Thursday, November 18, 2010


If you’re a sports fan, or live above ground, you probably know the story of the NFL quarterback, Michael Vick, who was thrown out of the NFL a few years ago and sent to United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth for breeding, fighting, and ultimately killing dogs. I was not familiar with the details of Vick’s story until after last Monday night’s football game when Vick played what some consider to be the best game played by a quarterback in NFL history
When the Atlanta Falcons first signed him, Vick was the most highly paid player in the NFL. He was described as ‘electrifying.’ His ten-year contract was worth $130 million dollars.
The guy could throw, and the guy could run. I mean he could really throw, and he could really run. When you see footage of his running game, you feel sorry for the defensive team. Vick could outmaneuver half a dozen guys like the Roadrunner could outmaneuver Wiley Coyote, a pile of dynamite, a shotgun, and an avalanche. Vick made his opponents look like they were on drugs. With his wild life-style, and his showing-up-last and leaving-first attitude towards practice, you could imagine some people might have wished the cocky s.o.b. would be brought down.
But, like in a Shakespearean Tragedy, it was Vick who brought himself down.
Dog fighting, of all things. Beating dogs. Electrocuting dogs. Shooting dogs. Eight dogs were found buried on Vick’s farm in Virginia where he ran a dog-fighting operation. Some dogs had been hung. Some had been drowned after surviving being hung. It was bad.
His fans, his family, his team, and the league were shocked and outraged.
People said he was a psychopath, a freak, a sick savage.
“My whole life was a lie,” Vick would say later.
He was thrown out of the NFL. He lost his contract. He went bankrupt. He sat in Leavenworth prison for two years.

            But he came back. After spending two years in prison and losing everything he had, Michael Vick worked his way back into society. He became a spokesman for the Humane Society. He repeatedly accepted responsibility for what he had done, and said he was sorry. He was given a second chance. He was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, and last Monday night Michael Vick quarterbacked a fifty-nine-point game that started with him throwing an 88-yard touchdown pass on the first play.
            “Whom do you blame for all this?” he was asked on Sixty Minutes after he got out of prison.
“I blame myself,” he said.
In prison, he said he felt shame, guilt, and he said he cried.
“You cried?” he was asked. “Yes,” Vick answered. “I cried. For what I did to those animals, for what I did to my family. I let them down…when I think about it…it sickens me to my stomach.”
When asked if it was losing his contract and being thrown out of the NFL that he was most sorry for, Vick responded, “I deserved to lose everything. I lied to everybody. I was a living example of what not to do.” 

In another interview, his former head coach, Jim Mora, asked him, “Did I miss something? Was there something I could have done?”
Vick shook his head and answered, “No. The best thing for me…crazy as it may seem, was getting shipped off to Kansas [to prison]. I wasn’t going to change. My mom tried…Nobody could have done anything to change my situation, except the Man upstairs, who was seeing it and said, “Listen, before this goes any further, I’m going to have to take all of this away from you for awhile. And you’re going to have to get your priorities in order, but you gonna have to sit over there [in prison] to get it done. And that’s what happened.”
On Monday night, November 14, 2010, Michael Vick played one of the best games in NFL history. I, for one, hope Vick is telling the truth, and that he really learned his lesson, and that he is truly sorry for the savagery he showed those dogs, and for his other crimes and mistakes.
Though he had seen his first dog-fight when he was eight years old, Vick said, “I was twenty-five, twenty-six years old at the time, a man, old enough to be responsible for my decisions.”
I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I want to believe that his outer game is a reflection of his inner game, that the Michael Vick we saw on the field Monday night was proof of the man inside. I want to believe in second chances, and third chances.
We could sit here and debate what’s really going on inside Vick’s head. Is he really sorry? Does he get it? Has he changed?
As the saying goes, only God, and maybe Vick’s hairdresser, knows for sure.
I want to believe the guy, because that way I can learn from him.   
             You’re given amazing gifts in this life, no matter who you are. Do not take them for granted.
            Take responsibility. If you make a mistake, own it, but don’t kill yourself over it. Even if it takes you a few tries to get it right.
             Learn from your mistakes. Like Vick, you can make your biggest mistake the biggest learning experience of your life.
            Learn, don’t wank. “I deserved to have it all taken away from me.”
Get real. “My whole life was a lie.”
            Work with what you’ve got. A few years spent in the slammer is not the best way to become the best quarterback in the NFL, except in Vick’s case, it was. 
            When you’re knocked down, especially by your own actions, get up.
            Be honest. Be vulnerable. Go deep.
            Look for the bigger picture. Find the meaning and the lesson in what happened.
           And be grateful.

Vick looks like a new man. His game is better than ever. He’s got a family. He’s working hard. The leeches, who were supposed to be his friends, are gone, so are the wild parties. On Sixty Minutes, Vick said he ‘cried’. This is the same guy who a few years ago was getting his rocks off watching dogs killing each other. Vick chose to see what had happened to him as being much bigger and much more important than the $130 million dollars he lost and the two years he spent in jail. He chose to learn and find meaning from what happened.
Time will tell if this is the real Michael Vick. I hope so, because I want to keep watching the guy. I want to keep learning from him. Damn, if Michael Vick keeps it together he may even turn me into a football fan.
I can be reached for personal coaching, etc. at

