Category Archives: Valuing Differences

One Life Well Lived, Too Many Cut Short

I learned sad news last week while traveling. David Raithby, a fellow Faculty member at The Haven, had passed away suddenly.

I admit I was stunned by the news. David and I go way back. Yes, we have had our differences, our conflicts. But David was one of kind and someone who truly believed in the Haven.

He was a remarkable man and great facilitator who cared deeply about people and healthy relating. Even in our differences I respected his words, his heart and commitment to life, living and being human.

I so appreciated the piece he had written days before his death which was shared with the Haven community by his family. The piece spoke to what seemed like the freedom he had found in life and the fullness of a life well lived.

Now home for a spell. I find myself wondering. Why? Why are so many gone. Why don’t I feel sad in their passing. I do feel deeply for his family and their loss. But sometimes when a life seems so well lived, shared, and connected to all around, I don’t cry or feel despair.

While other deaths and tragedy’s leave me in deep despair.

I don’t know any of the children in Gaza that have died. But I have cried as I read stories of children screaming in pain in the bombed hospital.

I don’t know any of the Israeli families holding out to see the return of the hostages or who are sending their own family members into war. But I felt deep sorrow for the fear they carry for always living with a belief that they are targets of hate.

I don’t directly know anyone who has lost their home or family through the war there or in the Ukraine. Yet, those stories fill my heart with pain and deep sorrow. The loss of life so tragic and the situation so irreconcilable.

I do believe there is beauty in conflict. Even in what can seem like irreconcilable conflicts.

However, when the divide has become religious or political, the humanity seems to get lost and there are only sides, enemies, and righteousness.

People lives become numbers.
No time to bury the bodies.
To be together and honor a life too short or one well lived.

The pain just stays, and the conflict and divide grow deeper.
There becomes only agony and pain. Hate

This is why I don’t care much for religion or politics.
The right or wrong of the many paths all seeming to come from the same point of origin.

So many wars have been fought.
So many lives lost.

For what.

I know many will say for freedom.
But I can’t help but go to the words of Nelson Mandala:

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Not sure we’ll ever get there through religious or political beliefs.

Though I imagine based on David’s words – he got there.

Things Are A Little Bit Crazy

Just a couple weeks ago,  I woke to a haze of smoke that blanketed my town of Whitefish.  For weeks we have been hearing about fires – to the south of us – to the north of us.  Yes, we have had days of smokey skies and very poor air quality. Then, suddenly everything started moving closer.  Parts of Glacier National Park and Lake MacDonald Lodge were be evacuated! That’s close!

Next our little town and Flathead Valley faced a school closure due to the threat of an attack on people’s children.  Apparently due to a cyberattack of some sort that resulted and parents and children getting very graphic and threatening messages.  After three days of school closures, games and events being canceled there still isn’t certainty as to where the threat was coming from.

This is just what has been happening in Whitefish – I haven’t even mentioned reading the national news headlines!

Damn – I say – this is crazy!!  Floods, hurricanes – fires and mother earth’s fury – plus crazy stuff like cyberattacks, white supremest and a President who regularly sends out insane tweets, talks smack and threats at the UN, really?!

What is happening?  Chaos and what can seem like a definite message to stop, pause and ….. wait for it…


Yes, I bet you didn’t think that was coming.

But really – I wonder if a little more play, joy and pleasure wouldn’t be the best remedy for us all.

I get it.  Life as we know it is spooking us!

We could wrestle with the reality or not – of climate change.  We could fight about healthcare, building walls or disarming North Korea.  But really wrestling with any one of these big issues s with the intent to determine right and wrong – seems like it just ain’t working.

Don’t get me wrong – I believe in climate change.  I think we owe Mother Earth a major shift in our attitude and actions, but I’m not into proving that point.  I will recycle.  Ride my bike when I can. I participate and vote for measures that support recycling, science and alternative energy!

I also don’t intend to stop speaking up when I think someone is being a bully – making statements that seem cruel, mean or frankly racist, sexist or just ignorant!  But I am not interested in fighting about it.

Instead, I think our best path is to play.

Over and over in nature, there are signs that when under attack – especially a vicious attack – the best answer is to engage in play.

Stuart Brown did a Ted Talk on this very message.  One piece was a video clip of a hungry polar bear coming for lunch where there were sled dog huskies chained up.  Those huskies knew they were going to be the polar bear’s lunch, but what happened instead was amazing. One female husky did a classic play bow and the polar bear’s whole being shifted.  Instead of a meal the two had a play date!  Now the polar bear makes an annual trip to play with the pups!

