Posts Tagged ‘personal coaching’

Quality Results Guaranteed

September 12, 2008

The trick to doing most anything well is doing it badly first.

My favorite illustration of this comes from the pages of a wonderful (short) book called Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland:

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

Perhaps it is truer to say that the trick to doing most anything well is DOING the thing in the first place. The hurdle lies in moving from contemplation into action…and the best way over the hurdle is practice.  Far too often, we don’t give ourselves permission to practice — to dive in head first, make a mess of things…in essence, create a bunch of ugly pots.

But what if we did?  What if, more often than not, we moved across the great divide between contemplation and action by focusing on doing rather than on doing well?  What if we set our sights on the quantity of practice rather than on the quality of our efforts?

Consider it…What would change for you if you gave yourself more permission to practice?


P.S. Many thanks for the terrific response to last month’s ZoomLetter on Laughter! Friend and veteran television director & producer, Abby Russell, makes it her mission to share the benefits of laughter with others.  Abby is the founder of Comedy Fights Cancer, a non-profit organization that delivers live and taped stand-up comedy to patients in hospitals and care facilities and organizes comedy benefits to raise money for cancer research.  CFC’s mission is to improve patient quality of life through humor. Learn more about this amazing organization at

Jen helps people to set goals and then exceed their own expectations!
Her personal & career coaching programs are custom-designed for students and professionals.  Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Financial Times, Smart Money,, Time Out New York, and on The Today Show.

To learn more about Jen’s private coaching services, or to schedule an introductory session, please contact Jen directly:

Phone: 914.617.8283

Visit Jen on the Web at

Fun, Free and Good for Us

August 15, 2008
It was Milton Berle who said, “I live to laugh, and I laugh to live.”

Few things in this world are more enjoyable, or better for us, than LAUGHTER!

If it weren’t enough that laughter makes us feel better, an article published by staff at the Mayo Clinic attests to the physical benefits of laughter, including the following:

-laughter stimulates organs and increases endorphins (like exercise)
-laughter eases digestion and soothes stomachaches
-laughter improves our immune systems
-laughter is a natural painkiller (with no side-effects)

You can read the full Mayo Clinic article here.

Everyday, we find ourselves bombarded with information about all of the things we “should” do to keep ourselves healthy (including: exercise, get enough sleep, eat fruits and vegetables…drink enough water, but not too much). Perhaps it’s time LAUGHTER got its rightful place at the top of the list. And the more, the better!

With a chuckle,


Jen helps dynamic individuals achieve professional success and personal fulfillment.
Her personal & career coaching programs are custom-designed to help you meet your unique goals. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Financial Times, Smart Money,, Time Out New York, and on The Today Show.

To learn more about Jen’s private coaching services or to schedule an introductory session, please contact Jen directly:

Phone: 914-617-8283

Visit Jen on the Web at

Capture Your Best Ideas!

August 1, 2008
For most of us, our best thinking happens when we’re least equipped to capture our thoughtsin the car, in the shower, or just as we’re dozing off to sleep.

Often, what stands between imagination and implementation is committing pen to paper.

In countless circumstances, one strategy has enabled me and my clients to capture our thoughts and bring to fruition our most creative ideas:

Post-it Notes. Purchase a 6-pack, and keep one in your car, another on a bathroom shelf, and another on your bedside table. Pair each with a pen. If it turns out that you do your best thinking while exercising or cooking, consider leaving a set in your gym locker and another on the kitchen counter. (No brand loyalty necessary…If sticky notes aren’t your thing, plain pads of paper will do just as well).

Most importantly, resist the temptation in the moment to think, “I’ll remember that,” and instead commit your thoughts to a notepad immediately. Then transfer the contents of those notes to your planner, PDA, to-do list, or cell phone…so you can take action on them.

And, enjoy bringing your best ideas to life!


Jen helps dynamic individuals achieve professional success and personal fulfillment.
Her personal & career coaching programs are custom-designed to help you meet your unique goals. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Financial Times, Smart Money,, Time Out New York, and on The Today Show.

To learn more about Jen’s private coaching services or to schedule an introductory session, please contact Jen directly:

Phone: 914-617-8283

Visit Jen on the Web at

2 Ways to Buy Time

July 18, 2008

How often do you tackle a task and then ask yourself, “Why is this taking me FOREVER!?”

