Provision #238: Review & Plan

Laser Provision

The start of a New Year is a great time to review and plan your life. Are you just going along for the ride? Are you making the same mistakes over and over again? Perhaps it’s time to get going or to give up. Looking back and forward at life can motivate you to do just that. My reflections may trigger some of your own.

LifeTrek Provision

This past week I was rude and brave. Allow me to tell the stories.

On Christmas Eve I went to a car dealer to assist my daughter to purchase her first car. After being informed of the interest rate on the loan, I decided to call my bank to see if we could get a better rate. The person I needed to speak with was on the phone. Did I want to wait or call back? “I’ll wait,” I informed the person who answered the phone, “I’m at a car dealer and need a loan rate.”

A few minutes later she came back on the line. “He’s still on the phone,” I was told, “do you want to keep waiting?” “Yes.” And so I waited, and waited, and waited. After about 15 minutes I hung up and called back, only to be informed that the person I was waiting for had just left for the day and that the bank was closing early due to the holiday. “Well, that’s not very professional!” I said sarcastically • which secured an apology but no loan rate.

How could I be so rude? Hadn’t I just finished writing a Provisions’ series on being nice? And on Christmas Eve no less! This was a day that I wasn’t working at all. But I wanted these people at their posts, at my beck and call, and when they handled something poorly I became dismissive and demanding.

Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever acted in a way that’s out of sync with your values and your highest aspirations? I did that on Christmas Eve, even though I wasn’t feeling particularly upset on the inside about the mix up on the outside. I just laid into somebody when I had the chance. It was not a NICE thing to do. It was not Neighborly, Interested, Compassionate or reflective of proper Etiquette • especially in the presence of others at the car dealership.

I had to laugh when the car saleswoman said, “Don’t let this ruin your day. It’s really not that important to what we have to do here.” “That’s my job,” I thought, “coaching people into a better place to be.” Since that time I’ve gone back to make some apologies • only to learn that people had not been that upset by the whole encounter. Apparently, when it comes to customer service, rude is par for the course.

Yesterday I ran my first Ultra Marathon. An Ultra Marathon is anything longer than a marathon (which is 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers). In 18 degree Fahrenheit (-8 degree Celsius) weather, with a pretty stiff wind chill, I completed the Huntington Ultra Frigid Fifty in Huntington, Indiana (http://www.fwtc.org/huff).

This particular race was the 2001 USA Track & Field National 50K Championship. But it was certainly more than 50K. We ran three 10.8 mile loops around the Huntington reservoir, for a total of 32.4 miles or more than 52.2K. My first two loops were on pace for a six-hour finish. But I slowed down at the start of the third loop, not knowing what to expect after passing the marathon distance, and I ended up walking a good bit of the last few miles. My finish time, including 8 stops along the way that totaled about 30 minutes, was 6 hours, 37 minutes.

So what made this brave rather than crazy? It was certainly a rather spur-of-the-moment decision. I had not been specifically training or gearing up for this event. But some running buddies were going and my running plans for 2002 were changing such that it now made sense to give this thing a try. I’ve been running well, with no physical problems, and my last marathon (Raleigh, North Carolina) was 28 days ago • what better time to peak in my “training” for an Ultra Marathon?

Off I went, a little apprehensive but nevertheless BRAVE. It was Bold (your first try at any new venture is always bold), Responsible (I had put enough training miles, even if I had not trained specifically for this distance), Active (I had to get myself out of the house and drive several hours to get to the starting line), Versatile (I changed my racing strategy to a totally relaxed, laid back, fun-run attitude) and Enduring (running further than I ever had before).

Endurance is, of course, what an Ultra Marathon is all about. As Ultra Marathons go, this one was a baby. People run races of 100 kilometers, 100 miles, and more. Whereas there are definite limits to how fast a person can run, there seem to be no limits to far a person can run. As soon as someone crosses an endurance threshold, someone else will come along and double it. Or triple it.

These races bring into focus the central question of human existence. “What makes a person go?” asks Kirk Johnson in To the Edge, “What makes a person run, climb, try hard or even get up in the morning, and what makes him stop?” “Most of us, most of the time, occupy lives in a river that carries us along, for better or for worse, in rhythms that are outside our control. The flow of jobs and commitments and family life and friends rolls on • it’s natural and easy to let the march of days push us forward as it will.”

But sometimes, on occasion, people step out of the flow. They choose what Robert Frost once called “the road less traveled.” Instead of gaining weight, they lose weight. Instead of giving up, they get going. Instead of grinding out another day, they stop to chart a new course. And that, as Frost concluded, makes all the difference.

There’s no better time than now, at the start of a New Year, to review and plan your life. Are there things, like my being rude on Christmas Eve, that you’d like to eliminate? Are there challenges, like running stronger or farther, that you’d like to take on? Whether it is with a coach or on your own, may you step out of the river at least once during 2002. Get going or give it up. Do something different for a change. Find what you really love and embrace it fully. You’ll be glad you did.

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Reader’s Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. These selections do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. They do reflect the diversity of those who read Provisions each week for support and strength on the trek of life. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


I really appreciated the “learning to walk” analogy. My son is just now on the verge of taking his first steps. It gives you much to reflect upon, especially in the midst of learning new skills of your own. I am a personal trainer and when one of my clients complains about feeling clumsy with a new movement, I always say “How fun would it be if you were born being able to do everything perfectly? This is new for you; of course you’re going to be clumsy.”

I am also a project manager at a financial services company and I took your BRAVE acronym and passed it out to my team, as something for the New Year. I gave you credit for it, and it might lead to more subscribers. Thanks for the ponderables.


I have a question…is flaxseed oil also effective? (Ed. Note: Flaxseed oil is better than nothing, but it’s not as good as freshly ground flaxseeds. You do not get as many of the health benefits from the oil alone. If you want to take the oil, be sure to purchase small, dark bottles and keep it refrigerated in order for it to be as fresh as possible. Take 1 Tablespoon in the morning and another in the evening, with meals.)


Please add me to your subscription list. I would very much like to participate in your idea sharing. Thanks.



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #237: Endure

Laser Provision


Be Bold, take Responsibility, Act, be Versatile, and Endure. That’s my complete acronym for BRAVE. Do you have what it takes to endure? Don’t think in terms of grit and determination. Think in terms of enjoying the process of trial and correction, of tenaciously pursuing and celebrating lifelong learning.

