😳 4 Tips to Quit Judging People

I know you’ve done this. You’ve walked into Wal-Mart and have seen some atrocious outfit that is two sizes too small on an overweight woman or man. You roll your eyes and suddenly don’t feel so bad that you didn’t put on lipstick before heading out to shop on a Saturday morning. You’re at least presentable. Or, you’re reading a company email and notice someone’s name has been misspelled. You smugly fire off an email to the offending author to point out their error. You feel you have one over on everyone else. You are mentally making the case for your own superiority. It’s nice to be you. You get to be Judge and Jury to all the “lessers” gliding by. The problem is that it saps your energy and puts you into what the Arbinger Institute calls “a heart at war.” When you judge others you are ticking off the ways that they are not perfect. The gain is fleeting, the long term affects are that you start judging yourself as well. You are seeking perfection in everyone, especially that person in the mirror. I can remember asking my now ex-husband if I was as fat as another woman walking down the street. Like, as long as I’m not as fat as that woman, then I’m better than. You end up in a constant state of comparison.

I recently read The Anatomy of Peace, by the Arbinger Institute. It’s a great read as it is written as a story instead of being a text book on resolving conflict. The minute the lead character “Lou” starts justifying his feelings and thinks, “…when I betray myself, others’ faults become immediately inflated in my heart and mind. I begin to ‘horribilize’ others. That is, I begin to make them out to be worse than they really are. And I do this because the worse they are, the more justified I feel as myself.” This is me at Wal-Mart. I’m thinking, “Look at how poorly that screaming child is behaving” or “That cashier is incredibly slow” or “Can you believe that family has six kids?” I’m viewing them as objects which means I am so much better. It’s this constant exercise in comparison and justification that is exhausting and closes you off from really relating and connecting with others.

So here are the 4 surefire steps to quit judging others:

1. See others as people. This seems like it should be obvious. But when you really think about it, although you might see that they are living human beings, the minute you discount them in your head, you are turning them into objects. What I try to do instead is think “I wonder how her day is going.” This keeps me from seeing someone as an object and helps me be more empathetic and human I just tried this at Walmart. The cashier was going through the motions ringing up my stuff and I kept trying to make eye contact. I wanted to meet her gaze so I could smile at her. She wouldn’t let me in. I was an object in her eyes. It’s a two-way street and you have to keep to it.

2. They appear just as real to me as I do to myself. I think this is what John Gottman calls “Turning towards.” As Gottman defines it, “A bid is any attempt from one partner to another for attention, affirmation, affection, or any other positive connection. Bids show up in simple ways, a smile or wink, and more complex ways like a request for advice or help.” Accepting bids is a way to turn towards others in your life whether they be at work or at home or out in the world. Turning toward at work would be saying something like “yes and” instead of “no” to the idea of a new venue for an event. This is an old improv trick. Improv doesn’t work unless you accept the “bid” from the other person. Saying “no” or “but” is turning away or shutting down the bid.

3. Their cares and concerns matter to me as my own. This is true empathy. If you think about it, how can you be in conflict with a co-worker if their concerns matter to you as much as your own? It’s similar to the CRR Global tenet, “Everyone is right…partially.” Owning that everyone has some truth is critical for progress. It gets you out of digging your heels into your own righteousness. Go out and imagine slipping into your adversary’s shoes and walk around a bit.

4. I actively respond to their humanity. I’ve spoken on this topic at several corporate events. Everyone (I mean everyone) wants to be heard. I can remember the most sickening moment of my life was in a class when I was earning my Master’s Degree. The instructor had me sit in the middle of the room and told me to say something very profound. In the meantime, she secretly told everyone else to turn their backs to me and talk to each other. I felt ill. Marginalized. Small. Insignificant. There was no air in the room. No one was listening. The thing I learned from that experiment is being heard is a basic human need that is about as important as air.

I know this isn’t easy. It’s much simpler to pass judgment on someone. To discount them into an object and roll on. But as the Arbinger Institute says, this is a heart at war and a heart at war is in constant conflict. Open your heart to being a heart at peace and embrace the humanity that surrounds you.

😎7 Secrets to Dealing with a Narcissistic Boss

You made a big mistake. You criticized your boss for the way they delegated the project. Now you are in her sites. You’ve pulled the pin on the grenade and now you are holding it. No one critiques the narcissistic boss because the collateral damage is huge. Your next performance review will be toast and your next assignment will be unattainable and sure to fail with heroic deadlines not met. Hell hath no fury as a narcissistic boss who is criticized.

I haven’t had a narcissistic boss in decades but I sure see them around me. In fact, since I first wrote about narcissism, I’ve suddenly started to see them everywhere. Speaking engagements, workshops and parties, they are ubiquitous. How can you tell them? They do all the talking and very little listening. They are always right as well.

