Category Archives: Uncategorized

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!


Living Well Together

My theme for this year is Living Well Together.  onlineslide-hand-circle

I jumped into 2016 taking a program called Passionate Ease with Dr. Lawrence Conlan in Boulder, Colorado. One of his messages that stands out to me is his constant reminder that “Resistance is the way.” He means to enlightenment.

I know, right?!

Spiritual Awakening

This is a radical concept in the realm of spiritual awakening. I confess, I have not been interested in spiritual awakening. Over the years I have stayed far, far away from programs and paths that hint of transcendence or what I judge to be spiritual by-pass. Let’s just say, I don’t like experiences that encourage moving beyond this human experience without owning up to it!

Conlan’s mantra is radical in the world of spiritual seekers, and it’s also been the message at The Haven for well over thirty years.

The Haven has always been about creating richer connections with ourselves, each other, and in our communities. Not through transcending but through becoming curious and fully engaged in living well together, just as we are. In other words, being human, accepting the messy, and fully realizing the spiritual in each of our human beings – embodied!

Enlightenment or Embodiment?

So for me, Conlan’s message isn’t about enlightenment – it’s about embodiment!

But what if those two concepts really were not that different!

That is something I am very curious and interested in pursuing! Which brings me to my current theme for 2016: Living Well Together.

This is a Haven tagline. One that presents as quite simple, yet I find there are many layers worth exploring.

Fractures and Gaps Between Us

First there’s the obvious. As our headlines and news stories reveal, we aren’t really living all that well together these days. There are so many fractures and widening gaps between countries, cultures, sexes, races, people and even us and our planet!

Why is it so hard to live well together?

I am a believer that what happens on the outside is a simple a reflection of the inside!

Meaning living well together isn’t just about me, living well with my neighbor – no it’s also about be living well with all of me – the many parts of me.

For example, when I attempt a new challenge, some part of me is excited and feels courageous. Then there is another part of me that is full of self-doubt terrified of failing. Often, I want to banish that part of me. It is unattractive and gets in the way of me moving forward confidently. It is my resistance in moving forward. This is the part of me that is often difficult for me to accept, yet, both of these parts are inside me and need my attention and care.

Accepting and Embracing Me First

Most of the time, if I am honest, I have an easier time living with my neighbor than accepting all the messy, scary, unattractive parts of me.

The project of living well together is first a project about embracing and accepting my unattractive, uncomfortable parts. Then, I have much more room for embracing and accepting other people.

It is easy to see all the pain and separation in the world and think that is the problem. I do agree that there is work to be done “out there.” However, I find that the outside work is much more effective if it first comes from the inside out.

Living Well Together from The Inside Out!

Join me in making this year one that is about living well together – both inside and out!

I’m imagining some of you spiritual seekers have already clicked through to the Passionate Ease Retreats. Of course, I recommend one of Lawrence’s programs.

I am also assuming many of you were intrigued about having richer connections and stronger relationships so clicked through to The Haven and Come Alive.

Whichever, gets you started – just do it!

Especially if you notice any resistance because indeed resistance is the way – to embodiment, enlightenment, AND, most importantly, to living well together – from the inside out!

Iron-Fisted Power Is Not Leadership

Many years ago my friend, Susa Holt, told me I had to meet CrisMarie Campbell, an Olympic rower.  I could hardly wait to hear first hand what it was like to be an Olympian!

Yet, when I asked CrisMarie about the Olympics, she almost bit my head off, saying “I don’t like to talk about that – I was a loser!”

I was a bit stunned.   I know all to well how our heroes are often the masters of self-hate!  Fortunately, I met her as she was just heading into a Come Alive, and I figured this was a ripe area for her to do some great work.

She did.  Over the years, I have been a witness to CrisMarie’s reclaiming her Olympian.

_I8P7019-EditShe now uses her rowing stories as great examples of the difference between simply a boat of champions, the 1988 Olympic boat,  and a Championship team, the 1987 World Champion silver medal boat.

