Creativity Klatch Registration Now Open!

“[John] is more than an artist, he’s also a life coach and his help is AMAZINGSAUCE!”

  • Is your project stuck?
  • Has your project not even started?
  • Do you need accountability partners?
  • COACHING CAN HELP!

    The Creativity Klatch program is a weekly meeting of creative minds. For 90 minutes each week, we will select two participants to receive intense coaching on their selected project, with input and support from the group. This is a great way to get support and move your projects forward, while making some new friends along the way.

    The group will meet on Thursday nights from 7:00 – 8:30 pm EST, and spots are limited, so sign up now for the December-March group! The price is $250/month, payable via Paypal or Square. Sign up today!

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Badass the Awesome

I'M a Badass?

It’s almost exactly a year ago now that I decided “maybe I should look into being a coach.” I was reading (and re-reading) Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass and seeing all kinds of parallels to my own life– lots of searching for meaning, lots of frustration with a less-than-renumerative writing career, and lots of being stuck. One day she decided she was sick of being stuck and decided to fix it, which led her into coaching, which led her into being a book-writing rockstar making millions. So when, in one chapter, she suggested “pick someone to emulate and do that,” I figured she was a good candidate for the job.

Some hunting around for a way to get started led me to Accomplishment Coaching, which in turn led to the intimidating decision to plunk down five figures for a year’s worth of intense vocational training and personal mentoring. If ever there was a leap of faith, this was it.

So here I am, one month away from my final exams, having faced my survival mechanisms over and over again, having changed my diet and sleeping habits, having dredged up all kinds of dark muck from the swamp of my childhood traumas and unexamined beliefs and exposed them to the light, and having done Scary Adult Things like setting up LLCs and creating business bank accounts. I look back at my “to do list” around coaching and see that item number one was “Get my shit together.” Well it’s taken me a year, a lot of money, some yelling and fighting and crying, and doing some stuff that had me absolutely terrified, but I think I can finally check off that item as complete.

Phew! Now. What’s step two, again? I have it written down somewhere…

In a moment of synchronicity, Jen Sincero happened to come to Politics and Prose in D.C. on a book tour way back in March or thereabouts, so I rounded up a handful of my Accomplishment Coaching teamies and we went to see her there… where I utterly failed to create any kind of meaningful connection with my would-be role model. It happens. But after that weekend, I kind of forgot about her and about You Are a Badass, because I was frantically trying to build a practice and reading lots of other books by Neale Donald Walsch, Debbie Ford, Steven Covey and more. I was too busy actually doing the work, to remember what had prompted me to go into it in the first place.

Yesterday, I remembered that I had the audiobook of Badass sitting on my phone, so I decided to revisit it. And let me tell you, coming around again after the past year, it’s a very different experience. Things that had been completely theoretical, and things that had me originally say “Yeah that’s great but…” have taken on a whole new meaning. You Are a Badass could almost have been called Ontological Coaching for Dummies, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s light, it’s breezy, it’s for the neophyte or the curious layperson, and it does a great job of introducing you to the concepts of the work.

But like the Dummies books, it’s also just a starting point. Unless you have the world’s most easygoing Big Snooze/Gremlin/Survival Mechanism, it’s going to take a lot more than a breezy read to actually get you up and at ’em. This isn’t a condemnation of the book, it’s simply the truth that a book is not a coach. And in fact, a book can be dangerous, because buying and even vigorously reading the book can feel like you’re “doing something,” even if it’s really more like a valve letting some steam escape to keep you lodged right there in your comfort zone.

But really, what else can a book do? Until a person is really ready to stand up, do the work, and really make a change, a few pounds of ink printed on wood pulp isn’t going to have any effect. The best the author of a book can hope to do is to communicate the idea that change is possible, and hope the spark of that idea lights the fire inside the reader.

You Are a Badass did that for me, and judging by its sales I imagine it’s done that for a lot of people. It couldn’t do the work, no book possibly could, but it did help me believe that it was possible to do the work, and helped me understand why I might want to.

Step two? Oh yeah! Get out there and actually be a badass. Got it.

