Access to Now, with Sherrie Toews from Effortless Momentum, I have put into practice some simple, practical, and elegant tools, that help me re-balance when I hit a bump in my fast paced world.

Many of the situations I am in as a leader, coach, and facilitator demand that I shift out of my reactivity or self-hate quickly and get back in the moment. Once I am out of the immediate demand of the situation I can decide to go back and review something that happened and may even allow some more in-depth emotional processing, but I like that with the Access To Now tools I have a choice rather than just getting stuck.

Bottom-line, this human experience isn’t about becoming someone different. It’s about discovering ways to embrace, accept, and value who you truly are! When that happens choice becomes possible! With choice there is freedom!

Thanks, Sherrie!

If you are interested in learning more about Access to Now, Sherrie is starting her next program October 26, 2015. I highly recommend it, but more importantly, I recommend accepting yourself!

Pioneering Living It!

Living It online! Yes!!
Our first session on Skype!

We launched the first Living It! September 11th, with a weekend in person at The Haven, with online sessions to follow! It’s been a year or more in the making. The initial plan, to launch a nine-month blended onsite and online Living Alive Phase I, did not make it out of the gates. However, we listened and tweaked the plans and came up with Living It!, a much shorter format, designed to give people a taste of a blended program.

I have to admit I expected a different collection of folks than the ones who arrived in the circle on the evening of the 11th. I was anticipating people who were adept and comfortable online or on computer. Not the case. In our opening circle it was clear some were newbies to the land of the internet and others spoke right up about their lack of confidence in the online part of the program.

Wow! Right at the outset we were confronted with a few challenges and some resistance to a core portion of the program!

However, living it was not called loving it – and I guess for a good reason!

We could have been discouraged or bagged the design. But no – instead we decided to make the most of just what was happening.

Truth is, I appreciated the honesty and I guess I’d be the first to admit living it for me has always had some significant elements of resistance, fear and reactivity!

So, instead of waiting for the online dates to start we built the online learning into our weekend!

What we discovered was the creativity that comes from diving into conflict, resistance and the potential of people choosing in, instead of opting out!

I loved how our computer literate members stepped up and partnered with those who were uncertain or new to Skype. Frankly, the lessons offered were way more patient and relational than I would provided if I had tried to get everyone up to speed myself.

I also loved that the people resistant or new, jumped in, even with fear and doubts. I found each courageous and developing computer chops much faster than I ever did!

One of our evening groups was done via Skype and the evening was filled with laughter, failure and a coming together (literally –six folks cuddled very closely together so they could be seen by others on the Skype screen, with Toby and I running between other rooms trying to invite, accept and add everyone to the party!). Yes, it was quite rich!

We also took full advantage of the circle and our time together in person to revisit and refresh some of the core models and bring them to life with breath and energy! I loved the commitment and willingness that folks had in stepping forward and sharing, listening and relating!

We weren’t certain how Living It! was going to go. It wasn’t, and isn’t, a set format. However, I am thrilled to be a part of the pioneer program and enjoying all those folks along for the ride!

If nothing else we all know now that indeed you can be personal, relate, laugh and learn online AND in person!

Indeed we are Living It! Thanks guys for making it happen and making it real!


Susie’s Unfinished Stuff

When I was young I would spend my summers at camp, which had a wonderful arts and crafts program.  Almost every day I would spend time working on a summer craft project.  I loved the feeling of  working with wood.  I started spoons, forks, a lamp, a duck, a fish, board games – I had such high hopes.  Alas, I believe almost all of my projects ended up in a box of in-completes, like the misfit toys.  I’d start with gusto, but at some point the wood would crack, something would look more promising to start, or I’d simply tire of the struggle and give up.

My memory is that box in corner stayed throughout my many years at camp and was labeled – Susie’s Unfinished Projects!

It’s possible I have dramatized and over-personalized that box of unfinished projects, but I do know that I was one of the primary contributors.

Over the years the memory of that unfinished crafts box, and my success in filling it, has indeed haunted me.  See, I am just not that great at finishing.  I am all about the excitement and possibility of starting and the joy of learning, but I can be a bit weak on crossing the finish line.

So today I am celebrating a completion!  A solid start to finish effort on my part!

At the start of the year I was wrestling with my father’s dying process and all the unfinished business I had with some of the pieces and history of my life.

Over the years, I have done a lot of work in reclaiming my life and have shifted from focusing on the past drama, to now becoming a healthy, thriving person, charting my own destiny.

