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 men, women, and children understand and gain ownership over their emotions, so they can live the life they choose.

Through his personal experience of having successfully completed a multitude of endurance athletic events over the past decade, including the Boston Marathon, several Ironman events, and ultramarathons, as well through his study of eastern medicine and philosophy Lou has developed an important set of 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 has discovered how to translate his knowledge into tools for patients in his acupuncture practice, the youth he coaches, parents, business owners, and other athletes. Through his talks and workshops, Lou helps youth, parents, business owners, athletes and leaders gain ownership of their choices by knowing how to use their emotions in a way that serves their individual goals, whether for sports or for life.

The Grass is Always Greener

I’m waiting for my turn to speak. Not on the side of a stage or in front of a large group.  I’m a speaker-judge that needs to give feedback to students at the high school where I coach.  They chose me because they consider me an innovator (or at least the kids voted me in 😊).  They are presenting on inventions, and we (as invited judges) are assessing them on how well they speak about the invention they’ve chosen, and how convincing they are that the invention they chose has made greatest impact to mankind.  I’ve heard about the plane, car, refrigerator…even the sandwich (seriously, someone got credit for taking two pieces of bread and slapping them on both sides of other food!).

Now that we have finished filling out our forms giving individual feedback for each student, we are to give general feedback to the whole class: what we thought they did that was amazing, as well as what they could improve. The first judge to my right gets up and presents to the class.  He’s even-keeled, speaks to the kids in a very positive, level manner, and they all seem engaged and listening.  He begins with wonderfully supportive feedback, gives his suggestions in the middle of his talk, buffered with even-tone, and a sincere smile, and then leaves them again with the reinforcement of what they did right.  I watch this man’s feedback to the class and a gremlin of self-doubt creeps into my brain…

Crappy, self-doubt Gremlin – Holy crap, that was awesome!… Dude, you should present what you want to say to those kids like that!

Me – I don’t really talk like that.

CSD Gremlin – Well, you should consider trying. Your loud, huge, energetic way of speaking is off-putting to these kids.

Me – It is? I’ve coached cross country here for some years, and my delivery seems to carry my intention and positivity pretty good.  I think –

CSD Gremlin – Come on, man! This is a classroom.  It’s serious business, you can’t just be all…well…you!  Look at that guy…

I look over at the guy who just presented. He nonchalantly sips his coffee, as the class claps for him and the teacher thanks him for being a judge today.  I know I have great feedback for these kids, and they’ve always responded well to me.  But it is true, I don’t present like that guy.  I get introduced and stand up.  I’m still in my head:

Me – Crap, how should I go with this? What is my intention?

CSD Gremlin – Just smile and do exactly what the other dude did!

I start to tell the class how much I appreciated all of their presentations, and how well researched their ideas were. I can feel my energy tighten as I try and follow a mental-emotional script that seems as foreign to me as mine would to the man who just presented.

Me, to my CSD Gremlin – This is not who I am.

CSD Gremlin – Exactly. Just keep doing this, and you’ll slide by –

I get finished telling the class about what they did right, and I go to start talking to them about the way they present: not reading from the paper but trusting themselves and speaking from who they are to the audience. I pause and look down, smiling.  Give a little laugh have under my breath. Gather myself and begin trusting myself to speak authentically to my audience.

Me (talking to the classroom) – Alright, wait a second. Let me show you something…

CSD Gremlin – Don’t do it!

I grab a blank piece of paper from the table. Turn to the class holding it in my hand and begin telling them a story that’s kinda’ funny (not ridiculously funny), but funny enough, about my cat almost knocking me over this morning trying to get to its food bowl. I tell the story constantly looking at the blank piece of paper in my hand as if I am reading it verbatim.  I stay monotone.  When I hit the punch-line the class laughs a little, but it’s a polite laugh, the kind of laugh you try to avoid as a public speaker.

Then loudly I say, “Alright, take two!”

I drop the paper and begin telling the same story loud and animated. I make sure to make eye contact with everyone, giving out great energy (basically my way) and using hand gestures.  This time, when I hit the same punch-line as before, the class gives a full, strong laugh.  I laugh with them.

Me, to the class – Right! Look down at your paper as little as you can.

I can see I have their attention now.

Me – Make a connection with your audience and be yourself.

They all clap and the teacher thanks me for coming in. The guy next to me gives me the nod of ‘nice work.’

As I leave the classroom and head towards my car I’m filled with that great feeling you have when you really make the connection you’re looking for with another (or a decent size group of others). I thought back to when I watched the judge before present authentically, and the great response he got for it, and how I envied his connection with the kids.  I had almost made a serious mistake in that room.  I almost chose not to trust who I was and to try to imitate someone else.  What did I learn through those 5 minutes of presenting to those kids?

My mental-emotional tools are effective because they are intertwined with who I am, not something I practice outside of myself in spite of who I am.

I’m sure we’ve all looked to get out of our own mental-emotional skin from time to time in search of better housing 😊.  I’d love to hear your story if you’d like to share it.