Today is a new chapter.  Her collegiate and national team coach made the headlines this month.  His long tenure at the University of Washington ended when the current team of rowers challenged his leadership style.

Here is the link to the Seattle Times article:  Firing of UW Rowing Coach

CrisMarie caught the news and wanted to reach out to the rowers.  The headlines presented a story line that seemed to imply the biggest issue was “an age gap” between the coach and his rowers.  The paper even went so far as to imply may be the rowers were pampered.  Really?

Well, CrisMarie had a long history with Bob and wasn’t about to stay silent. She wrote an opinion letter to the sports editor of the Seattle Times. He opted not to publish it.

I like that CrisMarie spoke up.

I like that she reflected both the brilliance AND the iron-fisted misuse of power that is all to often called leadership.

Mostly I love that she challenged the real issue, Bob did not want feedback and that is simply not leadership.

Below is her opinion. It is one woman’s story and perspective.  Regular readers know, that I am a big believer that there is never one side to any story.

However, I also believe silence in the face of popularity and power are deadly in so many ways.

 CrisMarie’s Opinion Letter, December 11, 2015

I am compelled to speak because of the apparent prevailing opinion that Bob Ernst was an excellent coach who deserved a better send off. No doubt Bob made Washington rowing more successful; however, as a leader of people, he failed.

First let me speak to my own direct experience with Bob. I rowed at Washington from 1982-1986, won the ’84 and ‘85 National Championships, and was the ’85 stroke and Team Captain. I went on to a silver medal win at the 1987 World Championships and then to the 1988 Olympics – all with Bob as my coach. I was, by many people’s standards, a winning rower. I was strong, smart, disciplined and hard-working. I credit Bob with making me a successful rower.

Bob is brilliant and was a revolutionary rowing coach– but not because of his leadership style. While he advanced Washington and Women’s Rowing, both at the collegiate and national level, Bob was not an effective leader of people.

In my six years of rowing, I only lost two official competitive races, and yet I walked away feeling like a loser. Why is that? My experience with Bob was that I was only as good as my latest win on the water. His strategy included blaming rowers for losses, and when we did lose, treating us, I felt, as unworthy human beings. He also used ultimatums to drive compliance.

When I injured my back training for the Olympics I considered missing one practice of our regular “two-a-day” sessions.  Bob yelled: “either she’s in the boat every day or she’s not in the boat at all!” I got in the boat. While the choice to get in that boat was mine, it is important to underscore the power a coach has over team members to make them perform. And when we lost at the Olympics he blamed me for losing the race by getting in the boat with injuries. Really?

His pronouncement of blame was demoralizing in 1988, and I was shocked to hear him repeat it ten years later. When a coach or leader devalues the team his power becomes abusive and the coach ceases to lead.

As a result of my experience with Bob, I have dedicated my career to helping business leaders produce high performing teams that are both smart (“winning”) and healthy (people matter). Team success is often a result of the leader’s willingness to step out of the “command and control” style and get feedback from the team. This drives team engagement and better team results long-term.

In reading the details of what transpired with Bob and the team, he seemed unwilling to be either vulnerable or curious with the team. Bob could not find a way to use the conflict to create a better outcome both for the team and himself. It wasn’t the job of the UW Administrators to do that, it was his job as a leader.

Marlow Mizera, the coxswain who spoke up to Bob, is a hero of mine. She is a leader. She had the courage to stand up to the most powerful coach in Washington Rowing. These women wanted to give their coach feedback on the impact of his style; they wanted to work with him. Unfortunately, he was unwilling to lean in and hear the feedback, which is sad. They did something I wish I could have done 30 years ago.

This is not about an age gap between Bob and the new generation of rowers. This issue has gone on a long time – it’s about confusing iron-fisted power with leadership.

I do wonder if Bob had been willing to hang in, hear, and honor some honest feedback, whether he and the team could have turned this conflict into a win for both him and the Washington Women Rowers.

CrisMarie (aka Chris) Campbell  Co-founder of thrive! inc., works with leaders and their teams to transform conflict into innovative results. Her TEDx Talk is: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It!


