Thoughts

I felt an urge to check in here today.  It’s been a lazy Sunday, I’m sick with a cold (we all are).  I’ve also finally had a quiet weekend, so I got some time to think.  

I’ll start by acknowledging the group for getting through this past cycle.  There’s a lot to be said for simply soldiering on, and while I don’t know details of how the cycle went other than one-off conversations here and there, I’m sure it was worthwhile and that folks made real progress in their lives.  Whatever PSPLife may be lacking, that much has always been true:  people make real progress they wouldn’t have made otherwise, and that’s a big deal.  

I chose out this time around, fatigued from our group conversations about taking PSPLife to the next level that seemed to go nowhere.  As I said in a prior post (a while ago now), I think they went nowhere because staying the same was the only vision there was any actual alignment around, although I didn’t feel aligned to that at first; I really wanted things to be different.  Now, I do feel aligned to them being the same.  I don’t think it’s resignation, I think I just have a better grasp of the reality of things.  

I have a tendency to be idealistic, and while it is often a positive thing, sometimes it’s not.  I like believing fantasy can come to life, and I admire people that make things in their imagination come true.  That’s the epitome of manifestation, right?  But in my own life, it’s been a mixed bag.  For example, I like that I left El Paso for Honolulu and landed in New York City, born out of a vision of a future that existed only in my head.  I knew no one, and had no ties, in either place; just a fantasy of what could be.  On the other side of it, I don’t like that I jumped into a young marriage that was never, ever going to work, and that ended up consuming seven years of my young life.  That too was born out of a vision, or a fantasy—of a young marriage that would beat the odds; of young love that would last because we would be warriors who would make it last.  It’s a nice and romantic vision, which made it hard to let go of, but the vision and the reality simply  didn’t match up (nor could they).

In my first marriage, the reality I failed to grasp — causing me to hang on seven years too long — was how unhealthy we were as a couple, and how we had no clue whatsoever how to be any different.  With PSPLife, the reality I failed to grasp was (I think) that in real life, transformation is a sloppy process.  For big changes to happen in any one life, many things must align—life experience, personal readiness, peak desire for change, feeling truly sick of the way things are and unwilling to tolerate the status quo any further, etc.  

Stated differently, I actually don’t think transformation is solely a matter of choice.  I think circumstance plays a possibly significant role (a controversial statement to make to students of this work).  To me it’s sort of like falling in love.   I met several men pre-Jimmy who were good men — good men specifically for me, even.  I could’ve chosen any one of them and had the life I wanted, so why didn’t I?  I think I simply wasn’t ready.  I needed a few more mistakes to learn from, more time to pass, a bigger build up of frustration and loneliness.  I wasn’t willing, in other words, and I’m not sure willingness can be created through forced declarations and choices alone.  I think it may have to happen at a deeper level, with many forces being at work.  

I mean, I made a lot of drastic changes during the workshops, the main ones being:  finishing my divorce, finding new love, and giving up destructive habits.  The workshops certainly fueled those choices, but, I think it’s worth noting how ripe I was to make them.  I had been living in the pain caused by those things for years.  It had gotten very old by the time I stepped into the Basic; the luster of my bad habits had long worn off, and what was left was this unbearable existence (to me).  

When I accept that transformation isn’t as simple as having the gumption to make a different choice, the set-up of this group troubles me far less.  Idealism and vision are wonderful and necessary, but we’ve also got to live the life that’s in front of us, and I think sometimes there are many steps in between conceiving of the vision of change and the time when you actually make the change.  For instance, that vision of lasting love I was seeking to bring into reality with my first husband still lived within me even after that marriage died.  But, I was only going to be able to realize it much later down the line with someone else—with a different man, but perhaps more critically, also a different me that did not exist back then.

I guess I have come to understand that I’ve been putting too much pressure on myself and others to “just choose it”/make transformation happen using the work—when it just doesn’t work that way.  This is a long way of saying I think you can’t manufacture transformation, not even in the controlled environment of the training room.  It is, instead, the result of a series of events and choices that come together to culminate in a meaningful change that may itself take only a second, but was in fact brewing under the surface for quite some time (months or perhaps years).  Working the work helps tremendously, I don’t mean to suggest otherwise.  Even as I don’t think the work can force a split second drastic change, the work causes you to be aware.  When you spend days on end being aware of the thing you wish were different in your life, you eventually reach a tipping point when you just can’t take it anymore, and that’s when the change happens.  The workshops accelerate that tipping point, such is their magic, but in regular life — which this group is designed to accommodate — it takes a bit longer.  

So, PSPLife is, I think, appropriately permissive in the end.  It lets people be where they’re at.  If you do nothing during the cycle, you end up with nothing at the end, and vice versa—so too in life.  In jobs, school, relationships.  We make our choices, and we get to experience the consequences of them, both good and bad—and it’s on us to either learn from these experiences, or not.  If you stop and see how your choices caused your results, you learn, and you begin to change them; if you blame others instead, you don’t learn, make the same choices, and nothing changes.  The benefit of this group is that several people are going through this exercise together, consciously, and providing mutual support so everyone is held accountable—not so much accountable to completing their goals as staying aware of whether they’re completing their goals or not (and why).  It would be hard not to learn more than you knew before after doing that for a couple of months, and in turn it would be hard not to progress some — even as that progress may not be life-altering, at least at first.  And I’m okay with all of that now, because it’s the reality of it.  The only alternative really is to recreate the workshops, or recreate LP, but this group is designed to be something different; something that functions within the drift (not outside of it).  

On a personal note, I’ve been especially disconnected from the work in general lately because my dad, who had been complaining to me about a bad bout of diarrhea, went to the ER and was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer that had spread to every single organ in his body.  As the doctor told my sister and I the night he was admitted to hospital, “your father is full of cancer.”  

It’s hard to describe the devastation I felt that day, and in the weeks after.  My father is only 70.  He doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, and has no family history of cancer.  He’s blind, but he enjoys his life, and he expected to live to at least 80.  I couldn’t fathom him being gone; no more weekly two-hour phone calls, no more talking shop about work, no more calling him in a panic about some life issue and feeling relieved after he would calmly tell me (and convince me) that it would all turn out okay.  And it wouldn’t be okay this time.  

The worst part was thinking of his suffering, mental and physical.  This hit him like a freight train.  His symptoms were also pretty bad, and quite painful—his liver, riddled with tumors, was failing.  He was yellow from jaundice.  Worse, they couldn’t do anything for him; all medications, including painkillers, are metabolized through the liver.  Two thirds of his liver had been “eaten by cancer.”  Without treating the cancer, which they felt they were unable to do, nothing would improve. 

