Identity aspect: gravitas

Posted on 12:00 PM by dave

Original image by Johnny Kruger:
I am firewolf.  

This is my identity.  
A lot of who I am can be understood by observing wolves.

While there are many aspects of wolves that I could draw upon for the content of this conversation--  their tribal tendency and territorial nature, just to name a few-- I'm going to focus on their inherent authority.

I've noticed a trend over the past decade or so that when I'm in an organizational context people LOVE my strength-- resourcefulness, provision, and protection-- but not my authority.  When I'm in a pack of humans, I naturally take charge with or without formal agreements... and this can be very disruptive.  

Notice something: I said naturally.  

Before jumping to narcissistic conclusions, consider for a moment that most of us are relatively unaware of how we show up in our own lives.  Perspective on our own personality and heart is difficult to see on our own which is why we need to have a community of others surrounding us.  Most of what I'm about to share has been the result of others speaking into me and seeing me, really seeing me.

When I show up, I don't need to assert myself nor does it take effort on my part to take the lead.  I don't need to jockey for position nor do I feel it necessary to play games.  When I'm standing in the strength of who I am, I lead.  And I don't lead from the sidelines or periphery, I lead from the front.

I'm an Alpha though I don't need to proclaim it to be so; it's simply how I show up.  I have a certain gravitas.  And this aspect of who I am either repels or attracts others to my leadership and leaves little room for middle ground.

This makes me dangerous.  Just like in Narnia, Mr. Beaver could say of me, "Of course he isn't safe... but... he's GOOD."  My heart of intent in all circumstances is always "to set hearts free."  This is the context of my leadership, the underpinnings of my authority: to set hearts free. 

It frustrates me to no end when for the sake of freedom I take the lead only to be boxed up or compressed into a smaller role.  In that place, I will bite when I'm backed into a corner.  I will fight because my territory is in jeopardy.  Freedom is at stake and I refuse to back down, to play small because it's safer.

Remember, I'm an Alpha.  I'm a wolf.  I cannot be tamed or domesticated.  I am meant to roam the wilderness lands with my pack.  Yes, my provocative howl strikes fear into the hearts of the timid, the posers, the wannabes... but it is for their unleashing and advancement that I am fierce and tender.

I am firewolf.
I am dangerous.
I am free.



Posted on 2:42 PM by dave

There is a purpose and intent to how everyone is wired.  Everyone is unique.  At times, we may resonate with the similarities in one another, but we are not identical.

This is by design.  We all have an intrinsic design that calls us forth, that beckons us forward.

Our habitat points us toward our design; our habitat is that space that exists where our heart comes fully alive.

Consider for a moment, Koi.  Koi are designed for freshwater and tend to reside in calm, shallow ponds.  The set boundaries and certainty of their surroundings is the prime environment for them to live peacefully and contently.  They are dependable.

Trout, on the other hand, occupy lakes, streams, rivers and, for some, the ocean.  They live for the rushing streams and myriad of options to swim for miles and miles.  Some trout live for years in the ocean then return to the lakes and streams of their origin.  They are quite the sojourners.

Dolphin thrive in the ocean.  The insurmountable depths and endless sea beckons them to frolic whimsically in the never ending ebb and flow of the tides.  They come and go as they please.  The vastness of aquatic options does not intimidate them.  They are playful explorers.

Each of these aquatic animals are uniquely placed in a habitat-- call it their domain-- where they most come alive.  They thrive in their domain.  It is as if they were made for it and it for them.

We, too, have a habitat, an environment, a domain in which our heart comes most alive.  It is this way by design.  For some of us, like the Koi, it's the trusted syncopation of our corporate career.  The certainty of our schedule.  The regularity of our existence.

For some of us, like the trout, it's the dynamic nature of our daily rhythm.  The ever changing pace of our job.  The fluctuation of our existence.

For some of us, like the dolphin, it's the boundlessness of what the day will bring.  The "anything goes" vastness of our work.  The limitlessness of our existence.

All of us have a domain that fits for us.  To expect a dolphin to thrive in a 1,000 gallon Koi pond would be ludicrous.  To expect a Koi to flourish in the salty waters of the ocean would mean certain death.