Who wants to join me?

What Am I Afraid Of?

Buddha the cat. I miss you, little buddy.

You know what? Coaches need coaches too. Here’s what I mean…

Yesterday was my 25th wedding anniversary! Which just proves that I can commit to something if I really put my mind to it. 😉 My wife and I spent the day going up to Skyline Drive to enjoy the autumn leaves in the mountains, with the intention of doing some kind of more significant commemoration when we’ve got the financial situation nailed down again.

But said financial situation, and the “Un-suck Our Lives” project generally, has been a topic much on my mind lately. My coaching practice is taking a bit longer than I would like to really take off, which largely boils down to my reluctance to go client-hunting. This is a thing I’ve always had and why, even though I probably could have made more during the dot-com boom as a freelance designer/web programmer, I opted to find a job with a company instead. My preferred mode is for clients and/or customers to come to me, rather than hunting them down.

But short of finding a life coach clearing agency (do such things even exist?), there isn’t really any way to operate in that mode as a coach. Until someone has actually had a good coach, the benefits of coaching can seem esoteric. Everyone understands that the best athletes have coaches and why; leaders in any field from business management to filmmaking understand the value of coaching and will gladly pay top fees for the best ones. But to more “down to Earth” people in everyday life, it often seems like something that just doesn’t apply to them.

So if I want to coach, I’ve got to get out there and clearly get across to people why they’d want me to coach them. And that means, for me, buckling down and going out there and actually finding some ding-dang clients.

This is where I get stuck. Not in the coaching work itself– that comes naturally and I’m actually pretty darn good at it– but in the process of finding people who can benefit from coaching and finding a way to talk to them about it. I have a project plan around that, but the best plan in the world won’t help if, instead of doing the thing, you spend the whole day staring at your computer screen telling yourself “Do the thing, already!”

Despite having some clients (I love you guys!), I’ve spent the past two months fighting with the problem of both needing and wanting more. I had an interesting epiphany about it earlier today, while talking to one of my coaching colleagues. I told her that the things I’ve had success with in the past (such as my comics), had that success because I was motivated by love. I love my comics and my readers, so when I get bogged down I remember that and it keeps me going. I loved The Hobbit Hole. I loved my cat Buddha, so even though he had FIV and we were advised by a vet that we “should probably put him to sleep,” we moved Heaven and Earth to give him 8 happy and healthy years before his body failed him.

I told my teammate that I loved coaching, but for some reason I was still getting stuck, mired in my defense mechanisms. Since defense mechanisms are a symptom of fear, she asked, “So, what are you afraid of? Is it love?”

I have been asking myself the same question for two months. Today, being coached by my teammate, an answer came to me.

Ten years ago I had a life that, while not perfect, was certainly successful. Friends and family, a house I loved, a cat I loved, and so on. Then my Aunt Iris died. Then my parents died. My best friend and business partner died. We lost the house. Buddha died. So many of the things I loved were suddenly and painfully gone. And it’s hard, now, to let myself love things, because I don’t want any more things that I love to be torn away.

My teammate said, “So you’re not afraid of love. You’re afraid of loss.”

And honestly? I think that’s a big piece of it. The immediate pain of grief has largely passed, but the trauma of it is still there. I think that on some level, I’m afraid of building a new life, because I don’t want to risk having it come crashing down again.

These ideas are an illusion, of course. First, there are so many things in my life I haven’t lost, not the least of which is my wife (as our 25th anniversary so clearly demonstrates). I have friends. I have Dasher and InkyGirl, who are also great cats. I have my comics. As tempting as it may be to think of myself as being bereft, the truth is that I am actually surrounded by things that I love every day.

Secondly, I am perfectly capable of building anew. I have many new friends, who I’ve made in the intervening time since so much of my previous life collapsed. I’m building new skills as a coach every day. I’m creating a whole new self based on the values that I think are important, instead of those that I’ve passively “inherited” from my upbringing or other external sources.

