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Notes from the Nexus

Life on the Sidelines

38 Comments / in Blog / by Bebe Hansen

Old habits die hard. They hang on for good reason. They’ve learned their strategies well.  At one time, they served. And, at some point, they outlive their usefulness and their effectiveness.

I find myself in a new situation, a new context that is creating some new demands on my habits.  As many of you know, Doug Silsbee, Founder of Presence-Based Coaching, received a stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis seven months ago. Thankfully, he is still with us, and I have recently stepped in as the sole Principal of Presence-Based Coaching. I find myself as the leader of a body of work and business that I helped shape for many years. And I find myself without a partner in this enterprise. My particular habit shape leans toward collaboration, partnership. Creative combinations of two or more that are often a catalyst for the immediacy and fun of emergence and discovery.

The Appeal of Being #2

And within that bell jar, my preference is to be the #2. I much prefer having a #1 around, it’s so much easier! There’s a shield of protection, my role is clear (= supporting the #1). The partner can vet any of my ideas that don’t really work with where we are going.

I get to be big in this #2 role (big for me!), and still my partner takes the front seat. I’m standing on the sidelines. I don’t have to risk too much, and I feel safe and supported, productive and empowered.

Its much more comfortable being a little behind, and over toward the wall. I don’t’ have to get out on the dance floor (although I do love to dance), at least not by myself.

And there’s another upside: I have witnessed my own substantial learning and growth and development from being a #2.

I have followed, contributed, created and have made my own way sometimes. Within the safe parameters of the partnership, I know that regard and support was always there for me in an unconditional way. Even when I made mistakes. In fact mistakes seemed a lot easier when I had a partner to run to for consolation and understanding and acceptance (even if my ego was a bit bruised by what I labeled as “failure”).

Stepping Into #1: The Shield is Gone

As I’m stepping into the #1 role, it’s quite a challenge, quite an affront to my habitual stance. This being #1 means lots of different things to me, including more responsibility, more work, more decisions, more exposure from being on the front line – the shield is gone. I’m the #1 now. These are big shoes to fill!

I’ve been inquiring into this shift in identity, role, relationship. Gratefully, Doug, my former partner, is still here and can serve as a welcome sounding board. We slip into the old, familiar and comfortable roles…at times. And other times, I’m navigating on my own, finding my way. And I’m opening to new possibilities, including new perspectives, new partnerships, new collaborations, and different ways of moving forward.

There are other upsides, of course. I can do things my way. And that feels fun, and a little mischievous!

Commitment to Continuing Doug’s Legacy

I notice my own strong commitment to continuing Doug’s legacy in a way that serves his brilliance and the work we have built together. The commitment that continues the impact the Presence-Based body of work has on others – the communities we are connected to, the clients and organizations we serve, and the bigger context of the world we live in.

It’s been a stretch so far, which reminds me of another habit I’ve come to notice: to compare myself, and find myself lacking (naturally). This comparative judgment is easy to do with my former partner who is quite big in the world and my habit of taking my place a bit behind him.

Sometimes I feel like a little fish in a big pond. I hear my inner voices saying things like: “They want Doug, they don’t want you,” or “You can’t teach as well as him,” or “You can’t explain or articulate in the way he does.” And I am transported back to an old inner wound: “They don’t want me,” accompanied by a familiar whole body sinking feeling and tightening in my solar plexus.

Who Am I in this?

And despite having successfully enabled a substantial turnaround for my family business in my 30’s, this business feels like a different animal. Presence-Based Coaching and Leadership feels more aligned with who I am now. This body of work is closer to the values I hold dear to my heart and to what I deeply care about. In fact, I’m a different animal.

And I know without any doubt that this body of work is important to me.  That’s why I made this leadership move in the first place! It fits and fills my aspirations for my work in the world and brings me joy and fulfillment to witness other’s growth and development.  I relish being present for those moments when clients or students make life-altering breakthroughs or have insights or understandings that change everything.  Or even observing with delight the little awakenings that create some sense of freedom from an old habit that no longer fits (the irony is not lost on me here!).

So as I’ve been contemplating my new role, my shifting identity and what that means, I sense that I am not actually filling Doug’s shoes. That’s not even possible or desirable. I realize I am on a journey of filling my own shoes. And that feels good to my heart.