LifeTrek Provision


Motivational and behavioral theorist Abraham Maslow once commented: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you will tend to see every problem as a nail.”

This truth is important as we consider the final letter in the acronym for BRAVE. Brave people • as world leaders often remind us in the current context of global conflict • Endure. They persist. They go the distance. When they get knocked down, they get back up to face their challenges anew. No amount of intimidation keeps the brave-hearted from living their values and pursuing their dreams.

What could be more self-evident? No acronym for courage would be complete if it did not encompass this critical dimension. It’s not enough to be Bold and Responsible, to Act and be Versatile. If, as they say, when the going gets tough a person fails to get going, all the other qualities will quickly fade away.

And the going will get tough. As psychiatrist M. Scott Peck wrote for the first sentence of his first book: “Life is difficult.” Accepting that truth makes all the difference in the world. As long as we expect life to be easy, we chafe under and rail against the struggle of getting where we want to go. We resent the fact that the green grass on the other side of the fence is just as hard to mow.

Accepting this truth liberates us to enjoy life anyway, to embrace it as perfectly wonderful and wonderfully perfect. Are there things we’d like to change? Of course! Can we snap our fingers and make it so? Not often! Will we make mistakes along the way? Yes. But understanding this, we can endure most anything, with patience and joy. The fun is in the process of becoming, of lifelong learning, particularly if we have more tools in our toolkit than a hammer.

That’s the important caveat when it comes to endurance. Too often people think of courage and bravery as running up the same hill, over and over again, weathering all manner of losses until the enemy is overcome. With enough troops, that strategy may eventually prevail. But it’s a stupid strategy with enormous casualties and losses.

Better to learn from our mistakes and try a new strategy, perhaps using a different tool, than to keep doing the same thing over and over again. Simply working harder and longer will not produce different results if the method itself is flawed. There’s no point in doggedly pursuing a losing strategy. Sometimes we need to change our approach, other times we need to change our hypotheses, and there may even be times when we need to change our goal. Versatility plus endurance, in perfect balance, produces success and fulfillment in the trek of life.

Tim Gallwey reminds us to look at how a toddler learns to walk. It isn’t trial and error. It’s trial and correction, with lots of fun along the way. Those first few steps typically lead to two eventualities: falling down and rousing applause. Everyone present, including the child, smiles and laughs at those obviously awkward and relatively unsuccessful first attempts.

But the child wants to walk. And the child knows that the goal of walking is not beyond his or her reach. Mom and dad do it all the time. So adjustments are made, trial and correction style, until the art of walking is mastered • never to be thought about again, until some impediment perhaps makes it difficult. Ironically, we seldom have more fun and get more cheers for walking than when we barely know how and often fall over. The joy is in the process of trial and correction, and so we endure to the end.

Scientists understand this joy as well. They call it the scientific method. Identify a conundrum. Develop a theory. Test the theory. Fall down. Change the variables. Change the method. Change the theory, if necessary. But stick with the process until a discovery is made. Can’t you almost feel the excitement? Many a scientist will tell you that they learn more from the unexpected failure than from the expected success.

So too with your own life. Approach it as the greatest science experiment of all, imagine that you’re continuously learning to walk, celebrate your falling down and your rising up, and enjoy your so-called failures as true gifts: they have much to teach and generate along the way.

The Endurance of the BRAVE does not come primarily from grit and determination, although that is a factor. It comes from discovering and appreciating the joy of the trek to Xanadu. Brave people enjoy the process of becoming. They hang in there because they take pleasure in what’s happening to them and to the world along the way. Do you have the right stuff? It doesn’t just come from within. It comes from the relationship of life.

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Reader’s Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. These selections do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. They do reflect the diversity of those who read Provisions each week for support and strength on the trek of life. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


Great article on versatility. Leaders often fall into the trap of being innovative in the idea stage only, leaving themselves out of the actual implementation stage. The level of ownership can fall tremendously as managers get stuck implementing others ideas.


I am back at college finishing up my BA degree in Management at age 51. I have written on leadership and read some books to research the topic. I just want to say, “Right On!” The difference between a leader and a manager is so well stated, and so seldom acknowledged. Keep up the good writing. Happy Holidays and a stupendous 2002.


Thanks for the LifeTrek updates, they’re always excellent. I also appreciate your parenting thought of simply getting out of our children’s way. I think far too often we try to mold and shape clay which is already set, and simply end up breaking what once was a great piece of art. Thanks for the advice.


Excellent provision, as always!



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #236: Be Versatile

Laser Provision


We’re getting close to finishing our acronym for BRAVE. Be Bold, take Responsibility, Act, and be Versatile. BRAVE people are not wedded to a single course of action and they certainly don’t think they have all the answers. BRAVE people continuously adapt and change as part of their own journey for personal and organizational transformation.

LifeTrek Provision


Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the country mouse who went to visit her cousin in the city. The city was an exciting place, with all the action and lights. But it was also a scary place, with danger seemingly lurking around every corner.

Once, while the two mice were out on the town, they were chased down an alley by a ferocious cat. The country mouse was sure that all was lost, when the city mouse found a small crevice around a sewer in which to hide. The cat paced back and forth in front of the crevice, knowing it was just a matter of time before the mice would have to come out.

All at once, however, the city mouse took a deep breath and let loose with an enormous barking that sounded like the approach of an even more ferocious dog. The cat ran off and the mice went safely home. Needless to say, the country mouse was very impressed. “What was that?” she asked later. “I’ve never seen anything like it!” “In this town,” replied the city mouse, “it pays to be bilingual.”

That brave little mouse was on to something here. It’s not enough to be Bold, to take Responsibility, and to Act. In the acronym for BRAVE, we’ve come to the point where it’s important to say that it’s also important • as demonstrated by the city mouse • to be Versatile. In a world that’s constantly changing, sometimes dramatically in a single day and other times gradually over time, versatility may prove to be the most important part of courage.

It comes up continuously in all the leadership books. By definition, leaders are change agents. Managers keep the operation (and the status quo) running while leaders move the operation forward. Or to quote Warren Bennis & Burt Nanus in their classic book, Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge, “Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing.” The difference, they note, is one of mastering routines (efficiency) verses vision and judgment (effectiveness).

