Stellar Advice from the Starman

Stellar Advice from the Starman

I fell in love with David Bowie in high school. His framed portrait hung in my bedroom; I played my Ziggy Stardust cassette so many times it broke; I read his biography (twice); I saw Labyrinth in the movie theater; and I talked my English teacher into letting me do my senior term paper about him. (I got an A.) So I was thrilled to be in the IMAX theater last week to see the documentary “Moonage Daydream.”

The movie had no narrator except Bowie himself (i.e., excerpts from the interviews he’d done over the decades). And he laid down the wisdom, hitting on some of my favorite themes with this quote:

“If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”

David Bowie… Musician. Artist. World Citizen. Starman. Hero. Life Coach.

His life was a work of art. How will you make your life one? How can you be heroic in your own life? What are you doing that’s a little out of your depth and exciting to you?


For more on confidence, courage, and comfort zones, check these out:

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

Read More

Tell me about a time you failed…

Tell me about a time you failed…

For the past seven years, I’ve had the privilege of running a 10-week professional development program for the Tennessee Education Lottery’s summer interns. Last week we were working on answering standard interview questions, and I asked Jada, an intern, to tell me about a time she failed and what she learned from the experience. Here’s the story she told.

In high school Jada ran track. As a freshman, she set the goal of beating a major rival – a senior.

Jada trained hard all year and had one last chance to beat her rival who was about to graduate. In this final race, Jada ran hard but “failed” by losing the race by .01 seconds.

In the short term, she chose not to label the loss as a failure, especially since she had run her personal best time. In the long term, she chose to keep training, achieving 6th place in the state that year. And she still runs track today in college.

This was a great answer to an interview question, highlighting strengths and accomplishments – while only very lightly referring to a failure (which was really more of a missed goal than a failure!).

But even better than this solid answer was seeing the wisdom of this young woman. Remember, what you learn from your failures is entirely up to you. It’s one of the few things that we have control over: the meaning we make of the events in our lives. You get to choose the label you put on yourself and your experiences. And you get to choose your next actions.

If you choose to speak kindly to yourself and avoid harsh labels, you’ll be more likely to persevere in your efforts when you experience a setback.

Instead of labeling something as a failure, how can you label it as a learning? Where could you shift the meaning you make of the events in your life more positively?

Choose wisely!

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

Read More

Are you missing a step between awareness and action?

Are you missing a step between awareness and action?

A lot of folks want to spring into action the moment they learn that there is something they are doing wrong. Maybe it’s because they are a high-performer or maybe they are trying to avoid more criticism. Either way, they need to slow down, because there is an important step between awareness and action.

It’s called acceptance. It looks like this…

Let’s say you’ve noticed that you tend to worry about looking foolish in front of your colleagues, so you hold back with your ideas at work. Maybe you even got some feedback from your boss that you need to speak up and participate more in meetings.

If you move straight to action without thinking, you may blurt out any old thing at the next staff meeting. And “I like pickles!” probably won’t add much to the conversation. Nor will “that idea our CEO had was terrible” help your career move forward.

But what if you went into the staff meeting with the intention that it would be a good idea to try to share something relevant. As the meeting progresses, you are aware that you are feeling hesitant to speak. Here’s where acceptance comes in.

Acknowledge that hesitation, and accept it without judgment. Self talk might sound like, “I feel a little afraid to say something dumb. Although, this is a pretty safe group and safe topic.”

When you accept that this old behavior and feeling is where you are right now, your options for action open up. The self-talk might be: “Maybe I could offer an idea I am having that differs from what is being shared. Or I could support my colleague’s idea and say I was thinking something similar. Or maybe today I choose not to speak, and that’s ok. Or I could make that pickles announcement.” (Note: not all options are equally good or appropriate.)

The point is, after you have awareness, don’t rush into action. Pause in acceptance, and you will be better able to see what good options are open to you. Some days, you will try a new behavior, and that’s great – regardless of the outcome. Some days you might not feel like you can do it; give yourself some grace. Yes, we want to nudge you outside of your comfort zone, but we don’t want to push you off a cliff.

Where do you have some awareness about a new behavior you need to explore? Could pausing in acceptance assist you in moving into action?

Aim for progress!

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

Read More

Are you contributing to overwhelm at work?

Are you contributing to overwhelm at work?

One of the questions I often ask my coaching clients who are experiencing overwhelm at work is: “Is this a level-of-difficulty issue or a volume issue?”

Level-of-difficulty means they may have been given tasks they don’t know how to do. Volume means that they know how to do the tasks – the tasks may even be easy – but there are just too dang many of those tasks.

It’s almost always a volume issue. And the client played a big role in creating the problem by:
1) being good at their job (i.e., “work flows to the competent’)
2) not saying “no”

Cleary, we don’t want a competent person to act like they are incompetent. So we have to address not saying “no.”

Most people have reasons they don’t want to say “no.” They don’t want to miss out on an opportunity (i.e., they might not get included next time). They don’t want others to think they are unhelpful or not a team-player. They don’t want to disappoint their boss. And being the hero feels good – and safe.

All of this contributes to people coming to them with EVERYTHING because they say “yes” and get it all done. If you are one of these folks, every time you say “yes” you are actually training people to bring all the requests to you. And that’s how you contributed to the problem. The trouble is, it isn’t sustainable for you or for your organization. (When you leave, the organization will have a hard time finding someone willing to work 80 hours a week!)

The truth is, people will still like you if you say “no” or have strong boundaries; boundaries make the other person feel safe because they create certainty and instruct the other person on how to act. Remember, the other person doesn’t know if you are overloaded, overwhelmed or burnt-out. It is up to you to respond to a request with a polite “No, I’m sorry I can’t help you with that because I have too much on my plate right now. I’m afraid I won’t be able to do a good job for you.” If you want, you can even add “I hope you’ll ask me again next time.”

I once had a boss who would give me too many things for me and my team to get done. If I asked what was most important, he’d give me a blank stare and say it was all important. So I took him a long list of to-do’s (and their deadlines) and sat down with him so he could help me prioritize. I’m sure he didn’t like that, but he needed to see the list to understand we had an unmanageable volume of work.

Think about how you are currently contributing to the overwhelm and the volume of work. Where do you need to stop saying “yes” and experiment with saying “no?” It may feel scary, but it can also be empowering. And it will make more space for all of the things you truly want to say “yes” to!

What do you want to say “yes” to?

p.s. It can be hard to go straight from “yes” to “no.” You may want to utilize a stall first: This will give you time to go create a very nice “no!”

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

Read More