Friday, December 31, 2010


             So, this is it, the end of 2010, and the beginning of 2011, but before we leap from one year into the next, let’s take a look back and see what our 2010 looks like. This is in preparation for 2011.
             Take some time to look over your year and list some of the good things you made happen.                 
             Oftentimes, we don’t do this and feel that we haven’t done much, or anything, but if you take the time to look, you will see that you did quite a bit.
             Did you go to the gym more often than in the past? Did you improve your golf game or your ability to bike long distances? Did you deepen your relationship with someone? Did you weather the financial storm of 2010 with a better attitude than you might have in the past? Did you take on a new job? Learn a new skill? Improve your diet? Your attitude? Your relationships? Your living situation? Did you stretch in any way? Reach out to someone or something new? Help anyone, including yourself and your family? Go on an adventure with the family? Take care of business, somehow? 
              How did you deliver in 2010?
              It’s important to not restrict yourself to only one area such as finances. Do not reduce yourself to homo economicus who tallies his or her life solely in terms of dollars and cents. Remember love, friendship, and mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. It may be helpful to review your year looking at the broad categories of career, finances, family, personal growth, leisure, adventure, legacy and charitable work.
              It can be a little scary to write down what you’ve done, because your critic wants to get in there and tell you how little you’ve actually done. But that’s the very reason to do it: to stop the critic in its tracks.            
              Oftentimes, we think the way to get ourselves to get anything done is to criticize ourselves, to whip ourselves like unwilling horses; we forget that a spoon of sugar and a carrot are often a better way to get any horse to do the right thing.
               So, give yourself the scary gift of listing some of what you’ve done this past year. Acknowledge yourself. (Which can also be scary.) Share it with a friend or family member. (Which can be even scarier.)
   I would be honored if you would share what you've done with me via email. As encouragement, I will list a dozen or so things that I helped make happen in 2010 that I am happy about and grateful for.
Started a blog and posted over 50 articles.
Secured a weekly online column at the Independent, and a different column at the Noozhawk.
I asked Lisa to marry me.
Sold off unprofitable real estate and solidified our financial position.
Started a second men’s group.
Worked with clients privately and in small workshops to help them live the lives they want.
Wrote a rough draft of a self-help book.
Meditated every day.
Went on a number of adventures with the family, including taking my 90-year-old mom to New York, and my son backpacking in the Sierras.
Finished another year of Somatic Experiencing training.
Attended workshops at UCLA and elsewhere.
Co-led two men’s retreats.
Was a good dad to my four children, a good friend, and a good partner.

 Now, it’s your turn. Make a list of a dozen things or so that you made happen in 2010 that you are happy about. Take in what you’ve done. Let yourself feel empowered by how you’ve lived this past year.       
Stay positive. Do not go into “yeah, but” mode where your critic wants to shower you with the dung of how you ‘should’ve, could’ve, and would’ve’ done better. The power of this exercise is to silence the critic and take in and be grateful for all that you’ve been able to do this past year.
That's part one.
Now, for the second part.
Let yourself feel the energy and satisfaction of what you’ve done this past year. Let it empower you. Now envision what the next year might hold in store for you. What would you like to make happen?
Oscar Wilde wrote, “New Year’s resolutions go in one year and out the other.”
We all know that so many of our resolutions go by the wayside, but it is also true that we are much more likely to do something if we commit to doing so. I, for example, meditated haphazardly for over thirty years, some days doing it, some days not. Sometimes a month would pass and I wouldn’t meditate. A little more than two years ago, before a group of men, I committed to meditating every day. I’ve done so ever since.
Making a commitment, especially to a group, can be very empowering. I made a commitment last year to two local papers to write at least two articles per week, and I’ve done so every week since then.
            What commitments do you want to make for the coming year? Do you want to exercise more? Do you want to reach out to others and deepen your relationships? Do you want to write, sing, dance, or play? Do you want to pray more? Apply for a new job? Learn a new skill? Practice gratitude and acceptance for things just as they are, including yourself?
Whatever it is, go for it.
            Here are some of mine:
I commit to finishing my book this year and sending it out to publishers and agents. 
I commit to finishing the classes for my fifth graduate degree.
I commit to hiking Evolution Basin next summer with Lisa.
I commit to deepening my relationship with my children by being there for them on a daily and weekly basis throughout the year, for example, by talking with them, texting them, visiting them, taking them to the library, playing games with them, and sharing meals with them.
I could go on, but that’s what I have the courage for right now.
What about you?
Go public with your commitments. I would appreciate it if you would send them to me. Think about your commitments carefully. You are committing to them. They are not just dreams, wishes, or nebulous goals. Be specific. Be realistic. Set time limits. Be thoughtful about your choices. You are saying you are going to do them. 
            If you are interested I am offering a workshop on Saturday, January 22nd, 2011 for setting goals and making commitments for the year. We’ll explore what is at the root of your choices and expose any resistance you might be having. Research has shown that it takes about 10 weeks or so for people to get established in new habits or to change old ones, so I’m offering follow-up classes that will meet each week for ten weeks on Tuesday evenings from 5-6:30.
            So, list some of what you’ve done this past year, then stick your neck out and make some commitments for the coming year. Enjoy. And give thanks. And Happy New Year to You and Yours!
            I can be reached at or 805/680-5572

Monday, December 27, 2010


You may have read or heard some of these before, but like good green vegetables, you probably can’t get too many of them in your mental diet. I find them refreshing and encouraging, inspiring and amusing. They help me breathe a sigh of relief, and they lighten my load. They free me up when I start wanting to feel sorry for myself. They help put life in perspective. They help prevent whining.    

