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Dare To Dream

Do you dare to dream or are you working for a living?  This is the time of year when we are all feverishly making our New Year’s resolutions or what I call the biggest to-do list of the year.  Yet, what are the odds of success?  Usually it is natural to decide that this is the year that you will make the big changes and create the life you’re destined to live.

Before you embark on this path, let’s review your past history.  Have you made New Year’s resolutions before?  If so, then how many have you kept?  If you’re like most people, it’s just another way to validate why your life and career aren’t working or living up to your expectations.

Let’s review these expectations.  Where do they come from?  Do you decide how you will rate your progress or is it defined by how you compare yourself to others?  Are you satisfied with the standards by which you measure yourself, or are you ready to take a look if this is really working for you?  If you are willing to peek under the hood, let’s explore how you can easily shift your focus to tune into your true vision.

When I was growing up, my father called me a “dreamer.”  Yet, without our dreams, how can we even get clear about what we truly want?  Take a stroll down memory lane and begin to remember when you were about 8 or 9 years old.

  • What were you involved with?
  • What captured your interest?  Your imagination?
  • List the activities you enjoyed.
  • Any similarities or differences from your later years?  Sometimes our early years may reveal your true interests without censorship or comparison to others.
  • Pay attention to your observations or insights.

If you’ve strayed away from your earlier interests and just fell into the work you’re doing, this could be the reason you’re no longer satisfied with your progress.  If that’s the case, even if you reach the pinnacle of your career and appear extremely successful to others, you still may not be happy.  In my book, 3 Brains for Success, I explain the model I developed for success and happiness.  It all starts with clarity.  Once you have clarity about where you’re headed, you can develop a personal strategic plan and move forward.  The key is to start with your true heart’s desires because otherwise you will be working hard and going through the motions but will never become satisfied with your progress.

According to the latest Gallup Well-Being Survey, the highest income earners and senior citizens reported the highest job satisfaction.  With age, satisfaction increases.  How do you define satisfaction?  Does it mean abandoning your childhood dreams and settling to meet your budget?  Is there a way you can discover your true heart’s desire and make a plan to slowly transition or integrate it into reality?  I’m not advocating quitting your day job or changing careers.  I’m just encouraging you to examine your true motives and where you would like to be at the end of your working life.  It’s never too late to start.

Take a look at my favorite example of someone who dared to dream, was very clear about her heart’s desires to become a professional singer and astounded the world.  Listen below as Susan Boyle sings, “I Dreamed a Dream” as she begins her dream at 47:

Are you ready to discover your dream?  Remember, it’s not what they say you are, it’s about what you know you are.

Try a free coaching consultation with Wanda Ropa, your success coach, to get you started and get clear about where you’re going with your career, or with your life so you can develop a strategic plan that really works for you.  With clarity, success becomes a natural outcome.
Posted by Wanda Ropa, The Success Coach.

 

 

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The thought of a job interview evokes fear for many individuals, including many of my clients.  The majority of the time it’s about lack of confidence or the pressure to perform.  This feeling is enhanced when you really want a specific job or believe this is your dream role.

Research has shown that our minds and the way we think can affect our bodies.  Yet, do you realize that your body posture can actually impact the way you think and feel about yourself?  This is especially important during a job interview or when you’re giving a presentation.

Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist has conducted research on power and dominance in human behavior.  Her findings validate that people in power roles or those who feel powerful actually exude confidence and are resilient to stress.  Being confident and unaffected by stress are 2 traits that are desired in a job interview or during a presentation.  So, what can you do to easily shift into success when it feels like you’re under a microscope or being judged during the interview process?

Listen to Amy Cuddy’s TED talk where she provides a quick 2-minute technique that can actually change the outcome of your next job interview.  Just like athletes achieve peak performance with practice, you too can become more confident and less stress reactive by practicing power posing as demonstrated below.

Remember, if you need more support to guide you through preparing for your next significant interview or presentation;  be sure to seek out the services of an expert interview coach who has a whole toolbox of techniques to make it easy and effortless.