I don’t think that fear of losing the new life I want to build is necessarily the thing that’s immediately jumping out at me every time I drag my feet about hunting for clients. There are plenty of “lieutenants” of that fear I get to play with around that specific issue– insecurity, being trained to come from lack instead of coming from abundance, attachment to outcomes as a validation of self– but I do think that fear of loss is the Boss Battle of my Client Game. All these other little fears are what the fear of loss throws at me to get me stuck.

Knowing that, I can see these other fears for what they are: distractions meant to keep me small and disempowered. And seeing them as such, strips away a lot of their power. I’m sure I would have realized all this eventually on my own, but being coached by my teammate absolutely saved me tons of wasted time and energy to get there, and for that, I’m very grateful.

Fear of loss? I’m coming for you, Jack.

San Diego Modular Coach Training Program Slots Open!

What invisible jet? I don't see any invisible jet.
Interested in flying in to San Diego?

As folks may know, I am an affiliate of Accomplishment Coaching (graduating in January, woohoo!). I can and no doubt will gush about the ways this training has helped me out, but for now suffice to say that their goal is to produce the best coaches in the world, and it’s a goal they take very seriously. They work closely with the International Coach Federation (ICF) to develop a comprehensive (and intense) training program designed to transform participants from the inside out.

Typically this program involves twelve two-day sessions, one a month over the course of a year and weekly calls with a mentor coach of your own as well. But this isn’t the only model they have– November 7th will be the first day of a “7 Module Program” in San Diego. Long story short: it involves the same number of hours of training as the regular program, but it’s condensed into seven sessions that are 2-4 days each.

If you’ve been looking to get into coaching yourself, this is a great opportunity to jump in! Given how intense the regular program is, I can only imagine what the 7 Module Program is like. I keep thinking of the difference between strong coffee and espresso. >.>

You can sign up directly on their website, or if you’d like more info you can toss me a line as well. I’d love to hear from you!

Iiiiiiiiii’m… Hooked On the Feelings!

Swear Trek: The Worst Year Ever
Image Courtesy of Swear Trek

I’m a coach. My job is to help people overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. And sometimes, shit happens. It does.

But sometimes, shit just keeps on happening. The client comes to me with something big and dramatic and important that they just have to work through– and it’s always a very legit problem, mind you– and we address it, only to discover that next week, the client has a new big and dramatic and important thing to address… Their aunt is in the hospital. Their credit cards were stolen. Their car randomly exploded, taking out the garage and breaking every window within a half-mile radius. Over time, if we let it, what started out as a fairly straightforward coaching relationship will turn into a crazy game of “whack-a-problem.”

And none of the client’s goals are being met. How could they be? The client has big, important, SUPER REAL PROBLEMS to deal with! What’s going on here?

As a coach, my assumption is always that you are the master of your own life, and that therefore anything that’s in it, is there because you are making something of it.

Just to be clear, I don’t mean that my disaster-stricken client is deliberately going out and poisoning their aunt, giving their credit cards to the first thief who wanders by, or dynamiting their own car. But the events taking place are just that– events. It’s what those events mean to you that gives them their power.

If your aunt is in the hospital, you have a choice: 1) spend your time freaking out about it, or 2) acknowledge it, maybe visit and bring her some flowers and a book to help her feel better (hospitals are boring as heck), and then get back to your goals.

If your credit cards were stolen, you have a choice: 1) spend your time freaking out about it, or 2) call the credit card companies to get them replaced, and then get back to your goals.

If your car randomly exploded… well okay, that one probably takes a little more dealing with, but even then you can reach a state of equilibrium and then get back to your goals.

“But these problems are real!” the client may object. “They’re important! They’re valid! They’re waaay too big for me to pay attention to anything else!” And the client isn’t wrong, but the client is still making that choice. Literally, as long as you can breathe and move and operate in the world, you have the ability to be working on your goals; and if you choose to spend your time freaking out about your problems– as real and valid as they are– then freaking out about your problems is all that will get done.

And, I mean, if you want to pay a coach to sit with you and freak out about all the crazy things going on in your life, I can totally do that, but you could probably get it a lot cheaper by inviting a friend out for coffee.