There is an old adage called Parkinson’s Law, which says that “work expands to fill the time available.” It’s a short way of saying that we can SAVE time by setting aside LESS of it to begin.

The following are 2 practical applications — tools you can use to literally buy yourself time:

1) ADOPT AN EGG-TIMER: The egg-timer is one of the greatest time management tools! (If it’s more your style, a stopwatch works just as well). Set the egg-timer to 15 minutes, and race against the clock to finish all assortments of pesky tasks around the home or office. Try it for limiting the time you spend on cleaning, filing, writing emails, or getting ready to leave in the morning. This really works!! By setting a clear time limit, you force yourself to get more done quickly. Fifteen minutes is arbitrary. Set the time limit to suit your purposes…but keep it much shorter than you’re used to. For habitual tasks, experiment with decreasing the time allotment week by week, effectively training yourself to work smarter and faster.

2) SET AN EARLIER DEADLINE: This strategy works well when you find yourself dragging out the process of making a decision. There is freedom (and time to be gained) in realizing that other people’s deadlines need not be your own. It’s not often that we think about making deadlines tighter, but shorter timeframes have a way of reducing days of worry. Try it next time a client or vendor wants an answer “by next Monday.” Set a personal deadline to speak with him/her by 3pm on Friday, in time to enjoy the weekend with the decision behind you.

With cheer!


Jen helps dynamic individuals achieve professional success and personal fulfillment.
Her coaching programs are custom-designed to help you meet your unique goals.

To learn more about Jen’s private coaching services or to schedule an introductory session, please contact Jen directly:


Visit Jen on the Web at

Don’t Put Your Dreams On Hold…

June 30, 2008
This week’s blog entry comes courtesy of a client (I’ll call Laurie) who gave me permission to share one piece of her inspiring story.

Laurie had a dream for more than a decade to own and operate her own vineyard. She had been putting her dream on hold, content rather to keep it in her mind as the perfect fantasy. This perfect fantasy would indeed “rescue” her sometimes when she’d think about it during especially tough days at the office. Laurie liked having this dream to turn to, but she’d been frustrated for a long time that she wasn’t taking steps to make it a reality. Instead, she realized she was stowing the dream away in her mind like an artifact in a museum, keeping the vision wrapped up perfectly in its exquisite detail (ripe with beautiful rows of magenta grapes beneath a golden sky).  She was worried to take it out and touch it, lest she ruin the dream or risk not being able to bring it to fruition in all its glory.

Each one of us has dreams like Laurie’s — dreams we put ON HOLD because they seem too BIG…too SCARY…too CRAZY…too IMPOSSIBLE…or too PERFECT.

The visions we have in our mind’s eye are so resplendent that we have the feeling any steps we were to take in real life would fall far short, and perhaps, leave us disappointed. We effectively create our own hurdle, too high to cross.

The way out of this conundrum is by carving a messy path straight through our picture-perfect dream…and delighting in the process!

So how did Laurie carve her messy path?

She planted a garden in her backyard.

Once she recognized what was most appealing about her dream, she saw the chance to make that part a reality. What Laurie loves most is being outside, getting her hands dirty, tilling the soil, and watching life grow. She can do all of these things this very moment, everyday if she wants to, without moving to the wine country and without buying a vineyard. Owning that vineyard someday is still very much a goal of Laurie’s; she hasn’t relinquished the dream. Rather, she’s taken one step in its direction — one fairly messy step that tracks mud into her house and leaves a smile on her face. And that step, my friends, has made all the difference.

With joy!


P.S. I dedicate today’s ZoomLetter to all those who want to run a marathon…and sign up for their first 5K race; to all those who long to be published authors… and sit down to write their first blog entries; to all those who wish to be rock stars…and jam in their basements; to every one of us who has a dream…and doesn’t wait until tomorrow to enjoy it.

Jen helps dynamic individuals achieve professional success and personal fulfillment.
Her coaching programs are custom-designed to help you meet your unique goals.

