One of the many memorable scenes in “The Wizard of Oz” shows Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion finally standing before the Great and Powerful Oz. They have come to present him with the broom belonging to the Wicked Witch of the West after having conquered her with a bucket of water. Oz thunders at them mightily and tries to put them off, but as he blusters and blasts, Toto, Dorothy’s tiny dog, pulls back a curtain and reveals that the wizard is just an ordinary man pulling levers in a magic show.
There’s always a man behind the curtain
The same thing happens whenever we see through the illusion created moment to moment by our thinking. One minute we are gripped by the certainty that the feelings and perceptions before us are real, and in the next, we see that they are projections of our amazing power of thought. One morning last week I had a realization about a long-standing story I sometimes live about not being a good-enough sister or friend or neighbor. I noticed how I’ve resisted and resented and avoided that story, and how that sets up a tug-of-war inside of me, an internal argument about being kind. I took out my notebook and made a simple list of related stories that came to mind.
- They need me.
- I should do more.
- I am not thoughtful.
I burned the list. It was funny. The paper in that particular notebook must have a special coating. It resisted burning. On top of that, it was a windy day. I used up half a book of matches failing to burn the list on our burn pile. Finally I got a ceramic bowl and found a place by the front door relatively sheltered from the wind. It still took at lot of matches, but that sucker is burned.
Back to the Wizard
In the movie, after the curtain is pulled back, the phony wizard is able to endow each of the characters with his or her wish. How does a phony wizard pull that off? He does it by revealing to each of them that they already had what they sought. The Scarecrow may have thought that brains lived in the diploma, which the Wizard granted him, but we know that his intelligence was there all along. The Tin Man’s heart was apparent throughout the movie, long before the Wizard gave him a heart-shaped clock. And the courage of the beloved Cowardly Lion shone through repeatedly as he shivered and shook, but stayed the course in spite of his fears. Clearly his courage was not the result of receiving a medal. And Dorothy? Dorothy wanted to go home. Home, a place that lived right there inside of her.
The magic worked by the Wizard is ours every minute of every day
You could say that the magic of the Wizard was to show each person that they themselves were the power behind the illusions they had been living, and that they had equal power to see through those illusions and come home to their wholeness and wellbeing. We have that same magic at our disposal. Whenever we see through our thoughts to the intelligence and wellbeing of which we are made, we come home. We encounter our intelligence, our compassion, and our courage.
What I noticed after burning those stories
After burning my stories about not being nice or compassionate or caring enough, I continued to reflect on those qualities. After all, I do want to be kind, compassionate, and caring. I noticed that thoughts about care and compassion can come from many sources. When it comes from an identity that is attached to being good enough, an identity that wants to be liked, or any other identity projected from a sense of insufficiency or incompleteness, thoughts about care and compassion are rooted in those things. But there are other times when those thoughts seem to stem from a different identity, one that is resourced in lovingkindness and that is not afraid or attached to outcomes.
Our hearts can always tell which identity is at work behind the curtain
Our personal thinking can get very confused about this, but our hearts can tell in an instant when we are operating from lovingkindness, which is another way of saying that we are connected with our true nature. It was good to see that what seemed to be the same drives or intentions can be generated from quite different sources. I don’t know about you, but there have been times when I have been trapped in my stories because I was afraid of losing something, like the will to be kind. How lovely to see the difference between the root of kindness, which can never be lost, and my stories about kindness, which can sometimes be quite distorted.
Burning didn’t dispel my stories
I burned my stories as a physical expression of an inner knowing: that the stories that I live are made of smoke and mirrors. It was satisfying to witness their return to smoke, but in no way necessary. The freedom we seek from our stories is ours as soon as we see that we are always the man behind the curtain. Have a wonderful, wonder-filled week, and please let me know what you’re discovering by sharing it in the comments.
Click here to learn about my newest program, The Art of Living: Creating Magic and Meaning in Life and Work.
Video credit: The Critical Commons
If not now, when? How shall we live wisely and well? Free Wholeness Hangout replay
This is the promised link to watch the Wholeness Hangout with Bill Cumming. Because of our conflicting schedules, this hangout was recorded. I promise I will have Bill back another time when you can join us live.
I love all my Wholeness Hangout guests, and I admit that of all of them Bill Cumming has been my favorite. Just being in this man’s field is transformative, provided you let his energy and love in. I hope you will give yourself that gift.
Our conversation about what it means to live wisely and well is a resounding wake up call to show up in and for your life.
And it is a wake up call with a twist.
The twist is this. Bill calls to YOU (the person reading these words) to know that you are loved, valued, and appreciated.
He is committed from the soles of his feet to the top of his head to:
- Having a world that works for everyone.
