Life Coaching Concepts

2 Things that Help Us Love Well

#1. Soul Keeping To love well, it's absolutely essential to get clear and go forward with what matters most. But with daily distractions, it's not always easy to identify and define which is why I so appreciated John Ortberg's book, Soul Keeping.


To consistently get clear and go forward with what matters most, we need to care for the most important part of us. Our outer world / life is what people see and what we achieve but the interior life is so much more significant. That's because it's the soul that gives strength, direction and harmony. Strength to do things right. Direction to do the right things. Harmony to discern what are the right things.

John's mentor was Dallas Willard and the foundational spiritual discipline that Dallas imparted to John was, "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life." This is the single most important discipline to grow the clarity, conviction and commitment to love well.

Too often, especially in religious realms, the soul has been understood in the context of where it goes after death. But according to Dallas and John (to which I absolutely concur), "...our eternal destiny is not cosmic retirement. It is to be a part of a tremendously creative project, under unimaginably splendid leadership, on in inconceivably vast scale with ever increasing cycles of fruitfulness and enjoyment. That is the prophetic vision which eyes have not seen and ears have not heard."


That was John's initial response too.

What is the soul? 

To start, it is invisible so it's easy to neglect.

Soul, Mind, Will
Soul, Mind, Will

You are a soul, not just a self. Your soul makes you a person and not a thing. Your soul makes you precious, vulnerable, and yet authentically powerful. It is bigger than the will and actually the will resides in the soul.

The will is good for things that don’t involve deeply ingrained habits, patterns, and deeply rooted attitudes. The mind is a bit more substantial and effective in dealing with those things yet it is the soul that has the ability to shape both mind and will for real, lasting change and development.

The mind craves peace and does all it can to achieve it but if the soul is not well, it invariably experiences futility and unintended negative outcomes. But if the soul is well, the mind becomes preoccupied by thoughts conducive to love, joy, and peace.

So what is the soul?

It's the operating system of your life; you don’t notice it unless it starts crashing; it is made for connections and integration to synergize everything into a single, dynamic life. When our souls are well, we live whole heartedly connected to those around us. We find delight in simply being present, not having to do something for them. We are at rest from compulsions to do what we want and free from anxieties about what might happen or what others think.

However when the soul is unhealthy, disintegration occurs. We are disconnected from God and His design for wellness. This is the cause of depression and it perpetuates neglect of what matters most so we end up focusing on self - what we think is best, what we think is right, what we like. Rather than caring for ourselves, we become obsessed with ourselves.

What is the soul?

It's what takes all your senses, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and desires and sends it to your mind, to others, and even God. When it's cared for and vibrant, you live as you were made to be - connected to God and others. This most important part of you correlates, energizes, integrates all of yourself to show up and do whatever and wherever with whoever, whenever. It even contains your secret dreams, hurts, fears, traumas, losses, and joys. It's the part of you that journeys toward peace and rest as you intentionally and tenaciously eliminate things that get in the way of achieving what matters most.

It is the inner life; our inner universe.

And to truly care for it, you need to pay attention to its needs for it is the nature of the soul to need. If you try to not need, you'll end up neglecting your soul. 

Here are some of the soul's major needs: rest, a father, satisfaction, hope, a future, a center, freedom, a keeper (each person is their own soul's keeper), blessing, gratitude, to be with God / love, i.e.  In love's presence, obedient to love, in alignment with love. Pursue these and your soul is on the way to being blessed!

#2. Improve Emotional Health


Emotional health is the 90% of the iceberg below the surface of what people see. It is revealed by how well or poorly we manage pain, fear, worry, sadness and anger. Low health either avoids or attacks, which inevitably perpetuates and most often exacerbates those negative emotions. High levels will empower us to experience these tough emotions yet still be able to communicate and behave in ways that maintain trust and integrity.

If we're going to get emotionally healthier, we'll need to courageously slow down to get familiar with our underlying layers of insecurity, inferiority and insignificance along with the contexts (people and events) that created those layers. Only when we get a clearer, adult perspective on difficult, personal history, will we bravely and compassionately accept pain and losses as a place to love ourselves. This is foundational to developing a more mature, truthful, and complete understanding. Of course this takes time, attention and effort.

To experience transformation of our values and priorities to create a life that actually fits us and connects deeply with others, we need to grow awareness of what we need deep down. We get stuck in emotionally unhealthy ways because of misapplied / misconceived truths about life and people. As kids, we naturally misconceive and misapply truth, but when it occurs with prolonged and profound emotional pain or neglect, the person's emotional health will be compromised. 

Over years unaddressed, the solution will not be experienced by getting filled up (by weekly sermons) or retreating or adding strategies or disciplines. It is found only in revolution; intentionally walking a new pathway. 