Posted by Wanda Ropa, The Success Coach.

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Things Are Different Now

The world has shifted. All the old paradigms of success are being tested and put on trial as we watch in disbelief. As individuals and a society, we are now faced with redefining how we will thrive in these new and ever-changing times.  In the last fifty years, we have seen a social and economic revolution.  As our culture changed, so did the music.  The Beatles started the musical revolution and ushered in a new era that expanded our connections to the world.  Step into yesterday as the Beatles whisk you back to 1966 and take a moment to reflect on what the world was like in that era.

In the 60’s, the world was clearly defined. During the Industrial age, people usually went to work for one employer and remained there until retirement. As we experienced the Information Age and everything moved faster and faster, the world of work started to change.

Fifteen years ago, Daniel Goleman talked about the new rules for work as he wrote about emotional intelligence. According to his findings, it was no longer enough to have intellectual ability and technical know-how to do our jobs; it was now about personal qualities, such as initiative, empathy, adaptability, and persuasiveness. Ten years later, Daniel Pink cited further evidence of change, in A Whole New Mind, when he acknowledged that we moved from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. With globalization and shareholders demanding more ROI, large corporations, small business owners and employees alike are experiencing uncertain economic times. Only one thing is certain, increasing your marketability increases your chances of thriving in this current economy.

So, how is the new economy working in your favor? Because now you get to be in the driver’s seat by creating your personal brand and leveraging it in the marketplace to get the results you want.

The new rule: When everybody zigs, zag. – Marty Neumeier

You can easily do this by radically differentiating from your competition by translating your natural talents, skills, and experience into your unique value proposition:  your personal brand.  Being in the driver’s seat with your career means that you treat your career as if you were running a business.  The first place to start is to have clarity about where you’re going.  If you’re not clear about your vision or where you’re headed, you end up on the nowhere road.  In the story, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy was advised to follow the yellow brick road.  This was not a path she chose on her own.  She didn’t have all the facts.  As a result, her long journey ended with a wizard in Emerald City who had no answers and couldn’t help her reach her goals.  She just wanted to get home.

When we create our personal brand, we come home to ourselves.  We step into who we are and finally get comfortable in our own skin.  Think about individuals you may know that stand out from the crowd.  Do they have exceptional talent or have they discovered how to leverage what they have and translate it to the world?  Career coaching can easily help you identify and package yourself to fundamentally improve your career advantage so you increase your marketability and your market worth.

Neumeier acknowledges that your brand is not what YOU say it is.  It’s what THEY say it is. It’s about building your personal reputation, as well as your digital presence.

It’s about how others perceive your value.  The public’s gut feelings about the company, their products and services impact the best business brands.  It is not enough to have emotional intelligence and just understand yourself.  In today’s market, you need to understand how you impact the world at large or how marketable you really are.  Many of my career coaching and business coaching clients start working with me to get promoted, transition to a better career, be successful in their job search, start or develop their businesses.  Whether you’re an entrepreneur, climbing the corporate ladder, or just trying to land a higher paying job, the first place to begin is to examine your state of mind.  Are you clear about your vision?  Do you have clarity about where you’re going?  Once you have clarity, the decisions are easy with the right tools and resources.  If you aren’t clear or need support discovering the right tools and resources that fit you, try a free career coaching or business coaching consultation to explore if coaching is right for you.

Try a free coaching consultation with Wanda Ropa, your success coach, to get you started and get clear about where you’re going with your career, or with your life so you can develop a strategic plan to become more marketable that really works for you.  With clarity, success becomes a natural outcome.

Posted by Wanda Ropa, The Success Coach.

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Before starting career coaching and life coaching, my clients frequently ask:  where is Yoda?  How do I find Yoda?  What they are really looking for is answers.  Yet, as a result of our technological advances, people generally aren’t taking time to reflect and search for their own answers. Instead, addicted to instantaneous button clicking, our society breeds impatience, so we expect instant gratification and results, immediately, if not sooner, as my Dad used to say.  What have we become?  Let’s hear from a cyborg anthropologist what has happened in our current culture.

