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Bruce Hall Coaching - Personal Development Coach - Small Business Coach - Part 2
June 7th, 2010

Coaching My Way!

Personal development coaching & small business coaching, with an edge

“He is able who thinks he is able”
—Buddha

Like stars in the sky, few in my profession are limited in the role and importance of their own methodology. We may equally discover formulaic techniques from a learning institution, but even with this material as parameter, the unique everyday drama, history, and narrative of each client’s life is beyond formal training. Thus, in the face of infinite complications of circumstance, it may not be unreasonable to suggest, on occasion, that procedure must sometime subordinate to the instantaneous, untrammeled conditions of the moment.

For example, good writing is fundamentality evaluated upon technique. Spelling, grammar, and sentence structure are preconditions for clarity and power. Creativity and imagination, however, cannot be discounted as a focusing force. Shorthand versions or narrow parameters can help develop the concept of theme and main points. Nevertheless, fine-tuning introduces each writer’s own unique language.

Similarly, through training and constant practice, coaching technique improves with time. However, to coach with power, as in writing, requires a certain amount of independence from technique.

Mindfulness is the key: undistracted presence to the actual living, breathing person in our trust. Otherwise, one is tempted to go merely with the appearance of things, when actuality is something far different. Whatever else of significance may unfold, the probability of helping clients solve, or grapple with “life troubles,” most likely will not occur without a cultivated and refined capacity for awareness.

Very often crucial problems are buried deep within us. Yet, it’s hardly surprising that our clients seek to excavate them as quickly as possible. So here is the conundrum. As coaches, we are necessarily occupied with getting to the truth, expeditiously. However, we are expected to do so while remaining cognizant of the ethical boundaries within our jurisdiction.

To admit the fate of our relationship with a client depends upon sensibility and prudence from what we have studied and experienced formally is a necessary assertion. However, it’s equally important to remember the inevitable consequences of human nature require the singularity of our own imagination and intuition to free us from such boundaries. How else are we to understand?

A search for truth in the mind of others can be daunting. Each session is a universe of many shiftings and changings. Sometimes a startling and vitally important revelation can occur on a moments notice, uttered in the very last sentence, precisely at the end of a session. In a constellation of possibilities, various conditions produce variants.Measures

For these reasons and more, I coach with an edge. I do not avoid provocative questions, or cease to probe. Sometimes I do most of the talking. Other times, listening can be the only call to action. In either event, sooner than later, tangible, measurable, achievable results must be the ultimate determiner of success. What other way can a client reveal the natural law of his or her own life, but through growth?

Yes, it’s true; I coach with edginess and sometimes a little tension. This approach can undermine the comfort zone of my clients. Yet, I think there is no choice. The moment is all we have to engage. Even client needs that require subtle change eventually rely upon hard evidence from concrete action to elevate their consciousness to a higher level. As long as I engage in the process with integrity and presence, kindness, and compassion, I remain convinced coaching-with-an-edge is a technique worth pursuing.



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May 31st, 2010

Who Really Needs a Life Coach or a Small Business Coach?

“Life can either be accepted or changed. If it is not accepted, it must be changed. If it cannot be changed, then it must be accepted.”

When I decided to become a personal development (life) coach and small business coach, a few friends and acquaintances responded with:

  • “What’s personal development?”
  • “Who wants a life coach?”
  • “You goin’ into sports?”
  • “The last thing I need is another parent!”
  • Even my eighty-three year old mother, who is usually supportive, asked, “Are you sure about this?”
  • Only a few, along with my wife, said, “Go for it!”

Six years of successful practice suggest I made the right decision. Many people attempting to solve problems find the process difficult. When called upon to cope in the face of unexpected, unfamiliar, overwhelming situations, they fail to resolve the situation satisfactorily. Sometimes the reason is due to inexperience, poor planning, failure to improvise, or lack of knowledge and judgment. In any event, after years of coaching under a wide variety of circumstances, I have come to believe most problems can be avoided, or successfully overcome through insight, imagination, and self-confidence. Although humans each possess a unique combination of characteristics, we have everything necessary for self-sufficiency and survival.

On the other hand, one of the great realizations is that things are not always as they appear. For example, science can logically explain how we’re physically manufactured, though not necessarily why. Religion provides spiritual perspective and moral codes, but some may argue, not within the field of reason. Philosophies pursue wisdom, yet not always the truth. Psychologies offer theoretical aspects where unconscious and preconscious processes play an important part, but if abstract ideas are not seen to be correct, that leaves us in a quandary.