One of our goals should be to identify the type of environment that best calls us forth according to our design and the design of the people we interact with on a regular basis.  It would be toxic to expect someone who values structure, substance, and summary to be in a role or environment that requires imagination, fluidity, and adaptation.   The inverse is true as well.

How have you experienced this in relationships or at work?
What habitat makes you most come alive?
If you had a perfect day, what would you be doing?


The Audacity of Brilliance

Posted on 11:42 AM by dave

Image credit:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

As a coach, life intrigues me. I find myself curious about people, buildings, conversations, architecture, landscapes, body language, texture, color, design, etc. I can't help it. We are surrounded by beauty and creativity and it captivates me!
People are the most curious of creatures. The way they think and emote, the way they gather and scatter, the way they connect and disengage-- it's fascintaing!
I had an uncle-in-law, John, who was known to say, "People just know so much," and it enthralled him. He loved a good conversation and enagaged others with a thirst to know them more deeply and true.
I experienced him like this...
Everyone is creative.
Everyone is an artist.
Everyone is a genius.
An engineer creates structures and substructures with intertwining layers of electrical, plumbing, fire suppression-- it's a genius art. A mathematician architects computational techniques and algorithms expanding knowledge and understanding-- it's a genius art. A photographer crafts a visual story bending light around a subject-- it's a genius art!
How many of us deny the existence of our designed genius? Or worse, how many of us have a hint of our genius but don't develop it? We don't lean into it living lesser than the fullness of what we have to offer?
Denying or refusing to acknowledge our genius or not developing it is arrogant and deprives the world of the gift of our design, our uniqueness, our art. This world needs our imagination and ingenuity.
Next time you're in conversation with someone, have an internal dialog with them and ask, "What is powerfully unique and true of you?" Get curious about what makes them come alive. Then, call it forth. Unearth the gold of this naturally creative person and admire it. Show them why they matter and name it.
We need more people like you with the audacity to call forth the brilliance you see and experience.


Awe & wonder

Posted on 11:29 AM by dave

Expectation, temperament, etiquette-- there are many spaces in life that attempt to define what we are supposed to do, how we are supposed to respond, and how we are supposed to act.

"Supposed to"-- that phrase feels so... limiting, restricting, confining.
I wonder: is there more? If we could do anything, what would we do? If we had permission to respond without fear of judgment or condemnation, how would we behave? What would we say? If nothing held us back, how would we act?
My son is almost 6 years old and while he's learning the rhythms of our culture-- how to respect and honor others and himself-- there's a wild abandon in him that's almost barbaric... and I love that about him. His heart of curiosity and imagination guide him to think and act in ways that have the aroma of freedom that is untethered to the "supposed to's" that bind so many adults.
There are moments my son is playing with his Lego's that he spontaneously bursts forth with humming and singing; a theme song of sorts for the epic story being crafted in his imagination. Then, without warning, he collapses on the ground. Continuing in song but staring into the depths of the ceiling, he holds his creation turning it in his hand as he admires the intricacies of his invention.
As beautiful and carefree as this scene is, just try to imagine that was a 40 year old guy or a 32 year old lady. People would freak out and think that something was wrong with them! They'd have them institutionalized.
Yet, my heart longs for this type of awe and wonder; this wild abandon to the restrictive deluge of other people's opinions.
There are moments I want to run through an open field just because the Wind has beckoned me to come play with it. There are moments that I want to climb a tree or fence just to gain a fresh, new perspective. There are moments I want to flop down in the lush, green grass and just stare at the clouds getting lost in their ever vacillating, shape-shifting transit across the blue, oceanic heavens.
Welcome to my Barbarian value; a value that is wild, unleashed, and fierce. For me to truly honor this value, the "people pleaser" in me must be in healthy check.
I must grant myself full permission to simply be me and not adhere to the "supposed to's" of others.
I must cross lines.
I must not be contained.
I must think sideways.
I must be unique.
I must explore.
This value loves to hear the phrase, "To boldly go where no one has gone before." Hearing this, I gain a sense of childlike awe and wonder and my heart comes alive!