Henry Ford had five businesses that failed before he started a successful car business.

RH Macy had seven failed businesses before he opened Macy’s department store.

Soichiro Honda applied for a job as an engineer with Toyota, was rejected, and was unemployed for months before starting Honda Motor Company.

Akio Morita, founder of Sony, designed a rice cooker as his first product. It burned rice and was a total flop.

Colonel Sanders had his chicken recipe rejected hundreds of times before he opened Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lack of imagination.

Lucille Ball was considered very unpromising by her drama teachers and was advised to look for another line of work. Early in her career she was considered a B actress, at best.

Most of Emily Dickenson’s poems remained in her desk drawer during her lifetime. 

Helen Keller, well, you know about her.

John Lennon was dyslexic (dyslexia: has a hard time with words. Ha!).

Einstein was considered slow as a child.
He didn’t speak till he was four.
He couldn’t get a job at any university at the time he wrote four of the most important physics papers ever written by anyone, anywhere, at any time. 

Darwin’s father was very unimpressed with his young son’s intellectual abilities. (Way to go, dad!)

Isaac Newton failed at running the family farm before his uncle sent him to Cambridge.

In his day, Socrates was labeled an immoral corruptor of youth.

Edison failed at least a 1000, if not 10,000 times, designing a damned light bulb that would work.

The Wright Brothers suffered numerous failed attempts at making a plane that would fly, which only made their depression worse.

Mark Victor Hansen went bankrupt and wanted to kill himself before starting The Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books with Jack Canfield that sold over 100 million copies.

Lincoln suffered from depression and failed throughout his life, until he didn’t. 

Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade. He went walking the black dog, his code words for depression, quite often.  

Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as a television reporter, since she was unfit for t.v.

Harry Truman went bankrupt before becoming president.

Jerry Seinfeld froze during his first performance and was booed off stage.

Fred Astaire: “Can’t act, can’t sing, can dance a little,” comments from his first audition.

Hollywood studios initially rejected Charlie Chaplin as too nonsensical.

After his first film, executives told Harrison Ford he didn’t have what it takes to be a star.

Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime, to a friend, for not much money.

Beethoven’s teachers thought he was hopeless.

A crowd ran the composer Igor Stravinsky out of town after his debut performance.

Mozart was dismissed from his position as a court musician.

Jack London’s first story was rejected over 500 times.

During his lifetime, Claude Monet was mocked as an artist.

Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, was rejected 30 times, so he threw it in the trash.

Steven Spielberg was rejected by USC film school.

Charles Schultz was turned down for a job by Walt Disney. Schultz later created Peanuts.

27 Publishers turned down Dr. Seuss’s first book.

“The colossus of independence”, John Adams, second president of the United States, “who was learned beyond all but a few,” suffered from self-doubt.

 Elvis Presley was told to go back to truck driving.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

And so on.

The lesson I walk away with from these examples is that most of us are not failing enough. We’re playing it safe. We’re picking up our toys and sulking off to our rooms before we’ve even given the game our best shot, and then our next, and our next, and our next until we break through to the place where we are gifting the world with what we have to offer.
            Another word for a failure is a mistake. A mistake is a mis-take, a shot that didn’t take, a shot that didn’t quite make it into the basket. So take a shot, and then another, and then another. Learn something each time, like Edison did, like Lucille Ball did. Miss as many shots as it takes until you start sinking them, because that’s what it takes, even if you’re Michael Jordan, Lucille Ball, or Abraham Lincoln.
            So go out there and fall on your face. Get it over with. Do it again and again.
            If you really want to live, you’ve got to fail. If you really want to learn how to shot, you’ve got to go out there and miss a few shots—or a few thousand shots.   
            There’s no other way.
            But there is a way.
            So get on the court and keep playing.
            And enjoy the game.
For coaching or SE sessions please contact me at 805/680-5572 or