Living It! – Join Us Sunday!

onlineslide-words-jumpingAll of you who follow my blog know that I have tremendous love and commitment to The Haven and the core programs there.  Indeed, I turned my life around there, and still after thirty years continue to learn, grow, and get my beliefs and stories challenged and expanded by leading and taking programs at The Haven.

However, as much as I love The Haven, it’s really not the place, the faculty, or all you folks who come to Haven that have been the reason my life is transformed.  Sure, I love being there with you all, but the bottom-line is that it wasn’t five days of a Come Alive or various month long programs that made me different.

No.  It’s an on-going, never-ending commitment to Living It – that makes the difference.

Learning is great.  Places that support and create a wonderful environment for exploring and discovering are awesome.  The Haven is certainly that place, but if you can’t take those lessons home or back to work, it’s just a wow! experience.  Nothing wrong with wow! But for me, the test is how I live what I learn everyday!

I often hear someone say in a program – “I can’t be like this back in the real world!!”  I challenge that idea because really Haven is the “real world.”  Still, I do understand that it is easier to try something new when you are outside of normal or familiar.  I would agree – The Haven and Gabriola are that for me.

I think the real work does come when you get home.  As I have often shared – fighting cancer was a hell of a lot easier than living beyond it!  There was a charge, a fight, and an easy choice when I was dealing with cancer.  When the fight stopped, it was harder to keep making choices for my own aliveness.  There’s a risk and an edge to that type of living.  Still, I do think it is what living is all about!

So if you took a Come Alive or a Phase and you have struggled to Live It  back in your ‘real world.’  Join Toby and myself to talk about that challenge.

Sunday – August 23 at 1PM PT on a webinar.  Register Now! You can also take the challenge of joining us for the new Living It Program starting Sept 10th.

Whatever you decide I would love to hear from you. How do you Live it, meaning how to you take what you learn and apply to yourself, your life, your relationships or your work? Tell me.




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!

Finding Faith

A few weeks ago, Robin Williams took his life.  It was sad day and a tremendous loss.  Of course, it was Robin Williams, so the media was full of stories.  Most suicides or suicide attempts aren’t like that.  Most aren’t so public.

I spoke to someone recently who struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts; they were saying how scarey it was to hear that someone like Robin Williams killed himself.  They felt quite vulnerable since in their view he had so much and he still couldn’t stop himself.

All I kept think was how many times he had!

From what I have heard and read, Robin Williams fought those demons daily or quite regularly.  Seems to me there were many, many more times he chooses to live than too die. And he did finally lose that battle.

When you lick cancer once it’s consider a remarkable win.   Facing suicide over and over and choosing in – well that most count for something.

I told my friend this and they smiled.  They hadn’t thought of it like that and reported feeling better. I’m not sure if they will kill themselves. I hope not.

Still I do get it.  Life is unpredictable and sometimes painfully hard to endure.  Depression is a dark lonely place and choice seems far, far away when you are in it.

Still there is a choice.

I have wrestled myself with despair.  Not sure I’d call it is quite the same as depression.  But when I bump myself into that space it isn’t easy to shake.

I’ve run many miles and eaten a few too many bags of chips trying to numb my monster. Sometimes the numbing helps and the pain passes.  Sometimes I can take a wild ride and wonder if it wouldn’t be better to quit.

Under all that pain there seems to be a little girl who simply doesn’t always like how we as humans treat each other.  She doesn’t like playing the game just simply to win and often doesn’t really even get why that is so important.

It can be as simple as being accused of cheating at Ladies Golf League and suddenly I find myself spiraling.  Probably that seems so small.  But I joined the League to have fun and when it seems like the game is more about winning than relating, I can lose my faith.

I’ll get it back.  I generally rise after I fall.

But I get it.

When faith is lost – faith meaning the felt sense of the continuity of life or a knowing that I matter, we matter and we are connected.  When that is totally lost, it is hard to choose.  Hard to find a good enough reason to go on.