Emotional Hostage Negotiations

Today is an emotionally difficult day.  Let me explain. My son is going off to college out of state, and he is going a week early because he runs cross country for the school he’s attending.  This means the campus looks as desolate as a scene from The Walking Dead, and I am moving him into a brick building that is as foreign to all of us as if it were built on Mars. As we unpack his bags we meet his roommate (thank God!  Another living soul).  A cross country running, similarly bright-eyed (or maybe it was more ‘deer-in-the-headlights’) freshman with his parents, his crap already in the room.  As we unloaded my son’s stuff and set it up in his dorm room, emotions vacillated in me by the minute like the show wheel of fortune.  “What it’s gonna’ be this minute, folks? Sadness? Anxiety? Pride? Excitement?”  I was becoming more and more aware that my son would not be driving home with us.  I also could not help but feel the pull of his own anxiety and feelings of uncertainty of whether he could accomplish the task of staying and thriving at his school.

As I hauled his fridge up three flights of steps, I could feel my wheel of emotions causing me to feel grumpy. It’s normal to get fatigued by a whirlwind of emotions in a short period of time.  Now, of course, I realize this on an intellectual level, but it doesn’t stop me from resisting: trying to stop, ignore, or change the uncomfortable emotions’ onslaught that keeps persisting inside me.  I feel my false bravado come up (‘I’m fine!’), then maybe that critical gremlin perks up inside my brain full of unhelpful self-talk (‘Oh, he’ll be fine, get over it!’).  There’s tension between everyone, because uncertainty creates a cascade of emotions.  Whether they are stressful or not, emotions can overwhelm and override our thought processes and dictate our actions.

I call up my mental-emotional tools. Try show myself and my family some loving kindness (maitri), acknowledging it is normal for me to feel sad, anxious, excited, all of it at the same time, about this huge change that is taking place in all of our lives.  It’s ok for all of us to be uncomfortable with the unknown and uncertainty of this change and what it will bring.  It is also absolutely normal for our son to be anxious and to worry about the uncomfortable emotions and moments he will have as he goes forward into this time of growth and stretching.

We are all feeling the need for some relief from this emotional stretching moment. I think back to something I spoke of with my son weeks ago before we even got in the car: “Although you may feel like difficult emotions are all there are in some moments, it is not so.  There are joyful moments in these times as well that are so sweet – joyful moments that are rich with vibrant memories, moments that easily rival the heightened anxiety we feel.  If we stay present and acknowledge some of these joyful moments as they occur, we feel the balance of all our situations, which is where equanimity resides, true joy itself.”  Carrying a box of trash down from the newly moved into dorm room, I began thinking of watching all my son with his teammates at cross-country barbeque, and that feeling of happiness I had at the time re-emerged in me.

Why do these joyful moments many times take a back seat to their anxiety-filled counterparts? Why can’t we as parents feel our pride or enthusiasm about our child’s up coming school year as strongly as our anxiety and fear? It is not the work of a villainous gremlin in our brain trying to sabotage our happiness, or the fact that difficult emotions are just ‘weightier’ and therefore more acknowledged. In reality, it is because our brains are hard-wired for survival, to keep us alive, and because of this, every situation that is deemed a threat to us (even if it’s only a threat to our egos) is given the brain’s resources effortlessly (mainly so we don’t do something that is going to cause us to lose a limb!).

So the bad news first – without mental-emotional training, your brain will let fear and anxiety rob you of the well-earned, wonderful moments in your life. It will take deliberate effort, training, and self-awareness to embed the kind of memories that feed our brains with joy (which could also be considered survival if you consider all the buckets full of cortisol pumping through our brains over time).

Now the good news! You don’t have to be Spock, know the Vulcan mind meld, or carry Yoda on your back for a millennium to see results from putting forth an effort to remain mindful of your joyful moments so the become embedded in your brain. When you start training your mind, you will quickly see an effect. That’s because these joyful emotions are just as available during difficult times as are our uncomfortable emotions.  Every moment has them both available.  These joyful moments are vibrant and real. They are as full of sights, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes as any memory that has been recorded in your mind.  And you don’t have to ignore, push aside, or bob and weave yourself away from the more difficult emotions.  Practicing mindfulness, means acknowledging all the moments in your life with equal weight, not just the ones that fill us with fear or anxiety.

When we finally left campus and proceeded to drive 12 hours home, we were sad and anxious one moment about how our son would fair in dorm life, then the next moment we were talking about how he seemed so happy with his new teammates. If we were grumpy with one another because we were tired, we were then happy to stop and see Niagara Falls.  The only comfort helping us all along our long drive was one very simple but irrefutable truth: change is impartial.

What is momentarily foreign and threatening will soon become familiar…until the next change. As we drove back, our emotions could not escape this irrefutable truth as well.  Uncomfortable emotions live side by side with our most joyful ones.  Mindfulness can help you understand and govern your emotions as they change.  When we know this, practice staying in the middle, and taking it all in, we have a much easier time owning all that has happened in our lives, instead of being held emotionally hostage by our fear of the next unknown.

Margaret Teaches Resilience

Be careful what you wish for because sometimes you just may get it!

