Compression and release: life lessons from architecture

Compression and release: life lessons from architecture
Small, dark hall and low doorway…

I had the opportunity this month to visit Taliesin West: visionary architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Arizona winter home and school.

One of the things I got to experience on the tour was Wright’s use of “compression and release.” He would force a visitor through a small, tight entry space (the compression) before the person would pass into a larger space – and a feeling of freedom (the release).

I think life is like that, too. We go through new challenges that provide us with growth spurts. When we learn the difficult lesson that is in front of us, we often find new confidence and the release of leveling up in our lives and careers.

Growth can be tough and even painful. And sometimes it feels like multiple lessons are piled on us at once. (I know I have muttered an old Oprah prayer on occasion, “Lord, please don’t teach me anything new today.”)

Into the release of this amazing space!

But the real trick, I think, is to not avoid the challenge. The lesson may be hard, but it can be even more painful to remain small. It’s like the Anais Nin quote, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

The best we can hope for is that life serves us up right-sized lessons/compressions at a pace that isn’t overwhelming. And as we meet these challenges and grow, we are released into even better phases of life and work.

Where have you experienced compression and release in your life or career? Have you met those challenges – or tried to avoid them?

Here’s to your growth!

p.s. As always, your comments are welcome on this post at

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An entrepreneur’s success story – plus some tips for being a podcast guest

An entrepreneur’s success story – plus some tips for being a podcast guest

A talented freelance graphic designer, Alec, participated in my autumn 2018 career coaching group. During one meeting, as Alec brought up podcasts yet again, I asked the group, “Who here thinks Alec needs to start his own podcast now?” All hands went up.

Sometimes it’s easy for others to see what we can’t see in ourselves. Indeed, Alec had the ideas, enthusiasm and technical know-how to start his podcast. Before the pandemic, his new podcast, named “Ideally” after his temperament, was a top 50 self-improvement podcast on Apple.

Then he put it on hold as he chased a bigger dream. He started Parasaur and facilitates the success of other folks’ podcasts by being a creative partner as well as doing all the technical stuff like recording and editing (see his services at Today he has a thriving business.

Alec missed doing his own podcast though, and is starting it up once again. I was lucky enough to be invited on as a guest for the reboot of Ideally, which is largely aimed at creative entrepreneurs. We talked about a wide range of topics, from values to advice to books to having a successful business. And [bonus!] I got to meet the baby squirrel he was rehabbing! If you’d like to listen, here you go:

Have you been invited to be on a podcast, but felt a little reluctant or nervous? Here are my tips for being a guest:

  1. Don’t worry. You were probably asked to be a guest because you know something about the topic. You can ask for the questions in advance, but I wouldn’t prepare much. Your authentic, unrehearsed answers will be great! And if you make a major mistake, the podcast creator can probably edit it out.
  2. Yes, you’re interesting. Only you can tell your story. Your point of view is unique, so please share your knowledge, experience and wisdom. It will resonate with folks. Show up – and be kind to others and yourself…
  3. Look for what’s right. If you talk for an hour, chances are you will say something weird. That’s ok. Look for what you said well. I confess, I haven’t listened to the podcast yet. I need to be in the right mood so I can be my own fan – and not pick apart what I failed to say eloquently. (And honestly, does anyone like the sound of their own voice?!)

Is there something helpful or inspiring you’ve been wanting to share? Maybe it’s a podcast, but a social media post will do. We want to hear from you!

Happy sharing!

p.s. As always, your comments are welcome on this post at

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Is it natural talent – or is it practice?

Is it natural talent – or is it practice?

The Olympic athletes make their sports look easy. So easy that we sometimes think:
1. “that doesn’t look so hard; I could do that” OR
2. “that is impossible; you have to be born that way to be good at that”

If you’re a number 1, then I encourage you to go do the thing!

If you’re a number 2, then consider this…

People who are really strong at something may have some natural talent, but more often than not they get great at that thing because they practice. Over and over and over.

We see this with the Olympic athletes. They didn’t become the best in their events just because of natural talent. They ran, swam, rowed, sparred, flipped, balanced, studied and worked out. They showed up and practiced even on the days when they didn’t feel great.