Unfortunately, many leadership books (including Bennis’ & Nanus’) fail to talk about the most critical aspect of the leader as change agent: having the courage to change themselves in the process of changing the organizations they lead. One notable exception is the book Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within by Robert E. Quinn. “There is an important link,” Quinn writes, “between deep change at the personal level and deep change at the organizational level. As we leave our comfort zone and step outside our normal roles we learn the paradoxical lesson that we can change the world only by changing ourselves.”

The worst leaders think of change as something everyone else has to do. Their visions of the future and of how they want to get there make them doctrinaire, dogmatic, and demanding. “Shape up or ship out,” is the message. These leaders frequently have an answer before they ask a question, and that answer seldom involves changing their own behavior. As a result, they end up committed prematurely to a course of action and exposed unwittingly as fearful pretenders to the throne.

There is, however, another way. People can be versatile in their handling of themselves and their organizations. They can recognize that innovation, risk, and change move from the inside out. They can experiment not only with new organizational visions and models, but with new personal visions and models as well. They can learn another language, if you will, in order to navigate their way through the sometimes tortuous and often hazardous journey of personal and organizational transformation.

No wonder there are so few versatile leaders in the world! Who has the courage or the time to change themselves? Such people are far and few between. Easier to show up with everyone else’s marching orders, full of advice, coercion, and checklists, than to pay attention, encourage choice, and build trust. Easier to bluster our way through than to confront our own inner demons of immaturity, selfishness, and resistance to change. Easier but not better in the long run.

Quinn compares the versatile leader to those mythological heroes who go on a journey for personal enlightenment and collective renewal. “In embarking on the journey,” Quinn notes, versatile leaders “must leave the world of certainty. They must courageously journey to a strange place where there are a lot of risks and much is at stake, a place where there are new problems that require them to think in new ways.”

Do you have the courage to be a versatile leader? Look at yourself in the mirror of your organization or your family. Do you like what you see? Versatile leaders have the courage to change themselves and the world around them. There’s no hubris about what they know and no triumphalism about “my way or the highway.” They are not wedded to a single course of action and they certainly don’t think they have all the answers. Versatile leaders continuously adapt and change as part of their own journey for personal and organizational transformation.

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Reader’s Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. These selections do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. They do reflect the diversity of those who read Provisions each week for support and strength on the trek of life. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


Greetings from New Zealand. I want to take this opportunity, to thank you all for the input that you have had into my life this year. This year has been a really challenging one, but by the grace of God, and the input that I have received from you all, it is ending on a high note, and, next year I know is going to be a great one. I look forward to your continued input next year.


I was remembering that it was quite some time ago that I first received a petition protesting the treatment of women in Afghanistan.  As I dug back into my memory, I am almost positive that I received it from you.  First, I want to say “Thanks” for sending it on.  Do you remember when you sent it?  I didn’t save the original message, with the date. (Ed. Note: The petition is still available on the Web at http://www.petitiononline.com/taliban/petition.html.)


You’re doing what I have longed to do for as long as I can recall, but I’ve had some important life lessons to learn. With the right qualifications, what’s the chance of facilitating and/or teaching, and broadening the reach of LifeTrek?  Eager for your response.


I found you thru AvantGo. At first I thought it was superficial. On reflection, maybe the form encourages that perception.


May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #235: Act

Laser Provision


Be Bold, Take Responsibility, and Act. That’s what the “A” stands for in BRAVE. Brave people do brave things. They don’t just think about doing them. They do them. For many people, the idea of being a hero is intimidating and out of reach. But everyone can bravely take action. Act. You’ll be glad you did.

LifeTrek Provision


If there’s one thing we can say about brave people, it’s that brave people do brave deeds. Bravery is not a mind game. Purple hearts are not given for those who think brave thoughts. They are given, to quote from the first President of the United States, to those who perform “any singularly meritorious action,” including “unusual gallantry, extraordinary fidelity, and essential service.”

That’s why the “A” in BRAVE stands for Act. Brave people take action. Most recently, our minds turn to those firefighters and security personnel who rushed to the scene of the attacks in New York City and Washington DC, or to those passengers who wrested control of United Flight 93 from the hijackers in the sky over Pennsylvania, only to lose their lives in the process of taking action for others. Those were brave people.

In the face of such “singularly meritorious actions,” it’s easy to put those heroes up on a pedestal that is beyond the reach of ordinary people like you and me. But that would miss the point. What made these people brave was not just the risk they took in the service of others; it was also the fact that they took action. When they shifted from thinking about action to taking action, they were demonstrating a courage that each of us can emulate.

What makes taking action brave? The fact that we can never fully know, in advance, the outcome of any action. The fact that we risk rejection as well as failure. The fact that every action not only opens but closes doors. The fact that action grounds and engages us in the world, as no idea ever can.

For these reasons and more, people frequently contact LifeTrek for coaching in order to assist them to take action. The action may be something they have been procrastinating about, or that they don’t know how to do, or that they’re not sure they’re going to like. Whatever the situation, many clients rely on the relationship with their coach to develop the temerity to take action.

And guess what? Many clients do just that, in very short order. How? It’s usually not because their coach gives them a boot in the pants. It’s more often because their coach gets them to reframe taking action as a learning game rather than as a lifelong commitment. Many people want to figure everything out ahead of time before they take action. They want to cover all the bases and consider all the angles. They want everything to be just right before moving forward. As a result, they never move. They paralyze themselves by elevating action to the pedestal of Purple Heart heroism.

That’s not the most empowering stance to take. LifeTrek coaches assist clients to cast action in terms of a science experiment. Science, like bravery, is not a mind game. Nobel prizes are not given to those who develop great theories. They are given, to quote from the will of Alfred Nobel, “to those who have made the most important discovery or invention” within their field of interest.

It takes experimental action to make a great discovery. The best theory in the world is just that, a theory, until it has been tested • over and over again • in the laboratory of science. And on the road to validation, every great theory goes through one failed test after another. That’s not just expected, it’s encouraged. The more experiments fail, the more creative people become in subsequent experiments. “Fail and fail often,” is the motto of IDEO Corporation, an award-winning product-development company. It’s a great way to grow.

