Reinventing Ourselves


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,



Want to try out personal coaching without making a big investment? I offer a “3 for Free” package. 3 free personal coaching sessions, via Skype (or in person if you are close by) to let you see how it works and if it is for you. Interested? Click Here



How long is it going to take?

Opportunity, rise and improvement concept

I am in the change business. I have been most of my life. In my work as a transformational coach, I help individuals move from where they are in their personal and professional lives, to where they want to be. As a business consultant, I help develop start ups and initiatives. I help my clients develop powerful, ethical, effective marketing that boosts sales. As a communications consultant, I help my clients become better communicators. As a technology specialist in the broadcast, AV and Media Centric IT world, I help clients built breaking edge facilities.

One of the questions that I am almost always asked is “How long will it take?”

When we want change, real change, we are often anxious to make that change happen, and happen now. The problem is, substantive change takes time.

One of my coaching clients recently challenged me on this. “But you can change a habit in 21 days!” he told me. And that is true. It just is not the whole truth.

We can change habits. We can change methods of working and workflows, but just making the changes does not create the full fledged change we want to happen. I don’t care if we are individuals or mega-corporations. Changing habits. Changing how we do things. Changing technologies is only a small part of gaining the substantive, transformative change we want.

The problem is human nature.

We resist change. Even when we say we want it, it’s hard. Part of us likes the comfort of the old ways. And if we as individuals like the safety of sameness, how much harder is it to overcome that part of human nature when we have an organization of ten, or a hundred, or a thousand individuals. We resist change even as we want it. And so we may change what we do, but part of our minds are still pushing back. We have to give change time. We can change everything, anything we want, but try and change too fast and something in us revolts.

The secret then, is to make the change in slow, steady steps. Give our minds and hearts time to absorb the changes, to internalize them. It takes time, not just for a habit to change, but to have that change become…. comfortable.

It also takes, consistency.

Too many clients, in all of the venues I work, stutter step their way to change. Two steps forward, resistance, one step back, repeat. They ignore proven processes that work. They get lazy, or afraid, or just plain stubborn. (I do stubborn really well, alas.). Because of that old friend, resistance, we self-sabotage. We find ways to be too busy to do what we need to do. And all of that slows the process down. Sometimes, it kills the transformation altogether.

It takes faith

It takes the faith to keep at it. Because at first, the going is slow. At first, there seems to be little progress. Transformation takes time and builds on itself. There is a tipping point, a point where everything starts to come together and suddenly, the changes transform us – people, organizations. Once that tipping point happens, it’s dizzying, exhilarating, and a little scary. But it gets us where we want to be.

Here’s what I have learned in over 35 years of being at the center of transformations in technology systems, companies and individuals. When someone asks me how long it will take, the answer is always the same.

Six months to a year…. If.

  • If we invest in the right pre-planning and defining the vision.
  • If we commit ourselves to the process of change.
    If we work regularly and consistently
    If we keep the faith and don’t give up.

Do those things and the answer is six months to a year. That’s what 35 years has taught me. Do the right things and that is how long it takes. Don’t and it takes longer, or it simply doesn’t happen. Which leaves us with the question of how we see that timeline. Do we moan and say that’s too long? Or do we say “That’s all? Let’s get going!”

Which way do you react?

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom“>Magnetic compass on a world map

Are You Uncomfortable Yet?


I began my work as a consultant/coach almost six years ago. And in that time I have learned this: That the most important question to ask yourself before bringing a consultant or coach into your life or work has nothing to do with what you want, or their credentials or the project itself.

I didn’t understand that at first. I had a hard time understanding why some clients flourished, and some did not and it’s taken a lot of note taking, study and number crunching to finally get to the place where I can say this in confidence – your success, whether it is on your own or with a consultant or coach helping you along the way, is your willingness to be uncomfortable.

That’s right, uncomfortable.

