Bad Advice

We have all received terrible life advice. Prescriptions for lasting love, stable careers, purposeful living, happy family life and fool-proof fashion. This advice is offered as pearls of wisdom and truth with a capital T. It can come from family, friends, websites, teachers- usually unbidden.

pearls-in-hand Sometimes this advice is just plain against human nature. Often, it’s just ridiculous.  Even good advice given at the wrong time or applied in the wrong place, or slightly misinterpreted, can slide into “Danger, Will Robinson,” territory.

My friend Richard, told me the worst advice he ever got was that he, “couldn’t have a singing career and a family.” He was at a crossroads, he believed that this decision was either/or. Sigh.

It took a while to hone my list of godawful guidance down to just a baker’s dozen of terrible teachings I’ve gotten. How do I know they were terrible advice for me? Take a wild guess.

I’m positive that I’ve given #s 5 & 6 and acted on #10 all too often. And #13, a piece of advice for an evolved being, who doesn’t need it by then anyway.

In no particular order of awfulness…

  1. Don’t cry.
  2. Wait for the exact right time.
  3. Wear plastic sweatpants to lose weight.
  4. If you give everything you’ve got to others you won’t need to give to yourself.
  5. If it makes you anxious, don’t do it.
  6. If it makes you anxious, do it.
  7. Never go outside with wet hair.
  8. Don’t even think you’re creative unless what you’re doing is completely original.
  9. Never quit.
  10. The best thing you can do for a friend is give advice (even if they don’t ask).
  11. Get even (as in, “Don’t get mad, get even”), you’ll feel better and they’ll learn how it feels.
  12. Hold onto it, you never know when you might need it.
  13. and the breezily & oh so easily said, always at the wrong time…Just let it go.

I’m sure you’ve gotten a bit of crummy counsel, even some doozies, of your own. Maybe given some too? Share in the comments!

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My friend Carol, who’s absence is an ache in my heart, loved the word RESPECT.  Carol played seriously and learned playfully, continually calling on me to Re-Spect or “look again” during countless staff development days when I was her teaching colleague.

What does it mean to look again? It means that there’s always an opportunity to become more there for what’s here.. for a moment, for a person, for a situation, for a problem, for a feeling.

It means that what we thought was true about that moment, that person, this problem, that situation, this feeling, might have something else that’s true about it, too. Or, our interpretation might morph into one entirely different from what we thought at first pass.

Looking again might require a quick shift, a question, a breath between thought and action – or pause. Or, it might require a longer commitment to practices that help us suspend judgment so we can listen more closely to deeper truths… whatever they might be.

Looking again might apply to worrying, or some other habitual thought process like judging others, or some other default mode we use to comfort ourselves or to numb our wounded hearts. Each time we look again we add another droplet, our droplet, to the greater lake of humanity, becoming more…

Yesterday,  I was watching an older man with a very young girl in the pool. The older man was gruffly exhorting the 5-year old to swim faster and farther. To my horror, as the girl swam closer and closer to him, the man put his hand out and pushed her tiny head underwater and then stepped backwards, waiting calmly for her to resurface and swim an even greater distance.

I blazed with indignation on the girl’s behalf. I pretty near vibrated off the chaise with self-righteous parenting and teaching knowledge. Luckily, I knew to say nothing.

Moments later Dmitri was sitting next to me telling me his story. This child is his joy,  his grasp at a life beyond grief after the loss of his first- born adult child who died in an accident one week before college graduation. This little girl loves to swim and Dmitri makes time every day to play in the pool with her, sometimes twice a day. He adopted her recently. Dmitri loves her with his whole old-school heart. Well, crack mine open.

If you struggle with not enough time, now is the perfect moment to look again. What do you think about time? Does it rule you? Do you allow the unimportant to derail you? What’s really important to you, anyhow? Do you believe you have to manage time by doing 5 things at once, or by berating yourself for not getting through #99 in your To Do list?

How willing are you to look-again at what gets in the way of being in time, in sync, with your priorities, the true ones?

We all have the same amount of time each day – everyone one of us, the Dalai Lama, Oprah, the bus driver, the hoodied guy at library searching online for jobs, the jogging mom balancing a latte while pushing a double-wide stroller, and the twenty-something on her way to work at Walmart headquarters.

So today, what will you re-pect? Will it be you?



