Category: Allegories & Anecdotes

5/20/12 “Separation”

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge is about separation. That is, how we sometimes separate ourselves from others, including family, co-workers and friends.

All of us experience this sense of being separate from time to time. Sometimes it’s caused by a succession of failures, too much stress, or being out of sorts with family members or friends. Whatever the cause, when I feel disconnected from others, it is frequently accompanied by a state of depression and I experience a lot of negative thoughts:

“No one understands me.”
“Why do I have to do this all on my own?”
“No one likes me, so it won’t matter whether I show up or not.”
“I’m such a failure, I can’t do anything right.”
“I’m really an impostor here; if people really knew that I have no idea what I’m doing, I’d never have a job.”

All of these thoughts have the ring of separation to them. In these moments, I see myself as separate from the team, from my family, from my friends. I’m not like them. I’m different in some way.

When I work with teams, I often notice that someone on the team is separating themselves from the others. They may do this by not responding when asked to participate or by having the attitude that they know more than the rest of the group. If someone acts in an antagonistic or provocative way, it can separate him or her from the team. At the same time, feeling like a victim can separate a person from the whole. Even leaders who see themselves as powerful or authoritative can begin to feel separate from their teams. Whether a person sees him- or herself as special or insignificant, the results can be the same: separation.

This feeling of separateness is an illusion. Although we play different roles in our lives, we are all connected to one another. When we forget our connection to all other living beings, we start to get into trouble. I may think the Japanese tsunami last year was an event separate from me, but the remaining debris from that tsunami’s aftermath is about to show up on our west coast shores. I can judge my neighbors and feel like I’m better or smarter — until I need to call them for help. Will they judge me in return in that moment? What about when a fellow team member needs to pick up some of my job responsibilities when I’m out sick? I hope he or she won’t be feeling separate from me and will be able to see the importance of supporting me when I need it. Every action we take impacts someone else somewhere, somehow.

The best metaphor for this is the ocean and the wave. In our various roles, we show up as a wave. Sometimes waves are big and powerful, and other times, they roll calmly onto the shore. Waves can be bright and beautiful with white, frothy crests and deep blue colors or dark and grey with a slick surface. Just as we can be bright and beautiful or dark and grey, our various personalities show up as waves. Believing that our wave is separated from all the other waves can make us feel alone — but in reality, we are part of a huge ocean. That ocean is made of water and the water is what makes up the waves. Without the ocean, there is no wave. Without the rest of humanity, there is no one person.

This week, see whether you’ve separated yourself from others in some part of your life. Do you pride yourself in being different and, in turn, think you’re better than or less than others? How about with your family — are you the black sheep or the odd one or the best one? Do you separate yourself by spending most of your time alone? Do you not pay attention to others when you’re in a meeting and separate your attention away from everyone else? When you resist participating, what is it in you that thinks you’re not connected to everyone else? If you envision a sports team playing on the field, what if someone kicks the ball to their teammate and their teammate decides not to play anymore? Doesn’t the game stop? We are indeed each unique individuals, but it’s important to understand that what makes us special doesn’t need to separate us from others. In fact, that’s what makes teams so great — all of those unique qualities and strengths directed toward a common goal.

This week, appreciate how connected you are to others in all things. We were not put here to be alone and belonging to each other is one of the great gifts of humankind.

Have a good week,


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 422-9249

4/8/12 “Spring”

Good day, team.

This past weekend, all of the daffodils finally bloomed out at our property in the Columbia River Gorge. It makes me so happy to see them. Although the weather changes frequently at this time of year — light snow, hail, rain, sun — once all the daffodils are in bloom, I know that spring has finally announced itself.

This season of growth and fertility is a great time for new beginnings. Just as we watch nature transform itself from dormancy to activity, we also are encouraged to wake up and fully engage in our own endeavors. The coming of spring, reminds me of something I often tell my clients, “When the light is green — go!” The arrival of spring is very much like a stoplight turning green. Everything around us tells us to emerge, become, initiate, flower. Beginning new endeavors when the time is right can be critical to their success.

On the other hand, trying to get something accomplished when the time isn’t quite right — when the light is red or yellow — can be frustrating. No matter how hard you try to make something happen when the light is red, it’s not going to happen. Sometimes we are unsure whether it’s a good time to begin something new — the light is yellow. We proceed with caution knowing that we may be stopped along the way and often experience a slow down of events and accomplishments.