Are you afraid to fail? Are you afraid of what others might think? Are you afraid to draw outside the lines? Don’t be! Recognize all action for what it is: an experiment on the trek of life. If one action does not produce the intended results, try a different action. Keep trying until you find one that fits like a comfortable old shoe. It will be effortless and a real joy to maintain. It will produce contentment as well as a steady source of energy. In short, it will be right for you • until it’s not.

That’s when it’s time to be brave and start the experiments all over again. Act. Don’t rest on your laurels or get stymied with too much thinking. Act. Put forward a hypothesis and test it out in the laboratory of life. Would you make a great consumer product manager? Would you enjoy being a health care professional? Act. Move yourself forward in that direction. See what happens to your energy. Do that, and people will call you brave.

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Reader’s Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. These selections do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. They do reflect the diversity of those who read Provisions each week for support and strength on the trek of life. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


I enjoy your newsletter and find it more beneficial for me all the time. I’m always trying to be a better person. It’s also been great fun watching your membership grow. I think you have a lot to offer and it’s obvious so do a lot of other people.


Though he has many flaws, Bobby Knight, former Indiana basketball coach, is attributed with one of my favorite quotes: “The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win.”


I am in the middle of listening to Steve Chandler’s 17 Lies that are holding you back and the truth will set you free and he talks about Responsibility as being response-ability, i.e. the ability to respond to challenges and the ability to change your response as well. A concept worth exploring!


Thanks for your newsletter. I don’t have scientific proof at hand, but I’ve heard that drinking ice water is damaging to the kidneys. Large amounts might be even more so. Thanks again. (Ed. Note: Not according to my research.)


May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #234: Take Responsibility

Laser Provision


If the “B” in BRAVE stands for being Bold, the “R” stands for taking Responsibility. Being Bold without taking Responsibility is full of arrogance and often leads to failure. But with the right planning, preparations, and provisions • as well as the integrity to acknowledge and learn from our mistakes • life becomes much more fun and fruitful.

LifeTrek Provision

There is a story that comes from the era of America’s Great Depression in the 1930s. For most of the decade a high school football team had developed a losing reputation. It went on long enough, that no one expected this team to win. Ever. Not even the coach and players let alone the fans in the community.

As you can imagine, this expectation impacted everything about the team’s preparation and planning for their games, from week to week and season to season. Why bother when you’re just going to lose anyway? Why take responsibility for hard workouts and a carefully designed game plan, when failure is virtually assured?

Frustrated with the situation, a wealthy businessman in the community decided to take matters into his own hands. In the weeks prior to the annual game against their archrivals, the man met with the team in the locker room. “Beat these fellows,” he promised, “and I will buy a new car for every coach and player on this team.”

Well, you can imagine the stir that created. The team left that locker room as fired up and motivated as they had ever been. They were ready to boldly go where no football team had gone before. Coaches and players alike could just picture themselves driving around town in a gorgeous new car, to the cheers of adoring fans, the envy of one and all. As game day approached, the intensity level reached a feverish pitch. They were going to do it this time! This was going to be a day to remember!

The outcome, as you might imagine, was yet another devastating loss. 34-0. A week of enthusiasm and zeal could not make up for years of unmotivated and unfocused training. Their failure to take responsibility for the hard work that goes into building a winning program could not be overcome by even the most generous of incentives. And, of course, there were plenty of excuses to go around after the game. It was the same old story, made all the more poignant by the enormity of the carrot on the stick.

So it goes with most things in life. People fail to take responsibility for their words and actions, and then blame others for their failures. It happens all the time in business, where CYA has become the norm in many organizational cultures. No one wants to take responsibility for negative results, fearing that they will lose either their position or become the organizational scapegoat.

In their book “How We Talk Can Change The Way We Work,” Kegan and Lahey call this a BMW culture • “Bitching, Moaning, and Whining.” And don’t we all give into this temptation sometimes? Life is difficult. Complaining provides a measure of relief while blaming others provides a measure of self-respect.

But BMW is never more than a pressure relief valve. It doesn’t fix anything, regardless of how good it feels to let loose. That’s why the “R” in BRAVE stands for taking Responsibility. It’s not enough to be Bold, which is where we started in the acronym for BRAVE. Boldness without Responsibility is nothing but arrogance and bravado. As that football team found out so long ago, it rarely gets the job done. Boldness with Responsibility is confidence, execution, and integrity. Although there’s still plenty that can stand in the way of success, this combination will often produce both success and fulfillment.

Here’s another example. This Provision is being sent out on Monday, instead of Sunday, because yesterday I ran the Raleigh, North Carolina marathon. To Boldly go out and run a marathon without taking Responsibility for proper planning, preparation, and provisions is to risk not only failure but injury. We see this all the time with our pace teams. People will decide to run a marathon at the last minute, and then ask, “So what pace do you think I should run?”

How should we know? It’s not Bold to do something stupid. It’s just stupid. It’s Bold to take Responsibility for something large enough that we can find our legacy and ourselves in the process. What kind of mark are we leaving in the world? What are the limits of our body, mind, and spirit? What can we show for ourselves?

That’s why people run marathons, ultramarathons, and all manner of endurance events. That’s why people exercise leadership and initiate change in organizations and society. The good ones want to take Responsibility for themselves and their world. BMW is not, typically, part of their vocabulary. They plan, prepare, provide, and execute. When things don’t go right, they take Responsibility for that too, learning from their mistakes and the mistakes of others along the way. Life is not a blame game. It’s a mobility responsibility.

Do we move through life with full Responsibility for our role in making things happen, or not, as the case may be? Brave, successful people do just that. My goal and plan yesterday was to run under 3 hours, 45 minutes. I finished in 3:44:45. It might not have turned out that way. There are things • like course and weather conditions as well as injury • that you can neither predict nor control. But when preparation meets opportunity, success is more often than not the result.

I invite you to join me on that journey. Take Responsibility for the plans, preparations, and provisions that make for success in your chosen fields of endeavor. Take Responsibility, too, for your mistakes and management of every new opportunity. Have the integrity to do so both publicly and privately. A lifetime of intentional trial and correction is a fun and fruitful way to live.