The whole thing was horrifying, and I’ve never felt sadness and powerlessness like that—so deep, and wide, and all-encompassing.   It came in waves, overtaking me at unexpected times.  I also went through all five of the five stages of grief—only they didn’t happen in order.  They hit me repeatedly from all sides, sometimes two or more at once.

At the outset of my father’s illness, the  doctors told us he was dying in days.  In El Paso, they wrote him off completely; they sent him home to die.  We arranged for him to go to a cancer treatment center in Arizona instead, five hours away (he wouldn’t fly), where one of his brothers lived.  We did so at his behest; he made clear to us he wanted any chance he had to live.  The process was long, and difficult; my sister and I had to be lawyers about it.  I don’t really know how people without resources navigate that crap.  

The first weekend in the Arizona hospital, they told us it was near certain he was at the end, and if he had gotten to the  Arizona hospital even one day later he would be dead.  We believed it; he was so weak he couldn’t sit up, he didn’t have the energy to stay awake more than seconds, and he had lost all interest in food and water for two full days.  His liver numbers, meanwhile, were those of a man in full blown liver failure.  They seemed baffled at the sheer severity of his condition. 

That afternoon we all sat crying in a conference room, talking with the oncologists and my uncle.  My other uncles were flying in from all different states that night to say a final goodbye to my dad.  We went to lunch the next day after they arrived, while my father lay splayed out on the hospital bed in a coma-like state.  My uncles grimly told my sister and I that they knew we needed to make cremation arrangements; it was one of those things that just had to be done.  We then discussed his funeral and decided that, rather than a traditional wake in Arizona where my father had no ties, we’d do it in California at the pre-planned annual family reunion (a month away).  It seemed fitting, as my dad had planned the family reunion for this year himself; he chose California, he chose the beach house we’d rented, and he’d been looking forward to it for months.  As painful as it would be, we decided we’d all still go in his honor, and turn it into a celebration of his life.

We all felt so low that day, so sad, so disbelieving.  My dad is the oldest of five boys.  They lost their mother just three years ago.  The only father they ever knew was my dad, who was forced to step into that role for his four younger brothers when their actual father spiraled further and further into a darkness he’d never come out of (and a darkness that would end with him taking a life, not his own).  

And now?  The outlook has changed.  Chemotherapy—which the doctors initially refused to give him because he was on death’s door, and because it had a less than 10% chance of doing anything for him and an over 50% chance of killing him instantly—has, for now, worked.  He’s still dying.  He’s still full of cancer.  But, his liver is now functioning again.  He’s able to walk, and eat, and talk without losing his breath.  He’s very, very thin, and often very tired, especially after chemo.  Still, I’ve had the luxury of being lulled into a kind of denial that things are, for now, okay.  I view it as a necessary denial though, to get through it, because none of us could survive things staying as heavy as they were—and the truth is, for now, he  is okay.

So much so that, as it turned out, my dad made it to the reunion in California, which was last weekend.  He even went to Venice Beach with us, because he wanted to see girls on roller skates. It’s a miracle, truly; he had so much cancer in him there were lesions on his brain.  His lungs were so laden with cancer he couldn’t breathe.  Every single doctor told us his cancer was so extensive it would not turn around; he had weeks at most, even if chemo worked, and these doctors weren’t being unduly negative or insensitive—they told us this out of compassion more than anything, so we would know, and they did it with tears in their eyes.

So what now, that we have this unexpected gift of time?  I call him often.  We talk about life.  Work, the boys, how he’s feeling.  Yes, we’ve had some meaningful conversations, and I’ll remember those forever—and thanks to Mastery, we say “I love you” all the time—but you’d be surprised how much the routine stuff ends up mattering.  The nothing conversations.  I relish in them.  My dad is also back to tweeting a little; he supports Trump, as many of you know, and is very vocal about it (that has not changed).  Still, he did give a speech at our family reunion that was maybe surprising.  Several of my Texan cousins have married African Americans and had children.  The reunion was striking in its diversity as a result; especially since, in addition, my father himself married a Mexican woman, so did one of my uncles, while another married a Philippine woman.  My father’s speech was deeply appreciative of this diversity, and of the children of multiple ethnicities running and laughing together, carrying on his family’s lineage.  He was inspired by it, and perhaps encouraged.  For all the divisiveness in this country, we were a family of diverse backgrounds and political beliefs, and we were functioning just fine as one unit.

We’ll be flying west again soon with the boys, to spend eight days with my dad in Arizona while my uncle is away on a month-long road trip.  My dad will have a revolving door of visitors that month:  my sister, my mom even, his brothers, his platonic girlfriend.  The love and community he avoided most of his life surrounds him now, enveloping him, and at times I wonder how that feels to him.  

The long haul flights are hard with the boys, especially since outside of this, our life goes on.  I have work, the boys keep growing and their needs are ever-changing, Jimmy has multiple family events, he has health issues of his own (osteoarthritis that he’s begun treatment for), and we need to move into a new house soon.  The trips throw off work, our sleep, the boys’ routine, our finances, and currently we all have nasty colds from one too many crowded flights—but it’s just what you do, there’s no helping it, and of course I am grateful for all of it.  I didn’t expect to have any of this time with my father.  Any inconvenience, any minor struggle, has been rendered irrelevant.  

When big things like this occur, things get simplified — for me, anyway.  I’ve been far less scrutinizing of my life lately and what’s missing.  I am, instead, focused on the big picture, and grateful for the things we have.  The time we have together, our health, our boys.  It’s an abundance, but of course it’s all temporary.  

And everyone in this group (meaning PSPLife), as far as I can tell, has a remarkable life.  Special, meaningful, aware, full.  You guys have great families, great spouses, great jobs, great friends, endless opportunities,—you get to pursue awesome creative endeavors, fitness, new relationships.  

Perspective is a powerful thing; a life-deciding thing. I’m type-A; I live life feeling insufficient and always behind, but not lately.  Maybe my dad’s illness is the circumstance I need to actually make that shift, to finally choose to stop focusing so hard on what I’m lacking.  I don’t have any illusion that I can live in gratitude all the time (I’m human), but, I recognize now more than before that a life cannot be great if you fail to appreciate it exactly as it is, right now.  And, I get that the routine stuff — waking up with the boys, commuting to work, coming home and talking to Jimmy about his day and sharing about mine — matters a lot.  I’m going to really miss all of that one day, heart-wrenchingly so, so I need to be here for it now, present and appreciative.

I didn’t really have an ending in mind when I started this post, so I’ll end there I think.  But I’ll just say again, you guys are awesome for pushing through the BS and completing the cycle.  You’re the reason it keeps going, and in my (new) view there’s nothing off about PSPLife after all.  It’s just that life itself is messy, and so transformation necessarily is, too.  I think we can’t work against that.  We’ve got to work with it, give it room, and PSPLife does exactly that.  

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If it ain’t broke?

