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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

This Thanksgiving, as you gorge yourself with turkey, fixins' and rest for a massive shopping spree on the next day, remember the following:

  1. The pilgrims were illegal aliens.
  2. Border fence? Not even an ocean thousands of miles wide could keep those who wanted in from getting in.
  3. The pilgrims came here not because it was perfect but because it was better.
  4. The pilgrims came here to work and create a life not for a hand out.
  5. The pilgrims had faith -- and I don't mean faith in god -- they had faith that things would work out.
  6. The pilgrims came at the worst time of the year -- just before winter -- and they still survived.
  7. The first pilgrims to arrive didn't steal anybody's jobs. Instead they dug up burial sites and stole food stored by the locals. Then a few years later, they invited two leaders from the locals over for food and murdered them.
  8. The pilgrims came here to practice religious freedom believing that state religions impinged on the freedom of conscience.  They would probably not be in favor of our 1954-modified pledge of allegiance or motto, adopted in 1956, "In God we Trust."
  9. Thanksgiving wasn't about a big party with loads of food while you contemplated how you were going to get the best bang for your buck the next day. It was solemn. It was about praising and thanking God. If the pilgrims here today they would probably by in a church praying and not at the dinner table or watching parades, football and old Christmas movies.  When is the last time you prayed around gratitude instead of asking for a "fix" or a "solution"?
  10. The Pilgrims didn't "count their blessings" as so many people do these days on Thanksgiving day. They were truly grateful.  Period. Imagine for a moment that during the 12 months HALF your family and friends died. Not one. Not two. HALF. Would you, like the pilgrims, be able to find gratitude at the end of all that?  They did. And they did it without Prozac or mental health counseling.

Why do we forget these facts? Why don't these images of what America was at the start shape our Thanksgiving traditions by filling us with emotions?  Emotions like shame for what happened to the locals by the "illegals". Emotions like openness for our current "illegal" who continue to want to come her because it is better-not-perfect. Emotions like faith and hope?  Why don't we think of church and prayer on Thanksgiving?

Instead our minds are filled with an image of a green bean casserole.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Play hard.  We hear that a lot from life / business coaches.  Unfortunately, many of us hardly play.

I wonder why that is.  Maybe because we think we can't.  Maybe because we think there is no one behind us.  Maybe because we are so paralyzed by our own drama. 

So when we se someone whose life goes against this current of self-doubt and self-centeredness, we are inspired.

I recently came across this report from CBS New about Jason McElwain, a high school basketball team manager. Take in this video and if you are inspired, as I was, take a moment and tell me why you think that is -- personally -- what values of yours does it bring to the forefront as you watch this news clip?  (I'll post the first comment so you can see what I mean).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

There are many ways you can interpret this blog post.  It is both a story of tenacity, unwillingness to fail and ingenuity.  It is also a story of duplicity.  However you slice it, it is a story of assumptions and how we think and perceive the world around us.


Along the streets of the French Quarter  you see many New Orleans street performers singing, dancing and not moving.  I am most impressed by these people who don't move a muscle, performing as human statues for hours at a time (probably because having  done multiple vipassana courses and gone through 3 sittings each day of Adhitthāna, or "Strong Determination" starting on Day 4 where you site for an hour without changing your posture -- I know how hard this is)..

The Bearded Silver Man

So it is no surprise that I noticed the bearded silver man who was sitting outside Sacks Fifth Avenue on Canal Street one morning.  The next evening while walking down Bourbon Street, I came across the bearded silver man once again, sitting in the middle of the street in the same position -- upgraded with a phallic balloon for the risqué Bourbon Street.  He seemed to be garnering wuite the tips from passers by.

The Truth

A few hours later while walking back to our timeshare I discovered the truth.  This bearded silver man was no man at all but a manikin.  It's owner would prop it on a bike and take it from site to site, posing it and putting a bucket labeled "tips" behind it.
I spoke with the manikin's owner before he rode off and he told me that he has been carting the manikin around for quite some time since he lost his job.  He said, "I make thirty to fifty thousand dollars a year -- all tax free."

What does this have to do with Business Coaching / Life Coaching?

