Intrepid Entrepreneur

Brain Coach: Optimism Squared–Span & Subtleties

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

For many years, I wasn’t aware of how “routinized” my ability to worry, catastrophize, and feel guilty had become! It was a habit that I hadn’t realized was part of my daily life. And with every worrisome thought, I caused a chemical release in my system that took me even further into a subtle but impactful state of unsettledness, second-guessing, and insecurity.

I wasn’t a basket case by any means, but I certainly didn’t live with the confidence, freedom, and fun that I live with today. And I can assure you, I am sooooo much happier with my increasing Optimism. It has greatly increased my ability to see options and take action.

And I know the same is true for my colleagues who are on a similar journey. @JamesBeeman @KarolTaylor @BeverlyHarvey @SusanChritton and other fellow Master Brain-Based Success Coaches!

Optimism—Span & Subtleties

I’ve talked about the Speed and Sustainability of Optimism. Here are two more dimensions:

Span: Are there some areas of your life where you’re naturally an Optimist while other areas (a challenging relationship, career success, finances) aren’t as strong?

Subtleties: Or, are there subtle areas of your life that you may not even realize you’re approaching from more of a Pessimistic perspective? Places where you’re 1) resigned, 2) restless, or 3) in a bit of a rut? For instance,

  • The ebbs and flows of business (do you assume “there are just busy times and down times in my business—it’s just part of the cycle, not something I can control”) or
  • Relationships (do you assume “there’s no way I could get business from that person—I’m too small potatoes to work with them”), or
  • Diet/weight loss (if weight loss has been a struggle in the past, do you assume “this is just the way it’s going to be”), or
  • Other everyday circumstances (do you assume, “there’s no way I’ll ever get my email under control”), etc.

Click here for a Coaching Tip to Increase Span & Subtleties of Optimism:

Insights? Actions?


Brain Coach: Rational vs. Emotive Optimism

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

Earlier, you heard about “Rational Optimism”—how we can lean toward thinking about positive outcomes for the situations in our lives. This is the cognitive (thinking) side of Optimism.

But Optimism isn’t just a cognitive process, as in telling yourself, “this will all work out.” It’s also an emotional process. Unless we truly FEEL the peace, the love, the abundance—deep in our soul—with a sense that “this will all work out,” we won’t have the fullest benefit of Optimism.

The counterbalance to Cognitive Optimism is Emotive Optimism. When we have Emotive Optimism, we’ll have “happy” neurochemicals  (serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin) floating through the brain and body. These neurochemicals support our ability to think more clearly, creatively, and strategically. And, that sets us up to act more confidently, with greater certainty, and with more constancy.

One of my mentors, Dr. Donald Johnson at the Applied Neuroscience Institute, notes that using positive thinking to navigate a challenging situation is a diluted process. Without positive emotions, we handicap ourselves. I liken it to swinging a baseball bat with just one hand—you’re out of balance and lose a great deal of power.

With both Rational AND Emotive Optimism, we eliminate cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the feeling that things don’t quite add up. . . that you are trying to convince yourself of something while another part of your brain (or heart, or gut) just isn’t buying it. Cognitive dissonance leads to hesitation, procrastination, and pessimism.

Coaching Tips for Emotive Optimism:

1. Evaluate your optimism – if it is limping along, chances are it’s only Rational optimism and not both Rational and Emotive-based.

2. Explain to your brain that you are giving it permission to have an easier time, and that you will do this by inviting it to be washed and refreshed with “happy” neurochemicals, such as dopamine and oxytocin. (Our brains like to know what we’re up to!)

3. Be compassionate with your brain—it’s not used to being happy when it’s accustomed to be restless or upset about unwelcome circumstances. Tell your brain, “We’re just going to experiment for a bit with some new ways of handling this.”

4. Access Emotive Optimism with feelings that are proven to elevate mood. The core positive emotions are gratitude, peace, hope, love, and joy.

5. Identify a workable formula for accessing your gratitude (or peace, hope, etc.). This might be pausing to take 3 deep breaths and then visualizing the most beloved person in your life. Or it might be putting on a favorite, upbeat song. You decide. Be specific.