Friday, December 24, 2010


It’s that time of the year. December 21st, the shortest day of the year has come and gone. The New Year is approaching, and the season of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas is upon us. Firstly, I want to say thanks to everyone and everything for help and support, for gifts seen and unseen.
There are a bunch of people out there I need to thank, because, garbage doesn’t pile up in front of my house but gets carted away and somehow dealt with intelligently. I want to thank the men and women who make that miracle happen.
Last I checked, my house has clean running water. I want to thank whoever is responsible for that. My family and I greatly appreciate it.
Oh yeah, and the people at Trader Joe’s and Ralph’s, I’d like to thank them for having all this amazing stuff on hand, fresh, clean, friendly, so that my family, friends, and I could have wonderful things to eat during the holidays.
It was a pain at times to do all that Christmas shopping, and there wasn’t as much money as years passed, but, my gosh, what a complaint to be blessed with! I get to complain about having too much shopping to do for my family, friends, and loved ones. Please forgive me for complaining. I want to thank all those responsible for me having such a thing to complain about.
For a few days it rained like a son-of-a-gun, but someone—obviously a whole group of someones—had planned for this and so the torrents of water were not much problem. And with all the wind and rain and fallen tree branches, I barely noticed a flicker from the lights in my house. I want to thank the men and women who make that kind of thing happen so seamlessly.
And the gas, thanks for the gas that magically gets piped into my house so my vintage 1940’s stove can be fired up and we can cook all that great food I mentioned earlier.
Heat, can’t forget heat, the gas that flows to my house kept my house toasty warm during those wet, windy days. Thanks for the heat.
And in the midst of it I caught a cold. Poor me. But I had herbal tea, vitamin C, aspirin, soup, and a comfortable bed. I want to say thank you to all the people I will never meet who made it possible for me to have a pretty bad cold with such ease and comfort and without serious risk of getting pneumonia or dying. I always knew if things got really out of hand I could run down to the med center and get antibiotics if I needed them. I want to thank the local docs and nurses who I knew were out there if I needed them.
I want to thank all those people at all those disease control centers around the world who track outbreaks wherever they are and try to deal with them rapidly and intelligently so that we don’t once again have tens of millions of people dying from the flu like we did early last century in this country and around the world.
I want to thank the wine makers out in the valley, the farmers who grow and sell such wonderful food in the local farmers market, the masters of the baked good, the people who design all the window displays and put up the lights and decorate the shops and public places in my town and all the towns and cities around the world.
I want to thank those make things beautiful. I want to thank those who teach, those who raise children well, those who inform, those who care, those who work for justice, those who protect, those who study, those who learn new things, those who preserve old things worth preserving, those who amuse us, those who surprise us, those who transform us, those who remind us of the sacred, those who inspire us.
I want to thank the plumbers and the electricians and the handymen and handywomen, the makers and the builders, the maintainers, the cleaners, the sweepers, the sanitation guys and women. I want to thank the doctors and the lawyers, yes, the lawyers, the ones who keep the system straight even with all its kinks.
I want to thank those who pray. I want to thank those who sing. I want to thank those who dance, those who write, those who paint, those who film, those who photograph.
I want to thank them all.
I want to thank you, for everything, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing, for caring, for teaching, for appreciating, for being there, for the laughs, for the insights, for the friendship, for the help, for the mutual life we co-create here on this wonderful crazy planet.
May you find many things and many people to be thankful for. May you be thankful for yourself, for who you are, and for what you’ve been able to give. May you be your own greatest fan, appreciative of your gifts and your insights and your contributions, grateful for the love, kindness and service you have been able to show others.
            So, go out there, do your best. I know the Holiday Season can be hard in ways, but shine your light. Give as much thanks as you can and make it as wonderful and joyous a holiday as you can. Give us the gift of you. And again, thanks for everything.
            All the best, John 
            I can be reached at and 805/680-5572.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


             It didn’t come out so clearly in the movie, The Social Network, but it does come through strong and clear in the book, The Facebook Effect: Mark Zuckerberg is a man on a mission. His mission is not to make a zillion dollars. He’s already done that and has repeatedly refused to cash in his chips and walk away with enough money to make him the richest kid on the block.
             In 2004, Zuckerberg was twenty, Facebook was 4 months old, and a financier offered to buy the company for $10 million. 
            In 2006, Zuckerberg pretty much walked away from a deal for Facebook worth close to $800 million. His sister remembers Mark Zuckerberg saying at that time, “This is a lot of money. This could be really life-changing for a lot of people who work for me. But we have so much more opportunity to change the world than this. I don’t think I’d be doing right by anyone to take this money.”
Facebook is long passed being valued in the millions. Based on prices for privately traded shares of its stock, Facebook could presently be worth more than $50 billion dollars. Zuckerberg, who is now twenty-six, owns about 24% of the company. His share could be worth more than $10 billion, but, to some degree, it seems Mark Zuckerberg could care less about the value of the company, though controlling the company is non-negotiable for him.
One of Facebook’s longest serving executives, Kevin Colleran, stated that the reason for Facebook’s success was, “Mark is not motivated by money.”
A vice president, Chris Cox said, “Mark would rather see our business fail in an attempt to do what is right and to do something great and meaningful, than be a big, lame company.”
Zuckerberg has stated repeatedly over the years, “It’s not about the money.”
And his actions support his claim. In 2006, when Viacom, parent of MTV, wanted to buy Facebook, the highest number bandied about was $2 billion.
“Why don’t you just sell to us?” a Viacom executive asked him. “You’d be very wealthy.”
“You just saw my apartment,” Zuckerberg replied. “I don’t really need any money.”
Zuckerberg’s apartment was a modest one-bedroom with a mattress on the floor and books scattered in piles throughout his room.
It really wasn’t about the money. It was about the vision. 
Though the movie, The Social Network, and the book it was based on, cast a shadow on Mark Zuckerberg, it is absolutely clear that nobody but Zuckerberg made Facebook what it is today.
Like Apple has been inseparable from Steve Jobs, Facebook is inseparable from Mark Zuckerberg.    
Of course he’s made mistakes along the way, but to think of Zuckerberg as anything less than one of the most driven, focused, forward-thinking visionaries of his generation is to underestimate one of the brightest young men alive. At twenty-six, he is at the helm of a company, a utility, as he likes to call it, that serves 500,000,000 people around the globe, and counting.
Zuckerberg is a man on a mission called Facebook.  All along the way, when others wanted to sell out or make more money with Facebook advertising, author David Kirkpatrick notes, Zuckerberg, “steadfastly refused to compromise his vision.” 
For Zuckerberg, it was always about building the service Facebook could provide. His vision is that Facebook will help people to communicate and will empower the individual. His vision is about connecting the entire world. Zuckerberg understood that the value of a network grows as more people are served by that network. The logical conclusion is that the most valuable network is one that can serve all the world’s people. That’s where Zuckerberg is going. His vision is the whole world. And before you laugh, remember, that in six years, at the ripe old age of 26, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook have close to 10% of the world’s people using their service.
Zuckerberg has stated repeatedly, “We’re going to change the world.”
And, he says, “I think we can make the world a more open place.”
His goal is to make people comfortable with ‘radical transparency’, a dramatic shift away from what we were formerly comfortable with concerning issues of personal privacy. The idea is that technology is so ubiquitous and personal information so readily available that there is in effect no place to hide. The absence of hiding places is a good thing to Zuckerberg. He feels it leads to an increase in integrity. He may still be young and idealistic, but his vision is that people will become more honest and more transparent as they realize that they are no longer able to lead double or triple lives with secrets in unopened closets.
Again, he may be young and idealistic, but Zuckerberg and his gang are changing the world.
“The question I ask myself like almost every day is “Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing? …Unless I feel like I’m working on the most important problem that I can help with, then I’m not going to feel good about how I’m spending my time. And that’s what this company is.”
            That's the question Zuckerberg asks himself, "Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?"
           Not a bad question to ask yourself now and again. Namaste.
             I can be reached at or 805/680-5572.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I just watched a TED video (see link below) of the physicist Stephen Hawking. Carl Sagan said, “In the spring of 1974…Stephen Hawking was a legend even then.” 