Monday, November 15, 2010



Seth Godin, marketing guru, author of Linchpin, wrote a blog entitled “I Think Laziness Has Changed”. Seth sees that, where once physical labor was demanded from us, now our work, if it’s to be vital and alive, demands that we do the emotional labor needed to overcome our fears and resistances so that we can be productive and creative.
“You’re hiding out,” Godin says, “because you’re afraid of expending emotional labor. This is great news, because it’s much easier to become brave about extending yourself than it is to become strong enough to haul an eighty pound canoe”
          Sorry, but I disagree. For many people, it’s much easier to become physically strong than it is to become emotionally strong. That’s why physical labor is easy to find, and therefore cheap, in comparison to emotional labor and the emotional intelligence needed to do vital, creative work in a rapidly changing world.
Look at how challenging many of us find it to change ourselves, to overcome our fears or the story we carry. Yet life may be nothing more than a fantastic opportunity to work through our fears and resistances so we can express more fully who we are.
I want to offer something for overcoming fear that is usually not discussed, and is a big part of my coaching practice. 
We often deal with fear and other difficult emotions only from the neck up, and that’s a problem.
Oftentimes, even very insightful advice boils down to, “Just do it.”
Just make that phone call. 
Just put your butt in the seat and write that book.
Just get that product to market.
It’s amazing advice and very powerful, but what about all the times you just can’t seem to get yourself to do it? What about all the times you want to go east and you just can’t seem to stop yourself from going west?
In spite of your best efforts, you go right ahead and do what you don’t want to do, and you feel like a failure for doing so.
If you really want to go east, then why can’t you resist going west?
It’s because you’re ignoring a big part of you. You’re ignoring your dragon, and the dragon doesn’t like to be ignored.
We often think we’re nothing but our thoughts, nothing but our frontal lobes and neo-cortex where we think and plan all day long. But there’s a dragon living in the lower regions of our brain running much of the show. It’s old, similar to the brain of a lizard, and based in primal emotions like fear and anger, but when you wrestle with lizard brain it feels like you’re wrestling with a damn powerful, fire-breathing dragon, and not a four-inch-long chameleon.
          There are two very powerful tools to overcome the resistance of the dragon. One is to have an inspiring vision that calls you forwards, whether it’s to write that book, fix that relationship, make that move to a new city, or to take that non-profit to the next level, a vision that gives you the energy, the commitment, and the power to do what you need to do.
The second tool is to stop fighting the dragon, or ignoring it. You need to become present and aware of what your body is doing as you begin the work of dealing with difficult feelings or emotions. That change in your breathing is the dragon starting to awaken, so is that constriction in your chest, or that tightening in your throat or your butt.
Maybe your feet are tapping, or your palms are warm, or you have crossed your arms. Whatever it is, it is your limbic brain, the dragon, responding, usually with fear, to the threats of the new project, the new relationship, or the new possibility.
Pay close attention to the body. Don’t get lost in your head, in your words, in your arguments, or in your attempts to cover up your fear or explain it away. Just stay put and get a good look at the dragon.
And keep breathing. Keep gazing around the room. If the physical distress gets too powerful, remember a time and a place where you felt more fully alive. Maybe it was your child’s first birthday, or hiking down the Grand Canyon. You’re not looking away from whatever difficult emotion is coming up, but you’re bringing in resources to support you while you get a better look at the snorting son-of-a-dragon who you could swear is breathing fire down your neck. You are doing the emotional labor necessary to tame your dragon, so you can do the creative, challenging work of living.
Dealing with fear and resistance requires the will of “just do it”, but it also requires imagination, and the ability to stay with the feelings in the body, which is where the emotions come from.
As you practice this, you will observe that your body has multiple intelligences and ways to find balance and healing. Your body and your dragon will begin to settle down. This is an art and a skill, like riding a bike. You get better with practice. What else is new?
So, go do your work. Begin that project, but as you do, do it with all the resources available to you. Do it with your emotional brain, your dragon brain, working with you, rather than against you. Get the dragon to lie down in its lair, not by slaying it, but by befriending it. You do that by paying your emotional brain its due. And what your emotional brain wants is to know what’s going on, and that things are safe. The way you let dragon brain know things are safe is by letting it look around and giving it the time to really see, feel, and experience what is going on in the body, without your thoughts getting in the way, either with negative thinking, or with commands.
Just do it! Is not always a helpful way to speak to a dragon.
Let it feel and experience in and through the body.
Is there tightness? What does that tightness feel like?
Is it hot, cold, electric, tingly, watery, or dizzying?
Where do you feel it? How do you feel it?
Take some time to do this. If you’re like most of us, you will be a bit handicapped. You will find yourself thinking and interpreting. But keep at it. If it gets to be too much, take deeper breathes, bring up comforting images and memories, and slow it way down so you can process what’s going on. This is not about thinking, but about simply letting the body feel what it needs to feel. That will give the dragon what it needs to settle down. Do less rather than more. Come back again later, or tomorrow, but don’t give up.
In this way you will help the dragon feel safe and to lie down. Then you will have more freedom to do what you want to do. You will, over time, increase your ability to, “Just do it.” And your life will be richer and more fulfilling.
Now go do your work, and be prepared. If you start to push at your borders, trying to expand your limits or comfort zone, the dragon will awaken. That’s its job. You will never slay the dragon, nor should you. The dragon is part of you, and so is its fire. It has warned you of danger. It has kept you alive. It remembers to keep you breathing when you forget. It’s part of your many intelligences. It just doesn’t live upstairs in the house of words and thoughts, but it lives in the body of feelings, images, and stories.
The dragon is an extraordinary ally, so why would you venture into strange territory alone when you can ride a dragon into victory?
Just asking.
I can be reached at and 805/680-5572.