Tag Archives: ego

Start Before You Are Ready

DSC_0544“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

Hello friend,

Start before you are ready. I first heard those words about a year ago from some self-help guru. I loved the idea! It sounded so brave and bold. Don’t wait until you get all of your ducks in a row. Just throw caution to the wind and go for your dream! I figured that if I was ever given the chance, there was no doubt I would do it. Of course I would! Or would I?

As much as I like to think of myself as totally laid-back and easy, I have some serious perfectionist tendencies. For things I take an interest in, I want to do them exactly right. I like to score 100% on everything. In school, if I had a test with 100 regular questions plus five bonus questions, I was not satisfied simply with getting an “A” or even a 100%. I needed that 105. I had many classes in which I could easily have skipped assignments or tests at the end of the semester because I was so far into—or above–the “A” zone, but my mind could not allow it. Looking back, it caused a lot more stress and took me away from a lot more fun than I care to admit. Such is the curse of the perfectionist mind.

I also have an obsession with competence. Perhaps my least favorite feeling in the world is an awareness of my own incompetence. I hate not knowing the answer! I am extremely uncomfortable and stressed when I start a new job and don’t know the solution to every possible issue a customer might have. If I ask a supervisor or experienced co-worker for specific answers or protocol, I cannot stand to hear, “Oh, you’ll figure it out as you go.” I want the answers. The EXACT answers!

One of the unfortunate side effects of these mind traits on my personality is that, in general conversation, I have a hard time just saying, “I don’t know.” I can get defensive and be like, “Why would I know that?” or make excuses—or even attacks on the inquisitor. It really is an unattractive quality. So is its cousin quality: NEEDING TO BE RIGHT. In any disagreement, I rarely admit that I am wrong. I am not much of a compromiser, either. I like to think that this is because the knowledge and opinions that I hold are based on my thorough study of the issue, and thus, my COMPETENCE.

So, imagine the fireworks show going on inside me when faced with the prospect of making some major, life-changing moves into multiple new careers at the same time. Could a competence-obsessed perfectionist really survive such a deep dive into the new and unknown? Could my ego withstand such uncertainty? Well, we are about to find out!

I made official plunges into two new career paths IN THE LAST WEEK!!! Early in the week, I signed on to become a consultant with a premium skin care company. Then, at the end of the week, I filed my papers with the government to form my Life Coaching company. BOOM! Talk about a jolt to the system and an electrifying infusion of new energy (i.e., chaos) into my life.

And while it is all kinds of exciting to embark on these fabulous opportunities for service and fulfillment, it is also more than a little unsettling (ahem, terrifying). I have had more than one occasion in the last few days to stop and ask myself, “What are you doing to yourself? Why TWO THINGS at once? Why not just get comfortable—and competent—in one thing before considering another? What makes you think you are READY for this, when you are not even trained in one field and have no marketing or accounting skills in the other?”

I have to admit, that Voice of Doubt has some good points. It is a lot to take on, and my perfectionist mind will be scrambling to obtain a level of competence that I can be at peace with. And if you look at it objectively from the outside, you might conclude that, indeed, I am not ready. I don’t know much about skin care, and I don’t know if I have enough connections to really make it work in selling it. Heck, I don’t even know if I have the time to sell it. I have been putting many things on hold until my kids get older, figuring—hoping and praying, really—that more time may magically appear then. As for my Life Coaching business, at least I feel competent as a coach. The business part, however, has me quite nervous. I don’t have my website up and running. I don’t have business cards. I don’t know the first thing about accounting or owning my own business. I only know how to coach. So yeah, Voice of Doubt, you may be onto something. In a lot of ways, I am not ready.

But I hear another voice, too, trying to get a word in around the persistent chatter of that Voice of Doubt. This voice says, “Start before you are ready! If you wait until you feel comfortable and competent with every last skill and detail, you will be waiting forever, stuck in the same unsatisfying rut rather than alive in the hot pursuit of your dreams. Your best life is out there, just waiting for you to take a little risk. To reach the sweetest fruit, you have to go out on a limb. Go for it! (P.S. Besides, you ARE ready.)” That voice comes from a much deeper, more grounded place. It makes me nod my head and whisper things like “Yeah” and “I got this.” It feels different, too. It feels real and true to me—it resonates. It brings me a magical combination of peace and excitement that makes me feel certain that I am on the right path. That was the feeling I had in signing my papers this week to start my business, and the feeling I had while talking with my sister about the skin care company. I have come to know that this magical feeling is none other than my soul confirming that I am in my Truth. When my brain and my ego conspire to keep me down and convince me that I am not ready, I listen for that small, still voice inside me that knows better.

So, sure, in some sense—the perfectionist’s, the critic’s, and the ego’s sense—I will never be ready. So be it. I can see now that “Start before you are ready” is a motto for people who are stuck at the mercy of the perfectionist, the critic, and the ego (the combined Voice of Doubt). It is a valuable sentiment. In this moment of clarity, though, I also see that if you can tune your ears to that still, small voice—call it your soul, your intuition, your sixth sense, you name it—you will know with complete certainty that you are ready. I’m ready. I’m starting NOW!