          Many of you know that Stephen Hawking is one of the world’s foremost living physicists, author of A Brief History of Time, and A Briefer History of Time. He was until recently the Lucasian Professor of Physics at Cambridge University, England, a position once held by Sir Isaac Newton.
Steven Hawking also has Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Amotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, which has left him confined to a wheelchair for many years. The pronounced muscular degeneration caused by the disease has left him barely able to move and unable to speak. He must now use a computer setup that tracks his eye movements and allows him to pick out words from a screen by blinking to compose his thoughts. When he is finished, a computerized voice speaks for him.
For the TED video, Dr Hawking had prepared a speech that was spoken through his computer. The computer does not amplify his voice. Steven Hawking can no longer speak at all. He can barely move.
When the talk was over, Chris Anderson, the host of TED, asked Dr. Hawking the following question.
“Dr. Hawking, based on your current understanding, do you think we are alone in the Milky Way Galaxy as a civilization of our intelligence or higher?”
      light years,
      otherwise we would have heard radio waves. The alternative is that civilizations don’t last very long or destroy themselves.”

It took Steven Hawking, one of the most brilliant scientific minds on the planet, SEVEN MINUTES to give a thirty-five-word answer to a question he already knew the answer to.
That’s an average of five words per minute.
That’s one word every 12 seconds.
Take one minute, just one, to see what that feels like.
Look at your watch.
Take a full minute, 12 seconds per word, and say,
That's what Steven Hawking, staggering intellect, world-reknowned theoretical physicist, and possibly the longest living survivor of amotrophic lateral sclerosis has to do
            By the way, a light year is about six trillion miles.
            That's 6,000,000,000,000 miles.
            A few hundred light years is a very long way to have to go to find someone in the galaxy who is as smart and as gifted as you are.       
            It might be good to remember that now and then.
            And rave on.
            Stephen does.   
           You can hear Stephen Hawking by going to:

I can be reached at or 805/680-5572. Namaste.

Monday, December 13, 2010


You go to a workshop, or you schedule an appointment for a therapist, or you do something about working with issues from your past, issues stemming from your childhood relationship with your mom and dad. If you do any of these things, most likely you are a woman. Men often have a harder time with this sort of thing than women do. If you’re what some consider a real guy, then you’re certain this psychological stuff is for sissies, is a total waste of time, or worse. If you are not inclined towards self-help, meditation, therapy and that sort of thing, then you may characterize those who are so inclined as navel-gazers wasting their time and energy.
“The past is past,” you may say.
Your thoughts on the situation may be captured by the bumper sticker that says, “We all come from dysfunctional families. Get over it.”
We all know people who make us want to pull our hair out because they never get over the past, never stop telling the same story, never stop playing the victim, and never stop blaming the same people for their problems no matter how much therapy they get and how many workshops they attend.
“Get over it,” is pretty good advice, if you can genuinely get over it; ‘it’ being the negative stuff from your childhood.
But we need to be careful before we discount those who are trying to work through their childhood relationship issues with their parents, just as we must be very careful before we assume that we have successfully dealt with the issues from our own childhood.
There is a great deal at stake here.

