Subtle Trap on the Path to Expertise


I really wish somebody had told this to me …

Your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you …

A lot of people at that point, they quit. And the thing I would just like say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be — they knew it fell short …

the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work — do a huge volume of work. …

it’s only by going through a volume of work that you are going to catch up and close that gap.

— Ira Glass
Complete Quotation at
Brain Pickings


From the Nothing New Under the Sun Department

Mr. Edward Rochester, “And you felt self-satisfied with the result of your ardent labours?”


Miss Jane Eyre, “Far from it. I was tormented by the contrast between my idea and my handiwork: in each case I had imagined something which I was quite powerless to realise.”


Mr. Edward Rochester, “Not quite: you have secured the shadow of your thought; but no more, probably. You had not enough of the artist’s skill and science to give it full being.”

Jane Eyre Chapter XIII
Charlotte Brontë, 1847

Cornell Study: Why Everyone Needs a Coach



We literally see the world the way we want to see it.


But the Dunning-Kruger effect suggests that there is a problem beyond that. Even if you are just the most honest, impartial person that you could be, you would still have a problem — namely, when your knowledge or expertise is imperfect, you really don’t know it.  Left to your own devices, you just don’t know it.


We’re not very good at knowing what we don’t know. …


Put simply, people tend to do what they know and fail to do that which they have no conception of.  In that way, ignorance profoundly channels the course we take in life.


People fail to reach their potential as professionals, lovers, parents and people simply because they are not aware of the possible.


–David A. Dunning, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
Cornell University

Quoted in
The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but
You’ll Never Know What It Is
The New York Times



Helping Employees Change and Adapt



Charles LindberghMany companies and organizations are dealing with multiple changes right now to adapt to the huge shifts in our economy: layoffs, salary reductions, and freezes, office closings, budget cuts, etc. My CEO executive coaching clients are making painful decisions, managing personal stress, communicating more often with employees, customers, and suppliers. All of that is useful and important.

I also find it useful to remind managers that change is not quick or easy for companies.

Leaders, especially the most dynamic, creative, and entrepreneurial, must keep in mind that stability is in the nature of organizations. That’s why we call them organizations, rather than alterizations or adaptizations. People, especially in groups, need (more…)

Always Learning




Years ago, an experienced coach and mentor began our meeting by asking about my first child. Just 18 months old, he was eagerly crawling and using a few words.

“It’s a fascinating time,” I replied. “You can almost hear the wheels turning in his head as he experiments to find out what combination of noises and movements is going to get him what he wants.”

I heard myself and paused to absorb the insight.


“Wow!,” I continued. “That is still how I spend most of my day.”


But not every day. How often do you actually examine how well your “noises and movements” are serving you? Don’t we all expend a lot of energy just repeating tired and familiar strategies rather than observing our results and experimenting with new communications?

It is rare to be as eager and innovative as a baby yet how can we fail to be impressed with the child’s rapid progress? Experimenting, responding, growing, moving forward, relentlessly alive–children know how to learn.


How do you stay green and growing? One reliable technique for enhancing our learning, of course, is to work with a supportive and insightful executive coach and surround yourself with people who share your commitment to conscious development.



The Traveling Pennies Exercise a/k/a Three Coins Method



Traveling Pennies

My executive coaching clients often ask how to translate their new insights into regular practice so that the benefit of the coaching is integrated into their lives. This is crucial since the adult executives I coach have well established and largely successful habits that are expressed automatically.

How do we make new strategies and methods just as habitual? One of my favorite techniques is the traveling pennies.

Is there a practice you and your coach have developed that you want to make a part of your life? Perhaps you choose to center three times per day, express gratitude more often, or ask a clarifying question before responding to an inquiry. Here’s how to “operationalize” your good intentions.

Each morning for the next few weeks place (more…)

Becoming coachable

Business Week has a short article about Jerry Levin, the former head of Time Warner. He led the merger with AOL. The merger is generally considered a disaster for Time Warner and Levin left under pressure. What did he learn?

From the article and his life after leaving the executive suite, it sounds like he learned how to learn:

Jerry Levin

…understanding that it’s O.K. to be open and vulnerable, to ask for help.

To state it in different terms, it’s probably helpful to invoke the feminine principle and be compassionate, empathetic, understanding, give respect to everybody, don’t get deluded by the natural hierarchy. And don’t get too self-satisfied that you have all the answers.

He has gone on to establish a holistic retreat, Moonview, with his wife. What learning is he most eager to share with executives?

My strong advice would be to find a calm, meditative state every day. With the tempo of executive life, that seems almost impossible, but it’s probably the most important thing that you can do.

Namaste, Mr. Levin, and thank you.

See also Gandhi on silence.

See free, easy Meditation Instructions on this blog.


Meditation for Managers video


Into the Storm: A Study in Command

Tom Clancy

Lessons for managers from how the Army re-made itself between Vietnam and Desert Storm.

I was moderating a conference of business owners in the late 1990s as they lamented the poor work habits and other failings of “Gen-Xers.” Finally, I’d had enough so I said, “Say what you will about body piercing and Starbucks, I don’t think that’s the key issue. It looks to me that our generation’s contributions were the drug culture and Vietnam while the present generation has given us the Internet and Desert Storm.” The question becomes, how did this happen? Into the Storm provides part of the answer.

I am a baby-boomer who came of age in the Vietnam era, so my interest in things military was slight and my general opinion of military organization, I’m ashamed to say, came more from Catch-22 and MASH than reality. Yet, the U.S. Army has done some huge and useful things, so I was willing to take a fresh look with this book.

In the aftermath of Vietnam, “the Army began a revolution in (more…)

Your greatest strength is your #1 blind spot




I got a call from a salesman looking for my help to close a business owner. The salesman was frustrated because the owner so needed the product but was not making a decision, though he was willing to keep talking.

The business owner was tired and frantically busy as his company grew past 100 employees. He was traveling more and more, continually meeting prospective clients, reviewing active projects, and checking on employees. He was proudly a stickler for quality and involved with every detail. His company’s reputation for excellent work was a foundation of their success and growth.

My immediate response was, “Wow! He must have a terrible time retaining key employees.”

“How did you know that?” the salesman exclaimed, “He says that’s his #1 problem.”

“Of course it is. The best people (more…)