So here are the secrets to dealing with your narcissistic boss:

1. Do not complain to others. I know misery loves company but a narcissist is paranoid. Really paranoid. She is on the hunt for any detractors. And detractors will not be tolerated. Whether it’s texting or email or hushed voices by the water cooler, assume that the narcissist boss is omniscient. If there is a way to find out gossip about their carefully crafted image, they will find a way and there will be consequences.

2. Do not be friends. As Susan Price wrote for IvyExec, “Narcissists lack empathy, so they are not capable of true friendships. You might feel betrayed if you think you are becoming friends with one only to find they act without your interests in mind. If they are friendly to you, it is because they want something, whether your attention, your ideas, or anything else.” I have been personally burned by this several times in my career. I’ve had narcissists promise me the moon in my career only to find them to be completely empty. There is only one person they care about and that is themselves.

3. Keep your guard up. I know this can be exhausting. Constantly being vigilant for any sign of backstabbing or manipulation can take a lot of energy. Set boundaries and do not cross them. As Jacquelyn Smith wrote for Business Insider, “Understand that winds change quickly, and you may get undercut at any time. You can record and document every conversation and keep every email trail, but the narcissist has the ability to think quickly and act differently. And you will never see it coming.” Don’t get blindsided. Stay vigilant.

4. Give them praise. I know this seems like brown nosing, and it is, but the narcissist’s image of themselves is paramount in their mind. As Price writes, “Always remember that everything is about her/him. So if your words and actions make her/him feel good, she/he will be far more tolerable than if she/he feels that you are doing something that attacks her/him such as undermining her/him authority or criticizing her/him. Narcissists want praise and acknowledgement, so be prepared to give it to them.” A little sugar goes a long way.

5. Protect their image by taking the blame. Another bitter pill which is why you probably need to look at #7. Falling on the sword or keeping facts under wraps so that the narcissist’s image is maintained can be soul crushing. As Price posits, “Narcissists don’t take responsibility for anything negative, whether it is a bad culture in the office or declining revenues. It has to be someone else’s fault.” Scan the office for any detrimental indicators and proactively put them to bed.

6. Don’t compete with them. Narcissists are winners. They never lose. So don’t try and grab the limelight even if you worked 80 hours last week to get the project out the door. As Price writes, “Your boss will assume that you are doing good work because of what he taught you. Your award should be his; after all, you work for him, don’t you? You can’t win. Ever. So don’t play.” You are not opponents in a game, you are the support that helps them win.

7. Have an exit plan. I have a dear friend who was under the thumb of a narcissistic boss for upwards of three years. After empty promises and grueling months of 80 plus hour thankless work weeks, he started searching for his next job. So have a financial plan, keep your life in balance (don’t take this out on your family) and update your resume. There may be other opportunities in the organization. If you are not up to #1 through #6? Exiting gracefully is the best option. And don’t hesitate to use a professional coach or a friend help you with the plan and the process. You need someone on your side.

I think it’s like marriage. I was married to a narcissist and thought I could change him. It’s not possible. You can’t expect to change a narcissist boss. You can have all the staff development days in an organization but narcissists just point the fingers at everyone else. All they see in the mirror is their own carefully crafted image.

How to Decide on Happiness

I have struggled over the last few years with finding happiness. I have strained, pushed, and worked on finally arriving at the railroad station, boarding the rail car called Happiness. Having taken this very circuitous route, I’ve come to realize: it’s not a destination; it’s not arriving or departing. It’s not being on standby. The thing is that it’s always been in me. It can be in me right now. It’s funny because as I write this, my dog Baci just relaxed into my lap as I wrote that sentence. She isn’t struggling any more; she is just deciding that laying next to me is perfect. And that is just perfect with me.

I recently read Michael Neill’s The Space Within. It’s a thought-provoking book about just letting things be. About giving up control and focusing on what is. To letting go of your thinking and worrying and just letting things be. I think this is about just deciding to be happy right now. Just let life work itself out and yet embrace happiness now. It doesn’t take a milestone like buying a house or the divorce to be final or for you to complete the marathon; be happy right now. The key is to decide. So go ahead and decide on happiness right now.

Here is how to decide on happiness:

Happiness is not the goal

This seems counterintuitive. If you view happiness as the goal, you never find it.  There is always one more hurdle to jump over. One more thing to check off the list.  You never seem to arrive. I have the new car but I won’t be happy until it’s paid off.  Once the car is paid off, then I’ll need to get new tires. Once I get new tires, then the brakes will need replacing. There is always one more thing before happiness is ours, right? The finish line keeps getting extended. We never achieve satisfaction. We never ever arrive. Quit focusing on happiness being the goal.

