FROM AN UNPUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT

Oh God, he thought. I’ve awoken in a translation. Awakened. That proves it.

Beads of perspiration flecked Muller’s forehead like ants on a windmill. The landscape was bleak, the sky austere. Ahead, a village square. He had no choice but to walk forward. Oh God, he thought. I’ve awoken in a translation. Awakened. That proves it.

He had read a number of these stories, most of them in his youth, when he had possessed the time sufficient to allow him to indulge in the kind of literature found only in cramped little used book stores. It seemed these pieces were never found for sale new–they were only found in paperbacks that were copiously dog-eared, noted in illegible, cramped pencil, and subject to silverfish damage.

Even still, as isolation and disorientation washed over him like an idiot painter’s wash of paint over the cracked canvas of an old master’s masterpiece being repainted yet again, he perceived the oddly familiar sense of his current lack of déjà vu; he was in fact certain that he had never been here before, despite a specifically generic familiarity clearly caused by time spent reading the aforementioned forgotten novelettes of dubious provenance.

The description of a clock tower in the village square leaned heavily on its neighboring churchyard. Drawn, as if in charcoal or perhaps butter, Muller pressed forward, suddenly desiring to see the names on the gravestones, which leaned as heavily as the description of the steeple—yes, a steeple, not a clocktower, he thought. He reached the wrought iron boundary between the little cemetery and everything else, and paused, squinting.

What the…! Is that…!

It was far worse than he had originally thought. Ellipses followed by exclamation points! Clearly this was not just any translation, but to his mounting dismay he realized that this was a translation of the first perspiration-soaked work of a psychology major who left school and was now attempting to write while working a day job in marketing.

There– near the corner of the churchyard, in a spot chosen for its proximity to an electrical outlet on the side of the ancient stone church–

Was it not, moments before, clapboard? Is it now actually stone? Whither the bell, the carillon, the autoharp of youth? he thought.

–stood a student film crew.

The director, a rail-thin young person of non-binary appearance produced huge clouds of blueberry scented fog from a vaping device while consulting a small black digital appliance of some unspecified kind. Several others made repeated minute adjustments to a tableau composed of a doll’s carriage, a black umbrella, and a length of white chiffon. A zaftig young woman in jeans and a flannel shirt wrestled with a long, tangled extension cord, muttering the word “shit!” over and over again. In the center of this minor carnival, adding myopically to its dismal gaiety, stood a small knot of student actors. Any possible attractiveness ruined, Muller opined, by their near nakedness and bedaubed faces. Why must they always bedaub the faces so?  

An even deeper sense of foreboding not previously described washed over him again. No, please… Muller thought. His worry was confirmed when the director, as if hearing his critique, spotted him.

You there…! they said.

Appalled, Muller fled into the only possible alternative, the great gaping door of the church, adorned by a clipboard. A clipboard? he thought as he raced by. Had it not been a large piece of poster board but a moment before? Dark and silent, the interior of the church beckoned silently. Darkly, Muller advanced into the silent darkness within.

The requisite old woman in a black shawl approached as he slid into a pew. The gnarled finger extended as she limped and lummoxed toward him, the heel of her left black shoe trailing a short length of paper suspiciously behind her. This, Muller thought, was untenable! He raised his arms as if in a luxurious yawn and stretch, uttering an unprintable sound to match the movement. Miraculously, this dodge appeared to have the hoped-for result: the woman halted, faltered, halted her halting, faltered again, advanced haltingly, then, falteringly, defocused. Her eyes no longer fixed on Muller, she distributed herself variously onwards down the aisle, clicking false teeth and rosary beads, backlit in the nearly blinding sunshine defined only now. Muller sighed with relief and wiped his brow with a sudden handkerchief.

Suddenly compelled by a need to move the action forward, yet finding no likely place for dialogue in the now empty, oddly silent, dark church, Muller ran after the old woman, bursting out of the door with its oddly festive adornment of Post It notes.  In the blue light of dawn, the absence of the old woman was shown in harsh relief against the bluestone pavers that served as the floor of the little porte-cochere that apparently existed only for the purpose of depositing French words into an English translation.

She was gone, not even the expected scrap of paper left blowing in a gentle breeze (the air was stillness itself, the sunlight and stillness creating a stillness that was as still as the stillness of death, stiller.) no, no paper left behind to confirm her previous presence. Nothing.

Finding nothing, Muller sat on a rough-hewn cliché and perspired anew. It was not the kind of day that allowed skipping a paragraph, much less seven or eight pages. What now, what now…!  he thought.

A small solemn eyed boy wrapped in a flthy, tattered length of muslin, once white, now ecru, approached, holding before him a tiny piece of bread. Perturbed, Muller shooed the boy away. It started to rain. Shivering, Muller instantly regretted the shooing. Of course the boy was gone.

