Emotional Awareness and Resilience Coach, Author, and Speaker

Lou’s Bio

As an Emotional Awareness coach, author, and speaker, Lou’s mission is to help people of all ages understand and gain ownership over their emotions, so they can live the life they choose.

Through his personal experience, having successfully completed a multitude of endurance athletic events over the past decade, including the Boston Marathon, Ironman, and ultramarathons, as well his study of eastern medicine and philosophy Lou has developed tools for building mental and emotional tools that have the ability to benefit anyone looking to bring their best selves to every situation.

Beyond his own practice, Lou transformed his knowledge into an accessible methods and tools that anyone can use in their own life. Through his presentations, workshops, as well as individual and group coaching Lou helps students, parents, mentors, caregivers, teachers, athletes and leaders gain ownership of their choices by knowing how to use their emotions in a way that serves their goals.

The Power of Visualization

I can’t see my front runner. I’m looking through the trees and I can hear cheering, but no one’s come out yet. The girls earned a perfect score of 15 literally 20 minutes ago, which is something rarely seen as a coach. Now the boys have a chance to do the same. If the girls and boys both put up a perfect score it’s honestly something that I have never seen before in all of my coaching. 

I asked Katie, one of my Cross Country ‘animals’ who just finished as a top-five runner for the first time, to come and cheer on the boys with me. I’m still shouting encouragement for the boys, who have yet to emerge from the woods, when she comes over. Katie begins to tell me about her race. Honestly, I’m only half listening. What I mean is that half of my focus is waiting for my runners to come out of the woods, and the other half is ‘kind of’ paying attention to what she’s saying. All the sudden a few words trigger my ears to fully listen.  Katie is talking about a woman on her course who was cheering for her daughter to get up the hill. She explained that she decided to replace that woman’s daughter’s name with her own name, so every time this woman cheered for her daughter, Katie imagined that she was cheering for her.

I begin to feel my attention bend away from the woods and onto Katie’s words.  

She continues on about the large crowd in the woods. They were yelling and screaming and cheering and you couldn’t even tell who they were cheering for. Katie said she began to visualize all those people were shouting for her and that they were pointing at her, smiling at her, and encouraging her on.  Now, you may be saying that is really sweet and nice, but I want you to take into account that Katie had not been even a top 10 runner so far this season. On top of that, she had stomach cramps right before the race started. 

I asked her where she learned to do this visualization.  I heard someone in the crowd behind me say she would make a great coach!  I agreed, she absolutely would. Then I said, “What you’re talking about will get you to the next level, Katie. Top five at the middle school race is only the beginning for someone who knows how to use their mind.”

Fast forward.  Both our girls’ and our boys’ teams ended up sweeping the meet with perfect scores!  We took the bus ride home cheerfully, both me and my assistant coach knowing full well that we had a 20-mile run to do as soon as we got back to the school. We’re training together for 50k.  I don’t think I realized how much the meet wore on me, or how much energy I gave out until mid-way through the third lap of a five-lap, looped route we had chosen to do for this run.

I was really struggling. When you’re that physically exhausted, sugar (i.e. energy) becomes scarce for your mental faculties, and your emotions run high.  The mind begins to look for your “why.” It needs to know, in the wake of serious energy depletion, that there’s a bigger purpose. So, I took some time and sat down on the side of the trail. I’ve done a lot of 50k and 50-mile ultra-races in my life and I wondered why I was doing this one. I needed to know. I thought of how my friend was doing his first 50k, so he was inspired for this accomplishment. I also knew that I wanted to do a 100-mile race in a year or two, but that was a long way off to try and justify getting around this loop two more times.  

Then, I thought of Katie.

I realized I could visualize these next two loops, these last 8 miles, as the very end of my hundred-mile race.  I imagined this was my mind questioning me while I was trying to finish that race; how would I find the energy to finish? I imagined races where I had struggled. I imagined pulling out fresh shoes, eating some soup, the dark of night, sweat coming off of my brow. The look of total understanding runners give each other in the late stages of a race. What would it be like to be only 8 miles shy of 100 miles and feel this bad? More importantly, how would it feel and how would I get through it? Because it was coming. No matter how much I trained physically, there is no substitute for being completely physically, mentally, and emotionally fatigued and moving through it. I got up. I visualized myself leaving the aid station, walking at first then easing into a slow run. I reminded myself how with every step forward I was getting closer to the finish line. I imagined people cheering as I crossed the finish line. Handing me soup and a warm blanket. The feeling of completion.

