Why Do People Need Help Starting to Live Their BIG Life?


I think the reason people need help living a big life is based on how we are wired, how our brain is designed. A part of our brain called the limbic system (the amygdala, the hypothalamus, and the hippocampus ). Some believe this system developed during a time when we had to be worried about predators—a time when we had to decide to fight or take flight, based on the circumstance. That part of our brain still takes control today, even though the stresses and the worries of our modern world are much different, hopefully, than being worried about being prey.
The limbic system—that part of our brain that decides if we flee or fight—is also very important to setting context. Whenever something happens that causes us fear, we are programmed to remember it and remember every detail of it as part of our survival instinct. So back when we were being chased by a bear, we had to know that the bear lives in a specific part of the woods (context), and know there is danger there. So our brain remembers that and the limbic system sets that context so we will avoid that context and that danger in the future.
I found that in today’s world, many of us get paralyzed; something happens in a context that makes us feel afraid and we either avoid or flee that situation/context in the future. Fleeing or avoiding a certain context might not be what is most helpful for us to define or achieve our big life, to follow our dreams.
As an example, many of my coaching clients are salespeople who struggle with a particular context. Let me explain, I work with salespeople who do not like to cold call or prospect. They are great when it comes to selling to existing customers but they hate going after new customers. During coaching conversations, I frequently discover that the salesperson who has had a bad experience cold calling, which is not uncommon, will remember that experience vividly. The experience most often involves the salesperson feeling rejected. The salesperson usually defines hearing no from new prospects as losing and then generalizes those experiences and concludes he or she would prefer to avoid that context—talking to customers they have not talked to previously. However, salespeople will generally like talking to their existing customers; they like hearing yes from them. They seek out those clients because they have already have won and have the best chance of winning again.
My role as a coach is to help salespeople approach this dilemma differently; I help them redefine winning. Instead of avoiding the context, I help them transfer skills they use with existing clients to new clients. I help them see that in prospecting new customers it is not losing when they hear a no; instead, it is the beginning of winning.
This is hard work and why they need help and is also why I believe we all need help living our big life. The limbic system in our brain is the seat of the value judgments that we make, often unconsciously, that exert such a strong influence on our behavior.

Context and the Niagra Falls

I have been fascinated listening to the story of Nik Wallenda, a member of the famed “Flying Wallendas” family of aerialists. He was on the morning news earlier this week talking about his historic tightrope crossing through the mist over Niagara Falls. He provided the news reporter who was interviewing him the chance to walk the same 2 inch tightrope. For these reporters the tightrope was only one foot off the ground. They found it challenging. Nik then jumped up in his street shoes and crossed the wire 2 inch wire strung one foot off the ground effortlessly. The reporters questioned him on how could he traverse that same 2 inch wire when it would be over the Falls with high winds and mist. He said that it is really the same if I can cross the same distance on the same size wire. I can cross the wire anywhere it is… it is all mental. On June 15, 2012 Vallenza crossed the wire over the falls completing an amazing feat!

Photo Dreamstime

I find this fascinating because it is so similar to what I help my coaching clients with every day. The limbic system in our brain is designed to remember context! As a survival mechanism our brain is very good at remembering contexts that are associated with danger and fear. Nik Wallenda’s brain understands that the wire is the context. He knows he can safely cross the wire no matter where it is strung. So for us watching we see the Niagra Falls as the context! For Nik he sees the wire! So often I talk to entrepreneurs who are agonizing about going after a big deal a make it or break it deal! I help them see how even though the size of the deal is large like the Niagra Falls if they use the same skill, same steps they will win! I help them see that the context are the steps they take to win (the wire) not the size of the deal (the falls). What contexts scare you? how can you see them differently so they don’t scare you so much?

Gratitude for Dreams- deferred, changed and new


     I like Ice Hockey although I would not call myself an avid fan but more of a casual observer,  I may catch a game here and there… or listen to a recap on ESPN.  Despite my only passing fancy for the game;  one hockey player’s story caught my attention- Timothy  Thomas, Jr.  the goaltender for the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League (NHL).  What is so intriguing about Thomas’s story? Although he was eligible to play for the NHL in 1993 he did not get to play full-time for the NHL until 2006. You see,Tim Thomas played college hockey for the University of Vermont from 1993–1997, during which he was drafted 217th overall by the Quebec Nordiques in the NHL Entry Draft.  He played for several years in the minor leagues and Europe, before making it to the NHL at age 28, with the Boston Bruins.  At age 32 he became the starting goaltender for the Boston Bruins. His story doesn’t end there because he lost his starting position only to regain it after an injury to the new starter, Manny Fernadez. His first All-Star game was a similiar story he played as a replacement for another injured player. In 2009 he missed several games due to illness. During his time with the Bruins it was rumored he would be traded.  After all of these of these obstacles Thomas went on to at age 37, to become the oldest player and second American-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy in NHL history. Additionally, Thomas is a two-time winner of the Vezina Trophy  as the league’s best goaltender, and was a member of  2010 Team USA during the Winter Olympics. Thomas won the coveted Conn Smythe Trophy for Most Valuable Player in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. Winning it, along with the Stanley Cup.

