Many authors describe their books as labors of love. I consider my book, Leading Lightly, twins. That’s because I wrote the book twice.
It took me a couple of years to write the first draft since it had to be done in my free time, and as an executive coach, I don’t have a lot of free time. The majority of the manuscript was written late at night and on weekends. I was exhausted when I finished, but I was so proud of that book.
Book Do Over
Then, I hired a publishing consultant from New York to give me feedback on the book. She told me, “I have good news, and I have bad news.” Of course, I wanted the good news first. “It’s a beautifully written book.” Big sigh of relief! So, what’s the bad news? “Did you want anyone to read it? Then, you have to rewrite it.”
You can imagine what this feedback felt like to me after I had poured my heart and soul into this book. But the consultant helped me see that what I had written was more of a textbook rather than a book from a coach designed to help a client. Although it was an accurate handbook for my effective coaching process, it wouldn’t necessarily connect with the reader.
I had to take a break from this project for about three months for my own sanity. But then, I tackled it again with vigor. This time, I talked as if I was coaching clients in my office like I have been doing for 25+ years. Instead of sitting down at the keyboard, I spoke into a voice recorder. It took me another year, but the second book is even better than the first. My professional voice can be heard throughout this book and while it still maintains the educational aspects I found important, it’s presented wildly different. It’s more conversational. You will relate to it. You will feel personally coached by it.
Why Write this Book?
I have coached more than 40,000 hours of individual sessions, and it’s been an honor and privilege to work with the caliber of people that I do. But I have a limited capacity for the clients I can take on, not to mention most people cannot afford to work with me, and it has always bothered me that I haven’t been able to reach a broader audience.
I want to take people out of their pain while they don’t even realize that they are in pain. People don’t know that they can create the experience and life that they want because they are unwittingly self-sabotaging themselves throughout life. They are simply not self-aware enough to understand what they are doing that is making them less effective and experience more pain, stress, overwhelm than they need to.
The process I describe in the book is an authentic journey for me. At a very young age, I understood I was born into a dysfunctional family. I knew I didn’t want to turn out like my mother or my father and that I wanted to create a better life for myself. I came to this realization when I was just six years old. Since then, I’ve been learning from myself and others how to retrain my brain, my perspectives, my beliefs and my attitudes. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t embark on that path. And since I am a trained social worker at heart, I want to do that for as many others as I can.
If I can be a catalyst for someone to have an “a-ha” moment where they understand they can level themselves up in leadership and life in a way that will have a profound impact in their future, there is nothing more powerful than that. Leading Lightly gives me the opportunity to do that on a larger scale. I invite you all to join me on the path to self-awareness and impact transformation in your own life.
This is the introduction of my book Leading Lightly published by Greenleaf Book Group Press, as displayed on my website for download:
Sometimes you can’t put your finger on exactly what you want.
You’re trying to make a decision, or determine a direction, or make some kind of change for the better. You search deep inside yourself for clarity but what you want seems elusive, murky, out of reach. However, you’re very clear about one thing: You know what you don’t want. In fact, you might have quite the list: Problems, people, situations—stress of all kinds. Feelings of frustration, anxiety, or sadness. You just don’t want any of that anymore.
If you’re a leader in today’s world, you might have come to a place within yourself where leadership feels like the same difficult grind, day after day, a mix of stress, overload, and exhaustion. You wonder what could change to make it better. Is change even possible? You ask yourself if this is what leadership is and will always be.
I wrote this book because there is an alternative. It’s called leading lightly.
The funny thing about leading lightly is that in many ways, it’s easier to explain what it’s not than what it is. That’s because leading lightly is a particular way of being—a mood, an energy, a frame of mind—that is quite rare in leadership and among people in general. Yet, it is very attainable. And, it is my sincere hope that leading lightly will turn out to be exactly what you want.
So, let’s start with what leading lightly is not. It is not crashing through your day or just going through the motions in suboptimal states of stress, overload, anxiety, or frustration. It is not struggling through ongoing feelings of heaviness, burden, resignation, or burnout. It is not carrying your stress home with you or taking it out on your innocent significant other. It is not fantasizing about quitting your job and running away forever.
What does it mean to lead lightly?
Leading lightly means that no matter what happens during your day, you have the capacity to approach everything with enduring ease and clarity. It is a state of being that naturally arises when you have learned to let go of your internal noise and emotional clutter.
If you think about light, or lightness, or moving lightly in any context, you can taste a little of the flavor of leading lightly: It’s being light on your feet. Light in your mood or lighthearted. Looking from a well-lit perspective. Having a light touch. Turning a lightbulb on. If you’re spiritually inclined, then leading lightly is also about the light of a greater consciousness.
In the work setting, leading lightly means that you have the cognitive and emotional (and spiritual) capacity to deal with whatever leadership challenges are brought to you. You’re almost effortlessly effective in each moment with your conversations, relationships, decisions, and other actions. You choose your responses with a sense of mindfulness; you’re not reactive. You emanate a kind of rare receptivity and have a capacity to metabolize the negative, so that you’re not pulled or weighed down.
With each thing that happens, even situations unfamiliar to you, you have an abiding feeling that “you’ve got this.” You’re honed and masterful in moving with what’s happening. It’s not hard for you to know the right thing to do, because you feel it with an unmistakable clarity inside yourself.
Is this a pipe dream? Pollyanna? Something that only a Zen master could hope to attain? I get it. Being able to lead lightly sure would be great—and so would winning the lottery. If you have your doubts, I understand that. As I said, there aren’t many people walking around, at least in a corporate setting, who are leading lightly. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Most people aren’t even aware that it’s possible. They believe, on some level, that stress and difficulty are just inevitable. However, if you stay with this book, you’ll learn that even your current doubts are themselves elements of the noise and clutter that are obscuring what’s actually been available to you all along.
Leading lightly comes about from a transformational process that I call MindMastery®. It’s a way of discovering, and then shedding, the hidden beliefs, assumptions, and perspectives that create your perceptual lens and underlying operating system. It’s not about adding anything new. It’s about understanding how your own unconscious thoughts cause you to react in habitual ways that create unnecessary pain, stress, and suffering.
You might ask, Why, if leading lightly is so great, isn’t there more of it in the world? Why would something so beneficial be so rare? It’s because there is a kind of unconscious wall that every individual must break through, much like the fourth wall in theater. It’s as if we are actors in a play on a stage, but we don’t know that about ourselves. We don’t even imagine that there’s any other way to go through life. We react to everything from a kind of limited script and perspective. It’s only when someone from the outside—the observers in the audience, so to speak—helps us break that wall and see from a different perspective that we can begin to create something completely different. We may choose to stay on the same stage, perhaps, but we have a different experience altogether.
If I’ve piqued your curiosity; if leading lightly sounds better to you than your current experience; if you’d rather feel more good than bad in work and life, then please join me on this terrific journey.