I’ve been working with Rocco, which has been useful—I thought of goals I wouldn’t have otherwise, and found areas to streamline and get to the heart of what it is I truly want in my life.

But, still, it feels like there’s something “missing.” Like I want some extra level of rigor that isn’t there—and I want it to come in from somewhere else. Give me pressure, give me urgency, give me a “boss” barking about a deadline, give me a reason.

Well, then we’re back to square one, lesson one, from the Basic. Any time you’re looking for something “out there” you’re denying the truth and setting yourself up for failure.

Of course, there’s nothing from “out there” that is going to create rigor, commitment and stretchiness around my goals. No group, no coach, no circumstance. I mean, maybe one day there could be? There could be, right? Some circumstance could occur that causes me to think I “must” do something I’ve been putting off, but it would probably have to be major (and unfortunately negative).

I think the trainings are what confuse things a little, and workshops like Mastery. Those are special environments that, for many people (and for me), create things that feel unavailable otherwise—motivation, urgency, the willingness to risk big. The thought is, well, if I can just create access to that kind of environment at my option—through staffing, a workshop, group, or a coach—then doesn’t that mean I’ll have it made? I will be able to get in the mindset to take the risk I need to take just by tapping into one of those things, and then I’ll take the risk, no matter how strong my resistance.

And then: there’s reality. Pesky, annoying reality, that will never let you escape the truth that the only real way to change your life is to get responsible — 100% responsible.  Isn’t that the only time these risks actually happen?  It wasn’t the workshop; it was what the workshop helped you realize, i.e., “Oh, right.  This isn’t going to change unless I do something to change it.”

So nothing is missing “out there,” but rather something missing from me:  a willingness to be rigorous about the things I say I want. Instead of coming to terms with that, I wanted to blame someone else for it, and that was why I became fixated on PSPLife becoming more rigorous. Either it would become more rigorous, or I was out. Which seems fair enough, the group is always optional and isn’t for everyone, but it masks the real issue (for me, I am not saying this is true of all those who were pushing for more rigor).

As we all know, PSPLife did not become more rigorous; there was really no alignment around that. You can tell because when those who wanted more rigor (or at least those who were the most vocal it) left, everything fizzled out. And on reflection, that makes sense, PSPLife was never designed to be rigorous. What I was basically proposing with more rigor was to start a completely new group, or create a redo of LP.

What maybe makes less sense is why others didn’t just continue with the next cycle, keeping things as they were (if the group were truly working as is), but sometimes when you try to take something “forward” it’s hard to go “back.” If you get engaged, then say never mind let’s just be boyfriend and girlfriend a little longer and revisit this marriage thing later, I think we can all agree there’s an over 90% chance the relationship will completely end.

But this is where I’m at: I don’t think PSPLife was broke, I think it was operating exactly as designed — that design just wasn’t working for me anymore because I wanted rigor. Only I didn’t really. More specifically, I wanted someone else to come in and provide the rigor for me, and thought that maybe if I created a group around it, my mindset would somehow shift on its own and it wouldn’t feel so hard and risky and uncomfortable. But, again, I’m working with Rocco and yes that’s resulted in all the extra benefits a coach can provide—helping you think outside your box, notice limiting beliefs you took for granted, etc., but what Rocco cannot do, what no one can do, is generate rigor in my life. Accountability, yes—but rigor? No. Accountability CAN lead to rigor, if you allow it to affect you that way. The two do not necessarily go together, however.

That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to wanting to do things to ensure people who join a group actually show up for it. I’ll always be in favor of ground rules and enforcing them for this or any group, and we did need to improve things in that area.  But, it does mean that something like rigor around your own goals is a personal choice—no one’s going to create it for you, and no one’s lack of participation or lackluster way of being can rob you of it.

In short, my problem is the unwillingness to be rigorous, and honestly I don’t know how to generate that willingness. I think you just have to begin choosing it.  I mean, when I’ve accomplished things in my life, that was why.  I decided it was really important and I’d have to do whatever it took to make it happen. And that’s not an answer I like, at all. It sounds like work. It sounds like swimming against a very strong current. I’d rather take a fucking nap.

But that’s what I’m up against right now, and I’m sharing it here just to say I maybe have reached the conclusion that PSPLife wasn’t broke.

Landslide

I’m out for now as you all know, but before I take my leave, I wanted to do a drive by post to share two cool things.

For my birthday, my mom sent me cookies. No big deal there, she usually sends me something, but this time she wrote “I love you” on the gift card that came with them. Prior to when I called her during Mastery, not only had she never said that to me, she’d never even put it in a card (she may have occasionally signed cards with “Love, Mom” but never a full on “I love you”).

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What was so powerful about this simple moment was the realization that having that one conversation with her had altered all of the memories that would come after it—and it literally altered the text of the card. Somewhere in a parallel universe, where I didn’t have that conversation with her, I’m looking at a birthday card from her that only says “Happy birthday!” and trying to resist thoughts of disappointment.

Second thing: at work yesterday, I was with my boss and we were working on an important brief. We were trying to revise the first paragraph so it would pack a powerful punch and grab the judge’s attention right away. In the midst of that, he told me he was feeling really spent — and asked me to sing something, half in jest (we had spoken of the fact that I sing a few times before, in part because my coworker Jed is also a musician so we’ve made jokes about starting an office band). I told him I can’t do that, it’s not a part of myself I can access in a work setting (the truth, but I said it in a joking way). That caused him to press me harder, for real, and normally I would’ve never agreed to do it—because of work boundaries, the culture, the fear of sounding or looking bad, and the fear of being regarded as unprofessional. But I said to myself, “what the hell?”, and sang a few words of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” My boss got excited, thinking my voice was a dead ringer for Stevie Nicks (not true but we definitely have a similar range). He called Jed in and told me to sing “Landslide.” Jed protested, saying that song always makes him cry. I sang it anyway and Jed cried.

If you have any knowledge at all of the legal culture, you would know how impossible what I just described is, on multiple levels. On a personal level, it’s like something out of a daydream. I could see sharing what I do as a singer if I worked at a restaurant, or a retail store, or what have you—but at a law office, with other lawyers, who are men, and one cried? A parallel universe indeed.

I think my “what the hell” moment is the result of multiple things—Mastery telling my ego to take a hike, the different environment I’ve helped build in our little office through finally applying the distinctions of the trainings at work, and an overall willingness to play more with life. Whatever you believe, we’ve only got the one life as who we are now, so why not?

So if I were to give any suggestions for those in the next cycle, when you pick your goals, try on coming from a context of playing with life. “What the hell, and why not?”

 

 

On Mastery – Part II

One more thing I want to mention – the Mastery shift is supporting me with performing.