Join me for a closer pictorial look to see how our world has evolved and the impact it’s made on our lives.

From the first ride of the Pony Express:

To the assembly lines of the Industrial Age:

To the Information Age of computers, as we head into the Conceptual Age:

Dan Pink acknowledges that we have left the Industrial Age and entered a Conceptual Age. What if instead we are entering a dark age? The economy, the workplace, the political stage, your current state of mind all take its toll on your sense of self.

At the TED conference, Barry Schwartz discusses why too much choice is bad for us.
Too many choices cause:
1. Paralysis rather than liberation – people prefer to make no decision rather than make a complicated choice.
2. Less satisfaction with decisions as people have greater reason to regret the decisions they have made.
3. Unrealistic expectations.
4. Self-blame – when experiences are not perfect, people blame themselves.

So, what does this all mean?  With more choices and advanced speed in communication, there are more resources available than ever before.  The Internet has changed our world as we know it and this is the first time we have ever connected to each other in this way.  From Linked In, to Facebook, to Twitter, our people connections are growing exponentially.  Yet, with all of this external stimulation, there is little time to focus internally and reflect.  More than we suspect, outside influences control our actions. Therefore, if you find yourself just reacting and riding the assembly line of life without pausing to figure out where you’re going, you will end up on the nowhere road and wonder how you got there.  Even if you take a first step and start working with a career coach and life coach, it is too easy in our current age, to expect immediate answers and changes.  It takes 28 to 30 days to change a habit, introduce a new routine, practice, or start to reframe your situation and it takes another couple months to make it stick.  So, how can one expect to shift into the driver’s seat and get instant results?  However, with career coaching and life coaching, you will be supported to help make these changes stick.  So, what do you have to gain?  Yes, it’s about finding the Yoda inside of you that may be foggy or unclear at the moment.  Take the first step and get your life coaching and career coaching consultation from your success coach now.

Try a free coaching consultation with Wanda Ropa, your success coach, to get you started and get clear about where you’re going with your career, or with your life so you can develop a strategic plan that really works for you.  With clarity, success becomes a natural outcome.

Posted by Wanda Ropa, The Success Coach.

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For me, a life coach, the phrase self-discipline conjures up images of being strict, tough and perhaps even rigid to force myself to get things done. For the purposes of this article I use the phrase to describe the way we regulate and direct ourselves.  What self-discipline looks like to you may not be what it looks like to me.

How we do things is a deeply personal expression of our wants, needs, intentions, self-care, strengths, responsibility, beliefs and values, an outward reflection of what is important for us. I think of self-discipline as a continual recalibration and adjustment of what’s important in my life. All of us struggle with doing what needs to be done versus doing what we desire. None of us is immune from distraction. We live in an age of distractions that tempt us from good habits and intentions. How comfortable are you with your ability to balance competing needs and desires in your day?

Self-discipline is a balancing act. We are a collection of values, motivations, intentions, fears, potential, abilities, quirks, strengths and stories we tell ourselves. How all of this translates into self-discipline depends upon how aligned we are with our goals and how we balance priorities day to day. The balance you strike is reflective of your personal style of self-regulation. Are you happy with the way you balance your life or do you tend to let things slide a long time before you notice things are out of whack?

One thing I notice about people who are content with their ability to regulate themselves is that they are aware of their priorities, they are clear about them, they take responsibility for them, they take time to focus on them and they have a way of balancing competing demands on their time. My intention isn’t to judge or tell you that you should be more efficient, just be aware of how you feel about what you do in a day and notice if it works for you.

As self-discipline is so deeply personal, let me tell you about what I do and don’t do well. I learned some of my self-discipline from my mother, who has a lot of good habits and pushes through her resistance like a bull. Although I developed some good habits, I am not a creature of habit. I tend to do things as I feel like them. When I exercise good self-regulation, this feels good. When I’m not, the train slips off the rails pretty quickly. I tend to put off things like paperwork, collecting overdue accounts or cleaning. I have to face the fact that I may never ever feel like doing paperwork or making difficult calls.

