Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Thoughts for the New Year

Every year my son writes a new year's letter to family and friends sharing his past year's experiences and wishes for the year to come. They always blow me away in their depth and deep understanding of life, amazing for someone so young, yet, if you knew him you'd know it wasn't so unusual after all.

One thing about him that stands out so clearly is his desire to make a difference, to never settle and to get past anything that might stand in his way of getting to where he wants to be. Perhaps one of the things we have in common. So this year I decided to do the same.....to write of the past year and thoughts for the one to come....

Professionally it's been an insane year...hearing myself say too many times how I needed to clone myself. In the scheme of things, everything got done in the way I wanted. When I couldn't give 100% to a contract I said no and passed it on to someone else. And if clients didn't want someone else, many were happy to wait until I could give them 100%. And to many people's dismay, I refused the opportunity of hosting my own international radio show on Coaching. It would have been fun, however it would have taken me away from working one-on-one with clients and that's why I became a Coach in the first place.

Even in work I had to make sure there was a balance. It wasn't so much as hours at work and hours at play, it was taking those working hours and planning them carefully. It's all too easy to work more. I had to learn to work better.
So inbetween client hours, it was being an active participant in our international R & D group, teaching, speaking at conferences and constantly and consistently creating new resource material, reading up on trends and publishing.

I taught my model of Executive Coaching to practicing Coaches and learned that in teaching you have to be on your toes because you're challenged regularly. The best part of speaking at conferences was meeting some extraordinary people along the way. I learned how to Blog (blogging wasn't something I'd ever heard of a year ago) and have corresponded with some really neat people as they email me their perspectives on Perspectives : ) I've even started some email debates with a few who hesitate to post a comment that's public for all to see, but when they let loose through an email it not only helps them clarify their thoughts but through that, helps me see things from, yet again, new perspectives.

And in life I also made many changes....pruning my life of toxic relationships which might sound cold to some, but for me, it was a choice. In this hectic world when there is little enough time to play, I decided I was going to spend that precious time with those I chose to be with, not those who would suck me dry of energy and leave me exhausted. Those I'm with, energize me, help me grow as an individual and, in my opinion and most important, support me and accept me for who I am no matter what. There are those who live too far away to spend the time I want with, so I make sure I write and call and am still "there" for them in spirit if not in geography and always look for possibilities of closing the gap.

I've watched my son graduate from University and move to the UK to complete a post-graduate degree in Competition Law and Policy. I watch with awe and pride and can't wait to see where he ends up in life. I know whatever it is, it'll be something he's passionate about while making a difference in this world in his unique way.

All in all it's been an incredible year. Oh there are a few things I wish were different. But that's what the new year is for. Can't have everything at once or there'd be nothing to look forward to! And as this year also brings with it my 50th birthday, I have a lot of reaching to do, places to go, people to see....

As for my wishes for you, they start with a favourite quote:

"Integrate what you believe in every single area of your life.
Take your heart to work and ask the most and best of everybody else, too.
Don't let your special character and values, the secret that you know and no one else does, the truth --
Don't let that get swallowed up by the great chewing complacency."
- Meryl Streep

Be yourself. Have a real understanding of how unique and rare you truly are.
Choose happiness no matter what. Fill your mind and heart with feelings of wonder and courage and all the possibilities that are out there if you just reach for them.
Cherish friendships as the treasures they are.
Find contentment within yourself, the kind that stays with you and never goes away.
Live this moment in time.
May you have feelings that are shared from heart to heart, simple pleasures amidst this
complex world, and wonderful goals that are within your grasp.
May the words you listen to say the things you need to hear.
May a smile look back at you when you happen to glance in the mirror.

I wish you the insight to see your inner beauty...to have times when you feel like singing and dancing and laughing out loud.....to be able to make your good times better and hard times easier to handle.
And to have millions of moments when you find satisfaction in the things you do so well.

Wishing the best......for you.
Donna Karlin

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Live as if this is all there is

"Live with intention.
Walk to the edge.
Listen hard.
Practice wellness.
Play with abandon.
L a u g h.
Choose with no regret.
Continue to learn.
Appreciate your friends.
Do what you love.
Live as if this is all there is"

- Mary Anne M.B.L. Radmacher

Every time I read this something didn’t sit right with me. So I hesitated to complete this blog until I had figured it out for myself. Now how and what I think are my thoughts, not yours. And perhaps in sharing them, it will help you clarify those things that don’t sit well with you. And now that I read it again I realise it’s the last line. "Live as if this is all there is". For me it’s not settling. It’s striving for more. That’s not to say I’m not content in my life because I love my life. And yes there are a few things I’d love to change and if I just had that magic wand......

But I don't. So instead I think I would like to say to myself reach for the sky, and be happy with what you have. I will continue reaching and dreaming and doing my darndest to make those dreams a reality. And yes that may be tossed with a bit of wishing here and there, and letting my imagination loose with the possibility that anything can happen. I am a firm believer of serendipity. But I won’t live as if this is all there is, for to me that says stop right here.

I do what I love, appreciate my friends and hope I tell them enough just how much, continue to learn, never regret my choices as I can always make new ones if these don’t work out, laughter is constant in my life, I play often and with abandon, take good care of myself (though sometimes I need a reminder), listen to those around me....and practice mindfulness automatically (and I’d better if I’m going to be an effective Coach), walk to the edge and rarely set boundaries for myself unless it’s to practice wellness and safety, and I live with intention every day. Never again will I take even one day for granted, ‘cause I can never get it back (and here’s where some of my wishes come into play.)

And no...not sharing them. It’s like blowing out your candles on a birthday cake. If you tell they won’t come true.

Many make resolutions on New Year’s Eve. I make a wish on the stroke of midnight and the rest of the year make intentions every day, like mini goals, that I absolutely intend for them to happen ‘right now’ not later.

So I intend to live as if this isn’t all there is, that there’s tonnes more to learn and experience and jump into with both feet, eyes open.

What is your intention? Because if you intend for something to happen it will and nothing will ever stand in your way.


Donna Karlin

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Memories of Holidays Past

As I sit here looking out the window at the pines, spruces and evergreens I think of all the years we spent the holidays up in the country in the Laurentian Mountains around Lac Paquin with family and friends. The whole family would go up the moment school was out, sometimes aunts, uncles, cousins and friends would join us and we'd head up North, station wagon filled to brimming with enough food to feed an army and needlework to keep us busy when we weren't outside skiing, on a toboggan or, my absolute favourite, the flying saucer!

We didn't rely on TV, though we had one, an old black and white, and video games and computers weren't around then. We'd be outside most of the day to come in to a roaring fire and hot drink. My treasured pump organ was next to the fire and I'd have fun trying to churn out a song or two. There was always a jigsaw puzzle going on the dining room table....thousands of tiny pieces waiting to be arranged in their unique spots. We had a system. The puzzle was always there for anyone to walk by and look for that one missing edge or piece of a boat or tree and as dinner time approached my mother and I would carefully lay the tablecloth over the puzzle. As soon as the dishes were cleared, washed and put away, we'd gently lift the cloth, always amazed that the pieces were in the exact position as before. We'd do needlework, talk, play board games, do paint by number (d'you remember those kits?) and never heard the words "I'm bored". And books...there were a ton of books everywhere. And when one of us finished the next one would pick it up. The fire was always going and there was always someone in the kitchen making coffee or baking or getting a snack. It was unorchestrated peaceful chaos when all of us were there.

Long walks in the woods to the country store for milk to that extra few feet around the bend so we could see if the small waterfall in the creek had frozen over yet...wandering down to the lake to skate when it was cold enough and some of the snow had been cleared. We never had trouble sleeping, though my father, a firm believer of fresh air, would open the windows in our bedrooms at night. We slept like logs in the country air, but try getting us out to step onto the cold floor in the morning.

We all screamed at him. He kept doing it.

Mom would send Dad to town to the bakery to pick up TWO BREADS. He got the bread. Sometimes. Sometimes he forgot because he was so busy buying everything else in the place from mini hors d'oeuvres to cold cuts, coffee cakes and everything else he couldn't pass up because it looked so good, a couple of times he had to go back for the bread! The owners of the bakery must have made their monthly sales quota each time he walked into their store. And the freezer downstairs kept filling and filling....

The best times was when it was just us and we could gather around the black and white TV watching the Wild Wild West or the original Mission Impossible or one of my all time favourite movies, Harvey with James Stewart. Those were incredible times....which flew by much too quickly.

But some of the traditions live on. The kitchen last night was hopping as my son, his friend and I cooked up a storm, there will be many a fire lit in the fireplace over the holidays, a quilt in the works is close by so I can pick it up and sew a few more stitches and music is always going. And maybe if I'm lucky, Harvey the six foot three and a half inch rabbit will make an appearance at some point on the TV while I sit by the fire remembering such wonderful times. And as old traditions come to mind, the newer ones, also special take hold....like being with our Ottawa family tonight for Xmas dinner, most of us with kids who have come home for a bit so we can share all that's happened over the year.