6. Revel in it. Two seconds of feeling a positive emotion isn’t nearly as effective as a full 68 seconds. Neuroscientist Dr. Jeffrey Fannin notes that, at 68 seconds, you actually create momentum and experience wavelength changes in the brain.

7. Spend (much) more time accessing and reveling in positive feelings than negative feelings. As human beings, we can be masterful at sustaining negative emotions (frustration, disappointment, fear). Set a goal of being just as masterful at making positive emotions the default for your mood.

Enjoy! And if you’re interested in learning more, check out the Certified Brain-Based Success Coach Program. The next cohort begins July 7th!


The Internal Career Coach: The Employee Who’s Afraid to Talk to the Boss

By llehman | No Comments »
A group of career coaching colleagues and I had a discussion recently about what prevents employees from being proactive about managing their careers with their current employer. One theme that surfaced quickly was…

The employee’s fear of talking to the boss!

Those fears can be founded in a number of assumptions, opinions, and/or facts. For example, fear of:

Damaging trust—the employee may wonder…

  • If the boss will think the employee is unappreciative of all the boss has done for her
  • If the boss will be angry or retaliatory because the employee is the boss’s “golden goose” as a key producer
  • If the boss will be frustrated if the employee has been in her role a short time, such that the boss will have to spend more time training someone new and bringing a replacement up to speed

Raising red flags—the boss may wonder…

  • If the employee is fully engaged and giving his all
  • If the employee is still the right fit for the job
  • If the employee takes on new responsibilities to add to his portfolio of skills, will he still have time to do all of his regular work duties?

Creating suspicions—team members may get wind of the conversation and then wonder…

  • If the employee is really bought into the team’s success, or
  • Whether the employee is jockeying for position to “one-up” them or get ahead of them

As a career coach, what should you do with all of these fears—some of which may be well-founded?!

Two Quick Tips:

  • First, avoid tackling the fears and problem-solving how to remove them. Fear is a natural response in human beings, and it will easily resurface in a new form once the employee has left your coaching call. 
  • Second, focus on “flourishing.” Coach your employee/client out of fight-flight mode and into calm-connect/peace-possibility/flow-flourish mode. From this stance, your employee will be equipped with additional brainpower to vision, problem solve, and take action.

If you’re interested in deepening your competencies in this area, check out the Certified Career Management Internal/Corporate Coach Program… Our next class starts June 16th!


What Are You Addicted To?

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

shutterstock_218061502We all have known people who seem predisposed to seeing the glass “half-full” or “half-empty”—the optimists vs the pessimists, the perky Pollyannas vs the Debbie Downers, the Susie Sunshines vs the in-the-dumps Eyores of the world. Why the difference?

It turns out that there is a biochemical, molecular answer! In the early 1970s, a young doctoral student at Johns Hopkins, Candice Pert, was working on her PhD in neuropharmacology. She was the first to discover opiate receptors on the outside of a cell—these opiate receptors “receive” both external opiates, such as heroine and opium, as well as our internal natural opiate, endorphins.

A decade later, while working at the National Institutes of Health, her research evolved to uncover one of the most significant discoveries in the history of neuroscience:

Your emotions consist of real, physical things

Dr. Pert, in her book, The Molecules of Emotion, describes that every emotion (love, joy, peace, anger, frustration, sadness) has a unique neuropeptide associated with it, and our bodies produce that unique neuropeptide by the billions every time we experience a particular emotion.

We become comfortable with our most familiar emotions. If our most familiar emotions are negative emotions, that’s what we’re used to and, in a sense, we become “addicted” to those emotions. If our most familiar emotions are positive emotions, that’s what we become most familiar with, and thus “addicted” to positive emotions.

emotionsThe more the brain perceives the world through the lens of gratitude, the faster the hypothalamus (the control center of the brain) signals to secrete the “positive” neuropeptides that bind to billions of cell receptors throughout the body to produce positive emotions.

The more the brain perceives the world through the lens of threat, loss, pessimism, worry, scarcity, and so on, the faster the hypothalamus signals to secrete “negative” neuropeptides that bind to billions of cell receptors throughout the body and cause the cells to become damaged and more susceptible to disease.

