Category Archives: Coaching

What My Dog Taught Me

How my pit bull helped me re-frame, increase my self-awareness and identify fear that was holding me back.

About two years ago I adopted a dog from a local rescue organization.  I wound up with a 45 pound “mini” pit bull-type dog named Puma.  All rescue dogs have a story and Puma’s story included being attacked by several dogs while in a foster home prior to being surrendered to the organization from which I got her.  She still had the marks on her body from recently removed stiches the day I brought her home.  According to the rescue organization, her original owner kept Puma isolated in his house and yard, and while she loved her people, she didn’t have very much experience with other animals nor was she socialized to other dogs.  I was apprehensive about these facts and I was concerned about my ability to properly handle a powerful dog.  All my worries of course melted away upon meeting Puma.  She was sweet, very affectionate and conveyed that longing plaintive expression unique to homeless animals. She licked my face.  I was hooked.

Aware of the stigma pit bulls carried, I quickly envisioned myself on a mission to make my pit bull a model for her breed.  I was going to train her in obedience, she would earn the Good Canine Citizen certification, maybe even become a therapy dog so we could go about visiting senior centers and hospitals.  I had it all figured out; within a few months I would heal the world with my amazing pit bull.


My little plan quickly dissipated once the reality set in that this strong little dog had never been trained to walk properly on a leash without pulling me behind her. Forty five pounds of pure muscle, a low center of gravity and over-the-top excitement at being outdoors, made Puma more bull-dozer than pit-bull.  Did I mention that she is very strong?

In addition to the pulling, she would also lunge toward other dogs.  Under any threat, a dog instantly assesses whether fight or flight is the best action.  When a dog is on a leash, there is no option to fly and that’s why a lot of dogs have what’s known as leash aggression.  This was understandable in Puma given her lack of doggie social skills and her experience of being attacked, but nerve wracking for me nonetheless.  Additionally, the terrier in her wants to chase critters, a scampering squirrel could mean a sprained shoulder for me – did I mention how strong she is?

My anxiety was exasperated by the fact some people are afraid of Puma simply because she is a pit bull and I had to acknowledge what I now refer to as the liability of perception.  No matter what behavior Puma exhibits, she’s already perceived as dangerous; she steps up to the plate with two strikes before the first pitch is thrown. I began to perceive my responsibility differently, I appreciated in a new way my notion of holding her to a higher standard. I had to make her into the perfect dog for her own safety.

I hired and excellent dog behaviorist and trainer named Dan Perata. Among the many things I learned working with Dan, his recommendation to use a special collar that fits on a dog’s head represented the biggest improvement.  The head collar (brand names are Walk-N-Train or Gentle Leader) functions a lot like a horse’s bridle.  The idea is if a human can control a 2000 pound horse by controlling its head, I can do the same thing with my 45 pound dog.

The head collar worked great and with expert Dan’s help, and a number of consultations, I started to truly enjoy our daily walks.  The head collar enabled me to control where Puma looked with a flick of my wrist.  It was super easy to control her gaze and keep her from staring down other dogs, or prevent her from hunting squirrels and taking me down in a futile attempt to chase it up a tree.  With the head collar, Puma trotted right by my side, looking straight ahead with a loose leash and pulling was virtually eliminated.  The physical part of this was great but the best part was how much more relaxed and at ease I felt while out and about.  My energy shifted from a state of intense vigilance to a more casual and care-free state, I was less tense.

The downside to the head collar was that Puma hated it.  She tolerated it while we were in motion but the second we paused our walking, at a stop light or when I was scooping her poop, she would paw at her face, rub her nose and muzzle on the ground, or against the legs of anyone we would stop to talk with.  Sometimes, if we were walking past a particularly fluffy patch of lawn, she would take a semi-sideways dive and make an embarrassing display of attempting to wriggle out of her head collar at the most inopportune moments.  It got pretty annoying.  On top of that, most people assumed that the head collar was a muzzle, further perpetuating the negative pit bull stereo type, about which I was already a bit defensive.

About a year passed using the head collar and Puma made deliberate progress with her leash walking skills.  She pretty much stopped the lunging at other dogs unless they were behaving aggressively toward her and she completely ignored little dogs even if they were yapping and going nuts.  Despite the progress, I found myself growing weary of the head collar, mostly because I knew Puma hated it and I hated her persistent protests whenever we weren’t in motion even more.  I was also tired of judgmental looks from people who assumed my pit bull was vicious and therefore had to be muzzled.

How could I solve this problem? Did I really care that much what other people thought of me? On the other hand, I almost felt it was irresponsible of me to give up the control I had with the head collar and risk her getting into trouble; her proverbial strike three.  Puma needed the head collar to behave properly and keep her out of trouble.  She wasn’t ready to take the training wheels off.  I told myself that even though Puma hated wearing it, she needed it.

She needed it.

The truth was that I needed it.  The truth is that the head collar was a tool for me to feel more confident and secure.  My ego was attached to all the stories I had created about my dog and how my dog would behave.  I had all sorts of judgements around what it said about me (and others) to have a pit bull who wasn’t under my complete control and a model of obedience.  Once I began to perceive the head collar as a tool for me and my piece of mind and my comfort and security rather than something Puma needed independent of me, things really shifted.  It only took a few weeks to fully transition to a regular collar.  Simply having the self-awareness that I was the one using training wheels, it naturally followed that I took the training wheels off for good.