All the best...
Donna Karlin

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Get Out of Your Way

Get out of your way and relax into who you are. If you try to emulate another person completely then who would be you? We all have talents and expertise, strengths and weaknesses. Celebrate your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses....work on them both if you like, though, in my mind, working on weaknesses makes your strengths more powerful while at the same time helps you pull yourself forward.

Many spend so much time fighting feedback. Instead of truly listening to what others are saying, both directly and indirectly, usually they fight back....spending an inordinate amount of time and energy arguing about the message rather than taking an objective look at it and doing something about it. Fighting blocks effective listening, breaking down communication and growth.

In the Johari Window (blog post October 5, 2003) I talk about the blind spot. Most people spend the greatest percentage of their time in this 'window'. We don't like to hear we're stubborn or never listen. We like to think we're perfect. If we see weaknesses in others so readily, why is it so difficult to see it in ourselves? And if we took feedback and used it to get stronger, what would be the downside?

If you don't trust direct feedback, do you pay attention to the subtleties of results when it comes to your leadership skills, interaction with others, and whether or not people gravitate to you or run the other way? Do you find others constantly asking for input and ideas, or negating everything you say? What do you think the root cause of this is?

Responses to you are feedback in themselves. Is there a trend? How large is your circle of influence? And is it growing or shrinking? Questions to ask yourself.

It's time to get out of your own way of leading and succeeding.

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, December 23, 2003


Many people believe the past and future are more real than the present. So often I hear the past determines who you are and the future goals we set for ourselves determine what actions we take right now. So they're more powerful, right? Wrong.

I believe in setting goals to helps up move forward, however I also maintain that what we do right now is what gets us where we want to be. That is why I would much rather people set 'intentions' for the day rather than long term goals which may fall by the wayside. Bottom line is we live in the now or in the moment. Have you ever done anything other than right now? Do you control what might happen in the future or something that's already happened in the past? One of my favourite quotes is from Richard Carlson when he says "You can't have a better past....only the one you have". Alternatively some people live in the past because it's easier than facing what they're living right now, especially if their past is remembered fondly as "the good ole days".

And you don't live in the future. You live right now. Things don't mysteriously happen in the future without making choices. It's imagined. Your past activates memories, yes. And based on what you learned you might choose a different path. However the choices, the doing, the achieving is this moment.

It's time to get your head out of the clouds and live. Waiting for something to miraculously happen 'one day' won't make it so. And every moment you wait for the new job, winning the lottery, better dynamics, change in circumstance, more anything, keeps you from truly living the present in which case you're not really living at all. It's an existence where you give your personal power away to an intangible possibility with no foundation whatsoever.

Is that what you want? Some magical force which doesn't really exist to determine where your life will end up, or, to make the most of this moment in time and in some way make a difference....to you... to others?

One of my favourite movies is Pay It Forward. It's not about paying back someone....it's choosing three people right now, that you can inspire or motivate to make new choices in their lives right now.

"Just as the moon has no light of its own, but can only reflect the light of the sun, so are the past and future only pale reflections of the light, power and reality of the present." Eckhart Tolle

Donna Karlin

Monday, December 22, 2003

Leaders and Victims

Leaders make mistakes and say "I made a mistake," and make up for it.
Victims make mistakes and say, "I'm sorry," but do the same thing the next time.

Leaders say "I'm good, but not as good as I can be yet."
Victims say, "I'm not as bad as a lot of other people."

Leaders get compliments and say, "Thank you."
Victims get compliments and make excuses or jokes.

Leaders affect others
Victims are affected by others

Leaders would rather be admired than liked, and wind up having an abundance of both.
Victims would rather be liked than admired, and wind up having little of either.

Leaders respect others and try to learn something from them.
Victims resent others and try to find their faults.

Leaders stand for something and are willing to fight for it if necessary.
Victims stand for nothing and either fight about everything, or nothing.

Leaders are always a part of the answer.
Victims are always a part of the problem.

Leaders always have a program.
Victims always have an excuse.

Leaders say, "Let me do it for you".
Victims say, "That's not my job."

Leaders see an answer for every problem.
Victims see a problem in every answer.

Leaders say, "It may be difficult but it's possible"
Victims say, "It may be possible but it's too difficult."

"There are essentially two categories of people in the world....leaders and victims. Leaders are those whose purpose seems to be to inspire and motivate victims until they become leaders. Victims are those whose purpose seems to be to criticize and resist leaders until they become victims".

Which one are you?

Donna Karlin

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Coaching Clients Through Change

"People can't live with change if there's not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about, and what you value."-Stephen R. Covey

One of the things I work on with my clients is Defining Success. It's more than a personal mission statement....it's success as you know it according to your personal ethics, values and integrity, taking into account competencies, talents and strengths and when you see the results it's extremely powerful. It's who you are according to you. This is your personal contract, the core of what you are working towards, in your personal and professional life what you aspire to be. It gives focus and vision and a vehicle with which to move forward no matter what the circumstance.

And to take into account for a moment, Stephen Covey's quote about a changeless core. If you are in sync with what you're about, you're as steady as a rock no matter what.

Change is constant....a paradox of life, more so in this day and age than any other time. If we're always reacting to it, we run in circles always trying to catch up. And if we remain true to our selves and our personal contract, we always find a way to accomplish what's most important even in the chaotic time of change. It definitely means a new paradigm and perhaps a sounding board to help you focus in a different direction. But possibilities are still endless and when you do embrace change and accomplish more because of it, the level of energy and strength within you grows exponentially making you a force to reckon with.

Speaking from a Coach’s perspective, the most valuable thing we can do is help our clients figure out those paradigms and fly with them. Then we step back and watch success happen. Remember....if you were able to come up with solutions on your own, you would have already. Sometimes it takes that extra input from "outside the box" to push a few buttons, help you pull yourself forward and look at the situation from a different perspective.

"Today's managers, professionals, and entrepreneurs are hiring coaches to help them with time management, a change in career, or balancing their work and personal lives. People are looking to coaches as sounding boards and motivators who can offer a fresh perspective on career and life problems — but without the conflicting agendas of a spouse, family member, or even a mentor." -- Fortune, 9/28/98

When life is in balance, it gives you reserves and the ability to handle more proactively. When it's already out of sync it can take the smallest detail to upset whatever equilibrium remains.

Every publication you pick up has something written on Coaching. Having a Coach is like having a personal trainer for your life. The reason it's so powerful is because it empowers the individual to take responsibility for change in a way that works for them. It's not advice, it's not pushing a client in a direction they don’t want to go. It's helping them see the value in changing what isn't working and collaborating with them to come up with what does. And once you're in a place that's where you should be, nothing will be able to knock you off kilter.

One executive (Bradford) who was coached says her year of coaching "was like a grenade in my life that's still going off." It taught her, she says, that 'people have to take more responsibility for their own growth and development. They can't depend on human resources. Coaches can help people come to grips with huge changes in the way we do work, in getting through big transitions.' --Betsy Morris, "So You're a Player. Do You Need a Coach?" Fortune, 2/21/00

I am regularly asked what it is that I do. I help people become aware of, develop and experience their own greatness and then go out in the world and make a difference in their unique and wonderful way. I want them to wake up every morning anticipating the day with enthusiasm and wonder, not for what the world with bring to them during the day, but for what they will learn and discover and how they will ultimately grow because of it. And, when the day is over, knowing they've lived it to the fullest. It's not coaching 'work stuff', or 'relationship stuff'. It's the person and how they deal with 'stuff'. It's about them not me.

Ask yourself "what did I learn today?"

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Perspectives of Sharing

The title of my blog is Perspectives. That's what it is....perspectives of people and experiences which give new (or better) perspectives. One thing I find myself saying through the day, too many times to count is "His or her perception is their reality. And if that's how they feel, then that's the reality they're living. It's not about you, it's about their feelings, thoughts, emotions. And, if you want to find a way to have a relationship with this person, whether in your work or person life, then it's not a matter of putting yourself in their shoes, it's a matter of asking them what it is that lives in those shoes".

Every action (or inaction) brings reaction. That is human nature. What one's intention might be (or so they say) doesn't necessarily translate to the results of it, usually because of mis or lack of communication.

Are there any clairvoyants reading this? Because that's what many people expect, that others should read their minds and that just isn't the way life works.