They were all gone. The film crew, the old woman, the boy…Muller thought out loud, even I, I am doomed to fade away…!

Above the door, carved into the oaken header thingie (fix this!) were the words  Meménto, homo, quia pulvis es, et in púlverem revertéris The Latin words, remember man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return meant nothing to Muller, who spoke no Latin.

In a burst of uncertain yet contrived resolution Muller watched himself, fading, fading, fading to invisibility. In the description of the bell tower, or steeple, or whatever, sat an ancient man who watched the dissolve, laughing and laughing as the paper sun shone down on a now empty village and a cat licked its paws on the sill of a window of a sagging brick house where there had been a party not long before, as testified by the presence of a wilted balloon stuck in a tree outside the house, which was clapboard and sagging in the cloudy northern light of the fictional village.

Regrets….!

Creative Commons License


FROM AN UNPUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT by Michael G. Burns is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Coaching Does Not Work!

Well now, that’s a hell of a thing for a coach to say. But I mean it.

I encounter people who are looking for a magic wand, and they think coaching might be the one they need. They have an expectation that somehow, talking to a coach is going to be the wish-fulfillment event of their lifetime, and everything will be fixed.  I really don’t want to take those folks’ money.

What does work, then? Something must, or I wouldn’t still be coaching, right?

Then answer is simple. Clients work. Coaching is a tool, but a tool, by itself, doesn’t work. In the case of coaching: the coach and client are working a two handled saw. Coach is working, client is working. The saw is just being a saw.

Am I putting too fine a point on it? I don’t think so. I’ve seen clients totally transform during the time they worked with me and shortly thereafter. But the COACHING didn’t do it, and I didn’t do it. The client transformed. Through work, and commitment, and taking seriously the discoveries that we make together, and being willing to take new risks. I have huge respect for my clients. They grab hold, and they work. and they make amazing changes happen.

Coaching is not magic. If that’s what you are looking for, I can save you time and money. In that regard, coaching doesn’t work.

If you want to investigate, please be in touch! I am always happy to do a free sample session.

[contact_form]

Resolution? Or Revolution?

So, it’s that time of year again. Resolution season. For a coach, this means the calendar will be filling up. And that, of course, is a good thing– for me.

But is it good for you? Not necessarily.

Don’t get me wrong– I want to help you transform your life in wonderful ways.

But I am not a huge fan of resolutions. They tend to fade before the last of the Christmas trees hit the curb. Why, is that, do you suppose?

In my opinion, resolutions melt away like spring snow because they are often superficial, pre-recorded answers that you don’t really resonate with. Resolutions aren’t about the deep, real answer: they are about the “right” answer. The “right” answer, it turns out, often isn’t responding to the right question.

Resolutions are like a boring old relative, endlessly telling you what you “should” do–guilting you. Guilt, it turns out, is a lousy motivator.

OK, yes. sometimes, resolutions work. What’s your track record with them? If they work for you, great! But I am guessing that they maybe don’t, so much.

I much prefer revolution.

Revolution doesn’t come from a “should” message. It comes from a wild, wise place deep inside. It must be lovingly discovered, and that’s where I do my job: not by coming up with answers, but by asking questions.

Questions that make you stop cold, and really think. Questions that make you giggle, as though there’s a guilty pleasure in even considering the answer. Questions that are out of the question, questions that piss you off, questions that are stupid, questions that you wouldn’t have thought of, questions that I am surprised that I thought of, but thought of because of what you blurted out in response to a previous, (stupid) question. I like questions that you can’t believe nobody ever asked you before; questions that lead to answers that are so obvious they are a huge surprise.

The right question can change the story you’ve been telling yourself, and that can change your world. Questions lead to revolution.

Isn’t revolution dangerous?

If a coach-client relationship is properly designed, no, personal revolution isn’t dangerous. Scary? Hell yeah. Real, deep, transformational change can be scary. Our job is to  co-create a relationship that lets the scary stuff happen, safely. (By the way, the typical resolution scenario, which may feel safe, is often fraught with danger (ask an ER worker how many serious injuries they see every January as a result of resolutions!)

So, one has a choice. Scary, unknown, exploratory adventure, or–check the usual boxes. Quit that bad habit, do that exercise, yada yada yada. You know, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

What would happen if, this year, today, you choose revolution?

I am happy to offer free sample sessions on the phone, or, if you are local to Schenectady, in my office. Get in touch, and we’ll see what kind of wonderful, creative, transformational trouble we can get into.

 

Life coaching and the ick factor

My partner and I were recently interviewing applicants for an executive assistant. One of them impressed me greatly with his courage and honesty: during the interview, he expressed concerns about our work as coaches.  “I don’t know,” he said, “it just seems that you might be peddling snake oil; there’s a little ick factor, and to be honest, I am not sure that I want to work somewhere unless I absolutely believe in what the business is selling,”

I told him that i couldn’t agree more.