For years, researchers Mary Main and Eric Hesse at UC Berkeley have been studying how children behave in what is known in the research literature as the Strange Situation, a research setting where a child from 3-18 months of age is observed as their mother or primary caretaker leaves and then returns under varying conditions involving a stranger in the room.
From the observations, the researchers determine an attachment style for the child. The important finding is that the results from this observation of the child in the Strange Situation strongly predict how prone the child will later be to psychological difficulties.
To repeat, the findings from observing the child in the Strange Situation will strongly correlate with the presence or absence of psychological difficulties later in life.
            If you are a parent, or soon to be a parent, or a teacher, or anyone interested in the well-being of children, then this research is very important for you and the children in your life. 
You may be asking a very important question, “What determines how a baby will respond to the Strange Situation, and is there anything we as parents and teachers and concerned adults can do about it?”
            The work of Mary Main and Erik Hesse is again important for answering this question. For over twenty years these researchers have been developing and refining the use of the Adult Attachment Interview, a series of questions that must be administered and coded, or scored, by a highly trained professional.
The AAI, the Adult Attachment Interview, is administered to an adult, not to a child, and then scored. The adult’s results on the AAI will have a very significant bearing on how the baby of that adult will perform in the Strange Situation, and the baby’s behavior during the Strange Situation has a very strong bearing on how the baby will fare later in life when faced with psychological challenges.
An adult’s results on the AAI have very important consequences for the mental wellbeing of his or her children.
            “What,” you may be asking, “is the Adult Attachment Interview? What does the AAI ask? What is it trying to discover?”
The AAI is designed to ‘trick your unconscious’ and determine whether you have successfully resolved the challenges from your childhood relationship with your parents or primary caregivers.
Before you run off screaming “Ah, the unconscious! Psychobabble! Give me a break! I thought Freud and the unconscious were dead and buried,” consider that the AAI has been researched for over twenty years with hundreds of studies confirming its value as a predictor of how a child will behave under the conditions of the Strange Situation, and the Strange Situation predicts how a child will likely respond to psychological challenges later in life.
The AAI has been administered and scored for over 10,000 people. There are hundreds and hundreds of studies looking at the AAI and the Strange Situation. The results are in, and the evidence is very strong.
An adult who is administered the AAI and categorized as not having successfully worked through their childhood relationship with their parents will have a child who is more likely to need help with psychological issues later in life.
How many adults, on average, does the research find have not successfully resolved their childhood relationship to their parents?
About 20% --that’s one out of five of us.
            I must make something clear. The AAI is a research instrument that must be administered by trained and experienced testers. It will not be easy for you to run out and get the AAI administered to you or your partner as it would be administered and coded in a research setting.
Going through the Adult Attachment Interview is not my point. My point is that one of the best things you can do for your child’s mental health is to make sure you have worked through your childhood issues.
The challenge is that even if you want to, you may not be the best judge of whether or not you have worked through your own issues. In research settings, parents are often observed to be unconscious of the behaviors that are negatively impacting their children.
If you are serious about seeing if you have material that you need to work on, you can look at how your child is behaving.
You can look at how you fare in relationships even before a child comes into your life.
You can go to workshops or to therapy, just like those people you may have once made fun of.
If you’re a guy, you can join a men’s group. (I am very familiar with this, so contact me if you need to know more.)
A good therapist should be able to help you find the areas where you have not dealt with unresolved issues from your childhood.
            I know for some of you all this may sound like as much fun as having a tooth pulled, but consider the research findings.
If you want to have mentally healthy children, you need to make sure you have made peace with your own childhood.
If you have children and you want them to change, you may need to change first.
Research shows that with help and effort people change, and those changes benefit our children. Though you may have thought that working on stuff from your past was selfish, silly, useless, indulgent, not for real guys or strong women, and very uncool, it may be the best and most important gift you can give your children and yourself.   
             Happy Holidays. And all the best.
             I can be reached at or 805/680-5572

Friday, December 10, 2010


If you were alive and old enough in December of 1980, you probably remember where you were when you heard the news.
“John Lennon was shot and killed tonight outside his home on the Upper West Side of New York City.” 
At least it was a madman who did it, killed John Lennon, of all people.
When I was eleven, a few years after my father’s death, I’m a Loser, the Beatles hit written by John Lennon, became one of my most cherished songs.
Alone in our apartment, I would sing along at the top of my lungs as tears trickled down my cheek, “I’m a loser. And I lost someone who’s near to me…”
John Lennon was born October 9th, 1940 while a World War II bombing raid was in progress.
His mother couldn’t handle raising him. He was raised by his aunt Mimi.
He was expelled from school for misbehaving when he was five years old.
I’m a Loser, Nowhere Man, and Help are biographical songs based on John Lennon’s personal  experience.
He saw his father for the first time in 17 years in 1964.
“All art is pain expressing itself,” he once said.
He kept a light on while he slept because he didn’t like the dark.
Without glasses he was legally blind.
            Supposedly he was dyslexic.
“Part of me suspects that I am a loser, and the other part thinks I am God Almighty.”
He may have been a petty thief, enjoying a bit of shoplifting now and again, when he was a teenager.
             He ate very little after a reporter labeled him the ‘fat Beatle’.
He didn’t like his voice and often asked his producers to change how he sounded on recordings.
“My defenses were so great. The cocky rock and roll hero who knows all the answers was actually a terrified guy who didn't know how to cry. Simple.”
In 1970 John and Yoko checked into a hospital for wealthy addicts.
“Temperatures rising, fever is high, can’t see no future…can’t see no sky,” is a lyric from his song Cold Turkey.
             John Lennon signed his autograph for Mark Chapman six hours before Chapman shot and killed him on December 8th, 1980 at around 10:50 p.m.