Three Questions for Self-Reflection:

  • Which of your habits might be feeling overused, or out of date?
  • What do your inner voices say to you that might limit who you are becoming?
  • Whose shoes are you trying to fill at this moment?

If you want to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the above questions. I’m sure our community would too. Leave us a comment below to start a dialogue.

Note: This is my first blog post on “Doug’s Blog,” Notes from the Nexus.  It is with intention, and with Doug’s blessing, that I am doing so. May this blog continue to be of service to those who read it. 

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38 replies
  1. Lib
    Lib says:

    Bebe, this is beautiful and outstanding as your first post. Worth multiple reads to take in all the insights you’re sharing and what I can learn from them. I will give time to ponder your questions. Thank you for all of your contributions!

  2. vic okerlund
    vic okerlund says:

    Dear Bebe. We have yet to meet but I have been in these circles and inquiry for a bit of time. I love that you talked both about the appeal of being #2 and the shift with your shield. These are habits/friends I have had for decades… for me, I have been experimenting with changing the texture, colour, porosity of my shield… when to release it.. when to call it back… how to show up around it, instead of it around me… is still a journey 🙂
    Thank you for sharing… blessings for your new shoes and how you find yourself filling and dancing in them. I look forward to meeting one day.

  3. Kelly Johnson
    Kelly Johnson says:

    Thank you for sharing Bebe. I have often wondered how you are doing. Sending love, grace and patience as you embrace your own brilliance.

  4. Tivo
    Tivo says:

    •Which of your habits might be feeling overused, or out of date?
    Prioritizing being busy over being centered, present, open, connected and in my declaration.

    •What do your inner voices say to you that might limit who you are becoming?
    You still don’t know enough or have enough training to boldly, creatively and authentically step into your full all-out unique contribution and only you can make from who you are and are becoming.

    •Whose shoes are you trying to fill at this moment?
    All my previous amazing, gifted and practiced teachers, trainers and coaches.

    I too choose to fully live and follow my path to offer my most authentic and powerful expression of making the world a better place.

    Congrats on fully stepping into the journey of following your path and inspiring others to do so also.



  5. Chris Ward
    Chris Ward says:

    Great post, Bebe, thank you.
    This is an excellent time for me to be asking those very questions and more. I am grateful for the courage, generosity, and authenticity exhibited by you, Doug, and many in this community.

  6. Adena Johnston
    Adena Johnston says:

    Bebe, it has been so long since we were last together and your post brought me back…I am thrilled to walk along your missives as you continue your stretch.

    All my best!

  7. Dorothy Craft Evans
    Dorothy Craft Evans says:

    Dear Bebe,

    What a lovely, thoughtful, vulnerable and transparent sharing. The insight that really lighted a spark for me was the sense that you were not actually filling Doug’s shoes but realized you were on a journey of filling your own. it reminds me of the poem by May Sarton, Now I Become Myself: Now I Become Myself. Here’s the first part:

    Now I become myself. It’s taken
    Time, many years and places;
    I have been dissolved and shaken,
    Worn other people’s faces,
    Run madly, as if Time were there,
    Terribly old, crying a warning,
    “Hurry, you will be dead before—“
    (What? Before you reach the morning?
    Or the end of the poem is clear?
    Or love safe in the walled city?)
    Now to stand still, to be here,
    Feel my own weight and density!

    I appreciate so much that you are sharing that journey – feeling your weight and density – in such a light, beautiful and authentic way. Thank you!

  8. Smokie Brawley
    Smokie Brawley says:

    What a lovely tribute and acknowledgement of all your big feelings Bebe. I am so struck by the similarities to my move into the primary position of manager when my mentor retired that I am unable to focus quite yet on your questions. I want to explore this space a little more, and thank her again for her care of our Team, her mentorship, and her active support of my transition. This post only proves how right Douglas was in his decision to entrust this responsibility to you. I know you’re going to grow into it and make it yours. It will evolve and be different eventually, reflecting you. That is not a bad thing. For your core is obviously so similar to Doug’s that we will grow along with you. Thank you for being up to this big new adventure!

