Holy Fools’ Day: A Spark of Madness

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” ~Robin Williams  

Lately I’ve been wondering if I still, to a certain degree, live some of my life to satisfy others’ expectations. Of course I like to think that I stopped doing that years ago, but I suspect I still do it often without awareness.

Gail Larsen

The following is an excerpt from Gail Larsen, author  of   “Transformational Speaking”, a book that inspires even if you aren’t a public speaker.

This excerpt, about our tendencies to “tame our madness” and suppress our voices, resonated with me, particularly since I recently visited my 94 year old father, whom I hadn’t seen in approximately 40 years. I still found myself concerned about his expectations of who I was and who I became, and I wonder if he had similar thoughts.

Gail’s e-letter says:

Most of us tame our madness to fit into what other’s expect and never use our inherent spark to become the wildly unforgettable speakers and change artists that are needed in these times of shocking transformation.

How would your life be different if you didn’t care what others think?  I sometimes ask that question in my classes and when an astute participant responded, “What if I didn’t care what I think?”  I realized she was on to something.

So armed with both those questions, and assuming you could give up editing and rehearsing yourself around what others may think, or what you yourself may think just for a moment, how then might you express your spark of madness?  Would you be the first to speak rather than first feeling out whether your listeners would agree?

Would you launch a new movement using social media and organize your own demonstration against injustice or corporate domination or nuclear power?  Whatever you do, don’t get attached to the outcome. Just go for it.

I suggest you no longer try to lose or suppress your spark of madness and instead give it a voice on April 1 [popularly known as April Fool’s Day].  

This festive and often annoying holiday suggests we play tricks on others with a jovial spirit and once we’ve duped them to yell with delight, “April Fools!”

Comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell talked about the archetype of another kind of fool: the Holy Fool.

The Fool is the most dangerous person on earth, Campbell explained, the most threatening to all hierarchical institutions. He has no concern for naysayers, and no one has power over him (or her). She is not limited, not stoppable, nor controllable. She knows what she has to do and is doing it, no matter what.

I think of the Holy Fool as similar to the Court Jester, the only person in the Royal Court who dares to speak truth to the King without consequence.

Or the Koshari of the Hopi and Pueblo peoples of the Southwest, who in the midst of sacred ceremonies makes us laugh at ourselves by mimicking our behavior so we can see ourselves in a new way.  Their role is to create lessons at the expense of another’s seriousness, recognizing that laughter is a great shape shifter of old habits and patterns.

So here’s a suggestion. How about on April 1 we engage in a dialogue with our inner Holy Fool and Spark of Madness and ask what he/she most wants to express, convention be damned.

Ask where you are being duped day in and day out and not shining the light of your truth.

Let’s stop concealing our greatest passions and be willing to say what we love and what we know without editing and rehearsing ourselves into oblivion.  Let’s declare April 1 Holy Fools’ Day and engage the madly passionate part of us that has something important to say – and just say it.

Rumi said (paraphrased):     

I used to be like you.

Calm, rational, controlled.

Now I am seized by passion.

Watch out

No one’s safe!

Our world is changing, one voice at a time, and yours is needed. I’d love to hear what happens when you connect with your Holy Fool and say what is yours to say. Speaking your truth, especially when convention is expected, opens the door to your liberation.  You might just find you want to be a Holy Fool and reveal your spark of madness every day.

© Gail Larsen 2011

Reprinted from “Real Speaking Power Points” a free e-letter by Gail Larsen, author of Transformational Speaking.  To subscribe and receive occasional insights and ideas to enhance your public speaking and communications, go to http://www.realspeaking.net


Can you see how this is connected to your career choices and your leadership approach?

Happy Holy Fools’ Day to you all.

For more information about Terry Del Percio’s Career Transition Services, please visit http://www.workstrategies.com or call to schedule a free phone consultation at 978.282.8900


You Gotta Believe

Why do people make the choices they do throughout their careers?   What makes one person persevere and take risks to achieve their goals while others can’t seem to get unstuck and find themselves locked into an unfulfilling job for years? In this article we are suggesting that the critical factor is belief. Belief is ultimately what determines how successful you are.  

Essentially, beliefs are your unconscious patterns of thinking. Core beliefs are the foundation of your personality. They describe you as worthy of respect or worthless, competent or incompetent, fairly treated or victimized, independent or helpless.

Individual belief systems are an incredibly powerful influence on the choices people make. We observed people who said they wanted to make positive change, but struggled to take concrete actions to accomplish their goals. Many intelligent and motivated people become paralyzed by intangible inner obstacles.

