Leadership means cleaning up.

Do you take out your own garbage? My neighbor doesn't.

Every week, he brings the bags down from his apartment and plops them on the street which means the landlord gets fined or, even better, puts them in MY garbage barrel. I get to haul his trash out each week and then roll the barrel back around the house.

Image  source .

Image source.

A part of me wants to say something to him. Another part of me feels bad for him. I feel sad that his integrity and personal responsibility is so lacking that he can't manage to take out his own trash, regardless of how it impacts other people. He also had his power turned off three times in less than a year and had a boot put on his car wheel for unpaid parking tickets.

Man, do I remember when my life was like this. I had a hard time seeing my part and cleaning up the messes I made. It's still a muscle I'm building but life feels much better now. Dodging things only makes them pile up, you know? And that pile can stink after a while.

Cleaning up after ourselves is part of what it means to be an adult. But people can age chronologically and never actually mature. You might know a few people in your life like this. It might be you. It's definitely me from time to time. We can go through the motions of "playing house" but may still struggle with being responsible for cleaning up the messes we make in our lives, both the literal and metaphorical ones. 

This doesn't mean we have to be perfect. It means we have to show up for when we make mistakes or errors or maybe look more closely at the areas of our lives we've been avoiding. 

Last week, a client of mine messed up. She was late to our session and she was already over the limit for late appearances with her supervisor (I'm coaching a team of people). She was in a bit of a tailspin when we met and she was honest enough to tell me that her being late again might mean some dire consequences. I could have let it go, but would I have been really serving her in her position as a leader? Nope. Facing the music of our humanness only builds our character, even if there's a difficult or unsavory consequence.

Instead, I coached her to show up for herself and clean up her mess. She battled it a little but I reassured her of my support and helped her release any attachment to the outcome. She was checking in about being late because her supervisor requested that. I reminded her of this and she felt better.

And what happened? Her supervisor thanked her and let it go. There was no negative consequence. What mattered to the supervisor was this person's integrity and courage to be responsible for her actions. The supervisor needs honest people in leadership positions--not perfect people. Since that exchange, my client pulled out of the tailspin she'd been in for a few weeks and she's feeling GREAT. 

When we avoid being responsible and cleaning up, we perpetuate whatever caused the "mess", be it lateness or some other issue. When we stop and look at what isn't working, for ourselves or other people, we communicate what matters to us, namely our personal integrity. Being responsible requires courage and self-confidence. It means forgiving ourselves for being human and helps us mess up less in the future. 

You're human. I am too. We will mess us. What matters is how we clean it up.


You Need to Make Room

make room

  Feeling stuck?

Something not working out the way you wanted, hoped for or planned?

I invite you to consider you're part of the problem--and 100% part of the solution. Before you go there, this isn't about guilt. This is about responsibility. When I learned the distinction between fault and responsibility, it changed my life. Maybe you will find it helpful, too.

When we become responsible for areas in life where we are stuck, we can actually do something about it--which is what we want, right? Have you ever waited on someone or something to provide for your needs? It can be difficult. Now that we are all adults, we don't have to do that. And that either sounds really scary or really exciting to you. Being responsible for ourselves begins with being able to make room, in our heads and our lives, for what we actually want.

It's startling to realize how powerful we are. It's difficult, actually, for many to understand or comprehend our abilities--so we often give over to excuses or reasons to bring our potential back down to a manageable bite-sized snack. And we also sometimes self-sabotage so we can continue to "play small", as Marianne Williamson likes to say.

One way we do this is to fill our time and our lives with things that don't bring us closer to the happiness we want and deserve. This might sound incredibly vague and lofty, which may not be helpful. Let me be more clear: you're probably doing something right now that is depriving you of the very thing you want.

Yes, yes you are.

How do I know? Because I do it every day and I coach client after client who does it, too. It's human. It's something we all do and it may be difficult to swallow, especially if the thing you want is REALLY important to you and you've been wanting it for a long time and have been doing everything in your power to make it happen.

It would be difficult to accept that you're in the way of having it, right?

What if the most powerful thing you could do, in the very moment, is see that? What would happen if you stopped and allowed yourself to admit that you're both part of the problem AND that itself was the key to the solution? Does it meant what you want or need will happen overnight? Probably not. Are there many other variables and factors influencing our lives? Definitely.

But what if, what if, you were able to step outside of your current day-to-day and did things ever so differently and it changed your life forever? Would you do it? Why aren't you, already?

Well, it might be for two reasons, both of which I know because I've studied them personally for about 16 years and academically for the past few years.

1) You don't see where you're stuck.

My favorite Buddhist teacher, Pema Chödrön, talks about being stuck as being "entangled". She says to get disentangled, we first have to KNOW that we are and WHERE we are entangled. Does that make sense? Some people are so focused on the frustration of being stuck, they rarely stop and step back and see themselves as being stuck. They are already in the anger and resistance of it. When we can let go of those feelings, we can just be and hang out with the stuck and, interestingly, we can see it much more clearly. If this all sounds really weird or confusing, just hang out with it for a second. Try not feeling frustrated and just sit with being stuck, without any feelings attached to it. Now, see what I mean?