Happiness is not dependent on others

I can remember thinking as a kid that I would be happy when I found the love of my life or when I had children. Basing your happiness on someone outside of yourself will lead to disappointment. It all starts with you. When it’s dependent upon others, others disappoint. They let you down and then your happiness evaporates. When you can find it in yourself, there is no disappointment. There is only your mindset. If my dog wants to snuggle next to me or not. If my lover tells me they love me or not. If my child gets the job, or graduates from college or not. Happiness is within me and is self-created.

Happiness is not about getting what you want

As Neill writes, “The secret to happiness is simply this…your happiness does NOT depend on getting what you want.” This means that similar to The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy always had home in her heart. She just needed to tap into it. Happiness is within you right now. You don’t need to get the next thing: The new car, house, jacket or coffee maker. Happiness does not exist in the striving for what you want but rather in you right now. Let go of the wishlist and be happy right now.

Happiness is not in the doing

Neill writes, “If you are doing things in order to be happy…you’re doing them in the wrong order.” For me this means to be happy while doing. It starts with the mindset of being happy right now. Start with being happy. Start between the ears. Doing will follow. Just start with a smile on your face and bliss between the ears. Neill suggests looking for the space between words. It’s difficult to look for the space between words when you start looking for it. It’s in the space. That pause. That moment where the infinite is. For me that is being present. Not multitasking. Not looking at your phone. Just be.

Happiness is not a short cut

Neill espouses, “By taking the time to live life in the slow lane, we quickly experience a deeper, more profound experience of contentment.” I opted for a walking meeting with a coworker of mine. The meeting took at least 30 minutes longer than I had expected. The thing is, I connected with the coworker and found out about some recent health issues she was having. I only had thirty minutes on my schedule but the walk and the conversation led to places I didn’t expect or anticipate. It’s letting go of control and letting the path unfold as it needs to. No need to rush, take short cuts or push through. Take the long way, the slow lane and don’t miss a thing.

I wrote myself a note in the Silence Course I took a few years ago. The first item on the note was to smile more. Several people at the course had told me what a beautiful smile I had and how it lit up my face. We all have beautiful smiles. We all need to smile more often. Don’t wait to smile or be happy. Be happy right now. Smile right now. It’s infectious. Are you happy right now?

The Amazing Grand Canyon

Pictures can never do it justice. There is nothing in life to compare to standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. The shear size of it all. The depth of it all. The colors. The other worldliness of it all. It must be experienced. My boyfriend Roy and I were able to visit it recently, mostly because the weather permitted it. This was my fourth visit, but Roy’s first. It never disappoints but it’s almost too much to comprehend. I can imagine that the only way to truly take it all in is by looking down on it from outer space or standing at the bottom of it looking up. It can only be experienced in pieces. From overlooks. From different angles.


It is sheer happenstance that I was in the middle of reading a book on the Grand Canyon at the time. A client had read The Emerald Mile, an incongruent name for a history of the Grand Canyon and a record-breaking boat trip down the Colorado River (the creator of the canyon). It gave context to this awe-inspiring spot.

Here is why the Grand Canyon is so amazing:

The Colorado River

According to most geologists, the river that carved the Grand Canyon over a billion years ago starts up in Wyoming, some 7 states away. The amazing thing is that Roy and I tried in vain to actually see the river from countless overlooks around the rim. The canyon is so deep that you cannot see the river because of all the erosion and the narrow river. We did glimpse the Little Colorado, however, from most vantage points, you cannot see the river. The river is what first brought humans to live around the canyon some 10,000 years ago, although they did not start living year-round in the area until about 4,000 years ago. The first European to see the canyon was Garcia Lopes de Cardenas in 1540, but they had to leave after three days because of lack of water. There is a river down there. It’s just completely out of reach when you’re above it.

One Mile Deep

The Grand Canyon is a giant hole in the ground. It is over 6,000 feet deep. This is why the floor of the canyon (including any rivers within it) are so difficult to see from the rim. There is so much that is visible, but it begs to be explored; to be experienced. We wanted to explore. I saw that the Bright Angel Trail could be hiked for a mile and a half into the canyon. When I asked about hiking it upon entering the park, the ranger said, “Yeah, you could but you will be on your hands and knees.” Sure enough, when we arrived at the overlook next to the trail head, all we could see was a snake of white snow and ice descending into the canyon. We were going to experience the rim, but not the canyon.

Long Canyon

The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long. That’s longer than the state of Delaware (90 miles) and bigger than the state of Rhode Island. Even though it’s up to 18 miles wide, it takes 5 hours to drive the 220 miles from the South Rim to the North Rim. The Powell Geographic Expedition of 1869, led by American naturalist John Wesley Powell, was a ten-month river exploration down the Green and Colorado Rivers, which became known as the first documented passage through the Grand Canyon. Powell left with nine men, four boats and food for 10 months. Two men from the expedition made it all the way to Mexico and the Sea of Cortez where the river finally ends. I am struck by the bravery of entering a long voyage with untold obstacles and unknowns.