     Listening to Tim Thomas’s acceptance speech for the  2009 Vezina Trophy you hear what makes Thomas’s story so remarkable. He never says “if only”.. If only I would have had a chance to play full-time sooner. If only I had been the first pick for the All Star team. Instead you hear the gratitude and the joy of a man living his dream even if it was a dream deferred.

     I heard this same humble gratitude from Pete Goss whose dream turned out a little different from he planned. Pete Goss who dreamed of winning a solo around the world yacht race instead received the Legion d’Honneur for saving fellow sailor Raphaël Dinelli in the 1996 Vendée Globe Race. During this around the world solo yacht race,  a race Pete had dreamed of winning, a severe storm developed in the Southern Ocean, causing Dinelli’s boat to capsize. Without hesisitation Pete turned his boat around and spent two days sailing into hurricane force winds, finally finding Dinelli and plucking him from the water. Pete abandoned his dream of winning a solo around the world race to save another human being.

     Once again I heard this gratitude from a unlikely subject, Michael J Fox. Here is  a man facing a debilitating disease however during an interview on a morning news show Fox talked about Parkison’s as a gift.  He joked it was the gift that keeps on giving. He spoke while his body tremored from the disease about how he is a “Lucky Man” to be an advocate for those living with Parkinson’s Disease.

     What lesson can we take from these men? One with a dream deferred, one with a changed dream from winning a race to saving the life of another, and one with a new dream that will help thousands? I believe it is their attitude. Tim Thomas did not say “If only” I would have played for the Bruins when I was 20. Pete Goss never says “If only” I would have been able to win that race. Finally Michael J. Fox didn’t say “If only” I didn’t have Parkinson’s Disease. What obstacles are you facing in your life that you are wishing away? What dreams are you clinging to in the face of a new dream? What dreams are simply ones you have yet to realize?

Helping Peope Live Their Dreams

Start BIG is about living your dream! For many of us our dream is to invent a product and become an entrepreneur! Today’s blog post is about three American Combat Veterans who are both Inventors and Entrepreneurs .  Three US Army veterans after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan apply their experience with powdered protein drinks by creating a new dispensing product for protein powders, infant formula, and drink mixes.

What do athletes, infants, outdoor enthusiasts, and military personnel all have in common?  They all need something portable to store, carry, and dispense a pre-measured amount of powdered beverage.  On March 11th 2012, EasyGo Dispenser launched its first two  products on Kickstarter. If you are not familiar with Kickstarter it is one of the world’s largest funding platforms for inventors. Once they are completely funded (these vets are less than $500 dollars away from their project being funded) they can produce their invention.   We will be following their story on our blog.   Stay tuned to learn more on Wednesday’s post I will feature an interview with Blake a co-founder of this great product. I can’t think of any more inspiring story then watching these American Servicemen live the American Dream!                                 

Link to Kickstarter ad and video: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1846757809/easygo-pro?ref=live


Prepare to Improvise

Did you know that 60 percent of all CEO’s started their career in sales? I am not surprised. I believe selling your service or product is not only one of the most essential roles in an organization but also one of the best training grounds for leadership. Sales people have to get along with people of all type and roles. Sales people are those who are most likely to have to think on their feet to answer customer needs and solve customer problems. Great salespeople prepare in advance to improvise in the most effective ways. If you have never held the official title of salesperson I suggest you give it a try. You will learn to bend and be flexible to the needs of the customers. Most likely you will improve both your planning skill as well as your improvisation skills.

Task Vs. Relationship

"What is missing?"

Many times in my work as a consultant I hear my clients making choices between two strategies to achieve results.  Often time the choices they are making are artificial and not mandated by the situation. Lets look at one example that we all face in our work relationships. Do we focus on the task or the relationship. The right answer is both! If we focus purely on the task and ignore the relationship we run the risk of shutting down what the other person brings to the “task”. If we focus purely on the relationship we may lose focus on getting the work done. So what is the choice we are making? We are chosing where to spend our time. If how we spend our time is out of balance by focusing too much on either task or personal we may feel we are forced to choose between the task and the personal. So what is the solution? Finding the balance. when I work with clients who are struggling with this issue I ask them to make the conversation about how we spend our time explicit.


I am curious how are others finding the balance?

Style- Just for Fun

Since medieval times people have realized that the way people communicate falls into one of four general categories.  Many different methodologies have been used to categorize our preference for communicating. For example style, inventories such as the Kilmann Thomas Conflict Mode, Meyers Briggs Personality Types, Wilson Learning and associates survey are all examples where the four preferences for how we communicate have been defined.  There is one particular method I like based on two dimensions of how we communicate. The first dimension is how much to we like to tell versus ask and the second is how much we like to show our emotions versus control our emotions.  The characteristics of four common animals are used to explain those four styles.



















It is important to remember that research over a long period of time and involving many different groups has determined no style is right or wrong. The inventory just shows that we generally have a preference for how we like to communicate. Those preferences generally fall into one of the four categories.


