The Ego Test

By Leadership, Life, Self-WorthNo Comments

We all have an ego. It’s part of the operating system that runs the human app. This is not a surprise. I’m certain that everyone has some varying degree of awareness of their own ego. Even if the old ego=pride definition is applied, it still shows some awareness that there’s a part of us that can be corrosive and destructive if we allow it. The sharp increase in the practicing of mindfulness has also brought greater awareness to the presence and influence of ego.

The first thing to know is that we need to stop trying to kill our egos. We need the ego. It contains a large portion of our identity. It makes us alert and situationally aware for threats and opportunities. It provides the drive to hunt, achieve, perform. It fuels passion and charisma. The issue is not that the ego is some sort of defect in the human app. The issue is that the ego is constantly in pursuit of trying to take control.

In short, the ego makes for a great employee but a tyrannical boss.

As such, it is an essential skill to learn how to be aware (quickly!) that our ego is running our lives.

I simply call this The Ego Test.

While there are certainly variances based on behavioral profiles and external conditioning, the red flags of ego are universal. They include:

  • Comparison. This is the #1 indicator that the ego is the boss. To put it directly, all comparison is of the ego. And from it springs jealousy, attachment, insecurity, unworthiness and many other destructive reactions.
  • Judging your feelings. “I should feel X.” “I shouldn’t feel Y”. Your feelings are just your feelings. Yet the ego puts a good-to-bad or right-to-wrong spectrum on them in order to label and to control.
  • Self-Righteousness. This may be the most deceiving trait of the ego; where we become convinced in our rightness and everyone else’s wrongness. Skepticism and rational (two key elements of being a free thinker) can’t co-exist with self-righteousness. This is the essence of extremism.
  • Lack of Compassion. By design, the ego doesn’t have compassion. It’s the primal side of us that is needed for survival. And compassion and survival are in direct conflict with each other. So if we begin to lose our ability to see our own humanity or soul and the humanity and souls in others, we know the ego is in charge.
  • Self Absorption. The ego loves the role of Victim. By attaching our ego to our suffering, we become so consumed by our pain that the pain itself becomes becomes our identity. This means we spend our days in a personal hell of torment and lose our capacity for gratitude and compassion.

Once you begin to be aware of these indicators, you can then begin to learn how to make your ego a productive, efficient employee. But that’s a separate post.

Why You Won’t (or Can’t) Opt-In

By Leadership, Life, Self-WorthNo Comments

A few years ago, my business/creative partner Emily Soccorsy and I coined the term “Opt-Iners”. We use this term to describe the millennial-minded mature leaders (40+ years old) that are opting into the new way of doing business – what we call “being human”. Opt-Iners are self-aware, heart-centric, spiritually curious, tech savvy and adventurous. All very necessary traits in building and growing 21st century brands.

Emily’s recent post entitled “The Most Terrifying Question You Can Ask You” got me thinking – which lead me to this question … why wouldn’t someone opt-in? The evidence is clear that the era of command-and-control leadership, treating humans as capital and treating consumers as idiots is over. Why hold on to any vestiges of that era?