Little Colorado River

The Little Colorado River Overlook is outside of the Grand Canyon National Park, but is a must see along Highway 64. It’s managed by the Navajo nation, but it has a fantastic view of the canyon. It feels like the “younger” section of the canyon since it’s much more narrow, and you can actually see the Little Colorado River at the bottom. It would be like letting the air out of the Grand Canyon and reducing it by 10 times. This view gives the depth and width of it all, after a short gravel pathway down to the overlook. There are no crowds or entrance fees here; it doesn’t make it unworthy of your time. It pairs down the Grand Canyon experience to a comprehensible view.

The trip has inspired me to want to return to take a deeper dive. I want to return to hike from rim to rim during the fall. The canyon begs you to enter it, whether it be by mule, hiking or river rafting. It begs to be experienced.

Ninety-Three Years and Counting

My father is ninety-three years old and counting. This is an amazing feat, considering he has had diabetes for over 60 years and survived both the Merchant Marines in WWII and Korea. My boyfriend Roy, my son Benson and my daughter Natalie had a reunion of sorts with my parents, my brother Rick and his girlfriend Sarina in Albuquerque, New Mexico in February. It was a great opportunity to reminisce, reconnect and compare various iterations of sopapillas.

My mother, daughter and father.

This was Roy’s first time meeting my parents and it’s always enlightening to see other’s perceptions of folks that I have know all my life. It’s also fun to reflect on what comes up in the form of stories and songs when generations come together.

Here are my observations:

The Adventure

What an appropriate name for the sailboat my parents met on some sixty plus years ago. It had been many years since I had heard the telling of it, as only my mother can do it best. My father was crew on a tall ship called The Adventure. My mother had just graduated from college and was taking a cruise on the boat as a post-graduation vacation. She saw my father talking to a woman with a wedding ring on and, incorrectly, assumed that he was married. A man on shore had asked her on a date and she was on deck drying her hair in preparation for the date. My father pushed her overboard. When my mother climbed out of the water, she asked the captain why that man had pushed her and he said, “I guess he’s interested.” The rest is history.

My mother and father on The Adventure.

Let the adventure begin. My father always looks quite unrepentant during the telling of the story. Sort of like, “Well, I pushed her and now look at all that I have,” as he admires his beloved wife, children and grandchildren. Thank goodness he pushed her.

The Lecturer

My father spent most of his career as a middle school history teacher. I have always admired him for teaching the least glamorous topic to the most incorrigible group of students (namely 8th graders). My father has always been a lecturer. You can imagine that if you taught 7 classes a day on the same topic, that everything from Gettysburg to the Kensington Stone is on auto-play. My dad has many life adventures on auto-play. His trip to Korea and visiting a village off-the-grid. His guiding 10 teenagers on a canoe trip in aluminum boats in northern Quebec during a lightening storm. Him surviving a hurricane on the schooner The Adventure, where the captain told him to lash himself to the mast. My siblings, my mom and my kids have all heard these stories many times. This past trip made me pay attention to the facts. I want to get it right. While I was a teenager, I would roll my eyes at what I dubbed “Lecture 223.” Now, I want every word. Every fact. Who knows when or if I will hear this lecture again?

The Stoic

Part of what prompted the cross-country trip were some recent set backs to my dad’s health. As I write this, my dad is back in the hospital trying to get his medications dialed in. I’m thankful that my brother Rick is a retired nurse and my mother, a retired medical technologist. I don’t understand most of what is going on but I do know that my dad has always been a stoic. Whether is was a triple bypass or pace maker, he’s always taken everything as it comes. I’ve never seen him panic or worry. Even as he sat in his recliner surrounded by loved ones, with a new scooter and oxygen tank, he said, “I don’t feel any pain.” Did I mention he’s had kidney stones for over 5 years? He was still looking forward to his next move with my mom to Washington State. I have always admired my father’s patience but I think what I really admire is his ability to not get caught up in a cycle of worry and rumination. My stomach dropped when my brother texted this morning that Dad was back in the hospital but I know that he is probably sharing a lecture on Napoleon or his trip to Russia with some unsuspecting nurse. If he’s not worried, why should I be?