Lots.  First there is a piece about  not taking unemployment lying down.  This guy and his manikin concept reflects definitely out-of-the-box thinking.  No marketing costs, no advertising, no employees, no MLMs, no credit card processing fees.  Just move the manikin every few hours and collect the money.
Second there is a piece about how we perceive and interact with the world around us.  The manikin routine is dependent on two factors:  people have to believe it is really a person sitting there.  Because of the street performers in New Orleans, it is easy to believe it is a person sitting there.  Then the more you start to think, "No way can this really be a person sitting there so still for so long," the more you are likely to either reward the manikin or go up and touch it to see if it is a real person.  But how likely are you to do the latter?
Saturday, October 8, 2011


October 8 2011

Tonimarie Tassinari
Bear Intent Massage Therapy and Bodywork
Phone: 603-491-4746


Innovative Program to Help Local Businesses

Tonimarie Tassinari, a massage therapist in Lebanon New Hampshire, and Scott Graham, a business coach from Fairlee Vermont, have combined their talents to help local businesses impacted by Irene or the lagging economy.

"It comes down to marketing and solid financial stability" says Graham in identifying ways that local businesses will survive through this challenging economic time.

To help businesses, Tassinari and Graham are each donating a service. Tassinari is donating one massage each month to a local business to use in marketing their business and boosting their sales. "I am going to put my website and my network to work for a month for each business we partner with to make people more aware of the business and when people buy something from the business they can enter to win a free massage -- an added incentive to buy something from that business," says Tassinari.

Graham is donating a financial analysis for the same business that will show them where they stand with liquidity, profitability and sustainable growth. "Comparing your businesses financial performance to what other similar businesses are doing can be an eye-opener," says Graham.

The program will be starting on November 1 2011 and business partners will rotate each month. This partnership is limited to six local businesses. Interested business owners should contact Tonimarie Tassinari at 603-491-4746 or email

Tassinari began offering massage therapy services through her business, Bear Intent, in 2006. True Azimuth, LLC, headquartered in West Fairlee, Vermont, began offering business, personal and relationship coaching in the same year.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Yesterday when I went do do a Google search I noticed the big blue arrow ppointing to my Google+ page.  Like some victim in a pavlovian experiment I clicked on the link and and hour later found myself wondering what I went to Google to search for in the first place.  Sucked in.  One hour lost.

Are you on Facebook, My Space, Friendster, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Spoke, Xing... the list goes on and on and on and on...  Do you spend hours looking at photos, videos, status updates and more and more and more?

Do you find yourself in an ever growing pit of social media quicksand sucking your time away?

Do you ever ask yourself what is the point of it all?

If you do then I have a simple framework embodied in two simple strategies that will help you gain control:  treat social media like you treat TV.

TV Strategy #1:  Set goals.  Write them down.  Put them up.

We don't normally think about goals for television but we make decisions on these unstated goals all the time.

Consider television and my Mom.  My Mom is 92 and she doesn't like to read so television is a big companion for her.  My Mom watches the 6 'o clock local news.  She doesn't watch the national news.  She wants to know what the weather forecast is.  She also has a few "favorite" shows she watches diligently. Sometimes when i talk with her on the phone in the evening and ask her what she is doing, she replies, "I don't know, there is nothing on TV so I am crocheting."  Now we all know that statement is not true.  My Mom doesn't see static snow when turning on the TV.  What she means is "There are things I want from TV and now there is nothing broadcasting that meets my needs [a.k.a. goals]."

What do you want from social media?

So is your goal to be entertained?  If so, entertained how?  Educationally entertained as in Frontline on PBS? Or mindlessly entertained as in reruns of Hogan's Heroes?  (If your goal is to be entertained you should not be surfing social media during "work" -- too many people have entertainment goals but claim they need to be on social media for other reasons).

Is your goal to communicate a message?  (Ah, so you are primarily a sender and not a receiver?)  What is that message?

Facebook now let's you choose -- for each person -- the level of information you want.  Other services will be following their lead.  But you can't choose unless you know what you want.  Write down your goals and put them up next to your computer screen so you see them.  This is really really important.  

You want to move away from a passive pavlovian response to how you spend your time to an active purposeful response and putting up a card with a written goal or goals will help you get control back from the corporate psychologists who are tracking your every mouse click.

TV Strategy #2:  Set time frames.  Track your time.  Buy a kitchen timer.

Unlike TV the show is never over.  These social media sites are more like the "marathon" weekends we sometimes encounter on television -- you know the ones where they broadcast every episode of the Twilight Zone or the top 20 of Criminal Minds?  IF it is a show that you "like" [kind of meets a goal] or "love" [really meets your goals], there goes your weekend.