When I finished those last two loops I had level of pride in myself that I haven’t felt in a long time. It was truly difficult, and I felt courageous for getting through that training run. More so than some of the races I had done in the past couple years. It took a 13-year-old girl on my cross-country team to remind me to visualize what I needed to give my absolute best effort. To use my mental tools in a way that would benefit my reality instead of allowing my environment to dictate my performance and when I would throw in the towel. In the darkest moments of my races to come I will remember the inspiration I borrowed from Katie.

Emotional Hostage Negotiations

I’m scared. Really scared. I feel like he’s got me right where he wants me. The ropes are excruciating.  Tied so tightly, I definitely don’t feel like there’s any hope of escape. I try to reason with him, but honestly…how do you reason with yourself — your mind actually?

I’ve decided to take on three different challenges to stretch myself a bit this fall. I’m coaching cross country again this year, and as full-filling as that is, the focus and energy required are non-negotiable.  I also signed up for a 50-mile race in November. The distance is familiar, but I know enough that if I do not respect this distance and the training it requires, serious ramifications aren’t just possible, their coming. Then there’s the little thing of continuing to grow my career as an emotional resilience coach, author, and speaker.  Although I have been blessed with successful talks, workshops, and coaching opportunities, and I’m fueled with a “calling” like passion to follow it, it requires energy, courage, and commitment by the truckload. And let’s not forget, I still have my acupuncture practice, I’m a father, a husband, and still have a few friends who are willing to put up with me. With all of this going on, I feel a little bit closed in.  What do I mean by that? My old friend, Anxiety, has me pressed up against the ropes!

Now truth be told, do I believe, intellectually, that I can I handle these three things or more at once? Sure. But, since I have uncomfortable emotions like every other human being on the planet, they seem to get a vote as well, and to be honest…there’s a strong feeling of fear that I can’t ‘do it all’. Then there’s the other feeling that keeps showing up: anxiety.  Anxiety about whether or not I can do them all well. There’s also a lot of change.  If Fear, Doubt, and Anxiety were all throwing a party, Change would be the guest of honor.  Lucky Change, right? :). 

With all of this discomfort, my mind feels like it’s on fire, and reacts by telling me that we are in a life-and-death situation. In fact, it’s really just Friday, and I’ve had plenty of time to do the work I need to do.  But my mind and the thoughts it’s housing have been hijacked by fear, doubt, and anxiety.

What I need is an emotional hostage negotiator. This is the one time it can’t be my ïnternal coach; hell, not my internal anything!  Reason being? My mind has been compromised. I need somebody on the outside to have my back. Someone who will tell me the truth. A friend, colleague, or loved one who’s only stake in the whole situation is to see me feel a little bit better, and gain some perspective, so I can move forward. 

We can’t trust ourselves to have our own backs when we are held hostage by our own emotions to this degree.  And What I mean by that is: turning to our thoughts to help us in this heightened fear producing situation would be a perceived ‘conflict of interest’ by our brains. It would be like trying to trust the ice cream man the keep our diet for us. Or a bartender to only serve us club soda. Our brain’s primary function is to keep us alive. If it feels threatened (by change, in this case), it’s going to flood us with anxiety, fear, and doubt. It will then send us the message that what we’re doing is nearly impossible and we should run away, even if it’s something we really want to do. Period.

My loved one shows up on the scene. She sits with me and goes over the situations that I’m having difficulty with in a calm and unemotional (detached) manner, because her emotions are not triggered. An emotional hostage negotiator has incredible skills, but different than what you might think. There’s a lot of listening. A lot of allowing for the emotions to come out all messy and jumbled, but to come out nonetheless. Judgement is non-existent. Suggestions may be made, but usually they coax those out of you too, so the beliefs about yourself will actually stick. They are trying to talk you off your emotional ledge, so you can continue with actions that are helpful not harmful to you, and free yourself from those restricting information your uncomfortable emotions are pummeling you with.

So, what’s the catch?  Why don’t we all have these emotional hostage negotiators running around and rescuing us from the 10-story drops into the depths of our fears and doubts?  Well that’s simple…

We would need to ask for help.

What is the most powerful and courageous kind of resilience in the world? Social resilience.  That doesn’t mean just walking around parties and bleeding out emotionally by over-sharing to strangers who just happen to be in your vicinity. It means building trust with others, taking the time to give of yourself to those with whom you feel close.  Trusting them with how you are feeling, even though you may fear judgement or persecution. It requires you to be vulnerable. To open up to others without always knowing if they will be able or willing to be an emotional hostage negotiator for us. There is no braver act to gain resilience from my perspective.

I’ve been released. My fears are smaller for the moment. My mental-emotional ropes have been loosened. My anxiety is there still, but it’s lessened and no longer has the reigns.  I’m able to work and move forward. Phew! My loved one has successfully helped me find my truths and reasons for taking on such bold and new changes in my life. And this has all been done with such selflessness that I almost feel like I did it on my own. But I know better. It was my courage to ask, and her willingness to give of herself and sit with me, that allowed for the negotiations to succeed.  Hopefully I can answer the call when her emotions get the better of her. That way she doesn’t have to be on the emotional ledge alone.