“If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliché that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that's his problem. Love and peace are eternal.”
John Lennon wrote Imagine, which is now the official song of the human rights organization Amnesty International.
Along with Paul McCartney, John Lennon is considered one of the most influential songwriters of the 20th century.
             “I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It's just that the translations have gone wrong.”
           The Beatles have sold an estimated 1,000,000,000 plus records worldwide. Sales continue to go strong. 
           “And we all shine on, like the moon, the stars, and the sun…”
           Remember John. Do what you have to do, though it’s not always easy. And shine on.
           I can be reached for coaching at or 805/680-5572. 

Monday, December 6, 2010


So it’s Christmas time, Hanukah time, the Holiday Season, a time of giving and receiving brightly wrapped gifts with ribbons and bows, all sorts of gifts from large to small, mundane gifts like screwdrivers and exotic gifts like $100 an ounce truffles, but what about giving the gift of yourself?
As we get older, for many of us, that seems harder and harder to do. Over time we seem to hold back more and more. We seem to close up and harden. Oftentimes, this process of closing up and fitting in begins when we’re in school, and continues throughout our work life where we think we need to keep ourselves in line, fit in and do our work so our employers, colleagues, customers and clients will be happy with us, and we’ll get paid. As the years go by we play it safer and safer all the time.
Not all of us, but most of us, hold back one or another of our gifts. We withhold our love, or our passion, or our enthusiasm, or our ideas, or our smile, or our laughter, or our creativity and artistry, our commitment, or our dreams.
How many of us consider ourselves artists by the time we’re fifty, and who wasn’t an artist in kindergarten? How much of ourselves we give up as the years go by if we’re not careful. How many of our gifts lie dormant within us waiting to be shared?
My idea, this Holiday Season, is to begin to share your gifts more and more throughout the year.          
“What,” you may be asking, “is he talking about? What gifts?”
And that’s where you begin. You need to ask yourself some questions and consider their answers seriously.
What are my gifts? How do I share them? How do I hold them back?
Why? Am I afraid? Too tired? Too unemployed? Too serious?
What price have I paid for not sharing my gifts?
How can I share my gifts more fully?
Will I?
Before you can give your gifts to anyone else, you have to give them to yourself. You have to own the fact that you have gifts worth giving and that you want to give them.
And this can be hard.
“I have no gifts,” you might be saying, “and even if I did, why would I share them with you or anyone else? Bah, humbug.”
If you feel this way, and we all do to some extent, there’s probably a reason. Things didn’t go as you had planned. Something was taken from you. Someone laughed or tossed aside some part of you that you offered as a gift, so you closed up shop.
“That hurt. I’m not doing that again. Thank you, very much.”
With each of life’s cuts we scar a bit and close up more. In the process we lose sight of our gifts, of who we are and what we have to offer. We withhold our gifts and we suffer. We start to become more like Scrooge, and less like ourselves.
Dylan wrote, “He who is not busy being born is busy dying.”
One way we die is by withholding our gifts. Giving of ourselves keeps us young and alive. As we birth our next gift, we give birth to ourselves.
You may be saying this guy is smoking dope or something stronger, but check it out. Who’s alive and who’s dead? The givers or the horders? The generous souls or the misers?
Look at where you are dying. There’s probably a gift you are withholding, or feel unable to give.
That’s it, you might say. It’s not that I don’t want to give it, but I don’t have anyone to receive it. Or I don’t know how to give it. Or if I put it out there, I might not be recognized for it. Worse still, they might laugh and reject it. It might not be good enough. 
No one said it was going to be easy, but what’s your alternative? Are you going to figure out a way to share your gifts, or are you going to withhold them? Are you going to be busy being born, or busy dying?
Often, it’s our dreams we withhold the most, because that’s where we can really hurt. Better forget about dreams, but our buried dreams can be seen in the lines on our faces, and in our tired bodies. No one sees them better than our children and others who love us, and often they carry much of the weight. And this weight can seem heavier during this Holiday Season than at any other time. 
In the real world many dreams do not come true, at least not how you first dreamt them, but that doesn’t mean you need to have no dreams, no hope, and nothing new. You mature and learn to work with what you have. Your dreams of singing on Broadway turn into the reality of singing at a local senior citizen’s home. Your dreams of writing the great American novel become the blog you write. Your dreams of becoming the next Jacques Cousteau become your weekend walks on the beach exploring the tidepools with your kids, and volunteering at the Sea Center.
You don’t shrivel up, you rave on, where and how you can. You don’t just look for the work that is your passion; you bring your passion to your work wherever you work. You show up like an artist at the restaurant where you cook, and people can feel it and come back. You run plumbing lines that would make Michelangelo proud.
At work and at play, (There might not be a significant difference for the most successful amongst us.) the happiest and most successful people are those who show up and share their gifts most fully. This is true whether you’re a lawyer, plumber, builder, teacher, real estate agent, restauranteur, winemaker, artist, or stockbroker.

