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"You're a Human Being Before You're a Human Doing"


"You're a Human Being Before You're a Human Doing"

Entrepreneurs are at risk for depression when they over-identify their self-worth with the success of their business.

Strategies to avoid this pitfall, and "create resiliency against the violence that often happens at work":

  • Practice the art of non-attachment: do your best, give it your all, and don't be hung up on the result.
  • Engage with a multi-generational community. Learn from one another, and realize you don't have to do it all alone. 
  • Adopt the notion of practice. "Practice being a CEO."
  • Allow yourself to *be* (yourself) at work. 

Jerry Colonna, executive coach and former venture capitalist, interviews Parker J Palmer, author, educator, and activist, about "Surviving the StartUp Life". They discuss "standing in the tragic gap" - the place between harsh realities of life and knowing what could be possible; aka the "eternal human yearning to be connected with something larger than my own ego". 

Life in a startup (anywhere, really) is hectic, and it's easy to forget self-care. Unfortunately, our bodies and minds are more likely to break down when under prolonged stress. Clinical depression becomes a real issue. 

Here's Palmer's description of how he experienced depression (transcribed-ish):

He is not surprised when he hears someone under depression commits suicide. Clinical depression is utterly exhausting, and eventually you just want a rest.

The faculties he (and most of us) usually depends on are:

  • Intellect
  • Emotions
  • Will
  • Ego

In depression, each of these are rendered utterly useless. 

Intellect: You can think yourself into a depression, but you can't think your way out of it. 

Emotions: A depression is not about feeling bad, it's the terrifying knowledge that you can feel nothing at all. 

Will: It barely exists. At the advice of a therapist, he kept track of any minor gains he made every day. He learned something about using a gentler metric because his will was non-existent.

Ego: While living in ego is lonely, a depression will shatter even that. 

What he came to see is that he has another faculty, the Soul. He learned to honor his being and how to hold the other faculties more modestly. They were no longer the main tools. Nowadays, his intention is to be in the world in a more soulful, authentic, truthful, way. He is honoring his potential and his limitations. At 74, he feels it more important to be in the world as he truly is. 

The video continues with a Q&A with the audience. Here's an excerpt.

What is the one thing that stops entrepreneurs from being successful?

(Jerry) The fear of failure.

First, be sure you know how you define success. There's so much pressure, but if you apply the notion of practice to the startup and you find a way to pay the bills, then the definition of success starts to change. Take the fangs away from the monster of fear and failure. 

(I would add the old coaching adage: "there's no failure, only feedback". Didn't get many signups for the call? Try a different marketing strategy. Didn't get a high opt-in conversion? Try a different call-to-action, or change the color of the button. And for the love of chocolate, don't define yourself by the number of Twitter followers. Building a business takes time.)

How can I hold myself together in the multiple roles I play? What if I succeed as an entrepreneur but fail as a father? 

(Parker) Community has healing power. When I struggled with depression there was one phrase I needed to hear: "Welcome to the human race; we're all in this together." This experience doesn't set you apart, it pulls you closer to us. The failure or the success don't define you; they're both equally toxic. We're often taught to play different roles and segmenting our lives, but we do have control over whether we're the same person everywhere we show up. As we do it, we incrementally add to our own sense of well-being and wholeness. 

(Jerry) I went to watch a movie with my son, and was moved to tears. A part of me said, "I can't do this in front of him" - I was afraid he would love me less. But what he expressly said was, "Dad, it makes it easier to love you, knowing that you struggle."

It's ok to share your struggles with your family and kids, because you'll be modeling the wholeness of who you are

(I would add Brené Brown's books as a resource, they are powerful tools to help put vulnerability and courage into perspective.)

Here's the video:

If you can't see it, the link is

"Violence is what happens when we don't know what else to do with our suffering." Parker Palmer

The violence that happens at work can be a harsh word (self-talk or said out loud), not taking a lunch break (denying yourself basic nourishment), withholding information, feeling resentful (envy and greed both have green eyes), sabotaging yourself or others. I invite you this week to be kind to yourself, and to recognize your (or, if you are) suffering.