Set daily and weekly times that you think prudent for your goals.    These times might be upward focused or downward focused.  For example, if your goal is to establish yourself as an "expert" in human resources, you might upward focus your time on social media so that you are "answering one question on LinkedIn once each week in detail enough to stand a good chance of being voted "best answer."  Conversely, if your goal is to be entertained you might downward focus your time so that you are not spending more than 15 minutes each night being entertained by Facebook.

In both instances, you will want to track you time.  But it is the downward focus -- when you are limiting your time -- that you want to be most diligent.

When I was younger we couldn't watch TV until our chores were done and our homework was done.  And even then it was only for a prescribed amount of time.  In these days of uber-connectivity, that framework is harder to create.

Get a kitchen timer.  And use it.  

Sure you could use your cell phone or some app from Apple.  But these options require extra steps and as a coach I can tell you that the more steps there are in some process the harder it is to do.

Simpler is better.  Don't even go digital.  Get the wind up kind.  And glue is to your monitor.

We all come with a built in expiration date...

We only have a certain amount of time on this earth.  We can't get the minutes back once we spend them.  

Are you spending them wisely?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sitting outside the Waffle Palace behind my bags

8:00 am BST, September 9 2011.  I am sitting at an outside table at the Waffle Palace, 100 feet or so from the Queensway Tube (subway) Station in London, UK. No one is smiling.  Everyone seems to be looking down at the ground and when they look up they have an intense focus on their face along with a pointed frown. Really, really.

The Experiment

I have time today before my flight home and am in no rush.  So I decided to try a little experiment.

For 30 minutes I would attempt to catch they eye of passers-by.  If I was successful in making eye contact, I would smile at them.  If they smiled back I would say, "Have a nice day."

I would tally my results.

The Results

Unimpressive.  During 30 minutes I was successful at making eye contact with 7 people.  Of those 7 people only 3 smiled back.  Of those 3 only 2 replied to my "Have a nice day" with something similar in kind (One said. "Cheers, mate" and the other said, "You too.").

Now I am not sure if this is a commentary of the Brits, or city people or what -- but it is certainly -- quite the sad, pathetic commentary.  Especially when you consider the remarkable effort I made to engage people and the mass of people passing by the table.

First, what does "remarkable effort" mean?

It means that after 15 minutes sitting back in my chair looking at people's faces, I started leaning forward so I had to turn my head to look at people (and placing my face in their proximate path) and staring intensely at their eyes.  This second strategy did get a better response than my initial efforts.  People did look toward me but avoided eye contact -- choosing to look at my legs/feet, baggage sitting in front of me or the table I was sitting at -- never at my face or eyes.

Second, what does "mass of people" mean?  

I decided to take two 3-minute samples of people who passed by my table and count the total number.  I could then easily multiply by 10 to arrive at a simplistic range of people walking by.  The first tally was 99 people in 3 minutes.  The second tally was 71 people in 3 minutes.  You can conclude from this rather simple sample that between 710 and 990 people passed by my table.  (That makes sense because I was sitting nearby a busy tube station).  I can't tell you the race percentages of the people walking by but I can tell you that the majority of those walking by my table were Caucasian.

Pulling out my trusty calculator, the numbers even look worse.  Between .71% and.98% responded to my efforts and made eye contact, between .30% and .39% smiled at me and between .20 % and .26% spoke to me.

What is wrong with the world today? Your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Scott Graham of Fairlee Vermont, completed the Training of Trainers process this week in London, UK to become a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT). 

“I feel quite privileged to be a part of the MINT,” says Graham who was 1 of 80 professionals chosen worldwide to attend this year’s Training of Trainers (TNT).

A TNT workshop is designed to teach the training methods, techniques and spirit of the Motivational Interviewing counseling approach, beyond what a professional has already been practicing. Application to a MINT recognized TNT is a formal, competitive process and requires demonstration competency in the technique. 

"Being a member of MINT I can bring more resources to agencies in Vermont and New Hampshire where I provide clinical supervision," says Graham. Graham, who currently provides clinical supervision at Serenity House in Wallingford Vermont and Headrest in Lebanon, NH, also provides business coaching for a number of businesses in the Upper Valley. Graham is the first person in Vermont to become a member of the MINT.

Motivational interviewing, a counseling approach that has been around for a few decades, is considered a leading approach for addictions treatment. It has also been successfully applied to a range of other types of behavior change, including treatment for eating disorders, improving compliance with medication regimens, and establishing healthy behaviors such as exercise.

"The skill of helping others tap into their motivation to do the things they struggle with are directly transferable to business," says Graham. "It is a struggle for many business owners to take the time away from working in their business to working on their business – whether in financial, marketing or human resource areas. Motivational interviewing can help them push through their ambivalence and take action."