To learn more about Jen’s private coaching services or to schedule an introductory session, please contact Jen directly:


Visit Jen on the Web at

2 Extra Tips to Stop Worry

April 30, 2008

Other handy distractions:

These are great when you’re driving or otherwise occupied and you can’t use traditional distractions like puzzles or sports to keep your mind from drifting to worried thoughts. Examples include: Counting backwards in three’s from 100 (ex. 100, 97, 94, 91….); Reciting to yourself boys’ names from A to Z (ex. Aaron, Brian, Carl, David….), and then reciting girls’ names A to Z; Naming cities from A to Z (ex. Austin, Boston, Chicago…); or Finding the alphabet in the letters of street signs (ex. finding letters A and B in the sign for The George Washington Bridge; finding letter C in the sign for the Cross Bronx Expressway, etc….Attention New Yorkers: signs for Queens really come in handy for Q’s and U’s). The object is to use these fun and easy mind-teasers to keep your mind OFF worry. They really work…I encourage you to try them next time you’re driving and fretting. Perfect for traffic jams!

A great way to quiet nerves when giving public speaking presentations:

One thing that works really well involves shifting your mind AWAY from thinking about how you’re doing. The more you can GET INVOLVED with the audience, the less nervous you’ll be. To quell nerves just BEFORE “show time,” think about the audience rather than focusing on yourself and your speech. Think about what the audience is eager to learn, why they might be interested in attending your talk, and what value you can provide to them. Better yet, greet and talk to attendees as they arrive, asking them these same types of questions. Again, place the focus squarely on them. If nerves strike DURING your presentation, again GET INVOLVED with the audience by looking different audience members in the eyes as you speak. You will find your nerves running higher if you direct your gaze over the audience as one large group. Rather, by looking at distinct individuals as you speak, your mind will interpret that you are having a series of individual conversations, and your nerves will calm themselves as a result. These techniques work great for office meetings, too!


4 Ways to Stop Worrying

(the full article from this week’s ZoomLetter…..To sign up for Jen’s newsletter, click here.)

Many years ago, a dear friend shared a powerful and liberating piece of advice with me. After I had “entertained” her with some worries on my mind — insignificant enough (when judged in hindsight) for me to have trouble recalling them now — she turned to me and said, “You know, you don’t have to believe every thought you have.”

She had lighted upon something important in the way I was worrying. She detected that I was granting my worried thoughts the authority of facts — as if they were sure to occur, or worse yet, as if they had already occurred.

It’s true that some of us worry more than others, but if one thing is true about human beings, it is that each of us worries at least some of the time. And unlike healthy and useful preparation, worry is unnecessary and wasteful “wringing” of the body and mind. Worry gets us nowhere, except for making us feel more upset. It’s no wonder that the dictionary definition of worry begins with the phrase “to torment oneself”.

So, if worrying is a waste, how can we stop doing it?

The following are 4 techniques to end worry.
(and they work pretty well on negative thoughts, too)

1) GET TURNED OFF: As soon as your mind brings up a worry or negative thought, dismiss it. When you catch yourself worrying, picture a bright red STOP sign in your mind. Use the image of the STOP sign to block giving the thought further time or notice. If a STOP sign doesn’t work, try keeping a rubber band on your wrist, and snap it every time you notice a worry or negative thought. The harmless sting will focus you outside your worry and will remind you to stop doing it.

2) GET ARGUMENTATIVE: If the worry or negative thought doesn’t take STOP for an answer, talk back to it. Be your own best defense attorney and line up evidence that runs counter to the invading worry. If it’s helpful, jot down a quick list of counter-arguments to the negative thought. No one has to see your list but you. Keep the list handy, because negative thoughts can be persistent and usually need a good thrashing on more than one occasion.

3) GET DISTRACTED: This technique is one reason why hobbies are so popular. If you’re having negative thoughts or worries, one of the very best things you can do is distract yourself. The human mind has a beautiful way of not being able to focus well on more than one thing at once. Take advantage of this. Occupy your mind with very tangible things that distract your attention. Some of the best distracters include: puzzles of all sorts, needlework, crafts, sports, and cooking. Keep in mind that if you really needed to do something about your worry, you’d be doing it. By the very fact that you are worrying (and not acting), it’s likely you are wasting energy and are better served by keeping your mind occupied in other ways.

