Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Onward & Upward

The news is .... well.... new. A new website and blog that is ... launching in about a week.... or two. If you would like to receive notification of the new site and new blog please drop me an email at You can visit the current site at There is still lots of good stuff there. But the new site is well, more current and just better!

Can't wait to see you on the new site!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Are you failing the marshmallow experiment?

How often have you made a decision based on seeking immediate gratification? It may not have looked like that at the time. In the moment, that decision may have seemed expedient, served to release anxiety, or even resolved (albeit temporarily) some emotional need you were feeling pressed by. In retrospect, in reviewing the action or decision made - one prompted largely by the impulse to alleviate stress or modify discomfort -  did that decision or action work out for you in the end? If not ... you may be failing the "marshmallow experiment." I, for one, am learning to save my marshmallow and - in the meantime - have it under lock and (thrown away the) key! You? Read on...

The Stanford marshmallow experiment was a study on deferred gratification. Conducted in 1972 by psychologist Walter Mischel of Stanford University,[1]the experiment has been repeated many times since. The original study at Stanford has been "regarded as one of the most successful behavioural experiments".[2] In the study, a marshmallow was offered to each child. If the child could resist eating the marshmallow, he was promised two instead of one. The scientists analyzed how long each child resisted the temptation of eating the marshmallow, and whether or not doing so had an effect on their future success.[3] The results provided researchers with great insight on the psychology of self control.  -- Wikipedia  

Read marshmallow experiment to learn what this experiment predicted and the outcome ...

Saturday, October 01, 2011

"I've arrived..."

That's what my dad told me this morning after a leisurely Skype call I placed from my iPhone (great app that Skype!) to Israel - Netanya to be exact, where he lives. To be sure, I have a few woes. My 80 years young mother has cancer - again. My younger sister was recently diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer - doesn't smoke. I can't shake a cold after 10 days made worse hanging out in the emergency room when my mom was rushed 911 style to ER yesterday due to a seizure caused by a mixture of coumadin and an over-the-counter sinus congestion nasal inhaler. (She is stabilized and doing remarkable well.) Oh, and my dad is about to go in for a heart procedure. Please, allow me to stop there.

So I'm musing with my dad. "Despite all I have going on with my personal life, I feel good. I am happy. Most of all, I feel peaceful. How could that be?" Without skipping a beat, he says, "Sounds like you've arrived." And you know what? I got what he meant. I  reached my destination. Me. Surely, it's been a bumpy ride and I don't pretend that this arrival marks the end of the road; it simply validates the work, the process, the integrity in which I strive to live, albeit at times messily - the continuous search for authenticity - now realized. A sense of being at home with myself, living according to what matters to me, honestly, heartfully, gratefully.

Deep sigh.

Consider this a love letter to my dad. Thanks Dad. Happy New Year.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What was I thinking??

Ok. I'm a coach. You would think I know better. It's even worse. I'm also a licensed therapist. I must admit I hate when family, friends, well-meaning people say when I'll shared with them a personal challenge, "But you're a therapist, a coach. Shouldn't you know better?" Ha! I think one the reasons my clients get so much value from our work together (so they say) is because I am human - and being human over the years I have made tons of mistakes and have had tons of challenges and disappointments (I've also had amazing positively experiences and made great choices!). What distinguishes me - I guess - is I've made it my business, my life's work actually, to grow, learn and evolve into the best Marian, the best human possible. As an old colleague of mine would routinely say when asked how he was doing: "I'm great... and leaving room for improvement." Well, I could think of no better choice of words to describe me.   

Still... I have to ask myself... "What was I thinking???" As recently as yesterday I signed up for a web-based program that if followed, would have thrown me so off my business plan. It wasn't a lot of money. In fact it was cheap - and it seem like I could make $$$ doing this. 24 hours later (actually less) I realized what it would end up costing me is tons of frustration, time, aggravation and opportunity costs in my coaching business - a business that makes my heart sing. So I cancelled the agreement (it included 60 day cancellation clause).              

Deep breath.

And then there are the other less then "brilliant" choices I've made over the past year now I have to ask myself: "What was I thinking?"  In 20/20 hindsight it's easy to see the errors of our decisions that were clouded by emotions, "opportunities"..... a host of other things. And because I am resolved to make a difference in my life in this area - and in the lives of others, I am thinking. Thinking.... and thinking.... thinking....tick tock.... still thinking....

