Helping leaders emerge



Why 20 Minutes of Journaling Makes All the Difference by Ari of Zingerman’s

Our family was lucky enough to meet the very humble yet famous Ari Weinzweig during a visit to Michigan while dining at Zingerman’s Roadhouse (Ari was the water boy, refilling our glasses summer of 2018). Usually, my husband Brad refuses to dine at a restaurant two nights in a row, but we enjoyed our visit so much we found ourselves dining at Zingerman’s for two consecutive nights!

Since then, we have gotten to know Ari and become inspired by his community values, compassionate leadership style, and business success. And as we continue to live in uncertain times, I find it refreshing to have resilient leaders like Ari to turn to during this pandemic for inspiration – leaders who show up in deep service and commitment to others, their staff, communities, and customers. Thank you Ari!

And so with Ari’s permission, thrilled to share ….

Why 20 Minutes of Journaling Makes All the Difference (April 29, 2020)

One of the most common questions I’ve been asked over the last four or five weeks comes after the conversation has already covered an update on the state of our business. The first things most people inquire about are sales, how our staff are coping, how we’re dealing with safety, the state of our cash flow. But when we’re done with that, what comes is something along the lines of: “What are you doing to take care of yourself through all this?”

It’s a good question. And I’m glad they ask. This is, no doubt about it, an exceptionally stressful time to be in business. Or for that matter, just to be human. Everyone, everywhere, is stressed. I’m no exception—trying to figure out how to do the right things in the business; working to do the best we can for the greatest number of staff; owning that we furloughed over 250 people in two days. Trying to do right by customers, serve the community, take extreme care for the safety of staff, be present, while still conscious of personal safety, and help keep our 38-year old business in business so we can still be here when the world moves to the “next phase,” whatever that might be. It sounds like a lot when I say it, but really, almost every business owner I know is in a similarly difficult position.

So . . . what am I doing to take care of myself? Although these are clearly completely unprecedented times, and none of us have any experience living through a pandemic, the answer for me is pretty much the same one I’d have given you a year ago. And the same response I’d have shared a year before that. And the year before that. (OK, granted, I’m washing my hands more than I ever have, wearing a mask out in public, and keeping my distance. That part is new.) I’m not being flip—really my routines for “self-care” aren’t any different than they’ve been for a long time now.

There are four activities that I engage in daily, all of which work to help me hold onto some semblance of internal stability in, even this, the most uncertain of times.

  • Tammie and I end every evening by cooking a good meal together (which you sometimes read about here).
  • I run every single day.
  • I try to talk to a fair few friends to connect, commiserate, listen, and learn.
  • And, my subject here: I start almost every single day by journaling.

Whether journaling will help you as much as it helps me, I don’t know. What I can say with certainty is that journaling has been hugely helpful to me! I’m not exaggerating when I say that when I started doing it 30 years ago, journaling changed my life. Nor am I exaggerating when I say that the 15 or 20 (even five minutes for me is meaningful and better than not doing it all) that I spend doing it every day, combined with the cost of the legal pads I use (yellow, detachable, fine-lined) and the pens (right now, it’s Pilot Precise, fine point) are one of THE best investments I’ve ever made in my whole life. The $10 or $15 a month it costs me for raw materials and the short bit of time I spend doing it pays for itself a thousand times over.

What do I journal about? Whatever comes to mind. Sometimes it feels important, sometimes silly. Sometimes I write in whole coherent paragraphs, sometimes it’s one disconnected word. At. A. Time. Sometimes I swear up a storm. Some mornings I make a list of people and things I appreciate. Sometimes I journal about work. Other days it’s about the news, the weather, or what I’m worried about. Sometimes it’s about Tammie, or our dogs, or what we made for dinner the night before. I write about books and music, bread and coffee; memories and what I’m doing next Monday. Sometimes I just write “Breathe” to remind myself how much one meaningful breath can matter. Then I do it. It helps.

Essentially, journaling for me is a way to begin my day by doing what Julia Cameron (she calls journaling “morning pages”) suggests in her amazing book,The Artist’s Way: “Ask yourself how you are feeling. Listen to your answer. Respond kindly.”

How much difference can 20 minutes of free-form writing like that really make? It helps me stay sane. And I’m not exaggerating. It helps quiet the (often kind of crazy) voices that are almost always active in my head. It helps me reground and get centered. It helps me remember the plethora of positives by which I’m surrounded every day even in difficult times. It helps get me at the root causes of my consternation. It reminds me to be thankful for the people, dogs, food, ideas, books, and music I get to be with. It helps me to stay super appreciative of the moment. And to remember that ultimately, while I’m very high on long-term visioning, still, all we really have is the moment. As one guest shared with me about talking to his young son, the truth is tomorrow never really comes—when what we think of as tomorrow arrives, it will actually have become “today.” Journaling has helped me—no matter how I’m feeling when I sit down to do it first thing in the morning—to live each day to the best of my ability. To appreciate what we have, even when it happens in the middle of a global pandemic.