True Azimuth, LLC, headquartered in West Fairlee, Vermont, began offering business, personal and relationship coaching in 2006. For more information about coaching, call 802-380-1026 or go to  


Monday, August 29, 2011

Well, Irene is, for the most part, history.  The last week has been filled with so much hype and frenzy about this storm.  Fueled by the Weather Channel's continuous coverage of this storm and their labeling it things like "storm of your life" many people -- including myself -- found themselves worrying about the weather.

Now I am not going to go on and on about the Weather Channel -- there are many other blogs1 doing this already

What I am going to go on and on about is you.

After all this is not the first "event" that had what I would call over-exaggerated coverage aimed primarily at increasing ratings2 and as a side effect creating panic in the minds of many people.  We watched/listened/read/tweeted about it with the debt ceiling debate.  We watched/listened/read/tweeted about the stock market a few weeks ago. 

If the evening news is any indication of what we surround ourselves with, America is addicted to hype.

I have three words for you:  UNPLUG YOUR TV!

A few weeks ago I did a one week news fast as part of a Mastermind Group I facilitate.  We were reading "The Four Hour Workweek" and this was one of the challenges.  I discovered I missed nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Zip. And this was in the midst of the "stock market crash."  I did get something out of that experience:  more focus and peace-of-mind than I have had in years (outside of hiking/backpacking and a Vipassana retreat).  Because my mind was not distracted with silly -- I mean really silly -- data, I was able to focus more on my coaching practice, marketing, planning, blogging...!

And yet, somehow, I managed to get sucked into the hurricane hysteria.  And for at least 5 days had this uber-vigilant thing going on in my head distracting me from what I needed to be focused on and tiring me out.  Yes, this over-abundance of news hype is exhausting.  I could have been out hiking the Long Trail instead of fretting!

So I am back to abstinence from news media. And want to invite you to come along.  Try it like I did for one week then post your comments.

Here is what you do:  No TV, radio, news magazines, RSS feeds, iPhone News Apps. Nothing. If you feel like you are going through massive news withdrawal, then you can ask a friend.  Say, :"Hey, I have been really busy lately, anything of note going on in the world?"  Do this for 7 days.  Keep aware of your emotional state, your productivity, your focus, your passion -- keep aware.  After a couple of days you will see something different.  

And I -- as well as readers of this blog who are not challenging themselves with this task -- want to know  (Post your comments!)

After 7 days, the questions to ask yourself are:  

  • So what?
  • Did I miss anything? 
  • Why do I need all this "news"?  
  • Is it really that important?

I look forward to reading your news in the comments below!


1 and


Thursday, August 25, 2011

There are many sites on the Internet where you can post and promote your site and new ones seem to crop up everyday. Should your create accounts with these services? If so, which one’s? Just the big one’s like LinkedIn?  Call me an overachiever, but in my view, the more of these services you can get listed on the better for your business.  Its like fishing, if you want to eat fish for dinner, you hedge your bets and cast a wide net in as many ponds as you can.

Now I am not talking about link farms that promise to promote your website to the top of the search engine heap. I mean profile-focused websites that include information about your, your business, your affiliated websites, etc. Websites like Xing, Ecademy, (formerly naymz), Referral Key , Ryze, Spoke – the list seems to go on and on and on and on – and now thumbtack.

Thumbtack has been around since 2009 and I had checked it out before and was mostly unimpressed:  MLMers looking to get you involved in their pyramid scheme, people trying to loan you money, affiliates trying to sell you stuff – yuk! Not for me! But recently they rolled out community standards and they appear to be enforcing these. Gone are all the things I didn’t like about their service.

So I signed up. It was easy because I was able to pull data from my LinkedIn page to fill in some of their requirements and even tap videos I posted on YouTube. Very nice.   So impressed was I by their make-over that I even opted for the additional credential verification they offer (cost $7.00)

Three things I really like about thumbtack:

  1. Publicly available profile – people don’t need to create an account to see your information. (Although they recently removed the public link to your website, twitter feed, etc., which they claim is for privacy reason but you and I know is to force people to stay on the thumbtack site and not click away to another site).
  2. Question and Answer component – it really shows people a side of you as a professional that you don’t see at other sites.
  3. Credential verification – people can sort the hooligans from the professionals.