Creative Flow

Posted on 10:40 AM by dave

Creative flow and strategy may seem mostly foreign to artisans but it's value as an indicator for ongoing success and legacy cannot be overlooked.
Any musician will tell you that when they are "in the zone" practicing their craft that there is an innate flow to the harmony and rhythm of their creativity. They have great freedom of expression in the adhering to the syncopations and melody that they are conceiving.
Yet in all the organic cadences and tones, there is structure, there is process. This process must be written down in order to be repeated and replicated if they are ever to be given life again. This constant practice of process gives the musician further mastery of their technique. It is as if their practice makes a permanent process that in time becomes second nature to them.
When first starting a new creative endeavor, establishing a daily rhythm or process is extremely important. It gives us freedom to get our work done and allows for flexibility to adjust as needed.
However, the same is also true in dealing with clients. Having a process with clientele that can be duplicated further enhances their experience and understanding of our artisan craft. This perpetuates the DNA of the brilliance we bring to our clients and begins to establish a legacy of how we show up in our artistry.
What are you doing to establish creative flow or process into your work? With your clients?


permission to speak

Posted on 10:00 AM by dave

Have you ever found yourself in a conversation where it's encourage to "lay all your cards on the table" and speak freely?  I have and I love those moments!  It's simultaneously courageous and frightening to speak your truth.

There's only one problem... most of the time that I've been in moments like this the person granting the "open" conversation doesn't actually want this type of fearless transparency.  Herein lies the perplexity: the openness needed for true change mandates a courageous space for all parties with full permission to speak freely.

The degree to which a leader grants and honors this relational dynamic is the degree to which transformation will occur.  This is true regardless of the group size.

In coaching, we use an alliance to not only protect ourselves but to concurrently create a safe space where nothing is off limits and exploration is not only encouraged but embraced.  

The downside to operating without an alliance is that someone may feel as though they have been granted full permission to speak freely only to find out that some topics or strong emotions are indeed not welcome.  This closes down conversation and has the potential to squelch the values represented by any/all individuals which creates a culture of distrust, betrayal, suspicion, etc.

The upside to operating with an alliance is that the communication guidelines have already been not only established but also agreed upon by all parties involved. This opens conversation and honors the uniquenesses of each person allowing them to be fully present to co-create a solution together.  

What experience have you had where "permission to speak" was either upheld or simply jargon?  Sound off in the comments.  You have permission to speak freely. :-)


authority granted

Posted on 11:06 AM by dave

Whether we realize it or not, we have all granted someone authority to speak into our life.  In fact, it may be worse than that; we have most likely granted many people the authority to speak into our life.

This authorization is never taken and always granted.  We give others authority to shape and influence our thoughts and emotions.

Now, just reading that may freak you out a bit.  It freaks me out.

One litmus test of determining who has authority in our life is accessing our emotional response to them.  Strong emotions of resonance, peace, camaraderie, "we just click"; these are all indicators of positive influence and authority in our life.  Strong emotions of dissonance, tension, antagonism, "we just don't see eye-to-eye"; these are all indicators of negative influence and authority in our life.

Question: who have you given authority to speak into your life?  What impact does it have?


the professional conundrum

Posted on 12:59 PM by dave

"When am I a professional?"  

That thought echoed in my mind like a deafening sonic boom emanating from a deep desire within my soul.  It stalked me like a shadow.  It chased me like the wind.

But I had no answer.

At this point, I had been practicing my craft for 10 years growing in proficiency and dexterity.  My creativity was abounding and my aptitude in syncopation was actually sought after by young apprentices.  

I was no longer "just a drummer", I was a percussionist and musician with several students and paid gigs... but I still had no idea whether or not I was a professional.

I often inquired of myself and others: Is there a point at which you turn professional?  How do you know when that is?  Who decides?  What criteria delineates the professional from the amateur?

It would take another 15 years for me to take ownership of the answer I discovered through serendipitous happenstance: the day I became a professional was the day I decided I was a professional.

Don't let the simplicity of that statement beguile you-- it's simple, not easy.

This is not a "one size fits all" fix to the dilemma that belabored me for so many years.  This is not a easy "change you mindset" cure to the consternation that plagues SO many would be entrepreneurs, creatives, and artists.

No, this is work, hard work.

To do the work, it mandates a grit that will push through the process of ownership that it requires to exemplify The Professional and, to truly step into this identity, we must become that which we seek.  

Let me say it this way: it is not a state of doing, but of being.