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Reader’s Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. These selections do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. They do reflect the diversity of those who read Provisions each week for support and strength on the trek of life. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


The way I heard it, the average abused partner leaves the home temporarily 7 times before making a permanent change. In any case the statistic really surprised me.


I did not receive my Provisions from last night. Was it not sent out or was it not received? I missed my weekly, Sunday evening message! Ed. Note: It was gratifying to receive several such inquiries. This Provision is coming out on Monday evening thanks to the Raleigh, North Carolina marathon. Enjoy!


May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #233: Be Bold

Laser Provision


The “B” in BRAVE stands for Bold. That’s what we need to be if we hope to exercise leadership with backbone and heart. It’s not enough to be NICE. We also have to take our stand, speaking the truth in love until we find ourselves in a toleration-free zone. Take heart. It’s not as hard as it sounds.

LifeTrek Provision


For more than two years I have worked with a wonderful coach from Australia named Christine McDougall. You can visit her at http://www.christinemcdougall.com. Christine has a very different take on the concept of being NICE than the one I took in my most recent series. All too often, in the name of being NICE, people fail to speak the truth because they fear what other people will think or feel.

To illustrate this problem, Christine has created her own acronym for NICE: N (Nothing) I (Inside Me) C (Cares) E (Enough About You) to risk my speaking the truth in love. That’s the connotation I want to counterbalance with my new series on BRAVE. Properly understood, NICE is not about smoothing ruffled feathers or being agreeable. And there’s certainly nothing NICE about failing to speak the truth, although I recognize that as being in the common parlance of the word.

In my own recent series, I tried to redeem the word by describing NICE in terms of courageously acting Neighborly (N), being Interested (I), feeling Compassion (C), and employing Etiquette (E). For all my facility with the English language, coaching people to be NICE left me feeling a bit like the novelist Aldous Huxley, who once observed, “It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘try to be a little kinder.'”

What people don’t always understand is how much bravery it takes to “try to be a little kinder.” We received two vigorous critiques of last week’s guest Provision, for example, because of the author’s obvious sympathies for certain peoples around the world. It’s not easy to be NICE to those who’ve done wrong or been otherwise ostracized by society. That takes either foolishness or courage.

But in the end, whatever you choose to call it, it takes a measure of chutzpah to exercise leadership with backbone and heart. We need to be Bold. And that, I suggest, is a great place to start in the acronym for BRAVE.

The need for boldness comes up all the time in the establishment and maintenance of healthy boundaries. I covered this in a Provision in early September (Click). Boundaries, according to Coach University, are “imaginary lines that we establish around ourselves to protect our souls, hearts, and minds from the unhealthy or damaging behavior of others.” Inform, request, demand, and leave was the four-step process they prescribe for working with boundaries in the context of human relationships.

LifeTrek coaches have assisted many clients with the issue of boundaries. Sometimes we assist clients to draw the lines. Other times we assist them to implement the four-step process until every single person in their lives is unconditionally and universally constructive. That’s a tall order, but it can be achieved in far less time than most people imagine. And it all starts with being bold.

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of two skeletons hanging in the corner of a closet who were grumbling about the heat, dust, and boredom. “What are we staying here for anyhow?” one asked. “Darned if I know,” the second skeleton answered. “I’d leave here in a minute if I had any guts.”

A silly anecdote, to be sure, which nevertheless illustrates a fundamental dynamic that keeps many people stuck in destructive rhythms, ruts, and relationships. They don’t have the guts to stand up for themselves or for others. They know what they should say or do, but they never actually say or do it. An extreme example of this resistance is the fact that the average physically-abused partner is abused seven times before they change their circumstances.

There is tremendous human inertia that works against extraordinary change. There is much that intimidates and silences people. In their book “How The Way We Talk Can Change The Way We Work,” Kegan and Lahey identify this resistance to change as the starting point in their work with individuals and organizations. “We listen hard,” they write, to determine “what people really want and what they will do to keep from getting it.” They describe this dynamic as a hidden immune system, “by which we manufacture continuously the antigens of change.”

LifeTrek coaches often work with people to disrupt this hidden immune system, this natural resistance to change. We assist people to find their voice and courageously speak their truth. In short, we assist people to be bold. As people become incredibly clear about what they want, they are empowered to be bold even when the patterns are longstanding or the risks are high. They are motivated and enabled to change.

That is where bravery and boldness always start: in knowing what we want. The undecided cannot be bold. In relationships as in politics and life, it takes knowing what we want in order to create a toleration-free zone in which to live and work.

Do not be afraid to envision and live the life you love. Clarify your thinking and act accordingly. Be true to yourself and the world will call you brave.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Reader’s Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. These selections do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. They do reflect the diversity of those who read Provisions each week for support and strength on the trek of life. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


I wish all Americans were as logical as you.


It is a shame that your newsletter would turn into a political forum. No matter what the personal feelings of a Chicago zealot, it should NOT be aired within this type of newsletter.


May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #232: It Makes a Difference

Laser Provision


What does it mean to be brave? For some people • on both sides of the conflict in Afghanistan • it means fighting for their cause. For others it means questioning the war and finding alternative solutions. This week’s guest Provision makes you think about where you stand and how to make a difference.

LifeTrek Provision


Last week I announced the start of a new series of Provisions around the acronym for BRAVE. My hope is to balance the series that I just completed on the acronym for NICE. I want us to end up with an understanding of leadership based on backbone and heart. The combination of BRAVE and NICE does that for me.

As part of this series, and before I get started on what B-R-A-V-E may stand for, I want to share with you a guest Provision written by the Rev. Dr. Arthur “Bud” Ogle of Chicago, Illinois. Bud has lived and worked for 25 years in inner-city America with the problems of homelessness and hopelessness, of poverty and pain. During those 25 years he has also traveled the world, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, making connections in the cause for justice and peace.