Here could be why …

  1. Industrial-Age Mindset What made a leader a successful in the Industrial Age wrecks organizations and people in the Human Age. From health benefits to workloads to performance metrics to safety, all the ways a company treated people in the Industrial Age are over. You can no longer hurt people, discriminate, suppress, wreck the environment, etc (not that there aren’t still more subtle ways of doing these). Yet much of the Industrial Age thinking remains. A great example is this … in the Industrial Age, you moved the people by moving the numbers (quotas, performance bonuses, productivity metrics, etc). In the Human Age, you move the numbers by moving the people. If you have an Industrial Age mindset about what moves people, it is impossible to opt-in.
  2. Linear Thinking. This is very much related to above. The Industrial Age produced straight lines to improve efficiency, productivity, output. Marketing was a straight line between product and target market. Recruiting was a straight line between job and skillset. In the Human Age, everything is spherical. It’s messy. It’s unclear. It takes a leader to see the patterns and rhythms – and linear thinking is the enemy of spherical thinking. If you see everything as a Point A to Point B activity with a series of processes and checkboxes, it is impossible to opt-in.
  3. Hours in the Office. It’s no longer viable to be addicted to work. Yet thousands of leaders wage a war of attrition with their minds, bodies and souls around how many hours they spend in the office, how they are never disconnected. A cynical view is that vacation time for most leaders is a time to recover enough to go back to grist mill of their role and job responsibilities – like a military leave from a combat zone. In the Human Age, Opt-In leaders measure things through energy acquired and spent. This is partially why EQ and mindfulness are such a hot topic in the business world lately. When you measure things through time spent, it is impossible to opt-in.
  4. Lack of Self Care. Addiction, depression, anxiety and suicides are tragically at an all time high. Too many leaders treating themselves and their people like rental cars or disposable razors. Too much of a massive gap between the real person and the job person. In the Industrial Age, you kept your emotional and spiritual (and often literal) wounds to yourself. You showed up. Because you had to. In the Human Age, these wounds, if left untreated, will wreck your career and hurt the people around you at work and at home. In the Human Age, if you aren’t taking care of you first, its impossible to opt-in.

Each one these areas are a choice. No one can make you do, think or feel anything. So if these resonated with you as reasons why you haven’t opted-in, I encourage you to examine your attachments, beliefs and fears. These three are the root of why we don’t grow, don’t change, don’t evolve. For those of us that have opted-in, it’s essential that we show compassion to those leaders that haven’t. This is not some character flaw. These are not dumb people. They are simply afraid and need some encouragement.

Embracing the Low Tide Moments

By Life, Self-WorthNo Comments


In a year plus of massive transition and upheaval, this week has been especially so. In light of those dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane, none of it was life-threatening or cataclysmic. But it still was a force multiplier of emotions that left me weary and raw — but also hopeful and grateful.

Here’s a summary of the week:

  • Our older son Logan and daughter-in-law Sarah moved from Austin back to Portland.
  • Our younger son Caden moved into his own place here in Austin.
  • Lynna and I moved to a new place and spent our first night as “empty nesters”. (An aside, I really dislike that term. Any suggestions on a better descriptor?)
  • Several other key relationships were full of tension, testing and conflict. These are relationships that have been a lifeblood to me so to have them disrupted was especially painful.

Oh … and I still had a business to co-run, clients to coach, spiritual practices to continue, adulting to do.

All of these combined to create a sense of low tide. I had previously hated these low tide moments: when our first son moved out, the passing of my grandparents — plus many other low tide moments in relationships and situations. In each case, I tended to go numb during the low tide moments. I felt exposed and vulnerable. Like everyone could see my scars, the debris, the hidden wreckage. I wanted to hide, lash out, cover up.

At best, these low tide moments were something to endure, something to overcome. So I tried to rush through them — like rushing would bring back the high tide. The low tide moments caused me to harshly judge myself for feeling the way I felt. They also carried a series of triggers that caused me to be hurtful to the people I most love.

This week was different. But I didn’t realize how different until sitting in my new thinking/reflection spot in our new home. In this week of upheaval, my mantra was “find the joy in each moment”. For the most part, I did. There were moments of feeling exposed, but I expressed them. There were moments I lashed out, but I asked for forgiveness. In the process of finding joy in each moment, I had three epiphanies:

  1. Yes, the low tide exposes scars and debris and even some death. But it also exposes treasure, nourishment, discoveries. All of which are impossible in high tide.
  2. No two low tides are the same. The natural process of drawing back and being exposed always appears differently. Yes, some of the same landmarks. But always different treasures and different debris.
  3. The high tide always returns. Always.

My intention is to continue my new-found embrace of low tide moments. I want to use them to practice gratitude, awareness, patience — especially in the low tide moments of relationships. I am certain these are the treasures that the low tide brings every day.

