1. The Icarus Deception

    Seth Godin and I have a lot in common. Since Seth Godin is known by many as a front-runner thought leader, a revolutionary business guru and a many-times best-selling author, my premise might seem to be a bit presumptuous. But hear me out.

    Although his latest book, The Icarus Deception, has sat on my pile of “must reads” since December, I finally made the plunge (pun intended) into its pages. The title refers to the popular myth that we learned in school: Icarus was the son of Daedalus, who, in order to help the two of them escape from the Labyrinth, fashioned wings from feathers and wax. As we learned the story, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too high or the sun would melt the wings. Icarus, caught up in the ecstasy of flying, however, did just that, falling to his death in the sea. The part of the myth that we were not told (or at least that wasn’t stressed) was that Daedelus also warned Icarus not to fly too low, which would cause his wings to get wet and likewise be ruined. The interpretation of the myth has, for centuries, thus, focused mainly on the idea to not fly too high, to put a lid on your potential, to play it safe.


    Godin says that flying too low, however, is of greater danger than flying too high, as it (Read more…)



    Turning the calendar page to March, I was reminded that one of the most acknowledged days in the month is March 15, also known as the Ides of March. The history books (okay, also the history online research sites) tell us that the “Ides” indicates the day that is the middle of a month. In March, that falls on March 15th. In more modern knowledge, this is also the day on which Julius Caesar was

    Julius Caesar

    assassinated in 44 B.C.E., having been forewarned of this by a seer. Thus, “Beware the Ides of March.” (Technically, this exact verbiage was penned by William Shakespeare, based on the original story by ancient Greek writer, Plutarch.)

    But when I flipped that calendar, what first popped into my wandering mind this year was (Read more…)


    In August of 1949, Jackson Pollock was profiled in Life magazine as possibly “the greatest living painter in the United States.” This definitively helped cement Pollock’s reputation, but the truth was, he was actually nervous about this success. He was always afraid that he would be “found out,” as he was not very skilled or educated in classical painting techniques, especially drawing. Studies, by the way, have since shown this is the very same fear many executives admit to having: that they are only at the top temporarily, until their inadequacies are “found out.”

    Interestingly, however, Pollock’s own weakness in the more traditional, classical arena moved him toward being a renowned leader in a brand new art movement called “abstract expressionism.” This style was devoid of recognizable content and instead used color, line and shape to express the spontaneous assertion of the individual artist; no recognizable landscapes or vases of flowers here! Pollock’s weak spot forced him to (Read more…)


    Organizations. Schools. Leaves. They all change.

    I was reminded of this concept when I sat in the church in Arlington, Virginia last month at my nephew’s wedding. While many people in the pews saw Nick only as the upstanding 28-year old young man that he is now, I also saw the sweet toddler with tousled auburn curls and ready smile. And I wondered, “How did it happen? How did this change occur, seemingly when nobody was looking?”

    There’s an interesting push and pull when it comes to change. On the one hand, the majority of people do not like change. It makes them feel insecure, unsettled and even a bit anxious. On the other hand, change has held fascination for us through the ages. For many centuries, people have been thinking about, talking about and experiencing change. Back in the Italian Renaissance (16th century), Michelangelo, a Master at changing a piece of marble into a pulsing, nearly human figure, greatly admired this musing of the great philosopher from ancient Greece, Heraclitus, “One cannot step twice in the same river.” One cannot step twice in the same river because (Read more…)


    Is there anything sweeter than the softness of a newborn’s precious little feet? When my sons, Gavin and Collin, were born we went from planting tiny kisses on that soft new skin to playing a game called “Pee Yew!!” We’d take a giant whiff of their pint-sized feet, scrunch up our faces and shout “Pee Yewwwww” in the most exaggerated manner. The result? Peels of laughter from the boys with squeals to “Do it again, do it again.” Well, this was all fine and dandy until one day when Gavin, getting a little older, suddenly screamed, “Mommy, NO, NO . . . S-T-O-P!” I asked, “Why?” With great alarm, he replied, “’Cause you smelled all the Pee Yew out!” I chuckled and assured him not to worry: there was plenty of Pee Yew left where that came from.