Coaching is an unregulated profession. As an industry, there are growing attempts to self regulate–for example I am a member of the International Coach Federation, and, now that I have attained CTI certification, am applying for ICF certification.  Many, probably the majority, of professional coaches approach their work with the same diligence that other professionals do–perhaps even with more diligence, precisely because we are a self regulated profession.

But–and this is where the “ick factor” comes in–people can call themselves a coach and hang out a shingle any time, with no particular schooling or supervision. You can be a coach after graduating from a one weekend online course, or with no training at all. So in coaching, as in so many things, buyer beware.

For years, I actually made fun of the concept of life coaching. It struck me as a bunch of new-age nonsense. Someone who is no more enlightened than I was, I thought, sat in a room with incense and bells and such, and gave people nebulous advice designed to sound profound and keep the marks (clients) coming back. Coaches were not too far removed, thought I, from a boardwalk psychic or three-card-monte scam artist.

Then I learned about what good coaching actually is. I learned about designing a unique alliance with each client, working with them to explore their desires, find their life purpose, and find the ways that they could make the courageous choices that transform their lives from a place of being stuck into a place of growth. I learned that good coaching is so powerful, and so common-sense based, that I was converted.

So, if you are looking for a coach, I urge you, shop around. Talk to more than one coach. Ask if they can give you recommendations. Check out their site, if they have one, and do a sample session. (I never charge for a sample session, neither do many of my colleagues.) During that sample session, ask yourself if you are really being heard, or are you being sold a cookie-cutter program? Ask yourself what you intuitively feel about this person–do you feel safe? challenged? intrigued? Or perhaps patronized or less-than? Then decide.  Once you hire a coach, if your gut tells you you made a mistake–If a coach strikes you as a little flaky, or coercive, or shallow–you’re the boss. You get to hire, you get to fire. It’s as simple as that.

I’ve come to know that there are a lot of good, in fact great, coaches working in the field. But the ones that give the profession a bad rep, while perhaps dwindling in number, are still out there. So…proceed with caution.

But proceed. You’re worth it.

Dog, bone, foot, saboteur

A cousin of mine recently shared a video on Facebook that has been going around for years. In the video a dog is apparently convinced that its own foot is trying to steal its bone. The dog alternates between gnawing at the bone, growling a warning towards its leg, and snapping at its own foot.

The video is either funny or appalling, depending on what one brings to it. As the years have gone on since its appearance on the web, many threads have sprung up discussing whether it is funny or cruel, whether the dog is just dumb or being manipulated or neurologically impaired or needs immediate treatment or…Many opinions, passionately stated on multiple threads. The internet is a place of many passions.

This post does not attempt to solve the controversy. Rather, I’m most interested in the excellent metaphor for an inner saboteur that the video presents. I imagine myself as the dog. Here I am, curled up with a nice big bone to gnaw on, and something…is…in my peripheral vision…threatening my safety, enjoyment, and relaxation. Obviously it is an enemy! I growl: the enemy doesn’t retreat. I snap: ouch! Now I have proof that the enemy has bad intent! My foot hurts! The enemy has bitten me!

A bone is only enjoyable if I feel really safe to gnaw at it in peace. If I essentially do not feel safe, my enjoyment of the bone is impossible. Even my own foot becomes a threat. In case you are wondering what the term saboteur means in coaching, this is classic saboteur!

As a coach, I have been taught that coaching the saboteur is impossible. Saboteurs are seductive. They want to draw both coach and client into dialogue and debate, because that’s their strongest place. They rewrite the rules of reality so effectively (that’s not my foot! It’s an enemy!) it is not possoble to reason with them. It is only possible to name and recognize the saboteur, and choose to ignore, rather than argue, with it. By doing this, we strip the saboteur of its power.

It’s important to recognize the actual saboteur. It may seem obvious, but needs to be noted: in this case, the saboteur isn’t the foot. A kiss is just a kiss, and a foot is just a foot. The dog is safe, warm, comfortable, and has a treat. Absolutely nothing is wrong except the perception that something is wrong. But that saboteur-created perception completely destroys the enjoyment of the moment. No, not the foot, but a voice in the head.

One of many things a good coach can do is to help sort out saboteur voices from feet, so to speak, and help the client learn to turn down the volume on the saboteur.When this happens, clients get to enjoy the gifts of life, really do the things they want to do, really soar, without wasting all sorts of energy attacking their own feet.

Interested in coaching? I still offer free sample sessions, and I still charge on a sliding scale. send me a message or set up an appointment using the green form on this page, and I’ll get back to you right away!