Wednesday Words: Worry much?


I don’t know about you, by my internal worry machine manufactures worries like a factory on a deadline. And yet, I’m posting Wednesday words today, Thursday, and not worrying about it. This departure is an intentional deviation from the usual second guessing and “what ifs” that can make up a significant portion of my inner chatter.

Unravelling the worry habit takes some doing – or some undoing, that is. I’ve been working with it for years. My clients struggle with it too.

The creative mind can be prone to worry.

Creative thinking always involves the question “What if?” What if I combine these ingredients in the sauce? What if  we make a phone that’s small enough to carry everywhere? What if people could fly? The “what if mind” is generative. It’s usually imaginative too,it gets busy picturing possibilities and conjuring scenarios.

Consider what happens when we combine that fertile imagination with fear, “What if I try and then fail?” “What if  I can’t manage all my To Dos?” “What if the interviewer asks me something I don’t know.” “What if I  miss the train? ” “What if what I want isn’t possible?”

What if you saw your ability to worry as creativity gone off track? Is there more space for you to deal with it? Is there an opening to approach the equation, imagination + fear,  differently?

Worrying is a poor substitute for action.

A client recently said, ” I fool myself into thinking that I’m doing something when I worry.” She’s right, worry has energy, it can make our heart race, thoughts travel through our minds sometimes far into the future, and then… and then…. This can feel like doing something. You’re not. This is a mind trap.

Human brains are wired for action. If you’ve been around children you know that asking them to “stop running” is much less effective than asking them to “walk.” Why? Because we respond much better to directives that require forward movement. Positives not negatives. Do this instead of Don’t do that.

Worry = Love. Not.

At every family gathering for what seemed like years, my stepmother pulled me aside to say,”Your dad loves you, he worries about you all the time.”  Have you been told that worry is proof of love, an act of love or care or concern. Is it? Really? Are you sure?

Many of us learned to worry instead of learning to do the things that actually are loving to others and to ourselves.

Habitual worrying has effects – worrying about them won’t change anything.

One consequence of persistent worrying is that It begets more worry.  Deeply unsatisfying, worry causes constricted muscles, headaches, unease and possibly dis-ease. Even more reasons to worry! Not only are we out of the present moment when we worry, but we’ve begun to,what the Buddha calls “bend the mind,” that is, we see more of what we think about and that becomes our reality. Yikes.

Worrying may be a habit (which provides some level of comfort) but it isn’t action, it isn’t proof of care, it alters your reality and it isn’t asking for what you want.

It isn’t even fun.




Meditation Monday Day #93: What!

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 3.43.18 PM

93 days. What?!?

When I started this challenge I really had no idea how it would go. I picked 100 Breaths in 100 Days because I liked the way it sounded, truly, no other reason. Two weeks in, I was sure I’d made too big a commitment and wouldn’t able to write about meditating everyday, let alone do it. Or is that the other way around?

Anyway, there’s something here to be remembered about commitment; the power of a public commitment (hey, like marriage, you be-robed jurists in Washington) and something else about moving through a big hunky project a little bit at a time. At some point in these past 93 days I forgot about the goal, and in the forgetting I let go of ever being done. Then whoa, here I am seven days away from the “end” just noticing that I never expected it to be over. And, of course it doesn’t have to be.

More about that next time.

 How’s it going for you?

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Related articles & photo credit:
  • photo detail from Breathing by Anne Lindberg at the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art

You might want to check out too. That’s where there’s info about coaching and coaching with me. Go… and then go forth and tell your friends. Thanks.

 How’s it going for you?

If you like what you read, please share it. Thanks.

Want to ask a private question? email:

Related articles & photo credit:

You might want to check out too. That’s where there’s info about coaching and coaching with me. Go… and then go forth and tell your friends. Thanks.

Wednesday Words


lettinggoIt takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.
— Alan Cohen

If this idea excites you (and scares you a bit, too) you may be ready for change.
Check out That’s where there’s info about coaching and coaching with me. Go… and then go forth and tell your friends.



An ongoing list of Sweet Projects About Revealing Keys

On this list are things I know sustain me that I want to make sure I keep doing. There are those items I suspect will spark new energy but haven’t tried at all, and then there are the ones that have potential if I did them more. Also on the list, those things that got me going in the past but went into hiding. Oh yeah – and some of it scares me.