To improve our emotional health, we will need these steps:

  1. Know yourself that you may know God
  2. Going back in order to go forward
  3. Journey through the wall
  4. Enlarge your soul through grief and loss
  5. Discover the rhythms of the daily office and sabbath
  6. Grow into an emotionally mature adult
  7. Go the next step to develop a ‘rule of life'

To read more about each step, pick up Scazzero's book. Or click on the picture below to go to the EHS site.

EHS book
EHS book

3 Ways to Love Others Well

We all love and are loved. Ask anyone if they love their families and friends and I can't imagine any of them saying no, except for the occasional teenager super pissed at his nagging parents. But loving well is not quite as common. How many truly healthy families do you know? Most often, confusion and dysfunction are the norm. In a society where performance and productivity have created cultures of insecurity and general senses of not being, doing, or having enough, and soft skills are second class citizens in the market place, being able to love maturely is desperately rare. That's because the growth and development process of this precious gift is extremely time consuming and doesn't fit into the rhythms of the 50-70+ hour work week. Am I saying they're incompatible? Yes.

But if you've come to a place in your life where you are no longer satisfied with your capacity and ability to love (others and yourself), here are several ways to improve how you can strengthen and deepen your most significant relationships.

Daily Doses

5 love languages
5 love languages

Learn about the 5 languages by Gary Chapman. Know the love language of your loved ones and your own and get fluent. Start with yourself and take this assessment. Being aware of your own needs and how to fill your emotional tank goes a long way towards having empathy for those you want to love better. Think of it as putting on much needed equipment to see, hear, and feel what the other sees, hears, and feels.

Next, think about how to get those you want to love well to also take the assessment. Frame that initial conversation with why and how you want to improve how you love. Yes, this will be hard and awkward because it will require you to be vulnerable. So watch this first. Brene Brown does a wonderful job unpacking the power of vulnerability so that your heart will have a fighting chance against your head to make this courageous move towards transformation.

It makes such a difference when we love each other in ways that are especially meaningful and relevant to how each of us are uniquely wired. We feel that much more known, appreciated and understood. Knowing and being known is a very significant element of loving and being loved.

Love in Conflict

This is where our love usually breaks down. When sharp disagreement occurs and emotions get intense, we invariably find ourselves on the slippery slope of conflict. When our love is underdeveloped and trust has not been fortified,  we simply lack the emotional muscles to balance and navigate peacemaking responses. To put it another way, there's little to no regulation of our fight / flight response. So we just run away or come out with guns blazing.


To get better traction and engagingly abide in the peacemaking responses, we're going to need to get better at crucial conversations (Joseph Grenny).


The keys here are the stories each person tells themselves which will determine whether they slip off towards silence or violence or abide in the dialogue pool of shared meaning. When we're in the safety zone and our fight / flight system is under control, our learning channels remain open so we can work at understanding the other's perspective. When we're able to comprehend each other's thoughts and feelings, we're that much closer to stepping into their shoes and helping them feel known and understood.

Our love gets better when our words and actions reflect authentic empathy and humility. Through awareness of each other's stories, we're empowered to connect meaningfully and be transformed. Deeper trust is built and we draw that much closer to each other.

Giving and Receiving Relational Comfort

comfort circle.jpg
comfort circle.jpg

Stress happens and at some point before long, we will seek comfort in some way, shape, or form. It may be certain activities, behaviors, or substances but it will always be something. But not all comforts are equal. Some are healthier than others. Relational comfort is definitely at the top. Since we're wired to connect, it only makes sense that our greatest comfort would be found in another person. And in order to love well, we need to work at finding relief and refreshment from those we're closest to. This is also the way to be addiction proof.

When you see your loved ones had a stressful day, offer to spend some time to check in to see what's going on. Here's an outline of a comforting conversation. As you can see, it does take some work in being open and vulnerable to bring things out into the light. But if things stay inside, we will use impersonal comforts which often lead to some form of addiction / enslavement. In being transparent, we are exercising our vulnerability muscle and the more we exercise it, the stronger it gets. The stronger it gets, the easier it will be to share openly and receive the comfort we desperately need. The more relational comfort we can give and receive, the better we are at loving.