Many of my clients and friends are motivated by achievement and have a strong desire to keep going at maximum speed throughout the year, regardless of whether the time is right for various activities. They are frustrated by others who are not as motivated by achievement and blame them for blocking their desire to get stuff done. In fact, this desire for constant achievement can become an obstacle in itself. If you keep trying to go when the light is red — or when your own nature is calling for you to slow down — you end up crashing sooner or later.

Sometimes it’s difficult to tune into the shifts and changes of your own nature. It can be helpful to tune into the nature around you as the seasons change. For example, no matter how hard I may want my tulips to bloom in November, they won’t until spring arrives. So perhaps I should listen to nature’s message. Why not shift down into a slower gear in winter, while nature sleeps and gathers energy? Then allow myself to grow and blossom during spring along with nature’s budding flowers and trees. How about allowing myself to glow in the fires of joy and happiness in the heat of summer? And then harvest the fruits of my own labors along with the cornucopia of Indian summer and autumn.

Tuning into the flow of nature is not a new idea. Many Native American cultures observed the ways of nature and celebrated it with their foods, traditions and ceremonies. The Chinese Five Element Theory helps form the basis of Chinese medicine, feng shui design principles and many seasonal foods, acknowledging the five seasons: winter, spring, summer, Indian summer and autumn. Many native tribes around the world still use the seasons as hallmarks for their annual excursions and sacred ceremonies as a way of honoring nature with their tribal traditions. Going with the flow of nature — that of the earth and of our own true selves — just makes good sense. When I do this in my own life, I experience much less resistance.

This week, notice if you’re trying to make something happen when the time truly isn’t right, when the light is red. Do you feel like you keep hitting a brick wall? What kind of resistance is making it difficult to achieve your goal? Conversely, notice when your endeavors just fall into place with very little effort. If so, then the light is probably green, and it may seem like you can barely go fast enough to keep up. Or maybe you are just feeling your way, with a yellow light, and it’s a bit slow going with plenty of confusing messages along the way.

Whatever the case, try to tune into spring and see whether it can influence you with its growth and promise. See if by realigning yourself with nature, you can find the green light you need to proceed with a new idea or venture.

“The seasons are what a symphony ought to be: four perfect movements in harmony with each other,” 
wrote the famous concert pianist, Arthur Rubenstein.

This week, see whether you’re in harmony with nature and the changes it brings. What is nature encouraging you to do?

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2012 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

11/22/10 “Benefits of Failure & Imagination”

Good day, team,

At a client’s request, I’m resending a piece that I originally sent in 2008, from J. K. Rowling’s commencement address to Harvard’s graduating class. This is part one; I will send part two next week.

In 2008, J.K. Rowling, acclaimed author of the Harry Potter novels, gave the commencement address at Harvard University. She called her talk “The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination.” When I read it, I found it so inspiring that I wanted to share some of the best parts with you.

First, a bit about her background, as context. J.K. Rowling’s parents both grew up poor, so they insisted she study subjects in college that would land her a great, high-paying job. She, on the other hand, wanted to write fiction. The two parties compromised on her pursuing a vocational degree in modern languages. But once in school, Rowling quickly switched to majoring in classics.

Though the decision weighed heavily upon her, her passion was so great that she continued to write stories during her lunch hours. Unlike her parents, who feared poverty, Rowling feared failure, and she actually ended up attracting it in significant ways. Here is an excerpt from her speech:

“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.”

However, the author found a light at the end of the tunnel when she ended up in the most dire conditions. And, in doing so, she was able to realize her destiny.

“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

“You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.

“Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.

“The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.”

Your challenge this week is to face your fear of failure and decide not to let it overtake you. Take your fearful state of mind and heart and use it propel you into doing something you love or to find alternative ways to live. For example, a friend of mine and her neighbors recently planted a city garden to offset the cost of food. She never realized how much she loved getting up early in the morning and going out to plant or harvest what she grows. My neighbor has already lost 10 pounds and is feeling better than ever now that she bikes and walks to work. A client has finally quit a job she hated for years to pursue her dream of painting watercolors full time.

If we take Rowling’s words to heart, we can begin to see these changes in fortune as an opportunity to gain something new rather than to lose or to fail. Decide for yourself what path you would like your life to take based on your passion for it, rather than the fear of failing at it.

At the end of her speech, Rowling quoted from the great Roman philosopher Seneca. As you face your fear of failure this week, remember his words:

“As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.”

Stay tuned for next week‘s challenge for the second subject of her speech, the importance of imagination.

Have a great holiday week, everyone. We all have lots to be grateful for!


Kathleen Doyle-White

Pathfinders Coaching

(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2010 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.