  9. Rod Francis
    Rod Francis says:

    Having just come through LIPCC I’ve had something of a grandstand seat at this transition Bebe and I love hearing your deeper voice here and to witness the truth of your number 1 emerging.

  10. Susan
    Susan says:

    Dear Bebe: I appreciate the expression of the transition you are in right now, and feel the holding of both Doug’s work and role in your life as well as your emergence and stepping into your own center. I feel this personal blog post brought connection to me, to you, and my own life. I never realized until I read this how I have also done this in my life, moving from my corporate roles to my own business, where the shift from supporting others from #2 position to stepping into my own circle of contribution, love, service and skill are now being offered in a truly one on one way. Thank you, and I look forward to continued connection.

  11. Suzie Alexander
    Suzie Alexander says:

    Dear Bebe,
    Thank you so much for this heartfelt first post. Being a fairly new coach, please tell Doug that I refer to his book, “Presence-Based Coaching” often for guidance.
    I felt the strength and courage in this first post and maybe a bit of excitement as well. Thank you for the thoughtful questions as well which I intend to contemplate. Blessings on your new journey…xo, Suzie
    PS. I have been stalling on blogging. I hope your post will give me the extra push I need!

  12. Sandra Dempsey
    Sandra Dempsey says:

    Hi Bebe,
    For years now Doug’s posts had a strange and haunting way of landing in my Inbox when I needed them most. And I thought I’d share with you that the very same thing has happened with yours! I have just come back to work after a period of stress related illness and your questions were SO apt and timely. Thank you.
    I am delighted that as #2 you learned so well from #1, and have now shaped your shiny new bright #1 who is now bringing her own special gifts to the role. Congratulations to you and wishing you all the very best. .

  13. Linda Ford
    Linda Ford says:

    Hi Bebe,
    Thanks for sharing your journey in such a beautiful way.

    Just last night, I picked up “I will not die an unloved life” (Dawna Markova), which I had put aside months ago unfinished. The marker was at a page that leads up to this –
    “What do you love so much that in the doing of it you find a kind of grace in the world? Who stands behind you in this lineage? Who stands in front of you, waiting for your legacy?
    May we remember those who passed on to us the seeds of their dreams so that we might grow. May we live our dreams with dignity so that we may pass them on to those who turn to us for their future.”

    And of course I thought of Doug and this body of work and you. Thank you for doing the hard work of finding the beautiful #1 inside you and bringing it to this work.

  14. Tricia hamilton
    Tricia hamilton says:

    Bebe, thank you! Your message arrived at a time when I am recognizing and addressing old habits that are keeping me from filling my shoes! Your old habits resonate so strongly with me. You are a powerful woman and a role model for me. The vulnerability shared in your blog is a bit like permission for me to be vulnerable and to keep forging forward creating new habits! – Tricia

  15. Corinne Chalmers
    Corinne Chalmers says:

    Wow, this is very impactful Bebe. I often prided myself on being #2 as if it was more altruistic to support another than myself but you helped me see that in some ways it might have just been a safer path. Maybe it was an excuse or justification for not taking the risk to be different and step into unproven territory – I think you’re on to me. Fabulous writing by the way. Have you ever thought of writing a book? 😉 – Corinne

  16. Jules Bevis
    Jules Bevis says:


    Inspiring and touching. Your words land gently at a time I’m surfing a wave of tension between authenticity and ‘brand’. My inner voices scuffle and a curious space opens at the notion of new name from a new height? One that pulls me towards a higher calling, conceptually bold and yet, like the inflections of light dancing across the wings of the morpho blue butterfly, all voices in their subtle form can be seen. It is after all both iridescent and a butterfly.

    I’m looking following your work.

  17. Sara Tucker
    Sara Tucker says:

    What a great first post, Bebe! In previous blog posts, Doug always articulated something that I was pondering at just that time. And now you have done the same! I am so comfortable being #2, and am being invited to step forward into the lead. I am comforted by knowing how you are thinking about and acting on your calling.

    • Deb Denis
      Deb Denis says:

      Sara, and Bebe, you absolutely did just shine a light on something I’ve just been thinking about, in this very moment. And inspired deeper reflection. Feeling gratitude and sending it to our collective beautiful, brilliant, prescient community.