So this is what occurs to me.... when I've made what in retrospect looks like a convoluted choice what they seem to have in common is one thing: I did not honor my core values. I responded to excitement or in some case resignation - but not to a truth of who I really am. Does that mean to avoid excitement and opportunities that stretch ourselves? Absolutely not. It just means - at least to me - is evaluate the situation by asking this question: Is this choice supporting who I really am and helping me grow in (here's the kicker) ways that align with who I really am (the best parts of me) or is it a distraction, an avoidance, a risk that deviates from the goals I had established are meaningful to me. Now, if you have  this overwhelming desire to jump out of a plane (with a respected company of course) and still if there is no supporting evidence that this concurs with your life direction - I say jump!  Sometimes we must take that leap of faith.

Still, for me... I've taken enough jumps and I haven't even left the ground. So the next time, rather then look back and ask myself: what was I thinking? I will (I hope) in that given moment before taking that leap, ask myself: what AM I thinking?


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Overcoming Charisma

Ever think of charisma as being a quality to overcome? Read this fascinating article and discover why "presence" is much more valuable.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Cracked Water Pot

I have always loved this story. The beauty and perfection of "imperfection." This bearer believes it bears repeating...
The Cracked Water Pot

A water bearer had two large pots. Each
hung on either end of a pole which he carried
across his neck.

One of the pots had a crack in it. The other pot
was perfect and always delivered a full portion
of water at the end of the long walk from the
stream to the master's house. The cracked pot
always arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the
bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of
water in his master's house.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its
accomplishments, perfect to the end for
which it was made. But the poor cracked pot
was ashamed of its own imperfection, and
miserable that it was able to accomplish
only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a
bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one
day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I
want to apologize to you."

Why?" asked the bearer. "What are you ashamed of?"

"I have been able, for these past two years, to
deliver only half my load because this crack in my
side causes water to leak out all the way back to
your master's house. Because of my flaws, you have
to do all of this work, and you don't get full
value from your efforts," the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked
pot, and in his compassion he said, "As we return
to the master's house, I want you to notice the
beautiful flowers along the path."

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked
pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful
wild flowers on the side of the path, and this
cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it
still felt bad because it had leaked out half its
load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for
its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that
there were flowers only on your side of your path,
but not on the other pot's side? That's because I
have always known about your flaw, and I took
advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your
side of the path, and every day while we walk back
from the stream, you've watered them. For two
years I have been able to pick these beautiful
flowers to decorate my Master's table. Without you
being just the way you are, He would not have this
beauty to grace His house."

(Author Unknown)

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Garbage Therapy

Why wait? It was 6:45am and still dark. If I leave now, I thought to myself, I could catch the sunrise. And so I did. Continuing on the "theme" of a post from last week, it was time for "Garbage Therapy."

So what exactly is garbage therapy? Therapy meant to clear the mind of crap. It's really very simple. It doesn't involve much analysis - maybe none at all. On the physical side, it means doing something to elevate endorphins which increases "positivity" and decreases... well... negativity. Mentally, it involves causing the brain to reframe a thought and consequential feeling. Depending upon who you read in the literature, thoughts cause feelings OR feelings cause thoughts. Putting the debating society aside for now, Nike says it best - Just Do It. And so I did. Except...

I hadn't checked the weather forecast. And I was going for a run - which is why I was setting out to begin with. Rain and dark skies clouded my vision of that perfect sunrise. Isn't life just like that sometimes? You have a spontaneous thought, take action on it - and if conditions are not "perfect", you feel like the fly who just hit your windshield. Splat. A great idea turned into crap. Or was that "garbage mind" talking?

Determine to achieve today's running goal, I decided to take my garbage thinking and put it in the garbage "outbox" and come up with an empowering context for the circumstances I found myself in.

Once I did that, I started thinking creatively. I thought about how I could write about this. I then applauded myself for sticking to my running schedule - regardless of the circumstances - hey, it wasn't lightening! I noticed how no one on the running path smiled at each other or said hello and vowed the next time I was out I would say hello to everyone - and notice the impact of that. I then came to the conclusion that having a "lose" mind invigorated my thinking - versus having a tight grip on "the way things should be" and getting pissed off or feeling frustrated. And ... I achieved my goal - increasing my time on the running path by 10%.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Collaborate - Don't Pontificate

Read this article from NPR if you want to discover one characteristic of "group personality" - my term - that leads to greater team effectiveness. Collaboration Beats Smarts In Group Problem Solving

Saturday, October 02, 2010

If Bill Clinton can ...