You see, if you are making progress – and this is true whether you are building a startup, re-inventing an organization, building your own perfect life, or recrafting your marketing – if you are making progress, you will get to the place where you have to change something you are comfortable with. And that thing you don’t want to change, while it feels comfortable, is what is holding you back. It’s the same for all of us.

It sounds pretty obvious. Change means change. But when we want to change something that is comfortable, something happens in our head. We become resistant. And many of us decide to just keep that roadblock in place.

It happens in technology. I had a client once (who will remain un-named) who hired my company to redo their audio room. They spent over a hundred thousand dollars on a new digital audio board. The new board was crazy powerful. It could do things that twenty years ago we never thought about doing. It was amazing. But the client was afraid of all the change. They were comfortable with how their old board worked. And so slowly, we dumbed down the new one, until it was the effective equivalent of the old, less than ten thousand dollar board we replaced. As far as I know, they never grew into the board and are still living without the change they claimed to want.

It happens to people and companies too. They are all fired up to change, to become something new, to re-invent, but at some point, we hit that comfort zone and it’s like running head first into a stone wall. Often I continue for a while as a consultant or a coach after we hit the wall, but inevitably, their discomfort is the end. All the advice, information, history and facts in the world can’t budge them.

I, as the consultant/coach generally gets the blame.

Fortunately, the reverse happens too. When clients take a deep breath and plunge through their comfort zone, they generally find out that stone wall is really made out of tissue paper. They barrel right through and suddenly, begin to make real progress. They almost inevitably get to where they want.

And I, as the consultant/coach generally gets the credit. But the credit is not mine. The credit goes to them. They pushed past their uncomfortableness and that’s where success is found.

They are no smarter than my less than totally successful clients. No richer. No more resources. They are simply braver. More willing to live in that place of uncomfortableness for a short while to get to where they want to be.

Here’s what is most remarkable about this.

It works for clients, no matter what they are after.

  • It works for Technology clients building a new broadcast facility.
  • It works for businesses trying to grow, start or reinvigorate a company.
  • It works for Non-profit organizations that are struggling.
  • It works for all sorts of coaching clients, be they executives, entrepreneurs, artists or spiritual seekers.

And, once the time of uncomfortableness is past, they all tell me the same thing – that it was not nearly as bad as they anticipated. The dire things they worried about did not happen.

All that worry for nothing.

So do you want to make a change in your life and work? A serious, major change? Don’t fret over the how. At least not at first. Save yourself a lot of time and work and getting halfway there by asking yourself if you are willing to be uncomfortable for a while.

If you are, you are already 2/3 of the way there.

Be well. Travel wisely


Magnetic compass on a world map

The Work of It

The Work of It

It does not happen at once, the journey.
It takes a boat and a boat takes building,
hard work, painstaking and unforgiving.
There is pain in it,
and beauty too
as you go from raw wood
to finished craft,
ready to face the sea
and capture the wind.

About this poem

The things we want most in life – love, relationships, faith – don’t just happen. We have to prepare ourselves first. And once prepared…. they come.

We forget that sometimes.


Coaching ROI (#1)


Let’s talk about ROI (Return on Investment) for leadership coaching at the Corporate level.

There is a lot of confusion between the terms “Leadership” and “Management”. Both are important. One is essential to the running of an organization. The other is essential only if an organization wants to rise above the pack and be an organization that others admire and want to be a part of.

First? What is essential? Management.

You need good management to keep things running well. Managers supervise and direct others in the organization. Everyone from a low level supervisor to the CEO is a manager. Managers implement an organizational process that gets things done. It’s a process driven job that weaves managing resources, people, assets to get certain results. It’s a job. It’s a process. It can be taught. We need good managers or things just fall apart. People leave. Deadlines are missed. Customers leave.

Good managers are important. And good managers can be trained. And you can have great managers and still have an ordinary organization.

But if you want to have something extraordinary, you need leaders.