Until someone reminders me that some little words of wisdom I might offer made a difference – like how many times Robin Williams said yes to life instead of no – and that helps.

It restores my faith.

My demon, despair,  settles and I carry one.


Play-cation Time!

Though there have been many fun moments in my summer to date, I realize there has not been much in the way of ‘vacation’ time.

Now I want to start off by saying just the word, vacation is a bit of turn-off for me.  I don’t really have much of a desire to ‘vacate’ my life.  So instead I have decided to take a ‘play-cation’.  It just sounds better!

We’re home for a Play-cation!

So what is a ‘play -cation’?

Well we, CrisMarie & I,  have decided we needed some rest and play together! We have each had some fun times separately.  CrisMarie went to New York for a family reunion and I stayed home and basically played lots of golf!  Both reported having lots of fun and a holiday of sort, but not together. Our other trips have either been training, workshops or work, so we really wanted some play & rest time together.

Initially we called our experiment a stay-cation, which I believe is a more familiar word for staying at home for a holiday.  We agreed we live in a magical spot so why travel.  Still stay-cation didn’t have the right vibe.  When we got to talking more about what we were each wanting it was clear we both wanted rest and play.

Now in a perfect world we would shut-off our devices.  That’s not happening but we have agreed to some periods of shutdowns and creating some boundaries around work or other usual distracts. (Mine is exercise – I have this need to run or work-out every day – this may sound healthy and sane; however, sometimes I can simply use exercise as a way to distract myself from settling, resting or even playing).

Of course there are other pressing things we ‘should’ be doing.  However, after a testy series of interchanges, we knew that even though we could push on, the disconnect and end results would not be worth it! So we paused and decided we need a play-cation!

We intent to use these next few days to reconnect, refresh and rejuvenate.  We’ve been working pretty hard and have lots on the schedule ahead. (Couples Alive, August 20-24!! and Come Alive August 25-30 – do join us, after some rest & play it will be very fun time!!)  But sometimes it’s just important to drop the agenda and play! Thus we are taking a play-cation!!

I’ll let you know how it goes!!  Who knows maybe I’ll even share some pictures!


Cancer, Let’s Talk

cancerI woke today to another request for support for a family forced to face the challenges of cancer.  I find myself a touch overwhelmed by the stream of people these days that are getting cancer, getting a cancer scare or dealing with the impact of a close friend or family member dying from cancer – over time or in a few short months.

Years ago I wrestled with cancer.  We fought. We talked. Cancer forced me to learn to relate.  To listen and discover possibilities in places that seemed too dark or too painful to consider exploring. Cancer forced me to look. It forced or invited me to do something radically different with my life.

I won’t say we were friends.  But I didn’t hate cancer.  We were relational in spite of our differences and I moved on.

Now though it seems cancer as come into my life again.  Not from the inside.  But from the outside.  All I know to do is try to stay curious.  It’s harder when it’s outside of me.  I don’t like witnessing the rampage.

So I write.  It’s all I can do.

Cancer, you and I have had some run ins.

I thought we worked it out.

I came to know you as a crazy, creative crack that let new light in

But it seems you have taken over

Every day it seems I get an email, a call or news that someone close has cancer or someone in their circle has cancer

It’s just not right

Why and how have you taken over?

Are you a friend, an enemy, an alien?

Are you trying to communicate?

If so – stop screaming.

I am still curious

But I don’t like your strategy

Too many good people are dropping

May be we as species are just not listening

And you keep screaming

But what do you want?

Oddly for all your pain and heartache

You seem to force community

People rally and relate when it comes to cancer

May be you have become a common enemy

One that impacts everyone touched

I know you forced me to connect to my world

To relate differently

Is that your plan?

Or are you simply out of control

Like I said I am still curious

Though more than slightly pissed.

These were the words that fell out today. I know they likely will not help anyone in the fight currently.  Yet I just had to write.  To ask for a cease fire.  Stop the war.