So, I have a vision of myself as a performer that does not match the reality, and it has nothing to do with singing ability. I imagine myself as a highly energized, charismatic performer that is directly connected to the audience. A lofty ideal, I know, and if you’ve seen me sing you know I have a really long way to go (which is okay, it keeps things interesting).

To illustrate just how long I have to go, when I perform in public, I am usually unable to look at anyone, at all. I’ll look between them, above them, close my eyes, etc.

Why? I mean, you can guess why. It’s hard being in front of people. I worry I am being scrutinized or judged, I worry I’m not good enough, I fear I’m going to look bad, I feel out of control, I feel like an impostor, etc. etc.

The Mastery shift helps quite a bit with all of that because the shift has you transcend the self. Again, Mastery talks about how we tend to have this fixed concept of who we are — and the trainings give you tools to deal with that, but they don’t fundamentally change it. At best, they show you that you’ve invented the different aspects of who you are and that means you can change them and choose something more empowering, but the “you” is still intact. In other words, from the perspective of Mastery, even if I say I choose that who I am is a powerful and inspiring leader—I’m still limiting myself because I’m saying I am something. As long as I’m something, I’m going to protect that something, compulsively. For example, if an event occurs in which I end up acting like a coward — but yet I’ve said who I am is “powerful and inspiring” — then I will probably feel challenged at my core and default to my automatic to desperately protect myself/who I say I am.

So, while performing, typically I get very nervous, caught up on the disempowering thoughts I listed above. Part of the reason why is my attachment to who I am. I am confident. I am self-assured. I am composed. I am proficient as a singer.

If I go up on stage attached to all of that as the truth, then what happens? My ego is in overdrive, being like holy shit, I’ve got to protect all this! My ego’s method of doing that is to tell me to turn inward and don’t look at anyone—and this is actually its second-best method. Its preferred method is to stop me from going on stage at all, which it used to successfully do. The trainings got me past that part, but I need the Mastery shift for the second part.

So, my experience performing with the Mastery shift is quite different. No I didn’t turn into Mick Jagger over night, but, I did look people in the face while belting—something I’ve never done (usually, especially while belting, my eyes are firmly shut). Like, I really LOOKED. Even sitting here now I can remember their faces, their expressions.

The mechanics of the shift were similar to what I described in my conversation with my dad. I told myself: there’s nothing to protect. “Who I am” is a construction of my own mind, it doesn’t exist; it therefore cannot be damaged by any experience or external judgment.

In this context, my performance is neutral; it means nothing. If it means nothing, then there’s nothing to worry about.

Now, you might say, who wants to live life thinking nothing they do means anything?

I’m a writer. That is literally the worst way I could choose to live my life, and I do not, and will not, choose that.

But, that’s not what Mastery says. This perspective is not the truth, or at least that wasn’t what I took from the course. It’s just a tool—a new context to shift into when you’re up against it and need to get empowered.

I think this is the case with all of the distinctions we learn. 100% responsibility is not the truth; it’s a perspective, or a context, to shift into to empower you in a given moment.

So, to put it simply, especially for someone like me — who has zero experience being a performer, and is not extroverted, etc. (more fixed truths about “who I am” that I get to let go of if I choose to) — in order to give a meaningful performance aligned with my ideal vision of myself as a performer (or at least something heading toward it), I have to, while performing, shift into a context in which my performance means nothing at all (about me).

Now, this may sound similar to focusing outward—because in so doing you focus less on yourself, obviously. But, I’d say it’s almost a prerequisite to be able to focus outward.

It’s really difficult to describe all this so I don’t know if that makes sense—I just urge folks to again consider the course next time it’s offered. I can describe it all day long, but the exercises will have you experience it and why it’s powerful and that’s when you get it. In many ways, the course is an analyzer’s dream, it’s a lot of philosophy talk. However, the trick for analyzers is to not get caught up debating the concepts, or trying to reconcile them, or find reference points for them, or test them or prove them wrong—that’s how we analyzers avoid taking action. Rather, I would abandon any notion that these concepts are “right” or “true” and focus on one thing: how can this shift actually support me in my life?

 

 

 

 

On Mastery

 

I’m writing about Mastery while it’s fresh in my mind so those who are curious about it can get some sense of the value of the course.

First and foremost, taking a personal growth workshop with fellow LP Grads—wherever they’re from, and regardless of how long ago they did the work—is pretty damn fun. I seriously experienced joy and excitement about that all weekend, and I think everyone did.

Second, Hanley is an acquired taste. At the beginning, we were all sort of scratching our heads about him. By the end, his (very) dry humor was pretty funny and sort of refreshing. You know how it can be. Sometimes transformational work falls into being too out of touch with the realities of life. Possibility! Be the change! Etc. Hanley and Mastery are not like that; the realities of life are very much discussed and acknowledged.

Now let me preface my account of my results by saying Mastery worked for me because I was very ripe for it. I had already (inadvertently) arrived at the question Mastery answers and I was ready for the answer.

The question? How do I transcend myself, and by that I mean my ego, so I can do what I was meant to do on this earth?

Stated differently, how do I cultivate a core sense of humility? I’ve talked about chasing humility often and I feel like people don’t fully understand what I mean. I don’t mean arrogance or conceit (though I do in part); I mean something broader. It’s about getting over yourself, your ego, your need to be right, look good, be accepted, be in control. All of that, to me, is a lack of humility—an inflated sense of your own importance.

Before Mastery, I had identified the problem, but not the solution. I felt my ego holding me back in myriad ways, doing things (or not doing things) to protect the story of who I am, my position, my image—from refusing to show vulnerability at work to, at times, refusing to show vulnerability in my marriage and even with my children. Why? Because I have to be me! And “Kyla” is strong, independent, capable, and right. The list is longer than that, but you get the gist.

So, in one sentence, what did I get from Mastery?

Mastery taught me how to shift into a context that allows me to get over myself.

I honestly didn’t expect that, even as that was the question I kept asking myself. I thought Mastery would drill down on responsibility/source, because of how key that distinction is and how often people don’t do it. It does focus on that distinction, but the main thing it does is show you a new context you can shift into that transcends the self.

Mastery uses more lofty terms than “get over yourself,” but that is my simplified version because I never heard it explained very clearly (either in the course or from those who took it in the past).

From that point — a point where, again, you have transcended your ego, this attachment to “who I am” as a fixed concept — you do become quite powerful. Why? Because you’re no longer bending over backwards to protect “me”/“I”/the self—you realize how pointless that is, and how destructive.

I’ll give a concrete example, and maybe that will help clarify what I mean.

On Saturday night, I called my dad to tell him I wanted us to start saying “I love you” to each other. My dad has never said “I love you” to me. When I was very little, and my parents were still married, he’d say: “Your daddy loves you.” But even that, I hadn’t heard since I was 7. My dad is over 70, he’s blind, he doesn’t take care of himself. After doing Basic four years ago, I began developing a growing fear that he would die without ever hearing me say “I love you” to him—and without him ever saying it to me.