I put these things on a weekly list of action steps related to my goals. I want to be financially responsible and have a neat house. So even when I don’t feel like doing paperwork, it goes into the hopper and usually gets done in the course of a week. When I face resistance to doing something onerous like doing my taxes I break it down into small achievable steps like sorting receipts, invoices and bank statements. I do my best to make it feel like something I want to do by listening to music, having a cup of coffee and having a time limit to get it done.

As I write this article I am aware of the tug of many distractions: checking email; wanting to have a cup of coffee; wanting to get up and stretch; feeling my neck is sore. Sometimes it’s tough to focus on my intentions.  If I am not responsible and I don’t hold myself accountable, I find myself emptying the dishwasher instead of doing what I intend, which is to sit and finish this article. The tug of distraction eventually proves irresistible so I use it as a way of taking a break and even rewarding myself for having applied myself and resisted distraction as long as I could. So let me tell you how I regulate myself …

I understand self-discipline as the practice of noticing what’s going on in my life, identifying and clarifying my priorities (my weekly list), balancing and making adjustments as I go along.  The best metaphor I can think of is it’s like driving a car. Imagine looking over my shoulder while I drive: I have a goal or an intention (to go somewhere), I get in the car and make myself comfortable, I check conditions, make adjustments, scan the road and set off.

While I am driving, I continually check the mirrors, stay focused, adjust my speed and watch for other drivers, all while keeping my eye on the road.  Not only am I interacting with other vehicles and responding to them, I am tempted by distractions and aware of other things I want to do. If I avoid distractions and stick to my intentions I will make it to my destination without turning into a fast food place or sending a text message while driving.

When I face a challenge, I take a deep breath then I check in with myself and notice what happens. I feel things moving around. What I notice is a dynamic balancing as I mentally move around priorities and make things fit together again. I might do this dozens of times a day, whenever I have to switch from one activity to another, to make sure I’m applying myself in the way I intend. I think of my brain as having a shifter. When I complete a task my brain is always asking, “what’s next?” The question, ‘what’s next’ is the shifter.

As long as I have a clear idea of my priorities and stick to them, shifting from one priority to another is effortless and clear. When that happens, I have a productive day and feel satisfied. When I am unclear about what’s next, I become prone to distraction. I’m prey to procrastination until I feel I know what’s next. This is where my list of action steps helps me figure a way out. Spending too much time in distraction mode gives me that sweetly sick empty feeling I had when I was a kid when I ate too much candy. That’s when I know it’s time to get back to doing something more satisfying.

I noticed that many distractions came up for me while writing this article because I found it difficult to wrap my head around this topic, making distraction and avoidance almost welcome. Now that the piece is almost finished I am beginning to feel a sense of accomplishment, empowerment and satisfaction. It takes focus, determination and persistence to push through resistance and avoidance. After all, I’m the only one who cares whether I write this article.

Let me leave you with one more element of self-discipline – self-care. I think it’s important to be responsible and balance my goals because it’s a way of caring for myself. If I don’t care enough about myself to do what I say I want then who will do them for me? I am constantly balancing self care with care for others. Think of a spectrum that ranges from selfish (extreme self care) to being in the service of others (an absence of self care).  I balance my needs, wants and desires, but not at the expense of others I care about. It takes discipline and self-awareness to strike a balance that’s right for you. I can care for others but not at my own expense. It’s a balancing act. It’s about you.

I think I’ll make some coffee and empty that dishwasher now…

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Healthy Tips About Sugar from Weight and Health Coach

If you are Trying to Avoid Too Much Sugar then You will Want to Know that it Ends Up in Many Foods and You Don’t Even Realize Because You Didn’t Know it Was Sugar

The sugar class of molecules consist of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen arranged in a ringed structure. Carbohydrates (a “macronutrient” category of foods) is the group sugar belongs to.  Other carbohydrates include starches, (You know, that piece of cake you had?  Bread, pasta, but even bananas, fruits, potatoes and grains).  Still others are celluloses, and gums produced only by photosynthetic plants.