Leaders inspire. Leaders see what is ahead. Leaders help the people around them rise to higher and higher levels. And if you want to be the best, you need leaders. When you look at great companies, great ministries, great organizations of any sort – they have a core group of leaders that make them what they are. All of us have seen companies, large and small that have risen when they had great leaders, and fallen when those leaders left, or died. You need leaders to be great. Those leaders may be your managers, but often they are not.

Why? Because we have succumbed to a myth.

That myth says that leaders are born. And while it is true that some people seem to have a charisma about them that we call “natural leadership”, the truth is that leadership has been studied long enough that we know what it takes to develop leaders. There is no mystery to it. What there is, is a lack of understanding at the process of developing leaders, and a lack of appreciation of the value of investing in creating leaders.

The value has been well documented, in decades of studies, all with similar results. Some examples:

A 2012 recent global survey by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Association Resource Centre studied the ROI on executive coaching – when companies invested in coaching leaders to make the more effective. They found that the mean Return on Investment in coaching was 7 times the initial investment, and over a quarter of coaching clients reported a stunning ROI of 10 to 49 times the cost. The ROI was 456% on a personal basis (when an individual hired a coach) and 1150% on a corporative basis (When a company hired a coach to develop its internal talent).
Another, often cited ROI study of executive coaching done for a Fortune 500 company,” Coaching for Increased Profitability: How to Deliver and Demonstrate Tangible Results to the Bottom Line” by Merrill C. Anderson, Ph.D. MetrixGlobal (2003) had reported an ROI from coaching of 788%.
Other studies (and there are many) regularly report ROI ranging between 221% and over 700%.

To make it simple, for every dollar invested in coaching, organizations realized several more dollars profit and productivity. This is measurable. What is not measurable in the same way is the effect that coaching has on your people. People who are coached into leadership, instead of being told merely “You are in charge” report more satisfaction, better relationships in and out of work, higher productivity, increased loyalty and more satisfying home lives.

But coaching is not training. Leadership training has minimal long term impact. Why?

Training is one size fits all, and people are different. An coaching program doesn’t teach techniques, it teaches principles, and then helps individualize that knowledge to each person, taking advantage of their unique mix of skills, strengths and weaknesses.
Training is an event. Coaching is a process. You can’t expect an event to develop anything but enthusiasm. To make substantive changes takes time. A typical coaching engagement runs a year or more.
Training carries no accountability. Coaching does. This is important, because growth happens in accountability.

Want to become a great company? Build good leaders. Invest in the process.

And reap the profits.

Be well. Travel Wisely,



Next week, I will talk about ROI for individual coaching. Stay tuned!

Interested in learning more about how corporate coaching works?“>Contact“> me here

The Deep End

I have been living outside of my comfort zone a lot this past year or two. Not by design, there have been changes in my work, in my creative life, in my relationships, in my home life, and in my ministry. No one in their right mind would choose this much change at once. But sometimes we have a choice, and sometimes we don’t.

In some ways, I have myself to blame. I have a long history of jumping into things I was utterly unqualified and unprepared for. For a guy who has lived with a certain amount of fear about everything for much of his life, that is probably the definition of crazy. But it’s true. I have an english degree and a masters in creative writing and a D. Div, so of course I have spent much of my career in high technology, designing TV studios, control rooms and large scale AV projects. I took on directing two music, song and dance groups, when I could not read music. I moved from sales engineering into managing with no preparation. I took on my first ministry at 59, after a long period of brokeness.

It’s kind of what I do. I don’t know why. I’ve never been able to figure it out. A kind of madness. I think.

I have never been inherently cocky. And growing up I was pretty much told all the time by my dad that I could do almost nothing right. I was pretty well convinced for a long time that he was right. And yet, somehow, I came out of my youth thinking, all too often, “Yeah, I can do that.” whenever something interesting came along.

Where does that come from? That is the question I have been mulling over this week in my mind. I am still not sure of the answer.