The Source of Your Beliefs

Where do our beliefs come from? There is no simple answer because several factors need to be considered.

  1. Personality – Obviously, not everyone holds the same beliefs. Our fundamental personality has a tremendous impact on the beliefs that we assume through our formative years and how we view the world in general.
  2. Family and Role Models – There is no question that our environment plays a significant role in who we become. Our families and role models send us very powerful messages about who we are and how the world operates. These messages become the foundation of many of our beliefs into adulthood.
  3. Cultural and Ethnic Values – Many of us are raised within certain cultural environments that provide us with feedback about what’s right/what’s wrong and what’s true/what’s false. It may sound like stereotyping, but cultural and ethnic values still have a strong impact on what we believe.
  4. Spiritual Orientation –Beliefs around faith, destiny and god have a tremendous influence on the choices we each make about work throughout our lives. This might include traditional religious values that we learned as children.

Belief Imprisonment   

When you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
– Dakota Tribal Saying

Your beliefs shape your life and your behavior. This, of course, is a good thing if your beliefs are accurate and affirming. However, limiting beliefs get in the way of positive change. They restrict what you can achieve. Beliefs are often referred to as “childhood tapes” that play over and over in our heads and often dictate our behavior. Do any of these tapes sound familiar?

  • I’m really not smart enough to run a company, am I?
  • I want this promotion, but I don’t think I have what it takes to do the job
  • I’m too old to go back to school and start a new career – it’s too late
  • It would be irresponsible to pursue my passions now because I have a family
  • Better stick with this job – it’s all I know
  • I should never quit my job without having another one

In our consulting practice, we have coined the phrase “belief imprisonment” to describe being stuck in your limiting beliefs. Since many beliefs operate outside of your awareness, their influence on your daily choices may be invisible yet profound.

Identifying your core beliefs and bringing them into your conscious mind is crucial for making positive change.

If you don’t expect to get well when you are diagnosed with a health problem, you won’t do all the things that can help you get better – especially those things that may be difficult. In the same way, if you don’t expect that you can successfully make a career change or get that promotion, you won’t do all the things than can ensure you succeed.

Consider Lisa. She is bright, personable and very capable. Lisa holds a position as a Senior Manager in a large multi-national organization. She is thought of as an extremely competent and valuable employee. Yet Lisa is miserable because of unreasonable expectations around volume of work that are standard in her company. Her boss’s lack of follow- through and consistency also continually frustrate her.

Lisa first came to us because she decided it was time to move on. She had been putting up with the frustration of her current environment for two years and was very unhappy. More importantly, the stress of her job was making her physically ill.

But it isn’t so easy to change things when you are conducting your life based on inaccurate beliefs that have accumulated over a lifetime. Lisa is still struggling with strong internal contradictions and is continuously questioning her ability to ‘succeed’ in another company or another role. Since she hasn’t mastered every aspect of her current job, she believes she is incompetent. This prevents her from applying for new positions. A great burden of guilt prevents her from taking time to go on interviews or network.

“I know intellectually that I deserve to find a position that suits me better, but this inner voice keeps telling me that I should be in my office ten hours a day – and I should stay here longer to learn more – I can’t seem to break free”. In her mind, if she goes on an interview, she is not being responsible or loyal.  

Lisa is stuck because of her limiting beliefs and fears about not measuring up and not being viewed as a responsible person.

We identified three limiting beliefs. Lisa has agreed to take simple concrete actions so that she can move forward and is trying to push through her fears by looking at her limiting beliefs square in the eye. She’ll get there, but it’s natural for her resistance to be high.

Breaking Through Limiting Beliefs

To fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.
– Katherine Patterson

We look for evidence that supports what we believe and ignore contrary evidence. This reinforces our inaccurate beliefs about ourselves and makes it difficult to change.

Alvah Parker, a coach that works predominantly with attorneys, identifies 10 common beliefs on career change that can derail your desire for change. If the belief is making you unhappy or feeling stuck, now is the time to change it. It will help to free you to make a change in your life.

How do you break through?

  1. Understand your basic personality – This will give you insight into the type of beliefs you have a tendency to hold onto.
  2. Identify your limiting beliefs –Write them down and bring them into your consciousness.
  3. Question your beliefs – Especially those that are limiting or inducing fear. Be aggressive about this. Only you can create your own future.
  4. Behave differently – Your behavior drives and reinforces your beliefs. Start behaving differently (even if it is uncomfortable) and eventually you will believe differently.
  5. Change one behavior at a time – Don’t think you can change everything at once. Establish realistic goals. Get focused.
  6. Push through your fears – There are always fears associated with limiting beliefs. The fear that someone you love will not approve if you change, the fear that you won’t live up expectations, the fear of failure (you know the list).
  7. Seek professional help – It is tough to change beliefs without objective feedback. Deeper issues need to be addressed with a trained psychologist.