I know, when you are feeling under attack or you are facing threat and fear – the last thing that comes naturally is to rollover and play.

But maybe we need to get back in touch with our joy, our innocence and remember play can be just as important and life changing as any work, spiritual seeking or political activism.

What can you do to add a little play and joy to your day?  How can you invite and encourage others to join in!

Don’t leave you work behind just add more play into your day and notice the results.  Let me know how it goes!

P.S. Need some help playing, give me a call. I’m happy to help.





IMG_0621I wish I could say I was busy fighting for what’s right, taking a stand or working towards something that would somehow make a difference in what seems to be our country’s current trajectory.

I read the news and I am upset by what seems like a surreal demonstration of either a dictator in the making or a immature boy trying to puff-up and run the government. What is even odder to me than watching this wild display of immaturity and bullying is seeing others go right along with it – support it – and ignore the very people who our government is designed to represent.

Oddly though I am not compelled to protest, march or actively rage against the unfolding political path.


I am not sure but something in me just doesn’t think that is a solution that will work. I notice I find much more possibility and encouragement through engaging in diverse groups of people working towards creating a path forward in their community, organization or family.

I find myself listening more and discovering that there is a very deep level of discontent that has now surfaced through this election process and is even louder now that the administration has changed hands.

I have believed for a long time that there isn’t such a thing as righting a wrong done. It’s just not that simple. The very nature of the statement suggest that there is a right or a wrong – a black or a white. This, I think, is the biggest pain point of being human – polarization.

We keep trying to figure it out. To right wrongs or fix the problem. Oddly though that effort just doesn’t make the gap between you and me smaller or any less of a gap. I can not fix what I may have done to you. You can not fix what you may have ever done to me.

I can find peace but oddly that does not come from the outside. It comes from within – when I get beyond my own right/wrong thinking.

I don’t want to sound too Rumi-like here though I love that poem – beyond right and wrong – there is a field – I will meet you there.

I know that field is out there. I also know I live in this very human experience that is you, me and other.

Both things are true – we are one – there is not an other – and yet there is.

The paradox, the pain and yes, the pleasure of that very human dilemma is always present.

So though I don’t know that there are really victims and perpetrators – I do need to own that I am both if indeed there are and not simply try to rise above that agony – but tolerate the pain of being one or the other and both!

That’s really the only path through this current trajectory for me.

I can’t make Trump wrong. Because his very transparent display of child-like narcissism is simply a huge projection of my own narcissistic qualities.

I don’t like what I see and I really would like to rage against what seems like a mad man – but all that I keep hearing is that mad man is me.
Find my own intolerance and work with it.
Be in my world and listen, engage with my neighbor.

When I hear what I judge to be prejudice or bullying – speak up.
Not necessarily to say – “you are wrong”.
But to say – I don’t like that and stand along side with as much compassion and curiosity as I have to offer myself or another – instead of right or wrong.
That journey for me is much harder than fighting a monster on the front page or in a White House.

I know that isn’t the journey for everyone. Some are called to speak out and play on much larger stages.

It will take all kinds to somehow ride this wave.

But I am convinced building a platform of any type of righteousness isn’t going to work. Being ‘right’ isn’t going to get rid of ‘wrong’.
Frankly in my righteousness I believe I may just be making the wave bigger!

It’s time to ride the wave (s) – on a surf board, in boats, maybe a yacht or bigger vessel should you be so inclined or able. But don’t put down an anchor – not yet – stay open – listen and see those riding around you – see the water – not the difference between your boat or mine.

May be we’ll get through this. May be we won’t.

I want to believe we can make and we can do this together – let’s work to get to that field out there beyond right/wrong.

Hold Your Fire, Please

My chest aches. I’m not finding much comfort in my furious friends who are ready to fight back. Which is odd because generally I’m the first person to fight for the underdog.

But as I listen to the anger, projected on the people who didn’t vote, the people who did but voted for Trump, I don’t feel good. I feel icky.

When I watch the American flag being burned by people in one of our ally countries – I feel sad.

I want to write my international friends be they in Canada, UK or Mexico and ask that they hold their fire, please.

Yes, we are a country in deep conflict right now. The full extend of the division of our united people is easily seen through the election where Trump won as a self-proclaimed racist, xenophobic, sexist white male by getting the electoral vote. However, Hillary won the majority vote of the people. One a neo-nationalist, Trump and one a neo-liberalist, Hillary.