Yes, we also have family, if fortunate, to provide early guidance, security, and possible direction. Home, like a force field, is our sanctuary: a changeless comfortable reality. Furthermore, trusted friends and life partners can often be counted upon for encouragement, support, and sometimes, of course, unsolicited advice.

So there you have it: a complex interrelated system to help us cope in our search for personal identity:

  • Teachers to help us prowl the corridors of knowledge.
  • Philosophers to specify the basis for ethics, logic, and reason.
  • Mentors who offer guidance.
  • Technology for expression and communication.
  • Language and symbols to distinguish sense from non-sense, good reasons from bad reasons, relevance and irrelevance, attitudes and distinctions.
  • Finally a host of psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, counselors, and as necessary, pharmaceuticals to help us navigate the intensely dark shadow land of the psyche.

However, there is catch! Important though these resources are, we also must remember fixed borders run counter to human nature. Very often ego and vanity decidedly undermine logic and reason to prevent us from reaching out. Ruled by our emotions, genetics, external environment, and inexperience, intense situations can make solutions seem elusive.

Furthermore, contributions made by different people differ not only in amount but also in kind. Background, culture, education, and point of view, may impugn the objectivity of virtually anyone. Differing roles, attitudes, values, and beliefs come into the process. What’s important to recognize in a quest for solutions is not just a matter of how ideas are presented, but also the style of thought behind them.

That’s why I chose coaching. The problem isn’t the problem, the solution is. We all encounter challenging circumstances in life, which for a variety of personal, complex reasons, we’re not sure we want to confront. Sometimes the immediate cause is inexperience, doubt, lack of awareness, fear, or apprehension. Any one of these can challenge our ability to reason and come up with just the right solution. When self-image is threatened, stress, anxiety even poor health can undermine our judgment and insight.

Is this when you need a coach? That depends upon the personal strengths you’re able to bring to difficult situations. In the context of a complex and changing world, more than likely, without integrated assistance from trained empathetic support as a core condition, we’re barely able to scratch the surface.

A skilled empathetic listener who focuses in on what you have to say so they can absorb your words and actions may make a life-altering difference. A coach can help you gain insight, develop courage, and release abilities you never knew you had. When problems arise, you can deal with them intuitively and spontaneously, without fear or anxiety. Suddenly you’re more in control of your life. How remarkably happy would that make you feel?



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May 24th, 2010

Self-Discipline

Source of achievement or self-delusion?

”No horse gets anywhere until he is harnessed. No stream or gas drives anything until it is confined. No Niagara is ever turned into light and power until it is tunneled. No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined.”
                                                                                    —Harry Emerson Fosdick

It’s 5 a.m. and cold as a meat locker. Outside, the gloom of winter darkness presses against my sliding glass door. A few feet away, here in the house, the dining room table is filled with stacks of reference books. A freshly prepared steaming hot cup of coffee waits on the table, which I must drink quickly, or risking losing the advantage. To my left, a small black desk lamp casts a strong beam of light, which cuts diagonally across the keyboard of an elderly, painfully slow laptop. This is the destination of my writing pilgrimage every morning.

I quickly turn up the thermostat and slide into my chair, muttering something about resolve. I take a sip of coffee, unload a sigh, and begin to plunk keys. If a few coherent sentences take root each day, I might have a blog by the end of the week. Inevitably, however, questions arise. What if I can’t? What if my goal is clearly untenable, and all I end up with is a bowl of alphabet soup? What if the whole thing is mere hubris? Whew! Well, those questions are traveling in dangerous territory, aren’t they? Besides, I’ll know more after editing, rewriting, and egocentricity kick in.

Writing is not a rare experience for me; however, my decision to blog once a week has bent some edges of confidence. That level of commitment raised the issue of strong belief. Would I be up to the task? Am I self-disciplined enough? Sure, why not, I reasoned. Self-discipline is in my nature, along with an ability to mobilize resources for achieving an ultimate purpose, regardless of time. However, since I also value goal setting, I impose a schedule each day. I consider topics, mood, and language. I dream about similes for emphasis and creating powerful metaphors. I began to drink more coffee. How can I not succeed?

On the other hand, even the best of intentions are easily submerged under comfy layers of heavy blankets, safe and secure in my bed from worldly responsibility. In the beginning, I found I did not want to get up. I was not interested in self-discipline, self-awareness, self-discovery, or any other possibilities. I began to imagine a wide variety of procrastination techniques. I even confess entertaining notions of mental telepathy or automatic writing; not resources I really want to draw upon!