Health is wealth. And food is the fuel of life. Are you putting "high-test" in your engine or settling on low grade junk. Penny-wise, pound foolish? I will spare you any more cliches but please listen to what former President Bill Clinton said when he went public last week with the healthy cause of his dramatic weight-loss and increase in good health and well-being.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Timely Thought

I heard this quote at a meeting and had to share it:

"Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness."

Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby (1826-93), British statesman. The Conduct of Life, address at Liverpool College, 20 Dec 1873.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Getting Passed the Garbage

At 7:15am this morning, jogging the tired six block loop around my neighborhood paled against the thought of jumping into the car and heading off to the boardwalk on Miami Beach. Jogging became a renewed endeavor after training for four months and then this September 19th completing my first triathlon. So I grabbed my iPod and made off in my car, crossing the Julia Tuttle Causeway to Indian Creek Drive, parking on 37th Street, one block from the beach.

As I learned to do while training, I set my timer for a 5 minute warm up walk. My timing stunk. Pun intended. For most of those 5 minutes I was practically neck and neck with the trash collector. He seemed to be riding along side me on the boardwalk in his little motorized vehicle and each time he stopped to empty a trash can on the boardwalk, I had to hold my breath and manage my growing annoyance.

Why me and why did I have such lousy timing. My picture perfect plan was ruined. Ten minutes earlier or later and this would have been a nonevent. I considered reversing my walk, to walk in the opposite directions. A reasonable enough solution I figured. And then I remembered why I was there. To run, not to walk. And so I ran. Right passed the problem.

Motto of the story: instead of complaining about the garbage in your life, refocus yourself and remember your goals. Be sure to rest your mind on the bigger picture. When garbage-like thoughts and negativity creep in, remember what's important to you and run with it!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Feeling Stressed? Kindness Cures

One of my favorite print and online magazines, ODE Magazine, promotes "Intelligent Optimism" and regularly delivers on that promise. Here is a smart path for feeling better.

Four ways that kindness promotes a healthy lifestyle

We may feel this instant rush of gratitude when someone does something nice for us without asking, or even a feeling of pride when we ourselves “pay it forward,” but do we truly know the effect kindness has on us? After doing some research I came to realize that many are unaware that kindness isn’t just good for the soul, its good for the body and mind too. I’ve narrowed down the top four reasons why it feels good to give.

Kindness reduces stress

After performing an act of kindness you may feel a rush of euphoria also know as a “helpers high.” This happens when your body releases endorphins followed by a period of calm, reducing depression, chest pain and the feeling of isolation.

Kindness is a pain killer

If you’re in pain you may be constantly craving Tylenol in hopes of erasing the annoyance, but with by a simple good deed, you brain increases its serotonin level (a neurotransmitter that improves mood) helping those who suffer from chronic conditions.

Kindness is free joy

According to Allan Luks, former executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of Health, volunteering on a rapid basis produces the same kind of joy as doubling your income or gaining a college degree. I guess it is true that money can’t buy you as much happiness as social interactions can.

Kindness is an immunity booster

Forget using Airborne to combat seasonal flu before it starts, creating new relationships with strangers and helping those with troubles can boost your immune system as well as the recipients. Researchers say that a steady release of endorphins strengthens the immune system. Your body will be thanking you and so will your wallet.

Today’s world can be so hectic that we often forget to take time to think about ourselves let alone others. Being kind to others takes less time than you may think and produces an even greater feeling of appreciation then you may expect.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Feeling Inside Out?

Yesterday I attended a very worthwhile coaching training seminar delivered masterfully by Bob Parsons of InsideOut Development. Now, I've been coaching a long time but as a lifelong learner I check out those experiences I think will enrich me and my clients. And I hit pay dirt here. As an executive coach I often work with managers and leaders who report challenges having "difficult conversations" or developing their staff to become more proactive. This program teaches a simple solution for both.

The major distinction I learned is that before having that "difficult conversation" - whether it be with your direct report, boss, domestic partner, children - a preliminary conversation must take place first. This is called an "engagement" conversation. It's like you can't plan a wedding before someone actually "pops" the question.

"Coaching for Engagement" removes the obstacles - or "interferences" that make a difficult conversation more likely to be productive. This is an elegant step-by-step process that almost anyone can learn.