In short:

  • Positive emotions produce positive neurotransmitters, creating a sort of biological “addiction” in our cells—all day, every day—for more positive emotions.
  • Negative emotions produce neurotransmitters that are harmful to our cells, creating a sort of biological “addiction” in our cells—all day, every day—for more negative emotions.

The question to answer is this:

What is your default addiction?

If it’s a positive addiction, congratulations! Research tells us we’ll will live longer, healthier, and happier. If it’s not, the good news is that we can change.

Coaching tip: Engage your clients in “Rewriting Their Story!” A wise person once said “our lives are a reflection of our beliefs.” If there is a part of your life that you are not yet satisfied with, rewrite the beliefs for that part of the story. For example:

  • I am the type of person who regularly makes great decisions in every area of my life—health, business, relationships, finances. I easily see and leverage new opportunities. I easily relate to people who have built multimillion-dollar businesses and both learn from them and offer them value.
  • I tackle my priorities and enjoy getting the right things done in the right order at the right time. I “ride the wave” of uncomfortable emotions when I learn new things and find it an adventure to “not be perfect” when I’m experiencing a learning curve. I model this for others. I am so relaxed in approaching my projects.

What will your new addiction be?!


Backwards Advice? Keep Your Clients “IN” Their Comfort Zone!

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

We’ve heard for years that “results come outside the comfort zone”! “Stretch yourself!” “Think outside the box.”

To some degree those statements are true. And yet, from what we know about brain-based research, there’s evidence that urging people to shift outside of their comfort zone may actually be less effective. Here’s why.

The Red Zone

blog post 1Our brains translate the phrase “Beyond the comfort zone” as “risk, threat, danger.” Risk, threat, and danger puts the brain into a fight-flight state. In that fight-flight state:

  • Cortisol and adrenalin are released,
  • Blood pumps to the large muscle groups so that we can fight or flee,
  • Blood flow is reduced in the executive function of the brain.

In short, it puts folks in what I call “the red zone”!

When blood flow is reduced to the prefrontal cortex (our executive brain), we are robbed of our ability to think as creatively, clearly, and strategically . . . the very thing we need to do when we are in an unfamiliar situation (aka, outside our comfort zones)!

The Blue/Green Zone

blog post 2Conversely, if we can help clients shift into the blue/green zone, they will be operating with full-functioning capacity of their brain. When all of this happens, “happy” neurotransmitters are pulsing through the brain and the body—dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, etc.—and, in turn:

  • Ideas flow and insights comes
  • Possibilities and hope increases
  • Energy rises, which gives rise to courage and confidence

So, the next time you’re working with a client and you notice they’re feeling out of their comfort zone, shift them into the brain’s “comfort zone”—that blue/green space of creativity and confidence first! In doing so, you are creating new neural pathways that will make the new thing (the change, the challenge) no longer outside the comfort zone, but part of it! That’s powerful!


Do You See What I See?

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

shutterstock_138535850My daughter passed along a You Tube video to me recently that really caused me to stop and ponder. Dove (the soap people) hired a talented forensic artist to create sketches of ordinary women based on verbal descriptions only. Separated by a curtain in a loft filled with beautiful light, the artist asked one woman at a time to describe herself. “Tell me about your hair. Tell me about your chin… your jaw … your most prominent feature…,” he asked.

Prior to entering the artist’s loft, each woman had been introduced to another woman—a stranger who was given instructions to simply get to know the person. The stranger, unaware of the sketching experiment, was ushered into the studio a bit later. The artist once again began his questioning to draw a second composite of the original woman, this time from the perspective of the stranger: “Tell me about the woman you just visited with … her hair … her chin … her jaw … her most prominent feature.”

The two sketches were later revealed side by side. In each case, the self-description sketch looked harsh and less attractive, while the stranger’s description was softer, gentler, and more alive. Clearly, the strangers saw a uniqueness and beauty that the women couldn’t see or own.



If you’re working with clients who see the worst in themselves (and shoot themselves in the foot in the process because of it), consider this coaching idea:

Give your client a comparison assignment: Ask the client to describe him/herself in just 1 word plus and then list 3 of your best professional skills. Next, have the client ask some close friends to “describe me in just 1 word, and then 3 of my best professional skills.” (As a variation, a tool such as the 360Reach can also generate some positive feedback.) If the client operates from a faith-based dimension, ask how a loving and merciful God would describe him/her.

