• Lessons from Doug

    Lessons from Doug

    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot
    With a pink hotel, a boutique
    And a swinging hot spot

    Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

    Joni Mitchell Big Yellow Taxi

    PC: Doug Silsbee

    July 30 marks the one-year anniversary of Doug Silsbee’s death from Cancer. I’ve been spending some time reflecting on the many gifts that he brought to me in our multi-faceted relationship as teaching partners, collaborators, business partners, and friends. Doug was a thought leader in coaching, leadership, mindfulness, and presence. As the founder of this Presence-Based Coaching and Leadership work, he had a large impact on those with whom he taught, coached, and collaborated; on the coaching community at large, and on coaching as a profession. And the Presence-Based work continues to touch all of those who engage with it.

    I am honored to be a steward of this work, and as you may know from my previous blogs, this past year has been a challenging and rewarding journey of growing and stretching. I didn’t consciously consider that of course, when I said “yes” to continuing the lineage of this body of work! I am grateful for the learning this past year has offered. As I have whole-heartedly stepped in to take the helm of this coaching and leadership business, the Presence-Based work itself, and to continue the legacy that Doug has inspired.

    Lessons Learned and What Lies Ahead

    As we celebrate Doug’s life a year after his death, I am mindful of some of the lessons learned from Doug. I have clarified some of the values I hold dear in myself and want to express. And I’ll offer some thoughts about my view of what’s ahead.

    A Glimpse at Doug’s Wisdom

    These are some of the qualities of what I’ll call wisdom, that Doug embodied and that I’ve learned from him.  My intention is to continue practicing them. Perhaps you will recognize these, too, and might wish to emulate them as well:

    • Share your heart
    • Be transparent about what’s true for you
    • Walk your talk, as best you can
    • Lead with the spirit of generosity
    • Listen deeply to what’s calling, and place yourself in service to that
    • Author your own story

    My Version of This Wisdom

    Here’s my own version of the values that I’ve discovered along the way that resonate with me currently. Perhaps these speak to you, too:

    • Ask my heart what’s important and meaningful in this season of my life and work; align with and act from there
    • Follow my energy, aliveness, and enthusiasm
    • Leverage my unique and creative gifts
    • Be of service to those who want to wake up and be the best version of themselves
    • Watch for what wants to happen next, and follow that thread
    • Write the next chapter of this work with courage, using my authentic voice

    Where Do You Land?

    As you read these bullet points, notice where you land on the distillations of our values, purpose, or meaning that I’ve written about above. Notice if any speak to you, or spark some of your own distillations.

    I continue to reflect on what these mean for the upcoming year, and what might be in store next? Here’s where these lessons and qualities seem to be leading right now.

    The Long Game

    PC: Doug Silsbee

    I’m actually not sure I have any “final answers” to what’s next for me and for this Presence-Based Coaching and Leadership work. However, I do have a sense of the direction we need to head. Things like the ability to cultivate our capacity to be present to what’s objectively needed now, in this world of seemingly endless and fast-paced disruptions and chaos. Things like connection and inclusion. Care and kindness. Creativity and resilience. Presence and mindful awareness. Conscious and intentional choice. Expanding this proven, integrative methodology based on the principles of Presence, that scaffold human evolution. This body of work that results in life-affirming choice and change – on all levels and scale from global to local to individual.

    Specifically, this work is about developing leaders, and the coaches who serve them for the long game. Diving a little deeper to find each person’s innate capacities, gifts and talents for living and leading from the inside out. Remembering that what we DO emerges directly from who we ARE. Engaging in learning, practices, and community that support our more awake and conscious mindsets, relationships, world-views, and embodiment of what truly matters to each of us individually and collectively.

    We Grow While Supporting Growth in Others

    What I love about the Presence-Based work, and about this coaching methodology in particular, is that it creates a customized opportunity to do our own work as coaches while being of service to others’ growth – in the same moment! We pay attention to not only our skill building around the coaching competencies (horizontal axis of our own development as coaches). We also pay close attention to our habits and patterns as they show up in coaching, and how these often play out in the coaching conversations and interactions with our clients (the vertical axis of our own development as humans).