The flip side (literally! There is a laminated 2-sided "script card") teaches you how to coach for breakthroughs. This 15 minute conversation transforms what could be an "I'll tell you what to do" conversation into a conversation that "grows" the person to discover the best solution he or she can, and then take action on it.

For more information contact me or InsideOut. By the way, I have no affiliation with this organization. I just like what they are doing!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Workers more stressed than ever

By Cindy Krischer Goodman for The Miami Herald
Like most of us, Nancy Topolski found herself with more work piled on after her law firm laid off 11 legal secretaries. Topolski soon began stressing over work, losing sleep and making mistakes. One day, the stress turned into a full blown panic attack in the office.

Like most of us, Nancy Topolski found herself with more work piled on after her law firm laid off 11 legal secretaries. Topolski soon began stressing over work, losing sleep and making mistakes. One day, the stress turned into a full blown panic attack in the office.

Trying to keep your cool in workplaces these days has become more difficult. The recession has brought a new set of issues, driving stress to a new level, with three out of every four American workers on the brink of a meltdown, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University report.

``Workers are being pushed and pushed and they lack the energy to deal with it,'' says Joyce Gioia of The Herman Group, whose specialty is employee retention. She believes that high workloads, fear of job loss, and 24/7 connectivity has created the recipe for the highest levels of stress in history.

Companies could end up paying the cost through more workers calling in sick, more job-related mistakes and higher turnover.

For years, experts have said a little bit of stress is good, referring to the short-term jolt that comes before making a presentation, not the extreme kind prevalent in workplaces today. ``We're way beyond the level of it being motivating,'' says Helen Darling, president of the Washington-based National Business group on Health. ``It will be hard to recover economically if we don't find better ways to help employees address stress.''

Walid Wahab, owner of Wahab Construction, a high-end Miami homebuilder, comes to work each day and confronts the stress from keeping his staff employed and luring new business.

``As a business owner my responsibility is not to panic or panic privately. I have to put on a positive face in front of my employees.''

Surprisingly, while his type of stress is echoed by most corporate executives, studies show head honchos are less at risk for health issues than one would expect. It turns out, it's not really the high-powered fast-paced executives succumbing to stress, but rather those in lower-level jobs with little control over their schedules or their work culture and those with unsupportive bosses who suffer most, according to studies by the famed neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky.

Sure, staying late at the office night after night can be exhausting, but it's not going to kill you. The person most at risk for stress-induced heart disease isn't the executive with an endless to-do list -- it's the frustrated janitor, legal secretary or single mother who has no flexibility in her work hours, worries about job security and is fraught with hopelessness.

At Wahab Construction, project manager Meg Florian finds her stressors are completely different from those of her boss, Walid. ``I deal with a lot of subcontractors, and I find people just don't pay attention. You have to repeat yourself. There's a lack of care and focus.''

Trying to fix mistakes, she says, causes her stress. Florian says she hasn't found a release -- yet. She is considering yoga.

Wahab sets the example for his employees, fitting yoga into his routine for 20 years.

He says it makes him a better boss and person. ``I leave the company after a day with anxiety, about maybe something that went wrong. Yoga is a filter I go through before I get home -- all the negative energy, I leave it there.''

By now, most employers know they have a stressed-out workforce, not all of it business related. ``On top of the stress in the workplace, they are stressed about their finances, their kids, their parents. There is so much to worry about right now,'' Darling says.

``That won't change until the economy turns around.''

Still, most employers haven't figured out what to do about it, and some have no interest in trying. In Topolski's case, she was fired the day after her panic attack. She has since sued her former law firm, Davis Wright Tremaine, for $1 million.

Those employers who are attempting to address stress mostly are encouraging workers to use employee assistance programs, which provide mental health counselors.

Employee-assistance programs and HR consultants report a notable uptick in calls about job stress in the past two years.

Darling says any size business with a health plan should be able to make counseling available to workers. Any additional cost to the employer, she says, is worth it.

Meanwhile, there are many different opinions regarding what a stress management programs should include. Some stressed-out workers have turned to medication; others have gone the route of meditation.

``I don't see evidence that a majority of the small and mid-sized businesses are in a position to help stressed workers, even if they want to,'' says Joel H. Neuman, associate professor of management at State University of New York at New Paltz. ``Most are struggling just to get by.''

Which is why, he feels, employers are seeing stress manifesting as workplace conflict and short tempers.