That’s a lot of pain to carry, right? You would think that, once Basic connected me to that fear, I would act! I’d call my dad right then and just blurt it all out.

I didn’t. I didn’t after Advanced or LP either. Why? I know how to shift, I know all the concepts, etc. So, what was stopping me?

Well, this is the question Mastery answers. The reason why I never made that call was my ego. Mastery clarifies that you cannot get rid of your ego—it is a part of you like your nose is a part of you (only you could maybe chop off your nose? you can’t chop off your ego). As long as your ego exists—and it will for as long as you are alive—you’re screwed. The ego’s sole aim is to protect the “self,” or “Kyla” and my story of who “Kyla” is. To the ego, to lose the self is akin to death (or maybe the same as death). That’s why when something happens that threatens who you say you are, or causes you to question a core belief about who you are, your body reacts with panic—a fast beating heart, flushed face, sweaty palms, as if some beast were attacking you. If you haven’t let go of your attachment to “you” as a fixed concept, all the shifting in the world can only get you so far. This basically requires you to get over the fact that one day you’re going to die. You will not exist anymore. Most people don’t want to come within 10 feet of that thought.

So, for me, making that call to my dad would threaten “me” at my core. I am strong, I don’t need anyone and I never have—least of all my parents. I left them at 18, I was counting down the days, and I never looked back. I do not need anyone to say “I love you” to me. Only pathetic people need that. I make sure the people in my life get that I don’t need them, and if I include them in my life, it’s because I chose to, not because I need them. Those are not just my attributes or beliefs or limiting beliefs—that’s not how I have it. Those are static, fixed aspects of me—that is who I am, that’s “me.” If I lose that, I lose myself—and for my ego, that’s the same as death.

So, how did I make the call to my dad despite this? And by the way, the story is the same for both my parents. My mother also has never said she loves me—and I called her, too.

I made the call by using the tools of Mastery to shift to a place where I understood that there is no me. There’s no me! I made it all up. I made “me” up. There is therefore nothing to protect, there is no self.

So, I made the call, and as I was gearing up to make the request I wanted to make of my dad, I told myself: “There’s nothing to protect.” Then I said to my dad: “This may make you uncomfortable, but, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about this for a while. We don’t say I love you to each other, and I get why, we never really have and I know they’re just words—but, it’s really been bothering me. Everyone’s getting older. I’ve made up that you don’t want me to tell you I love you because it would make you feel awkward, but I want to let that go now and make a request of you. Is it okay if, sometimes just before we hang up, I tell you I love you?” He responded by saying: “I love you, Kyla.”

We talked more, but that was basically what occurred—and I had the same conversation, almost verbatim, with my mom. She was fiercely close with her own mother, a relationship she did not recreate with me, but she told me something that shocked me when I made my request. She said: “I never said it to you guys because my mother never said it to me, and I never said it to her.” She agreed she wanted that to be a part of our relationship, and found herself saying it repeatedly to her grandchildren, as if trying to make up for all the times she didn’t say it to us.

So, that night, at 35, I went to sleep having heard “I love you” from both of my parents (and having said it to them) for the first time (ever). And that made me happy.

I lost some things, though. I can no longer claim to you that I do not need my parents. I actually do need my parents. I need to hear them say “I love you.”

The next morning Jimmy dropped me off for my last day of Mastery. I was struggling getting out of the car, balancing on high heels while carrying a bunch of stuff for the day, and I joked with him: “Hey I got it, don’t worry, don’t get up.” He said: “Yes I know I shouldn’t worry. You’re a strong, independent woman.” I looked him square in the eyes and said: “No, I’m not. I let go of that last night.” I meant it in jest, and he got what I meant because he’s done Mastery, but really, it felt so liberating to experience letting that go as a fixed “truth” about who I am—and it’s even deeper than that. I not only made up “strong and independent,” I also made up ME. You probably can’t fully get this, but it’s liberating AF.

Now let me clarify a couple of more things. I am describing in some amount of detail my results from the course, and in so doing, I’m describing the key shift the course teaches you to make. My hope is you get some value from what I’m sharing here because I’m not sure when Mastery will be offered again, but my bigger hope — and my intention — is that you sign up for Mastery if it is offered again. I do not think you can make this shift by reading my description, or hearing one from someone else. Like anything, the experiential component is absolutely key, and it’s a big part of the course. And, this shift may mean something entirely different to you, I don’t know. I can only give my interpretation of it. Also, this is not a shift we learned before, in the prior trainings. It is built on those concepts, but it is different. The exercises go deep, and take you to a higher level of consciousness I think most folks never really consider. It’s a rough journey, and your ego objects the entire way—and to be honest, I do not think everyone in the course understood the shift or was willing to take it on. I think some refused to be willing to let go of the “self”—they either could not get their heads around it or didn’t want to. Finally, I do not at all think I have this down. It’s really hard, and will take a ton of practice.

And, side note: we also did an exercise that was similar to having someone else choose your goals for you, but in a purer way using others’ intuition. I think for some in PSPLife, and particularly those who get hung up on “what’s my purpose?”, this exercise alone may be worth doing Mastery.

Does Mastery have any implications for PSPLife? Well, I think for me it reinforced N’s point: we have to stop saying we’re not LP. Saying what we’re not doesn’t work.

What are we? What do we stand for? For me, I do want community, but I want a community of people who show up, because they choose it, and because they have respect for the group. I want a community of people who are committed to playing big, because the world needs us to play big. There is no time, and not enough people who are “awake” in the way that we are. To me, the ground rules should be supporting this vision, and holding people high—not be lax, or give people tons of outs and chances and opportunities to coast. If you’re aligned with our vision, you should have no trouble keeping the ground rules, and they should actually support you by holding you high in moments when you want to withdraw or default to your automatic.

That’s my take in a nutshell, post-Mastery. It differs from pre-Mastery only in that I’m not going to talk about what I don’t want anymore. I mean, I’ve said enough about that already anyway. So I’m just going to focus on what I do want, and advocate that we implement rules and a structure that support our greatest possibility.

 

i don’t know.

The plane turned the corner to the runway and the jet engines fired up. We were sitting in the very last row, not speaking. Wired and sleep deprived, we had gotten in a fight in the airport after almost missing the flight, and moments before boarding the plane. As I sat there in a tense silence, staring out the window at nothing, shame set in, and doubt. Maybe this trip was a bad idea. It felt irresponsible, especially since the boys had just gotten a cold. I didn’t even get much of a chance to say goodbye to them; the last I saw them was the prior morning, and it was rushed. I was filing a 100-page complaint for a major lawsuit at work that I had to finish that day. My goodbye to the boys consisted of holding each of them for a few extra minutes, muttering words to them they wouldn’t understand.