    Our Being and Our Doing

    PC: Doug Silsbee

    Both of these axis’ are needed for us to be effective in supporting growth and change. The same principle applies here:  who we are as a human—our being—directly affects how we show up as a coach—our doing. Both are critical for engaging the wholeness we are and can be, in service to another’s development. Our coaching clients have these two threads of parallel development going on as well, and in Presence-Based Coaching, we pay attention to both.

    There is so much territory in these two domains of being and doing for exploration, discovery, and insight. And most importantly, this coaching methodology allows the direct and practical application of these discoveries into our lives and work. It turns out to be very rich territory, indeed!

    Being and Doing in Leadership

    These same principles of being and doing, the horizontal and vertical axis of development, and the integration of the two, hold equally true in leadership. Leaders who are actively cultivating their own presence and ability to be awake and aware have a unique edge. That edge is choice. Choice to act in a way that is congruent with our deepest values and purpose, to bring and apply our most creative and resilient selves to the complex situations at hand.

    The often-hidden gem here is that the joy and fulfillment of leadership potential can be enabled by taking a perhaps radical stance. And that’s the perspective of seeing whatever challenges arise in your context, as an opportunity to grow on the inside to meet them. Seeing problems as a catalyst for personal and professional development. What a concept!

    The New Chapter of Presence-Based Work

    PC: Doug Silsbee

    I am ever so grateful to Doug for all that he brought to this world. I am grateful for those who came into contact with his heart and care and continue to feel touched by this work. I am writing my part of this new chapter for the Presence-Based work by developing and sharing my own gifts and the gifts of this work, following my desire to be of real service, and making a meaningful contribution to the consciousness and awakening of those who are called to make this world a better place. At least in our little corner of it.

    Marshall McLuhan said: “There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.”

    And as Doug was fond of saying: ”I want to do what’s mine to do.

    My Question to You

    I’m getting clear on what my work is going forward. So, here’s my question to you. What’s yours to do?


    P.S. The photos here are all taken by Doug. As many of you know, photography was one of his passions.





  • Notes from the Celebration of Life for Doug Silsbee

    Notes from the Celebration of Life for Doug Silsbee

    Doug Silsbee’s Celebration of Life happened on Sunday, August 12 at 4:00 PM ET. There were over 120 people in attendance, sitting or standing outside the Pavilion at Bend of Ivy Lodge. People gathered who knew or love Doug or whose lives and growth were touched by Doug’s writing or teaching about the Presence-Based Coaching or Leadership work. This included former clients, many PBC students, work colleagues from recent or early days, fellow travel adventurers, collaborators and co-teachers, as well as folks from the Asheville community, and of course, his family.

    The weather was lovely (if a bit humid) and many shared poignant stories or experiences with Doug. I was asked to speak on Doug’s work in the world. Below are my thoughts about Doug, and I offer them here in the hopes that it might resonate with your experience of Doug, help you to feel a part of that event, or spur you to take some time to reflect on your own version of Doug’s impact on you.

    I want to say a heart-felt thank you and acknowledgement of all who have reached out with kind and comforting words of condolence and care around Doug’s passing. If I haven’t responded to you each individually, know that I am reading each note or email, and I am reminded of my gratitude for this community!

    My thoughts on Doug and his work in the world…

    Let’s take what Doug might call a “presence pause” right now, to notice where we are in this moment — in community – noticing the holding of this land – knowing we are all connected.

    Three things about Doug:

    • Brilliant Mind
    • Big and Beautiful Heart
    • Doug’s emBODY-ment of Presence

    Brilliant Mind

    Doug had many, many interests, passions and lucky for us, these interests seeped their way into the Presence-Based Coaching and Leadership (PBC and PBL) work that Doug founded. From his love of icebergs, to interpersonal neurobiology, to the cosmos, to his invented word: Experiential Neuroplasticity.

    Doug was a master teacher and synthesizer; and blended many seemingly diverse streams of thought and knowledge to create coaching and leadership tools that are simple, accessible and practical.

    And of course, many of you know that Doug is the author of 3 cutting edge books on mindfulness and presence. Doug is widely viewed in Coaching and Leadership circles as an expert and thought leader on these two topics.