Start with a spark, turn it into a flame, time for a change, there’s no one to blame…” words to a winter solstice song written by children at the Mead School years and years ago and sung to this day.

The 2013 version (so far):

  • Meditate
  • Yoga
  • Music – going to see it live
  • Dance – improv class, 5Rhythms, all around the house
  • Stay up late (see music)
  • Write
  • Make soup
  • Cook a steak
  • Swim
  • Focus with a partner
  • Send goofy emails to Adman
  • Call my sisters
  • Write all my To Dos in metallic colors
  • Create then laminate
  • This one is a stand-in*: go without my glasses
  • Make new friends
  • Say no to tabasco sauce – also a stand-in*
  • Walk in the cold
  • Steer clear of wheat without being rigid about it
  • Examine stuff, give back what’s not mine, find others who can use what’s not wanted, get rid of the rest- yes, all meanings implied
  • Read poetry
  • Move through the day, each day, filled with purpose
  • Learn Spanish
  • Do push-ups
  • Dress up

Have you noticed those glimmers- those things, people, activities, and ideas that have the potential to warm you, give you glow, energy, and hope for change? What’s on your SPARKs list?

* Stand-in: Some topics feel too personal to share.  Enter the stand-in. In the movies, the stand-in substitutes for the real actor during technical aspects of filming or as a body double.

Wednesday Words

Sometimes in life it is the smallest gestures of self-compassion that make the greatest impact on your life.                                                                                                 JG

3829Artwork by Angeline Dannecker  Grade 5

She says, “I chose the color pink because it reminds me of love. I made a sculpture of a good heart because it is like a stone in the ripples of a beautiful life.”

The Appleton Compassion Project

Even Though…


Yesterday, a new friend invited me to an art class that she thought I might like. It sounded great, a lot like one recommended to me by an ex- friend years ago. Sadly, this past friendship ended badly-very badly- and  I thought my ex-friend might show up there. So, I shared my story with my new friend. I told her about the shame I felt at having handled some of that situation poorly, and my regret for not knowing then how I could have handled it better.

This is what my new friend said, “If she hates you, that’s her problem. Just let it go.”

Now, I know this new friend was trying to be supportive. She did tell me first that she’d had similar feelings. And, I recognize that the words she said to me were probably what she says to herself. Maybe they give her courage and she hoped they would do the same for me. I don’t know.

Was my new friends advice good advice? Yes.

Would letting it go be a good idea? Sure.

Is it true that my ex-friend is responsible for her own feelings. Yeah.

But.There are a few problems with this.

For starters, I wasn’t asking for advice. What I really wanted was empathy, which was just what she offered, at first. I wish she’d stopped there or asked me if she could give some advice.Since I really like this person, let’s pretend she did, and that I said yes.

Her advice is still problematic, though. Here’s why.

Telling someone to just let go is like reminding a laboring woman in the transition stage to relax. Good luck with that. Yes, more relaxation = less pain. And true, on the other side of letting something go is freedom. But telling someone  words of wisdom doesn’t actually help, does it? If all it took was reminding ourselves to __________(you fill in the blank), we’d all be doing it already – we’re not stupid. To add to the pain of whatever it is I’m reacting to, when I hear something like that and know I can’t do it, I just feel worse about myself. Ew.

So, we know what we want, we’re also hooked/stuck/your word here,and we haven’t internalized skills that truly help us. There’s a reason that Lamaze classes (or any other method) exist. When women are in the throes of labor pain, they’ve had some training to get through it, to contain it. And, they usually have a partner there to remind them what to do, and do it with them when the pain becomes overwhelming. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but the point here is that there’s training to be had. There are practices to be, er… practiced, that can eventually get to the letting go part.

One place to start is with, Even though…

Give yourself 5 minutes alone. Anywhere will do. Take some deep breaths. Sigh a couple of times. Check into your body and see what emotion or sensation you notice. Write the words “even though” then leave some space blank and then write “it’s okay to” on a piece of paper. This is your permission slip: permission to acknowledge whatever feeling you are having. You can add on in writing – or not- something like this “Even though I’m busy, it’s okay to notice this ______________(pain, tingling, anger, fluttering, anxiety, judgement, etc.).” Or, my example: Even though I want to go to this art class, it’s okay to notice some dread there too.

Did you notice we were sitting in and practicing permission too - sneaky me.