How about you? What is it time for you to be starting? Open up your journal and listen for that still, small voice inside you. What does it whisper when you think about unpursued dreams and risks not taken? What move—big or small—is long overdue in your life? Is it career-related? Regarding relationships, do you need to take a risk by reaching out to someone to see if they belong in your circle, or do you need to cut a cord that someone else is strangling you with? Do you need to move on from something or someone, or perhaps just have a difficult conversation so you can move forward together? Do you think you would be satisfied with only a small shift, or is your soul aching for something major? How much do you try to tap into your intuition when making decisions? How does it speak to you—physical symptoms, emotions, obsessive thoughts, “gut” feelings? Do you trust it? What is the one thing that you make a million “I’m not ready” excuses about, that, deep down in your heart, you know you really must do? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you going to start before you are “ready”? 

You ARE ready,


Who Rubs You The Wrong Way?

DSC_0442Hello friend,

Passive-aggressive. Bossy. Non-stop talker. Pessimistic. Needy. Smarmy. Stingy. Vulgar. Nosy. Selfish. Complainer. Worrier. Arrogant. Lazy. Hyper. Greedy. Unintelligent. Rude. Temperamental. Liar. Bragger. Competitive. Unreliable.

The list could go on and on, I suppose. I am talking about the qualities or personality traits that are the most unattractive in people. I might even go so far as to say repulsive. There are those individuals in your corner of the world—relatives, co-workers, acquaintances, store clerks, salespeople, neighbors, teammates, classmates—whom you really, REALLY want to avoid. You do your best to be courteous and keep your interactions brief, but you know deep down that if the two of you were locked in a room or on a long car ride, one of you just might not make it out alive. Any bells ringing yet?

I am a pretty unsocial guy, so I avoid most conversations outside of my home and my workplace. Thankfully, at least for the sake of this discussion, my job provides more than enough characters and situations to expose these not-so-lovely traits. I teach tennis, mostly to adults. I work with some people privately, some in groups, and I am involved in their competitions with others, often needing to speak with both sides simultaneously after a tough match. All of these situations provide ample opportunity for me get to know various sides of people’s personalities: the good, the bad, and the ugly. And believe me, it gets ugly! If you have a mental picture of someone for each of the different characteristics I listed at the top, I get to meet all of them at work tomorrow. Lucky me!!

So, of all these special folks, who rubs me the most wrong? Who can get under my skin just walking in the door? That’s easy: ARROGANT. Definitely arrogant. I am no fan of the complainer or the lazy, sure, but arrogance brings out something different in me. It makes my blood boil a bit. I can think of a player on one of my teams who makes me work REALLY HARD to be pleasant to her for 90 minutes. Her teammates can barely stand her, and after every match she plays—even if there is no big blow-up during the match—her opponent is ready to tear her head off. The woman oozes arrogance. It drips off of her.

That is the interesting thing about arrogance compared to most of the other unappealing traits: you can see it. It is embedded in every mannerism. Nonverbals never screamed so loud before. They say, in no uncertain terms, “You are beneath me. I am better than you. I dismiss you!” Other personality traits often require some lengthy and intimate experiences with a person to come out. Arrogance announces itself at the outset. It comes right out of the pores. I picture the Billy Zane character in “Titanic”. That guy had arrogant down. Last night I was watching “Sofia the First”, a Disney cartoon, with my five-year-old, and she told me she didn’t like Princess Amber “because she thinks she is better than everyone else.” She got to learn a new vocabulary word: arrogant. It turns out that it even oozes from cartoon characters!

What I want to know more than anything is this: what does it say about me that arrogance is the one that pushes my buttons most? What does it reveal? I believe that our “enemies” are really our greatest teachers, and that what annoys or angers us in others often points to an issue we need to resolve in ourselves. So, why me and arrogance?

I have a couple different theories on my issue with arrogance and its unhealthy power to make my blood boil. First, there was a time in my life—high school—when people certainly believed I was arrogant (“stuck-up” is the high school word for arrogant, or at least it was at my school). And, while most of what anyone thinks or finds important in high school is utter nonsense—oh, how insecure we are at that age!—through the lens of 20-plus years later, I don’t know that it was all wrong about me. While I think I have eradicated most of that in all this time and found some humility to replace it, I still have to catch myself in moments when I find my intellectual snobbery creeping in. So, perhaps what boils my blood is seeing in the arrogant person the worst part of myself. It’s an ugly reflection.

My other theory on my strong reaction to arrogance centers around a shot at my ego. Like most people, I like to think of myself in positive terms. I try to embrace the good things about me and am probably in denial about the bad stuff. In any case, I have a pretty strong self-esteem. As I mentioned above, everything about the arrogant person screams, “You are beneath me.” My ego simply does not want to hear that. It feels like an assault on me every time I encounter arrogance. My defense mechanisms go up and I feel the urge to cut that person down to size just so they are clear that I am NOT beneath them. My ego really wants to teach them that lesson. (I am honestly just uncovering this about myself as I write this to you, and it is a pretty tough realization. What a waste of my energy! I need to get over it. Now.)