Learning how to alter your limiting beliefs is a skill. It’s hard work, but the potential rewards are huge. Doing this can bring you a new sense of freedom. Don’t be a victim of your own limiting beliefs – seek out help to reshape your beliefs about who you are and what you can do. You have the capability to achieve everything you want to. You just gotta believe.

Terry Del Percio is a Career and Workplace Consultant. She manages a private practice called The Work Strategies Company located in Beverly, Massachusetts. Visit her website at http://www.workstrategies.com or you can contact Terry by phone at 978.282.8900.                         Twitter @WorkIntegrity


McKay, Ph.D., Matthew and Fanning, Patrick. Prisoners of Belief. California: New Harbinger Publications, 1991.

O’Hanlon, Bill. Do One Thing Different. New York. William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1999.

Fear: Our Biggest Obstacle

What would you do with your life if fear didn’t play a role?

“Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear.   She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly.    But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle.   

The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons.

The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?”

Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.”

Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?”

Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.”

In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear. ”

— Pema Chödrön (When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times)

Entering into a Career Transition?  We can help you jump the chasm and beat the fear.  WorkStrategies.com Terry Del Percio | 978.282.8900         

Breaking the Spell of Fear

I think about fear a lot.

For years I have been exploring the depths of the human experience and all of the surprises it holds – to me, this is great fun!

Having trained myself to be highly tuned into the process of making decisions based on fear, I try to ‘catch myself’ and change the course of events towards a more positive path.

I have always been intrigued by Buddhism and other far eastern philosophies. I still am.  The Scream by Edward Munch

But that’s a huge peek inside my personal life. For now, I want to share a couple of thoughts I had about a topic that (I believe) is closely connected to reinventing ourselves and career transition.

On the Tricycle Magazine website, I found an article about fear and how important it is for us to ‘invite fear in’. If  you are familiar with the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn, you may remember that he reminds us to invite the fear in for tea and welcome it warmly. He says, “Hello my friend, fear. Please come and share tea with me. Let me understand you better. I’m happy to see you”.

Seems ridiculous upon first glance, doesn’t it?

But if you think about it, there could be a very profound message here. When we stop resisting, life usually becomes less of a struggle. When we stop fighting and accept things on a moment to moment basis, our breath calms down and we feel more centered.

You probably see how this can relate to the process of reinventing ourselves and career transition. When reshaping our work identity, it is very common to feel lost, confused, anxious and even angry. I’ve heard many consultants tell their clients that it is very much a roller coaster ride. I have also witnessed clients’ frustration and declarations of “giving up on this because it’s not going anywhere”.

Do you think these feelings and reactions could stem from fear?

Are we worried that we will lose our place in the world as we know it? Are we afraid that we won’t be able to find another identity; to feel needed and be part of a group? Are we afraid that we will whither away into nothingness and be failures in the eyes of our loved ones or colleagues?

Ezra Bayda, the author of the Tricycle article, suggests that

When we can feel fear within the spaciousness of the breath and heart, we may even come to see it more as an adventure than a nightmare. To see it as an adventure means being willing to take the ride with curiosity, even with its inevitable ups and downs.

How great would it be if we could learn to think of the journey of career transition as a great adventure and ride the process with excitement and curiosity?

Our physical health would prosper, no doubt, and I imagine that the people we meet along the way would find us much more interesting as we approach them with excitement and exploration rather than desperation and impatience.

Give it a try. Invite your fear in for tea, and offer it an olive branch.  black-teapot.preview

Toltec Wisdom Applied to Careers

What does personal freedom have to do with career decisions and work satisfaction?

Personal freedom is connected with the human spirit. We can blame everyone and everything for imposing on our personal freedom, but the truth is that we often stop ourselves from being free.

Thousands of years ago, the Toltecs were a people known in Mexico as “women and men of knowledge”. They were masters and students. Toltec knowledge was not a religion but rather, a way of life, and its wisdom can provide valuable insights into modern day job search or career transition.

Several years ago I read a book entitled The Four Agreements http://tinyurl.com/6kx5f9 by Don Miguel Ruiz. I picked it up again recently.

The Four Agreements are very basic yet powerful. See if you might gain some value from thinking about them in relationship to your career journey.