4) GET INVOLVED: This one is all about taking the focus off oneself. Volunteering and helping others is a win-win all around. We feel great for two reasons: 1) we bring joy to others, and 2) we keep worry at bay because we shift our mind away from our own negative thoughts when we focus on others.

One thing I enjoy most about being a personal coach is helping clients quit torturing themselves. Clients often remark that through coaching, they get to trade worry for tangible action plans that get results. There are many more tricks where these came from. Learn more at

To borrow my friend’s line, here’s to not believing every thought we have!


A Good Problem to Have

April 11, 2008

It’s a rare person among us who sits around thinking, “What problems can I create for myself today?” Most of us spend our days on the lookout for how we can best avoid problems, preferring to act when we’re fairly certain we’ll be successful, or at least incur the fewest headaches for our efforts.

It may be counterintuitive, but recognizing “good problems” to have — and allowing them to happen — is a key to personal and professional fulfillment.


Have you ever noticed that as a group, folks who enjoy the greatest achievement and satisfaction (with the least accompanying anxiety) often share a common view of challenges?

1) Simply put, they welcome good problems to have in the pursuit of their goals. In fact, these folks tend to view challenges as opportunities which indicate and spur growth. They know that most goals worth pursuing come along with a fair share of hassles. And so, they get good at spotting those challenges that are necessary and useful along the terrain they wish to travel. Rather than dwell on the hassles, these folks place their focus firmly on the potential upside the hassles herald.

2) Perhaps even more importantly, these same folks rarely spend time forcing themselves to come up with the solutions to anticipated problems in advance. This way, they don’t waste energy, and they don’t hold themselves back from taking action altogether. It isn’t that these folks ignore the potential downside to problems. Rather, they trust they will “handle it” and find solutions when the time comes. They know that their first solution may not be the best one, but that won’t matter. After all, part of the growth that problems create is ingenuity when it comes to solving them.


In a former life, the producer I worked with at the hit HBO show, The Sopranos, taught me the value of this approach. Her favorite response to anyone’s “what if” questions was, “Now that would be a good problem to have!” (When problems did occur, she’d respond in the moment with useful solutions). I remember we were kicking off the 2nd season of the show with a screening at The Ziegfeld to an invitation-only crowd that we had overbooked. I asked her, “But what if we have to turn away people at the door?” to which she responded in customary fashion, “Now that would be a good problem to have, wouldn’t it?” She saw the value that lay in the short-lived hassle of crowd control. No further mention was made of the “problem” as we got busy on preparations for the special event. In fact, the “problem” did surface the night of the screening, and after we performed some damage control and made a few quick arrangements to accommodate some extra guests, the press covered the event to glowing reviews as a star-studded, standing-room only affair. It was then that I realized one of the things which made this producer so talented — she knew how to direct her energy towards the results she wished to create (while recognizing the gold in the inevitable hassles along the way). After six terrific, Emmy-award winning seasons, her mindset couldn’t have been more productive.

As a coach, I sometimes notice clients holding themselves back with the intention of avoiding a hassle they foresee lurking around the corner. Recently, a client was wrestling with whether to attend an interview for a job she wasn’t sure she wanted. “But what if they offer me the position?” she asked me, to which I heard myself reply, “Now that will be a good problem to have, won’t it?” Once we discussed it in greater depth, the client realized all she stood to gain by inviting the “problem” to occur, including: the opportunity to learn more about the company, extra practice interviewing, a chance to surprise herself and be surprised by what the company might have to offer, and increased self-confidence. (It turned out the hiring manager agreed with her inclination that this wasn’t the position for her, but he was so impressed by her that he offered her another position that was beyond what she could have imagined!)


So how do you put this concept of seizing on “good problems to have” to work for you?
Consider the following questions next time you’re starting a new project, taking on a big goal, or making a transition:

  • What would be a good problem to have happen here? How can I make it occur?
  • What hassles am I trying to prevent, avoid, or solve upfront? By doing so, how might I be holding myself back from taking action?
  • What else could I be doing with the energy I’m currently using to focus on problem-avoidance?
  • What problem might I need to allow to occur to get past this stuck point?
  • What strengths must I recognize in myself in order to feel comfortable moving forward on this?

And remember, puddles are made for splashing!


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