    Over the many years that I’ve been speaking to and working with organizations about Mastery and Excellence, I’ve realized that many people believe in the Pee Yew Syndrome when it comes to creativity. They regard it as a finite commodity: “Yep, I used to be creative when I was a kid, but then I used it all up.” Granted, they might not consciously realize that’s how they think about it, but, nevertheless, they do. In fact, a somewhat shocking number of people have said with conviction, (Read more…)



    For Ryan Lochte, it was flipping over humongous tractor tires. It was dragging heavy chains. It was hurling beer kegs (and, no he didn’t chug them first!) backwards. Granted, these are not the usual activities one would engage in to train for competitive swimming (after all, they’re not even in the water). However, these were the components that Lochte added to his training for the 2012 Olympics in order to gain the competitive edge that could help him win. He was willing to do “whatever it takes” (legally, of course) to help him achieve his goals, even if those activities were grueling and actually somewhat painful. And he was willing to step outside of the training norm of his own sport; in reality, tire flipping and chain dragging would fit more readily in the realm of weight lifting or Greco-Roman wrestling.

    When it got right down to it, Ryan Lochte was willing to think more creatively about his Olympic preparation and to step outside of his comfort zone to ensure that he would do his very best on all levels. He was willing to cross boundaries and see what ideas he could borrow outside of the water to strengthen himself within the water. This is one of the smartest Mastery strategies that successful people, and leaders adopt: to look beyond your own field or discipline and see what you can take and learn from other ones . . . and then apply it to your own for improved results.


    Artists often do exactly this. London artist, Isaac Julien, said, “I seek (inspiration) from all sorts of sources. I’m always on the lookout – I observe people in the street; I watch films, I read, I think about the conversations that I have. I consider the gestures people use, or the colors they’re wearing. . . . I also enjoy talking to people who aren’t involved in art. For my recent work, I’ve had a lot of conversations with people involved in digital technologies. It’s useful to get perspective on what you do by talking to all sorts of different people.”

    Like Ryan Lochte and Isaac Julien, in order for you to “train” for your own Masterpiece results, think about:

    • Where can I look outside of my usual realm for new ideas and different ways to do things?
    • What other waters can I explore?
    • What can I do to “go the extra mile,” i.e., what could be my tire flipping or chain dragging?

    Whether Ryan Lochte wins each race or not isn’t the point. The bottom line is that he knows that he looked everywhere he could and did everything he could to be as prepared as possible. That’s what Mastery is all about.


    Five Lessons from a Costa Rica Yoga Retreat . . . from Diane Sieg

    For the last two years, I have facilitated a yoga retreat on the Osa Peninsula at Boca Sombrero Resort. The unspoiled Osa is a remote area on the south Pacific side of Costa Rica where the rainforest meets the sea. On my first trip to Costa Rica, I was so impressed with the beauty of the jungle and ocean, the wildlife, and the people, I am returning for a third time in 2013! It is difficult to capture the full impact of our rich and colorful experience, but I wanted to share a few of the lessons learned.

    1. Practice Pura Vida

    Pura Vida literally translated means “Pure Life.” Costa Ricans use the phrase to express a philosophy of perseverance, good spirits, enjoying life slowly, and celebrating good fortune, whether small or large. One of our retreaters had the chance to put the concept into practice immediately when she got to the airport and realized she’d somehow failed to book her flight! All the details of arranging child care, organizing work responsibilities and carefully packing for a week in the jungle had taken precedence over actually buying her ticket. Fortunately, she was able to get on a flight that same night and arrive only a few hours later than the rest of us. And more importantly, she was able to practice pura vida and recognize the whole incident just validated how much she really needed a vacation!
    The next time you make an honest mistake that proves your humanness, can you practice pura vida?

    2. Open to Grace

    With the overall theme of the retreat being Discover Your Inner Grace, we had ample opportunity to practice it all week. Opening to grace is a softening, allowing, and opening to the possibilities of what is, versus what you want something to be. Living in yurt huts for a week with outdoor showers, bathrooms, and the call of the wild reminding you where you are requires a softening to what is. Probably the biggest opening we had to make was getting up in the middle of the pitch dark night to go to the bathroom. With all the animal noises and (falsely) perceived threats from the jungle habitat, it was even more scary after one of our retreaters found a scorpion waiting for her in the bathroom!
    Where in your life could you open to grace, to soften, allow, and open to the possibilities instead of struggling and fighting?