At any time over the last 30 years that I’ve been doing this, if I miss a morning of journaling, I feel seriously off-center and stressed all day. And in the tension and uncertainty of our current situation, that makes my morning journaling all the more important. It’s a small thing, but it makes a big, big difference. As Julia Cameron writes, “It is impossible to write morning pages for any extended period of time without coming into contact with an unexpected inner power . . . Anyone who faithfully writes morning pages will be led to a connection with a source of wisdom within. And right now, I think we can use all the help we can get.”
Ari Weinzweig

  • Click here to learn more about Ari!
  • Click here to learn more about Zingerman’s!
  • Click here to read how Zingerman’s Roadhouse was just named finalist for a James Beard Foundation Award!
  • Click here to sign up for Ari’s amazing newsletter!
  • Click here to email Ari (at his request, he loves connecting!)

I’m sure you enjoyed Ari’s article as much as I did and hope you give journaling a try…..

Wishing you, your families, friends, and colleagues health, strength, and moments of joy during this challenging time.

And if you’d like to join our free community Zoom mindfulness meditation 5p EST weekdays, please email me for link and more details!

Cultivating Resilience During COVID-19

Rick Hanson, PhD, psychologist, and author of the book Resilient describes three things we can do to make a difference in the flow of our everyday lives. These three things are particularly relevant to the current COVID-19 pandemic and can support us in keeping our immune systems healthy and remaining steady in our minds, bodies, and hearts.

One: Be on Top of Not Getting Over Alarmed. As part of our human experience, we are evolutionary designed to be scared monkeys 🙈. We lean toward having a negativity bias and tend to live in more fear than is warranted. I don’t want to deny these are fearful times, it is normal to feel anxiety (everyone is anxious right now). We need to “feel what we feel” and be careful to give ourselves time for self-care and rest. Meditate, go for a walk, get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, exercise, unplug, bake, cook, and connect with positive friends via Zoom, phone, etc.

Two: Cultivate Positive Emotion. Stop and smell the roses 💐. Do not underestimate the power of expressing gratitude for everyday moments that could be easily overlooked. One exercise is to think of three new things each day you are grateful for and why. For example, bring attention to something good as it happens, reflect on something new and good that happened during the day, practice gratitude when you brush your teeth, before you go to bed or journal about a positive experience being as specific as possible to reinforce good feelings. As you reflect on gratitude, you are rewiring your brain toward being more positive.

Three: Focus on What You Do Have Influence Over. In our human experience, there are many things out of our control, like this current COVID-19 pandemic. Do your best to focus on where you do have some control and efficacy – including your own actions and behaviors like washing your hands 👌, practicing physical distancing (but social connection!), calling a neighbor in need, keeping with your routine, exercising, being respectful, doing something kind for yourself or someone else, etc.

How to Manage Stress and Sleep Better!

Last month I shared the benefits of getting good sleep – including the ability to maintain positive mood and energy levels, be productive, make logical decisions, keep the immune system strong to fight infections and diseases like Alzheimers and cancer, slow the effects of aging, and increase longevity. (Click here for February newsletter Why Sleep Matters).

With the state of the world right now, especially the Coronavirus (COVID–19) pandemic, you may be having trouble getting to sleep or waking up in the middle of the night, having trouble falling back asleep. So before you reach for the Ambien to treat your insomnia, consider trying the body scan – a useful tool tool to settle an active mind and get a good night’s sleep.

What is the body scan? A deep investigation into the moment-to-moment felt experience of the body. By bringing awareness and acceptance to whatever you feel in the body, the body scan can be helpful in working with stress, anxiety, physical pain, and a racing mind because it increases the capacity of your pre-frontal cortex to self-regulate your nervous system, helping you feel more at ease.

  • For a deeper dive to learn more about the body scan click here.
  • For one page PDF instructions to guide yourself through a simple body scan click here.

Free Body Scan Meditation Recommendations 

  • My favorite body scan is by Elisha Goldstein (30 minutes) see Insight Timer meditation app (free meditation app) or click here
  • Longer vision (45 minutes) by Jon Kabat-Zinn on youtube click here
  • Shorter version (20 minutes) by Elisha Goldstein – see on Insight Timer meditation app or click here
  • Even shorter version (10 minutes) by Elisha Goldstein on youtube click here

Additional Resources

Stay safe, healthy and strong!

Why Sleep Matters

Matthew Walker, PhD, sleep expert and author of Why We Sleep, makes a compelling case for how sleep benefits our brains and bodies, how sleep is a nonnegotiable biological necessity, and that the shorter we sleep, the shorter we live – and has the research to back it up.