- Allowing all 7 billion of us to know that we are loved without condition.
- Allowing all people to experience that there is always a choice.
- Supporting individuals in knowing that their value and worth in the world is a given.
It’s his life’s work, and he speaks to it with great authority.
Click here to watch and/or to download the audio. You can also download Bill’s ebook, Self Care for the Soul.
Last week at a coaching conference one of the speakers held forth about her wildly successful book on the formation of habits, habits that, in her view, lead to success.
Among other things, she proposed a model to explain why some people do what’s good for them and some people don’t (and some people do it some of the time but not other times). She went on to name some of the 21 (!) strategies that she had codified for forming habits that lead to success.
Her suggestion for a useful exercise was for us to sort ourselves into groups according to her model and come up with mottoes for our “types.”
Can you see how instead of pointing us inward toward the source of our moment to moment experience, she was pointing us outward, toward her model? Not only that, she was asking us to invest our creative energy and attention into developing her model, dressing it up with mottoes.
The world is overflowing with models and life hacks that don’t work.
You are a human being, a creature with infinite potential, not a robot who could benefit from an operating system upgrade.
Instead of looking outside for models of success, look inside toward the source that inspires and catalyzes human beings of all sorts to do extraordinary things.
Have you noticed that sometimes you just feel alive? Really alive?
And have you noticed that when you come alive, life works?
And have you noticed that sometimes coming alive happens regardless of your circumstances? It can happen when you have bills to pay (and no money in the bank). It can happen when you or the people you love are sick.
That’s because coming alive has absolutely nothing to do with your circumstances. It happens before and underneath them.
Coming alive is the realization of what you already are, not a new accomplishment.
It’s what the mystics and sages are pointing to when they tell us that all is well and all manner of things be well.
And when you are in touch with the underlying okayness, when you let that okayness unfold and reveal your true aliveness, life just works.
An invitation to “The Art of Living”
Click here to learn about my newest program, The Art of Living: Creating Magic and Meaning in Life and Work. Save $100 when you sign up before April 21, 2016.
Photo credit: Pixabay.com
Last month I stopped charging set fees and announced Pay What You Choose pricing. Here are some of the things I’ve learned so far.
1. You don’t have to know step three before you take step one.
I have wanted to try PWYC pricing for at least two years. One reason I hesitated was that I didn’t know how it would work. Then I realized that I didn’t need to know how it would work in order to run an experiment.
As I set it up, I wondered what kinds of systems I might want or need. Should I screen clients before agreeing to a session? How would I handle payment?
I decided not to try to screen prospective clients before accepting appointments. Instead I ask folks to make one initial appointment. This lets me meet the client and have a conversation with them about subsequent work. It seems simpler and more effective than trying to screen people.
I use acuityscheduling.com, which enabled me to create a simple intake form that pops up when someone makes a PWYC appointment. I ask what calls them to work with me, what their previous experience of coaching is, and what else they would like me to know. At the same time I ask what they want to pay. As soon as I receive an email notifying me of the appointment, I send a PayPal money request.
That has worked beautifully. Many clients find that a single session is sufficiently transformative, and they go away happy. If and when they want another, they are free to schedule again. Other people have turned into weekly or bi-monthly clients.
And, in case you are wondering, there’s no correlation between the amount people are paying and whether or not we agree to ongoing work. Read on for more about how little money appears to have to do with the quality of the experience.
2. There is no correlation between the amount a client pays and their readiness for coaching.
One of my thoughts going into this was that I could end up with a slew of people who saw themselves as needy, broke and/or broken, and victimized, which some might expect to indicate that they are not ready for coaching. I certainly see and hear a lot in coaching circles to support that.
But that’s not how it has turned out.
Yes, I have had a few people show up who seemed to be in a needy or broken state of mind. But here’s the deal: I know that they are not broken. After years of holding that as an article of faith, I finally see deeply that it is true. And it appears that when I see a client as truly and inarguably whole, it doesn’t matter a great deal whether or not they show up as needy in their own minds.
Because a funny thing happens when any of us is held with true, loving regard. We begin to wake up to our true nature, which is whole and resourceful. That holds true no matter how much a client pays.
It distresses me that this is not more clearly and widely understood in the coaching world.
3. There is no correlation between the amount a client pays and the degree of engagement we experience or the pleasure I get from the session.
I also wondered if knowing what someone had paid might influence my coaching. Would I feel pressure to perform with a client who paid in multiples of a hundred dollars? And would I be less enthused or energized or have any number of thoughts about coaching someone who paid in multiples of ten?
As it happened, the first week I was far too busy to even think of looking up what a client paid before I showed up for the session. In week two, after a particularly satisfying session, it occurred to me to check. I discovered that the client I had enjoyed the most had actually paid the least.