You might consider, instead, taking full advantage of your coach’s services: exploring possibilities, creating new ideas and moving in new directions, creating a new future based on what you really, truly want from your heart– instead of just taking the least-uncomfortable thing you think you can get.

That’s a conversation I’m much more interested in. How about you? 🙂

Your Friend In the Mirror

We all live inside a bubble. You’re in yours, I’m in mine, pretty much everyone you know is in theirs. And the inside of that bubble is a silvery mirror. The world you perceive is actually your own reflection.

This is hardly a new insight, I realize; I learned about the psychological concept of “projection” many long years ago. But until I started coaching, I didn’t truly understand it, nor did I realize what a potent force it could be in somebody’s life.

Everyone you meet is a mirror, and how you react to that person is how you react to the parts of yourself that you see in them (whether or not those parts are even “objectively” there). This is most often pointed out in the case of somebody who really gets up your nose. “Ugh! I can’t stand Rob at the office, he’s so self-absorbed and inconsiderate!” Well maybe he is, but the chances are you wouldn’t notice his self-absorption and lack of consideration, if on some level you didn’t recognize and identify with those less-than-nice traits in yourself.

But the truth cuts both ways– if there’s something you really admire in somebody, well guess what? You identify with that quality too. Love someone’s amazing sense of humor? It would be totally lost on you if you didn’t also have a sense of humor! Touched by someone’s kindness? The only way you can appreciate that is by seeing the kindness in your own heart. As a coach, I’m a kind of “professional mirror,” and seeing the awesomeness in my clients has been fundamental in teaching me to bring the awesome, myself!

I see many people (clients and non-clients both) who are eager to beat themselves up for their perceived flaws and failures. It’s trained into us from childhood, from parents telling us not to be too rambunctious to school systems designed to rank you from A+ to F. And since those flaws and failures are given so damn much attention by the world around us, we sometimes start to think of them as who we are. But when you think of your flaws and failures as who you are, guess what? They’re all you see in the mirror. Living in an environment that is constantly judging you, trains you to start judging everyone around you in return.

But you can break this cycle! You can be happier in yourself, and you can also be kinder with the people around you, which will in turn lead them to be happier and more positive with you. How?

  1. Be Aware of It. This is the first step on any journey of self-transformation. When you find yourself thinking judgey thoughts (about yourself or others), stop and be aware of it. Is this thought fact, or interpretation? Is it useful? Is it kind? Or is it a script that you heard when you were young and you’re just repeating now out of habit? Is Rob at the office actually self-absorbed and inconsiderate? What if he’s carrying more than he can handle and doing his best? What if he’s spent his whole life being told to “Look out for number one!” and is actually supremely lonely inside?
  2. Evaluate It. How is this thought serving you? How is it holding you back? What might be a better thought to put in its place? If it’s a judgement about someone else, what quality in yourself are you actually reacting to? We can all be self-absorbed and inconsiderate sometimes.
  3. Create the New Thought. Say Rob at the office really is self-absorbed and inconsiderate. Some people are! But you’re never going to make him not be self-absorbed and inconsiderate, are you? So you have a choice: you can sit and stew and not be able to stand him, or you can find a new way of being in which his self-absorption isn’t a problem for you any more. Route around him, minimize contact with him, think of ways to get what you need without him.
  4. Forgive and Let Go. When someone’s behavior isn’t a problem for you any more, let go of any lingering emotional attachment you have to it. They don’t have any more power over you than you give them at this stage. And the great thing about this, is the more you can forgive someone else for a thing that bugs you, the easier it will be to forgive yourself for the same thing. Forgiveness is also a habit and a skill that can be learned!

Being kinder to your friend in the mirror is being kinder to yourself as well. And can’t we all use a little more of that?

Passing for Human at #AnthroCon!

Coaching flyer for AnthroCon
“YCH” = “Your Character Here” 🙂

July is back and with it, for me, comes AnthroCon! One of the largest, and certainly the most famous of the furry conventions, this is a yearly pilgrimage for me to sell my comics, get commissions for new work, and reconnect to and re-energize my creative fires.