Now, describe it. Give more details about where you're stuck. Don't get caught in being angry or sad, just say, "I'm stuck in the wrong job" or "I'm stuck on solving this problem with my business". Just try that.

Where are you stuck?

2) The momentum of your conditioning.

Ok, neat. Now you know where you're stuck. Now, you're up against what my therapist calls, "the momentum of our conditioning". He may have gotten that from someone else, but I don't know who. We just talk about it, often, because I have some pretty strong conditioning. We all do, actually. Our conditioning are the habits and patterns and ways of thinking and being that keep us who we are and doing what we are doing--even when we don't like it. Bummer, right? Yes and no. The bad news is, it's painful. The good news, we can change. That's why I write so much about change, because I want to provide people with the tools to overcome their conditioning, especially conditioning that's getting unwanted results. When we get momentum going in the direction we WANT, we get closer to having what we want--in any aspect of our lives.


These two factors are probably causing a lot of your stuckness. To get more of what you want on a regular basis, you'll need to make room for it, in some way--or many ways. That starts with clearly seeing what you're doing that's getting in your way, and not everyone is ready, willing and able to take that on.

Are you ready?

Recently, I was saying how I was really craving time with friends I love who live far away. My conditioning was telling me I was too busy, I couldn't afford it or that I wasn't able to take time away from grad school and my business. This time, I overrode the conditioning and made space in my calendar. I booked a flight to Wisconsin to see one of my best friends I hadn't seen in five years. FIVE YEARS. I went from longing to fulfilled--it was that easy.

Where do you need to make room right now? What do you need to change so you can make space for something you want and need? 




image courtesy of



The Pros & Cons of Choosing

How to choose

I think the secret to living a happy, healthy life is about making choices. Powerful ones. Even when it doesn't feel like your choice. It can be something simple like what clothes you choose to wear. It can be what name you choose for your child, or a new one you choose for yourself.

Whether or not you will be a vegetarian or paleo. Whether or not you put cream and sugar in your coffee or drink it black. Whether or not you drive to work every day when you live a mile away or decide to find an extra half hour and walk.

Choices. All of them.

My life is hard and I suffer a lot when I forget I have choices or when I don't feel a sense of power from the choices I make. When I'm coming from a place of "this is happening to me" instead of "this is happening for me".

Once I started playing around with this a little bit, I found there were pros and cons to every choice I made. Things that happened that made me feel really pumped about the choice and things that really sucked. I lost some things but gained some, too. I haven't made too many decisions in my life where choosing something didn't mean the loss of something else, in fact. It's sort of the trade-off, right?

The more I embrace this, the less I fear or resent making a choice.


For example, I remember choosing to leave a job I had a few years ago. It taught me a lot.

Once upon a time...

I had this job. It came with lots of really great perks like health benefits, stable income, a decent discount on stuff I liked to buy and some pretty cool co-workers. When I left, I had to walk away from all of that.

But there were also pros, because there were a few but one of them was pretty big so I'll focus on that. See, my supervisor wasn't role model. I won't go into details so I'll just say that our dynamic wasn't working in such a way that it made me literally sick. It was not healthy for me and I was letting it affect every aspect of my life. I was eating things I didn't need to eat, hardly sleeping and griping around the clock. No amount of trying to be the bigger person made a difference and I literally had another co-worker say to me, "Dillan, you are being far too nice."

I gave it a lot of thought and when I chose to leave, I got to leave all that toxic crap behind. The moral compromises I had to make? Not anymore. The secrets I was forced to keep? Over. The negative fallout I had to deal with from other co-workers for covering for this person? Merely bad memories, now.

So, what I lost in positive life perks, I GAINED in overall health because I chose to leave something that wasn't serving me.


Now, sometimes we don't get to choose. Life unfolds and we are left standing there, mouth hanging open like, "WTF just happened?" We have to rally the troops and figure out our next move. It's way harder to get excited about the pros and cons when choosing feels out of our hands. While we don't always get to control the Game of Life, we always get to choose how we respond to it. We always get to choose what perspective we take and the lens we use for our situation.

In the example I shared about the job, I will really honest with you, I spent a lot of time blaming and complaining. I tried to be cool but this person really seemed to be getting away with too much. It didn't feel fair. Even after I left, I kept the thing going by constantly talking about it.

And then, one day, I stopped. I let it go. I decided that it happened for a reason to get me to the next thing in my life and had served a really big purpose by teaching me how to let go and leave something that wasn't right for me.

I think it's important for us all to learn this important skill and I like to think I had this job with this person merely to help me learn something I'd need later in life.


So, I'm curious. What has this opened up for you? What do you see about choices you've made or are being forced to make and what pros and cons do you see?

Where are you focusing and how is it making you feel?

Would a different perspective make a difference?