Another line which many years ago pressed every button that exists in me (yes I got over it, and finally agree with it (thanks Jim)) is "Intentions equal results". If you intend for something to happen, then it will and nothing will stand in your way. Oh there might be a few detours, but the ultimate result will be what you intended all along. And if it's something you're passionate about and want with all your heart, then for sure it will happen. Another quirk of human nature (I haven't quite figured this one out yet) is how most people talk themselves out of why they want something, or feel they don't deserve something or someone so special they sabotage the possibility of achieving their dreams. Instead of taking all the intelligence human beings have been given to make something happen, it's turned around into nixing it.

And if any of you have an answer to that one, I'd love to hear it. An answer that makes any sense that is. Because I haven't been able to come up with one yet.

So to get back to perspectives on sharing....the first step might be to share. And I'm not being sarcastic. Communicating is the first step, collaborating the second and using that great mind you were given, combined with the passion in your heart will add that extra little bit of magic? to make it a reality.

Perspectives getting better all the time....
Donna Karlin

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Time of year for sharing

As life seems to get more and more hectic with the upcoming holidays, added to the pressures of every day life and work, I watch people become less and less connected to the reasons why they celebrate the holidays in the first place. Feelings are shown with gifts....many of which are more in tune with the givers than the receivers. I was just talking to a friend last night about how people over extend themselves this time of year and then spend a great deal of time through the new year dealing with the hardship that creates.....many a time bringing depression and feelings of inadequacy that they couldn't give 'more'.

This is the time of year for sharing thoughts, feelings, emotions. If you could give one gift in these days of chaos and stress, (actually this should apply for the entire year) it should be a true expression of what's in your heart, not your wallets. And equally for those on the receiving end, is the gift of giving the senders the time of day to express what's in their hearts....to listen, to be interested in what's happening in someone else's life other than your own. It's about giving not getting.

There's an expression "talk is cheap". That doesn't relate to sharing from the heart....just sharing platitudes and words that have no basis in heart or soul. Those are just words. And if someone is special to you, then tell them. Not in expectation of getting anything in return, but for the sake of their knowing what's truly inside you.

And if it's the gift of time, then it can be more precious than anything in the world. And if it's a hug, your presence if you're far away.....that in itself is a gift of self....of a lifetime.

Oh I love getting presents like the rest of you....especially if much thought went into the choosing and giving. But I would give my eye teeth for one-on-one time that can't be bought or measured......time with which memories of a lifetime are created like magic.

Oh you know what to do and who to pick up the phone to call. Even better...who to call to make reservations to get on the next plane or train. A call is a perfect first step and who knows where that will lead? I can promise you, the expression on the receiver's face will be one you'll never forget. Those pictures will stay in your heart forever.

All the better : )
Donna Karlin

Monday, December 15, 2003


There's a chapter called "The Winter of Listening" in "The House of Belonging" (David Whyte). I've reread this passage many times and each time look at it from different perspectives. There are three short passages in that poem that have stuck in my mind more than the rest....

"All those years
listening to those
who had
nothing to say

All those years
how everything has
its own voice
to make
itself heard

All those years
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening"

I wonder if we look at "all those years listening to those who had nothing to say" and see ourselves within that sentence. How many times did we speak for the sake of hearing ourselves talk, with no substance whatsoever? Or how we automatically take what someone in a position of power says for virtue of their level or position, and not knowledge or expertise? And, yet from another perspective, do we listen because it's what we want to hear even when the words don't seem to ring true?

So isn't it time we just listened? To others....to what's in our hearts......to the world around us just as it is?

Over the past few weeks I've heard so many tell me of people in their lives who are "wired"....who never stop, always looking for another way to do things, or do more, when they'd be better off to just "be", experience silence and let the world in?

"All those years forgetting how easily you can belong to everything simply by listening...."

Stop. What do you hear? And when is the last time you became one with the world rather than fighting life every step of the way?

<----a listening
Donna Karlin

Friday, December 12, 2003

Do you talk too much?

When you talk too much you can do many things; lose your target audience completely where they shut you out not hearing a word you say, convince the person or persons you're talking to that you're not interested in their input whatsoever, or, even more damaging, convince your audience that you're really not sure of what you're talking about in the first place, hiding behind volume of information rather than quality. (get the picture re: rambling?)

Not only do others begin to avoid you like the plague, but in turn will not share their ideas and insights with you because they feel you're not interested.

If you even think you're rambling, then you are. If you find yourself struggling to keep quiet and listen, then stop the struggling and open up to the possibility that you don't know everything there is to know and the only way to counteract that is to practice effective listening.

Use the one minute concept. If you need more than one minute to get your point across, then you need to learn focus and prioritizing. If at that point the listeners want more information it gives them the opportunity to process what you've said and ask clarifying questions.

And if you know someone who does ramble, then don't automatically assume they're aware of it. Only through constructive feedback can they learn to recognise when they, are and make appropriate changes in their communication patterns.

You are doing them a favour in pointing it out in a respectful, constructive way.

Remember, people ramble for many reasons....if they're excited or nervous about doing a presentation in which case practicing those skills will combat the problem. They can be unprepared or not sure of the reason why they were asked to make the presentation trying to please everyone at the same time, therefore waffling back and forth.
It can be to cover embarrassment, being cautious, clarifying thoughts out loud or needing the interaction. For many it's because they live with "talkers" at home, can't get a word in edgewise so make up for it big time at work.

First step in improving is to be aware, to be mirrored and given constructive ideas for change with lots of practice in the (what I like to call) "short, sweet, to-the-point" methods of communicating.

It doesn't matter how knowledgable or intelligent you are. If you've lost your audience, no one will ever know.

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Tips for Leaders

Congratulations....you’re a manager!

Now what?

You’ve gone from being managed to doing the managing without benefit of the “how to” book (and no...manuals rarely work. As an executive coach you know I’m going to say experience beats any book, and if you don’t believe me, believe statistics. www.abetterperspective.com/coaching_statistics.htm )

So how do you make that transition? The speed with which organisations change put people into roles they’re nowhere near ready for, breeding overwhelmed, under-qualified people with power. And it’s not that they’re not capable. It’s just that they’ve been put into positions without the proper training and told to “just do it”.

Large companies wouldn’t hear of letting someone loose with a piece of heavy equipment without the proper training, but they’d let the same people loose on unsuspecting hopeful staff with no training at all.

So here is my short, sweet, to the point list for starters. And then, before things turn reactive instead of proactive and you’re always trying to keep your head above water, call in a Coach, preferably a Shadow Coach who can translate awareness of skills into action and make you aware of your shortcomings so you can improve and learn from them. A leader doesn't necessarily have to know everything there is to know about the doing. He/She needs to have the skills to recognise these talents in others and lead them. Then they'll be starting off from a position of power rather than fixing what’s quickly broken.

Here’s my list:

1. Never do what you can delegate. And once you delegate, empower them to do it themselves and trust that they will.

2. Never forget where you were before you got there.

3. No one likes a know-it-all. Everyone has more to learn and much to listen to. One has power WITH people, not over them. And the first step is to harness their expertise and share yours with them to help them grow.

4. Lead each one individually according to their strengths. A team is not unique, but the people within the team are.

5. As unique as each individual is, so is their talents. Harness them in such a way that you have groups of people who work as cohesive teams, each with its own strengths. Through this you’ll not only get the job done, but create a strong vision for the future. This is because they take ownership in creating it.

6. Just because you’re asked to do something doesn’t mean you have to,. Pick and choose what you spend your energy on and you’ll always have enough to do what needs to be done with plenty left over to explore what you’re passionate about.

That's about it....for now.

Donna Karlin

Saturday, December 06, 2003


I've written a great deal about leadership lately, as it's an issue that comes up with many of my clients. Leaders create an environment in which everyone has the opportunity to do work which matches his/her potential capabilities.

As Claude Taylor puts it "Certainly a leader needs a clear vision of the organization and where it is going, but a vision is of little value unless it is shared in a way so as to generate enthusiasm and commitment. Leadership and communication are inseparable".

A leader translates the skills of his/her staff into achievable results by sharing and enabling ownership of a common vision for success.

A manager maintains his/her way is the only way, ruling by influence of power rather than empowerment of others.

A huge difference.

When one believes in a leader's vision, he will do his utmost best to make it a reality. And when one does not, collaboration is not there, disconnect happens and there is a breakdown in process, compromising the possibilty of success. Are you a leader or manager? The proof is in the "what is" not what you perceive it to be. And the level of success is a direct measure of that. The first step is to take notice of what is standing in your way of performing and leading. Most of the time it's getting out of your own way.

Donna Karlin

Thursday, December 04, 2003


1. Mythology. A bird in Egyptian mythology that lived in the desert for 500 years and then consumed itself by fire, later to rise renewed from its ashes.
2. A person or thing of unsurpassed excellence or beauty; a paragon.