Sad Clown image from flickr by Shawn Campbell, Creative Commons license


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10 Guideposts to Wholehearted Living

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10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living
10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living

I've been following Dr. Brené Brown's work for many months now, and am inspired to share her work because I believe we live in complex times, and it is important not to forget our humanity. That humanity includes shame, vulnerability, and a host of nasty things many of us spend lots of time and resources trying to push under the carpet. Out of sight, out of mind.

Following yesterday's post about accepting myself, I'm inviting you today to think about the areas where your shame gremlins show up. What do you not want to talk about? What are you trying to outsmart and avoid? What are your defense mechanisms?

Below are some illustrations of Brené's 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living. These are practices and strategies people with high shame resilience have in common. Some may apply to you, some won't, but many of the things wholehearted living encourages us to let go of have been in place, protecting us, for most our lives. Which is why wholehearted living is a process and something to do every day.

Progress, not perfection.

Feel free to right-click, download, print and pin them somewhere you'll see them every day. Or make your own and post them on my Pinterest Board, let's get a collection going. I'd love to hear about your experiences and how you try to live whole-heartedly. :-)

10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living
10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living

10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living

10 Guideposts to Wholehearted Living
10 Guideposts to Wholehearted Living

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Heart-Centered Living

Leonardo da Vinci [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsYour heart was long thought to be the center of your being, the seat of your soul. English physician William Harvey wrote in 1653 that "The heart is situated at the 4th and 5th ribs. Therefore [it is] the principal part because [it is in] the principal place, as in the center of a circle, the middle of the necessary body."

Andreas de Laguna wrote in 1535 that "If indeed from the heart alone rise anger or passion, fear, terror, and sadness; if from it alone spring shame, delight, and joy, why should I say more?" (Both quotes from A History of the Heart.)

To live in a heart-centered way, there are three main areas to consider: physical exercise, nutrition, and emotional intelligence.

Aerobic exercise is useful for the heart to improve blood circulation and subsequent oxygen saturation in the cells. We've suggested dancing and jumping rope before, now how about walking? If the weather happens to be getting warmer where you are in the world, consider walking outside. If you like jogging and your joints are happy about it, walking really fast is always an option! You can start small and run for 2 minutes, walk for 2, and up the minutes running while winding restful walking minutes down as you get fitter.

What we put in our bodies is equally as important as how much we move them. I thoroughly enjoy the recipes on, and we've tried many of them. For example, this lentil version of the traditional shepherd's pie.

(You'll note the instructions are a lot more detailed than what I've put before - perhaps an indication of Type differences in Sensing and Intuiting? ;-))

Hearty Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie

Nava writes, “There are no words to describe this recipe other than ‘a deep dish of absolute comfort.’”

Recipe is Copyright ©Nava AtlasVegan Holiday Kitchen, Sterling, 2011; pictures are mine. We used kale instead of spinach, soy instead of rice milk, added carrots, and didn't use oil, seasoning mix, or cornstarch. Now, the fresh thyme - that's what made the recipe. And rosemary.



  • 8 large or 10 medium potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons nonhydrogenated margarine*
  • 1/2 cup rice milk
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil*
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces cremini or baby bella mushrooms
  • Two 15-ounce cans lentils, lightly drained but not rinsed (or about 3 1/2 cups cooked lentils with a little of their cooking liquid)
  • 2 tablespoons dry red wine, optional
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos*
  • 2 teaspoons seasoning blend (such as Spike or Mrs. Dash)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
  • 8 to 10 ounces baby spinach or arugula leaves
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs (gluten-free if needed)


  1. Peel and dice the potatoes. Place in a large saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. 
    Shepherd's Pie w/ breadcrumbsDrain and transfer to a small mixing bowl.
  2. Stir the margarine into the potatoes until melted, then add the rice milk and mash until fluffy. Cover and set aside until needed. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and mushrooms and continue to sauté until the onion is golden.
  4. Add the lentils and their liquid and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in the optional wine, soy sauce, seasoning blend, thyme, and pepper. Cook gently for 5 minutes. Combine the cornstarch with just enough water to dissolve in a small container. Stir into the lentil mixture.
  5. Add the spinach, a little at a time, cooking just until it’s all wilted down. Remove from the heat; taste to adjust seasonings to your liking.
  6. Lightly oil a 2-quart (preferably round) casserole dish, or two deep-dish pie plates. Scatter the breadcrumbs evenly over the bottom. Pour in the lentil mixture, then spread the potatoes evenly over the top. If using two pie plates, divide each mixture evenly between them.
  7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to turn golden and slightly crusty. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then cut into wedges to serve.