The Ballast

Every family has a certain homeostasis. There is a balance that keeps the whole thing moving forward, regardless of the current and wind. I feel like my dad has been the ballast of the whole Noice family boat. He rarely gets angry. Nothing seems to exasperate him. I can still remember my seventy-year-old father carrying my two-year-old son and a tricycle during one of his tantrums with nary a frown. I see him now surrounded by new contraptions like an oxygen meter and he is unfazed. He’s just glad to be here. He is constantly comparing himself to other residents who have it far worse than he and he is thankful. His mantra is “I am so fortunate.” He’s writing his fifth volume (FIFTH) of his science fiction novel. He hopes someone reads it someday. This is not a man who is down for the count. He’s planning his next adventure for his novel’s main character Lors, for heaven’s sake. Eventually, my father will be gone, but in the meantime, he is the ballast.

There was a magical moment in our trip to Albuquerque when my parents broke into song. It was an old sea shanty. As my parents sang in unison and with strong voice, I was able to record it for prosperity. I was struck by their voice’s strength and clarity, as they both sang and helped each other with the words. It’s been decades since I heard them sing. A little piece of history from their Adventure. I was happy to experience it again and that I’ve been part of the Adventure.

You Are Enough

Have you been waiting to hear those words since say…kindergarten? I have. I generally have stayed uber-focused on my penmanship (horrible), my height (too tall) and my value as a human being (a work-in-progress). This happens to the distraction from my more valuable traits like writing, coaching and being present. I am more worried about the illusive atta-boy (-girl) from my sixth-grade math teacher or my parents finally being happy with the career I have chosen.

Unfortunately, if you go looking for someone to say: “Cathy, you are good enough,” you will be waiting a long time. Your value is not determined by those outside of yourself. It’s an inside job. It’s between your ears. You need to decide you are good enough. No one is going to do it for you. Decide today. You are worthy. You are good enough. Go ahead. I’ll wait right here.

These might be the reasons holding you back from being enough:

The yardstick of perfection. Anne Lamott wrote brilliantly in Bird by Bird, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life… I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.” It’s OK if my handwriting isn’t that legible. It’s OK if I am taller than the rest. It’s OK if I have honestly wasted half a Saturday getting over vertigo and not writing. I just spent part of the morning criticizing myself for not going to the gym first thing or writing a post. Really? Like the exercise and blog gods are sitting around judging me for recovering from half a day spent getting to the bottom of my vertigo? So what? As Lamott says, you will die anyway. Spending time trying to be perfect is empty and completely unrewarding. You are good enough right now.


A gold medal won’t change a thing. Lamott famously quotes a 400 pound has-been coach, “If you’re not enough before the gold medal, you won’t be enough with it.” Interesting. If you are not enough before you lose 30 pounds, you won’t be enough after. If you are not enough before the big promotion, you won’t be after. If you are not enough before the divorce, you won’t be after. Worthiness is not a line in the sand. It’s not a point in time. It’s not after the big achievement or disappointment. You are worthy right now. And now. And now. Sit in that. Let it sink in. A gold medal will not make a difference.

You are uniquely you. The mold is busted and there is only one of you and your individual view on life. As Dr. Seuss famously said, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Even you and your identical twin would have different shortcuts on your desktop. One of you was picked last or first on the soccer team. It has made all the difference. You now fight for the downtrodden or represent soccer player’s rights. Neither is better or worse. Just unique. Be you. Own it. Embody it. Be the unique you that you are.

Comparison is futile. Lamott said, “Never compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides.” You have no idea what your neighbor is going through or your coworker or your dog for that matter. You may be jealous of that new car but don’t realize they had to take over payments for their daughter. Your coworker is battling stage 4 colon cancer. Your dog has been barking at that neighbor dog for the last ten years and has yet to get the last word. We really have no idea what is going on for someone else and comparing it to your current situation is a recipe for disaster. Comparing does not make you feel worthy or enough. So stop comparing.

What other people think of me is none of my business. This is a Wayne Dyer quote that stops me cold. You have absolutely no control over what other people think of you. Let it go. I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not. We’ve spent so much time on worrying about what others think. I remember having 11 different pairs of colored corduroy Levis in high school. It did not increase the number of friends I had. AND I was probably the only one who noticed. If you cannot move the needle on it, don’t bother worrying about it. Besides, you are perfectly good enough right now.

I was the last pick a lot in elementary school. My mother was upset with how I held a pencil in my hand. I didn’t have a ton of friends in high school. It’s OK. Let the past go and move on. It has no impact on my worthiness right now. Let go of the judgments from the past and be enough. You are good enough. And so am I.

Making a Fresh Start

I recently read Daniel Pink’s book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, and it had lots of useful information about timing. Interestingly, a fresh start can occur more often than just on New Year’s Day. So, for all of you who missed setting or initiating your New Year’s Resolution, there is still hope. There is a whole, brand new fresh start. In fact, by Pink’s count, there are 86 days available for a fresh start. Well, that is, about 1 in 4 days, so that means you can get a fresh start right around the corner, if not today.