As legend has it, the Phoenix is a mythical bird-like creature that rises in triumph from the ashes of its destruction. The story of the Phoenix captures the story of resurrection and carries with it a connotation of life, death and rebirth that was an integral part of the ancient mythologies of both Eastern and the Western traditions.

Its story can parallel the life of many, mine included. How often I hear how a person was inspired by another, enough to enable them to turn their life around and make it into something of their choosing, not a mere existence. The mental picture of a phoenix is one of strength and beauty that can soar high in the sky. When you meet that special person, who, in a word, or, sometimes in silence, validates you your whole paradigm changes. You begin to look at yourself through those eyes as one with value and something to contribute to the world. Your energy increases and, to use another analogy, you soar and nothing can bring you down.

Some of us are lucky enough to have been touched in some way by someone such as this to the point where you leave your past life, one of mere existence and stagnation to one of joy and purpose, rising from the ashes to fly. And then look out. Nothing can stop you. And, with that, you can turn around and make a difference in someone else’s life. The biggest gift you can ever give....helping someone truly live their lives and make something special from every single day.

Donna Karlin

Monday, December 01, 2003

Managing Energy

One of my favourite quotes comes from my mother and goes something like this "As we get older, God in his infinite wisdom, let our eyesight fade so we shouldn’t see the wrinkles and lines that appear. Man in his infinite stupidity invented glasses which just magnifies them all". I love that one Mom!

So what I learned from that as I creep closer to my 50th birthday is to not wear glasses when I'm anywhere near a mirror. Works for me! Seriously....it's one's energy that's apparent to others more than wrinkles (and by the way, I've earned every single one).

Most of us take a great deal of pride in multitasking. Speaking to a client just the other day, he remarked that doing a million things at once is "a woman’s thing". Well, I'm not so sure about that, even though mothers do tend to have to learn to have 10 sets of hands and eyes in the back of their heads while doing at least 5 other things at the same time. That I do agree with. Been there, done that.

My son used to tell me that I'd come home from work both wired and "green" (or exhausted) at the same time. He was right. So it was time for me to restructure my day, my work and the scheduling of client and prep time. When demand exceeds our capabilities, we either have to find a way to clone ourselves (which hasn't been done yet) or figure out another way. Either that or we start burning out. We are forever starved for time and try to cram more and more into each day. It’s not a matter of managing time as much as energy, especially as you get older. And this takes into account the four areas of life; physically energized, emotionally connected to those around us, focused and mentally aware, and spiritually in alignment with our vision or our purpose in life.

Without achieving this balance, we become short tempered, and unfocused. We go home at the end of the day to collapse on the sofa or easy chair with very little patience for life, feeling overwhelmed with the smallest of things. Our sense of joy has all but disappeared and now we’re into coping mechanisms to "get us through one more day".

Does this make sense? Is anything worth that kind of sacrifice?

So it’s time to shift paradigms. Instead of managing time (and yes, there’s definitely a place for that as well) it’s managing energy....changing eating patterns, limiting coffee and increasing water consumption, not relying on drugs (and yes, caffeine is a drug) to keep us going. Instead of trying to avoid stress, looking at it as an energizer...a challenge, one to rub your hands together with glee and jump in with both feet. It's grasping life and getting rid of "bliss-blockers"...pruning your life of what’s toxic and truly living it instead of finding a way to get through it.

It's taking time for what's important...an energizer in itself. And if you notice I didn't say making time, I said taking it....it's choosing how you spend your time, a different mind and energy set in itself.

You know how energized you get when you take time to "play". So what’s stopping you?

Donna Karlin

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Life's Miracles

A miracle is defined as "any amazing or wonderful occurrence".

I suppose it's all in how you look at your life and events that have occurred. Albert Einstein was quoted as saying "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is."

I'm not sure I agree with that, though I know I've experienced more than my fair share of miracles.. It's amazing what comes to mind when you're "breathing challenged". I've never had much patience for being sick, and this is definitely no exception.

My stretch, I admit it.

So in my confinement, I write, and think and recall times in my life when I was definitely blessed by miracles....mostly through amazing people who have changed my life. Some directly, and others indirectly.

My son, for instance....definitely up there as one. And how, through some twist of fate, aided by my brother, we found a doctor who helped Michael go from paralyzed with no sensation to mobile with almost full sensation. Looking for a needle in a haystack. She was the only one who could have helped him back then, definitely creating miracles with him.

People who came into my life out of the clear blue, serendipitous, definitely, who saw who I was and what I could do when it came to taking my place in the world....who encouraged me to be the best I could be. I still wonder how some people walk into our lives and why. When there is no rhyme or reason but one day they just happen, appear through a twist of fate to touch you in a profound way.....you know there's a name for it.

I wonder how many people are given the same gifts of miracles in their lives, but just don't notice. They look for a plausible reason, a logical explanation, when there isn't one......or talk themselves into thinking it was all in their control. But it isn't. It just happens. I think it's criminal to ignore them....to push them aside and negate their magic. If they weren't meant to be part of our lives, we wouldn't have experienced them.

A long time ago, when I was questioning how it had been possible for someone from so far away to have changed my life so drastically, in a matter of fact way, HIS way, he turned and said "Because it had to happen. It could have been anywhere. I know I would have stopped you in a street if we were passing because I would have had to talk to you". No....these aren't explainable events. Life changing, yes. The kind of thing that makes you stop, take a step back, and know, something so far out of your control had a play in what had happened.

Unexplainable....wonderful....amazing. Definitely a miracle. And I'm not only taking notice, but being very grateful....will always wonder the whys of them all, maybe in the back of my mind. But my heart knows not to question, just to be thankful.

Donna Karlin

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Radio Show

Monday, as I was running to a meeting, I was surprised by a phone call. Few things surprise me these days (as a Coach I always expect the unexpected) but this took me unawares. I was asked to host my own radio show.

I was quite shocked, very honoured to have been asked and, as I had to run to that meeting I asked the Executive Producer who had called me if I could think it over and call him back within a few days. Flattering? YES! Something I could have fun with? Definitely! Good timing? No.

And then, as I recalled the conversation, my thoughts changed. "It would give me credibility" he said. Well, I thought, if you type in Shadow Coach on Google, it's my name that comes up. And, if you type my name in on Google, 7 pages come up, quotes, articles, business related material, interviews. How much more credibility do I need?

"You'd get more business" he added. Well, if I had any more business I'd have to clone myself. What I need and decided to take is more time for life.

"I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which comes to me as blossom, goes on as fruit." - Dawna Markova

My goal...my philosophy, is to make a difference, even one person at a time. I refuse to be so busy that my goal takes a back seat to notoriety. To live my life, I have to participate in it. Which means finding time just to be, to learn, grow, absorb what's out there in the world. Not to be so busy that all I know is work and prep and falling into bed exhausted at the end of the day. That isn't living. That's existing day to day. Dawna's quote says it all. I will not live an unlived life. I want to discover the passions within me, to achieve my true being, my true self, whatever that may be. And to do that, it has to be a life of my choosing.

So, still flattered that they picked me....I graciously declined the honour of my own show, at least for now. What happens in the future, the future will take care of.

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Turning Back The Clock

There have been many books and articles written on wanting to turn the clock back before you hear the words..."I quit" or "That's it....I'm leaving you" and even worse than hearing those words, is being too busy with your job that you don't hear the words at all or see the signs and, when you do turn around, before you know it those who mean the most to you have disappeared from your life completely.

I hear this a great deal. Statistics show that many upper level executives live for their work, ignoring those important to their lives so when it's time to slow down or retire, there's no one to share their life with. Hobbies have also gone by the wayside.

So often I hear the words "One day I'd love to try...." or "I'd love to travel to..."
Why one day? Why not now?

Once they finally have time to do all those things on their list, there's no one to share them with. It's a very lonely place to be. Studies have shown that health quickly deteriorates as well.

Why work so hard if you won't have the health to enjoy life later on, or someone to share that joy with?

There has to be a balance.

I can hear the arguments now. "I have deadlines. This has to get done. When it's finished or when I catch up, THEN there will be time for me". Trouble is, there's always the next deadline or request for a new project and life gets put on the back burner yet again.

Isn't it funny that life has a habit of working out just fine when you learn to say no. One CAN take a vacation and nourish their soul, even when up against deadlines.

I was talking to my brother about that the other day. When he decided to take a month off in the summer for his sanity, colleagues told him he'd lose his practice. He stood by that decision and his practice hasn't suffered at all. And he's more energized and healthier for it AND takes time for his tennis and family and friends along the way. Living by these rules makes a person successful.

Success isn't measured in accomplishments. It is however measured in how many people you've touched along the way.....who you have in your life. You teach by example. If the powers that be don't set that example now, the new up and coming leaders won't have a life at all. They'll live, eat and breathe their work. And when all is said and done, there will be no one to share their victories with. Aloneness.....the word sounds what it is....solitary......isolated......lonely.