I like Hillary. Where I may have failed my neighbor is not going below the vicious hate I saw being directed at her. I didn’t like the delivery and so just dismissed it without speaking up.

With Trump, I haven’t been able to get beyond the vile presentation – the bullying, child-like behavior whenever there’s negative feedback and a general lack of respect for the job is being asked to take on, the Presidency of the United States.

As a result, I did not hear the real pain of half of my country.
That’s on me.

I am getting an understanding of it now. There are people who sit in the middle of our country who don’t believe their opinions and views are being heard. They believe government is focused on programs for people other than themselves, and they are being asked to pay for those programs when frankly, they are not making enough money to do it.

There are people who carry guns and use them well and don’t want gun controls that will infringe upon their rights to responsibly bare arms.

There are people who live on the border of Mexico that have had to face and deal with challenges due to illegal immigrants, and worry that if they say anything they’ll be called a racist.

I think white men and yes, some white women, feel threatened by being told they’re privileged. These people are told to shut up, it’s no longer your turn and they just don’t understand the impact of their so-called privilege.

These are just some of the issues I think Trump spoke to and as a result this LARGE group of people felt heard.

Do I agree? Well, that is not the important point.
The real question for me to be asking is, “Did I even listen?” and “Will I listen now?”

We all want to be heard. Often we can live without getting our way if we believe someone has truly heard us and considered our point of view with real interest and regard.

I am not sure I have done that to those people, which is why my heart aches.

Because now I will be living with a President that did listen. I’m not really sure I believe he has good intent for those that he stirred up, but he did listen and did it better than most of us.

So for all my desire for equality and freedom for all – I failed.

I don’t want to keep failing. I also don’t want to see us lose the ground we have gained because we have made progress. I will still speak up to racism. I will speak up to sexism.

But I want you to know, if you don’t realize already, that racism, sexism is within each of us. It’s not relegated to privileged, the rednecks, or Trump.

In my opinion, we’ve got to start really listening to each other and not just fighting back and continuing the cycle of winning and fighting again.

Yes, be angry and find ways to express that anger responsibly and then get back up and relate to each other! Because “We The People” are ALL people – not just the ones who agree with me and even those people who hate me because of who I am. I know that is painful.

I’m not great at listening without defending myself especially when someone is attacking. It is hard to stay open and be curious. However, I can’t just keep saying my own point over and over again. Or run the people I hate out of town.

Frankly, I think the only way to break out of this hell we are now in is to actually try to listen. Not to the press, not to the media but to my neighbor, your neighbor who very well might have voted for Trump.

Dear Donald Trump

Dear Donald,

I have been wrestling with the best way to handle the mix of emotions I have coming up related to November’s election.  I doubt that writing and sending a letter directly to you would have any impact.  However, trying to have dialogue and debate with people supporting your ticket has not proven to be particularly productive either.

I am a believer in using dialogue to talk about difficult issues in order to avoid getting into right/wrong positions, working towards understanding people who live by different values than me.  Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I come into a dialogue quite heated and very unhappy with what I think is another person’s ‘deplorable’ position.

However, I have found that when I listen and make space for someone’s opposing views, I learn something.  Also, I don’t generally walk away thinking they are evil, narcissistic or a sociopath.  I have more space, compassion and even if I still disagree have confidence we can live together with our differences.

The problem currently is that I am having a very hard time thinking of you as anything other than militantly ignorant (In case you are not familiar with that term, read Scott Peck’s, People of the Lie where he provides his definition of evil), narcissistic and more recently have wondered about the label sociopath.

I must be wrong.

I hope I’m wrong.

I must be missing something.

At parties and dinner conversations I have attempted to make a case for where you might be coming from.  I admit most of my friends, family and colleagues, who are Democrats, Republicans or Canadian, are very put off by your bullying, ranting, raving style and your need to incite violence in a crowd of people who are already revved up.  So the conversations have been one sided, and people have at times been upset with me for even attempting to understand your position.

I can’t say I blame them.  The things you say you stand for make very little sense to me.  Building a wall along the border of Mexico, getting rid of all Muslims are just two that seem frankly, crazy.  If not crazy at least anti-social, mean and considering Mexico is a neighboring country and most Muslims are not terrorist, militantly ignorant on your part!  Around other issues such as foreign policy, taxes, the economy, I hear you say, I quote, “I am very, very flexible on many issues.”