The roar of the jet engines was loud, especially where we were in the back. It got even louder as the plane surged forward and began gaining momentum. As the plane reached the moment when it would begin lifting into the air, I had a fleeting thought that it wouldn’t be able to get off the ground; our negative energy would hold it back. I immediately chastised myself for thinking that, because thoughts have power—and then I chastised myself again for being silly, because thoughts don’t have THAT kind of power.

Seconds later, there was a deafening bang. The plane swerved slightly to the left and we saw the wing flaps fly up. The pilot had slammed on the brakes, hard, mid-takeoff. Everyone gasped and frantically looked out the windows. Jimmy and I instinctively grabbed each other’s hand. We first verified that the other was okay, and then that there was no smoke, or fire, or discernible damage to the plane. Then we, along with everyone else, began asking what the hell had happened.

Several minutes later, as we were taxiing in circles on the runway, the pilot came on the intercom. He said the plane’s “wind shear” alarm had gone off, requiring him to abort the takeoff. Later he explained that wind shear can cause a plane to stall during takeoff, and while he knew 737s were outfitted with wind shear warnings—and he’d seen them several times in the flight simulator—he’d never seen one go off on an actual aircraft. He apologized, saying he was required to abort the takeoff if that warning goes off before the plane leaves the ground, “and there’s no easy way to stop 60,000 tons of steel.”

I wasn’t angry at the pilot for the hard stop. I was grateful. Thank god someone is fucking awake for once, present to and engaged in their job. How rare is that?

The pilot explained that we had to wait a little bit, for the brakes to cool, before we could attempt another takeoff. Outside it was foggy, and gray. It had set the tone for the morning: murky, and unsettling. But as we sat there holding hands, relieved, things felt better. The fog didn’t seem quite so ominous.

“I think I may have caused this,” Jimmy said.

“How do you mean?” I asked.

“Part of me was hoping for something bad to happen. Something that would cause us to appreciate the other.”

I didn’t tell him that I too feared I had caused it; only my thoughts were rooted more in guilt and shame than a desire to shift into appreciation and gratitude.

Jimmy got his wish, though; the incident caused us to shift, instantaneously. It was, in the end, a gift.

The rest of the trip was filled with things we needed; rest, good food, fun, play, and sex (of course).

On the last night, we shared what the trip had meant to each of us, and why it was important. We got so enrolled in our own sharing that, seconds after, we purchased another trip for next year.

You wouldn’t think taking a trip like this with your spouse is an outlier thing to do—but we did suffer a fair amount of judgment for it, including from our babysitters. They were happy to watch the boys—they love them dearly—but all the while were muttering under the breaths. “Well I’ve never even been away from my children for more than three nights…” Comments like that. Add to that that the boys were sick, and got a bit worse while we were gone.

I’m not immune to societal pressure, of course. I doubted myself. Maybe they’re sick because I left them. Maybe they’re not getting better because I’m gone. Maybe my sister-in-law is a better mother than me; maybe they know it, too. Maybe they don’t miss me at all, and will cry when we take them back, because they know: she’s not a real mother. She left us.

But, I know that’s not coming from me. It’s coming from out there.

The truth for me, in my heart of hearts, is I need my relationship with my husband to be lively, fun, sexy and intimate. I know we can’t have that all the time; we’re parents. But, we get to do it once a year, with a few day trips and weekends sprinkled along the way. We have the family support, and as for their judgments: I’ll pay that price. Seriously.

I mean, Antigua was fucking magical. This is going to sound like a Sandals commercial, but, shit — they deliver. You’d think, as non-drinkers, “all inclusive” is lost on us, but, no. We indulged in the speciality coffee shop and French bakery that was open all day and night, the jars of warm cookies throughout the resort, the variety of delicious restaurants, both casual and high-end. The place also looks amazing; amazing prime beach access with plenty of umbrellas and chairs, fire pits, romantic nooks, a million pools and hot tubs, garden swings and hammocks—if you’re in love, their resorts offer these wonderfully choreographed playgrounds full of hidden spots to escape into. Sure, many couples may say screw the planned out resort with its manicured pools and grounds — we think finding our own way is what’s romantic. It is, I like that too — but, talk to me about that AFTER you become a parent. For where we’re at, right now: we wanted to just show up and have everything miraculously and meticulously planned out, to where we only enjoyed it all without having to think about a thing.

As for the boys, yes I missed them, and I worried about their illness and checked in frequently—but we knew what we needed and why we were there. How foolish it would have been to squander it away, because of others’ shortsightedness, or judgments

And I know we’re not bad parents for getting away. I know what I’ve done, what we’ve done, this year, as parents. We showed up big, we gave our best—all while continually dedicating ourselves to continuing to take a look, get support, get feedback, improve. I’m not perfect, but I’m dedicated to my own growth; I will do whatever it takes. And, I’m learning more and more that my ego has no place in my personal growth. I will not be stupid and assert I can do it on my own.

Here’s why it’s stupid: yes, I can do a LOT on my own. But, everything I can do on my own—I’m already doing. Of course I am. I’m an ambitious person.

Then there’s this other category of stuff, though. The stuff that is blocked by the limits I can’t see. Not because I am deficient somehow, but because that’s true for everyone. I’d say you cannot see at least 50% of your own limits. Like, it’s impossible. You are blind to them. If that’s true, isn’t doing it on your own, and expecting to create dramatic results, a bit dubious?

Now maybe other people don’t care about all that. Maybe they aren’t chasing extraordinary success. Maybe incremental success, or some success, is enough.

But, what are we here for?

That brings me to Carl. I knew I was going to write about Carl, but I wasn’t totally sure how I’d get there. This segue is admittedly imperfect, because this post started in one place and is now veering to a totally different place. Oh well.

VNT had its first guest event the night before we left to Antigua. The coolest part of the event to me was how there were grads there spanning many different centers and time periods—and how it didn’t matter at all. Why would it? Our aim was so obviously the same: to get more people into this work. I loved feeling that instant connection, based on nothing except knowing those people and I shared the same vision. It was instant trust, instant acceptance; something I wish I could walk around feeling with everyone I encounter.

Anyway, Carl was one of these grads. I changed his name. He’s the husband of Jimmy’s high school friend. Jimmy hadn’t seen this high school friend since high school—and he had no idea she’d done the work. She did it while living in Florida; she reached out to him when she saw he was starting a center.

Back to Carl, though. Carl is your quintessential “white male.” Stoic, clean cut. Sells insurance. Salt and pepper hair. Stiff handshake.

I had a hard time believing Carl had actually done the work. I couldn’t picture him doing junkyard, or bawling sharing in front of the room. His wife had probably dragged him through all of it, and she’d probably dragged him to the guest event, too.