  • Seek Awareness:
    • “What’s your perspective on your problem / challenge?”
    • “What feelings come up?” If anger, what’s underneath that anger? Check out soul words list.
    • Engage:
      • Bring hidden feelings into the light of your relationship. Negative feelings and pain lose power when brought into the light. Conversely, they remain when we keep them hidden.
      • To experience comfort, we must take the risk to step towards the freedom that comes from being vulnerable. We draw out the emotions by naming them.
      • Explore:
        • Ask about the emotions felt in response to triggers / stressors.
        • Invite the speaker to risk being honest and vulnerable.
        • Ask why the speaker feels what they feel and if there were other times, past or present, when they felt the same.
        • Explore where / when else the feelings are felt.
        • Try to identify all the times / events that made you feel that way.
        • Try to get clear about the general emotional state and what caused it.
        • Silence and waiting for people to think and reflect deeply about the past.
        • Clarify and validate - use reflective statements.
        • Listener should not try to fix, solve, defend, or debate.
        • Enter into speakers mindset / perspective, to see things from their point of view; check to see if what was heard is accurate.
        • what comfort is needed; learning how to find relational comfort
        • “What do you need?”
        • Resolve:
          • “I hear you saying that you feel ___ and you need ___, and here’s what I can do…” [Be honest! Don't make promises you cannot keep].

Outline content taken from here.

Secure Connection. It's everything!

Envisioning a healthier core?Challenge success? Learn from failure? Ruthlessly eliminate hurry?


To be a secure connector.

Secure Connector
Secure Connector

Milan & Kay Yerkovich summarize it this way:

  • I have a wide range of emotions and express them appropriately.
  • It is easy for me to ask for help and receive from others when I have needs.
  • I can say “no” to others even when I know it will upset them.
  • I’m adventuresome and I know how to play and have fun.
  • I know I’m not perfect, and I give my loved ones room to disagree.

Connections are threatened every time conflict occurs, feelings are hurt, stress attacks, trust is broken, regretful words are spoken, or fear overwhelms. There's more but those are at the top of the list. So many families suffer and disintegrate because of the lack of secure connections. I think this is really close to what matters most.

Take this


to see how secure a connector you are.

  • After you're done, go through it again but apply it to your spouse. How secure are they?
  • If you have high school and college age kids, apply it to them.
  • How about your parents?
  • Now if you're feeling extra brave, have them do you.

Now what do you want to do with that awareness? If you're already blessed to be a secure connector, I hope you'll help others grow in this wellness of the soul. If not, push this growth area up to being top priority. Your future and everyone you love and loves you will be depending on your ability to securely connect, especially when things get hard.

Could this be why people in power lose sight of what's most important and make detrimental decisions that neglect long term welfare for those they serve and even their families?

Is this why the best leaders are able to make brave and compassionate decisions that bring great benefit and wellness to their organizations and even their families?

I'd love to hear what you think! Please share below.

Securely Connecting with Your Kids, even when they're teenagers

Dad and teen
Dad and teen

How do you want to parent your children when they become teens? Want to be close or distant? Strict or lenient? Controlling or freeing? Trusting or suspicious? I think the best thing is not be "or" anything. As much as possible, be an "and" parent. Strict and lenient. Loving and powerful. Gentle and firm. Fun and serious.

This of course means you've got to know when to be what. How will you know? I'd like to get your thoughts! Please share below.

Envisioning a Healthier Core for 2016

Where and how are you leading the next generation (ie. your kids, your students, your up and coming leaders)?

I love Stanford Graduate School of Education's vision:


"We know that every child has his or her own story and path to success. We believe that kids come with a wide variety of interests, skills, capacities, and talents. They need love, support, limits, and a safe environment to develop their full potential. This process of growing up is slow, deliberate, and often unpredictable, and therefore requires that kids have the time and energy needed to mature into resilient, caring, and purposeful adults. Challenge Success recognizes that our current fast-paced, high-pressure culture works against much of what we know about healthy child development and effective education. The overemphasis on grades, test scores, and rote answers has stressed out some kids and marginalized many more. We all want our kids to do well in school and to master certain skills and concepts, but our largely singular focus on academic achievement has resulted in a lack of attention to other components of a successful life—the ability to be independent, adaptable, ethical, and engaged critical thinkers. Our work helps to foster learners who are healthy, motivated, and prepared for the wide variety of tasks they will face as adults." (bolded words are mine)

Three-Minds-Maoomba-600x900 (1)
Three-Minds-Maoomba-600x900 (1)

I've highlighted numerous phrases because they point to the priority that should be given to the heart and the gut. Giving greater attention and focus to core identity issues and development is a must if we're going to lead the next generation to truer love and success. By truer I mean love and success based on what matters most - living with authentic, meaningful courage and compassion beginning with oneself that flows into one's family, and then everyone else.