Really?! What does that even mean!

I don’t know your position or believe you have one. In other elections, I might disagree with a Republican point of view, but this time, I don’t know your position, other than to inflame.  That really concerns me.

When I read the paper or watch the news, I am left thinking, you seem to like being overly aggressive, you cut people off when they are talking so you can make your own point,  you yell and scream frequently, and you say mean things about almost every race, sex or opponent who has crossed your path.

So I am left thinking…maybe you are a sociopath.

Definition of a sociopath: someone who can be defined as a person with markers of Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is characterized by a disregard for the feelings of others, a lack of remorse or shame, manipulative behavior, unchecked egocentricity, and the ability to lie in order to achieve one’s goals.

I sort hate to agree with what I have heard others say about you, but it fits what I see, hear and read regarding your run for President.

So what gives?  I think you must be a sociopath? Or tell me what you do stand for?

I don’t want a sociopath as a President.  But the biggest problem is a sociopath makes for a very difficult opponent to beat.  Because underneath, I don’t really think you care and you will lie and manipulate to achieve your goals.

What is worse is I believe you are very good at using the fear of people to get their vote.  That is what bothers me the most, because I don’t really believe you are on their side.  You just know that you can use their fears about the state of the world to get a vote and put yourself in office.

Maybe all politicians do this.  I hope not.

I know this letter sounds mean, but I don’t know what else to do.  I have not heard any information to refute this conclusion, and I’m looking for it.  When I listen to your strong supporters they are either screaming or also saying something  hateful about another group of people. That just doesn’t fit for me.

Okay you people out there who are voting for Donald, maybe you can help.  But I will just say up front, screaming back at me won’t be very effective. I want to hear something genuine, real and heartfelt.   Something other than a hateful reason for wanting to put this man in office.

I will listen to the debates, but unfortunately I doubt it will be any different than the ones I have already seen.  I am actually concerned these will be worse.

I can only hope I am wrong or that others will decide having a sociopath for a President is not helpful.

Hate and anger will never make America strong and those are the most consistent messages I have heard from you, Donald.

America or Donald yourself, please stop this madness.


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!


Breathe, Feel the Cracks, and Let the Heart Open

Today as I read the news and the sad storyline out of Paris France, I just find myself wrestling with how stuck we are in a world of right and wrong.

It seems so easy to just say terrorism is just wrong. But I just can’t help but think those people deciding to bomb or fire into a crowd, somehow think they are right.

So much about the world these days is based in right or wrong. What does it really mean to take right action or wrong action? The underlying assumption is that there is a right or wrong action.

Well, I am here to say ‘right’ action is sometimes just all ‘wrong.’ Right-wrong is just getting old and way past its time. The idea of – do the right thing – is just a bit too narrow and a mental construct.

Yes, our minds are one of our greatest assets. You won’t hear me suggesting that we shouldn’t use our minds. However, I don’t think our minds are of much value without the wisdom of our most inspiring asset – our heart.15845528_m

Yes, I am speaking of that somewhat fragile, pumping organ sitting just left of center in our chest and much more spoken of in metaphor than in words or facts.

We are in awe of someone’s mental abilities, terrified by another’s mental illness, and doubtful of, or overly confident in, our own intellectual capabilities.

But we are moved and inspired by the human heart’s capacity.

Art, music, poetry and inspiration are the outpouring of the heart – not to be measured but to be tapped – an unlimited expression of spirit.

When we go for ‘right’ action – our breath restricts and we narrow and focus in on what is ‘right’

When we go for inspired action our breath deepens and there is a bridge. As a result, the mind is inspired by the heart.

What becomes possible isn’t a linear, right-wrong answer or solution. When breath bridges the distance from our minds to our hearts there is an opening into infinite possibilities.

We can’t explain, define it, or measure it – but we know, feel, and recognize it. We live and revel in those moments.

However, the courage it takes to live an inspired life is not easy. There is not a book or a ‘right’ way to get there. There is no there. Just breath, just a pumping heart, and a story that isn’t set, but flexes with the input of another, and notices and responses to the amazing world and all the diversity and possibility.

Today I reminded, I do not know what is right. I do not know what is wrong. I just know my heart has been cracked. I could focus and use my mind to figure out what action to take, or I can just breathe and feel the cracks, fears, and uncertainty. Let my heart inspire my actions, my stories, and my next steps.