The Seven Thieves of Modern Life

By Leadership, Self-WorthNo Comments

Despite the headlines, all the data shows that we are in a great age of prosperity and abundance. Probably the most prosperous and abundant era in the history of the human race. Yet if that’s true, why is there still so much suffering and unhappiness — especially in the US?

I believe it’s because we’ve allowed a set of thieves to steal our energy, attention and connection to self. I call these the Seven Thieves of Modern Life. Here they are and what to do about them:

  1. Worry. Worry is highly addictive unnecessary waiting. It’s ego attaching happiness and peace of mind to an external condition or outcome. Worry hijacks our natural coping mechanisms and makes us obsess over the trivial and insignificant. Worry robs us of present moment. Worry warps our lens of how we see ourselves and others.
    Solution: The only solution for worry is action. The first action being awareness of the worry, then a willful decision on what to do about it.

  2. Distractions. We receive 5000–7000 behavioral requests a day. People, alerts, advertising, emails, outside stimuli — all demanding our attention. It has made our minds weary; effecting our decision-making, ability to prioritize and our sense of what is important and what is not important.
    Solution: We all need occasional sacred space — a walk, nature, reading, meditation … whatever is uniquely your recovery space. Even 5–10 minutes of uninterrupted stillness goes a long way. But we must demand it and create it because it can’t be given to us by others.

  3. Comparison. Our economy runs on comparison — improvements, upgrades, status. We compare our lives to each other — often through the lens of social media. We compare our own performance as a human to some impossible ideal that we agreed to. All of this comparing just feeds the ego’s never-ending appetite for more. It robs us of gratitude and self-worth — and puts us in a perpetual state of There or That.
    Solution: The cure for comparison is clarity. Clarity about who you truly are, what you believe, what matters to you. This clarity protects you from internal and external comparison. It allows you to interact with humanity as your true self. It brings discernment to what you give your value and attention to.

  4. Attachments. Attachment is part of the Human App. We naturally attach our happiness to ideals, goals, other people’s behaviors. The list is endless. Attachment becomes a thief when our identity is completely tied up in what we’re attached to. A great example is a career or title. We are not that career or title, but because we are so attached to either, it informs our world view, sense of worth and decisions.
    Solution: The solution to attachments is self-examination. Some would call this “awareness” but I believe it’s deeper than that. If you are honest, self-examination will reveal what you are attached to and how it is driving your decision-making. Self-examination reminds you of your power to trace the root of the attachment to its source — then either say “yes” or “no” to the attachment.

  5. Options. We have too much choice. Closely related to comparison and distractions, we are inundated with options — all designed to consume our attention and value. Comfort, short-term gratification and distraction are plentiful — and just a few clicks away. We create preferences based off these options — and don’t pause to ask if we truly want (let alone need!) that particular preference.
    Solution: The Power of Choice is the solution for options. No one can decide for us. No one can make us do anything. It’s all choice. By reclaiming the power of choice, we are also re-claiming our yes’s and no’s. We are re-establishing what is essential and necessary vs comforts of life.

  6. Information. Similar to options, we have too much information. We search and Google and read reviews and consume “news” — all to feed our ego’s need to know. This robs us of being grounded, centered and present. It also creates the angst that we are missing a key piece of information that we need. And that it’s just around the corner.
    Solution: Context is the solution to too much information. Context is the ability to use reason and logic to discern what’s important and what’s not important. Context breaks the ego’s lock on information and returns it to being a tool rather than a master.

  7. Isolation. So many friends and followers, yet so little actual connection. Many blame social media for this. Social media is just an amplifier of real life. We have found it easier to maintain a cordial, surface distance from most people — even within the walls of our homes. This disconnect from others leads to isolation. A sense of deep aloneness where you lose your sense of self and of humanity. Distractions, coping tools and information just make it worse.
    Solution: Connection is the key. Actual, real soulful connection to other humans. We are designed for solitude (not isolation) so that we can more fully connect to others. This requires a lot of spiritual nudity; showing your true self without the aforementioned attachments. When you can connect on a daily basis, these conversations become little rest stops on the otherwise wearisome road of life.