In response to "to an increase in academic and emotional problems among kids in the United States", Stanford University initiated Challenge Success "to develop alternative success modelsto align with research on healthy child development." Isn't it interesting how success can create academic and emotional problems? Is it because what is deemed success revolves around productivity and busyness? When the majority of our energy, time, and resources go towards financial and vocational success, the power of personal presence - actually being with our loved ones physically and emotionally - will suffer and be sacrificed. And considering the extent of these problems, we should also challenge success and pursue alternative success models. Connecting the dots, it looks like much of the success driven by our culture and society is not based on what really helps kids grow into strong, healthy adults who can communicate, collaborate, and take risks to create things not yet seen or thought of.

path and journey pic
path and journey pic

We need to give much more focus and attention on the reality that every child / person has their own story and path. It's slow, deliberate and unpredictable - not exactly what's conventionally standardized and tested for. And often times, there are many obstacles that challenge our progress. Failures and mistakes line the way which all have the potential of teaching invaluable lessons. Yet that's the process to becoming resilient, caring, and purposeful. Do we want our kids to grow up to powerfully create order and beauty? Don't we want them to foster greater freedom and justice for more and more people? Or just continue to do what's been done to achieve success that doesn't last, doesn't dynamically impact other's for greatness and actually results in more kids not fortified to be independent, adaptable, ethical, and engaged critical thinkers who will lead and cultivate healthier homes and communities?

am I a secure connector
am I a secure connector

To positively impact and influence a person's story and path, we need to be present with them - actually with them, same place, same time, doing things together, talking and sharing hearts. But of course, there's more. Not only do we need to invest plenty of time bonding with our loved ones, but we need to have high levels of emotional health. Milan and Kay Yerkovich ( call this being a secure connector and the 5 signs are the following:

  • I have a wide range of emotions and express them appropriately.
  • It is easy for me to ask for help and receive from others when I have needs.
  • I can say “no” to others even when I know it will upset them.
  • I’m adventuresome and I know how to play and have fun.
  • I know I’m not perfect, and I give my loved ones room to disagree.

When we have these character qualities, our time spent with each other will cultivate stories and paths that are rich, real, and even redemptive. Rich because of the love, joy, and peace experienced. Real because of the pain and burdens shared. Redemptive because of the change that comes through working out the tough stuff with grace and forgiveness.

Ultimately, it's the consistent way we do conflict and the repairs we make after the ruptures we cause. To healthily hash things out rather than live with unaddressed tensions, resentments, and grudges will create homes and communities that grow and develop people who will live, love, and lead with secure connection, vulnerability based trust and empathy.

The culture created with this level of health brings balance between being present and being productive. When we are living with a healthy core, not only will we have better work-life balance, but I believe there will be improvement, innovation, and even inspiration through the differences in how we show up, work with each other, and find solutions to problems.

What is your vision for your core for 2016? Your family's core values and relationships? Your organization's core mission and leadership? How will you challenge success and develop alternative models for success? I hope you will give core development top priority. I hope you will prioritize with a plan. I hope you will structure time and space to make the plan reality. And I hope this time next year, you're core will be stronger than ever! (Keep in mind, observable change takes at least 6-9 months of consistent work outs. So make sure your plan is sustainable and that you're committed)

Redeeming Holiday Stress

Thanksgiving - Christmas - New Years: Annual Triumvirate of Stress Producers

As the major holidays come rolling around, we can look forward to fun, family, and celebration. But let's not forget we can also expect added stress!

Here are a few common contributors:

  • working long hours
  • fighting traffic
  • travel / vacation
  • caring for aging parents
  • cleaning dirty dishes / house
  • paying the added bills / increasing credit card debt
  • finding time to get everything done
  • Staying on a diet
  • Pressure of giving or getting gifts / struggle to afford and to purchase material goods
  • family gatherings
  • taking charge of holiday celebrations, preparing meals and decorating the home
  • hype and commercialism of the season / advertising pressure us to buy more and more expensive gifts
  • lacking time and money
  • parenting your kids
  • not able to relax
  • feeling the duty to make the holidays the best ever for your family
  • work responsibilities might interfere with time spent with the family
  • worry about getting enough time off of work and

Are you feeling thankful yet LOL!

But seriously, how many of those are on your plate? The more challenges you’ve got, the more support you’ll need to thrive this holiday season. So how will you manage your elevated stress levels?

Here are some common strategies:

  • watching TV
  • sleeping
  • eating and drinking
  • religious activities / reconnect with faith
  • do nothing
  • play / listen to music
  • exercise
  • meditation
  • prayer
  • read

All of these can help and some are healthier than others but for even more value from your stress, how about a long term plan that is visionary, inspiring and validating of what matters most to you? Wouldn’t that be pretty awesome?

With the new year only 35 days away,  how would you like to change, grow and develop to not only be a better stress manager but really thrive?

