There are no Secrets. Here is the Secret.

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I have things in my life that just work. I don’t really know why. Or I sort of know why, but not in any real detail. And you know what? I’m OK with that. When I hit the switch on my wall, electricity appears. When I turn the key in my car, it starts. My life is full of stuff like that.

I sort of understand these things, but push comes to shove, I don’t really. That’s why when things stop working, after a perfunctory look at them, enough to remind me how much I don’t understand, I end up calling the electrician or my mechanic and just get it fixed.

Why is that important? I’ll explain later.

Few of my professional clients have any idea that besides my work, I am a poet, writer, photographer and artist. For that matter, hardly of the people who know of my artistic work have any idea what else I do for a living.

I got remarried about a year and a half ago. Getting married as adults is a lot different than getting married when you are young. You both have lives and families and stuff that somehow have to merge together. She moved into my house, and we’re still figuring it all out, slowly moving a space that was mine and turning it into something that is ours.

Part of that was my art studio.

I had a small studio in one of my rooms and we turned that room into an office for my wife to work and study in. I tried moving my studio into the utility room, but that didn’t work out well. We were stacking bins and incoming stuff in that room and there wasn’t space to work.

That’s really all you need for a studio. Space and light. And there wasn’t enough of either in the project room, which had become (and still is.) more of a warehouse than a creative space.

I had actually wanted a larger studio for some time. As I have painted more and more, I have also moved from small work to larger and larger canvases and there was s physical limit to the size canvas I could do in my little space. I wanted more room and more light to do bigger work and to have more than one work going at one. I do a lot of layering in my work and being able to work on multiple paintings, letting some dry as I work on others would be a wonderful thing. A new larger studio was on the someday list, even before the wedding, and afterward, it became more important.

I needed three things – light, space and affordability.

I won’t say I worked hard at finding a space. There has been a lot going on the last eighteen months. One son moving to Florida for college. My daughter moving from Vermont to Virginia. And of course, my marriage and all the change a marriage brings.

For a time, until this past July, I was migrating between Massachusetts and Vermont. My wife had a job down in Massachusetts and so I’d go down there in the middle of the week and she came up here to Vermont in the middle of the week. There was a lot of traveling going on, and nothing felt like home.

But I never stopped thinking about a studio. I never stopped believing I would find a place. I would tell people I was looking for space. Nothing came up, but I kept talking about it.

Not that I had any idea what I would do with it with all those other things going on, and the two of us ping-ponging between two states every week. The last thing I needed was another project.

But I believed it would happen. I told others and I told myself. My wife encouraged me in my delusion. There was no reason to think it would happen. The kind of space I needed, with light, tall ceilings and a bargain basement price, is not exactly common here in my little corner of Vermont.  Still, I acted as if it would.

Did it happen?

It did. Almost with perfect timing. Out of the blue, about a month after my wife found a job here in Vermont and we finally moved in together, I had breakfast with Jeff, a good friend of mine. He was looking at buying an old church in the nearby town of Middle Granville, New York, just across the border.

He has big plans for the building, even though there is a lot of work to be done. Among other things (everyone up here seems to have two or three gigs going on.), Jeff repairs and builds musical instruments. Guitars and the like. He plans to make the downstairs fellowship hall into his workshop, reclaiming his basement at home. The sanctuary, he wants to fix up and make a public space for musical shows and inside markets, There was only one space he had not decided what to do with: A room behind the sanctuary.

That room is about five times the size of my in-the-house studio. The ceilings are twelve feet high.  There are these tall windows with a combination of green and yellow stained glass and a few clear panes bringing in this beautiful light. It gets the afternoon sun, which is when I generally paint. It is in the back of the building, so it didn’t get the road noise, but it is on a main road, easy to get to. It was, in other words, perfect.

And he made it more perfect, offering to put in special LED lighting tubes to replace the fluorescent tubed and replicate daylight. and at a price, I could afford.

What I wanted, when I wanted it, at an affordable price. Slam. Dunk. Done.

There’s a lot of work to do. I have been ripping up carpet and the tiles beneath and a fibrous subfloor that comes apart in pint-size pieces. But it is happening. While it is not finished, I moved in this past weekend and began painting in there yesterday.

This has been a pattern in my life. When I believed, and when I acted on that belief, good things happen. I don’t pretend to understand it. Some call it the Law of Attraction and there is a large, large, LARGE movement out there that teaches the idea of a benevolent universe that we can think our way to the things we want. Some who have a Christian leaning like me, often refer to it as “Prosperity Christianity” – the idea that God wants and will make good things happen for us.  There are even people who have tried to use quantum physics to explain what is going on and that it’s a law of the universe that we can believe our way to a perfect life. I’ve read the books and they make my head spin.

