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.

Emotions: Is Your Intention Coming Through as Static or a Clear Signal?

“The bus driver before you just told me that if I get your bus you can bring me closest to the Golden Gate bridge…”  I barely get the last word out of my mouth when I pick my head up from Google Maps and look the bus driver square in the face.  I am suddenly no longer engaged with the nervous energy of whether or not I’m going to make it back to the hotel, but instead feeling the full energy of the bus driver right in front of me.  I can see by the wry smirk that she is not too pleased with me telling her where her bus can go. There’s also the fact that, before I could get the word ‘bridge’ out, she cut me off saying, “Where do you want to go?”

It wasn’t that kind of friendly ‘where do you want to go’ that you hear from a 60’s cab driver on TV who is smiling and ready to drive you around the city and show you the sights.  It was more of a ‘where do you want to go and I will tell you whether or not I can take you.’ I actually got out of my own way, meaning put my own emotions aside and realized that it was probably more important to see how my words and my energy were affecting the person from whom I was seeking help.  By doing this, I was able to use my frontal lobe to ascertain that it would probably be best to actually ask for help instead of telling her what someone else said she could do for me. 

I backtracked a little bit and said, “Sorry.  I’m a little anxious. I’ve only been here for two days.”  It was a genuine statement and my energy was conveying the intention that ‘I’m sorry for telling you instead of asking you.’  

She gave me a little bit more of a smile, as if I was forgiven, and said, “That’s all right, Honey.  Where are you looking to get to?” I had reset myself emotionally and described how I was feeling. The honesty, and the apology, allowed for her to open up a bit, hear my request, and then see if she could actually help me.  

How many times do our emotions disrupt the signal that we’re trying to get across to another person. Our emotions can override our actual message requesting help.  Sometimes it’s only by getting out of our own way, and this may just mean acknowledging to ourselves and to the other person that we are nervous, anxious, uncertain, or out of our depth.  We are afraid that this exposure of our emotions makes us weak. But the alternative is not being understood at all. Our message comes out as static. As the old saying goes: what we are feeling is shouting so loudly, others can’t actually hear what we’re saying.  

Basically, our reactivity creates reactivity in others.  Our static can be contagious. If we’re truly trying to do no harm to ourselves or others, and if we would like to use our emotions as information to let us know where we’re at, then we have to first acknowledge what we’re feeling and sometimes that means letting others know what we’re feeling as well. 

The bus driver kindly told me to take a seat and she would let me know when we got close to California Street. I said, “Thank you.”

“Don’t worry, Sugar, I got you.” she replied.

The intention behind her words, or at least how it felt to me, was of someone who had felt the same kind of feelings before.  She actually understood what was going on for me. I turned my phone off and put it back in my pocket. The device was only causing me static.  And besides, I had heard my bus driver’s signal loud and clear. I was getting home today.

Riding the Emotional Seesaw

I’m excited.  Okay, also a bit nervous. pretty tired too. Definitely overwhelmed now that I’m thinking about it.  But also grateful… Did I say nervous?

This is the second year that I am directing an adventure running camp for kids. It’s not really a Spartan thing.  Nor is it simply running carelessly through the woods. It’s a challenge camp. It isn’t about how fast you are, unless it is.  Just getting it done might end up being a thing, really. You don’t have to be an athlete to do it, though it may look like it from the outside.  It isn’t a social club, either. Or a place for kids to go while their parents work.  

Honestly? The camp is a lot of fun.  AND it’s hard. Mentally, physically, emotionally hard.  In fact, each day the kids vote how hard each challenge they face is.  And each challenge is new and unknown until the day of… This adds a great amount of excitement and uncertainty. I guess it’s how you look at it. 

Friday, the last day, parents, siblings, friends, and anyone looking to ask a bit of themselves (basically who doesn’t know any better) is invited to join the participants of the camp and run the Challenge course.  As someone who does ‘less than civil’ events, I can tell you this is not a walk in the woods. It’s no easy task. For those participants willing to put themselves on the line, it can be emotionally challenging. It is for me as well.

I have a lot of really great help putting this camp and the final Challenge event together.  From an incredible assistant coach, fantastic counselors, and a great many volunteers.  It has gone very well. But there will be ten challenges this year. Five more than last, which means every day I’m not just directing the camp, but I’m also thinking about and designing (and redesigning) the Challenge course, building challenge obstacles, gathering materials…basically setting up how it is all going to work together.  Oh! I also have to do my regular job every day, develop my mental-emotional coaching business further, and continue to be a husband and a father. It’s fair to say I have a wide variety of strong emotions pass through me each day of camp. And it’s completely worth it.

It’s true, not every emotion feels good to me.  But truth be told, I know that if I didn’t have all of these emotions, this would just be work.  I would look at what I had to do, and I would probably do it, but it wouldn’t carry much weight with me.  It wouldn’t make a lasting impression. In fact, it wouldn’t even be worth doing. These feelings of excitement, nervousness, gratitude, exhaustion, overwhelm, and joy all create the right emotional cocktail to keep my efforts exceptional and the camp worth doing.  

All of our emotions give us information that lets us know what we are doing matters, especially the uncomfortable ones.  Sometimes emotions trigger feelings that tell us: this thing I’m doing is fulfilling, awesome, and we just can’t wait to get back to it!  Other times, a feeling of nervousness or anxiety can let us know that we should pay attention to something and give our best effort because it matters – it has an impact in our life or the lives of others.