Here are some worthy goals:

  • improve health  
  • lose weight
  • get finances in order
  • improve relationships with family or a significant other
  • find a better / less stressful job
  • pursue further education
  • pursue recreational interests      
  • find more affordable / comfortable housing    

All of those are great goals but can we squeeze even more value from our stress? What if we could align our plan with a whole hearted view of life to give greater meaning, inspiration, encouragement, and effectiveness to achieving those goals and more?


I think Christmas can provide us with some insight into this kind of perspective. The Incarnation.Through Jesus, God’s universal governing principles became flesh and blood (John 1:14) - a living, human being!

"The Word (logos)became flesh and made his dwelling among us."

And through Him, unconditional love, unfathomable peace, unstoppable hope, and unlimited joy was revealed and made accessible to everyone who would believe, receive and apply this incarnation to their lives. Through the omnipotence of vulnerability and empathy, the source of meaning, creativity and vitality has been manifested. And this power is available to all of us regardless of ethnicity, gender, social-economics, or whatever other label and category is out there. Incarnating the valuing of people, their healing and their positive development helps us maximize the redemption of stress. And not only stress but also other major negative, inner life experiences like shame, suffering, and pain.

What I’m getting at is embracing a central character of courage, compassion, and connection. That's what God did in Christ!

Why? Because those are the elements we desperately need to live, lead and love well.


What consistently hijacks our effectiveness, peace and well being? Interpersonal conflict. We suck at it. Being bad at this has ruined so many families and it’s why dysfunctional homes and organizations are not uncommon. The way we engage and resolve conflict, our management of negative emotions and the way we reconcile is a primary determiner of the quality of our relationships and culture and ultimately the character development of everyone in it. Do it well, and our homes and work spaces become places of emotional and social and even spiritual wellness. Do it poorly or not at all and end up with hypocrisy, dysfunction, false bonds, isolation, hostility or all the above. Without this core of 3 C’s, we will inevitably waste the stress and pain of life and actually end up doing all we can to avoid or hide it rather than redeem it.

Without 3 C's conflict resolutions, we develop strong tendencies of avoidance, people pleasing, idealization, control, and hiding. We get addicted to being right and become unapproachable. When we and others get stuck in unhealthy patterns, we lose sight of what matters most and if children are around, they will become handicapped with emotional and relational baggage stopping them from meaningful connection and achieving their full potential.


As the new year arrives, will you be redeeming holiday stress by growing a stronger core of courage, compassion, and connection? Moreover, will you be an agent of transformation in your home, your school and work with a presence of vulnerability, elevating trust building to new heights?

Take time to talk to those close to you to generate a vision and plan for growth and development. Then share it with a team of supporters to encourage you and hold you accountable for real change resulting in real outcomes! May 2016 find you redeeming the gift of time, especially the tough times. Blessings!

What's possible with a strong growth mindset?

In my previous post, I talked about what a growth mindset is and what it's good for. I'd like to continue here with additional possibilities of not only having a growth mindset but a beefed up one - ie juiced (figuratively speaking of course). What if we were to create environments around ourselves, our loved ones, and even our work places to get everyone into a mode to readily learn new things, process them, and rigorously exercise trial and error to improve, develop, and achieve radically creative / innovative solutions? More importantly, doing all that without the relational shackles caused by insecurities, needs for approval, and dysfunctions driven by fear. What would happen to our hearts? Our homes? Our organizations? Our communities and cities?

When we can recognize mistakes (especially the ones that we feel humiliate / shame us) as things to learn from rather than avoid, we're able to leverage the power of vulnerability. Initiating without fear of rejection, risking without fear of loss, moving forward without need for certainty, allowing ourselves to be deeply seen and known, courageously believing that we are worthy of love and belonging totally apart from what we do - these are all necessary to being truly alive, passionate, and full of desire and love.

Nelson Mandela quote
Nelson Mandela quote

When we are free to embark on the adventurous journey of living whole heartedly, we are on the path to authentic and powerful validation. Rather than settling for what has always been done, what is safe and lifeless, or just breadcrumbs of profound love, joy, and peace, we can boldly explore where love and desire want to lead us. A vibrant life is one where we are growing, learning, and changing to become better connectors, spouses, parents, and leaders who serve and develop future generations to do greater things with increased freedom, compassion and justice. We have yet to see what would happen if every individual were substantially and dynamically validated, empowered by empathy to have a fortified growth mindset, given the freedom and courage to creatively and meaningfully come up with profound and impactful solutions.


With a strong growth mindset would come greater values of collaboration, communication, and community because fear of not being, doing or having enough would not have the ability to cause jealousies, dissensions and manipulations (and other dysfunctions) - ugly and toxic politics. The growth mindset is not hungry for approval and it recognizes the joy and power of everyone succeeding; it's not threatened by others' successes. With consistent focus and attention on what it takes to improving together (working with emotional and relational health), there is the safe space needed to learn from mistakes which paves the road to real wisdom. And this wisdom is what truly brings us together in authentic unity.