If you stop, take a step back and look at your life right now....can you be sure that those most important to you will still be there waiting to be noticed? Choices to be made before you "want to turn the clock back". Living is now. Not "some day". Show those special people in your life you value them more than a deadline or project. Make time for them....while they're still there to share time and life with.

Donna Karlin

Friday, November 21, 2003


Life is always opening new and unexpected things to us. There is no monotony in living to him who walks even the quietest and tamest path with open and perceiving eyes. The monotony of life, if life is monotonous to you, is in you, not in the world” - Phillip Brooks

One of my pet peeves is listening to people complain of boredom. How can one be bored in a world filled with an endless supply of music, art, books, never mind extraordinary people? One of the things I love about my work, and there are many, are the wonderful people who I’ve met and learned from. Every day there is some interaction which brings a smile to my face and a question or two I look to answer. Whether that question is within myself out there to discover in the world, or both, the answers enrich my life immeasurably. And then I look for more questions.

I listen for new music, or look for that word I’d never heard of before. It’s not a matter of “having time” it’s having awareness that it’s there, surrounding us in some way every day.

I love interacting with those around me as I run with clients. On a break here and there I always throw a question at a past client or colleague. I can’t wait for their answer. Now, they expect and anticipate the unexpected, especially when it comes from me. So even if my break is minutes and I scramble to keep up with my email (no..... we won’t go there right now : ) I find myself surrounded by people and questions, but most important laughter. It brings a new spring to my step, a few more questions that come to mind.

They will wait for another day so I can absorb the present one.

Boredom? Never. I can’t imagine it. There’s just too much waiting to discover.

Donna Karlin

Sunday, November 16, 2003


"From the East comes the sun,
Bringing a new and unspoiled day.
It has already circled the Earth and
Looked upon distant lands and
Far-away peoples.

It has passed over mountain ranges and
The waters of the seven seas.
It has shown upon laborers in the fields,
Into the windows of homes,
And shops, and factories.

It has beheld cities with gleaming towers,
And also the hovels of the poor.
It has been witness to both good and evil,
The works of honest men and women and
The conspiracy of knaves.

It has seen marching armies, bomb-blasted villages
And "the destruction that wasteth at noonday."
Now, unsullied from its tireless journey,
It comes to us,
Messenger of the morning.
Harbinger of a new day."
- Clinton Lee Scott

As I read what's going on in the world...I wonder if many stop to realise what it is we're blessed with, even if it's just the morning sun and, for those who are lucky enough, the possibility to "do it better" on a new day....to have the opportunity of living a new day.

And as I read this beautiful poem I thought of new friends a world (or so it seems) away in Indonesia. I've never met them....I know them through another, who I am honoured to call friend.

Whenever I read something like this, knowing they'll be experiencing tomorrow sooner than me, I silently hope they live their tomorrows in peace and serenity, that the horrors of the world not touch them personally.

If we all felt that way, wouldn't the world be one of peace? And if all it takes is changing the way you think and look at the world and life and how people have the right to peace, why can't it happen?

All the best...
Donna Karlin


One of the most invaluable tools one can learn is centering....meditation, guided or otherwise, to help you find that calm in the eye of a storm, better known as life as we all seem to be experiencing it these days. Finding that calm is something we need to do every day. It is said that a 15 minute centering is equivalent to an hour’s sleep for your body, a 45 minute centering equivalent to 5 hours sleep.

When we build healthy reserves in our life, it prevents problems. You all know how you feel when you’re sleep deprived, stressed, overworked. All it takes is that one final straw.....

Finding the calm in the centre of the storm is something we need to do every day. The paradox of life is that change is constant and we are consistently confronted with the unexpected. This may throw us into a state of imbalance and anxiety.

If I can use a storm as a metaphor, there is a central point of stillness. And in that area the storm rages all around but the centre is calm..... there is a void. Whether the storm lies within us as turmoil from something we’re dealing with in life or around us in our workplace, we must find the centre of stillness, peace and quiet for us to not only weather the storm but become stronger as a result of it.

It connects to being Mindful...”Paying attention to what’s inside and outside of ourselves and then reflecting in a non-judgmental way on what is and why.” In order to do that we need stillness. We have to slow ourselves down, clear our minds. It gives us insights into behaviours and ideas.

If you practice this often, it will become second nature and allow you to take a step back in challenging situations and find that "eye" or "centre" while the storm rages around you. And in that stillness, an idea or answer will come and you will have the focus and energy to find a solution. We all find the energy we need in a crisis but that is expensive energy. It depletes and creates cracks in our foundation of well-being. Change your source of energy.

Whether or not you are willing to find a tape or vehicle to do a centering, to begin, find a place in nature that nourishes you...feeds you with a sense of peace. Then take a step back from life to allow life in.

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, November 11, 2003


"There is a form of laughter that springs from the heart, heard every day in the merry voice of childhood, the expression of a laughter -- loving spirit that defies analysis by the philosopher, which has nothing rigid or mechanical in it, and totally without social significance. Bubbling spontaneously from the heart of child or man. Without egotism and full of feeling, laughter is the music of life". - Sir William Osler

I can close my eyes and in a split second remember the first time I heard my son laugh....a gurgle that bubbled from the centre of his being. We were at the hospital and he was being assessed for surgery. Nothing could have stopped the laughter. He was like that. He’s still like that, always finding humour in every situation. It got us through many a stressful moment. Some would think we were nuts to be able to laugh in times of hell....but that’s what not only got us through it but WAY past it.

Stephen King wrote “You can't deny laughter; when it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants." Have you ever tried to stop laughing? It makes you laugh longer.....like being with Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins...when you’re with someone laughing from their heart, it’s next to impossible not to join in. (And if you haven’t seen that movie, then do so. It’s one you’ll never forget). And once you do stop you feel energised.

Laughter creates the smile that lives on afterwards......excercises you from the inside out......and is the only infectious “disease” you want to spread. You can’t be angry when you laugh...nor sad and it brings people closer together than anything else.

Sounds practically perfect in every way.

Have you had your laugh today?

Best : )
Donna Karlin

Monday, November 10, 2003


"This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where I ask
my friends to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love

There is no house
like the house of belonging
" - David Whyte

This past weekend my friends in Philadelphia invited me into their new home. And they’re the kind of friends that the moment you walk into their house you feel at home. I got to meet their new pup and their cat...and I’m not usually a cat lover, but this one seemed to worm his way into my heart in his very quiet, albeit demolition derby way. I realised my reflexes were still pretty good as I grabbed for vases and coffee cups about to fly.

On the plane on the way home I also realised that home is within us....it’s not necessarily geographical but the feeling we have deep down as we walk into the arms of someone we love to be enfolded in a hug that says it all, or to a friend’s home that they’ve so lovingly decorated and cared for. It doesn’t have to be my house. It’s attitude....feeling of belonging. Knowing you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.

And those feelings are indescribably wonderful.

Donna Karlin

Sunday, November 09, 2003

My Philosophy

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Harold Whitman

I am asked time and time again what it is, exactly, that a Coach does. The definition varies with each Coach, as the work we do changes based on the area of coaching we work in. As well, with each client, the dynamics and focus of the coaching changes. What does remain constant however, is our mission or philosophy behind the work. And after many attempts, I finally put into words what my beliefs and philosophies are.

“How we dream is what gives our lives value. How we choose to live is what determines whether our dreams have value.”

“I believe we each carry a dream of a life we were born to realise which shows up through desire. And I believe that we all have the ability to realise our personal and professional dreams if we commit ourselves to not settling for anything less than what we really want. It is when we move toward our passions that we experience our own greatness, and it is then an incredible contribution to ourselves and to the world is made, by being who we truly are. “
(Donna Karlin)

Going back to two posts ago, about letting life pass you by and losing those important to you along the way, I maintain people get angry at the state of their lives not because of all the deadlines, lack of rest, demands made upon them, rather because they aren’t making their dreams a reality. And in keeping that busy they, in a way, escape from life, because it’s not one of their choosing.

When something is really important to you, or there’s a threat (and you actually notice it) of losing something or someone so precious you can’t imagine life without it or them, then it’s amazing how you find a solution. Why wait until the point of no return?

Donna Karlin

Thursday, November 06, 2003


We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit. - E.E. Cummings

In receiving positive feedback, we find validation. For many that’s how they find their self-worth. In this day and age where most people are free with criticism but rare in giving praise, our self-esteem gets bruised and battered and it’s so easy to have a low opinion of ourselves.

It only takes a moment to share a compliment or gratitude for help, a job well done, or the support of a friend, family member or colleague. Not only does that go a long way towards making someone’s day...it has lasting effects. And, when you give it, and see the reaction, it just might make your day a little more special as well.