It’s harsh, but death is coming. Do you want it to come sooner or later?
You have to choose. You have to do the hard work of putting yourself fully into your life as best you can.
Remember, it’s gifts you are giving. It’s not about you. It’s about something or someone outside youself.
We all have gifts to give. We can smile. We can care. We can listen. We can encourage. We can love. We can create. We can help. We can praise. We can share. We can support. We can acknowledge. We can ask. We can teach. We can learn. We can give. We can receive. We can sing. We can lead. We can follow. We can be open. We can hold. We can envision. We can celebrate. We can create. We can dance. We can design. We can cook. We can offer excellent service. We can mean it. We can do our best. We can forgive. We can remember.
We really can do all these things and infinitely more.
So, it’s Christmas, it’s Hanukah, it’s the Festival of Lights, it’s the Holiday Season. Give what really matters. Come home to yourself. Celebrate the gifts you find there, and then share with the rest of us.
             Happy Holidays.
             I can be reached at and 805/680-5572

Friday, December 3, 2010


             It’s been a hard few days, I must confess. Not sure why. I think it’s the economy. People are struggling. I feel under-utilized. My circuits jammed on me. I had a meltdown. Found myself very frustrated. Negative. Physically upset with a headache that wouldn’t respond to meditation or medication.
Who wants to hear about a helping professional and life coach having a trying few days? 
“I have enough of those, myself,” I can hear you saying, “I don’t need to hear about yours.”
I was worried. How could I write something that might help someone else when I can’t keep myself from feeling this way?
I felt like a bit of a sham.
I sometimes envy people who seem to glide through life, like the old James Bond, seemingly without a sensitive, self-reflective moment of doubt, worry, weakness, or a bit of despondency.
Do those people really exist? They might, and bully for them. Oh, I have my days, and even my weeks and months, when things are just going swimmingly and everything is great with the world, days when I could probably kick 007’s butt.
Then there are, what I call, the ‘drowning’ days, days when I have to work hard to keep from sinking. And though they’ve gotten fewer and further apart and less severe, I still have my drowning days. That’s how it is.
I know there are billions who have to struggle. Maybe everyone struggles, sometimes, and James Bond is a big fat liar. He leaves out the parts where he’s lonely, and worries about that arthritic shoulder and, well, sometimes, even with a beautiful woman, he just doesn’t seem, well, as solid down there as he once was.
Know what I mean?
Sure you do.
Anti-depressants, anxiety medication, joints, pints, and kegs are sold by the boatload each hour to help us get through the tough work of being a human being.
Maybe that’s what it’s all about: how you make it through the tough times, how you behave, how you show up, how you keep going.
Do you get your work done, the real work of living? Can you keep loving those around you, lending a helping hand and a listening heart? Can you forgive yourself when you fall so that you can get up stronger and more quickly?
The Prophet Mohammed said, “There will always be times tougher than these.”
The Buddha said suffering is part of the world.
So, it’s all about how you handle the tough times. How you learn from them. How you take responsibility and action. How you move on.
The tough times will always be with us.

But why do I compare myself to others, even James Bond, or to myself on better days?
It was the teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti who first showed me the damage we cause by comparing. I can hear his high distinctive voice with his British-Indian accent and I can see his raised finger as he admonished his listeners, “Never to compare.”
What would a mind be like if it were never to compare, but to simply be with itself just as it is from moment to moment?
There is a Buddhist practice of labeling our thoughts and feelings as they are happening. You experience a thought and you label it, “thinking,” for instance. You feel an emotion, and you label it, “fear”, and so on.
But that already has a separation between the part of you that is experiencing the emotion or thought, and the part that is labeling it.
It seems you have to compare your experience to something else to be able to know it is fear, or anger, or desire, or joy.
You have to compare it before you can label it.
But what if you could never compare?
But what did I do just then? Did I compare my good-old comparing self to some amazing me who might someday never compare?
What a drag, because obviously you can’t use comparison as a way to get to a point in your life where you no longer compare, just like you can’t go north by going south.
            Never to compare, and to go on doing your work and living your life from moment to moment. What would that be like?
But if I don’t compare, you might ask, how will I know how I’m doing?
Why does it matter? Why do you need to know how you are doing? Who will tell you? How will you keep score? What will it mean?
Of course you might use a scale to see how your weight is doing, and things like that, but you would not use anything to tell you how you were doing. That’s the kind of comparison we’re talking about, not whether this box of cereal is a better deal than that box. Never to compare your self with anyone and anything, but to simply be yourself from moment to moment.
What would that be like?
I don’t know, but I do know the pain of comparison. That I know. Comparison has often made me miserable.
There’s an old eastern teaching that says, “You suffer because you spend 99% of your time thinking about your self, but there isn’t one.”
I think comparison gives rise to the self. When you are not comparing, but just being and doing in the moment, it’s like you, your self, are not there. You forget about yourself and simply drop into life. When you’re really happy, you don’t know about it in the moment, because you’re so in the thick of your happiness. It’s only afterwards, when it’s over a little bit, that you can compare and notice how happy you were. You have to come out of your happiness a bit to even know that you’re happy.
 It’s like a great orgasm. In the middle of it, you’re gone. That’s what we love about it. Great sex or lovemaking is one of the best ways to get out of your own head so that you’re not there for a while.
And then, of course, we return and say, “Wow, that was great. Can we do that again?” It's amazing how good it feels to have your doors blown off for awhile so that you're gone, even if only for a moment or two.
 Check it out for yourself. Observe how comparing serves you and hurts you. Let me know what you think.
So, there it is. I wrote it. My commitment is two articles per week and this is article number two. That’s all I can tell you. You put one foot in front of the other, eyes open, mind quiet or mind in turmoil, you do what you can to keep walking the walk. You walk through fear, confusion, doubt, worry, moodiness, and even depression. You walk like you’re on some great mission like Frodo, in Lord of the Rings, because you are. You are walking the path of your one and only life—at least till you get to heaven or you reincarnate.
             I can be reached at or 805/680-5572.