    Doug was deeply curious, loved to learn, create and experiment, and the perspective he held was very BIG (and he sought out and loved hearing other perspectives). His love of planets and stars and galaxies showed up in a favorite exercise in PBC, he called “the Grand Tour.” (Did I mention Doug was also a great storyteller?) This exercise helped students experience and consider the BIGness of this universe and in that way, helped them to create some new perspectives about who they might aspire to be, what was truly important.

    Big and Beautiful Heart

    We know that Doug had a HUGE heart, and was regularly brought to tears when his heart was touched by someone or something that he cared about.

    There has been an unbelievable outpouring of expressions of gratitude and remembrance of the impact Doug or this work has had on many, many people over the years. And, Doug had a huge impact on me personally and professionally, and on my development as a human.

    I remember when I first came to Bend of Ivy lodge for that first PBC I training in 2009. As soon as Doug started talking, I knew he was going to be a teacher for me. His blend of caring, humor, rigor, presence and skill spoke to me right away. And his seeing of me and my heart (and the hearts of all of his students, clients, colleagues and of many people gathered here), was transformational.

    He was an incredible mentor to me and a champion of my growth…when I started teaching with him, he had this knack of asking me to stretch just beyond my comfort zone, all the while conveying his sense of certainty I could do it.

    I treasure the sweet, creative collaboration and teaching flow that evolved in our relationship over the years, around the curriculum of PBC and in the business.

    And, Doug loved to collaborate with others. Many in this gathering (Sarah Halley, Luckett Davidson, and Carolyn Coughlin [who is on a mountaintop in Wyoming]) were privileged to work with him closely around the evolution of this work. And he had many Coaching and Leadership Development colleagues that he enjoyed close relationships with that, in his words, “nourished him.”

    Embodied Presence

    Doug was an avid outdoors-man and traveler, wilderness adventurer and lover of nature. He was one of the most generative and generous people I know, and he could build or fix almost anything (personally, I relied on him for his master excel spreadsheet skills!).

    Doug was a pioneer in recognizing the importance of and integrating the body into coaching work. And the unique and powerful blend that is Presence-Based Coaching and Leadership is a direct reflection of both his passions and the collaboration of those teaching with him and those students receiving the teaching.

    His tradition, before we started each retreat/training, was to take a moment (a “presence pause”), face each other, and ask each other: “Why are we doing this?” as a way of orienting to our purpose.

    Doug was in touch with a deep sense of presence and of being located in the present moment, and his very being reminded those around him of the importance of right now as the only moment we ever really have.

    Doug was transparent about his inner work and struggles in life. He continued to offer a beautiful teaching as he traveled in his journey with cancer, and both he and Walker were very open, conscious, and real about what they were going through. We are all grateful!

    As I said, Doug never lost sight of WHY we were doing the work – the bigger picture of care and concern for people, the environment, and the planet.

    I’ll end with this quote from December 2017 in Doug’s virtual Nine-Panes Practice Lab class, teaching about his new book, Presence-Based Leadership:

    I want to make sure that we’re not just working with these distinctions of sensing, being, and acting as an exercise in awareness or consciousness. This is not solely about self-actualization, or even primarily about self-actualization.

    “It’s about contribution, it’s about what commitments we’re living in in the world. And then how do we begin to organize internally in order to fulfill on those commitments. In this work it’s more important to me that this work be in service to making a difference in an extraordinary time in human history, than that we all feel good about ourselves and be happy. If that happens that’s great, but that’s not the purpose of the work.

    “So I want to always be connecting the macro-level of how do we act skillfully in the world, and how do we support others to act skillfully in the world with the consciousness work, and the awareness work that enables that to happen…

    As I said at the beginning, Brilliant mind, Big and Beautiful Heart, Embodied Presence. Gratitude to you, Doug, with a bow.

    Watch the video below of the releasing of bio-degradable lanterns into the night sky by the pond to the sounds of Beethoven (Doug’s favorite) at Doug’s celebration.

    Please feel free to express below any experience with Doug or this work that you’d like to share.