Hearts will continue to be cracked, even broken, and with breath old stories will be inspired and possibly shifted and changed. Morphing into genius and new possibilities – inspired by the fragility and vastness of the heart!

Listen, breathe, and allow your stories to be inspired by your cracked and open heart. Only then will you, and we, find an inspired life and action worth taking – not for the outcome, but for the connection and untapped creative potential that can come when the mind and heart work together!

Today hearts are broken on all sides of old stories. Let the breath in, feel the cracks, keep your heart open, and soak your stories before taking your action.

This May Cost Me $15,000, but I’m Still Saying It

24227270_mIn this piece, I plan to be forceful, maybe even abrasive. According to one Fast Company Article, the act of me being forceful could cost me in the range of $15,000, simply because I am a woman.

Really? You have got to be kidding!

Yesterday morning I read two different Fast Company articles that created a burst of rage in me! One was about my reduced pay for being forceful. The other was even more bothersome. Studies show that the word abrasive only shows up in women’s performance reviews – not men’s. Men may get a mention of impatience but followed by –but aren’t we all?

Fast Company, are you just trying to piss me off? It’s working.

Yes, I admit women and men’s inequality has been a longstanding issue. I remember running smack dab into it when I was eleven. Myself and Laura, the other best player on our little league team, both got tossed off the team because we were girls.

Really? We were the best players. You have got to be kidding.

At that young age, I don’t think I had a clue how to be forceful. Instead, I gave in, tossed my glove in the closet and moved on to tennis. Once I switched sports, I was playing one of the boys, and was told, “You need to tone it down, and should really think of letting him win.”


This time I paid no attention. I went ahead and won. Yes, it did ruin my chances of getting high school dates, but that wasn’t what I was really after anyway.

So those types of comments have been around a long time. Frankly, it just makes me angry!

Was that how I was suppose to start learning to be nice and polite?
Or learn that I should not be forceful?


Why is there such a double standard? I have no doubt that there are men out there angry that they have been told, not to cry, or be so sensitive. I feel for you. Though, I also know that women in business get that same feedback frequently. Still, it may even have cost you guys $15, 000 in pay as well. So I will show some empathy.

What would it take to get over all of the crazy assumptions, stories, and stereotypes we use over and over? Pretending, or trying to pretend, that we don’t have these stereotypes is not working.

Well, I do believe one thing: It will take a little forcefulness to change.

Am I being abrasive? You probably think I am.
Am I being angry? Yes, because I am angry.
I think you should be as well.

I would love to rage loud enough for people to hear. We cannot keep stereotyping and classifying genders, races, and cultures and pretend we are a country of equality.

Truthfully, though, we will. Pretending we won’t, isn’t a viable solution.  We are ALL prejudice in some way.  Our only path through it is to own up to it and talk about it.

It takes courage to own up to my storytelling and share it. It takes vulnerability and curiosity to deal with our differences together.

Right now, I am angry at men.  Of course, it isn’t all men, and it isn’t great that I bundle them all together.  But I do in moments like this.

So I am owning up to my story, and don’t want to stay here, I want to get curious.

  • Why doesn’t the word abrasive show up on a man’s performance review?
  • Why shouldn’t women leaders be forceful?

Tell me. Really.

Susan Clarke is a Speaker, Consultant, and Coach at thrive! inc. Clients refer to Susan, and her partner CrisMarie, as “The Team Doctors” because they focus on the health of the team in order to get the team to smart business results. They just released their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It! Don’t Defuse It! Contact Susan at

I Remember. Come Alive, Rocks!

I just finally watched the new Come Alive video on The Haven website. I thought it was awesome. I wanted to find a way to share it with everyone who has ever asked me, “What is it you do at The Haven?”

Yes, I have taken the Come Alive journey many times. Twice as a participant and countless times as a leader during the last twenty two years.

I still remember my first Come Alive. I came with my sister, Penny. I thought I was dying. I had been given three months to live. My doctors were not too happy when I announced I was going across the country to take a five day program called Come Alive. They thought that was a waste. Of course, for me, I had nothing to loss. So I went.

I believe those five days turned my life around. I was so inspired by the leaders – their caring – their open, honest way of being with people. They were not trying to fix me or others, but simply listening, supporting and modeling vulnerability, curiosity and faith. I wanted what I was witnessing. I wanted that more than I wanted to cure cancer. I wanted to learn to relate with that level of authenticity and alive-ness even if it only lasted three months.