His theory is that there are eighty-six days that are especially effective for making a fresh start:

  • The first day of the month (twelve)
  • Mondays (fifty-two)
  • The first day of spring, summer, fall, and winter (four)
  • Your country’s Independence Day or the equivalent (one)
  • The day of an important religious holiday—for example, Easter, Rosh Hashanah, Eid al-Fitr (one)
  • The first day of school or the first day of a semester (two)
  • The first day back from vacation (two)
  • The anniversary of your wedding, first date, or divorce (three)
  • The anniversary of the day you started your job, the day you became a citizen, the day you adopted your dog or cat, the day you graduated from school or university (four)
  • The day you finish this book (one)

It’s ironic, but some of my fresh starts were not on Mondays, not at the beginning of the month, and not around a holiday. The most significant for me was getting sober. It was a Saturday, four days after July 4th. But I made that fresh start stick. I can’t remember the day I gave up animal products, but I do remember the last time I had meat was at the DFW airport, and I didn’t end up finishing some sausage links on my breakfast plate. That was the last of my meat eating. It wasn’t a Monday or on an important anniversary.

The thing is that fresh starts can start right now. If you want to give up sugar, alcohol, chicken, or smoking, throw all that mess out right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait right here. It’s amazing how fast you can get rid of whatever is tempting you. I was kind of surprised how easy it can be if you can let go of the guilt tied to whatever is in the garbage can and the waste of money it has been. I’m pretty sure I threw out 7 bottles of wine when I embraced sobriety. I didn’t give it to a good home. I threw it in the garbage can. I can sort of visualize that I am not a garbage can. Why do I think that chocolate cake should go into my stomach instead of the garbage can? Yes, please donate what you want to give up if it’s feasible. If it’s not, then throw it out.

So, I decided to look up famous birthdays on July 8th: John D. Rockefeller and Kevin Bacon. Now I know that I got sober on their birthday. It’s not why I chose that date, but it’s auspicious none-the-less. It might work to go backwards to make your fresh start more memorable.

The key to it all is to get started. Pick what you want: whether it be exercising, napping (highly recommended by Pink), writing, playing the guitar, dancing, singing, walking the dog, or saving money. If you need more ideas, check out my 102 Itzy Bitzy Habits. What do you need a start?

Return to Yosemite

I’ve been to Yosemite National Park several times in my life. The first trip was on an eight-week cross-country trailer trip with my family when I was eight years old. I remember Yosemite being a magical place. There was even a free bus that would take my eight-year-old self anywhere in the valley. And, of course, there was listening to story time around a big campfire. I remember the tall waterfalls and the stories of folks falling to their death for a photo op. These are the faded memory remnants some half century later.


Fast forward to the holiday season and to my last full day in Northern California. Roy and I had a fantastic Christmas holiday at my oldest brother’s house and both of my children with their significant others were able to attend. We did the whirlwind must-stops of Twin Peaks, Haight-Ashbury, Goat Rock Beach and stood near ancient Redwoods. My kids were both on their way home and, my boyfriend Roy and I had an extra unplanned day. I mapped a drive to Yosemite and it turned out to only be 3 hours away. This was Roy’s first trip to California and I felt like Yosemite was a must-see, if possible. Six-hour round trip on the road through the San Joaquin Valley — let’s get this checked off the list.

Observations on the return to Yosemite:


Part of the reason for heading to Yosemite was that we were dropping my daughter, Natalie, and her boyfriend Kevin off at the San Francisco Airport at 6 AM. If we were going to be on the road at 6 in the morning, why not head out? Being on the road during a holiday week (between Christmas and New Year’s) made for easy driving, which is not the norm during that particular week in the Bay Area. We didn’t run into any bumper-to-bumper traffic until our return over the Pacheco Pass. So if you are going to run off to Yosemite, make sure you do it on an off-week to avoid the frustration of traffic.


The only way to Yosemite from the Bay Area is through the San Joaquin Valley. Roy was excited to see some of the richest agricultural land in the world. Our drive did not disappoint. We saw miles and miles and miles of orchards on our way to Yosemite. And miles and miles and miles of crops and cattle on our way back. It’s amazing to see how immense the agricultural machine is. I think it’s what Roy was most impressed with on the trip that day; perhaps the biggest surprise. Especially when you read labels at the grocery store almost daily that say it was produced in California, and there it all is as far as the eye can see. It was impressive seeing it through Roy’s eyes. I was much more impressed by the size of it all. Appreciate what surrounds you.