With greater collaboration, communication and community comes greater diversity. With the validation of each person's uniqueness, the bonding through increased valuing of each other, we can experience the beauty and power of differing capacities, perspectives, and leadership. When diverse members of an organization, especially the leaders, are growing and developing truer personhood, partnerships, and presence, everyone benefits because there will be the reciprocity of feeling uniquely understood and valued, the constituents by the leaders and vice versa. Challenges become opportunities for innovative solutions. Collaborative creativity increases the likelihood of seeing what is most important to bring more positive impact and value to more people.

Allen Kagina
Allen Kagina

With greater diversity of individuals collaborating, there is an environment conducive of a grander vision. When more perspectives can come together, able to see and synthesize with each other's strengths and differences, there will be deeper understanding into problems and challenges. In addition, with meaningful trust in place, there is a foundation for rigorous communication to explore and discover new best practices, solutions, and ways of being and working. Grander visions set direction for the profound change, impact and sustainable transformation our world desperately needs.

A strong growth mindset is what we all need, regardless of life stage. "You can't teach old dogs new tricks" is an unrecognized default caused by finding our worth in what we do rather than who we are. Benjamin Bloom (creator of Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning) concluded from 40 years of research "What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn, if provided with the appropriate prior and current conditions of learning.”  To create conditions of learning, we need to get rid of the insecurity, anxiety and fear caused by the performance based mindset, and instead, center our worth on unconditional love, emotional health, and strong relationships. With this shift, we will find that to grow, learn, change, and improve in almost anything simply requires time, instruction, development, effort and of course, mistakes and failures!


If we want the very best for our families, we need foundational fundamentals that will keep all members moving forward towards greater emotional and relational maturity that will cultivate deeper connections as time goes on. What might that fundamental be?

Brain - fixed vs. growth mindset
Brain - fixed vs. growth mindset

FAMILY FOUNDATION FUNDAMENTAL: Self awareness that empowers and equips us to move our family forward in what matters most.

To make this happen, a growth mindset in the area of emotional and relational health is absolutely essential. It's terrible when mom, dad, or kids feel like they can't change the negative ways they relate and respond. So they get busy and distract themselves rather than learn how to grow.

Looking at the graphic, it's easy to see why the growth mindset should be preferred:

With a growth mindset...

  • We're passionate for learning rather than being hungry for approval.
  • We can see failure as growth rather than something to avoid.
  • We can experience meaningful improvement rather than just acquire head-knowledge.
  • We recognize the joy and power of everyone succeeding together.

But where do fixed or growth mindsets come from?

Well, the root of both is a desire to be loved and valued and this is where it gets critical. If it's achieved by performance and success and this becomes a default, there's a higher likelihood to grow a fixed mindset. That's because focusing on how we look or what we do is motivated by approval - others and / or ourselves. When approval becomes the priority, learning and growth take a back seat because often times, it's not pretty or impressive to learn and go through phases of change. Actually quite the opposite - as in awkward, stupid, embarrassing, etc.

In contrast, when the desire to be loved and valued is met apart from what we do, ie. we are greatly loved and valued unconditionally, we are much less likely to be afraid of the effort, uncertainty and difficulty of new and higher challenges. This gives rise to the growth mindset which gets us on the road to wisdom.

How does this happen? Well, the road to greater character development is always paved with lessons from mistakes. This means mistakes are necessary and thus we should value them properly rather than trying so hard to prevent them. Of course not all mistakes are created equal. Most are affordable; some are not. But there is no significant, substantial growth without mistakes and learning from them. Definitely the most important thing is the learning. And so to maximize it, we want our minds to be in learning mode as much as possible - the growth mindset.

Yet there is something even more foundational than learning from mistakes and that's being able to learn from mistakes. There is this capacity / way of being that opens up the learning channels; it's empathy. This ability to experience another person's feelings, thoughts or attitudes, to identify fully with another so as to be able to say, "Me too!" is absolutely necessary for turning lemons into lemonade. When we're with someone who authentically knows and understands us, where we feel loved, accepted and even embraced, this gives us the freedom to receive new learning, especially difficult learning like from mistakes and other painful experiences. Empathy gives us the courage, security, and freedom to not be afraid to try and fail, to do things wrong and be able to sit with the error, process it, analyzing and evaluating it, to see how it might help and serve us to be and do better.