The funny thing is that they all come at it from these wildly different directions, but they all say the same thing.

It works. It doesn’t make sense in a world sell secrets and has its own agenda of how things happen.

I don’t pretend to understand it. But there’s something to it.

This is what I know from my own life. When I have believed that things would work out, and then did the work as if it would, it always has.

Let me repeat that. It ALWAYS has. Not sometimes. Not mostly. Always.

Are there catches?

There are some catches to it. I have to believe. And I have to work. I have to be consistent.  All three. Most of us are pretty good doing one or two of the three, but not on all three. Sometimes we need help and encouragement. Books. Encouragers. Coaches and counselors.

I wish I could claim some great discovery, but there is no great discovery. I wish I could claim it as a secret, but there is no secret. People have been saying and teaching this idea for a long, long time. There’s truly no secret to it. People have noticed this and have been teaching it for as long as I can remember.

My first exposure to the idea was with Napoleon Hill and since there I’ve read tons of other books. And I do mean tons of them. I have a corner of my library so full of self-help books that I find it a wonderment that the floor doesn’t collapse.

There is no secret.

Belief. Work. Persistence.

Most of us fail on one side or the other.  I know I have. I know some of my clients have. We don’t really believe. OR believe we are worthy, or that we can. We believe that the world doesn’t work that way. Oh there are a thousand reasons not to believe we can get what we want. Maybe tens of thousands. As a life coach and spiritual counselor, I have heard them all.

OR we believe and think that is enough. So we don’t do the work. Or we poke at the work, like poking at a snake under the front porch, tentatively, sporadically.

Did I mention sporadically? Yeah, that doesn’t work either, but we do it. And when the miracle doesn’t happen, we declare the world is stacked against us and stop believing and become a self-fulfilling prophecy in the worst possible way.

But when we do all three things: Believe. Work. Persist. Change happens. What we want comes. Don’t ask me to explain it.

There are explanations of course. Remember, the Law of Attraction folks will tell you that this is just how the universe works. The prosperity Christianity people will tell you it’s God working for people who believe. The Quantum Physics people will dazzle your mind with theories. But there is no secret.

I’ve seen it in my own life. I’ve seen it in my life coaching clients. There’s no secret. There’s only belief, work and persistence. My work as a coach and counselor is helping people put those things to work, finding the good stuff that is already in them and helping them persist.

There is no secret.

That’s the secret.

When I was a boy, my grandfather tried to teach me to hunt. I never took to it, but I learned one lesson that stuck with me my entire life. “Never shoot at an animal.” He told me. “Aim ahead of it and wait for it to come to you.”

It was remarkably effective. I would aim somewhere in front of the animal running through the woods and just wait. Eventually, it would run into my sights and “Bang!”, the animal came down. It was way easier than trying to follow a moving animal as if fled through the woods or across a distant field.

Just let it come to you.

I never took to hunting. I haven’t hunted since I was about twelve, but that lesson has stuck with me. Let what I want come to me. It’s easier. It works. As long as we have those three things. Belief. Work. Persistence.

There are no secrets.

That’s the secret.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

 

PS:  For many people, personal coaching has proved a remarkably effective way of working towards what they want. It provides a framework of safety, encouragement, proven processes and accountability that helps people find and work your own path to what they want in life, be it success, creativity or spirituality.  Study after study shows coaching speeds the process and has an extraordinary ROI (return on investment.) Are you interested in finding out if life coaching is for you?  I offer three free sessions (with no catches) to allow you to find out. Interested? Contact me and I’ll explain more.

Reinventing Ourselves

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Every 8-10 years along my life’s journey, I’ve made substantial changes. Most of them I chose. One I did not. But each time of change required a reinvention of how I lived and worked. Something about reinventing seems to be wired in my DNA, because I have done it in my work as well, spearheading three technology startups that each went on to become major companies in the systems integration world.

A fair number of my clients come to me wanting to re-invent something: Their career, their work-life balance, their creative lives, their company direction, business processes, their marketing – something basic and vital.

Not everyone can re-invent themselves. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in a general way that any of us, any person, any organization can reinvent themselves and reach their dreams and goals. The process of doing this is pretty well established. And whether it’s my process, developed by the John Maxwell Team, or someone else’s, the truth is, most of us take the same basic steps with different verbiage attached to it.

So we know the way.