Once the results come in:

  • —  Explore the comparisons.
  • —  More importantly, explore what it would take to “own” the compliments and accolades that come in … or the motives/rationale for not believing the good things that others say.
  • —  Offer “stretch requests” by asking the client to be grateful for those specific attributes!
  • —  shutterstock_131955923Look for ways that the compliments translate into part of the client’s value to employers and gift to the world!

All of these activities can add to your client’s confidence and resiliency!

P.S. Here’s the Dove video!


A Fresh Approach to G.O.A.L.S.

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

goals-1-2-3As many of you are doing in December, I’m working on my goals for 2014. In doing so, I wanted a fresh approach to the process.

Here’s what I came up with . . . maybe there will be an idea or two in here that inspires you!

G – Gain | Grow | Get More Of

  • In what ways do you want to gain, grow, get more of? Consider traditional categories of Career, Business, Finances, Health, as well as nontraditional categories such as Character, Relationships, Reputation, Perspective.

O – Overcome | Oust | Less Of

  • What do you want less of this year? What situations, bad habits, negative thinking, toxic relationships do you want to overcome or oust from your life?

A – Allow Life to Lead | Abide

  • How will you invite Life to unfold this coming year without striving, worrying, or working too hard? For those with a God orientation, how will you invite Him to love you, lead you, guide you, provide for you this year? How will you abide in Him?

L – Limelight

  • What is/are the major initiative(s), project(s), theme(s) you want to keep in the limelight/spotlight for 2014?

S – Service

  • Whom do you want to bless with your talents, gifts, and services this coming year? How will you do so?

And, please receive my heartfelt wishes for a year of significance and success!


P.S. If you’re a careers professional doing some last-minute year-end tax planning and thinking about write-offs, there’s still time to take advantage of our holiday special pricing that ends 12/31/13. Check out the savings of up to $400 here – and yes, payment plans are available!


Career Coaching Business Tip: Focus on Both the Big Picture and the Pixels

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

Where’s your focus?

  • Is it on the Big Picture—dreaming about what you’d love to be, do, and have? There’s nothing wrong with that! In fact, visioning is a prerequisite to serious success.
  • Is it on the Daily Details—tackling the things in front of you, whether to answer a pile of email, pay a bill, or knock out a client project?

Both the Big Picture and the Daily Details are important. Too often, though, we hyper-focus on one area to the neglect of the other. It’s the Photograph vs. Pixels analogy. If you’ve ever looked at a digital photograph, you know that when you zoom in, you can see the individual pixels that make up the picture.

Those individual pixels are important. As they relate to growing your business as a career coach, leadership coach, or resume writer, they might be things such as:

  • Creating fresh and value-rich content for your community
  • Filling your marketing pipeline on a consistent basis, whether via email, social media, direct mail, etc.
  • Getting people to “raise their hand” (as our coach Mike Alpert likes to say)
  • Converting those “hand-raisers” into customers
  • Making phone calls to touch base with prospects’ needs

Here are a few quick tips to find the balance between the Photograph vs. Pixels:

  • Schedule time to see the Big Picture/Photograph. Lyndsey and I schedule a weekly 30-minute pow-wow to remember the Big Picture; we meet every two weeks with our business coach by phone; and we meet quarterly for a face-to-face half-day with our marketing coach.
  • Use meaningful metrics. Revenue goals are great, but how about net profit goals? Meaningful metrics will vary from business to business but consider also things like the number of articles you are writing, presentations given, leads generated from those events, customers converted from those leads, closing rates, and so on.

How will you schedule time to see the Big Picture/Photograph?

What are the Daily Details/Pixels that will create your Big Picture?



“I’m No Good At” Really Means “I Don’t Know How…YET!”

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

I was coaching an entrepreneurial client recently and, as is so often the case, a limiting belief reared its ugly head in the middle of our coaching session. No surprise, as we all have them (limiting beliefs), including moi!