Yet, how many of us try to ignore the information our emotions are giving us because it’s uncomfortable?  Or our culture tells us acknowledging our emotions is synonymous with weakness. Or even more likely, we truly have been disconnected with our feelings for so long, our only way of identifying one from the other, is “good” or “bad.”  So, what do we do? We don’t acknowledge our feelings, which leaves us even more drained, isolated, lonely, or anxious. We box them up, numb them (see last week’s blog “Emotional Anesthesia”), or ‘stuff’ them down so far that when they ultimately return (and they will), they come back with a vengeance.

When we can share our feelings, we often can get empathy, or even just hear ourselves process what is going on for us out loud, which can help us to gain perspective.  When we acknowledge our emotions to ourselves (I keep a log, or journal, which helps me), we gain a vital perspective on what information our emotions are providing us.  All of that information drives us to excel at the task at hand

Most emotions have a counterbalance, which is the impetus for action.  The nervousness I am feeling about how the Challenge will go Friday, is balanced against my joy over what the kids will get out of the event.  These two emotions become an impetus for me to get my advertising out on social media, send emails, solicit volunteers, and finalize the course.  If I only felt nervous, I might be paralyzed into inaction. Whereas, if all I felt was excitement, I would be less likely to attend to all of the little details that are vital to making the event a success.

So, I am going to embrace my excitement for fuel, listen to my anxiety carefully to improve my craft, sit in my gratitude to stay open and flexible, and acknowledge my exhaustion to find my pace.  The “challenge” for all of us, is to create challenges in our lives that build physical, mental, and emotional resilience. Participants (myself included) will not only see these challenges on the courses they chose to enter, but in much of what they do in their lives.  Once we realize there is no finish line to finding our center, it becomes easier to sit across from ourselves compassionately, without judgement, while we rock and back and forth on our emotional seesaw.

Emotional Anesthesia: Not all Emotional Information is Useful

I am sitting in my dentist’s chair and I am exceptionally grateful.  No one is grateful, let alone exceptionally grateful, in a dentist’s chair, I know this.  But I also know that my dentist is going to be gentle.

Now when I say gentle, I don’t just mean with her words or her ways.  It’s not that she is going to be all politeness or has very tiny hands.  What I mean is that she is going to shoot me up with enough Novocain to probably put down a small horse and I’m not going to have to feel pain.  I realize this is a weird thing for someone to say who does endurance races and is an emotional resilience coach, speaker, and author. You might think I’d be chomping at the bit to sink my teeth into some good old resilience-building pain.

But this isn’t the type of thing that would build my resilience.  The anxiety and fear, let alone the actual physical pain I would feel, are not helpful emotions at this moment.  The dental work has to be done. These emotions are not something to listen to, something that can help me. Instead, the pain would be telling me straight out, “GET OUT OF THIS CHAIR!  SHE IS DRILLING INTO YOUR TEETH AND IT HURTS!” The information that my severe discomfort would give me would be spot on and send me into flight mode. But, since I need to be here getting a cavity filled, I am grateful to silence that physical pain signal by way of the Novocain. 

There are times in our lives when pain is just pain.  When there’s no different action to take, or a different perspective falls short.  There are times when the only thing that helps is being able to put aside the information that our emotions provide for a while.  Some people put their emotions in a ‘box,’ while others minimize emotional information by willing all their focus on their thoughts, allowing reason and a logical approach to have a greater say in how they develop their perspective to a situation. 

It is a fine practice in many situations to use your tools to ‘sidestep’ emotions for the time being, especially when difficult or immediate pain is imminent…as long as you go back to your emotions.  My dentist may numb me to the max while drilling my mouth, making sure I don’t feel a pin prick. But the very first thing she says after the procedure, before she lets me out of the chair: “Don’t forget to avoid eating or drinking anything hot or really cold!”  Why? Because she doesn’t want me to burn myself or have a slurpy stuck to the side of my face. She doesn’t want food to get stuck in places it shouldn’t and cause me pain later. Because she knows that I will not be able to feel those things. Just like applying Novocain, when we cannot get the information our emotions provide over a long period of time we are at a severe disadvantage.

How many of us go through our lives not feeling at all, sticking our heads in the sand?  How many of us don’t allow our feelings to tell us what they need to tell us? Like physical pain, emotions such as fear, self-doubt, anxiety, or whatever you’re feeling that you’d rather not, all have information to give you that is necessary and important.  It could be telling you that something is going on that’s wrong, may harm you, or is harming you!  So, while with my dental situation the physical pain would cause me to flee as fast I could from the dentist’s office, my cavity wouldn’t get fixed, my tooth would continue to be excruciating, and it would do serious damage to my health.  The temporary physical and emotional ‘numbing’ allows for the important work to be done. But it is the feelings coming back that allow me to eat again, monitor hot and cold in my mouth so I don’t burn myself, enjoy and savor the taste my food, and have the sensitivity NOT to chew the side of my cheek off.

So, when you are questioning whether it would be easier just to live the rest of your life in that Novocain-numb place, keeping a lid on your emotions so that all physical and emotional pain is kept at bay, consider this: if you used Novocain every day you might avoid ever having to experience tooth pain again, but you would also miss the joy from the taste of the food you ate that caused the cavity.  If you similarly numbed your emotions, you’d miss the love you felt for the person you were with while you ate, and any curiosity and uncertainty to try different restaurants or food in the future would disappear as well. All emotions ultimately serve a purpose, even the painful ones.

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

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