Three things I really don’t like about thumbtack:

  1. Testimonials – really? Yet another place I need to ask my customers to post comments about my business! Why can't I import the 40+ recommendations I have in LinkedIn or the reviews I have in Google Maps / Places? 
  2. No options other than localized search -- unless you dig. So much for consultants that travel or use the Internet as a medium. Thumbtack needs to add:  (a) a search everywhere checkbox on their generic search box and (b) set the search options so that they display by default because some users might not know they can click for expanded options (again, you have to dig).
  3. Thumbtack needs to share their API so folks can post to the News component directly from dashboards like or HootSuite, or allow people's twitter feeds to integrate.  (Sure they offer a twitter and facebook component but you have to post on the thumbtack site and then thumbtack posts to twitter / facebook).

One thing about the shift – or maybe it is just a little known feature – but you can get your own vanity URL. I was able to get -- yes businesscoach. Really? With all the business coaches out there around the world, businesscoach is still available? That tell’s me that there is probably a vanity URL waiting for you with your name it at thumbtack!

Go ahead get your profile today – click here

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It should be no surprise that a life coach is interested in a product like "The Lifeboard." Many of my clients consider purchasing products like this. It helps you to clarify and/or realize and/or manifest your dreams, something that life coaches are passionate about.

Since the movie "The Secret" came out, the market has been flooded with many, many products like this one. 

Let me help you to save your money. 

Don't waste it on a nice piece of cardboard and a blank (except for pithy title pages) journal all wrapped up in a fancy box. David Cassidy's career must surely be struggling if his wife put something like this together to get your money. He clearly isn't using this technique for his own life and career! I wonder how Sue feels about that?

Here's what you should do instead of purchasing this product:

Get a blank notebook ($.75). 

On the first 10 pages write down major life categories. As a life coach, I suggest the following: Health, Self-Esteem, Money, Work, play, Learning, Creativity, Helping, Love, Friends, Children, Relatives, Home, Neighborhood, and Community. 

These examples are are part of what is called Quality of Life Therapy and this model of counseling focuses on the items on that list. 

For each one find three pictures from magazines that describe your perfect vision -- what you would like. If something doesn't fit for you, the just skip it. (For example, if you have no children and never can conceive of having children, then skip this category).

After you have your three pictures write a clarifying paragraph about what you want and WHY

The WHY here is very important. To interpret Viktor Frankl, if you have a clear why then you can get through almost any challenge. Finally, write all of your headings in one column on another sheet of your notebook. 

Assign a percentage to each on how important they are in your life, RIGHT NOW, TODAY. )So you might have 15% for Self-esteem, 10% for money, etc -- all adding up to 100% for importance). 

Then imagine your life was perfectly balanced and do it again. 

Note any discrepancies -- indications that your life is out of balance. finally, get a piece of something -- cardboard, wood, old framed art from a yard sale -- anything to build and create your own unique vision. 

Create a pie chart for your life as you imagine it perfectly balanced, making sure that the slices are accurate with the percentage you decided on earlier, paste your pictures (or ANYTHING else -- including objects, words from you writings -- ANYTHING that inspires you and informs your vision). Then put it up where you see it every day.

Total cost: less than a dollar. Impact: given that is your own creation -- from scratch -- you will appreciate it more, you will value it more, you will use it more -- than some pre-terminated thing from a store. Consider, what is better -- something you made from scratch -- like bread or barbeque or a pie -- or something you bought from a store pre-made and frozen?

Let me know how it goes! Post your comments below -- or better yet, email me a picture of YOUR vision board

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Watch this video completely before you read the rest of this blog post:

What did you think of the video?  How did you react to it?  More importantly, why did you react to it the way you did?

Most likely you reacted because of an assumption: you either ASSUMED the video was about something or you ASSUMED the video appeared to be about something that it wasn't. You waited for the "punch" line.

Assumptions are the JOY of our existence.  

Assumptions add spice to life.  A joke would not be a joke if it were not for assumptions.  The jolts we get from the "punch" line happens because we assume one thing and wham! We get another.  Cliff-hangers in movies are built on assumptions.  We are able to drive down the road in complete confidence because we can assume with 100% faith that every other driver will obey the rules around the yellow lines in the middle of the road.  When they don't, what happens? You got it, an "accident."  We never get in an "in-purpose" car wreck.

Assumptions are also the BANE of our existence.  

The wife assumes her husband will value the same thing as she does.  The husband assumes his wife will value the same thing as he does.  Conflict ensues.  No I am not talking about whether you like your eggs sunny-side up and your spouse likes them scrambled.  I am talking about values around things like money, family, fidelity, children, education, leisure, and career.  