Let’s take a look at each style more closely.


The Owl.  Just like the animal the owl those that fall in this category are very strategic. Owls don’t hunt by just cruising around trying to find food. They go to a location that most likely has their favorite delicacy and then strategically wait and zero in on their dinner.  People who are of the owl communication style are similar in that they tend to be very strategic and focused. They care about results.  The animal the owl usually travels alone. They like to work alone. However when owls get together it is called a parliament or a wisdom. The same is generally true for those who fall in this style.


The Fox. Just like the animal the fox the person with style is usually seen as full of energy! The fox is what is known as an opportunistic hunter. It will come across a hen house and take advantage of an opportunity! The fox usually is not a planner like the owl. They like variety and will roam great distances. This is true of the person with the fox style too! They like variety and love performance. Many Hollywood actors and sports figures are this style. They like the owl generally prefer to work alone.


The Dolphin.  Just like the animal the dolphin people who fall into this category are usually social. It has been said the dolphin is the one species of animal that plays well with others! That is definitely true of this person with this style. They love to work with small teams. They like to collaborate.


The Beaver. Just like the animal the beaver the person of this style is generally very hard working. They like accuracy.  Attention to detail is important to this style.  The beaver as animal is known for building great dams to stop massive bodies of water. The beaver will not stop building its home until the work is done. The beaver also likes to work in small groups.


So if style is not a good way to determine if we will be successful why even talk about it? Well there is a characteristic that has been shown to determine our success. And that characteristic is our ability to make others feel comfortable. Making others feel comfortable correlates with:                     

Success on the job

Longevity on the job

Increased sales close rates

Approval rating from subordinates


So how do we make others feel more comfortable? We pay attention to how they like to communicate! For example if you are meeting with a dolphin take time to get to know them before you jump right down to business. If you are speaking with an owl take time to organize your thoughts and communicate in a logically precise manner. If you are working with a beaver slow down and provide detail. If you are working with a fox be interesting and engaging.

One additional way style can help us is by paying attention to how we communicate when we have the opportunity to communicate with someone of a completely opposite style. It has been demonstrated by research that dolphins and owls can have difficulty communicating. This makes sense when the dolphin is showing emotion the owl is controlling emotion. The same is true for the beaver and fox. When the beaver needs order and a methodical approach the fox needs variety.

So remember what matters most is helping others feel more comfortable! Try to communicate in a way to help your audience understand. Remember the platinum rule treat others as they would like to be treated.  Great books on the subject Managing Style at Work, The Platinum Rule. Check them out!


Recently when working with a client organization I had a chance to read a case study provided by the Marketing Leadership Roundtable. The company profiled was a Financial Services organization. The case study discussed common “coaching resistant”.

They found leaders may resist coaching when benefit aren’t clarified or when coaching is misunderstood as separate from day-to-day activities.
Additionally leaders may not perceive coaching as necessary to advancement in organizations without a history of coaching.

Finally they found leaders may not know how to coach, thereby confusing coaching with other managerial tasks and missing true coaching opportunities.

To address these types of resistance the company took the time to build a roadmap of how to coach employees based on job function. What a great call to action for all those who are coaching. Taking time to apply the coaching process and tailoring it to the role you are trying to coach.

In addition to the great advice on Coaching introduction to great resource like the Marketing Leadership Roundtable (www.marketingleadershiproundtable.com) is invaluable. This site is a great resource to find best practice information.

While on the subject of Feedback

My sister has these words hanging on her wall:
If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with ridicule, she learns to be shy.
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with shame, she learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, she learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, he learns appreciation.
If a child lives with fairness, she learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, she learns to like herself.
If children live with acceptance and friendship, they learn to find
love in the world.
—Dorothy Law Nolte
I often find myself reflecting on these words in parenting. Lately I find that I reflect on these words for more than just my kids but also in all aspects of how I live my life. I was reminded today to Thank People! What a great reminder. I am also reminded to praise people to help them live in appreciation. Who are you appreciating today?


When starting your own big thing you will encounter times you need to give feedback. When you have the opportunity to give feedback you should keep in mind Gibb’s supportive behaviors:

Description:  Make sure you focus on describing very specific behavior so the person can repeat the behavior if it is positive feedback you are providing or isolate the behavior if it is negative feedback.

Problem Orientation: Focus on the task  not on the person! Most importantly focus on behavior they can change versus labeling them.

Can't you stand up straight!

Spontaneity: Give feedback in the moment when you see the behavior. Make it relevant!

Empathy: Make sure you show concern for others. Make sure you take the perspective of the person you are giving feedback!

Equality:  Beware of little status differences, say “we,” “us,” “our” versus owning your feedback and using I and coming from a place of equality.

Provisionalism: Finally be tentative/flexible: “We could . . . One way we might do that is . .  or I think this is what is happening…Remember things are not always what they seem!

“The floor is flat”

 Go out and Live your BIG life! Give positive feedback when you can and always give feedback it is a gift!