As artists and professionals, it is our obligation to enact our own internal revolution, a private insurrection inside our own skulls. (War of Art, Steven Pressfield)

There are many times that I have wished my way into a frame of mind hoping that what I professed to be true would manifest itself into existence.  This will not work.  There is WAY too much on the line and Resistance knows this.  That Hideous Strength will summon all of it's might against you to crush that precious hint of hope for a desired future.

You must fight...
Fight your personal demons,
Fight your doubts, 
Fight that voice that tells you to give up, 
Fight your Saboteur
Fight for your freedom.  

But don't fight your fear.  No, you'll need that.  It will keep you going when the Shadow creeps on your turf hoping to derail this new birth of a dream within you.  Your fear is an indicator that you are moving in the right direction.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The more you pursue the high calling of becoming a professional in your craft and prestige, the more you will also simultaneous fear the risk and adventure that it beckons.

Which brings me back to my conundrum so many years ago.  When did I become a professional musician?  The day I stopped asking the question and gave myself completely to mastering my craft.  Mastery is it's own reward and has no concern for titles like apprentice, amateur, and professional... but that is another topic altogether.

The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come. (War of Art, Steven Pressfield)


rule of life

Posted on 6:20 PM by dave

I live by a code-- a rule of life-- that I don't honor as often as I'd like yet it still compels me to adventure and perturbs my heart morning by morning.

...::: Always Be Creating :::...

It's illusive.
It's provoking.
It's daunting.

I find myself paralyzed most of the time not by what I should create but where to focus.  Do I write?  And if I write, should it be poetic or prose centric?  Do I create images?  What is compelling?  How am I inspired?

The truth about me that I don't want you to know is that secretly I don't follow my own "rule of life" because I don't think what I create will be any "good".  Yeah.  Just writing this seems ridiculous but it's this lie of Resistance that keeps me from discipline in my craft and makes my artisan soul shrivel from lack of imaginative outlet.


Shannon Leith ( does a great job of living by this same "rule of life" whether it's intentional for her or not.  While her ingenuity is a constant invigoration for my wife's gifting, I have also found myself inspired by her whimsical creative impulses.

In fact, I loved this line from one of her posts a few months back (

--- i twirled a little and felt great about life,


Sometimes, we all just need to twirl a little.  
Or drive somewhere new just because.  
Or cancel our appointments just to listen to the Muse.

So I'm challenged in this-- what am I going to do about it?  It's not enough for me to simply acknowledge and identify a problem; I'm compelled toward renewal and change.  Transformation fuels me both personally and professionally.  As a co-active coach, I help others deepen their insight and courageously pursue meaningful metamorphosis and I expect no less from myself (I, too, have peer coaches that challenge and support me).

To enact the bold action that I desire to honor my "rule of life", I choose to do the following:
1) Rhythm-- a regular weekly cadence to respect and practice my craft.
2) Whimsy-- get out of the grind and rut and chase the Wild Goose.
3) Grit-- screw the critics, the Shadow, the Saboteur... do the work.

Now it's your turn...

What is your "rule of life"?  
What must you do every day to bring you life?  
How do you keep it alive and thriving?


Co-created solutions

Posted on 10:34 PM by dave

"I wish there were more hours in the day. I just don't have enough time." The desparation in her voice was clear and present welling up a slurry of emotions that could send her into a panic at any moment.

"Then there's all the stuff that I'm supposed to be doing..." My client was at her wits end, internally spinning in circles on a merry-go-round of "shoulds" and "have-to's."

To her, there was no end in sight and very little hope.

She is an entrepreneur and artist learning to hold seeming two opposing forces in tension with one another-- creating beauty and driving strategy. The outcome is often a feeling of running on a treadmill-- working really hard but getting nowhere-- as one feeds her soul and the other is just necessary.

In this encounter, my 20 years of organizational leadership wanted to charge in save the day with strategies and goals but my intuition told me that none of that would help in this moment. What was truly needed was curiosity; a curiosity that could excavate the brilliance within her while simultaneously provoking her to action.

So, I responded to her outpouring with a compassionate and powerful question. The dance began.

After about 20 minutes of our emotional and soulful tango and twist, I called her to an action step. Based on her input, she advised me that she was having a hard time moving forward because of a multiplicity of emails that she receives related to her industry and realm of expertise.

She said, "If I could just find a way to filter through the tons of emails that I receive so that I could focus on the important ones and ignore the fluff, I'd feel like I'd have more margin in my day and be more encouraged."