As an ordained minister with a Ph.D. in history who has dedicated his life to living the hard truths in which he believes, Bud shares an important perspective on what it means to be brave and to make a difference at this point in time. If you would like to respond to this article directly, or to subscribe to Bud’s newsletter, you can contact Bud via email by writing bud@goodnewspartners.org

LifeTrek Guest Provision

I’m sure it makes a difference that I have been there, that I have Afghan and Pakistani friends. Our experiences shape our judgments. I love their wildness, their fierce independence. I’m in awe that they take their faith so seriously • that despite the fact that nearly 50% of their homes were destroyed in the Soviet war no one went homeless (contrast this with the burgeoning industry of sheltering America’s homeless • a condition this “Christian” culture accepts); that all the passengers on busses pour out onto the highways to pray at the appointed hours, willing to risk death by strafing and bombing because their priorities are clear • Allah is great and Koranic teaching is to be obeyed. While I disagree strongly with some of their interpretations, the fact that they try and base their lives from their faith, this I admire. And I still cry remembering the bright-eyed limbless children undaunted by war, eager to learn.

I’m sure it makes a difference in helping me recognize the nearly perfect mirror-image role reversals. Osama bin Laden believes George Bush is, at the present moment, the world’s number one terrorist. Al Qaeda believes it is embarked on a protracted war of good vs. evil. Taliban leaders are convinced theirs is a just cause, a holy war. And many Afghan people, a majority of whom did not vote for their current leader, have rallied for weeks patriotically in the face of horrific destruction and the slaughter of innocents. Now, as Afghanistan evolves into yet another new political configuration, I have asked over and over, “what do we celebrate?”

I’m sure it makes a difference if we celebrate victory or revenge. One celebrates the possibility of women being free, terror being diminished, and the possibilities for true justice and healing emerging. The other celebrates a successful military retaliation for crimes committed. But do we celebrate the honest questioning of our premises • is war a necessary evil? Must some be losers for others to be winners?  Are there other, perhaps more difficult but lasting, ways to peace? What do we celebrate?

I’m sure it makes a difference that for the majority of the homeless and oppressed people with whom I work in the inner-city of Chicago, September 11th does not change much about how we see the world • innocent people still suffer, leaders pretend to know a lot more than they do, insecurity and terror are ever-present, the poor and discriminated still struggle to survive. From this position, it is hard to believe that people really care.

I’m sure it will make a difference if we try to understand rather than simply eliminate our enemies. For those whose model is World War II, we must first defeat the enemy and then help rebuild the society to prevent the conditions for another Hitler, Mussolini or Tojo. For those whose model is Viet Nam we need to respect why our enemies are so determined. Bin Laden may be as crazed as Hitler. Their 19 “martyrs” may be part of a lunatic fringe to be rejected out of hand. And/or perhaps Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Afghan people, and the Moslem militants, have a perspective we need to see.

I’m sure it makes a difference that Jewish prophets like Martin Buber, I.F. Stone and Joshua Heschel saw today’s problems coming, all the way back in the 1940s. Unless there is a true and just peace, there can be no peace. Palestine is somewhere between Wounded Knee and South Africa. So long as the US gives Israel reason to believe that there can be anything less than a just solution to “the Palestinian problem” that is respected by Arabs, so long as the US believes that being a super-power means it doesn’t have to submit to a world order based upon law and compromise, recruits will flock to “the terrorists.”

What kind of bravery do these times call for? Some, surely, will rush to the flag, the President, and the military without question. As some should surely do. Others will challenge, question, doubt, and suggest alternative ways to address and solve complex problems. As some will surely do. To whom will we listen and to what end?

I’m sure it makes a difference.

Bud Ogle
Good News Partners
bud@goodnewspartners.org.

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Reader’s Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. These selections do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. They do reflect the diversity of those who read Provisions each week for support and strength on the trek of life. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


For those who may not buy the art of being N-I-C-E, let me offer this. “In my vulnerability lies my strength.” WHAT!!!? Be vulnerable!!!? Yes • it makes your ‘opponent,’ who in the coaching profession might be a reluctant, cold, recalcitrant client, open up to you because you are obviously in the receiving mode. It forces you to be soft, accommodating, but most important, open to the other person, who will in turn open up to you.

Your power may then be expressed with the simple reflection of what you heard. Very often, the coach as sounding board is the most powerful way to get the other person to see themselves as others see them. You cannot tell them what they are • they have to see it for themselves to believe. Once they do, then the barriers to their understanding or their progress, whatever it is you are trying to help them overcome, start to crumble. Thanks for the insights.


This nation, this melting pot of humanity, this free republic, must be preserved. The idea of America is important enough to be defended. Fought for. Even die for. The enemy fears what we have, for if their people ever become liberated into a free society, tyrannical dictatorships will cease and they will lose power.


This much is true: It really is possible to love our country and value our freedoms and still believe the government is full of fools, prevaricators, and BS artists.


May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #231: Be Brave

Laser Provision


There’s a dimension of leadership and commitment that we’ve not considered as part of our series on being nice. It’s important to act Neighborly, be Interested, feel Connected, and employ Etiquette, N-I-C-E, and it’s also important to be brave. For the next five weeks we will break that word down, B-R-A-V-E, in order to provide yet more light and truth for the trek of life.

LifeTrek Provision


We’ve run out of letters in the word NICE. For the past month, readers of LifeTrek Provisions have considered four dimensions of being nice: acting Neighborly, being Interested, feeling Connected, and employing Etiquette. These four dimensions define much of what it means to be nice in the world. If only more people would take them to heart, our world would be a different place indeed.

The only problem with the word NICE is its association with weakness and timidity. Nice people don’t stand up for themselves. Nice people go with the flow even if it means getting run over in the process. Nice people agree to just about anything in order to keep the peace. Nice people are great as neighbors but not as leaders.

That’s what it means to be nice, right? Not hardly. The point of my series on being nice was to coach you to a new understanding of the word and to give you new incentive to be nice in the world. A nice leader is not a contradiction in terms. On the contrary, a nice leader • someone who really understands and practices the four dimensions • has the greatest chance of success in even the most hostile and competitive of environments.

It is disarming to run into someone who is nice in such situations. The opposite attitude is more common and even expected. In a dog-eat-dog world, people compete with a killer instinct in order to crush their opponents. Getting fired up is getting angry enough to do whatever it takes to bring about your opponents’ demise. Your competitors are viewed as enemies, with the goal being to annihilate them through incredible strategy, fierce tactics, and overwhelming force.