What do we mean by “macronutrient”?  Carbohydrates are large molecules made up of lots of smaller “building blocks” in the form of simple sugars.  Put enough simple sugars together in a chain or group and you get a carbohydrate. Simple sugars are an essential structural component of living cells and the source of energy for all animals, including humans. They are easily broken down for the body to use to make something called ATP (the energy molecule).

So why should we avoid too much sugar?  That will be in my next blog so definitely come back to read more.  Suffice it to say that sugar, in its white, processed form of sucrose is highly addictive and has more adverse side effects than raising blood sugar and adding empty calories that put on weight.  For now, realize that sugar has many names and forms. It is also necessary in the diet. The brain depends on it. So does our level of energy. Unfortunately, mankind is now inundated with the wrong kinds of sugar, as evidenced by skyrocketing heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.  So know your sugars.  Let’s first learn the different names.  There are dozens of different kinds of sugar under a variety of names:

  • barley malt
  • brown sugar
  • cane sugar
  • corn syrup
  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • fruit sugar
  • glucose
  • high-fructose corn syrup
  • honey
  • icing sugar
  • invert sugar
  • jaggary
  • lactose
  • maltose
  • maple syrup
  • molasses
  • powdered sugar
  • raw sugar
  • rice syrup
  • saccharinose
  • sucrose
  • sugar beets
  • turbinados
  • and more….

So now you know what to look for when shopping.  Next we will learn more about why sugar (simple sugar) is stay tuned for my next installment about the addictive nature of sugar…

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Boost Your Success With Feroce Coaching

At Feroce, we believe that the 5 most common reasons people are unhappy in their jobs or careers are:

1. Lack of FIT: they end up in the job by default, without an understanding of whether their strengths actually match the position.

(by the way, most employers don’t understand this either!)

2. Lack of FIT: they end up in an environment that doesn’t suit them. (right job, wrong company culture)

3. Lack of CONFIDENCE…they lack the confidence that comes from having the opportunity to do what they do best.
(Only 1 in 5 people have the opportunity to do what they do best every day in their work, according to the Gallup Research study from 1.2 million respondents in 101 countries.)

4. Lack of VISION – for their life, for their career, for their business.

5. Lack of VALIDATION – they aren’t rewarded for their strengths. VALIDATION builds momentum, contributes to the sense of FLOW.

Top Ten Reasons To Hire A Feroce Coach to Boost Your Career or Your Business:

1.  It’s all focused on You!  Since it’s all about Fit, learn what best fits you.  (match your skills to your role or your business)

2. Work with your very own strategic partner to help you every step of the way to achieve your business or career goals.

3.  Use tried and tested tools to develop your brand and launch your new role or new business.  (Or give your current one a face-lift)

4.  Leverage your existing skills and resources to become more visible in the marketplace.  (Big confidence booster)

5.  Achieve results with creative and innovative techniques customized for you.

6.  Boost your productivity, performance, and above all, your bottom line by uncovering what’s been holding you back.

7.  Get the clarity you’ve always wanted about what to be when you grow up.  With clarity, the decisions are easy.  Without clarity, you end up on the nowhere road.

8.  Develop your personal strategic plan and map out your road map to be successful and happy.

9.  Get the competitive edge to navigate in today’s economy and market, including office politics.

10. Learn the secrets your competition isn’t sharing.

The most successful people hire coaches.

Is it worth investing in you?  At Feroce, you get two free coaching consultations (risk-free) to explore if coaching is for you.

Posted by Wanda Ropa, The Success Coach.

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It’s never too late to learn new tricks as this video reveals.

Yes, anyone can learn a new technique or trick for success.  Surf the Internet and it’s full of proven methods to become successful in business, your career, and your life.  Every day, a new guaranteed program is popping up in the field of self-help.  Many of my clients turn to coaching because they have repeatedly tried everything from A to Z and it works for a little while, then it’s back to their old ways.