Monday, November 29, 2010


For some, Monday morning is a hard day. For others, it’s Tuesday, or Thursday, or maybe Sunday. Any morning can be especially hard if you’re unemployed or under-employed. It can be especially hard if you’re unemployed and over fifty. I’ve read that many unemployed men over 55 are not expected to ever work again, even though they want to and need to.
What’s up with that?
If you’re expected to live to be 80 or so, and you’re now 55 and unemployed, that’s 25 years of being an unemployed monumental pain to yourself and everyone around you.
Of course, we may find that unemployed men and women just don’t live that long, and that will solve the problem.
Well, my response to that is, “To hell with that.”
            Now, I know that strikes a different tone for a guy like me, at least in writing. Usually, I’m a touchy-feely, let’s talk calmly, understanding-the-other-guy’s-point-of-view, kind of guy. 
            Not today.
Today, my attitude is, “To hell with that.”
            I say this quietly, not stridently. I’m not shouting it out my second floor window like Albert Finney in Network, who screamed, ‘I’m mad as hell, and I won’t take it anymore.”        
A lot of us are getting our butts kicked, one way or another, by the changes in the American and global economy. While one-third of Americans can’t pay their mortgages, corporations have their most profitable quarter ever, and an Andy Warhol painting sells for a record-breaking 71 million dollars.
To those inclined politically, I say continue to fight the good fight to get this country more equitable, and to re-direct some of the cash that relentlessly and dangerously keeps floating to the top of the economic pie where it accumulates in the portfolios and bank accounts of the ever more wealthy top 1% of the population.
But here, I’m not talking only to the political types. I’m talking to the rest of us who have to do our best while the machine whirs away, sometimes grinding us down as we go about our daily business.
            There are many empowering emotions. Just a few days ago we celebrated Thanksgiving, and I, along with a host of others, put out a few words in praise of gratitude.
            But that was yesterday.
Today I feel the need to offer a few words in praise of attitude, the attitude captured by the words, “To hell with that.’
            I can hear some of you now. “Oh, John, please watch your tone, and your language. You’re starting to sound like one of them.
Them, being those people who get upset and make loud noises that make finding solutions even more difficult.
I’m not offering, “To hell with that,” as an addition to the noise.
            “To hell with that”, is a strong way of saying ‘no’ to what we don’t want, and “yes” to something else.
The ‘yes’ part is crucial.
Mother Teresa embodied the, “To hell with that,” attitude towards the idea that the poor always suffered and there wasn’t anything she or anyone else could do about it.
She said, “To hell with that,” rolled up her sleeves and got to work.
How about Martin Luther King Jr.?
What was his attitude towards, “The Negro in America would never have rights and opportunities equal to those of Whites”?
And what did he do about it?
What about Gandhi?
Can you hear a little of the, “To hell with that,” attitude spoken with love, but with the strength and conviction of shifting tectonic plates?
            We all need a bit of that, “To hell with that,” attitude sometimes.
But attitude can get us only so far. After attitude comes the hard of work of making things better.
            I heard a very insightful person say that to live effectively you need to be able to take your life in your hands like a crisp apple, bite it, break off a piece and chew.
What’s the energy that helps us do that?
That’s what I’m calling the, “To hell with that,” energy.
There’s the energy of inertia, the resistance that says, “No, you won’t work again. No, you will not solve that problem. No, you will not write that book, or get that job, or overcome that illness, or make that contribution. No. No. No.”
            Then there’s, “To hell with that.”
“To hell with that,” is Yes. Yes. Yes.
Or it’s just feckless noise.  
To those who say we are down for the count, we have to say, ”To hell with that.”
“To hell with that depression.”
“To hell with that anger.”
“To hell with that stuff about the glory days of the past.”
 “To hell with that stuff about Democrats, Republicans, Tea Partiers, and Socialists.”
I’ve got work to do. Decisions to make. Things to learn. People to meet.
Life itself is nothing but an epochs-long struggle with inertia and resistance, a counter-force to increasing disorder.
Life is one big, TO HELL WITH THAT, to decay, death, and nothingness.
You need gratitude, but sometimes you need a little attitude.
“You can never find peace and liberation from the suffering created by your own mind.”
            Can you hear the Buddha’s response to that?
            Maybe, if Buddha were from Brooklyn rather than from India, instead of chanting “OM,” we’d be chanting, ever so slowly, but clearly, “To hell with that.” 
            I can be reached at Or 805/680-5572.