So, how about you? What’s your trigger? Open up your journal and your mind; it is time to write it out. Which personality trait gets deepest under your skin? Think about all the people you know? Is it your passive-aggressive sister-in-law, your unreliable co-worker, or your nosy neighbor? There are many unattractive traits, but which one really pushes your buttons. Then, what do you think that says about you? Is there some of that repulsive trait in you—like my arrogance–that you feel ashamed of? Are you able to see these people as teachers, or is it just too hard to get past the repulsion or anger? Maybe writing it out in your journal can build that bridge for you. Give it a shot, and then leave me a reply. I want to know: who rubs you the wrong way?

The answer is within,


What’s So Good About YOU?

DSC_0437Hello friend,

I’m prematurely gray and wrinkled.  I’m unsocial.  I’m a little too sure I am right all the time.  I need to lose 10 pounds.  I don’t make enough money.  I’m oversensitive to criticism.  I have too much body hair.  I don’t compromise well.  I don’t have much respect for authority.  I wish my teeth were nicer.  I am sometimes short on empathy.  I wish I were a more heralded writer.  My body feels really old and slow compared to even a few years ago.  I tend to unload all of my issues onto my journal instead of communicating with the people who really need to hear me.  I can be intellectually snobby.  I am vain and wish I wasn’t.

It was WAAAAAY to easy to make that list!  On and on I could go.  I am guessing that I am like most people in finding it all too easy to point out my flaws.  We are amazingly quick and adept at finding our weaknesses and shortcomings, ways to make ourselves feel less than.  We might be quick to forgive or look past the same traits in a friend, but with ourselves, we are brutal and relentless.  Why do we do that to ourselves?  Why?

I have decided that my cure for this disturbing self-mutilation is to make a list of the things I DO like about myself.  I want to name and claim the stuff I do well, to really own the parts of me that are worthy of my admiration.  This seems like a much healthier job than pointing out my shortcomings.  So here I go!


Okay, this is HARD!!!!  Is it because I don’t want to sound conceited by saying there are good things about me?  Or are there NOT good things about me?  Alright, REALLY—I mean it this time–here I go!

I always try to keep growing and learning.  I trust my intuition.  I mostly march to the beat of my own drummer.  I’m a great Dad (okay, I like that one!).  My schedule reflects my priorities.  I know who I am (thank you, Journal).  Even though my body feels old, I like that I can still hit a tennis ball better than most people.  I tend to choose a good attitude and feel happy and grateful at the end of each day.  I appreciate being relatively intelligent.  My work helps people enjoy and challenge themselves.

Whew!!!  That actually feels really good to put down in words!  A relief!  But also clarity.  What I am discovering as I make these lists is that I actually like myself.  When I look at that list of positives, I see things that tend to be about “who I am”.  With the exception of the tennis and intelligence, what I really like about myself are things that are more internal, that I have chosen, and that can stand the test of time.  I take that to be a good sign.  My negative list definitely has some of those “who I am” things on it—hypersensitivity, empathy, snobbery, vanity—but a lot of it is external, “ego” stuff.  In my moments of greatest wisdom and clarity, I know that things like the paycheck, the accolades, and my rapidly-aging body are not really me.  They are mere window dressing.

My challenge, as I see it, is to focus more on the positive list than the negative.  Of course, I will keep trying to shore up the negatives, especially the ones that are central to my character.  I will try to be a better communicator, more empathetic, and less sensitive and vain.  But I will try to distance myself from the ego stuff and not judge my appearance and outward signs of success so harshly.  Instead, I will embrace the “who I am” items on the positive list and remind myself more regularly of the list.  I will try to give myself more pats on the back, fewer kicks in the pants.

I am guessing that the better I become at seeing the good in me, the better I will be at seeing the good in others.  The more forgiving I can be with myself, the more forgiving I can be with others.  The less I am focused on the outward, ego-driven signs for me, the less I will care about those signs in others.  Ha!  My amazing discovery in this moment is that by focusing heavily on my positive list and mostly ignoring my negative list, I will naturally be solving the issues on my negative list that I really do want to work on: vanity, empathy, hypersensitivity, etc.  What a lovely side effect!  This sounds like a worthwhile assignment to me.

So, what are your best qualities and habits?  What do you like about yourself?  What are you more deserving of a pat on the back for?  Open up your journal and start writing.  If you are like me, this positive list takes some time to come up with.  It starts with giving yourself permission to say you are good at something.  That is hard for most of us, so don’t be surprised if this process brings up some emotions.  Allow them in, and keep writing.  I hope that in the end, you will have enjoyed working on your list as much as I have, and learned as much, too.  Then, leave me a reply.  Tell me, what’s so good about YOU?

Start today,