Successful people share one thing in common: an ability to mobilize themselves and their talent to achieve goals. Accomplishment is not a passive entity. One must work at it. History reveals self-disciplined individuals with an impulse to connect their imagination actively in fields like science, philosophy, psychology, religion, art, and technology have led to extraordinary accomplishments.

So now I practice what I coach others. Every day, very early, I arise from bed, shuffle down the hall, feed my hungry, barking dogs, make coffee and worry about grammatical troublemakers.

Do you have an image of achievement to call your own? That’s a powerful vision to carry around. Do you possess the strength, persistence, and perseverance to develop the skills and experience to make it real? That’s equally potent.

The drive for accomplishment often requires overcoming deficiencies in knowledge, physical or emotional complications, dogma, criticism, and persecution. More than idle curiosity, more than love for wisdom, more than truth for its own sake, self-discipline is the force behind the power of purpose.

As described in The Neuropsychology of Self-Discipline, “It is your ability to systemically and progressively work toward the goal until you have reached it. It includes acquiring knowledge and skills. It is your ability to become positively obsessed, single-minded and efficient; to strive without giving up, to work consistently, day after day, until your purpose is fulfilled.”

Admittedly, self-discipline is not easy. It takes time to master. It requires retraining the way you think and organize your life. Sometimes, when thoughts are distanced and convenient alternatives like fear, anxiety, and procrastination emerge, it’s far easier to wander, call it quits, and walk away.

On the other hand, self-discipline can help you ask questions, seek answers, set goals, and achieve them. Most important in doing so, you will also discover how quite wonderful it is to know what you want in life, how to plan achieving it, and actively move forward in that direction.



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May 17th, 2010

Dogs, Horses, and My Friend Pete

“True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and choice.”
                                                                                 —Samuel Johnston

In an annual ritual that goes back more than twenty years between our best friend Pete, my wife Deborah, and I, gifts are quietly exchanged across the dinning room table after dinner on Christmas evening. It’s a workable arrangement without glory or splendor. No heavy burden of expenditure is necessary. No ego or vanity lurks in the shadows. Just the elegance of specialized knowledge from deeply acquired friendship wrapped in last year’s recycled holiday paper.

The richness of the scene is in its natural simplicity. Since we all love books, music, and movies, gifts of familiar size and basic contents vary only slightly from one year to the next. In this circumscribed arena, literary taste, film-viewing adventures, and music appreciation expand proportionately and with great satisfaction.

However, two years ago, despite shape, texture, and form our gift-giving experience elevated to a higher level of surprise and pleasure. Pete presented us with No Better Place, his exquisite book of moments with the dogs in his life taken from the everyday experiences of living among them.

Crystallized within the text and color photography, is the energy and content of Pete’s own lean, muscular language and deep resonant voice. Clearly visible, page-after-page, are good things faithful and free: expressions of truth settled into unfolding life. He writes, “They are their own creatures, with their own values, coherent, workable and complete.” In this mindfulness of space and time, we see and feel his experiences.

When it comes to dogs, I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, few things in life give me greater pleasure than the sight of them at work, play, running with perfect abandon, curled up asleep, and because I’m a simple-minded person so easily amused, watching them eat.

I don’t anthropomorphize these critters. People are people. Dogs are dogs. However, it became perfectly clear decades ago associating with them intensified my own life experience. Of course, pooping and peeing on the carpet is not a particular endearment and remains the exception to my fondness. Beyond that grievance, every dog has its own unique, beautiful form and personae from which I derive immense gratification.

On the other hand, with gut-wrenching regularity, the life of a dog is all too soon over. They break one’s heart even as they use to exploit it for their own gratification. They leave behind a void of galactic proportions in the same manner they once filled it with love and affection. Without the growls, howling, and intermittent signs that helps co-ordinate their behavior among each other and us, life is simply and suddenly not the same.

Last Christmas, across the same dining table, Pete did it again. Innocently packaged in a mildly devious way, his second book represents the treasure that Equus ferus caballus brings to his life. Written in his now familiar reflective prose, A View of Horses with its wide black margins, crisp white text, and memorable color photography, connect omnipresent and invisible characteristics, unique to horses as they are to dogs. Two books in two years, first dogs then horses, without artifice or redundancy from our friend Pete, reveal seamless possibilities for love and imagination.

When it comes to horses, I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, I do not understand them at all. Not even close! I couldn’t tell a yearling from a foal, although distinguishing a stallion from a mare is somewhat easier, I presume. Plus, their sheer bulk is intimidating. Pete calls them “Huge capable bodies.” I respond, “Capable in what way? Being crushed by one against a hand-hewn fence post?” Besides, who needs muscle soreness and chaffing?