To foster the development of the growth mindset, mistakes and learning are essentials but even more important is the regular presence of healthy empathetic people, ie. relationships that feed our deepest needs for unconditional love and acceptance. This food is what shapes our sense of self. In other words, we become the culmination of our most precious relationships. It's said, we're the average of our 5 closest relationships. When our personal connections are robust with trust, forgiveness, safety, love, and vulnerability, we become free from anxiety, insecurity, and fear. Free to learn, experiment, fail, learn more, try again, persevere, muster up greater courage, and ultimately be who we really want to be, showing up as we really are.

Developing this foundation fundamental of self awareness is what grows empathy in us. It all starts with an environment of courage, transparency and humility. Check out my e-courseon this.

Creating a growth culture starts in our own minds. Where are we finding our value, love, and sense of belonging? What foundation are you building on? I hope it's categorically a self awareness that leads to empathy.

My desire is to consistently grow towards this way of being, free to learn from mistakes, growing in empathy, positively influencing those I love and cultivating a growth culture in my home and wherever I go.

Love and Logic

Love & Logic
Love & Logic

Love - affection, hugs & kisses, patience, comfort, kindness, emotional connection, liberation Logic - science, principles that govern, reason, system, sound judgment, inexorable truth

How are these 2 things connected?

Something amazing happens though when people effectively synthesize both in how they relate to others, especially those who are closely connected to children and youth.When there is healthy balance of affection and authority, young people positively respond and develop respect and responsibility. The primary indicator of whether or not a healthy balance exists is empathy - and it must be consistently, profoundly felt and fostered over time. When empathy is genuinely experienced in a relationship, kids regardless of age, are able to continue in their mental, physical, emotional, relational, sexual, and spiritual development.

What about limits? Kids will learn to live within limits when care-takers, (parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches) express empathy before enforcing limits. When the relationship is a context of emotional and relational health, kids testing limits become great learning opportunities. However without that health, limits lose their effectiveness and simply become points of contention.

LoveandLogic Eurasian family pic
LoveandLogic Eurasian family pic

I teach a class using a curriculum called, "Parenting with Love and Logic". It's a great resource that teaches moms and dads how to be both loving and powerful in their kids' lives. Educators can apply the principles as well although there are resources for them specifically.

Here's what some of my students said about the class:

“The information learned from the class was so practical. The teaching through the DVD was packed with wisdom, the workbook exercises reinforced what we had learned. The other part I really enjoyed was the class discussion and sharing. Cecil did a good job facilitating and guiding the discussion.

The content of the class was so impactful that I bought more books to read on Love and Logic.

I highly recommend the class to all parents, I wish I had taken the class a lot earlier so I could have avoided a lotof struggles with my sons.”

- D. Chan, Mother of 2 sons (18, 21) studying in a Counselor Program, SF 


"This class definitely gave me new and effective ideas to deal with my 5 and 7 year olds.  The most powerful tool was learning how to be empathetic as well as many other informative and interesting techniques.  I really enjoyed the class led by Cecil." - Jenny Lee, Accounting Manager, Mother of 2


“I recently took a great class that has dramatically changed my life.I had fun learning new skills to be a better mother but got so much more from the class.The skills that I have learned were not only useful in my everyday interaction with my children, friends and family, it has changed my life in the long run.If we have talked recently, you would have heard me raveabout what I have learned.Well, now YOU have a chance to change YOUR life.If you know me, then you know that I am not easy to impress but this class would be it.After taking this class, your family will not be the only ones benefiting, everyone around you will notice the changed person you will become!”

- Kristine, Mother of 3, SF


“First of all, thank you so much for taking time out of your precious Tuesdays to lead the parenting class.   Your knowledge and wisdom on parenting as well as your personal parenting experience and challenges which you shared with the class  really gave me  excellent self awareness,  insights and tips on how to improve my personal relationships with my children.

Here are the positive insights and tips I gain from your class:

  1.  The vital importance of   EMPATHY.   

The secret to effective parenting and positive parent-child relationship  is the vital need for parents like myself to  show EMPATHY with our kids.  I made the effort to practice showing empathy (which I hardly do prior to this class except for being a cop always in telling them what to do and what not to do) to my kids at home whenever they are sad, unhappy, upset or seemed troubled by some personal struggles/problems/challenges. I realized the more empathy I show to them, the closer they bond with me, the more they are willing to share with me openly, the more they  play  and joke with me, and most importantly, the more they listen and do what I tell them willingly without showing bad attitudes.     Why?   Because they realized I acknowledged their  feelings and they feel I understand what they are going through.  So I learned the key to effective change of bad behaviors/attitudes in my kids start with establishing good personal relationships with them though showing empathy.  

  1.  Being humble in saying "Sorry" to my kids whenever I offended them.   I gain respect from them when I say sorry because it lets my boys know I can be wrong and make poor decisions,  just like them too.    
  2.  Being gentle but firm and consistent in discipline. Stay calm and not yell  but let them know I mean business  in following through the consequence of their  misbehavior or bad attitudes.
  3.  Do not give  out punishment  or  discipline when I am angry.