One of the profound things I learned from Dan is how sensitive our dogs are to our energy and how they instinctively respond to our actual energetic state.  We are often too much “in our head” to sense what going on with us energetically. As a coach, I’m trained to identify energetic states, so it was surprising that it took time to fully integrate that belief into my way of being with my dog.  Puma was ready to take the training wheels off and transition to a regular collar long before I was.  She was waiting for my confidence to catch up to hers before we could move forward together. Our animal companions give us so much more than we usually perceive. Puma gave me a beautiful insight to my own self-awareness.

Energy Blocks

Introduction to Energy Blocks

Imagine that you are asked to participate in a meeting or networking event. Perhaps the event is organized around a particular business purpose, or maybe it is the first time you are attending your child’s school PTA meeting. It could be a meeting with fellow church or community members after moving to a new place. Perhaps you are attending a social gathering with individuals you hope will invest in your business idea or technology product. Maybe you have been asked to make a presentation on some topic to a room full of strangers.

Now imagine that you are about to walk into the meeting or event. It is the moment right before you walk into the room and step onto the stage or to the podium. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What beliefs do you hold about the people with whom you are about to engage? How do you perceive your energetic status at that moment?

Ah, yes. Energy—a word that is tossed around quite a bit, but how is “energy” defined as it relates to human consciousness? Why does that word seem squishy and vague? What exactly is energy? The answer is simple and complex at the same time: simple because energy is everything and complex because energy is, well, everything. Everything you see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and even think is made up of vibrating, living energy. In the context of coaching, energy is about the way you “show up” in the world; it is about your level of conscious awareness.

The more awareness you have about how your particular energetic pattern shows up in the world, the greater your capacity to manifest what fulfills you and makes your life rich with joy, passion, and contentment. When your energy is flowing from a place of consciousness, it is a lot like a garden hose. When the hose is unfurled and kink-free, water effortlessly flows out and nourishes the garden; in this state, there are no blocks slowing the flow of water and the hose functions at peak efficiency.

For us non-garden hose beings, there are four types of energy blocks that inhibit our flow. In this five-part series, I will explain the overall concept of energy blocks. The next four posts will go into more detail about each one of the four internal energy blocks, how to identify them, and how to release them.

The four blocks are (1) limiting beliefs, (2) interpretations, (3) assumptions, and (4) the inner critic. I can almost guarantee you that virtually every difficulty, challenge, fear, or negative thought, feeling or emotion is rooted in one of the above energy blocks. The trick is learning how to identify them in the moment and then choosing a different level of awareness. I will explain these blocks in reverse order of potency:

  1. Limiting beliefs. These are the beliefs we hold about the world, about people, about situations, and about life in general that hold us back. These beliefs may not necessarily be about you, but can be ideas such as (a) crying is a sign of weakness, (b) venture capitalists do not invest in women entrepreneurs, or (c) personal sacrifice is necessary to achieve anything of high significance. Most of the time, a limiting belief is an idea that we have simply absorbed without much consideration of that belief’s veracity. Think back to the thought experiment at the beginning and imagine that you are a woman about to pitch your idea to a group of investors. If you hold the limiting belief that venture capitalists do not invest in women entrepreneurs, how would that belief affect your energy in that moment?
  2. Interpretations. The opinions we create about an event, situation, or experience are interpretations. We tend to interpret a thing, person, situation, or experience through the lens of our experiences and (limiting) beliefs, and unconsciously look for evidence to support our particular interpretation to validate the truth of the story we tell ourselves. Actually, our interpretations often represent only one among many possible viewpoints. When we continue to consciously or unconsciously accrue evidence to support our interpretation, we can wind up creating an energy block that keeps us from being all that we can be. As an example, imagine you are at that venture capital pitching event and you notice that one of the potential investors is an old acquaintance. From across the room you wave hello and that person ignores you. Perhaps that person was not wearing their glasses and did not notice you waving, yet you interpret their behavior as deliberately ignoring you. How would that influence your energy when it comes time to present your idea to the group? What might you think about your chances of being successful with the person who is ignoring you?
  3. Assumptions. Beliefs, mostly unconscious, that we hold about the past and that we apply in the present fall in this category. We convince ourselves that because something happened in the past, it will automatically happen again. Assumptions are more potent than limiting beliefs because they involve us personally and have to do with our personal experiences. Assumptions are one of the most insidious energy blocks and they show up everywhere. An assumption can go like this: the last time I presented my ideas to a group, I was not understood; I am not a good communicator. Because I am not a good communicator, I assume this presentation is going to be really hard for me. If you assume you are a bad communicator and presentations are difficult, how well will you be able to inspire others with your idea? How might that affect how you “show up” for the presentation?
  4. Inner Critic. Sometimes called the Gremlin, the inner critic lies within everyone. It is that little voice—sometimes loud and sometimes soft—but always there to tell us that we are not good enough. It tells us not to try, not to take risks, to take the safe road, and to play small so that we avoid failure. The most potent and powerful of all the energy blocks, the inner critic is more emotionally charged, and when it speaks it is hard not to listen. And when you do listen, you will not even attempt some things because the critic has already convinced you that you will fail or suffer humiliation. This inner critic or gremlin is uniquely yours; your own special sauce of toxicity, and it knows precisely how to make you shrink from your highest potential. Typically, the inner critic tells you, “Do not even try to get this idea funded; you will be exposed for the fraud you really are. Do you want to be exposed? Do you want everyone to know how inexperienced you are? You will never succeed as an entrepreneur; better to go back and get a real job.”

I will go into more detail about each one of these blocks in the next four parts of this series. If you are feeling like any of these blocks might be showing up in your life, give me a call and I will help you create a customized approach to banish these blocks from your consciousness and get your energy flowing freely.