And unfortunately, most of us are not getting enough sleep. According to medical research, adults need between 7 hours 30 minutes to 8 hours 30 minutes of sleep each night. However, the average American adult sleeps only about 6 hours 40 minutes per night, so most of us are under slept by around 1 hour, according to Dr. Peter Attia.

Why Sleep Matters: Links to Effective Leadership, Health, and Well-Being
Our ability to be effective leaders in our organizations, communities and families, as well as healthy individuals, depends on getting a good night’s rest.

Leadership behaviors and skills that directly relate to sleep include our ability to

  • Learn, memorize, and make logical decisions
  • Navigate challenges
  • Be productive
  • Be creative
  • Recalibrate our emotions and remain calm (mental health)
  • Maintain good mood and energy levels
Good health and well–being that directly relate to sleep include our ability to
  • Manage mental health (think of sleep as emotional first aid for mental health)
  • Regulate appetite (weight management)
  • Restock immune system to help fight malignancy, prevent infection, and ward off sickness
  • Regulate hormones and promote reproductive health
  • Help prevent diseases like cancer (bowel, prostrate, breast), Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease
  • Drive safely, preventing car crashes and traffic accidents
  • Slow the effects of aging and increases longevity
Sleep Tips!
  • Avoid alcohol before bed (because it robs you of REM sleep)
  • Avoid caffeine about 7 to 8 hours before bed
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
  • Keep your bedroom cool (around 65 degrees Fahrenheit), dark, and gadget free
Favorite Sleep Resources
  • Newsletter: Click here for more information, including Twelve Tips for Healthy Sleep, page 20 (other good sleep articles in this NIH newsletter)
  • Video: Click here to watch Sleep is Your Superpower TED talk with Matt Walker. 19 minutes.
  • Book: Click here to purchase Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams
  • Oura Sleep Tracking Ring: Click here to learn more about Oura. After hearing about the ring on Dan Harris’s Podcast, I purchased it. I love! the ring because it provides a daily sleep score that measures sleep contributors including total sleep, efficiency (% of time actually asleep after going to bed), REM, light, and deep sleep stages, latency (time it takes to fall asleep), timing (how aligned your sleep is with circadian rhythms), and resting heart rate (average and lowest throughout the night). I also like the daily readiness score which helps me gauge my physical activity for the upcoming day.
  • Podcast: Dan Harris #221: Click here to listen to All Your Sleep Questions, Answered | Dr. Matthew Walker. In this episode, Dr. Walker shares significant findings on what happens to us when we do not get enough sleep. He also offers practical tips on how we can get more, quality sleep and how meditation can help. 2 hours 36 minutes.
  • Podcast Series: Click here to listen to Pete Attia’s Podcast the drive #47 – Matthew Walker, Ph.D., on sleep – Part I of III: Dangers of poor sleep, Alzheimer’s risk, mental health, memory consolidation, and more. 1 hour 43 minutes.
  • Podcast Series: Click here to listen to Pete Attia’s Podcast the drive #48 – Matthew Walker, Ph.D., on sleep – Part II of III: Heart disease, cancer, sexual function, and the causes of sleep disruption (and tips to correct it). 2 hours 4 minutes.
  • Podcast Series: Click here to listen to Pete Attia’s Podcast the drive #49 – Matthew Walker, Ph.D., on sleep – Part III of III: The penetrating effects of poor sleep from metabolism to performance to genetics, and the impact of caffeine, alcohol, THC, and CBD on sleep, 2 hours 1 minute.

A Blessing for 2020

You may have set New Year’s resolutions or be in the process of setting them. As part of your resolutions, I’d like to challenge you to include an intention about how you want to feel this year.

If you are like the executives I coach, you are probably quite driven and mastered the “doing part”, so I’d like to encourage you to set an intention based on how you want to feel in 2020 and let that be the motivator for what you do in the world and how you show up.

Here is a simple yet powerful intention you can say to yourself at the start of your day, throughout the day, or before you fall asleep. I like to say these phrases to myself when I am feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and want to feel more personally resourced.

Feel free to use the following blessing or adapt the language to make it your own:

May I feel safe
May I feel happy
May I feel healthy and strong
May I feel at ease

These phrases are not meant to be a mantra, but rather a blessing, so try noticing and welcoming (without judgment) whatever feelings arise for you. Sometimes you will feel something and other times you will feel nothing. Whatever arises for you is okay because you are planting seeds that will blossom when they are ready.

Happy 2020!


“We live in a materialistic world that pays insufficient attention to human values. We seek satisfaction in material things instead of warm-heartedness. But human beings are social animals. We need friendship and that depends on trust. Building trust requires concern for others and defending their rights, not doing them harm. Friendship is directly linked to warm-heartedness, which is also good for our physical health”.