But, no. I was very wrong about Carl.

At the end of the night, Carl gave a share that shook everyone at their core. It wasn’t the words he said. It was his being.

We went around the room asking each person what their major takeaway was from the night.

When it was Carl’s turn, he said the guest event reminded him that he was really upset about the state of the world. His eyes watered as he said it. And as he said it, I felt it; I saw it, too. I saw the wars, the hate, the violence, the joke of a President we have, the unfairness, the people living in squalor for no good reason. That’s how raw his being was. He caused all of us to see it, to take our heads out of the sand. Then he said: “I want to create a world where, instead of reaching out your hand to take, you’re reaching out to help each other up.”

Simple. Nothing earth shattering. But, it was how he said it. He fucking meant it. He meant it with his whole heart. He actually connected to something real—with life, and force, and passion.

And then: there’s this group.

What are we even doing? There’s nothing wrong with supporting individuals’ personal growth, nothing at all—powerful parts make a powerful whole. I don’t think we all need to have goals Mother Theresa would approve.

But, are we even supporting real personal growth?

No offense, but look at some of our goals (and trust me I include myself). Is your losing ten pounds, or cleaning out your car, going to change the world?

Nope. Let’s be real: it’s not going to even come close. It probably won’t change even YOUR world.

Is that what we’re about? We support people in cleaning out their cars, meditating daily, and creating a “self-care” practice?

I don’t know how to say this softly. I only know how to say it somewhat offensively (or maybe full on offensively).

We need Carl, is all I can say. We need to, as a group, hear his share—and then ask, what are we even doing here? What’s the end-game?

Am I surprised there’s a bout of apathy going around? I’m really not.

I don’t know what the answer is. I guess JBJams has a point. Even if you follow the ground rules perfectly, if you’re not playing in the spirit of the work—of creating an extraordinary life—then you’re sort of out of integrity.

Or, you would be if we had any defined vision for this group. We don’t. I joked with Rocco that our mission statement is: “incrementally change your life while staying safely within the marshmallowy walls of your comfort zone!”

Again, offensive, I know. Offensive even to me, I want to argue and say I’ve made REAL progress here. I’ve done some major things, hit some major goal posts. I have, too. Mixed with a lot of really minor ones.

We play small here. That’s what it comes down to. “PSPLife: why play big when small lets you check the box and is way easier?”

Why is that?

You get that Trump is President, right? That’s real. Remember how “devastated” everyone was? Was that all talk?

Your donations to X and Y cause ain’t gonna change anything, I’m sorry.

And it seems like we’re totally cool with playing small, because gosh, we don’t want to offend anyone by kicking them out! We don’t want to offend or hurt anyone’s feelings by having standards! We want to welcome and support everyone, in being comfortably mediocre!

Come on. I don’t care about numbers, or being inclusive. I care about creating something impactful. Is that possible here?

I’ll try to end more positively:  we have a committed group of powerful leaders who have been playing together over theee years.

What is the GREATEST possibility of that? Is this it?  If you’re being honest, there is literally no way you can claim this is it.

The Day That Turns Your Life Around

Below is an old post I wrote before I went to Boca, that I never shared. Before I get there, there’s a story Jim Rohn tells, that to me is quite powerful. He was 26 with a young family, and was completely broke, earning next to nothing at his job. A Girl Scout came to his door selling cookies for $2 per box. He didn’t have $2 to his name. Humiliated, he lied to the Girl Scout, and said he had already bought several boxes from another girl.

That was the day that turned Rohn’s life around. He was utterly disgusted with himself that he didn’t have two measly dollars in his pocket. He decided that day that never again would he worry about having money in his pocket. This was the first choice he made in a series of choices that made him a millionaire.

There were two critical shifts Rohn made here, that put him on the path to becoming a millionaire. The first was a shift to 100% responsibility. In order to become disgusted with yourself to that degree — to the degree that you change your whole damn life — you have to recognize that you, and you alone, are the source of your results. If he had said to himself: “I can’t afford a $2 box of cookies because my shitty job doesn’t pay me enough,” or “because my wife and kids spend too much,” this would not have been the day—or the moment—that turned his life around. Instead, he shifted to 100% responsibility, and realized he lied to a Girl Scout because he didn’t have even $2 to spare as a result of who he had chosen to be up to that point.

The second shift he made was that he made a decision—a real decision, cutting off all other options completely—that this incident would never, ever, happen to him again. To use Tony Robbins’ lingo, he raised his standards—for his life, yes, but more so for himself. He essentially unequivocally declared: “I will never allow myself to create the circumstance where I cannot afford a $2 box of cookies ever again.”

I am not sure that real change can occur, for anyone, without the two shifts exhibited in Rohn’s story. It’s basically (1) a shift to responsibility, meaning a recognition that I am the sole cause of my results (and this is what empowers me to change something); (2) and a commitment to change what must be changed about myself, with an unwillingness to accept the same behavior that resulted in the old reality.

I do think this change often occurs gradually—the set-up for it, at least. But when we actually make the decision to change, that happens in seconds, and it must be forceful and clear.

The last lesson here is that the moment, or day, that turns your life around is of your choosing. Rohn did not have to attach the significance he did to not being able to buy the $2 box of cookies. He chose to. He could’ve instead added it to the long list of grievances he had about his life at the time and carried on with the status quo.

Before I went to Boca, I reflected on this story, and how I could recreate it in my own life. My post below is a product of that reflection, even as I do not mention Rohn’s story in the post.

Shortly after the post, I made a choice to become partner, and it’s an unnerving choice—it’s making the choice that’s unnerving. In so doing, I am acknowledging that the only person who will decide if I make partner or not is me. It’s easier to say, well, it’s the firm’s decision—there’s only so much I can do. The other partners will decide if I fit or not, I can’t actually just decide, on my own, to become partner.

But that’s not where I’m choosing to stand. I’m saying, instead: I’m choosing to make partner, with no qualifications.

I don’t see any other option; I am done with the old reality. I cannot continue to live a life below what I am capable of. It has become unacceptable. And while I will struggle, and waiver— because I’m human — this is the decision I have made. I am tired of, and completely disgusted with, the power I have given to my own self-doubt.

Rohn tells the story of a guy driving a piece of shit car because he can’t afford anything better. One day, the guy pulls out a shot gun and riddles the car with bullets until it is unrecognizable. He says to himself: “Not only am I not ever driving this piece of crap again — no one else is, either.”

Spray paint “giving into self-doubt” on the side of that car, and it is representative of the decision I have made. Of course I can’t rid myself of self-doubt; but I can choose to not give into it, to not give it power, in recognition of the fact that making any other choice will prevent me from staying true to the result I have declared: becoming partner.