Friday at 3:00, I’ll also be hosting my Passing For Human panel, giving some quick tips on how to open up and make friends in a world full of strangers.

Pittsburgh is always great to us, and we love it there. Come check it out if you can! It’s a giant, happy party and we’d be thrilled to see you!

Operation: Awesome!

By no longer showing Looney Tunes, we are failing future generations.

The rest of this year will be a time of big changes for me. I have a plan, which in my usual humble way, I have dubbed Operation: Awesome! It’s designed to integrate my coaching practice and my creative pursuits into a unified, sustainable, and, y’know, lucrative profession, because I cannot very well make the world a better place if I can’t even put food on the table.

Operation: Awesome! has four major components:

  1. The coaching practice itself: paying clients at various tiers, pro-bono clients, and side projects such as speaking engagements
  2. Blog income: ProudToBeAFurry.org; a coaching blog I’ll be launching later this year
  3. Art/comics/convention income: AnthroCon, Midwest Furfest, book sales, etc.
  4. Patreon: new goals and reward tiers, expanding my reach

Creating the plan for Operation: Awesome! was much like planning a car trip: I decided where I wanted to be, and when I wanted to get there, and then worked backwards to figure out the route, creating “milestones” along the way that would let me know I was on the right track.

Next, I made a list of the resources I had on hand to get me started on the journey– including my own skills and material resources; my network of friends, family, and social contacts; and services I could call on. Since I was planning from the future, this part was particularly important because it showed me what I didn’t need to “go shopping for” as part of the plan.

Finally, I created a timeline based on my milestones. Here’s a chunk of it:

Project Awesome! A small piece.

Notice the “income source TBD” chunks. This is a working roadmap, not set in stone, and I fully expect to tweak, alter, or revise it as things change. I don’t know where that “$2,200 TBD” in August is going to come from yet, just that I intend to figure something out by then. I might be making that much in blog income by then. I might come up with a great idea for group seminars. I might have blown the doors off my $300 Patreon goal. But the point is, now I know that I will need to work on that.

At this level, the project plan doesn’t include “action items”– that’s deliberate, because it’s where a lot of people get mired in details and sent into overwhelm. The plan is a roadmap, not a turn-by-turn set of instructions. Once you have the plan in place, you only create action items for the next milestone.

July is two months away, and my situation or needs may very well have changed by then, so coming up with action items for then might very well be a waste of energy that I could better spend on what I’m doing today. Right now, I’m aiming for the May 31st milestone, so I have created a “to do” list based on that and started to put thought into June. August and September aren’t even on my radar.

Anyone can come up with their own project plan, but honestly I recommend getting someone to go through it with you. Project: Awesome! was a collaboration between myself and my own coach. It requires a certain amount of time and brainstorming, so in my own coaching practice I like to devote two sessions to it. But the benefits are huge, and well worth the time investment.

With my project plan in place I am more confident of success, I am more aware of potential pitfalls and how to avoid them, and I have a clear vision of what “success” will look like. By planning it from the future, it feels like “Future Me” has reached backwards in time and told me how he got where he is, and that I am now calling that into existence by putting in the work.

Let’s rock this thing. 😉

Passing For Human at #FurMore18

Just some of my books!
This weekend is Fur The More 2018 in Tysons Corner, Virginia, and I’ll be there! Most of the time you’ll find me in the Artist Alley, with copies of issue six (“Ready to Rumble!”) and the first Rough Housing collection “Giant Enemy Crab!”.

Sunday morning will also be the first running of my new panel, “Passing for Human.” Drawing on my training as a success coach (and backed with a lifetime of experience convincing people that I am in fact a human being), the panel will cover the basics of meeting new people and making friends, how to handle yourself in public situations, and how to build positive and healthy relationships while avoiding some of the traps that can afflict a fandom. It will also address positive ways to meet and interact with artists and other creators within the fandom, as well as avenues to get out there and become the sort of person other fans will want to meet.

So in you’re if the Washington D.C. area, I hope you’ll come on by! My panel is Sunday morning at 10:30 in the Madison meeting room, and the rest of the time, you’ll find me in Artist Alley. See you there!