The GPS on my phone mapped the trip. At one point, when we were driving through the foothills up to Yosemite, the GPS directed us to take a right onto a very narrow road. When you leave a larger road to take a very narrow road, and you have some 90 miles to go to your destination, it’s a bit scary. There is faith that the GPS knows what it is doing but there is also the fear that technology might fail us. We might get stuck. Roy and I talked about turning around. This was impossible, based on the hairpin turns and width of the road. Yosemite is in the middle of nowhere. We went for 60 or more miles without a gas station or restaurant. It is remote. West Coast remote is a lot more remote than East Coast remote. If you are driving to the Smokey Mountains National Park, you will be able to find a bathroom, French fries and a tank of gas if need be, within 20 miles of the park. Not so at Yosemite. The GPS got us safely to the park, but it was a leap of faith. Don’t expect to stop at a gas station for directions.


We drove through about thirty miles of road that warned that you needed chains or snow tires. We were in a rental car. Who knew what tires were on that thing. We approached via route 120, which I would not recommend in winter, as the elevation was over 4,000 feet and the road was icy with temperatures reaching 28 degrees outside. After traveling for some 3 hours, we thought about turning around as the elevation continued to climb. I told Roy that it was worth it (so long as we didn’t have an accident). Sure enough, we came around the bend and there was Half Dome standing mightily in the valley floor. It was breathtaking. Don’t have an accident getting there and be safe; the payoff is worthwhile.


I think we spent about an hour or so driving through Yosemite Valley. There were remnants from the fires in August. I realize now that the trees are not what make Yosemite special and unique, as much as all that granite. El Capitan stands regally in the center of the valley. It is immense. Pictures do not do it justice. The waterfalls are beautiful, regardless of the time of the year. In fact, the valley is timeless, regardless of fire, government shut down, or drought. Yes, it is commercialized to some degree, despite its remoteness, but it’s an inconsequential part of the experience. It’s rather nice to have good food available at restaurants or a decent hotel room after a day of hiking. After all, you can pull off to the side of the road anywhere and there you are in the heart of the valley that was carved out by glaciers over 87 million years before. Every vista is jaw-dropping. It truly is a transformative experience.

Getting outside is restorative. Heading to parts unknown by a path less traveled is life affirming. The journey to Yosemite was as transformative as the park itself. Get outside, take the unknown route, and lean into your fear. You might be surprised and, perhaps, even changed.

Taking Stock

According to Merriam-Webster: “Definition of take stock: to carefully think about something in order to make a decision about what to do next. We need to take stock and formulate a plan.” A very close friend, Angie, was in a serious car accident this week. One minute she was on her hour-long commute to work and the next she was pinned in her car waiting to be cut out. Fast forward 48 hours and she’s had surgery on her knee cap and is thankful she didn’t lose her leg. Or her life. This has caused me to pause and take stock.


This all happened on a Monday morning. 99% of the world continued with business as usual. My life, for the most part, continued as usual. I started to extrapolate forward on behalf of my friend. Where was her master bedroom, first floor or second floor? Can you drive a car without the use of a right leg? Will she ever want to return to her job and her hour-long commute? How will this affect her in the long term? What would I do if I was in her shoes? There are no correct answers. There are only a lot of questions.

This is what I have taken stock of:

Can do

I have an iWatch that tracks my steps. Ever since I completed my short section hike on the Appalachian Trail (15 miles), I haven’t been walking that much. I recently found out I have a torn meniscus in my left knee and I have been apprehensive about injuring it more. But in the last week? Post-accident? I have tripled my steps. It prompted me to look at what I can do. I have two working legs and who knows if and when that might be taken away from me. I have a strength workout that my boyfriend designed for me that involves lunges, air squats, planks, and pushups. Yep. I can do that as well. I almost feel like I am doing the workouts for Angie. I’ve taken stock in what I can do.


I have a small step between my sunroom and my kitchen. There are three steps up to my front door. I don’t think I could get a wheelchair into my bathroom. Closet doors open into a narrow hallway. There is no easy path from my driveway to my front door. I never noticed these things before. What if I was suddenly in a wheelchair and unable to go up small steps? What would I do in the interim until ramps could be built? I’m sure these are things that an ergonomics expert or physical therapist sees without a second thought. It’s been all I see since Monday. I’ve taken stock of close surroundings and in what’s available.


I am writing this on a Saturday, just five days after the accident. Angie has at least three surgeries in her future and who knows what else. I’m sure on Monday morning, as she prepared to head to work, she had no idea that her life would be so full of uncertainty only a few short hours later. I have a new appreciation that everything is uncertain for us all. You may think you are going to take that business trip or buy that car or scratch your dog when you get home. But we just don’t know. Nothing is guaranteed. Sure, most of it will happen and unfold as expected, but life is uncertain. I’ve taken stock in the uncertainty of it all.


The man who crossed the center line and hit Angie head-on is on the same hospital floor as Angie. His injuries are worse. It’s difficult for me to be sympathetic to his situation. I immediately decided that he was drunk, texting or exhibiting road rage as he plowed into my friend’s car. Not Angie. There were many of us who decided he was not worth our sympathy in the midst of Angie suffering. Not Angie. In an email she wrote, she asked for all us to pray for the other driver. This is the Angie I know. She has the spirituality and forgiveness to be worried about the other driver. It makes me take stock in who I need to forgive, as well as what I no longer need to hold onto.