My co-active coaching style wanted to have her craft a solution all on her own at this point but my intuition told me that she needed a nudge. So, I recommended that she set up a filter in her email that is called "2pm" and all the indistry related emails would automatically be labeled and filed/archived to her "2pm" folder. Then, she suggested setting up a reminder on her calendar to look at the folder once a day for 30 minutes and no more. I added to that great idea suggesting that she use Evernote or Read-It-Later for articles and tips/tricks that she liked but wanted to revisit at a later date.

I challenged her to do it in two days from our session. Guess what? She did it that night and began implementing it the next day!

Co-creating solutions with clients provides a high level of buy-in since the idea was crafted by the client. In this instance, I stoked the fire of her solution- provoking her to action- and she ran with it. Today, a week later, she reports that she has more time and feels less burden from all the clutter that used to rob her of precious creative energy.

What solutions have you implemented?

If you desire freedom from the Resistance blocking your creative expression or entrepreneurial drive, let's schedule a coaching session and begin your journey to unleashing legacy:


Story drives desire

Posted on 11:15 PM by dave

As a human in this journey of life, your story, the narrative of your life, is engaging the rest of humanity in a conversation. What is your story?

This is definitely true of artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs.

Over the past 20 years, I've begun noticing a pattern to how I engage with merchants and I've observed others in their choices of products and services. Quite often it isn't what product or service is best (the fact sheet) or how it will improve or enhance our lives (the benefits and value).

It's deeper than that.

Walk into an Apple store and look around. What do they offer? Products? Sure. Services? Of course. But that's not why people are lining up for blocks for their next idevice.

Keep digging.

Next time you walk into a Starbucks, what do you see? What is the environment like? How do you feel there? The art, colors, smells... even the furniture are communicating something.

They're telling a story.

They are telling you why they exist. They're bringing you into their narrative. They're intentionally constructing an allegory to inspire you to join with them in how they see the world and the desired future they wish to create.

They're telling you what they believe.

You're doing the same when you meet with a client. From your body language to your hair style to where you meet to your "pitch"... it's all creating a culture of story; the story of your craft. You are communicating what you believe.

This is true whether you are cognisent of it or not.

Think about it, when you are engrossed in a novel or swept away in the narrative of an epic, you imagine on the screens in your mind all the intricacies and details present in that story. You feel what the protagonist feels. You smell the pubs. You hear the birds. This "movie in your mind" transcends mere intellect to something deeper. There is resonance and harmony with the text. That story drives a desire within you to return to that space once again to engage with familiar characters that give you a sense of belonging.

I belive that story drives desire... and that you have a story that deserves to be told.

So let me ask this: what story are you telling?



Black and White

Posted on 2:32 PM by dave

 The phrase, "I guess I just see things in life as black and white," has been bouncing around my head for most of the last week. 

I agree with this sentiment in many areas of life and all too often in society today we tend to take on a view of the world around us that is more nebulous than concrete. So to some extent, I agree. 

However, the context of this conversation was in regard to performance not in how we view others and the world around us. It was personal. The framework that led to this particular statement by one of my team members was that they were either doing a great job or a horrible job in their assigned responsibilities. I respectfully introduced to them a counter viewpoint. The challenged that I faced is that they couldn't see that there are layers to their performance. In their eyes, if they weren't in great standing then they were in bad standing. 

This is simply not true. 

I believe that it is toxic to any leader to foster a culture of either/or within their sphere of influence. Either you are right or wrong. Either you are succeeding or failing.

I believe there is more. 

As one who leads, it is my imperative that I create a culture that encourages growth and progress. This is what is at risk when my team members adopt a view of either/or, black/white. I want my teams to risk. I want them to try and fail then try again. I don't want them constrained by "good enough" but rather to strive for what is currently out-of-reach, to dream.  I don't want them to settle... and settling happens when we view ourselves as either great or bad because there is a mindset issue that nothing is beyond great. 

I am a firm believer in the possibility and promise of "what if", of continued development, of more. 

Whether more manifests itself as increased effectiveness, better efficiency, diminished expenses, greater impact, expanded influence, strengthened partnerships, deepened portfolio, enhanced procedures... there is always, always room to grow, multiply, and advance.

This is one aspect of creating a culture of legacy.