Specifically, we talked about putting systems in place that would support her annual revenue goals. Listening carefully, I caught a clue to the roadblock when she said, “I’m just no good at organizing.” You’ve probably used a similar phrase, such as:

  • I’m no good at …
  • I’ve never been able to successfully …
  • I am just not talented at …
  • My gift is definitely not …
  • I wish I didn’t have to …

Whatever the phrase, it probably related to a task that you regularly avoid or procrastinate on, such as:

  • Marketing
  • Closing sales
  • Growing my business
  • Bookkeeping
  • Networking
  • Social media
  • Getting/staying organized
  • Staying up on technology
  • Following up with your clients/network
  • Or fill in your own “I’m-no-good-at” task here: ____________

So what do you do when you hit a “I’m-no-good-at-that” roadblock? Before I offer some insights, first pick something from the above task list that resonates with you so you have something tangible with which to relate these ideas.

Now, here are three insights and suggestions:

  1. Incapacitate the accusations: Notice your language or self-talk. Don’t condemn or berate yourself. Just curiously notice and name it, whether silently or aloud. E.g., “I’m noticing that I am labeling myself as ‘not good at’ x.”
  2. Remember the W.I.N. (“What’s Important Now/Next?”) Decide how important “x” is to your success. If you chose “closing sales,” and you don’t have a waiting list of clients ready to thrust money into your hands, it’s likely that “closing sales” is pretty important. If it’s “staying up on technology” but that isn’t critical to the success of your business, note that as well. Focus on important items.
  3. Swap it: Substitute your “I’m-no-good-at” phrase for this new phrase:“I don’t know how to [x] … YET!”

When we shift from “I’m no good at” to “I don’t know how to … YET!” we shift from condemnation to exoneration, and with exoneration to encouragement. As a human being, you are a living, breathing, learning machine. Your brain is capable of wiring more new neuropathways and healthy habits than you could ever dream possible.

Everything you need for success can either be 1) learned or 2) paid for and performed by someone else. If you’re growing your business, you may choose to “learn” more than you “pay for” initially (focus on doing the things that only you can do and delegate the rest).

So what is the mind-shift for you? What do you want to learn next?


Career Coaches Tip-The Gift of a Mentor

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is the gift of a mentor — an experienced colleague by your side who has traveled just a little farther down the road than you have … one who is willing to share her expertise, experiences, encouragement … her mistakes and how to avoid them … her secrets and how to leverage them.

When I was learning coaching, I worked with several mentors, but primarily an amazing saint by the name of Judy Santos. Judy began her heavenly, eternal life almost two years ago. I still miss her and wish I could ask her questions, seek her support, hear her perspective.

It got me thinking about the benefits of a mentor. Here are just a few . . .

  • Safety: A safe place to make mistakes (it’s what we all do when we’re learning!)
  • Feedback: I loved receiving confidential feedback (read: not embarrassed in front of others for my lack of mastery) on what I was doing right, and what I could do differently.
  • Awareness: Judy gently (sometimes bluntly) uncovered my blind spots . . . I’ll never forget the time she asked me, “what will happen if you don’t do this?” (those words echo in my head still today when I’m having trouble finding my courage!).
  • Momentum: I grew by leaps and bounds in my coaching skills.
  • Ideas & Insights: I could ask questions about the client situations I was dealing with.
  • Networking: I developed a deep professional relationship, as well as a personal friendship. Our professional relationship helped grow my business. Our personal relationship enriched my life. I was even able to visit Judy in Washington four weeks before she died.
  • Stretch: I grew in my ability to coach ‘stuck’ clients and different client types through challenging role plays.
  • Confidence: This was probably the biggest benefit for me … I discovered that as my confidence grew, my client list grew … clients will hire you not just for your competence but also for your confidence!

I originally crafted this list of benefits when we introduced The Academies “FREE” Mentor Coaching offer that’s going on through December 16 (a huge $1,700 savings that we can only offer on a limited time basis to a handful of people). If you’re in the market for (dare I say it?) life-changing coach certification training, now might be the time to investigate it further. You can do so here:

And, how about you … how has your life been bettered with a mentor at your side? Or, if you’ve yet to experience that, what would you LIKE to change?

To your significance and success,



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