So here’s the old post I never shared, when I was on the cusp of making this decision but hadn’t quite committed yet, stuck in my head about it. By the time the plane landed in Boca, I had decided. That decision has caused me stress over the last few days—fears about what it will change in my life. But when I re-read the post below, I’m left thinking the only real fear I have is of truly believing in myself—as if it is defiant, or wrong, or even offensive. I get to leave that behind, too.

—————

My therapist asked me if I equate my identity with my job. I told her no. I said I think men do that, because that’s how they’re socialized. Who you are is what you do. But I believe what I do is only one aspect of who I am, and it isn’t even the most critical aspect.

I saw on LinkedIn that Jenna, who used to have an office next to mine at the first corporate firm I worked at, made partner at that firm. It was not at all surprising. When I was at that firm, everyone thought Jenna would make partner one day. She was a quintessential brown-noser, she got in early and left late, she ordered custom furniture for her office (which looked like it was professionally decorated), and she did her job well. She was also insufferable. A “gunner,” in every sense of the word. That’s the word we used in law school (and later in law firms) for overly ambitious lawyers who constantly broadcast how smart they think they are (and how smart everyone else should think they are).

When I was at that firm, Jenna was perpetually perplexed by me. She knew I was well-respected and well-liked, a top performer in my “class” (of the lawyers there who graduated from law school my year), but she couldn’t get her head around it. My office was a complete wreck. I had no custom furniture, just the standard issue furniture, with no decorative items whatsoever except a cactus that had died months ago. I was not a brown-noser, often aggressively challenging partners on legal theories I disagreed with, not caring how they took it. Jenna could not understand how I was doing well, and her lack of understanding caused her to feel threatened.

How do I know this? Believe it or not, I’m not making it up. She got drunk at a firm event and fucking told me, directly, everything I just said. She ended it with this:

“I feel like you and I should be friends. Why aren’t we friends?”

What she meant was: even though I don’t at all get it, it looks like you’re going to be successful here, so I want to have you on my side.

I rejected her drunken outreach, of course. I was an asshole back then (well, more of one). And the truth is we shouldn’t have been friends—we actually had nothing in common aside from doing well (the part Jenna couldn’t comprehend).

I also knew I wouldn’t be staying at that firm, and I wouldn’t be running against Jenna for partner. I’d never make partner there, or anywhere. Why?

Well, Jenna was right to question my success — she just questioned it for the wrong reason. Since she is very organized and methodical, she had it in her head that that was what someone had to be in order to be a great lawyer. She was wrong about that. Yes I had a woefully disorganized office, but a highly organized mind, and that’s the part that counts.

But, that said, Jenna wasn’t wrong to scrutinize the state of my office. While it had no bearing on my intellect or my abilities as a lawyer, it had great bearing on something else that mattered a lot with regard to achieving partnership: it revealed my utter lack of commitment.

I had zero commitment to making partner, and no investment in that firm. It is among the best in the world, but I didn’t see it as prestigious, I didn’t broadcast that I worked there to anyone, I didn’t identify with it at all. I told myself then, as I told my therapist, that I was simply playing a role at a corporate machine that was itself a fraud. I’m not a lawyer, I just play one on TV.

Without commitment, you cannot make partner; you’ll never even truly be in the running. That’s just what it is, and how it should be. My ability put me in the running early on, but my lack of commitment, which I could not cover up forever, soon took me out of the race.

When I saw Jenna had made partner, I had two thoughts: (1) of course she did; and (2) I don’t know if I ever can. The second one was troubling, because: that’s my plan.

I thought of this again after my therapy session. My therapist was intrigued by me saying I don’t identify with my job. I had just finished telling her how relentless my drive was at this new job, how I was determined to be successful in a way I’d never been before. But, I explained to her that my drive had nothing to do with making partner itself. I wasn’t yearning to see the title of “partner” next to my name. I wasn’t yearning to be able to hold that status or broadcast it or wield it over anyone. I didn’t even care about it from a feminist angle (the number of women partners in litigation is abysmally and shockingly low).

No, there was only one reason, one motivating factor, leading me there: my family. That’s it. The title itself? Eh. I could give or take it.

After my therapy session, I told Jimmy: “I’ve got a problem. I don’t think I can ever make partner unless I’m fully committed to, and genuinely want, the role and the title itself.” I explained to him I had no personal, separate ambition to be partner—and that without him and the boys, I had no motivation to pursue it at all. “Untangle this,” I told him.

Miraculously, he did.

He asked me who I thought I had to be to make partner. I said I’d have to be Jenna. I’d have to work long hours for show, I’d have to humor my bosses, I’d have to do things diametrically opposed to my nature. Because I have very hard time with that, I was certain I’d burn out on the effort before I even began.

Through a series of questions and answers I won’t rehash, he got me to consider whether that was a limiting belief.

Then he asked: “Is there another way to make partner than what you describe?” No was my first thought. You must be committed to the role itself. Invested in the business.

He asked: “But what do you think it means, to be committed or invested?”

I said I think it means being Jenna.

He asked, what if it doesn’t? He told me to be honest with myself about what was missing before.

I mean, I never worked crazy hours after my first year as a lawyer — yet neither of the big corporate firms I worked at ever said a word about my hours. I performed well, and that was worth a lot to them, so in large part they didn’t care the way they might have with someone else. What they did focus on was my attitude—I refused to work on certain cases, I was sullen a lot of the time, they were uneasy that they couldn’t read me or tell if I enjoyed the job at all. In short, what was missing from me was being open, authentic, appreciative, and connected.

Jimmy said what if that’s the only thing you’ve got to change? What if that’s what “invested” really means, in your case? Not more hours, not extensive brown-nosing, but simply creating authentic connection, as you have been doing? Is that something you can do to get the result you want?

The answer of course is yes.

Today I went into the city, for the settlement hearing before the judge for the first settlement I worked on at the firm (which was $28 million). At the hearing, the judge awarded us 30% of the settlement amount as our fee. I meaningfully contributed to that result. The firm’s partners directly told me as much.

I tried to experience myself as a partner while sitting at the counsel’s table at Court. There were only men in the room — and me, and the court reporter, and the judge. I reminded myself that I had every right to be there; I was part of the team that made this happen, which is our most sizable fee of the year. Still, I had moments of feeling like an impostor. I couldn’t find my business cards. I felt like I desperately needed a hair cut. My boss and a partner from Boca who came to town for the hearing talked with defense counsel in the hallway, all men, while I stood on the side not knowing what to do.

I haven’t chosen “partner” yet. I need to. I go to Boca next week, and that’s my declaration. It’s time to choose this stretch, to be Jenna, at least in terms of her level of commitment. Doubting myself is exhausting, and at this with regard to this, I’m ready to leave it behind.