Think about your conflicts in the past twelve months.  How many of them come down to not being clear on values?  Truth is, you probably had conversations about values when you first were "courting."  "Do you want kids some day?"  "Where would you like to retire?"  Truth also is there are probably values you skipped over because although you didn't agree, you were in love.  AND those values may have shifted.

People Change!  

Do you value the same music you listened to in high school?  If you are like me (any most others) your answer is probably "No." I loved Pink Floyd when I was in  my senior year in high school, freshman and sophomore year in college. I was not just a fan - I was a fanatic. Opera was horrid. A month ago I went to the second of Wagner's ring series.  I haven't listened to Floyd in over a year.

Are you holding onto the same values in your relationship?  How is it hurting you?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What is a penny worth?

Only time will tell. Coaching clients often struggle with money in some way or another. The most common struggle is saving money.

Let me tell you, a little saved money over a long period of time will go far in helping you create a cash stash or retirement fund.

A few months ago I went to a Primerica presentation with a colleague, Robert Walker. I am not a Primerica rep, I don’t get a kickback for writing this or anything – I really respect their work and the help Robert has provided many of my clients.  During the presentation, the speaker asked if we had a choice, would we want either a check for $20,000.00 today or a penny every day doubled for the next 30 days. You know, 1 cent today, 2 cents tomorrow, 4 cents the next day, etc. Most people chose the check.  I knew the penny doubled everyday must have been the better choice. What shocked me was how much better.

The speaker showed the power of time on the whiteboard as he wrote out the following chart:

Day 1: $.01 
Day 2: $.02 
Day 3: $.04 
Day 4: $.08 
Day 5: $.16 
Day 6: $.32 
Day 7: $.64 
Day 8: $1.28 
Day 9:$2.56 
Day 10: $5.12 
Day 11: $10.24 
Day 12: $20.48 
Day 13: $40.96 
Day 14: $81.92 
Day 15: $163.84 
Day 16: $327.68 
Day 17: $655.36 
Day 18: $1,310.72 
Day 19: $2,621.44 
Day 20: $5,242.88 
Day 21: $10,485.76
Day 22: $20,971.52 
Day 23: $41,943.04 
Day 24: $83,886.08 
Day 25: $167,772.16 
Day 26: $335,544.32
Day 27: $671,088.64 
Day 28: $1,342,177.28 
Day 29: $2,684,354.56 
Day 30: $5,368,709.12

This is a great illustration of the time value of money – think of what will happen to your money over time if the interest is 2% greater than the rate of inflation. The key is to start young. Actually the key is to start!

How are you saving for retirement or creating a stash cash fund for emergencies?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Last night I received an urgent call from a coaching client. His voicemail sounded a bit frantic, so, although I typically call clients back withing 24 hours (included in my coaching services), I called him back right away – even thought it was Saturday at 10:00 pm.

“Hi Joe,” I said. “What’s up?”
“I did it Scott. I did it. I can’t believe I did it but I did it.”
“That sounds like a song from ‘My Fair Lady’ – what did you do, exactly?”
“I quit my job.”

Joe came to me two months ago for help in growing his carpentry business. A solo entrepreneur, Joe had been unemployed. Suddenly. He tapped his unemployment and struggled to find a job. But instead of just sitting around and feeling sorry for himself and his predicament, he took action. What did he have to lose after all?

Then in the midst of his modest entrepreneurial efforts – he called me for help. I know it sounds a little like Dr. Mcoy from Star Trek, but Joe literally said to me on his first call, “I’m a carpenter Scott, not a business man!” We started to work together.

At almost the same time, he found a part time job at the QuickMart selling slurpies and gas. (Gasoline that is – I don’t want to imply in any way that slurpies give you gas).

Now his business is going full steam – he is working, working, working. And he is still at the QuickMart. He has no time to WORK ON his business – he is so busy WORKING IN his business. This is the #1 mistake most business owners make, BTW. No accounting system, no marketing plan, no business plan. Giving invoices to people in Excel worksheets – or worse yet paper! Everything piling up. QuickBooks? He hasn’t even purchased the software. Still using a gmail for email – no no domain name – no corporate identity. And the QuickMart. No time.

So giving three weeks notice was a big deal for Joe.

Turns out, Joe is also an “admitted people pleaser” – he says, “I can’t say no to anybody for fear that they won’t like me.”

I often say to people that you can’t separate business coaching from personal coaching. Why? Because YOU are the source of your success. I don’t care how great your business plan or market plan is – if YOU don’t have it together, you will never get your business to sustain in any way that means anything.