After that I decided there was no benefit to paying attention to what people choose to pay, so I don’t.
4. Lowering the barriers to entry won’t help you get hired by folks who don’t know you exist.
21 individuals have signed up for PWYC coaching since I announced it in early September. As I write this on Friday, October 2, apart from a few sessions with folks who have become repeat clients, I don’t have any PWYC appointments for October. My conclusion? Even if you have been coaching for 20 years, as I have, your work is not front of mind for your prospective clients. No matter what your pricing model, you need to find a way to make your work visible and accessible to your just right clients on a regular basis.
5. Lowering the barriers to entry doesn’t change anything for folks who don’t know why they would hire you.
Being visible and accessible is not enough. Your just right clients need to see a reason to hire you–a reason expressed in terms that match their own values, needs, and priorities.
I’ll be working on this in the weeks ahead. I’m starting by asking recent clients to let me know what they got out of our sessions. I’m not talking about getting testimonials. I’m talking about listening carefully to how my clients talk about the value they received, the difference it made in their lives, and how it helped. That way, when I write a new description of my services for this ezine or the Web, it will be from the perspective of the client, not the coach.
This perspective shift is crucial. It is one thing to say to prospective clients: “I have seen something that could be really useful to you.” It’s another thing entirely to be able to report exactly how other clients have found it to be useful.
What folks have reported so far includes:
- Actually being excited about marketing their work.
- Feeling really, deeply good about themselves for the first time in ages.
- Looking forward to “loving up” their significant other after having months (or years) of relationship tension.
6. It can be difficult for people to hire you if you don’t name your price.
Most of us have a lot of thinking about money, and that can make it very difficult for someone to hire you if you don’t give them a number. They get lost in their thinking about what you really want or expect. They can get lost in their thinking about taking advantage of you or being taken advantage of.
Sometimes clients are reluctant to book again because they don’t feel they can afford to. In their minds they are locked into a price because they chose it once and hesitate to scheduled additional sessions for less money. When this emerges, I explain that I want is to coach people who want to be coached at whatever price they can afford to pay.
When people make an appointment, the intake form offers them a range of prices and “other.” I give the range to give some context and a starting point, and I’m really okay with “other.”
7. I have no idea how this will work over time, and that’s okay.
I need to earn a certain amount of money in order to keep the business going and contribute to the household. The costs of ongoing professional training, renewing my International Coach Federation membership, insurance, utilities, equipment, and a few hours each month from the office angel do add up.
In September I brought in a little less than half of what I need to earn in an average month. Right now I’m undergoing radiation therapy and working about half time. I am hopeful that as I get back to full time in the months ahead–and as people come to know about and trust this offer–the numbers will work out.
If they don’t? I’ll punt. I’ve been at this for 20 years, and I certainly know how to create and enroll programs. I’m mulling over a couple of groups now, in fact, that might have set fees and might not.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep my eyes open, pay attention to what is unfolding, and make new choices as the needs and opportunities arise.
Photo by pixabay.com
In this issue of the “Simple Wisdom” ezine I announce Pay What You Choose Coaching. This is something I have been dancing with for a l-o-n-g time. Dancing or going around in circles.
I chose this pricing decision as the topic of a session with my own coach last week. As I told her, I have been coaching for nearly 20 years, and I have never had an issue with pricing my work.
I started low
In the olden days, as a newbie, I was happy to price my services near the bottom of the range. In fact, my first rate was $175 a month for four one hour sessions, which was well below most posted rates.
I was happy to earn that, and I never seriously questioned my choice to low ball my prices as a newcomer to a brand new field in a market that was largely unfamiliar with the concept of life and business coaching.
My rates went up from there
As I gained training and experience, I raised my rates. The first change was an increase to $240 a month and a reduction in the amount of time to three 40-minute sessions. I raised my fees regularly over the next few years and played with various lengths and frequency of sessions until, in 2013, I was charging $5,000 for six months of twice monthly hour-long sessions.
I’ve written and taught tons about pricing
Over the years I have written and taught a lot about pricing. I’m familiar with the notion that people tend to value more what they pay more for, and I think that is often the case.
I’ve coached clients who had blocks about charging for their services, and I kept questioning my motivation. Was I suddenly in the grip of doubt about my value? Had I turned over night into someone who couldn’t have a straight up conversation about money?
The truth is I don’t know what’s up with this shift
I honestly don’t know what’s behind this pricing shift. That troubled me until my coach asked me a question last week that shifted everything.
The way I heard it, she asked what happened if I let go of the need to understand.
Letting go of understanding freed me to do the obvious thing
Letting go of needing to understand what’s going on freed me to notice a simple fact: except when I was second-guessing myself or trying to figure out what is going on, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
I wanted to offer Pay What You Choose Coaching.