I have a fat bike.  Her name is Margaret.  I’ve wanted Margaret for the last two years and, although I’ve rented fat bikes occasionally, my primary sport has been trail running.  I’m a more-than-competent trail runner, and love what it gives me.  But, I a few years ago I found myself drawn to fat bikes.  I have spoken endlessly of the virtues of fat biking to family, friends, patients, well… to anyone who would listen, and even those who would rather not.

For the uninitiated let me just give a brief description of Margaret: Black and blue frame and forks (fitting 😉) that accommodate 4.9-inch-wide tires… basically just shy of a jeep wrangler. At first glance she’s a promise of a ride anywhere, any terrain, any weather.  But read the fine print (look closely) there’s no clips on her hard, flat pedals, basically a cautionary whisper that she’s going to throw you off the first chance she gets.  There are no frills with Margaret, and that’s the draw for me.  She is the unknown.  Something that poses possible risks, yet equally great rewards.

I moved from long distance multi-sport events like Ironman over to ultra-trail running about 7 years ago, and I’ve grown very comfortable in my sport.  Now does that mean its cake for me to do trail running or ultra-long races?  Absolutely not.  But, what it does mean, is that I’ve learned many of the ins and outs of the sport, which makes it more predictable.  What I should eat, how to dress for best comfort, where to lube (God forbid if I didn’t know that!), how to keep my focus on the trail, how to stick to a physical and mental game plan, what shoes to wear, and most, importantly, how to starve those adrenalin-pumping, mental-emotional gremlins like fear, anger, and self judgment when they start to make a three course meal out of my self confidence.  Its fair to say I am comfortable being uncomfortable within ultra-running.  I do not have this safety net of familiarity with Margaret.

Before Margaret, when I’ve rented a fat bike, it was for nothing but fun. I rode it around the property by the bike shop, on roads, on easy trail.  I saved my ride times for days when I didn’t need to put in a big effort on my runs, or worry about my heart rate.  Merely cross training, I told myself.  Just something different to do.  Then came the day where I finally got my very own fat bike.  Margaret.  That wonderful first ride with her where every magical moment I ‘try’ to ride and I don’t quite get it right is met with self-acceptance.

My positive coach is the only one in my head. “You’re just getting used to this.” Or, “Great effort just being on Perry Hill. Great job!!!”

Then comes day four. My positive coach’s voice has grown quiet, while gremlins of self-doubt and criticism seemed to have found a megaphone in my head.  “What the hell, I run these trails all the time!”  Foot slips off the pedal stopping forward movement for the gazillionth time in an hour. “I could freakin’ walk this faster!”

I move to the side of the trail and watch as this kid glides his bike past me like he’s on some kind of darn magic carpet ride. “You alright?” he asks. That’s right — he’s not even out of breath.

I want to ask him if he saw my confidence on the trail, maybe rode over it? To top it off, this kid is actually enjoying himself.  “Fine,” I gasp, “just new to this.  Let me watch you climb.”

“Sure!” He smiles that innocent young smile that you WISH was filled with arrogance, so you could hate him, but you know he’s only trying to help as he rides off up the rooty, rocky trail with the grace of a synchronized swimmer.

“Come on.”

Margaret isn’t celebrating my strengths. She’s not awarding me with any slaps on the back from my new mountain bike community, or the occasional ego stroke that could pump up my self-esteem.  In fact, Margaret is doing just the opposite.  She calling Me into question — my ability to govern my emotions into question (we’ve already had some ‘emotional’ conversations).  She refuses to celebrate or emphasize my strengths on the trail like ultra running has for me.  Margaret, my new and incredibly stubborn mental-emotional tool (I know, it’s just a bike, but still…) isn’t building mental-emotional resilience for me…

She is, however, allowing me the opportunity to build it for myself.

Margaret is unfamiliar (I’ve never ridden trails. Don’t know what gears to be in, when to pedal…).  She’s uncomfortable (the seat hurts, position hurts, different muscles hurt).  She calls my abilities into question (I run these trails, why can’t I bike them!?!).  Yet, all the while she is giving me an opportunity to improve (well I got farther than yesterday); build patience (remembering no climb I ever do while running was perfected overnight); stay in the moment (you fall a lot harder and a great deal more often if you don’t pay attention on a bike).

The point is, my resilience, physical, mental, emotional, is always better served, created, and grown from doing the uncomfortable or less familiar things. Margaret is a great tool because she is just that: a challenge.  Not one that I’ve grown accustomed to, no matter how difficult, but one that demands my attention, my focus, my ability to process my uncomfortable-emotions fairly quickly, while also giving me the opportunity to experience new excitement or joy when I succeed.

We all have expertise in something that helps us build and maintain our mental-emotional tool boxes. Our go-to things that leave us feeling confident and capable.  What new challenge have you introduced, or could you introduce into your life that could give you greater mental-emotional gain for the time spent?  Consider writing down some of the worst things that could happen if you tried?  Once you flush those fears out into the open, and their shadows recede, bringing them into real proportion, write down what are the best things that could happen if you seized the opportunity for something new.  New mental strength?  Focus?  New-found confidence?  I would love for you to share what you come up with! 😊

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 excessable to us through humor and great story telling.”

    – Social Worker, mother of three