February 2014

The guts to SpeakStrong

Fog WomanNo doubt about it. Speaking Strong takes guts. I know that, because when I have digestive issues, it’s very difficult for me to know what I mean, let alone say what I mean and mean what I say without being mean when I say it. 

Recently I had one of those crucial, seminal conversations on a day when my digestion wasn’t working so well. Actually, it wasn’t much of a conversation. Every word I heard led me to sink further into despair. It was like there was a mud wall around me, keeping me from hearing well or speaking. Confusion that probably would have been cleared in a moment on a better day got thicker and immobilizing.  

What did I do? I needed to back off and get clear before I could speak. It didn’t take me too long to figure out that what I was hearing wasn’t what she was saying. 

In the bigger picture, keeping your digestion healthy helps you SpeakStrong. I’m looking forward to having fewer of those disempowered moments as my digestion heals.

In the smaller picture, sometimes you have to wait for a fog to lift to move forward.  It’s good to know when those moments are.


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Toxic “certainty” in an uncertain world

People roman officer 300

Susan Cain’s book Quiet reports, “The Harvard Business School information session on how to be a good class participant instructs, ‘Speak with conviction. Even if you believe something only 55 percent, say it as if you believe it 100 percent.'” At HBS, Cain noticed, “If a student talks often and forcefully, then he’s a player; if he doesn’t, he’s on the margins.”

You can read a fabulous article on false confidence at Alternet.

Toyota Kata author Mike Rother refers to this as Artificial Certainty. The Lean phrase “go and see” instructs managers and true leaders to recognize when they’re guessing and see it as a signal to stop speculating and start observing. I consider Artificial Certainty to be Toxic Certainty.

What do you say to someone who already “knows everything”? Recently I found the words for a CEO who thinks he’s lean, but is a commander,

  • Chill long enough to hear me out. Drop your sword and shield and armor and let yourself experience a whole dimension you’re missing.

Are these the “perfect words,” guaranteed to dissolve the armor? Absolutely! Oh, wait. I don’t know if they will work for you. I just know they work for me. 



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Word choice reveals inner wars

funny dog 300I never did find out what the fight was about. I’m sure she would have told me had I asked. I was more interested in the fight she was having with herself. She revealed that clearly with the language she used talking about just about anything.

Her word choice telling me her sweetie did a really “good job” getting her valentine flowers spoke volumes of her inner paradigm. He used to get them at the grocery store, but she suggested he get them at Walmart this time. The flowers lasted longer than they had in previous years. She repeated her “good job” assessment several times. Not too romantic. I’d rather not get flowers than have my honey do a good job getting them for me.

She started talking about how she used to meditate and was “good at it.” She’s “making herself” do it again, and she’s not as “good at it” any more.

She praised herself for her heroic effort of stopping work at 7 PM and “forcing herself” to do something fun. The “need tos” and “shoulds” were overwhelming. If I used them for a drinking game, I’d have a hangover today. 

She spoke of a neighbor who walked her dog “Izzy” every time she saw signs that Izzy was getting restless. That was my opening. I told her:

  • That’s your role model. Pay attention to your Izzy – your inner dog. She’s telling you what she needs, and warning you that if you don’t listen, she’ll probably pee on the carpet.

The peeing on the carpet is a metaphor, of course. If we ignore our primal and instictive selves too long, we set ourselves up for conflicts like the fight that led this woman to contact.

I didn’t need to know the detailsof the fight I had everything I needed to shift this woman’s perspective by listening to her language. 


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Expediency isn’t always so efficient

driving nurse 300I could have dialed it in, but the conversation felt important enough for me to drive into town and meet face-to-face. I’m glad I did. Instead of a 15-minute quick check, my medicine woman (health adviser) gave me an hour that offered some pretty key insights. When she had told me to have a protein snack before bed, she didn’t mean for me to have a piece of chicken alone. “No one can digest animal protein by itself. There’s not enough fiber,” she told me.

I changed my pre-bed snack to a cup of veggie soup, and the night time stomach challenges disappeared along with the sleep issues.  Yesterday I felt so good I wanted to cry. I feel great today, too. 

It would have saved me over an hour of driving time to call. We might have uncovered the issue had I done that, but we might not have. I think by taking the less “efficient” route to communicate face-to-face, I invested over an hour to save several hours of nocturnal misery. And since the quality of sleep and digestion affects everything, it’s a key reason why I’m smiling today.

Of course there’s more to this personal health journey of discovery than that one piece of advice, but it was a critical piece that was worth the drive to discover. 