I could follow my inclination or fight it
I realized that the only thing keeping me from being 100% comfortable with doing what I wanted to do was analyzing it. And since analysis has never, ever been able to shine much light on inspiration, it wasn’t helping.
There are no rules about pricing
The rather disorienting truth is that there are no rules about how to price your services or run a business or a life.
There are models. There are cautionary tales. There are theories. And they can be valuable. I’ve gotten heaps from them over the years.
But right now models, cautionary tales, and theories obscure rather than clarify, so I am setting them aside in favor of an experiment.
I don’t know how long the experiment will last
Who knows how long I’ll price my services this way. It truly doesn’t matter. Now that I’ve made the decision, I’m excited to see how it goes. As is my wont, I will certainly keep you posted.
Here’s how Pay What You Choose Coaching will work for now
For the time being, I’m offering 55 minute coaching sessions on a Pay What You Choose basis. The ground rules are simple.
- Use my online scheduler to select a Pay What You Choose time on Wednesdays between 8:00am and 1:00pm Pacific Time (11:00am – 4:00pm Eastern Time, 3:00pm – 8:00pm UTC/GMT). Click here to choose a time: https://shaboominc.com/scheduling/
NOTE: PWYC Coaching is now available on Tuesdays and Thursdays, too!
- Please schedule a single session to begin with. When you and I talk, we can determine together if multiple sessions are a good idea and talk about how often they should occur.
- When you schedule, there will be a place to tell me how much you choose to pay. I will send you a PayPal invoice for that amount and ask that you pay that prior to our session.
- You can choose to meet by phone, Skype, or Zoom.
Is there something you’ve been running around in circles about?
Is there something in your life or biz that you’ve been chewing on for too long, analyzing endlessly without getting any clearer?
If so, I invite you to ponder the question my coach offered me. What happens if you let go of the need to understand?
Have you ever run yourself mentally haggard trying to convince yourself to see a spiritual truth more deeply or clearly than you actually do?
It’s easy to do. After all, the fundamental principles behind the human experience are quite simple to articulate. According to Sydney Banks, Mind is the infinite formless intelligent energy behind all things. Consciousness is our ability to know reality and our ability to understand how our reality is created by thoughts. Thought is a source of all mental activities and source of all feeling, actions and reactions.
Our experience in any given moment is created by the interplay of these principles.
When I first came across Syd’s teachings, I was frankly underwhelmed. I didn’t disagree; I just didn’t see anything earthshaking. I had studied intensively with Byron Katie, and the notion that thought generated our experience seemed obvious.
Still, I kept returning to Syd’s work because of the profound changes I saw in people who had been influenced by him. And one day my own understanding shifted, deepened, expanded, and what had seemed obvious and verging on trivial started to blow my mind.
I’ve shared many of the insights that have emerged from that in previous blog posts and videos, but I want to take a little different look at things today.
You see, there’s a way in which we can become addicted to knowing. We can chase insights as if our wellbeing lies in having more of them.
When actually, our wellbeing is nonnegotiable. Invariable. Innate.
Our essential wholeness does not depend on our moment to moment experience of life. As I’ve written before, we don’t have to feel okay to be okay.
But damn! I don’t know about you, but sometimes all I really want is to feel okay. Which last week had me wrestling with this notion of essential wholeness. I was frustrated by feeling fragmented and, frankly, stupid. Where was my innate wellbeing? Where was wisdom?
How could I get there from where I was?
What good does it do me to have a theoretical understanding that I am okay when I feel cornered by the limits of my current thinking?
And then something funny happened.
It occurred to me to simply doubt.
To drop the gospel.
To quit trying to feel or believe or find wholeness and wisdom.
To drop my story that I should trust it.
And to drop into my honest in that moment experience of WTF? Where is it?
To ask in an open hearted and abandoned way, are we really whole? Does God or Mind or whatever you call it have our backs?
Where is wisdom? Is it really always on, only sometimes obscured?
I dropped into the questions, which had a whole different feel from struggling to believe in the answers.
And I can’t account for just how or why, but as the days passed, I started to get a glimmer.
A felt sense of something beneath the surface.
Not an intellectual understanding, but the barest shimmer or breath of a feeling that something is there.
Dim. As yet unknown. But palpable.
I don’t know what, if anything, that does for you, but it did a lot for me. Somehow out of my honest doubt I had touched bedrock.
I don’t know what the bedrock is. What it means. How to talk about it.
But I know down to my toenails that it is there.
Thank you, doubt.
Your turn: What’s your experience with what Byron Katie has called trying to live beyond your current level of evolution? What might doubt have to offer you?
Photo by HebiPics via pixabay.com