I won’t pretend taking on all these things I was unprepared for has been easy. In every case, I have had a period of abject fear. That’s the truth. I can remember going to my first graduate class in graduate school. The class was “Metaphysical Poetry”. The proof talked for an hour and a half and I knew almost nothing he was talking about. I looked around and it seemed like the others in the class “got it”. I left that night thinking “I am a fraud and I am doomed.”

I wasn’t of course. I just had a lot of catch-up to do. I read like crazy, studied stuff, figured it out and did fine. And walked out of Grad School with straight A’s. But there was such fear at the start. And I never felt like I got my head up to speed until I was a year or more into it.

That is pretty much the pattern of my life. I jump into things thinking “I can do that.”, and find out I am hopelessly over my head. I live in that “what was I thinking?” place for a year or so, until I start to figure it out, and end up doing (generally) pretty well. Sometimes (to brag on myself a little), REALLY well. And then… either by choice or fate, I leap into something else, or a lot of something elses and the cycle begins again.

This has taught me a couple of things.

One, most of us can do most things. I am nothing special. I’m a guy with a decent intelligence, a few talents and a good work ethic. I’ve had some schooling, most of it not in the things I have done for a living, but enough to learn that I can learn most things. If I can do all these disparate things, most of us can. I have put this to work both in my own life, and often in choosing employees and partners. I find myself less concerned about formal qualifications than work ethic and willingness to learn. and the reward of watching those people bloom has been immeasurable. It’s also what makes my work as a coach and as a pastor such a good fit. I know firsthand that most of us can get where we want, no matter where we are. Potential is real and can be realized. For all of us.

Secondly, I know that I’ll survive the fear. Oh yes, the fear is real. The fear of failure. The fear of letting people down. The fear of appearing a fraud as I claw my way to competency and beyond. The fear of somehow proving the dad of my youth (He became much more supportive of me as an adult.) right. So when I am leaping into my new venture, I tend to study like crazy. I immerse myself into whatever the challenge is. I read. I visit sites. I talk to people. By now, I know the learning curve. It takes me a few months to a year to get to a place where I feel competent. I probably am competent before that, but it takes me a while to feel that way. The heart is always behind the head, it seems. The important thing is that by now I know I’ll get through it and I will come out on the other side. Always. It doesn’t mean the fear isn’t there. It means I can put it in a box and do it anyway. This too shall pass. And the satisfaction on the other side of that fear is crazy good.

Third, and this is the most important thing, I learned to lean on others. I have a bad tendency to think I can do most anything, to not want to “bother” others, and the temptation is to just plow through myself. I suppose that works, but it’s generally the slowest, most painful path. I found coaches, mentors, all sorts of people to talk to and ask questions of and who would ask questions of me, and moved me where I wanted to be much faster than I would have without them. Trial and error teaches, but it’s the slowest, most painful way to get from where we are to where we want to be. It is, I think, why so many people give up before they get “there” (where ever “there” is.). Because they take the slowest path, without out others and without accountability to those others. So I had to put aside my natural tendency and call on others help guide me through. Some did it for free. Some, I had to pay to help me. Both were invaluable.

Part of me hates being in the deep water. Part of me finds it exhilarating. Both feelings are real. But no matter what I feel, I know this – I love the variety of things I have learned to do, and have done in my forty years of work and adulting (A word my son uses a lot.). I love the things I have helped build and the people I’ve helped build up and the joy of taking on a huge variety of challenges and coming out on the other side. I won’t look back on my life and wonder if I could have done something. I am stronger for it, and by my measure of success, successful. Jumping off the deep end and figuring it out on the way down is what moves me ahead.

It can, I believe, do the same for you.

Be well. Travel Wisely,


Special offer for June and July

I normally offer two free coaching sessions for people considering a success/life coach. This allows you to get a sense of what coaching can do for you, and to see if we are a good fit, with no risk.

For June and July, I am offering an extra free session as part of that offer. Three free sessions instead of two. If you have thought about a coaching and wondered what it could do for you, drop me an e-mail and let me know you are interested.