Is there any other way to learn to relate?  It seems we are either fighting each other on the outside or fighting ourselves inside.

Wars – inside and out.

There must be another way!!







Travels and Where They Take Us To!

It's all in where you travel to!
It’s all in where you travel to!

Some people are travelers. They love going out into the world, seeing new places, learning new languages and discovering different cultures. When I see the photographs from other lands, I find myself curious and interested. However, I seem to be someone who is more inclined to travel the vast inner landscapes of the world.

For more than thirty years, a significant amount of my time has been spent sitting in a circle, listening to people reveal and share their stories. A majority of those circles have been in the same room. Sure there has been some refreshing of the carpet, the art on the walls and a new paint job. Plus, the ages and faces have changed over the years. But that circle has stayed the same.

For me, it has been the center of amazing journeys. The stories people share have taken me to dark caves, vast oceans, difficult interactions, impossible circumstances. The joys, sorrows, demons, and angels of those that come to the circle, are profound.

Out in the world, differences seem to be dividing us, separating us and there doesn’t seem to be a path to connect. Yet, whenever I arrive for the first night of a Come Alive at The Haven, I am reminded that we as human beings are innately relational. My experience has provided me with proof that people can, and do, find ways to courageously connect, even through immense pain and insurmountable differences.

Often someone will ask, “Why don’t you move the circle outside?” There are days where it would be quite wonderful to sit out on the land. Nature is an amazing healer and does often play a significant part for people during the breaks. However, I get sometimes it is the simple act of sitting, without distraction, in a circle that can lead to an opening that otherwise is all too easy to avoid, focused on the beauty of nature, we might miss the beauty of nature in another human being sitting right across from us.

Though we long to connect and relate, as adults, have too often learned to protect, guard and hold back. As people arrive the first night to the circle, it is clear that it takes time to relax that habitual armor.  Then someone throws open a door to their soul, sharing a long held pain that simply can not be kept hidden anymore, and we are off on a wild ride.

Whatever is presented is much like the picture travelogues. I see, hear, touch and deeply feel the rich, deep wonder of the human soul, longing to express, be seen, and be acknowledged. We are each invited to hear our own deep calling and response.

The sounds in the circle are never quite the same, yet there is a melody that plays through, and weaves each circle together to hold and reflect the wonders of being human. The journey is worth the effort, and always adds depth and new possibility to my own inner landscape.

Yes, I too am a traveler.

Here is a short video, click here to learn more about Come Alive at the Haven.

Leading Through Old Shame

There are moments in life best to just forget. Right?

Often those moments don’t really go away. Instead, they lurk beneath the surface of our psyche, waiting to resurface, and play havoc.

For me one of those moments occurred when I was in fifth grade in the early 70’s in the inner city of Richmond, VA. My city school system was going through a LONG period of finding a solution to racial segregation with the latest plan to bus kids into an inner city building while a new better school was being built. The building I was bused into held only fifth grade. There were about 350 fifth graders, 90% black and 10% white. Looking back, I would definitely say there were some flaws in their thinking. However, at the time, I was simply one of the 10%, and determined to find a way to survive my first year of being bused out of my neighbor and into a new school district.

My biggest life challenges have not been related to racial integration. However, this particular year, I did struggle. Aside from being white, I also was a young girl of 10 years, who apparently looked a lot like a boy. Day one in my fifth grade class, my teacher actually challenged me when I said I was a girl.

“Susie Clarke – are you here?” Ms Childs’ picked up her eyes from her clipboard to look for a raised hand as she went through the class list.

“Here!” I called out.

“No, I said Susie. Do not start off on the wrong foot young man!” She said with a stern look.

“I am Susie. I am not a boy.” I could feel a lump forming in my throat, as everyone in the class laughed, but I spoke with a determined strong voice. No way was I going to show the tears!

Ms Childs’ looked, and finally, after what seemed like an enternity, she checked me off.

So that was day one.

If you can believe it, things got worse.

Though Ms Childs created some of the initial problems for me with that opening day event, she also strongly encouraged me to stay positive, and not give up on my efforts to engage in making the school a better place.

