A Spiral Staircase

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sometimes life feels like a scene from that old Bill Murray movie: Goundhog Day. Every day the same thing. The progress we want to make, the goals we set… all seem to elude us.

What’s true is that, if we are mindful and earnest in our efforts, we really do make progress… it’s just sometimes difficult to see.

I am a fan of the religious writer Karen Armstrong who wrote a beautiful memoir entitled The Spiral Staircase. She likens her own growth (and the growth we all experience on this grand human adventure) as something akin to climbing up a spiral staircase… not necessarily repeating the ‘sins’ of the past… but turning back on those experiences, returning again and again, often from a higher perspective, to those certain lessons that continue to be necessary for us to learn.

Places that feel like old ground; places that feel familiar… but are not the same.

Our journeys, lived deeply, sometimes – necessarily – take us through these places. In our relationships, in our studies, in our jobs.

Growth… maybe not in that linear way so many of us strive for… but growth none-the-less.

One of the great gifts of the coaching process is the ability of the coach to see across the stretch of the road, to see the grand arc… to see progress when it feels, in the moment, like quicksand. And to re-assure that the way is sound, the ground secure.

Fall can be a time of new beginnings. But, as we return to our routines, it can also be a time of re-assessment… and frustration.

If the road ahead looks uncertain, don’t despair. The twists and turns can feel quit daunting. And circuitous.

Stay the course. It’s the slow, steady steps over time that lead to those magnificent results.

Be Cliff Young

I LOVE the story of Cliff Young. It is a story of audaciousness… but even more than that, it is a study in tenacity… stick-to-it-ness… something that all of us can use sometimes…

Cliff Young was a 61-year-old potato farmer who had never run a race before. He decided he wanted to run the Sydney to Melbourne, Australia Ultra Marathon… 543.7 miles! He arrived at the starting line wearing overalls and gumboots. The race officials wanted to deny him entry to the race fearing that he would collapse and die. Bad for publicity, they thought.

Cliff argued that he really did have experience. He told the officials and the press that he had previously run for two to three days straight rounding up sheep.

The race officials eventually relented. At a loping pace, Cliff ran continually for 5 days, 15 hours, beating all five of his competitors. He won. And not only did he win, but he beat the course record by two days!!! Because he didn’t know he was supposed to stop and eat and sleep. Picture+30

He just kept going.

That’s the lesson. That’s the secret.

It’s mid-September. It’s easy to feel frustrated with how fast the year has flown. But there’s still time to push those projects forward, to achieve those goals, to finish those projects, to make those dreams come true.

So maybe it’s that running program; or pushing forward with your fitness and weight loss; maybe it’s a fresh commitment to networking and business building; or a relationship that needs to be strengthened; maybe it’s a trip you’ve been planning or a degree you’ve been pursuing; or perhaps there’s that product launch that’s been sitting on the back burner; or that soul-sucking job that just needs to be replaced.  Whatever it is, get to it. And just stay at it.

Don’t quit. Just keep going.

Be Cliff Young.


Be A Control Freak

OK, people, it’s done.

Summer’s over. The vacation’s behind you. No more lazy lunches. No more casual Fridays.

It’s time to put away the Dockers… and the swimmies. It’s time to get back to it.

September’s here. Time to get busy; time to get serious.

No more leisure, no more playtime.

It’s time for work.

Uhhh, wait a minute: I object. I don’t want to give up playtime!

It is a busy time of year. But perhaps we can take some of summer with us?

In summer, it seems, time is more expansive; the rules more flexible; the boundaries softer.

And then September comes and – maybe it’s a holdover from going back to school – it seems like the time for fun is over.

We move back into our busy lives, our schedules chock full, shuttling around the kids, out to soccer games and swim practices, with evening meetings, volunteer activities and board commitments.

Many of my coaching clients feel like they’re moving back into the forest fire armed only with their squirt guns; their lives turned into an out-of-control carnival game of whack-a-mole. Reacting endlessly, and breathlessly, to the urgent.

Never really getting to what is really, truly the important in their lives.

And summer slips silently into the rear view mirror with perhaps some vague hope for respite and reprieve on some distant unencumbered weekend… or maybe in February on that “vacation… .”

There is a different way.

But it requires that you become a control freak.