Aside from magnitude, temperament is another issue. Pet a dog and likely as not, they’ll move closer. Stroke a horse and likely as not, they’ll suddenly turn and nip. I’ve seen the damage one can inflict by observing Pete’s career as a farrier. Also, feed and care is expensive, adequate space important, and even Pete will admit, getting inside the mind of your horse is virtually as difficult as getting your horse inside a horse trailer.

On the other hand, with some familiarity of Pete’s personal herd and this stunning portrayal in a second powerful book, I suppose my view of horses could stand improvement. Seen through his imagery, the vastly different presence they inhabit is more closely revealed. Whether standing alone knee deep in a pond of still water, three poised as a group in an open golden field at sunrise, or the quiet innocence of a newly born foal, all the dimensions of engagement are present. Dogs, horses, and Pete’s friendship in my life: the edge of the galaxy starts here!



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May 10th, 2010

Daniel’s Suicide

Day of the Abyss

Because I could not stop for Death,
he kindly stopped for me.
The carriage held but just ourselves
and immortality.
                                   —Emily Dickinson

The thing is, some ideas are forced upon us by experience. That is the only way to convey their element of truth. Color, sound, length, breadth, and depth help us develop the order of things. Sometimes, life is irresistible. Sometimes, it becomes a crushing, overwhelming force. In either event, we are often quite unprepared for circumstances when they arrive.

I did not know. I could not foresee things. In the high-softened light of midday overcast, as I walked up the porch stairs to Daniel’s front door I could not conceive how close I would get to the edge of an impenetrable darkness.

I knocked. No answer. I knocked again, with greater force. Still no response, though his Volkswagen van remain parked in the driveway. Then I saw it. An invitation, written on cardboard, taped to the window next to the front door: “Come on in, I’m out on the back patio.” Strange, I thought, but of course, I accepted, as he apparently knew I would.

I opened the front door. Daniel’s aging, disoriented black Labrador retriever, Maggie, wobbled past me on her way outside. This was Daniel’s baby. Though sickly in the last few years, often spaced-out, more distraction than usual accompanied her demeanor. I tried to comfort and reassure her with a gentle pat on the head.

As I moved through the living room, something cold, dark, and incontestable challenged my senses. I stopped to look around. Seriously, I half expected to encounter a stranger lurking behind one of the closed bedroom doors. An adrenaline surge immediately prompted me to move forward.

There were large packing boxes on the dining room table that temporarily obscured my line of view. That was anticipated. Daniel, you see, was preparing to move. “Daniel,” I called out, “Daniel, are you there?”

It is probably useless now to describe events exactly as they unfolded. Such is the principle of uncertainty when confronted with the inexplicable. That is the only explanation I can offer as to why I did not, at first glance, notice the enormous pool of blood surrounding the base of Daniel’s white patio chair. Eventually, a thin line would drain off the patio deck in search of the densely forested floor just beyond. Neither did his long-sleeved shirt and ochre-colored pants, saturated with dried blood, catch my attention until later. Even the three slim knives of varying lengths arranged neatly on the table directly in front him would present themselves only in due course.

You see that is the way things work. Death offers its own chronology of order. At the exact moment my line of vision extended through the French doors out onto the patio, a ray of sunlight broke through the clouds and gently rested upon Daniel’s forehead and shoulders. For a moment, I thought he was asleep, hoped he was asleep, but my eyes confirmed something far more unimaginable. His head angled back with a slight comfortable twist, over the shoulder, as it would if you or I fell asleep while reading in a similar chair, under the spell of the warm sun. Eerily, the color was wrong. No subsequent leap of imagination or intuition would alter the alabaster complexion of Daniel’s face and neck, nor the insects, which hovered with their annoying, high-pitched buzz.

In Greek funerary statues, the artist excavates from within the marble, an element of living eternity. In the body of Daniel, only a thick, suffocating conclusive evidence of death prevailed. Marble radiates life. Our bodies turn to stone. That striking image of stillness and mortality, highlighted by a ray of sun, will forever remain surreal in my memory.

Daniel committed suicide. He stabbed himself, thoughtfully, violently, repeatedly, then bled to death. I stared in blurred disbelief. Stop! Go away! This needs to be changed. It cannot be real. Do something, scramble for an explanation. The thoughts, images, ideas, time, day, feelings, and silence rearranged my life. I was questioning, exploring, and testing truth against fiction.

Surely, if I concentrated hard enough, the cruel joke would end. “C’mon, c’mon,” I uttered under my breath, “Get up Daniel, get up!” Nevertheless, approaching rapidly was the realization that Daniel had entered the profoundest sleep. This was not going away!