I’m certain there are more thieves of modern life. And I’m certain that many of these are over-lapping — even feeding off each other. But my key point is this: every one of these thieves enters by invitation. This is why I believe so strongly in sovereignty, self-love and personal liberty. You don’t need to build walls or stronger locks. You just need to stop inviting them to enter your lives.

Allow Me to Introduce Myself

By Self-Worth2 Comments

How often do you show up to situations and events as your true self? I have done poorly at this in the past. My pattern was either put on a performance (in order to be accepted) or retracting into a shell (to protect my ego). But that has begun to change.

As I’ve written about frequently here, the last several years have been a time of massive — and often terrifying — transformation. One particular area is this matter of knowing your true self. I had to strip away all that I was taught (directly and indirectly) about myself. And even the ideas and definition of “self”. I’ve had to examine my attachments — and what those attachments do for my identity. I had to strip away veneer and sandblast the remnants of old movie sets and old roles.

Beneath all that, I found someone I love unconditionally. Then, and only then, was I able to show up as me.

The discipline to show up as your true self feels very exposing and vulnerable — a sort of spiritual nudity. Showing up as your true self is full of risks. It may cause many people in your life to turn away. It may cause you to take an unplanned path that doesn’t fit your plan. It will most definitely lead to temporary hurt.

Recent experiences have taught me that showing up as your true self does not eliminate the risk of being hurt or rejected. In fact, it increases those chances. After all, if you have been showing up in costume, you may be unrecognizable out of it. But I did it anyway. I showed up as me. I expressed my fears. I spoke from the heart. I eliminated all pretense. It was terrifying, purifying and exhilarating.

On the other side of all that is this truth: when you show up as your true self, you learn even more about yourself. And that makes it totally worth it.

So … allow me to (re)introduce myself with this …

I am Justin. I am …

  • A living soul
  • God’s unique creation
  • A Sovereign being
  • A whole and complete man
  • A Believer
  • An overcomer
  • A father
  • A friend
  • A leader
  • A Warrior
  • A Messenger
  • A primal, sexual creature
  • A man of simple pleasures
  • A man with high standards
  • A man with a complex mind
  • A truth-seeker and teller
  • A free thinker
  • A learner
  • A Coach
  • A writer
  • A presenter
  • Brave
  • Defiant
  • Sensitive
  • Awake
  • Generous
  • An adventurer

Treat me with respect. Communicate with me with directness and specificity. Don’t stifle my feelings or words. Don’t ask me to modify to make you feel better. Forgive me when my intensity is too much.

This is me. Who are you?

5 Things I Learned in the Wild

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A week ago today, I was back home in Austin after 8 days in Alaska. The highlight being helicoptered with my friend/guide Mike Green out of the Upper Moody area near Denali, AK. After 20 miles of backpacking over two days, I had injured my hip and couldn’t continue. Although I journaled about it privately and shared a recap with my inner circle, I intentionally waited a week to write a Medium post about it. I wanted to see what had stayed with me — and what returned that I thought I’d left out there.

My #1 intention for going was not just to get away or go off the grid. It was to see what I was made of; to voluntarily put myself in an uncomfortable place that required me to dig deep and stretch far. I accomplished that absolutely — despite the change of plans.

A week later, I’m seeing the permanent shifts in me. Here’s my best attempt at a top 5 list of takeaways from the experience …