What’s missing?  Why do old patterns keep showing up over and over?  Research demonstrates that it takes 28-30 days to change a habit, introduce a new way of conducting business, living life, etc.  Actually, what I’ve discovered is that it only takes 14 days because if you have repeated a new habit or technique consistently for 14 days, by the 15th day, it will seem strange without it.  So, you usually continue.  By the time you reach the end of the 30 days, you have successfully shifted.  Then all it takes is another couple months to reinforce it, and voila, you’ve sustained a change.

In theory, this sounds too easy.  You’re right.  There is one more piece to making this work.  It has to be in synch with who you are naturally.  Most of my clients have no idea who they really are and what makes them tick.  They have been too busy listening to everyone else and not truly taking time to find out.

Is this complicated?  No.  The first place to start is to ask 2 questions.  What energizes you and what drains you?  You always know what drains you and if you start to pay attention, you can easily identify what energizes you, as well.

The key is to start creating a custom navigation tool that will help you get back on course and stay on the road to success.  Only by doing the things that come naturally will you be able to stop resisting yourself and actually improve the quality of your life.

I am not recommending that you make any drastic changes.  I am only asking you to discover 2 things:
1. What energizes you?

2. What drains you?

Once you are clear with both questions, you can start coming up with a list of things that must happen in your life.  These will start to be included in your top priorities.  For example, one of my clients, a business owner, was trying to grow his business and heard from many sources that all he had to do was to attend business functions, network and follow-up on leads.  This appeared to be sound advice.  However, group socializing and general networking meetings actually totally drained him.  He did better with growing individual relationships that were meaningful.  So, he created a description of his ideal client and researched places they would attend.  Turns out, he was targeting individuals in the creative professions and he had a passion for the performing arts.  Instead of attending unfruitful business meetings, he attended plays and started becoming involved in Community Theater in his back yard.  His new approach energized him and satisfied his passion for the arts.  In just a couple of months, he was happier and had acquired a dozen new clients.  He was no longer resisting the traditional marketing program.  This client changed the physical location where he was conducting business.  Physical locations provide some of the most powerful cues to behavior.

The most important thing to remember about success is to give yourself permission to explore alternatives without being fixed on the outcome.  To change a pattern or habit that’s not working, identify where this usually happens.  Then …change the context, change the cues.   …This requires understanding the triggers to your own behavior.

In the business world, it’s all about ROI and value propositions from employees.  Performance reviews are all about metrics.  It’s not about abolishing the metrics; it’s about giving yourself permission to creatively look at new approaches that map to the way you operate best.  If you increase the activities that energize you and minimize the ones that drain you, you will already notice a difference.

Try a free coaching consultation with Wanda Ropa, your success coach to get you started and get clear about where you’re going with your career, or with your life so you can develop a strategic plan that really works for you.  With clarity, success becomes a natural outcome.
Posted by Wanda Ropa, The Success Coach.

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I saw Richard St. John present a talk on his new book: 8 to be Great: The 8 traits successful people have in common. He interviewed hundreds of successful people to find out what they all had in common (spoiler alert: I’m going to tell you what they are). He distilled the interviews down into various qualities these people (who include Warren Buffet and Bill Gates) and figured out what they all had in common. He discovered that they all had 1) passion, 2) They had fun working and spent a long time at it; 3) They had the ability to focus on just one thing; 4) They had the ability to push themselves harder; 5) They had great ideas; 6) They got good at what they did through constant improvement; 7) They all believed in the idea of service; and 8) They persisted, even in the face of failure.

I believe Richard has done his homework and has a lot to tell us about how to be successful. I have to quibble with his notion of success though. He takes it for granted that these people are successful, yet he never defines what he means by success which I felt was a bit odd. His subjects are all well off and in some cases, ridiculously so, and they are all good at what they do but it’s a bit of stretch to attribute success to them without saying what he means by success. Richard believes that it’s okay to get out of balance, to work long hours, to sacrifice time with family and friends, even skipping the gym all in the name of being successful. That’s not my definition of success. It sounds more like being a workaholic in my books but then one of my definitions of success is to lead a balanced life.