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To Recommend or Not? False Communication Choices

Man Choice yes no 300The Crucial Conversations authors have an excellent post about responding to a request for a recommendation that the requestee does not feel comfortable providing. Al Switzler invited input from twenty friends and summarized the findings and his recommendation. He speaks of a “fools choice” – “false dilemmas that suggest we face only two options (both of them bad), when in fact we face several choices—some of them good. We suffer from ‘Or’ Thinking.”

Most respondents saw the situation as a forced choice between friendship and truth. Only a few respondents saw a way to honor both. One offered a suggestion that was truthful and demonstrated a deeper friendship.

I recently had a similar situation. Someone requested a recommendation that I didn’t feel comfortable giving. It initiated a deeper conversation about why, and what needed to happen for me to be able to honor her request. What could have been a problem became an opportunity. We got clear and I wrote her a recommendation with my whole heart.

I like saying yes, and I like helping people. I also like being truthful. I find that every little untruth erodes my sense of self and integrity, and taking the easy way out isn’t always easy. It takes more time and can get uncomfortable to honor both values. It’s worth it. 

Check out the article. It’s good stuff. 


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Closet alchemy, food alchemy and honoring who you are

Color wheel 300“You’re an electric,” the consultant concluded, handing me a palate of color swatches. “Take this with you when you shop.” It had been a toss up between pastel and electric, and I agreed with and was pleased by the outcome. I liked all the colors on my wheel.

That was over 25 years ago, and knowing what colors flatter me has been useful over these years. But I never did apply it in an absolute sense. I still bought clothes in the “bold,” “earth” and “pastel” color family. The electrics were the ones I found myself reaching for most often.

Recently, I got a hankering to take everything that isn’t electric out of my closet. What would happen, I wondered? I was surprised by what a difference it made. I experienced “closet alchemy.” 

Metaphorically, it was like clothes jumped off their hangers to be with other items they like. Items that seemed bland were suddenly brought to life by their association with other items that bring out the best in them. Simple scarves transform ordinary into extraordinary. Everything in my closet now sings harmony with everything else. It became immediately clear what basics I lack, despite having more clothes than anyone could need. Looking in my closet brings me joy now. And suddenly it is easier to give up on items I was trying to make work. It is time they found their home with those who are nurtured by them. 

Closet 300Interesting that all this happened while I’ve been discovering what foods work for me, and how they like to combine. My tummy is happy that I’ve taken the time to sort my foods, and when I look in the mirror, I’m happy that I took the time to sort my clothes.

Both were made possible by discovering underlying themes of who I am and what nourishes me. I will never go shopping without my color wheel again. It’s simply a matter of honoring who I am – and expressing my true self effectively. 


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A little too lean

Stomach ache 300When my Lean2Life year of sorting, straightening, maintenance and creating productive and nourishing routines came to an end, I wasn’t anywhere close to complete. But I celebrated the plethora of positive changes I had made over the year. One area I noted that hadn’t been untangled was my digestion. Not only had I not solved my life-long digestive issues, they were getting worse. I used to be able to avoid digestive upsets by avoiding carbs, but that wasn’t working anymore. I never knew what might trigger indigestion. 

The big wake-up call came when I stepped on the scale. I was 106 pounds. I should be 130. By most measures, I’m very healthy, but the scale emphasized what I already was coming to recognize – it was time to make health my first priority.

It has been quite a journey of discovery. The first stage was figuring out what triggered me, and building gut flora. Then I discovered I have SIBO – Small Intestine Bacterial overgrowth, so healing that was added to my agenda. Then I learned that I am very sensitive to food combining, so I’ve been learning about and experimenting with that. Next, we started taking my blood sugar and confirmed that I have reactive hypoglycemia – low blood sugar. Why did I have so much energy much of the time? Compensatory cortisol. Not a good thing. 

I am blessed to be able to give the healing process the time it needs. Learning what works, preparing special meals (six a day – all cooked), exploring new foods: it is very time-consuming. It’s also rewarding. There are bumps on the road – days of low energy and other seeming set-backs. But I am feeling wonderfully nourished. I am gaining a bit of weight. My blood sugar is stabilizing. The routine gets easier as it becomes more familiar.

It also gets easier as I get my joy and clarity back. I noticed today that I was able to read my book right after rising. In the recent past, my vision was fuzzy in the morning. I’m wondering if maybe – just maybe – after I’ve been at this for a few months, I just might be able to dial a phone number correctly the first time. It actually could happen. I’m so used to the brain fog of sugar alcohols generated in the gut, that I don’t know what life will be without them.  