  1. I accepted (finally) my physical limits. I’ve always had the construct in my mind of what I wanted to be as a physical being. I remember early in adulthood, cutting out a picture of Dallas Cowboy Defense Tackle Chad Henning and saying “I want to look like that”. Part of this construct is that my mind would help me overcome any physical limitations. That I just needed to try harder. But then I did my very best physically and mentally and I still couldn’t continue. A few years ago, this would have devastated me. But now I’m grateful that I know my limits. I accept that my body has physical limits. And I’m grateful that my body broke before my mind did.
  2. Never stop moving other than to rest. If life boils down to just one step at a time forward, that’s still progress. I will never forget the sound of the bear bell jingling as a reminder that, although slow, I was still moving. One of the things I’ve learned this year is that there is always a path forward but it is often revealed a step at a time — which requires active faith. Related to this, I overcame my fear of rest. I know that sounds strange, but I’ve often attached shame to a need for rest. There was no shame in sitting and recovering in order to continue.
  3. Disconnection is Highly Over-Rated. A lot of people said they were envious that I was going off the grid. I was isolated from the people I love and the rest of the world for 4 1/2 days plus large portions of other days. I hated it, to be honest. It was miserable but it made me realize how much I have to be grateful for. I felt my little tribe in my heart even out in the Wild. That was comforting, but not nearly as much as hearing their voices — then the sweet bliss of seeing their faces and being in their presence.
  4. Trusting a Man. I don’t generally trust men. There are many I respect and admire but something in my conditioning made me distrusting of men — especially alpha males. Prior to and during the adventure, I had to place 100% trust in Mike. I had to trust him with his guidance on what to pack, his guidance on where we were going and eventually his guidance on the best way to get out of our predicament. I had to trust him with my weakness and feelings of failure.
  5. Nature purifies the Soul. Purification means returning something to its original state. Being in the Wild and seeing its relentless existence and perfect harmony was a crucible for removing old constructs and imagined limits. And putting me face to face with reality: real limits, real fears. Unlike us humans, nature is not dichotomous. It just is. This singleness of being makes nature only temporarily bendable. Preparation, planning and prioritization also become very real and present. I was not prepared and nature made sure to let me know that. In the purging of constructs I found that I am happy, whole and have extraordinary life for which to be grateful for.

Returning to “civilization” was rather jarring. I found myself flooded with agitation and irritation at the trivial pursuits, taken for granted privileges and thin conversations. We humans are less civilized people and more domesticated creatures; pack animals loaded down with attachments, expectations and the unnecessary. This is why we must return to nature again and again — to be reminded of our own fragile wild.

Killing Me Softly

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“In order for something to live, something has to die.”

I don’t know if this is an anonymous quote I once read, something wise uttered by a friend or it was placed on my heart by the One who places things on our hearts. Regardless, it is a revelation that has helped me to understand my own transformation and journey over the past few years.

We see this in the foundation of creation. The cycle of life in nature. The seed dying so the root can spring forth. We see it in humanity. Heroes laying down their lives for their friends and causes. It is all around us but it is also in us — this cycle of living and dying.

I have found much of the construct of “me” has died or is dying. Old beliefs, old roles, old expectations, old methods, old plans. Like in nature, each of these deaths have been messy. I would love to say that I plunged into each of them with enthusiasm and bravery but that would be a lie. In each case, my heart saw the death before my head did. And oh did my head fight back. “This isn’t the plan!!” uttered or screamed in anger or desperation many times.

In each case, there was an eventual surrender to the process of dying. This surrender was a massive perspective shifter — for in the surrender, I saw the new life emerging. I saw that the construct of “me” was a limiter of potential, expansion, love, gratitude. By letting these old constructs die, I saw tremendous growth in all of these areas. I entered into new revelations, new friendships, new adventures. All of which would have been impossible if I had embraced stasis.

I also noticed this … some things didn’t die. They became stronger. My faith in God. My belief in sovereignty. My love for others. My self-worth. My intuition. These came with me and grew as I emerged from the carcasses of each phase.

I also lost some things in each of these deaths. The illusion of control. Any ability to tolerate or participate in conversations about small things. My political and religious stridency. My trivial passions. My obsession with acceptance. My propensity to waste time.

I know new deaths await me. I feel my ego’s white-knuckled grasp on several things. I feel fear flood my psyche. I hear the voices of preservation. But now I know a secret … these responses are simply evidence to keep going.

Of course, at some point my soul will leave the shell of this body behind. My hope is that I will be prepared for that — because I would have already lived and died and lived a thousand times before.