                                                                                                        – The Dalai Lama

Idiot Compassion

Idiot compassion
refers to something we all do a lot of and call it compassion.
In some ways, it’s what’s called enabling.
It’s the general tendency to give people what they want
because you can’t bear to see them suffering.
Basically, you’re not giving them what they need.
You’re trying to get away from your feeling of
I can’t bear to see them suffering.
In other words, you’re doing it for yourself.
You’re not really doing it for them.

Pema Chodron

In my work, I’ve learned that leaders who show up with wise compassion – that is with presence, deep listening skills, and appropriate boundaries – have richer connections and are better able to inspire their teams, manage their schedules, delegate tasks, provide valuable feedback, and mentor their colleagues – which leads to better business results.

What is Wise Compassion?

Wise compassion includes empathy (the ability to listen deeply to, understand, and experience what another person is feeling) plus the desire to help the other person who is suffering. What makes wise compassion a skill is that it requires our willingness and ability to tolerate our own uncomfortable feelings in order to take the action that truly helps the other person while being true to ourselves in terms of values, self-respect, and appropriate boundaries.

What is Idiot Compassion?

Idiot compassion occurs when we convince ourselves that we are helping the other person but what we are really doing is taking or not taking the right action to avoid feeling our own emotional discomfort. This approach can inhibit the other person’s growth and lead to overwhelm or resentment for us.

Examples of how Idiot Compassion Shows Up at Home and Work

  • Offering advice versus being present with and listening to the other person and trusting them to find a solution. This shows up at when we try to “fix” a situation for someone versus trusting in the other person’s potential by being present, asking open ended questions to help them figure out what they want to do, and trust that even if they makes a mistake, they will learn and grow from the situation.
  • Not providing honest, constructive feedback because of fear of hurting the receiver’s feelings. Providing direct, honest, and constructive feedback takes courage and, if delivered with a generosity of spirit, can be life changing (and a relief!) for the receiver.
  • Not delegating because of feelings of guilt or having trust issues. Doing something ourselves that should be delegated because we don’t want to burden others with more work or have issues letting go deprives the other person of an opportunity to grow and learn.
  • Quickly agreeing to take on a project versus taking enough time to understand if your team is sufficiently resourced to deliver. What can make this a challenge is our tendency to people please, our desire to be the hero, having enough patience to understand what the project really entails, and having the courage to say no when the request is not realistic.

Steps for Showing Up with Wise Compassion

  • What does the other person truly need in this situation? For example, they might need for me to listen deeply and be present with them without providing immediate advice. They may need space and time to figure it out on their own, or they may need additional resources and support.
  • As I help this other person, what are my personal boundaries so that I don’t go into hero or rescue mode? And what do I need to in order to feel like I am being valued and respected versus feeling resentful or taken advantage of?
  • What are my watch-outs? How might my fear of being with my own discomfort get in my way of doing the right thing? Or my need to be right, nice, or liked?
  • How can I stay grounded and non-reactive while being with and managing my own emotional discomfort so that I can truly help the other person? Self-management strategies include: I will practice straw breathing (see below, a tool many clients love!) or prepare in advance by writing it out and/or reviewing with a trusted friend or go for a walk.
  • What might I need to let go of in order to truly help this person? For example, my ego, my image, my desire for a quick fix, or my short-term emotional comfort.

Straw Breathing for Self-Regulation
A fight with a partner, a disagreement with a co-worker, someone cutting you off in traffic, or feeling nervous about an upcoming speaking engagement can be a trigger. Straw breathing is a simple tool that can help you down regulate and be in charge of your own physiology. Click here to learn more with Fleet Maull.

How to Know if You’re Making Progress in Your Meditation Practice!

Worried about your meditation practice? Are you making progress? And is it worth it?

Assess your practice by asking yourself the following questions by Joseph Goldstein:

  1. Are you less immediately reactive in difficult or stressful situations, both in meditation and in life?
  2. Overtime, are you generally becoming aware of the wandering mind, more quickly in the sittings?
  3. In daily life, the feeling of rushing is a good feedback that we’re ahead of ourselves not beings settled back in our bodies, do you find that your rushing less often or becoming aware of it, more quickly?
  4. Is there more awareness with your speech, perhaps refraining a little more frequently from angry or judgmental speech?
  5. Is there a little more openness in being with other people, more willing to listen?
  6. Are you becoming a little more familiar with the qualities of calm and concentration in the practice?
  7. Are you using the tool of mental noting, is it becoming a little more continuous, at least for periods of time? Is the tone of the note becoming softer?
  8. Is there a little more ease in being with whatever arises in your meditation practice, simply noting it for what it is?
  9. Is it a little easier to sit longer?
  10. Are you becoming somewhat more aware of the changing nature of all experience and holding onto things a little less?

Source: As told by Dan Harris in his Ten Percent Happier Podcast #184, click here for more information.

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