That’s right, a control freak: someone who takes control of their lives!

No one else is gonna do it for you. You’ve gotta do it for yourself.

And this means that you need a bit of courage and audacity.

I know. I live it too. Bombarded by unceasing demands and expectations in every area of our lives. Inundated by inputs. Juggling multiple modalities of communication. Over committed and suffused with the anxiety of dropping the ball.

But here’s the truth: the in-box will always be full. None of us will ever get it all done. If you died tomorrow, you’d be replaced.

So why not pay attention to what truly matters?

People ask me how it is that I take so much time away traveling and adventuring. The answer: it’s a choice.

Last year, I took 13 weeks off. There were no disasters. No one missed me. The world went on.

And, damn, it was fun.

So here are some practices to consider before September gets too crazy:

  • Decide what really, really matters to you. Spend time on that. Get rid of the rest.
  • Get really good at saying no; if you find yourself saying you “should” do something, you probably shouldn’t.
  • Carve out time for yourself – every single day. No one else is going to do it for you.
  • Get up an hour early and enjoy the quiet. Use it to read and write and meditate and create.
  • Plan your weeks; and plan each day; actually schedule in the time for the things that matter most to you.
  • Turn off the TV at night and focus on the life you really want.

Here’s the scoop: at the end of our lives, no one is going to wish they spent more time in the office, billed more hours, sold more product, sat on more boards, went to more PTO meetings, or volunteered for more committees. It won’t matter whether you went to one more network group, whether your Facebook status was up to date, or whether you were well LinkedIn. What will matter will be the experiences you have had, the love you have shared, the lives you have touched.

What will matter will be whether you showed up in each and every moment to know the fullness and the joy of your life.

What will matter is whether you have lived without regret.

For that to happen, you’ll need to become a control freak.


p.s. If you’re working on creating the work and the life you love, and would like some support and coaching, consider booking a complimentary breakthrough Strategy Session with me. We’ll get laser focused on you and figure out exactly what needs to happen to get you the results you want. Email me: walt@walthampton.com

This is an encore of a piece first published on September 6, 2012.









To The Beach

At some point in our evolutionary history, our forebears crawled up out of the sea onto the beach into the sunlight and the air.

On June 6, 1944, the Allied Forces stormed the beaches at Normandy to effect a turning point in the Second World War.

The beachhead: a critical component of success. In evolution, in battle, in business and in life.

As a coach, I collaborate often with folks who want – and need – to storm the beach.

Making change, effecting transformation, is difficult, exhausting work. It’s not for the feint of heart.

It takes courage and audacity.

But even more than that, it takes tenacity.

It takes stick-to-it-ness.

A willingness to do whatever it takes. Unfailing effort… and resolve.

And faith too.

Because, so often, especially in the early going, you can’t see your progress. You feel as if you’re stuck in the surf, drowning; it feels like the bullets are flying everywhere. It feels chaotic and discouraging; stressful and depressing.

Our biggest breakthroughs, of course – our most worthy objectives – the deepest expressions of who we are – lay just outside our comfort zones… and it’s comfortable inside our comfort zones… who really wants to venture out… when there’s so much danger … and uncertainty. Who really wants to climb out of that boat into that icy water and swim for the shore when the risk of failure is so high.

And it’s easy at the outset to give up, to turn back, to play it safe.

It’s critical, then, to your success to brave the battle, to stay the course, even when the challenges are daunting and the outlook bleak, even when your energy… and your faith begin to flag. It’s essential to fight the waves and dodge the bullets and defy the odds… to finally stand upon that beach.

Because, what’s interesting is, that once you’ve gotten up on the beach, once you’ve established a beachhead, it all changes up.

On the beach, for the first time, you dig in, get some footing, set a foundation, build some momentum. Suddenly, it feels like you’ve established a presence and made some progress.

You see – at last – the first fruits of all your hard work.

From the beach, you can finally see the light, finally see the possibilities.  people-victorious-at-the-beach

From the beach, you’ve seen the evidence of the effort; you can feel the anticipation; your confidence builds; you know there’s hope.

You know in that moment that you can – and will – succeed.

Time and again I’ve seen the joy in our client’s eyes when they’ve gotten to this place.

Whatever it takes, whatever it takes: Get to the beach.