Susan’s Notes

*This recipe comes out equally delicious without the margarine or olive oil. Mash the potatoes with the rice milk only, and use a non-stick pan to sauté the onion, adding a splash of vegetable broth if needed to prevent sticking.

Most regular soy sauce contains gluten. Look for a specially-marked gluten-free version if you’re cooking for someone who’s gluten-sensitive and omit if soy is an issue.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s) | Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Emotional intelligence helps keep our hearts healthy in that we can apply strategies and learn e.g. not to worry incessantly about things beyond our control. Stress is man-made and has physiological effects on the body and the heart; it quickens the beat and raises our blood pressure.

Whether you have Thinking or Feeling preferences, everybody experiences emotions. Understanding and managing them effectively enables you to lessen their negative impact. Here's where I find Brené Brown's work so groundbreaking: she found that we numb ourselves to avoid negative emotions. Fear, shame, embarrassment - we deal with them by e.g. eating too much, drinking too much, taking medication, or vegging out in front of the TV. The problem is that we cannot numb emotions selectively: if you numb your fear, you're numbing your joy at the same time. If you numb your shame, you're numbing your love at the same time. If you numb your embarrassment, you're numbing your empathy at the same time.

To allow your heart to feel happy, you have to allow it to feel sad. To not let that drag you down a vicious cycle, you have to acknowledge that all emotions happen and have value without getting overly attached to them. Even the good ones. Dr. Brown suggests embracing vulnerability, and if you've seen her video before, why not take a few minutes to review it. If you haven't seen it yet, please take 20 minutes of your time and enjoy:



It ain't easy being Zen

staying positive is hard Greetings, my fellow voyagers on the road less traveled, aka YOUR OWN.

This is a quick post to acknowledge that we work very hard every day to

  • eat right
  • exercise
  • be nice
  • not frown
  • not slump in our seats
  • say please and thank you
  • follow our dreams
  • know our passions
  • resist temptation
  • walk the dog
  • change the diaper
  • give that presentation
  • and donate to charity.

All of these things are supposed to bring us closer to happiness, and all I'm saying today is that it's ok to be miserable for bit along the way.

Go on.

Close the door, draw the curtains, and feel what it is you're feeling. Overwhelm? Bring it on. Anger? Shout something. Anxiety? Get a fret on, I won't tell.

You have permission to question your quest for happiness, and then redefine the rules and make them work for you.


Do you want babies?


Do you want babies?

Vulnerability is... being honest with yourself about whether you want to have babies or not.

Selective attention is a process that's happening when you're picking out certain messages out of the millions of data points that hit your brain every minute. You're on a diet, all you see is food. You just broke up with your partner, all you see is couples. You're wondering if you want to have a baby, all you see is babies.

Is the decision to procreate or adopt rational or instinctual? Does it vary by type and culture?

The basic functions of survival are handled in our amygdala, or "lizard brain". It's been handling necessary responsibilities to keep us alive and out of trouble for, well, ever. Also known as the ticking clock, it's probably the survival instinct that makes women feel now's the time to have babies.

Since the world has changed and our brains have evolved and developed the pre-frontal cortex, dealing with executive decision-making and organizing all those neuronal inputs, women (and men) are able to think about whether having a baby or not is a good fit for them. All of us have access to both Thinking and Feeling functions, so we're able to make decisions based on analytical logic and personal values. The instinct to procreate is also probably present in most of us, as are the emotions that go with becoming a parent. Whether you should rationalize this decision or not is another question. While I'd love to have neat explanations for everything, I'm quite prepared to believe in love and faith and inexplicable irrational gray areas that make sense and are the right thing to do, even though you can't explain them.