I was encouraged to breathe every day. Jock was often dropping by to offer acupuncture. His visits were short, frequent and just the right amount for me to gradually open up to what was happening. I witnessed people sharing a depth of feeling and vulnerability I had never seen before. Of course, I had moments where I totally doubted the process, even got angry about the fact that I was just getting this now with only a short time to live. The beauty of the program was that I traveled to so many places through listening to different stories than my own and never once thought I had to change or be different. I was simply invited to be me and to be curious about how I had gotten to where I was – not as a victim but as a response-able person. It was exciting to have people not feel sorry for me but instead hold me as able. They believed in me and with that invitation I came alive!

I didn’t really remember the models. But I did remember Jock’s tears, as far as I knew, no one had ever cried with me. Here was this doctor with big salty tears running down his cheek. This gave me the permission I needed to cry as well. We did this together, and I will never forget what that felt like. I remember the honesty and warmth of the group as each person revealed some aspect of their life that was raw and new to them. We each held an open space for whatever someone needed or wanted to explore.

Yes, I remember. That first five day program turned my life around, and I have never gone back to the lonely place I knew before arriving on Gabriola at The Haven. So I will gladly share this video and hope it goes viral. There is place, and it is worth visiting. Pass this on!!

Here’s the link to the new Come Alive video!!

Susan Clarke

A Crack – That is Letting the Light In

Looks like I am going to be going back to my roots. My life is presenting me with many opportunities to test my own congruence about valuing differences and acceptance.

On a personal level I am having to re-define relationships because our differences are no longer open for dialogue and more about black/white and right/wrong. Of course, in this course of re-defining I am having to look at how I am holding on to my position or presenting what is important to me. In the past, I would say I have always been a bit like my boxer, Bailey. People know where I stand, and I can look tough. However, equally like Bailey, I am not nearly as tough as my bark.

I have been learning that indeed I am quite an open-heart-ed person, who cares more about the relationship than my own point of view. Most of my life I think I have covered up this softer side because I really did believe that a tough front would be safer and create less pain. If no one ever knew that I cared deeply, they would more likely give me an honest opinion. Plus, I grew up watching lots of strongly opinionated people sit around a dinner table and wrestle with politics, religion and various other intellectual challenges, and it seemed to me, the best at it, were the most opinionated and loudest. So I went that route.

Many years later, a few health challenges and lots of deep emotional de-armoring, I am realizing that there is indeed another path. One that isn’t easy for me but much more fulfilling and quite frankly, honest. That path is one of vulnerability and intimacy (into-to-me-see). The problem with the new path is that I often have a shaky voice and don’t sound quite as solid. Also I cry. I am not comfortable crying. Just doesn’t come easy. Plus, big tears for me is usually not so obvious to anyone else. Inside I am wailing, but outside I think I look a bit more tight.

Still, I like me better this way. I like being able to finally say to the world – I care more about you and I connecting, having an honest dialogue than I do about a truth, or any one opinion.

Of course, I am also learning that this is not a value that everyone has or is interested in considering. Some folks really are all about finding ‘a truth’ – or the ‘truth’.

I work in relationship to a very charismatic leader who has become quite respected for some very simple and practical wisdom when applied to business, teams and leadership. I love his message – well the message in the books. It seems he is becoming more interested in including his strong religious values as part of his message. He has a platform from which to speak and wants to speak about what matters most to him. On one level that is great. However, his religious beliefs are not mine. At first, I thought this wouldn’t be a problem. I respect differences and have always loved working with teams, people who are very different than me. However, I am getting the message that may be my belief – but not his. He believes in one truth and that truth quite clearly makes some people ‘wrong’ or eliminates the values of others. That’s not okay with me.

So now both on a personal and a professional level, I am being challenged to stand forth. To show up and not fight about these issues but to speak from my heart, my heart that feels a bit broken right now. Much like the Leonard Cohen lyrics, “a crack in anything is where the light gets in”, I believe this broken heart of mine is an opportunity to discover what is next for me. To find my own words and message.

I do have something to say about all this. The message is forming. When I am ready, I plan to step up and without the heavy armor of my past and say what I think. Sure my voice may crack and likely I will have some moist eyes (that you might just think are tight) but I will be strong – not tough – strong.

I do hope the message will be the one my life has been crafting since the beginning. Because I think I came into this world wanting to bridge differences, not knock them down. I think bridges are for crossing over and seeing what life is like from someone else’s perspective. Sure I have an opinion and it is quite likely a good one for me – but it isn’t the only one. That much I do know for sure.