Because I not only have a Masters degree in Business but a solid background in the counseling profession, it was natural for Joe and I to work on his “people pleasing.”

So giving three weeks notice was a REALLY big deal for Joe.

Are you unemployed?  

What are you doing? Sitting around feeling sorry for yourself? Or are you challenging yourself while you are looking around for work? You could be training for a triathalon, getting your DTM in Toastmasters, writing a book, launching a new career, starting a new business (whether a trade, service – or even a sales rep for an MLM like Juice Plus -- $50 bucks is all you need to get going with that business).

If you were hungry and you only had one fishing pole and you just went to the same pond – different spots – to try to catch the same type of fish with the same lure – you might go hungry. This is – unfortunately what many unemployed folks do. Sitting on the side of the pond lamenting how they are hungry. Truth is what they are saying is that they are hungry because they are holding out for a trout. They could get another pole with a DIFFERENT lure and go for bass. They could set traps for rabbits. They could plant a vegetable garden. They could buy a bow and arrow and go hunintg. But no, they just sit on the side of the bank and go hungry.

If people like Joe are quitting jobs, there is still plenty of work to go around.

Are you sitting on the side of the bank?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Values.  We live by them and flourish by them.  Whether we acknowledge them or not, all of our choices are driven by what we value and what we don't value.

Our values exist in a prioritized system.  When we give a higher priority to one value than another, that value holds more weight in our decision making processes and  hence the choices we perceive and make.  Consider for example the values of family and the honesty.  Which is a higher priority to you?

Whichever you thought of in response to this question, consider this predicament: someone of authority (e.g., police) comes to your door looking for someone in your family.  That person is hiding in your house.  How do you respond?  Do you give them up or lie?  Is this consistent with how you answered the first question, re: which is a higher priority to you -- family or honesty?

So it would be beneficial to be able to explicitly identify the values that you hold and explicitly state their priority.  There are many books to help you do this, the best of which is What Matters Most: The Power of Living Your Values.

Another factor that relates to our values is character.  Our values are driven by our character.  Consider, if one stronger character strength is humor, we value laughter, we value teasing, we value seeing other people smile.

I am not sure if our values influence our character or if our character influences our values.  But they seem intrinsically tied together.  So knowing your character is an important factor in identifying your values and making better choices.

A few weeks ago I discovered the VIA Character Survey (  I was impressed with what I read about the survey and was most interested in confirming what I thought were my top 5 character strengths.  Be warned: the survey promises to do this for free and it does but then offers you the opportunity to purchase an 18-page detailed report at the end (well worth it I might add -- I indeed purchased my individual report). I was not surprised at some of my characteristics and surprised at others.  The assessment does require rigorous honesty -- the only person you "fake out" is yourself by not answering the questions how you really are but by how you want to be and how you want others to see you.  And the assessment is long -- like a little less than 300 questions long.  But your progress is saved incrementally so you don't have to answer all the questions in one sitting.

How well do you live by your values?  Do you just float through and make your choices based on what is below the surface and not what you explicitly know?   Or do you know your values?  Here is a test for you to take:  write down what your top 5 values are in rank priority on a sheet a paper.  Now ask your best friend (or spouse or children or all) to do the same to do the same -- don't show them your paper.  Now exchange sheets.  Where do they match up?  What does this tell you?


Monday, May 9, 2011

OK, I know I do a fair amount of blogging about personal development, but as a business coach, I am not just concerned with the health of the individual but the health of small business.

I know it is a dry subject (for many) but this is an important subject -- especially for the small business owner.

There is a lot of concern about how the Durbin Amendment will hurt banks and speculation that consumers will pay the price when this legislation goes into effect.

If you haven't heard about the Durbin Amendment, you should take note because it will create a cap of 7 to 12 cents on most debit card swipe fees. This is a decline of about 80% of what businesses had to pay when people paid with a debit card. Projections from analysts vary but say that the Durbin Amendment will cost banks anywhere from $3.6 to $9.1 billion. Either way you cut it that is a lot of money. Speculation has it that banks and credit unions will make up for this lost revenue by raising fees for services or doing away will debit cards all together. (You can learn more about the Durbin Amendment here:

One would expect that businesses would save money through this proposition and that this will eventually trickle down to the person buying a loaf of bread with their debit card. In theory (based on an assumption that business owners will pass this on to consumers).