If you have thought about coaching and wondered what it could do for you, drop me an e-mail and let me know you are interested. I can only take on a limited number of new clients, but I will do everything I can to accommodate you.


quarry house logo 325

The Power of Soul

Last week I began what will be one of the most exciting projects I have ever done.

And that is saying something. I’ve had amazing opportunities in my career so far. As a systems integrator, I’ve had the chance to help design and build some of the most technologically advanced systems in television, breaking new ground, with several “firsts” in my portfolio. As a businessman, I have started and grown two high-profile technology companies and a new division for another. I have had the chance to help multiple companies rethink and implement major marketing initiatives. But this tops anything I have ever done.

Not that it’s the biggest project, or the highest profile project I have ever done. It certainly won’t be anywhere near the highest paying project I have ever done. My client, while they don’t mind me talking about the project in general terms, don’t want me announcing who they are. So no publicity for me. I’ll likely get no press at all on this one. But in terms of doing something I deeply believe in, of using the whole of the experience I have, and in terms of challenge? This is the best.

I got the call late last week.

It was from a colleague I have worked for, and against, for over 20 years. He’s been both a competitor and a partner on dozens of projects and often, even when we were competitors, we’d have dinner together and talk.

Generally, that talk had less to do about the projects, than about business philosophy. Big, general, esoteric conversations. The kinds of conversations that are often fueled by bottles of wine, though neither of us drink very much. He’s a hard-core results guy, with a philosophical bent. And he has a new position in a company he worked for years ago that has called him in to revitalize themselves.

“Tom,” he said. “We’ve lost our soul and I want you to help us find it.”

How’s that for a project?

But I immediately knew what he meant. This happens to a lot of companies, particularly successful ones. Most companies begin with a binding philosophy, a great idea, a way of working that binds people together. They have a mission and a way of doing things that excited and motivates the people who work there. Yes, everyone wants to make money, but what really excites them is the idea, the team, the challenge, the thing that sets them apart.

But as a company grows, more often than not, they lose that thing that binds them together. There may be mission statements, bit they are more statement than mission. Diversity, a natural byproduct of growth, often dilutes the whole idea of what binds us together and gives us more than a job, but purpose.

As a company, you can grow big, at times very big, without that soul. But there is a cost:

  • There is more turnover, so projects and progress slow down. More is spent just getting people up to speed.
  • A less motivated staff means less efficiency and productivity.
  • Less new ideas are generated.
  • The left hand doesn’t know (and often care) what the right hand is doing.
  • There is an increasing disconnect between different elements of the company, particularly between leaders and the rest of the company.
  • The whole “It’s not my job” effect takes hold.
  • Leadership wonders what is going wrong, and continually comes to the wrong conclusions.

What is soul? When I am talking to a company, it’s not the same as when I am talking to a coaching client, or a congregation. We’re not talking religion here. We are talking about a spirit that has purpose, and binds a company together. Something that creates vision and a reason for working so hard, and a reason to work together.

Companies can do just fine without a soul. But companies with a soul will generally out perform those that don’t have one. The people who work there have loyalty. They are excited to be part. You can sense it when are there. You feel it when you talk to people there. There is more than good work being done. There is drive.

And that’s what this company wants back. They don’t want to be just anther company in the field. They want to be THE company in the field, and they realize this comes only partially from strategy sessions and focus groups. It comes from something deeper than Big Data or the latest marketing trends and techniques.

It comes from recapturing their soul. The thing that makes them… them.

You want to be great? Know your soul. Want to a stand out? Know your soul. Want pople to follow you? Articulate and live your soul. Stand out, because companies and organizations with soul, do.

I won’t lie. This is not going to be easy. It will not be quick. But I think it will make a difference. And I think their leadership showed a rare wisdom in taking this tack. In future columns, I will talk more about the process, because it is a process that we can use as companies as well as individuals.

It’s going to be complex. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be challenging. It is going to matter.

I love my work.

Be well. Travel Wisely,