In their excellent book Running Within, Jerry Lynch and Warren Scott observe that although this attitude can motivate people (just witness the chest-beating chants of “U-S-A” at every American sporting event these days) it is actually quite counterproductive physiologically. The “fight response” releases high levels of stress hormones from the brain and adrenal glands. These hormones elevate your heart rate and energy utilization so that every effort seems harder than it otherwise might. They also take away from your ability to concentrate and to channel your energy into optimal performance.

The answer? To be a nice competitor, of course. Jerry tells the story of his competing in a national 15K cross-country championship in Houston, Texas. Many competitors were talking about how they were going to crush this or that opponent. Jerry took a different tack. He approached the pre-race favorite, stuck out his hand, and said, “I hope you have a great race.” The favorite was taken aback and asked why Jerry felt that way. “Because the better you run,” Jerry responded, “the better I will run too.” And so, by viewing the competition as a partnership, they both went on to set personal bests.

This story shifts our understanding of what it means to be nice. This understanding of nice has nothing to do with weakness and timidity. It’s not about letting people walk all over you. It’s about approaching leadership and competition from a whole new vantage point. Instead of overpowering and overwhelming people, this nice, like Eastern martial arts, catches and channels the force of the opponent to disarm them and bring out your very best.

By staying calm, cool, and collected in the face of competition and adversity you maintain the focus, presence of mind, and flexibility to take on even tough situations with courage and conviction. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was fond of saying that “Our ability to endure suffering will outlast your ability to inflict suffering.” The civil rights’ movement that he spearheaded was another example of catching and channeling the force of the opponent to disarm them with the power of nice.

Never let it be said, then, that it’s easy to be nice. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing in the world. To act Neighborly, be Interested, feel Connected, and employ Etiquette is to bravely go where few people choose to go these days. It’s to stand up for civility and respect in a world of hostility and contempt. It’s to act as if your manner of talking and way of being can make all the difference in the world. Do you believe this? I do and I know it works.

To be nice, then, is also to be brave. For the next five weeks, I’m going to break the word BRAVE down into five critical components just as I have with the word NICE over the past four weeks. B-R-A-V-E will bring into focus five more vital dimensions called for in our world today. Whether it’s leadership at work or home, in society or an organization, we need to be nice and brave in order to really bring about the kind of changes our world so desperately needs.

Stay with me on this, and we’ll get to the New Year with important new handles for leadership and life.

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Reader’s Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. These selections do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. They do reflect the diversity of those who read Provisions each week for support and strength on the trek of life. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


Is it possible for you to send me your recent provisions relating to being “NICE?” I didn’t print them out and accidentally permanently deleted all old e-mails. I’d really like to have them. They are wonderful reading and I would like to use them in our family night lessons. (Ed. Note: All Provisions are archived on our Web site at http://www.LifeTrekCoaching.com/provisions.)


I am trying to find a product called PB8 or Pro Biotic I am told this is beneficial for someone who has been on prolonged antibiotic treatment. (Ed. Note: It is beneficial and is available at most health food stores or on line from http://www.vitaminshoppe.com.)


Take a few minutes of your busy day and visit this place. What you take from this journey will depend on what you bring to it. It is a place to both meditate and contemplate. http://www.wallofamericans.com.


May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #230: Employ Etiquette

Laser Provision

Etiquette has gotten a bad name in this day and age. Who has time for etiquette? We grab our fast food and claw our way to the top without much concern for social graces. That’s no way to be nice! Yet the “E” in N-I-C-E stands for Etiquette because etiquette benefits one and all with the gift of a wonderful life. And etiquette is a choice. We’re not born with social graces. We learn them and choose to use them. If you want to make a mark in the world, then it helps to employ etiquette.

LifeTrek Provision

I had to laugh this past week. I was talking with one of my readers who noticed that we had added Afghanistan to the list of subscribers. “I can see the headline now,” quipped my friend, “War Ends! Taliban and Al Qaeda Decide to Be Nice!”

Now this was, of course, spoken in jest. But stranger things have happened than people changing their minds about how to treat others. That should, in fact, be our fervent prayer. That the war would end, that peace and justice would come, and that people would find new reasons and ways to be nice to each other.

One thing my friend’s jest illustrates is that being nice is not a personality trait • it’s a choice. We’re not born nice. We decide to be nice. Some personality types may be more hostile and aggressive than others, but even the angriest person can decide to treat others with civility and respect.

Studies show that doing so can help you live longer and better. Everyone knows that feeling and acting angry can momentarily increase your blood pressure. “Calm down!” we say, “before you burst a vein.” Clinical studies have now established a long-lasting connection between anger and heart disease. It pays big dividends to be nice • physiologically, psychologically, and socially • and it all starts with a conscious choice.

Since the pioneering work of Friedman, Rosenman, and Byers some 40 years ago, many people have heard about Type A and Type B personalities. Type A being the more aggressive, impatient, hard-driving, easily-angered, and time-pressured individuals with Type B being the more appreciative, polite, relaxed, easy-going, and time-plentiful individuals.

What many people do not know is that Meyer Friedman got into this line of research in part because he was himself a Type A personality, headed for significant cardiovascular health problems, who decided to become a Type B personality. It was a lifelong journey, but those who met him later in life never suspected that he was once a Type A personality. He had successfully made the transition to being a nice, patient, polite, and calm man.

What kind of person are you? Are you headed for trouble • physiologically, psychologically, and socially • or are you happy to be alive? The choice is yours to make.

A strong ally for overcoming the Type A personality are the social conventions known as etiquette. That’s why I’ve decided to make the “E” in N-I-C-E stand for employing Etiquette. The pleasantries, practices, and procedures of society are meant to be virtual assistants in the conduct of life. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If we take etiquette seriously we will be pointed in the direction of Type B behaviors.

Take something as basic as table manners. In this day and age, where people so frequently eat on the run or in the car, we have lost all sense of what table manners even are. Who knows the secrets of a formal place setting or what you can eat with your fingers? Most people just wolf down their food in order to get back to business as quickly as possible. We don’t chew our food properly or make good table conversation.

Or take the practice of handwritten thank you notes. In this day of instantaneous, electronic communications, handwritten notes are going by the way side. But there are times when nothing else will do. They make a huge impact on the recipient. Keeping a stack handy can make the difference between taking the time to be nice and never quite getting around to it.