5.  Stop being too overly protective or controlling of my kids.   Be bold to allow them the freedom to make more  decisions as long as it's within safe limits instead of always watching over their shoulders and telling them what to do.   This will help them learn to problem solve as well as to learn from their own mistakes.   I come to realize I am actually not doing any bit of good for my kids when I constantly trying to prevent them from making mistakes by telling them what to do and what not to do.    Instead, allowing my kids to fail  by their own poor decision makings  is much more effective in learning a lesson.”

- L.Lieu, RN, Mother of 3 boys, San Francisco

Check out additional testimonials from the Love and Logic website.

Grow to Pursue BHAGs


At the 2015 Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, I was again inspired by many great leaders sharing about things they're learning in their own work and development as people of influence. Here are some of my take aways from a session with Jim Collins. Big, hairy, audacious goals are an important part of meaningful work which contributes to a meaningful life. Achieving BHAG's is not certain. Pursuing them will mean failure, probably lots of it. But they are a part of great leadership and when people have the courage and love to pursue them, transformation occurs, usually in many people's lives as well as their own.

Jim framed his talk around these 7 questions:

  1. What cause do you serve with level 5 ambition?
  2. Will you settle for being a good leader or will you grow to be a great leader?
  3. How can you reframe failure as growth in pursuit of BHAG? 
  4. How can you succeed by helping others succeed? 
  5. Have you found your personal hedgehog? 
  6. Will you build your unit - your mini bus - into a pocket of greatness?
  7. How will you change the lives of others?

He concluded with 'life is people', a phrase he threaded through his talk. Being grateful for them, we should live to help them experience fulfillment and success. I would add never sacrificing that fundamental principle for productivity, career goals, or organizational priorities.

Working backwards, what I've gleaned from this wisdom are the following:

7. I want to be a liberating agent in the lives of those in my family, followed by friends and those I work with.

6. To build my family, my mini bus, into a pocket of greatness, I need to be mindful and intentional about who I am, bringing the best possible me, and fostering the growth and development of my co-leader, my wife. When both my wife and I are loving each other and our kids in liberating ways which facilitate ongoing maturation, we will not fail.

5. My personal hedgehog is still in the works but I've narrowed it down to maximizing connections - all kinds. I'm passionate about helping people heal, develop and transform. I'm gifted in being with others in encouraging and liberating ways. Finding the economic engine to drive it all is a current challenge.

4. The successes I've greatly appreciated and been energized by are the successes of those I've meaningfully engaged. Seeing them live in a new space, showing up differently with new desires, decisions, and actions is awesome.

3. Reframing failure as growth has been an incredible skill that has really kept me moving forward. One of my previous employers early on in my career said, "Remember that you'll be a lot better in 5 years." That stuck because it kept me from being anxious about not being good enough, and kept me focused on growing and improving. As a result, I was able to use failures as learning opportunities and this also increased my motivation to get better. I think reframing creates the much needed space and freedom to try things without fear. And without fear, my brain is able to learn and I'm able to develop and mature.

2. I didn't set out to be a great leader. But I think the central thing that has consistently moved me to get better has been love and always trying to submit to what healthy love desires. Just like Jim says, "Life is people." And to choose life is to choose to love people. As I listen and learn from great leaders, I'm finding that they too have this core value and it gets expressed in beautiful, powerful ways according to their uniqueness. Growing from good to great is simply honoring the core value of life in the battle over what is most important both in the short and long term.

  1. First off, here's Jim's definition of level 5 leadership:
  • Level 1, you are a highly capable individual.
  • Level 2, you become a contributing team member.
  • Level 3, you become a competent manager.
  • Level 4, you become an effective leader.
  • Level 5 requires a special blend of personal humility and professional will—the capacity to channel your personal ambitions and capabilities into a larger cause or mission. Level 5 leaders differ from Level 4 in that they are ambitious first and foremost for the cause, the organization, the mission, the nation, the work—not themselves—and they have the will to do whatever it takes (within the bounds of the organization's core values) to make good on that ambition.

The cause for which I am attempting to serve with level 5 ambition is elevating the empathy and skill of parents to raise a generation of people who will lead the world towards greater depths of love and higher levels of leadership. I see parents as the channels for greatest world change. When moms and dads get better, their families are transformed, communities are blessed, and nations grow in justice and freedom.

This is my BHAG. Boy do I need to grow. Boy do I need help.

These are my action items:

  • Continue to build my unit.
  • Reach out way more to connect with those who want to grow their family connections.
  • Continue to learn from others and be inspired.