5 Signs You Aren’t Spiritually Curious

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Just as emotional intelligence (EQ) has become a more respected leadership measurement than IQ, I think spiritual intelligence (SQ) will eventually transcend both EQ and IQ — especially related to leadership. While there are assessments for both IQ and EQ, I’m not sure if there will ever be an assessment for SQ. But I am certain that being spiritually curious is the starting point.

What do I mean by “spiritually curious”? It might be easier to explain by reverse engineering from these 5 signs you ARE NOT spiritually curious …

  1. You don’t ask “Why?” enough. This is the most obvious one. Asking why is an indicator of healthy skepticism. From the Apostle Thomas to Galileo to the Wright Brothers, free thinkers have listened to the voice that asks why and used it as fuel to discover, invent and innovate.
  2. All of your beliefs were taught to you. One of the questions we ask prior to a Root Session is “What is something you’ve always believed?” This question is intended to prompt the participant to go inward and examine the difference between always-been-there beliefs and beliefs taught to them by religious figures, parents, teachers, talk show hosts, etc.
  3. You use belief terms for science. Do you “believe” in evolution, global warming, quantum physics, etc? These are theories to prescribe to, not things to believe in. By using belief terms for scientific theory (or facts), you make science a form of religion.
  4. You use scientific terms for beliefs. A sure sign that you lack spiritual curiosity is that you want scientific proof of the unexplained and the unexplainable. To be spiritually curious means to have at least some level of faith in the unknown. It means having the intellectual humility to accept that not everything can be known.
  5. You are threatened by people who don’t believe what you believe. If you are afraid to listen to, study or expose yourself to people with alternative belief systems, you are encasing your soul in an atrophy-inducing pod where nothing grows. This type of religiosity not only creates a barren life, it creates fear-based tension between peoples.

Here is a free #6 sign you aren’t spiritually curious … if this post offended you.

The Root Of Fear

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Understanding your fears is a big part of what we do at Root + River related to helping uncover a leader or organization’s brand. Fear may be an unexpected topic for a brand strategy, but fear determines our reality. Our fears frame and inform how we see the world, how we make decisions and how we envision a future.

When we start digging into fears with a client, we ask them if they know the only two innate fears we are each born with. The answers range from fear of the unknown (sort of true) to fear of abandonment (again, sort of true). In actuality, research shows that the two innate fears we are born with are a fear of falling and a fear of loud noises. Here’s an interesting article that delves deeper into the science of fear.

In my own development, I’ve become a self-taught expert on fear. Fear has dominated my psyche for the past 46+ years. It is only in the past 6 months or so that I’ve begun to understand — and even occasionally embrace- my fears.

Here’s the #1 thing I’ve learned about fear: it has a root.

There is a root fear that we are taught very early on in our lives. This root fear is embedded in us by early childhood circumstances and conditions. As we grow, this root fear begins to produce tendrils that become elements of our personality, behavior and habits. As we mature, we are able to trace back all current fears to this root fear. And by tracing it back to the root, we are able to master and even harness these fears.

My root fear is a fear of rejection.

Instability, violence, mixed messages fed this fear. And my naturally hyper-sensitive soul took this fear of rejection and amplified it. This fear of rejection lead directly to a constant need for validation; a drive to prove my worth. While this made me incredibility tenacious, it also thwarted a lot of relationships and growth — and robbed me of happiness.

Denying this fear of rejection lead to many years of anxiety, depression and even migraines. But then I discovered this truth: any learned fear can be unlearned.

The process of unlearning the fear of rejection was part of an extensive journey of a spiritual awakening, discovering my mission and deepening the relationships that I value the most.

The secret weapon in the effort to eradicate this root fear was LOVE. Specifically, self-love. By learning to love and accept myself unconditionally, I was able to see past the root fear to my innate value. I learned that this fear of rejection was in direct contrast to an on-board belief in defiance and individualism. No wonder there was depression and anxiety — I was trying to not fear by being someone that I thought would be accepted.