Employing etiquette slows us down and makes us pay attention to the impact of our behavior on others. When we talk through a mouthful of food, for example, we risk making our companions uncomfortable and biting our tongue. Etiquette is a lubricant that both greases the wheels of society and assists us to live more wonderful lives. The next time you get a chance, you may want to dust off those old etiquette books • or search for etiquette on the Internet • in order to gain one more resource in the journey to nice.

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.


I can’t tell you how much I enjoy watching your subscriber numbers grow. I was particularly interested to see Afghanistan now represented on your list. I’m sure that your views will be very interesting to them. Have you heard anything from them?


Don’t kid yourself. I don’t think anything that we say or do is going to change how Muslims think about us or their religion. But it sure would be great to see a change • a meaningful change.


I’m not sure we have any “blame” here. Don’t we get up and try to do the best we can each day? I do. “Hind sight is always 20-20.” I must concentrate on the good I can do today. Trying to figure out blame or dwelling in self-pity because of things beyond our control is a waste of time. Make today count. Tell the people you love how you feel. Make a contribution.


I look forward to your Provision on Monday mornings. Thanks. Do you have articles that you may have done on coaching people through change? We are introducing many changes here and I want to help our teams through them.


How long do you try and nurture a strained work environment or tortured family relationship…to be connected with these people…how do you look past the fear and anger when someone is roaring with pain…how long do you try new and effective strategies before realizing there is no connection? And then are you not being “nice?”



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #229: Feel Connected

Laser Provision

There’s no way to be nice without feeling connected and compassionate to others. Without a sense of connection we’re part of the problem rather than the solution. That’s what the “C” stands for in N-I-C-E. Feel Connected. As long as we feel separate, superior, disconnected, intimidated, and frightened by others, we cannot and will not be nice. Once we feel connected, we can often find new ways of making a real difference in the world.

LifeTrek Provision

This Provision begins with a troubling, heartfelt request from a Nigerian. “How can I relate to Muslims and make them happy?” he writes, “because thousands are killed by them every year in one pretext or another in my country. I want this coaching because I want to relate to them and I want my country to be peaceful.”

“In my country, Muslims kill Christians for just about any reason. How can we love these people and try to understand them when love from an unbeliever is an insult? How can we love them when they want to root out all contrary things? How can we love them when the only thing they will accept is American conversion to fundamentalist Islam? I agree that there are many beautiful Muslims who one will be happy to be around. But it’s not easy to live as a minority with a large Muslim community. I need practical suggestions.”

While others will no doubt have their own suggestions, I respond with the most practical suggestion I know: be nice. It may seem impossible that being nice can effectively counter hatred and hostility • but it’s the only thing that ever has. Forced conversions, to any religion or system, sow the seeds of future aggression. Being nice, whether to win converts or to emulate tolerance, sows the seeds of future understanding and peace.

This is as true in the workplaces and homes of North America as it is in Nigeria. If you want people to treat you right, you have to treat them right. If you suffer for treating people right, then suffer with the knowledge that your nice behavior is the seed of something great. One never knows how that seed will grow and where the fruit will ripen.

Many readers will remember the classic tale of Androcles and the Lion. In the days of ancient Rome, a slave named Androcles escaped from his master and fled into the forest, only to face an even more horrific adversary: the king of the jungle, a roaring lion. Androcles ended up face to face with this mighty beast, despairing of life itself. To his surprise, however, the lion was roaring in pain due to a thorn in his paw. Androcles mustered the courage to get close to the lion and pull out the thorn • thereby winning the lion’s undying affection.

Long after that day a number of soldiers came marching through the forest; stumbling upon Androcles they took him prisoner and brought him back to face the authorities. Androcles was condemned to death in the Roman arena, where the lions would make him a public spectacle as a deterrent to others. As fate would have it, however, Androcles faced the same lion he had met in the forest. Recognizing Androcles, the lion licked his face and protected him from the other lions • whereupon the Roman governor, having never before seen such unusual behavior from these ferocious beasts, set both Androcles and the lion free.

The story of Androcles and the lion is an archetypal story that speaks to the power of being nice. It is not just a fairy tale. It indicates the reality of what can happen when we allow ourselves to feel connected and compassionate with our adversaries. Androcles had no reason to think that the lion would not turn around and eat him after removing the thorn. But he took the risk • and the dividends were huge.

If the “N” in N-I-C-E stands for acting Neighborly and the “I” stands for being Interested, then the “C” stands for feeling Connected. As long as we feel separate, superior, disconnected, intimidated, and frightened by others, we cannot and will not be nice. We will put them down, attack them, and ignore their pain. We will disrespect and dismiss them. We will protect our interests rather than extend ourselves for others.

We see this all the time in the context of world events. There is tremendous jockeying for position. Everyone spins the news to serve their purpose. The face off is between “us” and “them,” the “good guys” and the “bad guys,” with nary a sense that we are all connected as residents of planet earth and as siblings in the human family.

We would do well to nurture this feeling of connection in every area of life. Whether it is in the context of a strained work environment, a tortured family relationship, or a competitive athletic competition • let alone of a dangerous hostile enemy • the feeling of connection will enable us to see beyond the anger and fear in order to find new and effective strategies for moving forward. Is someone around you roaring in pain? It may be time to get connected and pull out the thorn.

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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Reader’s Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. These selections do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. They do reflect the diversity of those who read Provisions each week for support and strength on the trek of life. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


Last week you mentioned the importance of helping and encouraging others. I agree it does enrich life to do so. I worked the Columbus marathon last week, and as I was stopping traffic on my designated corner and cheering for the runners, so many of the runners said “thank you” and “thanks for coming out.” As I yelled to passing runners words of encouragement, “good job”, “looking good”, etc. many of them made eye contact and smiled. I felt great the rest of the day. It gave me such a lift to think that maybe my applause and cheers helped someone keep going to achieve their goal.


Four planes hijacked and deliberately crashed.
The Twin Towers toppled, the Capitol smashed.
We must blame ourselves, not God or Fate,
For the warning cry we heard too late.


Reinhold Niebuhr reminds us that nations are held to a different standard than individuals • yet whether we know God most profoundly as Allah, YHWH or Jesus Christ, we know that God calls nations, communities, and individuals alike to righteousness (establishing right relationships in and with all). No one grows when one demands and expects the “other” to abandon all dignity and self-respect.


May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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