  18. Christina Harper Olivier
    Christina Harper Olivier says:

    Thank you Bebe for sharing this thoughtful and authentic post! I hope that you are feeling the warmth, acceptance and faith that we all are holding for you as our new community leader.

  19. Beth Morrow
    Beth Morrow says:

    Bebe, we all sure do love you. For exactly who you are as you are, whether the role has a number or no number. I feel so much gratitude for you and Doug, and for the work you have done together and separately. I feel so happy to be part of the community that you have built and to learn with you. The journey will continue to be mesmerizing and filled with unforgettable moments.


  20. valerie
    valerie says:

    Dearest Bebe, I hope you are drinking in every word here as balm for any doubting voice. I’m reminded of a study group with Mark Nepo where he talked about ‘assuming one’s own full stature’ and equally of my son-in-law who is always telling my grand daughter “Ellie, you do you.” Grateful to be witness to you doing both! XoV

  21. Melisa Gillis
    Melisa Gillis says:

    Bebe ~ Thank you for continuing to live and breath in a presence based way, modeling the essence of this amazing work.

    Thank you to others who have shared their reactions and words of others to add to the chorus and continued exploration of the layers of this slice of your journey. As others have mentioned, it’s not only intellectually curious and heartfelt connection to you and your journey, it also has immediate application to my current journey.

    I hear you and I see you and send you big hugs!

  22. Jim Goebelbecker
    Jim Goebelbecker says:

    Bebe, thank you for the authentic sharing of your journey and the invitation to reflect and learn as an individual and community. I look forward to your next posting!

  23. Lisa Horowitz
    Lisa Horowitz says:

    Thank you Bebe and everyone else who has responded for your inspiring and brilliant insights. Your comments bring to mind the transition model of William Bridges that was so helpful to me in understanding my own professional transition– the challenges of letting go of the known and expected, followed by the angst of hanging in a neutral zone with lots of unknowables and potential paths, followed by the exhilaration of realizing and pursuing a new beginning. I look forward to hearing more about your journey.

  24. Susan Walters Minker
    Susan Walters Minker says:

    Bebe, beautiful sharing. Bold and vulnerable share of your feelings and thoughts of your deep inner journey with this transition. This helps us other beings on our journeys. Thank you. You’re an amazing teacher, and coach.
    With love!

  25. Monette
    Monette says:

    I echo and amen so much of what others have posted before me. Bebe, I hope you’re aware of how I feel about you and Doug and this powerful community you’ve shepherded.

    Answers to the questions you posed:
    Which of your habits might be feeling overused, or out of date?
    –Needing to have something to add all of the time

    What do your inner voices say to you that might limit who you are becoming?
    –“Not yet. You don’t know enough/haven’t practiced enough/aren’t established enough yet”

    Whose shoes are you trying to fill at this moment?
    –No one’s in particular, though I need to make sure I’m not trying to rock a pair of stilettos on a mountain trail

  26. Carl Barringer
    Carl Barringer says:

    Go Bebe! Feeling how this transformation (Doug stepping away, BeBe stepping up) means to me. I am missing Doug’s voice. I feel sad. And I’m inspired by yours.I feel like Doug’s legacy and, in years to come, BeBe’s legacy, is on a great track. Looking forward to more . . .

  27. Joy Crews Lubeck
    Joy Crews Lubeck says:

    Beautiful Bebe,

    Such a complexity challenge indeed!

    Thank you for taking the lead in this powerful body of work! There is noone better to step forward and- you are not alone! There are many of us standing by to support and co-create in partnership with you-

  28. Terry
    Terry says:

    So many wonderful comments, Bebe, and it feels like a full train of folks on this journey with you, including Doug and his love, wisdom and enduring teachings. Looking forward to supporting your move into the #1 role only as Bebe will do/be. Thank you for stepping into this with and for us!

  29. Kathy Conron
    Kathy Conron says:

    Bebe, I loved hearing what is on your mind during this period of great change. As a sister #2, I resonated with your comments, and admire your fortitude in consciously tackling that huge habit of #2-ness. You are an inspiring leader! I remember when we were room mates at Bend of Ivy at PBC, just beginning this journey, and I am in awe at the path you have taken and what you have achieved. You go, Bebe!


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