But there is another assumption that you don't see in all the hoopla about the Durbin Amendment: in order for all of this to work, credit card processors (the intermediaries between businesses and their banks) need to pass this savings on to the businesses themselves (essentially their customers). Unfortunately, many credit card processors pocket the savings and present business owners with statements that are so complex you need a Ph.D. in accounting to even begin to figure them out. Heartland Payment Systems seems to be the only credit card intermediary that cares enough about businesses to not only be straight up with them about how much they are making on their service but cares enough to pass on savings they get to their customers (business owners) which in turn benefits us all.

So if you own a business, make sure you take a look at your statements in the coming months and see if your payment processor is being honest with you.

(A good way to test this is to apply, what Heartland Payment Systems calls, the "Truth Serum" to your credit card processor; it's a page of questions to ask you payment provider to get them to tell you what they really are charging you; email Todd Vreeland, a colleague I have great confidence in; he can get you a copy).

What do you think of the Durbin Amendment? As a business owner is it easy to know what you pay for processing fees?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

360 degree feedback tools are one of the most common employee assessments used in both the non-profit and for-profit world -- especially for upper level management. Wikipedia describes 360 degree feedback as:

Feedback that comes from all around an employee. "360" refers to the 360 degrees in a circle, with an individual figuratively in the center of the circle. Feedback is provided by subordinates, peers,and supervisors. It also includes a self-assessment and, in some cases, feedback from external sources such as customers and suppliers or other interested stakeholders. (To learn more click here)

In 2009 Inscape Publishing released a new kind of 360 survey, called Everything DiSC 363®. It combines the best of 360s with the simplicity and power of DiSC®, plus three strategies for improving leadership effectiveness (hence, "360-three"). Plus, they developed a selectable comments feature they named CommentSmart, where raters choose from pre-written, highly-tested comments. The result is that snippy, loaded criticisms (often unrelated to the feedback asked) are eliminated creating feedback that’s focused, balanced and constructive.

The result is a 360 experience that’s more productive and satisfying. (Check out this link,, for a sample report so you can get a feel for the profile).

To kick off this product, Inscape let distributors like myself provide one 363 for each leader in an organization at no charge ($155 retail). Trouble was that I found out too late about the promotion (as did some others) and only was able to provide it to a few people in my network. Inscape responded to feedback and requests for more and a few days ago, they announced they would allow distributors to do Everything DiSC 363 for Leaders at no charge this summer!

Based on the great results I had with my initial work with this instrument I am beyond excited -- because this summer I can provide this tool for up to 5 people in each organization -- at no charge -- that's an entire executive management team! It's an incredible opportunity for clients and other people in my network.

In addition to the free profile -- a value $155 for each assessment -- I’ll provide a free one-on-one tele-coaching session – a value of $200 for each coaching session -- to go through the feedback and create an action plan for development.

This free trial is a limited time offer from Inscape, so if you know of someone who would be interested, be sure to contact me soon about next steps.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Scott Graham announced today that the business Mastermind Group in the Upper Valley is expanding to Tuesday evenings beginning June 7 2011. The new group will kick off with an 8-week coaching program built around the book, "Karmic Management: What Goes Around Comes Around in Your Business and Your Life."

"The primary idea threaded throughout the text is that by helping others succeed and grounding your business in ethics focused on helping others, your business will expand and flourish," says Graham, a business and personal coach.

To underscore this business approach Graham will donate all of his coaching fees for the program to the Haven in White River Junction Vermont. "The Haven's mission is to serve people struggling with poverty by providing food, shelter, education, clothing and support. This fits amazingly with the approach to business and life that Geshe Michael Roach, the Tibetan Buddhist Master who wrote the book, outlines," says Graham.

The Mastermind Group, a collaboration with Borders Books in West Lebanon, NH, will meet each Tuesday in June and July from 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm for this initial series.

Graham points out that the addition of coaching brings the book to life. "It's much more than just reading a book and talking about it," says Graham. "Through masterminding you take action and are held accountable to the actions you commit to by others in the group."

The text, appropriate for both small business owners and mid- and upper- level managers / supervisors, includes a to-do list each week. Participants will get a practical, step-by-step plan that will help them adopt a more successful way of working and living. "Taking time for yourself to be calm and centered is a core concept of the text," adds Graham who has been practicing Vipassana meditation since 1996, and currently participates in two 10-day Vipassana retreats each year.

True Azimuth, LLC, headquartered in West Fairlee, Vermont, began offering business, personal and relationship coaching in 2006. For more information about the Mastermind Group, call 802-380-1026 or go to