Some people will say they don’t have time to do what I’m doing. That may be true. Yet in the long run, there is no question in my mind that going through this process is the most efficient thing I could do. I am committed to healing this malaise at the root. It was hard – my SpeakStrong writing was flowing magically. I had invested a lot in Cassia, my assistant, and I encouraged her to find other work, knowing when I’m ready for her help again, she likely will bee too busy. It was tough to let that go for now. But when I return to focus on that, I trust it will still be there and I will be more present with it than ever. 

For now, if it’s a question of returning a phone call or taking a hike, I’ll take the hike. If it’s a question of a fun all-day outing or doing my routine, I’ll do my routine. When I need a nap, I take a nap. I believe I have my priorities straight. If you’re someone I’ve been slow to respond to, I assure you, I will get back to you. I thank you for your patience. Good things are worth taking the time and giving the deep focus to make happen. This is a very good thing.

Thanks for listening! Now I hear my celery soup beckon. I will answer that call. 


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A Case for Going to Bed Angry

Bed angry torn 300A good friend told me she and her hubby have a policy to never go to bed angry. It has worked well for them, so I have no argument with it. But that doesn’t mean I need to do what works for them. In fact, I lean more toward a policy of not expressing an anger I haven’t slept on. Hiking on an anger works well, too. That gives time for some alchemy.

In the middle of the night (or hike) I often get intensely clear about what’s not working for me. My anger burns hot. And then it softens, and transforms into an understanding of what I want instead. Next, a path or approach that is likely to help me achieve my goals becomes clear.

In the meantime, there’s room for others to experience some alchemy as well. 

The other morning, Bob greeted me by apologizing for being too aggressive with me the day before. He had been. I was quite prepared to discuss a gentler way he could have approached me. Only a few words were called for in the new dawn. We came to a deeper understanding, helped by the fact that we both went to bed angry. 



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PowerPhrase: I don’t care if her science is bad. If it works, I’ll figure out why.

foods 300In my quest to heal my digestion, I’m exploring food combining. Bob and I listened to a CD about it from the 80’s that a friend had recommended to him. His friend, a healthcare professional, told Bob it was the only thing that helped his daughter after having tried many things at great expense. 

The CD presenter is best described as perky. Her track record is impressive and her enthusiasm high, but her science is both old and sloppy. Every few minutes Bob would pause the audio to point out her errors – for example, HCl is NOT an enzyme, as she claimed. (Even I knew that.) 

I was concerned that he would reject the whole idea because of her inaccuracies. Might he negate the experience of his friend and this woman’s readers because her explanations don’t add up?

During the night I remembered something I experience in myself and tell people. Resistance indicates that someone is taking new information into consideration. They are processing it. I needed to let him have his process.

The next morning he greeted me by telling me,

  • I don’t care if her science is bad. If it works, I’ll figure out why. 

This is a bigger deal for me – and probably you – than it might appear on the surface. My entire life I’ve known more than I could explain clearly and accurately. For example, when I first started meditating 40 years ago, I knew it was amazingly wonderful for me. But, I wasn’t able to explain it in terms that my linear, rational father could relate to. In this case, my personal experience was so strong that I wasn’t about to give it up because of his objections. Of course, meditation has gone mainstream since then, and even if it hadn’t, by now it’s clear to him that 40 years of practice has developed exceptional equanimity.

I didn’t back down on that one, but I have backed down on things because I couldn’t explain them. Of course, sometimes my truth is partial – but as long as I can’t talk about it, it will stay partial. It doesn’t have to be right or perfect to be voiced. It’s a process.

And there are two people in every conversation. Both have their processes. I love where Bob came out in his process. I’m glad I was able to come to a place in my own process to let him have his. 



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PowerPhrase: How can we turn a devastating defeat like the Superbowl into a positive?

Manning creamed 300I can’t say I enjoyed watching the Superbowl last night. It’s painful to watch your team trampled, even if you’re not that invested. The loss was a much bigger deal for my hubby. I could tell from the low tones in his voice, it was personal for him. 

He perked up pretty quickly, but it’s still a bummer. Two things I said that helped some were:

  • ‘Tis better to have loved the Broncos and lost than never to have loved at all.


  • How can we turn this loss into a plus? How can we milk our misery in a fun and playful way?

Okay, they still lost. But we’re not taking it quite as seriously, which is a good thing. If you’re a Seahawks fan, you’re probably feeling good today. Don’t mind me. Go ahead. Enjoy your glory extracted at our expense. (Kidding. I’m playing with it – really – do enjoy it!) 

How can you play with your losses? How can you turn the agony of defeat into a blessing of sorts?


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