Still I knew things were resurfacing from the past, during the last few months of my father’s life and  I wanted to see if I was ready to integrate these pieces and feel complete.

I decided to embark on a coaching/counseling project with a highly recommended therapist in my area.

I’ve got to say, I had some fears of explicitly revisiting the past.  I did wonder if I was opening some crazy can of worms that I might wish I had left unfinished.  But I also wanted to discover if I had the resources to stir up the past and in the process resolve some of the reactivity I knew was a big part of my current charm. Okay. I call it charm, but I know some of you reading might have other words for my reactivity!

Well today I sat with my therapist after eight months of consistent work on a series of events from my life that have haunted me, and as we talked, I realized I was complete.  We talked about my intentions in starting the project and I realized I had done what I came to do.

I also had just come home from leading a Come Alive at The Haven in which I had stayed in touch with my joy, curiosity, and love of the work and the people in the room.  I hadn’t gotten impatient, reactive, nor found myself hooked in an old story.  Was everything perfect – of course not – but life isn’t about perfect.

In addition, in the process of my eight month reclaiming project,  I delivered our TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It!,  which was an on-stage opportunity to uncover my past and share it without crumbling.

Earlier today I also finished and published I written piece I am most proud of: How Surfacing Conflict Saved My Life.  For me it was a powerful experience of telling my story and not getting stuck or caught in how it would be received.

So today I walked out of my therapist’s office feeling complete.

As I drove home I remembered that incomplete crafts box and all those unfinished projects.  I thought about other in-completes in my life, like my book or relationships that no longer serve me. Things that I have started, but have not been clean, clear, or successful in crossing the finish line.

Today, I felt differently.

I am grateful for the journey and for my therapist’s reflection to me that my work with her is complete.


So today I am celebrating!  It’s like taking a few of those incomplete projects out of the art box, finishing them, and placing placing them on the mantel, recognizing indeed they are done and are works of art – as is my life!

Come Alive – Self-Responsible Relational Living & Leading!

In May, CrisMarie and I had the chance to do a TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! right here  Whitefish.

It was a bucket list experience for me.  Yes, doing a TEDx talk was one piece of that, but being able to be on the stage with my life and work partner, CrisMarie, and sharing my own transformational experience from my first Come Alive at the Haven was the bucket list part.

When I arrived at the the Haven in 1984, I was dying.  When I left, I was awake and alive!  Of course, the journey really wasn’t a five day transformation. Yes, the tumors were gone, but that didn’t mean I had a clue how to keep living it!! What I did know was that something else was possible, and I wanted more of that!

I had an experience that woke me up to the possibility of living beyond my limiting story and circumstances.  In other words, I  was embracing the possibility of self-responsible relational living!  Now, that was, and is, a practice, and frankly, a spiritual one well worth pursuing!

That concept of embracing self responsibility was not easy.  I still have a quick twitch tendency to blame – either myself, others, God, or the universe.  That blame is an easy escape route from being connected to the world around me.  When I am unwilling to respond, I stay trapped in my reaction, or in a right/wrong place, and as a result, my world is isolated and quite small.

For me, the key was curiosity!  Getting out of that right/wrong trap is still a practice I have to embrace daily, however, now, it’s exciting and very enlivening!

The relational part took even longer to fully embrace and is big reason I was so thrilled to do our TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! together.  When you watch it you will see how relational it is. We start out personally. We make mistakes, sing a song, and a flub the very last line. It is funny and poignant. At least, we hope that is your experience in watching it.

To me, it was definitely real and relational.  It is that relational piece which  has made the lessons of Haven spiritual and sustaining.

Today, CrisMarie and I at thrive! inc., work with leaders and teams.  I am thrilled to be taking self-responsible relational living to self-responsible relational leadership!

I love that the roots of who we are in the world are grounded in that transformational experience I had years ago in a Come Alive. I also love that in many ways the concept is simple. Live and lead with vulnerability and curiosity – embrace our differences and use conflict to change/connect the world!

For me that is what Come Alive offers –  a wake up call to action.  A chance to change my world through surfacing conflict and using it as an energy source for transformation, creativity and innovation.

That is also the essence of becoming a self-responsible relational leader!

If you are stuck or frustrated in your life, I suggest taking a Come Alive!  Try on self-responsible relational living! Come join us for our Come Alive starting August 30, 2015.  (Next dates March 6-11, 2016)

And it if you are a leader, frustrated by your team’s results, give thrive! inc. a call and consider embracing self-responsible relational leadership!

Want to see the TEDx Talk Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It!  Watch it, share and spread it! We think it is an idea worth spreading!