Angie has always been a kind and generous person. It didn’t take an accident to make her that way. In the email where she asked for everyone to pray for the other driver, she said, “I love each and every one of you.” It’s such a powerful statement. How often do I tell the people I love that I do love them? There is connection in acknowledging love. I don’t say it enough to enough people in my life. It seems to cure all ills and set things right. Regardless of where Angie is in six months, she will have love. I’ve taken stock in love.

Angie’s husband sent me a picture of the car post-accident. She’s lucky to be alive. I have taken stock in the reality that we are all lucky to be alive. Make the most of it. What do you need to take stock in?


Saying Yes

I recently finished Michael Bungay Stanier’s The Coaching Habit. He presented a great question that I have been pondering over the last few weeks. Bungay Stanier wrote, “Let’s be clear: What exactly are you saying yes to?” The converse of that is: “What are you saying no to?” I have been weighing out committing to some type of self-development program since the start of the year. I am weighing out what will have to change or what I will have to say “no” to in order to fit a new program into my life. Because saying yes will be saying no to something else. That or the yes will end up being something to bail out on two weeks into the program, since I am unwilling to say no to what is already in my life.


When I say yes, I want it to be a firm, clear yes. Not a yes and then I never show up for the monthly meeting or do the homework or give only partial effort. It’s a hell yes or a hell no. I’m all in or all out.

This is what to consider when saying yes:

Be very clear

For me, being very clear is understanding the full ramifications of saying yes. How much time out of my day, week, or month will be committed if I say yes? Where will I fit this into my schedule? If I am on the road traveling, can I still remain committed? Is my physical presence needed or could this be possible virtually? Do I need to show up at meetings at a specific time or can I complete something at 1 AM on my smartphone? What is the investment in money, time and, most importantly, energy? This takes digging unless you’ve committed to something easy like buying cupcakes for the soccer game or offering to collect your neighbor’s mail. Unless it’s straight forward, make sure that you are clear on what you are saying yes to.

Have defined boundaries

We all have people (or animals) in our lives that test our boundaries. The person who is consistently late, the dog who scratches at the bedroom door at 4 in the morning or the co-worker who never turns the project in as prescribed. They are all just testing your boundaries. Be clear that you will be leaving at 8 AM, no exceptions. Don’t open the door for your dog unless there is thunder or fireworks. Only accept the project in PowerPoint and never in Excel. When you have defined boundaries, it makes saying yes (and no) a lot easier.

Know your priorities

For me personally, this has changed dramatically over the last two years. I am no longer married, I no longer drink and I eat a plant-based diet. What I said yes to two years ago wouldn’t work now. I traveled to Peru with a friend instead of a husband. My rotary club’s biggest fund raiser is a beer festival, so I opted out. I need to find new uses for my sous vide and outdoor grill. As I weigh out these two self-development programs, one is focused on writing and the other is about aligning with abundance. Is writing my focus or aligning with abundance? I think that aligning with abundance will help fund the writing down the road. My priority is abundance.

Nope. You cannot do it all.

I feel like I coach a lot more women who suffer from this than men. I coach some folks with StrengthsFinder and I find that if someone has Responsibility (take psychological ownership of what they say they will do) in their top 5 strengths, they have a REAL hard time saying no. Or letting go. Heck, I don’t have Responsibility in my top 10 strengths, but I had a real hard time letting go that I was not sending Christmas Cards out this year (so as not to feel like I overlooked my friends when they didn’t get one). Acknowledging that you can’t do it all can be powerful. Instead of planning and worrying and losing sleep on what you can’t possibly accomplish, let go and don’t say yes. If you say yes, make sure it doesn’t tip the scale towards overwhelm.

Pleasing others

I love the Wayne Dwyer quote: “What other people think of me is none of my business.” So, don’t say yes purely in the hope of impressing others. I thought about this with my Christmas cards this year. I didn’t have a recent family photo, I didn’t have much to report, and I feel like sending cards has been diminishing over the last few years. I felt the need to send cards was about pleasing others. I believe it’s a nice gesture and I appreciate the cards sent to me, but with a busy travel schedule around the holidays, it was a point that overwhelmed me rather than filled me with holiday warmth. I found other ways to share holiday warmth and stopped worrying about pleasing others. Say yes for yourself.

Everything is a trade-off. If I say yes to one thing, it means no to something else. It also works in reverse; if I say no to something, it means yes to something else. It’s all an act of discernment and being choosy about what you engage with. What are you saying no to that really should be a yes?