Saying to yourself how lucky you are to have someone in your life, or the support and expertise of someone at work doesn’t go very far. Silence is just that....the unspoken word. People aren’t mind readers. So how ‘bout sharing what’s on your mind, especially when it’s something good.

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Just for Me

Being on one’s own after what seems a lifetime of being part of a couple brings a learning experience all its own. I am rediscovering who I am as an individual. Yesterday I read a passage in a favourite book “Romancing the Ordinary” that speaks of dating yourself....doing things just for you, self-talk in a personal way. I know, it sounds strange, but having lived it, it really isn’t. It’s a matter of getting to know yourself and your wishes, hopes, desires, likes and dislikes. It’s not selfishness, rather self-awareness.

More and more I come to realise that many a time, in a relationship one can lose their identity. How many times have I heard “My husband is out tonight so I’m not going to bother cooking for just me”.

Why not? And why not light candles and pour yourself a glass of wine, or light a fire just for you? Or set the table beautifully instead of taking “something on a tray”?

As well, when I’ve had friends over for dinner and ask if they’d like coffee or tea so often I hear “Well don’t make it just for me. If others are having I’d love some too.” Why not make it just for you? Aren’t you worth a cup of coffee?

What is it about human nature that we automatically think we’re selfish if we express our wants and desires? What message is this sending to others and ourselves when we suppress our basic wants?

So now, when I speak to friends who are inbetween relationships and hear them say “You must have the same difficulty cooking for just one as I do”. Well I have news for you. No....I don’t. I love to create in the kitchen, part of my past life as being a chef, and won’t give that up because I’m “just me”. Just like I’ll continue to go out and explore life and learn through these experiences who I am. And through that, when I am in a relationship I will have more to offer. It’s not settling. It’s being a whole person, one who has a lot more to offer because I’m no longer who someone else thinks I should be. Nor do I expect someone to give up their identity for me.

I learned that longevity doesn’t make a successful relationship. Being unique individuals that encourage the other to be the best they can be, does.

Donna Karlin

Monday, November 03, 2003


Imagination disposes of everything; it creates beauty, justice, happiness, which is everything in the world. - Blaise Pascal

Years ago when visiting Epcot Center with my son, he was enthralled with a character from Kodak, named Figment. He was a purple and pink dragon who made you smile with his antics and as he flew above us in his unique hot air balloon, he captured our hearts and stayed with us in more ways than one.

Just before leaving on our trip, this was going to be a post-op visit to Norfolk first then a treat to Disney afterwards....we bought a puppy Golden Retriever, who wasn’t old enough to take home yet. We left him at the breeder’s, planning to pick him up after we returned home. We were tossing around names for him and in a split second, my small son turned and said “Figment. I want to name him Figment and we can call him Figgy for short”. He was that colour...a deep fig cognac colour so this would be perfect all around. And Michael was so excited about getting his puppy that his imagination ran rampant.

Now I don’t suggest you all run out and get a puppy (though that’s a daily temptation for me so we won’t go there : ) But I do suggest you let your imagination free. You see, imagination is a funny thing. There’s no right way to imagine or wrong....it just is. It can be as bizarre as you like without boundaries. What’s in your mind is yours alone....created by and for you, to help you wonder at the possibilities.

What if...

And if it happens to be a purple and pink dragon, then so be it!

Donna Karlin

This quote was one shared in a comment tonight. I wanted to share it with you as I think it's extraordinary. "Imagination is the distance between improbability and will. That may be an impossibly long way if you aren't looking up." - Michael A. Karlin (my son : )

Saturday, November 01, 2003

What Matters

"Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least"
- Goethe

I was writing a blog about this, because so many things came to mind when I read it....though for me it was more about people, not things and how it’s so "easy" to get wrapped up in the nitty gritty of the day and forget those around you who mean the most.

But instead I invite a dialogue and your comments on this beautifully written quote and feelings and thoughts this message evokes in you. If nothing else, I hope this serves as a reminder.

Donna Karlin

Thursday, October 30, 2003

My Mask

In the course of a day I come across many people who, when asked how they are, give the standard answer “Fine. I’m just fine.” An interesting answer when their body language says otherwise.

That’s not to say some aren’t fine, because most are very happy in their lives. But at the same time, many aren’t and are dealing with challenges in their own way. If they’d share them, enlist the help of friends, family and professionals, they would be able to deal with these challenges and get past them. It takes more energy to hide a problem than deal with it.

So when your someone snaps at you or shuts you out...think of this. It’s very powerful.

Donna Karlin

"Please Hear What I'm *Not* Saying

Don't be fooled by me. For I wear a mask. I wear a thousand masks.
Masks that I'm afraid to take off, and none of them are mine.
Pretending is an art that's second nature with me, but don't be fooled,
for God's sake, don't be fooled.

I give you the impression that I'm secure, that all is sunny,
and coolness my game; that the water's calm, and I'm in command,
and that I need no one.
But don't believe me.....Please don't!

My surface may seem smooth, but my surface is my mask....my ever
varying and ever-concealing mask.
Beneath swells the real me, in confusion, in fear and in aloneness.
But I hide this, I don't want anybody to know it.

I panic at the thought of my weakness, and fear being exposed.
That's why I frantically create a mask to hide behind...
a nonchalant, sophisticated facade....to help me pretend,
to shield me from your glance ....a glance that "knows".
But, such a glance is precisely my salvation....my only salvation
....and I know it!
But, provided that glance is followed by acceptance, and then
followed by love.
It's the only thing that will assure me of what I can't assure myself....
that I'm really "worth" something.

But, I don't tell you this. I don't dare. I'm afraid to. I'm afraid you
will think less of me, that you'll laugh and your laugh would kill me.
I'm afraid that deep down I'm "nothing", that I'm just no good,
and that you will see this and reject me.

So I play my game, my desperate, pretending game, with a facade
of assurance on the outside, and a trembling child within.
And, so begins the parade of masks, the glittering, but empty parade
of masks, and my life becomes a front.
I idly chatter to you in the suave tones of surface talk.
I tell you everything that's really nothing, and nothing of that which is
everything...of what's crying within me.

So, when I'm going through my routine, do not be fooled by
what I'm saying.
Please listen carefully, and try to hear what I'm "not" saying....
what I'd like to be able to say, what, for survival,
I need to say, but I can't say. I dislike hiding....honestly, I do.
I dislike the superficial game I'm playing....the superficial, phony game.
I'd really like to be genuine and spontaneous, and"me".
Help me!!!!

You've got to hold out your hand....even when that's the last thing
I seem to want or need.
Only you can wipe away from my eyes the blank stare of the breathing dead.
Each time you're kind and gentle and encouraging.
Each time you try to understand, because you really care,
my heart begins to grow wings....very small wings, very feeble wings...but wings.

With your sensitivity, sympathy and your power of understanding,
you can breathe life into me.
I want you to know that.
I want you to know how important you are to me.
How you can be a creator of the person that is me, if you choose to....
please choose to.

You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble.
You alone can remove my mask.
You alone can release me from my shadow-world of panic and uncertainty
....from my lonely prison.
So do not pass me by. Pleas don't pass me by!!!

It will not me easy for you. A long conviction of worthlessness
builds strong walls.
The nearer you approach to me.....the blinder I may strike back!
It's irrational, but despite what the books say about man...
I am irrational. I fight against the very things that I cry out for.

But, I am told that love is stronger than strong walls,
and in this lies my hope ....my only hope.
Please try to beat down those walls with firm hands, but
with gentle hands ....for a child is very sensitive, and I am a child.

Who am I , you may wonder? I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man you meet.....
And I am every woman you meet....
And I am you also!!!!!

- author unknown

Wednesday, October 29, 2003


"The first task of a leader is to keep hope alive"
- Joe Batten

It doesn`t matter how well meaning the head of an organization is. If he or she doesn`t keep hope alive, then loyalty wanes and effectiveness in the workplace suffers. Even worse than that, trust is destroyed. And once you lose trust in your leadership, it`s next to impossible to motivate the staff to get the job done.
(See Rebuilding Trust)

Dwight D. Eisenhower said "Pull the string and it will follow wherever you wish. Push it, and it will go nowhere at all." The same goes for being a leader. If you inspire, keep your word, show vision and work WITH your staff they will grow as individuals and pull themselves forward. But try to push them in the wrong direction, you create a tug of war and possibly worse….no movement at all.

Stagnation in an organization is a killer. Indecision from leadership translates to stagnation. With no
foundation and few deliverables, the organization questions direction from above with the attitude `Why do the work when things are going to change again anyway? Effect of which is no "buy_in" or shared vision.

Thus the leader is no longer a leader.

A leader is visible. Good leaders meet with their key people regularly….daily if possible. They brainstorm, sit and listen and translate great ideas into tangibles WITH the help of those around them.