So what is success? I believe that we all succeed on our own terms and it’s key for each of us to be able to articulate our conditions of success. How else will we know when we have succeeded? After all, using Bill Gates as a measuring stick for success is bound to make us all feel depressed. One way to measure success is to set goals, both short and long term so we know what we are shooting for and we know when we’ve arrived. We can certainly take a page from Richard’s book to help us on our way but why not measure success on our own terms?

By the way, I think there are a couple elements key to success that Richard ignored, maybe because they are not identified as traits. Luck and timing are just as important to you as they are to the multitudes interviewed by Richard St. John. After all, how successful would Bill Gates be if he founded Microsoft in today’s business environment? Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Having good luck is really a matter of doing the groundwork and keeping your eyes open. Timing is a little more ephemeral but it requires perspective and a bit of strategy to make it work. Luck and timing can give you a leg up the ladder. May luck be with you and your timing be right!

Bradley Foster

Feroce Coach

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As a Parenting Coach and Parent, Stepping Back and Looking at the Forest While Implementing Your Action Plan is Key

Parenting is the hardest job in the world.  Keeping an objective focus, bouncing ideas off of an objective third party, and keeping it all in perspective is key to sanity – and good parenting.  Having a parenting coach sounds goofy to some – it did to me.  But, really being able to keep perspective and to help talk through ideas to improve your skills in one of (if not the) most important job in your life – doesn’t sound so silly when the job and the joy of parenting is put in perspective.

Let me put my money where my mouth is, and share a very personal story that led me to believe that investing in a parenting coach will result in more confidence, better parenting (which in part is from confidence), more well-rounded kids, and perspective.  Here is my story:

When we got the news, we were sitting at a gas station – somewhere in West Virginia.  We were on the way to Williamsburg – a week vacation that we had planned for a long time.  It was hot and humid, and we had been driving for only a couple of hours on our second day of travel.  The kids were all awake, had been well behaved, and they were all laughing.  Henry, of course, had the loudest and deepest chortle – with a smile from ear to ear.  His laughter and happiness are infectious, and really have been a medicine for all of us. 

As I climbed back in the van, having gassed up, with the kids laughter in the background, Kristen was on the phone.  The conversation was serious, but Kristen, as she always does, brought comfort to the caller – she was gracious and kind – knowing at some level how difficult it was for Shirley to deliver the news that afternoon.  I quieted the kids down, and soon wish that I hadn’t.  Quieting the laughter, in retrospect, was so wrong. 

I knew Shirley; she was Henry’s neurologist’s assistant – she was to call about his biopsy results.  Before Kristen got off the phone, I knew the news.  I am no sleuth.  Kristen talked about the team that would be assembled, she talked about scheduling, and was being given websites to browse.  His biopsy confirmed the feared diagnosis.  Henry has a mitochondrial disease.  When Kristen pressed, Shirley specified that he had a form of the Complex 1 mitochondrial disease. 

To receive the news at a gas station somewhere in West Virginia was ironic and definitely consistent with our journey.  For years, we had been in search.  In search for answers, a diagnosis, a treatment, a reason.  And, we had seen dozens of doctors, in many hospitals, in three states all across the country.  We moved, in part, to be close to the program where Henry could get the treatment.  And in that program, they tell us that he has a much bigger problem. Our poor little Henry sent off again to more (and different) doctors for more tests, more procedures, more unknowns.  So, after all of this, we sit at a gas station in West Virginia to be given the diagnosis.  Right now, it is an answer (though not the one we wanted), that creates so many more questions.  The journey continues.

When Kristen got off the phone, we did not lose our cool.  I said “he has it.”  Kristen nodded, and we started a movie for the kids.  In our own bubble in the front of the car, with Scooby Doo muting our conversation, Kristen told me her conversation.  The most I remember from those several minutes were my impression that Shirley was kind in her delivery.  The type of kindness that we never wanted to have to face.  And hadn’t before.  She told Kristen that Henry would be a candidate for the Mitochondrial Clinic, and that we would have an appointment with the neurologist, geneticist, and a genetics counselor.  She also said not to despair – that everyone responds differently and that there could be development in the field.