But not everyone can do it.  That’s the reality. I can generally tell within a few sessions, a few hours, whether or not they are going to be able to do it or not.

What’s the difference? Here’s what I have learned in five years of coaching and pastoring.

Letting go of the List

Some clients, both individuals, and organizations come to me to accomplish something. They have a definition of success that has eluded them, and so they come to me. But what I hear coming out of their mouths are all the reasons they can’t do it. Everyone’s list is different, but they all have a list. Generally, it is a long list, and full of external things.

Everyone has a list of reasons. For some, they abandon that list after a few meetings and it goes away as we talk about what we CAN do, what DOES make a difference. Others though, continue to raise objections, continually spouting the list like a barrage of walls and barriers. It’s like they are daring success to come, making sure it won’t come because they have put so many roadblocks in the way (in their own mind)

If you can’t let go of the list, you won’t be able to re-invent yourself, your life, your work, your company, your organization. You won’t move on. You won’t have the growth, success or significance you dream of.

Do you believe you can? Then you can. If you believe you might, or maybe, then you can’t.

Accepting Responsibility

Here’s what I know. People who accept responsibility for their own lives can change their lives. People who think the outside world is holding them back, can’t.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes the outside world does hold us back. But generally, it can’t stop us if we do the work and give it the time and persistence. (More on that later.)

Reinventing is different than a little change. It’s big work. It is absolutely doable. But if we spend a lot of time worrying about everything and everyone else and the barriers then we’ll never change what we need to change: Ourselves.

Years ago I was part of a startup called The Whitlock Group. There were four of us that quit our jobs with well-established companies to begin this new thing with a completely different approach. It was slow going. Manufacturers and customers alike were wary of a new player with no track record, and a new approach to the business.

One of us, I will call him William, was constantly worried about what our competitors were doing to squash us. Our leader – I will call him Kevin – said something that has stuck with me for thirty years.

He said “Don’t worry about them. Do what we do. If we are right, we will prevail.” And we did. Spectacularly.  By the time I left Whitlock, we were a $38M/year company. Today they are one of the top five companies nationwide in their field.

Taking responsibility for our own success, leaving the blame game behind, is how we get there. If we live in the blame world, reinvention won’t happen.

Change, but not too fast

Everyone who wants to reinvent their lives, or their business, knows there is going to be change. There has to be. We don’t want to reinvent because everything is the way we want it.

No, we want more. Success. A richer life. A more Creative life. More money. A big idea. Something more. And we know that means change. Some people are change averse, but they are rarely the people who want to reinvent.  No, the people who want to reinvent life and work have the opposite problem.

They want to change too fast. They want results now. And so they go about it in whirling dervish of activity. And generally, they burn out, blow up or fizzle.

You see, the human mind and the human spirit can only take so much change at one time. Throw too much at us and we get stressed. We succumb to overload or we rebel. It is human nature and you can’t change it. I’ve seen wonderful people with wonderful ideas, full of potential for reinvention sabotage themselves and their organizations by changing too much too fast.

Baby steps. Slow, steady, constant, tiny little changes. That is what gets you there. If you are prepared to spend a year to eighteen months making changes in slow, steady ways, you can reinvent anything. Even (especially) yourself.

Never Walk Alone

Reinvention rarely happens in a vacuum. Most of us need help. A mentor. A coach. Someone from the outside who can ask the right questions, encourage us, call us out on our madness, and keep us on the path.

Go it alone, and most of us will stray. We will wear out. We will get discouraged. We won’t see our own progress. We need cohorts, partners, supporters, mentors, coaches, someone who will pull the truth out of us and make us look at it and act on it. Someone to be accountable to.

What does that person need to me? They need to be someone you feel safe talking to. They need to know when to encourage and when to hold your feet to the fire. They need to be outside your status quo (because that’s what you want to change, after all.). They need to be someone you will feel accountable to.

Ideally, they will be someone who has trod your path of re-invention and have been trained to guide others. They will have a flexible mind, aware that there are often multiple paths to success, and concerned that you find the one that is true to you.

And There It Is

And there it is. If a person or company…..

  • Can let go of their list of external factors that are in their way
  • Can accept responsibility for their own success and failure
  • And are willing to move constantly, but slowly towards re-invention….

Then re-invention can happen. It does happen. As the old song goes “Dreams can come true. It can happen to you…”

Want to reinvent you or your organization? Look at these things. Think on them. Be honest with yourself about them. And when you are ready to do it, find the right person. (Maybe even me.), and let the re-invention begin!

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

Coaching

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