Regardless, consultant Barry Hall, who analyzed workplace stress in a report published in July, insists businesses do realize they need to address the rising tide of employee stress.

``Those who ignore stress will take a hit to their bottom line in higher costs and lower productivity,'' he says.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sexual Harassment at Work

Bloomberg News: "Sex harassment at work gets weirder scarier" - commentary by Susan Antilla

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wearing Many Hats

Yesterday I was quoted twice in Brett Graff's Miami Herald's front page Money section article "Overqualified for your job? Use it to your advantage."
"Back in 2008, a South Florida financial executive found himself firing each of the 70 employees reporting to him. Then, he, too, became a casualty of the crumbling economy. The executive asked for some anonymity in exchange for his honest account of what followed."
Read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Irony of a Bad Communication Day

Just one day after I wrote about communication breakdowns at work, a fed-up flight attendant makes his get-away. The attention he is receiving tells us how much pent-up rage is out there in the workplace. Read it and weep! Not so much because of what he did but for the opportunity that now awaits him in publishing opportunities and other kinds of public appearances sure to net him a tidy some. Not that I am advocating his kind of behavior - at all - but since no one was actually harmed as a result of his behavior, human nature via Facebook and other media, is celebrating this example of bad communications and reactions gone "good" - at least for him!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

To Say or Not to Say is NOT the Question - How to Say Is

It seems more people are contacting me these days to improve their managerial communication skills or they know someone who needs to (like it's becoming an "on-the-job" problem!) and they get referred to me. Workplace communication problems run the gamut from the "absence of" when there is a problem to blowing one's top. Either way the consequence has both a lateral and longitudinal effect meaning there is an impact on the employee-manager relationship laterally, and longitudinally the entire office or department suffers because of a low-grade "fever" of malcontent or aggravation permeating the atmosphere.
Sometimes it is something minor, especially in the case of a new manager who simply doesn't yet possess the managerial skills either learned on the job or because they had no training in advance.
For example, the administrative director of a nonprofit organization here in Miami learned that one of her long time employees had been fired due to performance and logistical issues even though she was well-liked and respected. Budgeting cutbacks and the employee's inability to adapt to workplace changes proved no longer to be a good fit for her nor her department. Someone else was hired and would be starting shortly.
My client reported she didn't know how to communicate this firing to the rest of the staff. Her thoughts were to announce this at a regular staff meeting but she was afraid she might embarrass this employee. Not knowing what to do and feeling guilty about the firing - even though she understood the rationale for it - she avoided the whole thing for a couple of days, including this employee.
Now to some this may sound like a small thing but this kind of undercurrent due to non-communicated messages goes on in the workplace all the time!
What should she do, she wondered? I suggested something simple: "Why not ask her how she would like the staff to be informed?" You would think I had just handed down the Ten Commandments.
This allowed my client to begin a conversation with her employee which led to a more satisfying and meaningful interaction between them.


Friday, August 06, 2010

Miami's Women of Action

I read this article last week in print but this morning I saw it again on the homepage of Miami Herald's Business section. I was fortunate enough to cross paths with one of the women, Marjorie Weber, on a number of occasions. One time she generously helped me and members of my condo board at Midtown Miami figure out how to read our proposed budget and another time she gave me invaluable feedback on a project I was working on called "Integrity Miami." We should all be so lucky to have trailblazers like Marjorie Weber as a mentor and inspiration.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

From Striving to Thriving

What a difference ... ahem... a few years make. When this blog was launched in 2005, I had one foot in the sandy groove of Miami Beach where I relocated in 2003, and the other foot still dug deeply into the grit and vibrancy of Midtown Manhattan. Three years later, due to the real estate downturn, I suddenly found myself moving to newly urban, rough around the edges, and slowing coming around Midtown Miami. That positive transformation - both Miami's and my own - was unparalleled despite real estate woes and other economic downturns.

In 2010, the amalgamation of my two professional worlds first rooted in New York and now grounded in Miami, gave birth to "Thriving In The Workplace", a company dedicated to delivering "high touch" licensed clinical employee assistance (EAP) services, work/life programs, organization development, and professional life and executive coaching - geared to businesses and individuals living and working in South Florida.

Our blog, "Work|Life|Tips" at, endeavors to deliver news and tips designed to help make working and living in beautiful south Florida - with all of our challenges and opportunities - a thriving experience for all of us.

Why? Because we work and live here too.

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