I took her advice.

Due to a number of bullying situations that were happening on the play ground, which was a two block walk from the school, creating ample bullying time, I decided to run for Student Council President under the platform of “no bullying.”

I believed I had a chance to win, and eagerly put up my posters. I remember speaking to the entire 350 person class in the school gym. I wouldn’t say I got much applause, but I still believed I could do it.

The day of the vote, I arrived early to cast mine. Like any confident candidate, I put my vote in the ballot box with a check beside my name.

Later, when the new council was announced. I froze when the Principal announced not only the winners, but every candidate, with their number of votes.

I did not win.
I had one vote.
It was my own.

I was horrified, and wanted so desperately to RUN! I slipped out to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, on my way out, to add insult to injury, I ran into one of the biggest bullies on the playground, Charlotte, who grabbed me and took great joy in rubbing my face in my humiliating loss, saying, “That will teach you!” Somehow I got away from her, and made it to the relative safety of a bathroom stall, collapsing in my humiliation and shame.

That crushing moment was seared into my cells. I am not quite sure how I recovered. Though I did. I made a vow to never, ever put myself in a situation like that again. Never step into that kind of leadership. Never ask people to choose me. Then I did what any good survivor does. I buried that moment.

The memory has stayed unearthed longer than other painful blows, many of which, on a physical level were much worse. However, it has played havoc with my efforts to speak out with my own my voice and step into my own leadership. Don’t get me wrong, I have stepped out into leadership, but under someone else’s platform. I lead other people’s programs, and coach under the umbrella of other people’s models.

Recently though, at thrive!, CrisMarie and I  have been standing forward with our own voice and our own model. It hasn’t been easy. As we work on our marketing efforts for our business, and define our voice and brand, I have bumped into that old doubt and unearthed roots of my fears: Fifth Grade School Council Elections!

Recently, I designed a workshop and was excited about the launch. But something kept niggling at me. I wasn’t confident about the workshop’s success. Despite my niggling, I worked diligently at marketing it, and I kept planning my life around it happening. Until I realized I was avoiding checking on the registration, which I finally I did. I called and asked the event planner what the numbers were for my workshop. She broke the news, “No one has signed up.”

I heard her say this, and that fifth grade moment flooded back to my body and being again. I choked back some sort of response, and got off the phone.

This time I wasn’t going to run. I wasn’t going to hide. I needed to somehow release the most painful part of these types of moments. So I turned towards that little eager, humiliated fifth grader. I cried with her, laughed with her, and let her know that I believe in her — even when it seems like no one else does. Now I am sharing her story, leading through it, making more of it.

There wasn’t any reason for me to be ashamed of my efforts in fifth grade nor this past month with my workshop. As Brene Brown would say, “I entered the arena.” It’s okay that I lost, and I am glad I voted for myself.

As for the workshop, I made the offer. I actually believe that the process of committing to dates, and marketing in a variety of different ways, was quite valuable. I learned a tremendous amount.

I don’t want to bury this moment. I want to release it. Share it. Maybe no one else has ever had something that horrifying happen. I doubt that is true. Maybe you buried a humiliating moment too, only to have it play havoc with some part of your life. Maybe this story will help you remember, that you are not alone. Don’t bury it. Don’t hide. Lead through it.

This recent moment of mine is already different than fifth grade.

One, because it unearthed the earlier moment, and has helped me re-frame and rewrite those old vows.
• I will step up to lead with my voice.
• I will ask people to choose me (and us).
• Yes, I will cast another vote for myself.
• I will learn from, rather than, bury a negative result.

Secondly, though this recent workshop didn’t go, I did create online program at the end of my last blog, Empowering Yourself Crisis, Conflict and Change that people are engaging in (check it out and sign up if you want to play), and is now becoming even more fun to work on and develop.

Bottom-line: I didn’t bury the impact or lesson this time. I learned how to lean in, and lead through it, and for that I am grateful.

Take that Charlotte!