Many of my Latin American friends say, "un niño siempre hace falta" - loosely translated: there's always need (and room) for a baby. The Chinese introduced their one-child policy in the 1970s. The birth rate in Germany is currently in negative digits, meaning there are more deaths than births, and if this trend continues, we'll die out eventually.

I'm almost 38 and am growing to resent the awkward pause after answering, "no, we don't" to the question if we have children. Even worse, being put on the spot and asked, "Why not?"

When was the last time you asked a mother why she has children?

All I'm saying is treat both sides of the coin with equal enquiry!

And those buds of self-defense are why I know that I still haven't completely made up my mind, and that there's still an area of vulnerability I need to deal with. What if, horror of horrors, I don't have kids and end up regretting it? When it's too late, because the biological clock ran out? Will I be doomed to turn into cat lady, substituting children for furry four-footers? And what's so wrong with that?

It's scary to think about these big questions, but it's necessary. I'm leaning into the vulnerability by continuing to ask myself what it is that I want, and listening to both my amygdala and my pre-frontal cortex. And by being grateful that we live in an age where I have the choice and role models like Liz Gilbert and Helen Mirren. Thank you, ladies.

PS congratulations, primo Gonzalo, on the birth of your son! :-)

Image by Janine, Flickr, Creative Commons License.


Be true to yourself and ace that job interview


Be true to yourself and ace that job interview

Vulnerability is... worrying if they'll like / hire / marry / call / promote you.

Do you want to ace that job interview?

Here are 5 simple steps, written from my NF perspective:

1. Know yourself

If you're not sure where or how to start thinking about your strengths and skills, there are plenty of assessments that can help. Please please please always talk with a certified professional to debrief the results and don't just believe everything you read black-on-white.

Email me for any of these, investment is about $120 to $150 for extensive material and debrief:

Myers-Briggs MBTI(r)



Thomas Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument TKI


or try

StandOut - $15

Strengthsfinder 2.0 - $9.99

Strengthsfinder 2.0 can be analyzed in combination with the MBTI(r) tool, again, email me if you're interested in a thorough conversation.

2. Only apply for jobs you truly want to do

Yes, we all live in the real world and have bills to pay.

It's also true that what the world needs is happy. You'll be a better leader if what you do makes you happy. You'll have more energy at home to care for the people you love when you're happy. If criticizing and gossiping and bad vibes make you happy, give it a couple sessions with a shrink to see if you're not actually compensating your shitty childhood. You can defend your country and protect your community from a balanced happy place without playing into the tough-guy stereotypes. I dare you.

3. Get clear on what you need

Know your expectations for salary, benefits, work environment, team work, and individual freedom, and be prepared to discuss them. Be equally clear on what environment you want to work in. Does your ideal company have community outreach, charity components, a people policy? Does the industry align with your values? Will you be proud to hand over your business card for them? You'll make it easier for the HR rep and hiring manager to say "yes" to you when they get the feeling you know what you're getting into.

4. Research the company

At the very least, know their facts, figures, values, vision, mission, major portfolio and competitors. You'll stand out, because you'll be able to knowledgeably discuss what's happening in the industry and the challenges they're facing. It's not just what they can do for you, it's also what you can do for them. You'll get the vocabulary to describe your skills and contributions in a non-sucky way from Step 1.

5. Be yourself

Go in and have a conversation. By consciously acting and showing them what you think they want to see, telling them what you think they want to hear, you are making yourself vulnerable. You are placing your own worth and value on a lower level - theirs is more important. Don't fall into that trap, no matter how seductive. Show up. Be yourself. Dare greatly! If they hire you based on a show, you'll have to keep performing and risk feeling like a fraud.

OK, that last one is geared towards FJs, those of us who lead with extraverted Feeling, because we tend to adapt to our surroundings and the people we're with. I've done that in jobs and relationships too many times, and am here to share it's not sustainable in the long run.

Other advice you have? Leave a comment!

Image by photologue_np, Flickr, Creative Commons License.