5 Incredible Secrets That Will Make Your Doctor Feel Ashamed

5 Incredible Secrets That Will Make Your Doctor Feel Ashamed

 

ashamed doc

You must be bored. Because you’re reading this. Or maybe you’re tired, and random web twaddle is lulling you to sleep. (Works for me, sometimes.) Or you’re just killing time.

So you might also click on:

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s 6 Mind-Blowing Whitewater Rafting Secrets

Or:

15 Troubling Secrets Your Attorney Will Never Admit

I do it, you do it, birds do it, bees…(Cue the Cole Porter tune)

And there ain’t nothing wrong with it. “it” being browsing, surfing, wandering from one catchy, not-really important headline to another… It may even be exactly what you need to be doing right now. Down time. Absolutely a reasonable and good way to spend your time right now. Or maybe…

Maybe what?

What pops up when you think about what you might be doing, where you might be, HOW you might be, if you weren’t clicking on random web headlines? Did you just should yourself? “I really should be getting the garage cleaned…”

Or did that simple question make you  suddenly feel full of possibility, and in fact, you already shut your laptop and you’re out starting that new chapter in your life? My bet is, no, that didn’t happen. What did? Right now, how do you feel?

5 Horrible Secrets Grandmothers Chant To Themselves

if you really want to make something incredible happen, to transform your life, but you can’t seem to get started, or continue, if there is an awesome future you that is just a little stuck right now,  you might want to consider coaching. There are a lot of good coaches out there; I happen to be one of them. I’d be happy to set up a free sample session with you. There really is no obligation, and I predict you will receive real benefit from one free session. There’s a contact form on the page. We can work in person or on the phone.

15 Shocking Pastry Making Tips From Lady Gaga

Here’s a bonus: Contact me, and I’ll give you the website where I randomly generated all the headlines in this article, and then we can get to work realizing your dreams.

Meanwhile,here’s Alanis Morisette covering that Cole Porter number: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEe61ciJvRs

 

Motivation, Yes

As a coach, I know that there is nothing more important than motivation.

Unless we are motivated to overcome the bits in our life that keep us playing small, that keep us from taking risks, that keep us from feeling sorry for ourselves, that keep us believing that success is beyond our grasp or is not something for us, then we will never have the energy, determination and persistence to achieve a better and happier life.

Success is almost always the direct result of failure.  The difference between those who end up succeeding and those who don’t is usually that the one who succeeds has the motivation to learn a lesson, pick themselves up and try again until they do find a way to succeed.  Without the motivation that carries us onward in the face of failure, finding success is impossible.

In the end, we work smarter and harder, we are open to learning and growth, we create new lives because we are motivated to engage change rather than resisting and fearing it.

In the world, it is easy to get pounded by the everyday pressures and challenges of modern life.   This is why coaching sessions are designed to help you step back from all that noise, to focus in on your own bigger picture, to help you recover your own motivation to claim the possibilities that are inside you.

With clear motivation, your energy can flow enough to look at challenges in a new way, to find new and innovative solutions, to hold yourself accountable to your own possibilities.

It is this kind of encouragement, this kind of “Yes!  And. . .” that I bring to my own work as your coach.  I move beyond my everyday to hold your glowing possibilities out, to remind you that they hold the key to unlocking your own energy, making new choices, and learning to flow powerfully in the world.

Motivation always comes from knowing that you have much to offer if you can just get yourself out of the way of your own possibilities enough to let them carry you into a brighter future.

Coaching sessions are a place to remember that energy, a moment away from the pounding of life to let your own motivation swell enough to carry you through hard choices to new creations that you can own with pride.  Once you trust your own possibilities can come true in the world, you build a habit of success that lifts you above what you believed your limits to be and into a brighter future.

I want you to find and trust your own motivation.  I want you to get out of the way of your possibilities and use your energy to make a better life.

And now, the obligatory Broadway Musical highlight:

 

 

 

Co-Active Live

Kat Koppett and I will be presenting a breakout session on The Power of Performance at the 2014 Co-Active Summit coming up in Napa this month.

The Power of Performance
Successful professionals in any field, just like accomplished actors, are in command of their presence, clear about their objectives, connected to their audience – and possess the range, creativity and charisma to achieve their most audacious goals. An exploration of how to use the power of improvisational theater and storytelling to generate a universal and unifying experience.

We are really looking forward to gathering with other coaches from around the world to share ways to empower people with the power of Co-Active coaching.  Before that, we gathered with others on Co-Active Live.  Enjoy our sharing!

 

Talking Leadership

The lovely Kat Koppett and I had the pleasure of talking with Linda Lombardo on The Voice Of Leadership about how improvisation can set leaders up to engage and own challenges by being open, aware and present in he moment.

Take a listen to our chat; we think you’ll enjoy it!

Find Additional Self Help Podcasts with The Voice of Leadership on BlogTalkRadio