There are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch
things happen and those who wonder what happened. Which is your choice?

Donna Karlin

Monday, October 27, 2003

Tea With A Friend

A Cup of Tea

I’m a coffee drinker....love the smell and taste of a freshly brewed cup of coffee.

But on a day such as this...when it’s cold, damp and rainy there’s something about a warm cup of tea to calm.....warm rom the inside out.....bring a bit of civility to the day.....and a reminder of a very special friend.

Her name is Linda. She used to live here in Ottawa and I met her when my son started junior kindergarten, almost 20 years ago. She’s one of those people you read about who leave footprints in your heart and even though she and her
family, who I adore, moved back to their home town of Toronto, her presence is felt every time I put the kettle on for tea.

And in my mind, I’m ready to pick up the phone to ask her if she wants to come for a cup.

She’s one of those unique individuals whose door is always open. You never feel intrusive to ring her bell to say "hi". Howmany people can you do that to these days without calling first to make "an appointment?" You’re always made to feel welcome and at home, whether visiting for a week, a weekend or an hour.

Her house is always bustling...phones ringing, people coming and going, a grandchild being babysat or a family member dropping by. But she’s special....always wanting to help the world, even one person at a time. Represents a sense of family in every way.

People like Linda are rare and are a reminder that home is what you make it. It’s who’s in the house, not the house itself that makes one feel welcome and part of it all.

I miss her...miss all of them and wish they were back in Ottawa... a few minutes down the street, in dropping in distance for that cup of tea or an ear.

And even though they’re in another city, she’s close by every time the water is boiled for tea. And with every cup comes an inner smile and the thankfulness that I’m blessed to have her in my life.

Donna Karlin

Saturday, October 25, 2003


Begin to live as you wish to live. And it will start to happen.

Many would say easier said than done. And truthfully, it’s easier than you think.

When you conjure up all the excuses in the book why your dreams aren’t meant to happen....that they happen for others but not for you, then you deserve the outcome.

Not callous.

The truth.

If you start living what it is you want, then it will be. If you’re exhausted and want a more peaceful, energized life, then it’s up to you to prune it of toxic relationships and tasks and choose what and who it is you DO want to spend your time and energy on. It’s not selfishness. It’s self-care-ishness (OK, so I made that word up). The best lesson we can teach our kids is of self-care and by practicing what we preach. And the best gift we can give family and friends is for them to know you’re spending time with them because you choose to....not because you have to.

Last night when I was with some dear friends....some old....some newer and others who I met for the first time, we spoke of today’s challenges....familial responsibilities, lack of time, exhaustion. The topic of most conversations these days. And the comment I received was one I hear often.....which was "I don’t know what it is you do, but I can feel your energy and you look SOOOO happy".

I am.

I have a great career, wonderful friends and family and am doing exactly what I want to be doing. That’s not to say I give up all responsibility. I approach it differently, that’s all.

So over time I began to live what I wanted to live. One step at a time. And now I am.

It’s simplifying my life....learning from everyone around me.....balancing what I do with what I don’t do....and whenever I DO do something...it’s not expensive energy. Doing something against your will becomes expensive. It starts a trend that will eventually suck you dry.

You know you’ve achieved your idea of perfection in life not when you have something more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away. There’s always room for a new person or experience. It’s realising that everything you have right now....every person in your life.... is exactly what you want and is a keeper.

You choose.

Donna Karlin

Monday, October 20, 2003

Everyone's a Teacher

One of my favourite books is My Grandfather’s Blessings by R.N. emen, M.D. In it there’s a short story about when she was in third grade after she had done an IQ test in school. Her teacher told the students that being in her class meant that they were brighter than most people in the country. And as she alked with her mother down a street in Manhattan with a puffed up eight year old pride and shared this with her, her mother stopped, knelt down and told her that "every one of the people around them had a secret wisdom .....that each of them knew something more about how to live, about being happy than they did...."

Those words have stayed with me ever since.

And as I watch people pass by, whether in the buildings where I work or walking to a movie (see posting from Aug. 23, 2003 on Mindfulness) I’m mindful of them, and wonder what their secret is to a happy, fulfilled life.

Those words from her mother were the smartest words a mother could say. She could have puffed up her daughter’s ego even more and bragged along with her to their friends and family and instead her mother chose to open her daughter’s mind to the fact that life is our best teacher.

Robert Frost said " I'm not a teacher, but an awakener."

The ones who feel they are the smartest and the best at something have the smallest minds, And those....no matter how brilliant, or unschooled, who realise there's always more to learn, are the wisest of all.

Donna Karlin

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Best Executive

Theodore Roosevelt said "The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it."

A constant complaint from clients.....their work is checked and rechecked and half the time discarded. It’s demoralizing to them and deflates their desire to produce. The best way to validate the work your staff produces is to leave them
alone to do it and encourage them to make choices, decisions and brainstorm with colleagues to get the best results.

What’s the point in delegating if you’re going to redo everything you task others with? What results do you think you’ll get if you’re inferring their work is second rate?

Ralph Marston wrote "Let go of your attachment to being right, and suddenly your mind is more open. You're able to benefit from the unique viewpoints of others, without being crippled by your own judgment." By doing that, you not only empower those who work with/for you but grow and learn at the same time.

Ask yourself this question....if you lost your title, position and power tomorrow, would others still support you and want to work with you? A difficult question to ask, but an important one at that.

Donna Karlin

Monday, October 13, 2003


I was going to write a blog on memories that have been coming back over the past few days....and since it’s Thanksgiving, I thought what better time to write about being thankful for these wonderful times?

I’ve stored these mental snapshots away and revisit them now and then, almost like a scrapbook of my mind. It all started with coming across a website by accident, of an old lodge that was a couple of doors down from our country house. It brought back the wonder of a place that never seemed quite real. The moment we drove through the red gates, the rest of the world ceased to exist for me and was replaced by nothing short of heaven.

Pure water from a mountain spring fed the lake, the runoff being on our property. How many times we walked down to the water’s edge to fill a jug, or put bottles under the runoff to keep cold no matter how hot the day.....the changing of the leaves, a kaleidoscope of fall colours painting the landscape....sitting by a roaring fire at night, doing jigsaw puzzles or needlework late into the night.

A very important time in my life....

So many memories came to mind today, from the country house in Lac Paquin to the first time I flew on a plane, going overseas to play in an orchestra.....my introduction to Cel-Ray soda. And no...it’s not as bad as it sounds, but the memories of that day and the ones before and after, and all the other experiences that went with it remain stored in my mind and heart in that special place where mental keepsakes stay with you forever....

There were day trips with my Uncle and cousins, my grandfather waiting for us when we got home from school with a peppermint stick or fresh coconut he’d crack with a hammer on the back patio....drives with my
cousin Jeffrey...he’s a one of a kind driver. A couple specifically come to mind, one of which was him driving across a field between two New York freeways because he had to be "just one thruway over", and I’m still alive to talk about it! So many memories to be thankful for....all fill me with such joy. Times I want to bring back, if not to relive the moments, then to relive the feelings these moments gave me.

Just sharing with you, brings them all back...

Wishing you a Thanksgiving best,
Donna Karlin

Lac Paquin fall scene

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Our Highest Potential

"There comes that mysterious meeting in life when someone acknowledges who we are and what we can be, igniting the circuits of our highest potential." - Rusty Berkus

Years ago I met someone who would change my outlook on life forever. He saw what I could be if I would only get out of my way....refused to acknowledge there was anything I couldn’t do if I just put my mind to it. I have no idea what fates conspired for us to meet, but we did and it changed my life forever.

Life circumstances guided me into the work I do now. The inner certainty that I’m doing exactly what it is I was meant to do, keeps me here.....and inspires me to learn and grow.

And in working with people in various stages of their lives, I see in them the best they can be and mirror it back to them. If we see greatness in others, they will give it willingly. And if we expect nothing, we’ll get nothing back. People
need to feel we see their value and talents. If all we do is point out their weaknesses, that’s how they’ll measure themselves.

Voltaire said "Appreciation is a wonderful thing; it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well."

There is good in everybody. Boost what you see possible in them....don’t knock and you’ll get exactly what it is you’re seeing.

Donna Karlin

Thursday, October 09, 2003

"Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake" - Henry David Thoreau

I’m sitting here trying to write around this, though my thoughts probably wouldn’t make much sense to the rest of the world. I love this quote....and it makes me think that others have lived their dreams and wrapped their lives around them. I’ve had a few in my life (so far) that have become reality and, for some of life’s experiences, they so far surpass anything I could have ever dreamed of, that if they hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have thought them possible....even in dreams.