YOU are the Author of Your Emotions!

I’ve been listening to a book by Malcolm Gladwell call David and Goliath. I’m on my way to give a keynote talk at a university, so I am up at 4:30 in the morning and really focused.  This book talks about advantages and disadvantages. Specifically, Gladwell defines what constitutes an advantage in our minds as something being bigger and stronger and having more resources.  But he goes on to explain that this doesn’t necessarily transfer over into the real world as an actual advantage all of the time. 

Gladwell uses the example of a young woman who goes to a premier school and has an absolute love for science.  However, the kids at this school are so competitive and understand science so well that it is actually a disadvantage for her because she feels that she isn’t up to par.  So, while I’m listening to this, there’s something irritating the deep recesses of my mind. I truly can’t figure out if there is something wrong with this logic. Gladwell also talks about Monet and his buddies in the impressionist movement. It seems a certain contest in Paris was what determined whether you were a very good artist.  If an artist didn’t do well in the competition, Gladwell pointed out, some would actually go and kill themselves. Pretty severe self-judgment I thought as I sipped my coffee and tried to keep my focus on the road. Finally, I started to read between the lines, and the one common link amongst all the stories that was bugging me –

Every single person or group of people that Gladwell had described was finding their self-worth, their self-esteem, and their emotions outside of themselves.  

If you were looking to do well in school the answer was to go to a smaller school, so you would feel better about yourself. The answer for Monet and his buddies, actually, was to stop going after getting their paintings in that specific competition in Paris, and to make their own competition amongst one another, so they’d feel better about their paintings. Either way, their worth was being pursued outside of themselves.

I’m getting two things out of this book. The first thing is obvious and I believe it’s what Gladwell wants us to know, which is extremely valuable: we do not always know what is an advantage or disadvantage just by appearances or by our social constructs. In fact, it takes a little bit more digging by the person, a bit more exploration, and the willingness to put in the time of being aware of the actual situation to find out what is an advantage or disadvantage.  

But here’s the other thing I’m getting from this book: it’s true, if an environment breeds emotions that are unhelpful to you, this can be a disadvantage…if the only place you’re looking for your emotions is outside of you.  Another truth is that a more difficult environment can actually be an advantage if you use it as such. You can see this with people who have achieved greatness in various arenas who have been in environments that were not necessarily supportive.  Those people found ways to use the emotions that the environment provided them in a way that supported their goals and how they wanted to feel about themselves. 

Let’s use a little bit more of a modern artist as an example: Eminem.  An incredibly gifted rapper that had to be better than everyone else because he was caucasian.  He lived in Detroit, which was a hotbed for rap, but only if you were African-American. If you listen to Gladwell, Eminem might’ve done a hell of a lot better if he was in an environment where white rappers were plentiful or simply chose another profession altogether!  Instead, his desire to rap, to be accepted by the peers he respected, who were African-American, and the fuel of an environment that was probably very unlikely to have him to feel emotions of success, happiness, confidence, and capability drove him towards greatness. In this instance, having an environment that was less than hospitable allowed him to sharpen his skills against the stone of his uncomfortable emotions.

I finished Gladwell’s book, and what it came down to for me was that advantages and disadvantages are in the eye of the beholder.  Uncomfortable emotions such as anger, fear, and uncertainty have a way of pushing us forward towards our goals, while the promise of joy, confidence, and having our own backs pull us forward to take action!  Regardless of what kind of environment we find ourselves in, if we put forth the tremendous effort to go after what we want, we find ways to build the mental-emotional tools that allow us to create our emotions within us.  If you know how you want to feel, you can create the emotions you are looking for in any environment. You are truly the author of your emotions.

What people are saying

  • “I was having real difficulty, not just creating a relationship with my son and daughter,
    but being able to
    parent him without getting caught in my anger all the time.
    After being in Lou’s workshop, I definitely feel more in control
    of my emotions and actions at work, with my kids, everywhere.“

    – Educator and mother of two

  • “Lou is able to take things that most of us feel and have difficulty expressing and give words to them. He makes what we’re feeling accessible to us through humor and great story telling.”

    – Social Worker, mother of three

  • “Lou is one of those special peopl who gets kids AND adults.  You see it in his coaching cross-country as well as his books and workshops.  His compassionate treatment of children and adults alike as we learn to help each other grow in emotional awareness and skills is so needed today, so centering and enlivening.  Thank you Lou for all you are and what you do with it!”

    Sally Kendall, MT and Intructor

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.