There are a lot of everyday career skills that people often dismiss as being for other folks, too. I hear things like: ”presenting is for natural performers.” Or “networking is for extroverts.”

Well, I’m neither, but I can do both. Because I practiced.

I found the things I was passionate about and wanted to share, and I presented them. At first I was nervous, but now I (mostly) enjoy it. Do I wing it? Never! That’s not my style. What the pros taught me was that if you practice, it frees up your brain to stay in the moment and be in the conversation with your audience – instead of worrying about what you are going to say next. (I love that paradox; you have to practice in order to be natural!)

And working a room? That made this introvert all stinky sweaty. But I did it so often during my fundraising career, I found my style and got comfortable with it. I wouldn’t say I now enjoy working a room, but I can do it reasonably well. And without sweating.

There are so many career tasks we can get better at if we practice: interviewing, listening, giving feedback, etc. Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t great immediately. Model the behavior of all those Olympic athletes and practice – even on the days when you’d rather not. Remember, you get out of it what you put into it.

What’s one thing that would benefit you and your career if you practiced it? (Queue the Olympic theme music…)

Happy practicing!

p.s. As always, your comments are welcome on this post at

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Acclimating to the latest changes

Acclimating to the latest changes

In the early days of the pandemic lockdown, a lot of folks felt scared and just wanted life to go back to normal. Now as we return to offices and public spaces where people gather, a lot of folks are afraid of going back to normal. How can we reacclimate while managing our anxiety about this new round of changes?

I recently heard from a former client who wrote, “We just got the announcement that we will return to the office 2 days per week in mid-July. Have you heard any personal strategies that people have used to get acclimated to the transition?”

This client, let’s call her Mary, is an introvert and has actually enjoyed the “solitude and focus” that working remotely has provided. Mary’s plan is to go into the office one day a week for a month leading back to returning to two days per week. That sounds like a good plan – for Mary.

Every person is different. Some folks may be eager to be back in the office – especially the extroverts or those with a house full of kids! And while some have found it easier to work remotely, others may have struggled to work effectively from home.

I’ve also heard from clients that they are back in the office a couple days a week, but most of the meetings are still on Zoom so everyone can attend. It’s a bit weird to go into the office to attend Zoom meetings, however, seeing colleagues in person and having hallway conversations that move the work forward are pluses.

If you are returning to the office and feeling some anxiety, think about how you can take care of yourself during this latest transition. This article may have some tips you can use as you get back into – and even enjoy – your new work routine:

Understand that these latest changes may feel uncomfortable and be sure to take care of yourself. Think about what you need and how you’ll give that to yourself. And if you need to ask your boss or colleagues for help, do that.

Be gentle with yourself as you look for the bright spots in the return to normal.

Take care!

p.s. As always, your comments are welcome on this post at

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Choices for the New Normal

Choices for the New Normal

If you had asked me a year ago if I had 3 to 4 hours a day to exercise (and extra to go to yoga class 3x a week), I would have said “hell, no!”

But then I broke my elbow. Rehab takes about a year of 3 to 4 hours a day of home exercise as well as PT 3x a week. I want the elbow (and wrist and shoulder) function back, so I do the rehab.

I see that I will have an opportunity this autumn, as PT and some of the exercises wind down, to create (finally!) a true daily yoga home practice. Now that I know what’s possible, I’ve lost my excuse of “I don’t have time.”

I think a lot of us may have experienced something similar during the pandemic.

Before the pandemic we might have said:
– I don’t have time for exercise/home-projects/gardening/self-care
– I can’t do my job effectively unless I’m in the office
– There aren’t enough hours to spend daily quality time with my kids/family
– Real quality time has to be in person
– I can’t slow down

The pandemic may have taught you that beliefs you had were inaccurate. What pre-pandemic beliefs do you want to avoid returning to? What new behavior do you want to try coming out of the pandemic? What’s worth making time for?

Remember, you are always at choice. You get to choose both your beliefs and your behavior. And you can choose new ones any time.

Think you don’t have time? Maybe you’re like me and you got the message loud and clear that we make time for the things that are most important to us. So make your choices, and then feel free to make new ones!

Choose wisely!

p.s. As always, your comments are welcome on this post at

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