Have you ever had something happen to you that just takes your breath away? And in your wildest dreams never thought possible? If you think really hard I’m sure you can come up with at least one instance. That is
how I interpret this quote. And I truly believe that if we open our minds and hearts to infinite possibilities, anything can happen.

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, October 08, 2003


"I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.
Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually,
without ever noticing it, live your way into the answer."
- Rainer Maria Rilke

I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and it’s not always clear what that reason is. The way I look at it, we’re not the ones creating the reason in the first place, so why should we always have all the answers?

Many would argue with those comments. And I’d love to have a dialogue on that. Even if the reason is to learn something new, whether a fact, skill or something in ourselves, it’s all a part of growing in life.

But if we spend all our time trying to figure everything out, we won’t be just doing, living, growing, creating. We’d be in the midst of a tug of war which might never be resolved. And what’s the point in that?

So many things have happened in my life for which there’s no rhyme or reason. Some were my greatest learning experiences (which, truthfully, I would have loved to have lived without.....at least then) and some were my greatest gifts. Now, looking back, I realise they were all gifts!

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Family and Friends

The saying "You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family" has been used many a time for those who don’t have a great relationship with their families and use it as an excuse. I’m so lucky when I can say if I COULD choose my family they would be exactly who and how they are. And at the same time I’m lucky to have friends who have become family over the years.

Some I’ve been friends with from way back, either families have grown up together or we’re old school friends from our "home town". And others are newer friends, but the kind you seem to have known forever. All make my life very full and special.

Last night when many of them were here for dinner, I looked around the table at them talking and laughing and had this feeling of being so blessed. I was quieter than usual (a feat for me : ) just soaking it all in, thinking that I can’t wait for the next occasion where we can all be together again.

Some were missing and I hope the next time we’re all together, they’ll be present and that’ll make it complete.

I’ve always maintained it’s who I have in my life that makes it so special....not what. Last night was a reminder to me never to be too busy to make a point of having more of these occasions....and never to get so caught up in life’s routine that the important things in life go by the wayside.

To my friends and family who were there and to the ones who couldn’t be....thank you for being. You truly are a gift to me.


Donna Karlin

Sunday, October 05, 2003


I love this time of year....when the weather is crisp and "clean" and when the sun shines it warms you just enough to entice you to stay outside as long as the daylight lasts. It’s when sunsets streaks the sky with an artist's brush and the leaves begin to change into a myriad of colour.

It’s nature at its most exquisite.

And as many mourn the loss of the leaves and end of the warm summer days, I look at fall as an anticipation of what’s to come as nature finds its way to rest and replenish and surprise us with wonders to come.

It’s a time for renewal....

B. W. Overstreet calls October "A symphony of permanence and change".

It’s a special month.....when my son was born.....when I began my own company.... and when, as I did today....I realised my life is pretty wonderful just the way it is, and as it’s the beginning of what’s to come next spring, I wonder what surprises it’ll have in store for me.

All the best...
Donna Karlin

* Photograph taken at Gatineaux Park

Our Hidden Potential

"It is as hard to see one's self as to look backwards without turning around." - THOREAU

As illustrated in the Johari Window, there are four sides to our selves. One is the quot;Me" that I know, that you know...that’s apparent to the world.

The second is my mask or the part of me that I don’t want anyone else to know....whether good or bad, it’s something I keep to myself and takes a great deal of energy to do that. The third is my blind spot or the area I refuse to admit to. Have you ever had 10 people tell you that you’re soooo stubborn? And your first reaction is "Me? I’m stubborn?" Well maybe if you hear it often enough, it’s time to take a look at it. It takes a lot of energy to fight that as well.

And lastly there’s the hidden potential window pane where you or the rest of the world hasn’t yet discovered what’s possible. Now can you imagine how quickly you could develop that part of your being if you took all the energy you wasted in panes two and three and concentrated on four?

We are all capable of doing extraordinary things. When we open our minds and hearts to the possibilities, anything can happen. And it’s not just for the "other person". It holds true for ourselves as well.

Something to think about...


Donna Karlin

Friday, October 03, 2003


“Stand often in the company of dreamers:
they tickle your common sense and
believe you can achieve things which are impossible”
- Mary Anne MBL Radmacher

The key people in my life are dreamers...the ones who spur me on and make me believe, without even trying, that I can do anything I can put my mind and heart to. These people share their dreams with me as I do with them and through them, we truly live our lives to the fullest. Few try to stop me from achieving my dreams. Those who do have had a difficult life and feel only a select few deserve to realise their dreams....like Mexican Crabs (I’ll post that one later).

My dreams can take me anywhere....help me create, imagine, paint a picture I want my life to look like. That place is magical. Remember.....how we dream is what gives our lives value. How we choose to live is what determines whether our dreams have value.


Donna Karlin

Mexican Crabs

Mexican crabs are very interesting creatures. When a friend was in Mexico watching a fisherman catch these crabs, he noticed there was no cover on the basket. He thought the crabs would escape so asked the fisherman why he didn’t use a different basket....one with a cover on it.

The fisherman told him "These are Mexican crabs. If one tries to escape the others pull it back in".

There are many in life who try to do the same thing....keep others back because they’re not growing in their own lives. How many times have you shared with a ‘friend’ that you were on a diet but the friend (who usually is overweight) would come back with "Oh one time won’t kill you. Have dessert". Or another so called friend hearing you’re going to try for a promotion and since he or she isn’t as high as you’re going to be, tries to hold you back from competing for the position.

If you have Mexican crabs in your life...it’s time to rethink your Rolodex! Enjoy the weekend....

Donna Karlin

Thursday, October 02, 2003


"Let the tears come, let them water your soul" - Eileen Mayhew

Years ago, when I was going through a particularly tough time in my life, a dear friend from Holland told me "Celebrate your tears, because if you don’t have them, then it means you don’t feel. Celebrate each and every one because it means you’re living again". Those words shocked me. I never in my wildest dreams expected them from him.

He was right.

If you don't cry, you're suppressing feeling. And many friends, clients and family who are going through their own personal hells or challenges always seem to apologize when the tears start. It's gotten to the point where I pack my briefcase with a wad of clean tissues because inevitably in a session the tears start....as do the apologies. But if that’s what they need at the time....then that's what they should be experiencing

I can hear one of my favourite clients now "Oh! Touchy feely stuff". Yep. It’s that all right. A part of living.....

There's something to the saying "Have a good cry" because cries are cleansing and nourishing to the soul and when they're over, it's almost as if you have a fresh start...a way of getting rid of the emotional baggage that started the cry in the first place.

Touchy feely stuff aside.....a cry is as good for you as a hearty laugh. You do them for different reasons, but all in all it's a part of feeling and living, being and growing in a world that changes day by day.

From a point in life where I thought feeling would mean being able to get hurt.....I opt for the touchy feely, living, emotional, jubilant kind of life.

So have a good laugh....a good cry...whatever works for you right now. And celebrate them all!

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, October 01, 2003


We all do it...all try to do more things in the same amount of time. It used to be synonymous with being a working mother but more and more men are catching up, and fast.

In these days of craziness we all need to do a million things at once. Well it’s time to stop, take a step back and focus on one thing at a time. How many times have you forgotten to do something very important because you were SURE you did it? Whether a phone call, meet a deadline or even missed an appointment. You were sure you did it and you did. In your head and as quickly as you thought of it, it flew out the window and was quickly forgotten.

And in the process you’re not only less efficient but are missing tons along the way. You’re not experiencing much of anything. You’re running from one task to another. Not only aren’t you learning you’re not remembering what it is you might have learned.  You're not remembering, period.

Does this sound like you?

"I realised I forgot to pay a bill so ran downstairs to find it to take to the bank.  While in the kitchen I put away the food I had forgotten to put in the fridge and while there, got a call from a friend asking for a recipe. I promised to email it to her and then forgot what I was in the kitchen for in the first place. With a shake of my head I started the laundry, put soap in the machine and turned it on only to get another call. Ran upstairs to get the phone, spoke to another friend, hung up and then remembered I needed to return a book to the library. Ran into the den to find the book, got in the car and went to the library. Came home in time to start dinner, saw the bill on the kitchen table and realised yet again I forgot to pay it. Late charges here we come!

Went into the basement to retrieve something from the cold storage, passing the washing machine, seeing the laundry still in the basket. The machine had done a full cycle with nothing in it! Oh and there was something else
I had to do for a friend but couldn't remember what. I'm sure that'll come to me....."

Sounds almost funny. Made up? No! Got this first hand from a client....a usual state of affairs for her. If she concentrated on one this at a time....at the very least wrote it down, all would have been done on time leaving her with extra to do something for her. And this is what happens to her at work on a regular basis....always behind the eight ball, trying to play catch-up.


Take a breath, finish one thing before you start another. Who knows? You might learn something and actually enjoy what it is you're doing!


Donna Karlin