The First Agreement: Be Impeccable With Your Word

Your reputation is everything. Whether you are just beginning to build your career, are a seasoned leader in your prime, or an individual ready to transition out of one career into another, you must speak with integrity. Say only what you mean.

Building trust and developing a reputation of integrity will carry you through difficult times and also be a legacy for those who rise behind you.

If you are in a career transition or job search, your word and how trustworthy and real you are will precede you when you are networking and will follow you into your next endeavor.

Yes – polish your approach and refine your words, but be honest and true. You won’t go wrong.

The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally

This is the toughest agreement for me to abide by. I used to take everything personally. I am finally at a point where I can let things go much of the time, but I still catch myself taking things personally.

The point of this agreement is that nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality.

If someone gives you an opinion that is negative, i.e. ‘You can’t do this job’ – don’t take it personally. Taking things personally sets you up to suffer.

Be gracious and positive, and know that you are a person of quality and integrity, and move on.

To me, this is one of the most difficult of the agreements, yet I think it is vitally important. Think about how confident and centered you would come across to others if you didn’t take things personally and react defensively.

The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions

We tend to make assumptions about everything, and worse yet, we believe that our assumptions are true. Very dangerous.

Assumptions happen quickly. Our minds trick us.

Say you went on an interview with the CEO of a new start-up and you had a great conversation, had a lot in common and she talked like you already had the job. You left the meeting on a high; you went home and you assumed this deal was moving forward – “This is it,” you say to yourself. “I’m their new Marketing Director”.

Three weeks go by and you don’t hear a word. Now you make a different assumption all of a sudden. You assume the CEO is not considering you and she was just ‘acting’ as if she liked you. Is this true? We don’t know.

Perhaps the CEO is traveling. Perhaps the company is on the brink of a big meeting with a venture capitalist for a huge infusion of money. You don’t know.

Making assumptions is a habit. Just like any other habit, we need to take a different action over and over again to change it. Practice.

One way to avoid making assumptions is to ask questions for clarity.

The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best

This agreement allows the first three to become ingrained.

“Always do your best”- We have heard this before. Simple, right? Well – not always.

How often do you feel guilty because you “should have researched that company more before meeting that networking contact” or you “could have closed that deal if you had remembered the details about that product”…

One thing to keep in mind is that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to another.

Everything in life is constantly changing, so your best will also change over time. Just do your best in any circumstance and don’t judge yourself (that’s the hard part).

The more you practice these agreements, the more centered and clear your life will become. People will be drawn to you and think highly of you.

And I suspect you will be more likely to attract the type of work situations that are a good match for you.

You are what you think.

I met with a very experienced woman named Jennifer today. She is in a transition. Her background is incredibly rich – she has been in various HR leadership roles over the years and she is extremely sharp minded – a real leader. Jennifer’s work has brought her all over the world. She is 56 years old, yet exudes energy and sharp-witted intelligence. She voluntarily left her last position because she did not want to work 24/7 and live in hotels in other countries 85% of the year…essentially, Jennifer wanted her life back.

The interesting part? Jennifer has lost her confidence. Why? She is concerned that she is “too old” to be perceived as still being able to make a valuable contribution to any organization. We met today because she is has been invited for two interviews this week and she is nervous and wants to be prepared – which is very smart.

Jennifer is most nervous about the details of the questions she will be asked about her background. Yes, that is important to be prepared for, but I believe even MORE important is being prepared emotionally.  My advice to Jennifer was first to step back and look at herself through a different lens.

“Keep in the forefront of your mind that you are an extremely experienced executive and have managed Human Resources throughout countries that most of us have never even heard of.  Your experience alone is a very rich resource of information for you to tap into and is clear evidence of your success”, I suggested.

Often I work with very successful professionals who have so much to be proud of, yet because they feel vulnerable due to various factors (age, a bad experience of being laid off, fear of having viable work in the final years before retirement, etc.), they lose their competitive edge because they have convinced themselves that they are the underdog.

I say, “Take a few deep breaths, remind yourself of all of your accomplishments and wisdom, and go into that interview with the confidence that you deserve. Talk with the interviewer from the standpoint that you are a very talented and experienced person, and you know as much as they do. They are a peer or colleague, not the keyholder to your future! This is an opportunity for you to evaluate whether this position is a potential match for what YOU want as much as it is a chance for them to decide if they want you.” This may help clients get grounded.

Go in with your head held high and from a position of strength – your body language and your intonation will, in many ways, demonstrate your capabilities. When they see how confident you are, they will instinctively know that you can do the job. (you can)

When they make you an offer, then YOU can decide if you want it.