    3. Have a Beginner’s Mind

    Beginner’s mind is about approaching things with the gentle curiosity of a child instead of the harsh judgment of an adult. We all had new experiences on the Osa, whether is was surfing, river trekking, or performing handstands. With a beginner’s mind, we open up and expand our horizons without getting so frustrated about doing something we might not be very good at initially. I definitely had to use my beginner’s mind with my surfing lesson. Paddling out to beyond where the waves were breaking was exhausting, but getting up–even for a nano-second was well worth it!
    Is there an activity you have been wanting to try that you could practice beginner’s mind with, even if you aren’t very good at it?

    4. Flow with Nature

    Whether we were planning our surfing and beach walks around the high tides, sunscreen according to the day’s rain or shine, or using headlamps when the sun went down, we flowed with nature on the Osa. We were in the rainforest, so of course it was going to rain everyday (usually less than an hour), the ocean ebbs and flows with high tide and low tide every day, and when it got dark, we went to bed after enjoying a fabulous gourmet meal. Even the howler monkeys who woke us up with their loud roars every 5 a.m. became part of that natural flow. (Well, at least once I was convinced that one hadn’t made it’s way into our tent, which I thought initially). Howler monkeys are the LOUDEST mammals on the planet and to give you an idea, they used them for the sound effects in the movie, Jurassic Park.
    How different would your life be if instead of fighting and complaining about the weather or the lack of sunlight in winter, you just flowed with it?

    5. Embrace your Kula

    The meaning of kula is “family”, “group” or “self-contained unit”. While on the Osa, we had opportunities for endless activities from surfing to river trekking, massages, spa treatments and day trips–plus plenty of pool chairs and beach vistas to enjoy doing nothing at all. We all chose various levels of involvement from socializing to solitude, but came together for our twice daily yoga classes and four meals a day. We celebrated (3 birthdays) and we consoled (a misplaced passport, luckily found in a couple of hours). The kula held such a strong connection for us, providing a sense of support, commitment, and safety—reminding me how important it is for us all to feel like we are part of something bigger, no matter where we are.
    Do you have a kula in your life you are currently embracing?
    I know the 18 of us are all different people leaving the Osa than when we came. We grew, expanded, and strengthened not only in our bodies from our yoga practice but also in our minds and hearts from this rich experience. We leave with lessons from the Osa, where the rainforest meets the sea.
    For more pictures, please click here to go to my Facebook album of Costa Rica.

    Same time, next year? You bet! We are going back January 26-February 2, 2013. Register by August 31st and you can save $100!



    After leaving home bright and early on June 22, 2012, my husband, Richard, was thrilled to set off for a solo camping trip (I was headed to a mountain cabin overnight with nine women friends) in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. The drive up and across the Continental Divide was beautiful and he was delighted to be one of the first arrivals, getting the “pick-of-the-litter” campsite, nestled right up next to the dense pine forest with more prime-real-estate privacy than the other sites. As he’d hoped, the day was decidedly restorative and after cooking a lovely dinner of lamb shanks and some good red wine, he retired to our new two-day-old tent for a good night’s sleep.

    Which he got. Until 2:00 a.m.


    Suddenly and quite rudely, he was awakened by a (Read more…)

  9. The Power of Habit


    No, I’m not referring to a new spicy Middle Eastern recipe or the latest group dance done at summer weddings. What I AM referring to, however, has to do with your habits. Yes, your habits. And my habits. And everyone else’s.

    “Basal ganglia” is rolling around in my head right now because it is discussed in a new book I’m reading that has kicked up a lot of buzz as of late: “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg. This focus on habit is in perfect alignment with my lifelong study of Mastery: in order to do our very best both personally and professionally, it’s necessary to continually examine our habits and understand what prompts and perpetuates them. That allows us to see which habits are serving us well (e.g., reading recreationally on a regular basis) and which habits we’d be better off without (e.g., armed with a giant-sized spoon, digging straight into the ice cream carton whenever nobody’s looking [not that I’ve ever done that!]).

    . . . Now back to your “basal ganglia.” The B.G. is actually (Read more…)


    Peyton Manning: A Bronco

    The Denver area where I live is all agog over the very recent signing of Peyton Manning to the Denver Broncos. I am not a huge football fan (much to the chagrin of my football-phile family), but even I have been caught up in all of the excitement and hoopla around Peyton’s coming to Denver. I still can’t quite reconcile what professional athletes make compared to teachers or social workers, but that’s another issue. However, setting that aside for a moment, I have to say I was quite impressed with Manning’s approach when he flew to Denver to cement his contract. After the press conference and the answering of numerous questions, it was clear that our new quarterback was eager to do one thing: (Read more…)

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