Those later comments took me back to Dr. DeGraw (Henry’s neurologist) comment to me when I pressed him about prognosis – if Henry had a mitochondrial disease.  He told me not to research it, not to cross the bridge before we get there, that medicine is miraculous, but “to answer your question, the prognosis is not good.  There is no cure, and there are no survivors so far.”

The kids engrossed with Scooby, Kristen and I used the gas station parking lot as our internet library.  Both of us on our Blackberries, we went to the site that Shirley directed us to.  Like with many things, Kristen was faster than I.  At first, when she said “Complex 1,” I thought she said it is a “complex one” meaning difficult.  So, I am slow.  She grabbed my hand and said, it is neuro-degenerative and progressive.  Could result in hearing and vision loss – before the mulit-system failure.  The one we didn’t want to have – of course.  Essentially, Henry’s cells do not have the energy necessary to have his organs do what they need to do.  It is system wide, and with age, the energy drops more and more, affecting new systems in different ways, in no particular order.  The disease progresses until there is not enough energy for life function.  So, he will pass with this – unless our prayers are answered (and medicine comes a long way fast).  The fact that several of his systems have already been affected (called early onset) is not a great sign – just from a pure time standpoint.  The literature points out the obvious – the later the onset and the slower the progression, the longer the life expectancy.  But, it is all very individualized.  So, we are not defeated. 

After our internet café parking lot picked up with traffic, we got back on the road.  As tears streamed down her face, I could show no emotion.  My stomach was in knots, and I’m sure that my next questions seemed like what a medical student would ask a mentor – not a father of a sick son.  I asked, “Will he degenerate cognitively?” (as I can’t imagine our smart little boy in that state).  Then, I asked “What about Luke?”  Kristen knew the questions were almost rhetorical, and we just exchanged painful glances.

On the trip, for the first time, we both noticed (though we didn’t discuss for the week) that Henry was quite drained.  He refused to walk, saying he couldn’t for a few days.  The trooper was tired.  Many days, he was too tired to laugh.  Henry, too tired to laugh, was very painful for us.  It could be emphasized because we knew, but it was what it was. 

Our next discussions turned to what we have always come back to – making sure that our family is whole, happy, and complete.  The goal has never changed from the start.  We love our family so much, and are so lucky to have each other.  We are focused on giving all of our kids the most full (but “normal” – whatever that means) life that we can.  The kids are all very happy, and we plan to keep it that way.  There is a bit of an ominous burden in the back of our minds – that we want to make sure we know what full is (we think it is love), and the journey ahead and the time we have is uncertain.  As is whether Luke will also fall victim to the disease, or his recent symptoms (gastrointestinal, eye issues – and his hypothyroidism) are just coincidental.  So, we will take it one step at a time, get Henry his treatments (whatever they may be – there are some experimental ones out there), and cherish every day.

Of course, our story is not unlike many others.  Everyone has a challenge – some more difficult than others.  But, keeping perspective and the eye on the ball – providing the opportunity for a full and happy life (whatever its length) to our children is the lesson here.  I know that as well as anyone.

And the bottom line, our story is just the beginning. What we needed, got and continue to get, were specific ideas and ways to achieve these goals.  Not just the “be happy” goal.  We captured our ideas in starting a non-profit for kids like Henry – Henry’s Hope, Inc. – www.henryshope.org.  That was a specific and effective strategy – that, we as a family, work on.

Good parenting coaches provide specific ideas to try out (we don’t have the answers as there aren’t right and wrong in parenting) – but you deserve someone that has experienced a lot, fouled up, got help, and can provide kind, useful, and helpful insight into the issues we all face as parents.  Choosing to get the help – whether through a parenting coach or other means – is a brave and humbling act as a parent.  Call today for a free consult.

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