In a matter of moments, I called my wife. Immediately she could tell from the despair in my voice something horrible had happened. Upon hearing of my discovery, she felt a terrible sense of isolation, a feeling of helplessness, and started crying. We both felt dissolved and submerged in the nature of uncertainty.

For me, tears would strike with greater regularity, soon enough. The theatre of my activity would begin, at the moment, with what Freud called the “talking cure.” Eventually, this process would envelope my every waking moment: the description of the scene repeated time-after-time, to our families, friends, and my own health care professional until, eventually, I could unlock the constraints of disbelief and get on with my life.

Next, I called the police. A ritual of interaction between living and dead had begun. Shortly thereafter, I discovered Daniel’s suicide note on the dining room table with explicit instructions for me to follow. My hands were shaking, but I read his few brief lines, intently, repeatedly, as though later I might forget. There were instructions to follow, and a recently separated wife to notify.

Maggie wandered around back into Daniel’s sphere of influence for the last time. I watched her nose raise high in the air, and sniff. Then slowly, she walked around his chair, scenting out his blood on the ground, his shoes, his clothes, his lap. I have no other vocabulary except to say she genuinely appeared solemn. Old, fragile, and ailing, she turned and swayed while drifting away.

My friendship with Daniel had grown fast and furious, you might say meteoric, in a few short weeks. There were books he wanted sell, so we met at his house. Surprisingly, for a small town, we had never met before. Nevertheless, from word one, on that fateful, first meeting, comparative certainty of equal value brought our lives together.

The strength of our observations and beliefs, and confidence in sharing them with a kindred spirit formed a perfect phenomenon of understanding. Politics, religion, human nature, fell upon our conversations as we tested hypothesis one against another. No perceptual limitations were imposed. Nothing to diminish respect for frame of reference ever emerged. The give and take, the laughter, the unknown answers, which often bind people together, was sheer poetry for each of us. In less than two weeks, we spent several hours together nearly every day looking at his books, peering into uncharted realms, and sharing the chemical energy which forms one of life’s greatest bonds, friendship.

I think of Daniel almost every day. I do not know what saddened him, what haunted him, what storms brought a lonely shudder to his life. I cannot image the suffering, the torment, nor the invisible night watchman who sat on his shoulder, day after night, night after day, driving him toward the death penalty.

I remember the heavy scent of cigarette smoke that permeated each page in every one of his scholarly books, how adept he was at hiding his alcoholism, and how non-existent they were in our meaty, inquiring conversations.

No one knows for sure why he killed himself, in particularly brutal fashion. There is no expert to reason if our involvement were something dangerous, a preliminary dance-of-death for reasons known only to him. All I can surmise with any degree of certainty is the built-in, self-protective mechanisms, which keep us hopeful and alive; for him disintegrated.

Darkness and lightness exist in the world, with many associations. For example a certain degree of darkness you might encounter deep in the forest, on a night with a new moon. It is crow, raven, or black cat. It is murky and gloomy like the witches’ cave in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and yet, scientifically, not so dark as to render shapelessness or detail to some forms. Deeper still, is the abyss; not pitch black, but far beyond pure emptiness. A void so impenetrably dense only tortured souls proceed beyond it. This is a tragic sense of life.

There is also lightness, which radiates the color of hope and optimism. It is a state of healthy psychological functioning in the land of possibilities and human potential. Brighter still is pure white, the residence of precious resources like peace of mind, good health, and worthy goals. Here the dynamics of love, art, music, science, and spirituality flourish.

In spite of Daniel’s bright exterior, I now understand at the portals of his reality was a blackened state of consciousness. What can be done, now? I see no blame to launch, no desire for guilt, no punishing, rejecting philosophy to endure for the sinister way in which his life ended. All the same, there is a deep and abiding sadness when I consider the unfathomable proportion of suffering which eventually lead to his decision.

However brief our friendship, the fact remains, we challenged, tested, reformulated ideas and moral issues, quenched our thirst for learning, shared a love of books, laughed at human foibles, and flew around his library virtually unlimited in range of hypothesis and conjecture. Ultimately searching for a richer set of possibilities, we solved nothing. There were only more questions buried in the vault. After all is said and done, each life is multiple, fluid, conflicted, with its own course of action to pursue, beyond our comprehension. So there is nothing to be gained by suggesting anything differently then gratitude I have for the easy, spontaneous, intuitive way we responded to a real need, without fear or repercussion, and I miss it.



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