I was able to harness my tenacity, curiosity and openness to focus not on fearing rejection less but on simply loving more. Along the way I learned another truth that I share in every speech I give: no one’s words or actions add to or take away from your value.

I will leave you with this …

I used to hate my root fear. I viewed it as an enemy; a threat to my well being. Now I realize that my root fear is a gift that has spurred me to deeper levels of understanding and higher levels of awareness. Without this root fear, I very likely would have never embarked on the journey to discover the true me.

What is your root fear and how does it influence your life?

My Evolution as a Coach

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I’ve always been a coach. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was the kid that other kids turned to in class for help with homework. I coached my two younger brothers on a variety of things – mostly how to play “good guys vs bad guys” with some level historical accuracy! Even with my initial jobs in high school and after, I was the guy that other employees turned to figure things out.

My journey continued as I began a career in tech sales. I coached my peers – and when promoted to VP of Sales, I still coached them. I viewed myself as a sales coach, not a sales manager. In 2000, I really began to identify as a coach when I began coaching youth football. Something I did for the next 15 years.

In the mid-2000s, I had lost my identity as a coach in my career. I was self-employed as part of a partner team of a small marketing agency. I didn’t do much coaching there because of roles – and frankly – insecurity about my own abilities. It wasn’t until 2006 that I considered monetizing my coaching abilities. That’s when I met Ron Price, a successful executive coach. I found him and his work to be fascinating. He became a mentor and a friend – which he still is to this day.

Then serendipity (or what felt like fate then) happened. Our marketing agency fell apart due to a variety of reasons and I had an opt-in moment. Do I go get a job or finally embrace my coaching skills? I chose to focus on brand coaching. As my career grew as a brand coach through a number of derivatives, I kept pretty much the same coaching methodology that I had carried with me for years. Then I began to evolve.

The evolution (as most of mine are) was slow and messy – with each phase more defined by lessons from failures than new levels of ability. As I began to fully invest in my natural abilities as a coach, I began to understand that my approach was like a grizzly bear opening a box of cereal. I would aggressively tear into clients and friends trying to find the prize inside and triumphantly show it to them.

This approach went on for many years. My skills grew. I began to embrace the power of intuition. I learned to ask better questions. I created repeatable models and methods. But I was still the same kind of coach – not much different than the whistle-wielding football coach. As I began to mature and become more wise as a coach, I realized that my aggressive approach was minimizing my impact. Regardless of how well intentioned my relentlessness was!

In early 2014, I had another inciting incident that propelled my evolution forward. Thanks to an intro from Ron, I had been retained as a brand coach by a behavioral assessment company. I worked closely with their VP of Corporate Communications to craft a proposal and solution for a brand reintroduction. Then I went and did my thing. I ripped open the box of cereal. I aggressively challenged the naysayers in the room. I stridently went after the truth. The next day, after a shorter recap session with her team, the VP of Corporate Communications followed me out to my rental car. I could tell she was agitated and asked what was wrong. “Is this what you do?” she said. “You come in here and blow s**t up and leave?!”.\I was stunned. I said “Yes. That’s what I do.” Her reply, “Nope. You are coming back to help me clean this up.” So I did. Little did I know that a year or so later, Emily Soccorsy, that VP, would become my business partner in Root + River!

Another incident in 2016 lead me to my current evolution as a coach. As I was wont to do, I proactively (and aggressively, of course) began coaching a close friend. I was so relentless to show this friend their potential, what the solution was, what to do, that I almost lost the friendship. It was a huge aha moment to realize that my greatest gift could end relationships. It caused me to reflect on how often I triggered attachment issues, co-dependency and blurred lines with other coaching clients and friends.

I would call this phase of my coaching to be the “Gentle Ben” phase. Rather than rip open the box of cereal. I will show you how to do it for yourself. Rather than crack you open and force myself into your story, I will offer my helping hand as a guide. Rather than proactively project on to you what I think you should do, I ask for permission and provide observations. The aggression is still there. I still wear that virtual whistle around my neck at times. But this approach is what we all strive to reach as coaches: to serve others out of love, not for our own validation.