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.

Emotional Resilience – Don’t Play Small

I’m sitting in a green room, getting ready to deliver my keynote speech on emotional resilience at a University. Honestly, 5 minutes ago I didn’t even know what a green room was. I mean I’ve seen TV shows where people were getting ready in green rooms before going on stage, like the Johnny Carson Show (okay, just think Jimmy Fallon now 😊). Stars, or important people, sit in a room covered with flowers, chocolates, letters from adoring fans, waiting to be announced. Once they are announced, they strut out onto the stage to loud cheers. They give a cool hand wave, saying humbly, “please, you’re too kind. Sit, please.”

Then there’s me in my green room: no flowers or food. Definitely no adoring fan letters. Just lights around a big mirror, which is freaking me out. I stare in the mirror and try to psych myself up for my speech.

At best I figure I will be speaking to maybe 30-40 people. A keynote for a University’s ‘Wellness Week’ wouldn’t likely draw more people than that, right? What I was really thinking was that I didn’t warrant more people than that. That, if I down-played the whole situation and made it small enough in my head I wouldn’t be so anxious. That way, if it didn’t go well (or perfectly) I could write it off as not a big deal.

Just go out and be professional, I thought, staring at my reflection. Keep your energy close to the vest. Stick to your script, don’t give big energy, DO NOT be yourself…and you’ll be fine. Don’t deviate like you do. Spontaneity must be avoided at all costs. Imagine what would happen if you couldn’t get back to your point! Just make yourself and your presentation well…presentable.

There’s a name for this kind of armor. This kind of getting yourself emotionally prepared for any chance of things not going well and buffering feelings of fear, disappointment, or vulnerability by giving the bare minimum of yourself, and it’s not called emotional resilience.

It’s called playing small.

It’s true, when we are playing small, we are emotionally armoring up. We don’t leave ourselves open for attack from others or ourselves. We are fairly well protected from disappointment, embarrassment, failure, and all the emotional ‘uglies’ (uncomfortable feelings). But there’s another side of that coin. When we keep our emotional armor on, we lose a great opportunity for real, authentic connection with others. We stifle our creativity and authenticity when we let our fears of being exposed as being less than perfect (as if perfect was ever an option) rule us.

Emotional resilience isn’t about having it all figured out, only feeling positive emotions all the time or keeping a stiff upper lip. It’s not a game where the person who shows or gives the least amount of themselves wins. It’s not about always presenting with a plastic grin. It’s not a popularity contest that you win by putting forth emotional ‘rays of sunshine’ at all times, while holding all of your uncomfortable emotions inside only to take them out on yourself or others at a later date.

Emotional resilience is about being brave enough to feel your uncomfortable feelings. Squaring up and being ok with being human. Identifying anger, greed, hatred, sadness, fatigue, disappointment, pettiness, fear, and whatever else you’ve got in your emotional pockets and acknowledging them. Owning them as yours. Not taking them out on others or avoiding them by playing small.

When we avoid our uncomfortable emotions, or avoid situations where they might come up, we are no longer governing our choices. Instead, our fear, anxiety, and embarrassment end up, by default, deciding what we can or will try. We may live a safe life, but it’s a half-life at best.

Alright, I hear the announcer getting everyone ready for my entrance. I’m excited and nervous. I remind myself that I know my message and this topic like the back of my hand. Like the front of my hand too come to think of it. I know it like this because it’s in me. I breathe this. It’s my faith, my church. These people didn’t hire me for a book report on emotional resilience, they hired me because of who I am and the way I present this knowledge to others so they can actually use it for themselves. My God, my message tonight isn’t “I will be perfect,” it’s “I will try.”

I’m sure I’ll stumble over myself a few times, but being ok with that is the only way I know to be whole-heartedly myself. The only perfection I will find out on that stage tonight is in my effort, not hiding from my emotions and minimizing myself. I can live with that.

Thank God for our Mistakes

Have you ever had one of those conversations with someone and for the life of you, you can’t remember their name? They clearly know yours, but the time has long passed where you can gracefully ask for theirs! This was the uncomfortable situation I found myself in today.

I received a call from a man who I knew. His daughter ran for me on my cross-country team and we had made a good connection through that. In fact, it was because of that connection that he was gracious enough to be calling to give me a lead on a contact who was interested in learning more about my START Right program. It was a really good conversation… and by the end… I was still drawing a blank on his name.

At the beginning of the conversation, I didn’t give it much thought. Figured I would remember as we talked. After all, I knew who he was. I could picture his face. I knew his daughter’s name. It would come to me, I said to myself. Of course, I did. What I should’ve done was stopped and asked him for his name. But my embarrassment over the fact that he was calling me, going out of his way to connect me with someone — I thought the least I owed him (right… for him, not me, of course 😉) was pretending that I knew his name.

Unfortunately, I let the phone call reach its end without asking him for his name. And for what? All in a quest to avoid showing my humanity. That in my human-ness I forgotten his name. Somehow deluding myself that if he thought so well of me, I had to appear perfect lest he withdraw his regard.

Perfection or perfectionism is not attainable, and we honestly should be thankful because it is corrosive to forward progress. It assumes a limit to one’s ability to surpass a certain level of excellence. It inhibits trying. Perfectionism doesn’t allow for there to be change — change in another person’s possible reality, or in the circumstances surrounding a situation.

What is attainable is perfect effort. Within perfect effort lies possibilities. Possibility of success, but more importantly, the possibility of setbacks. It is our setbacks that are the birthplace of ingenuity, learning (possibly someone’s name?), resilience, improvement, and the elevation of oneself physically and mentally. No one has ever gotten better through winning. No one has ever gone back to the drawing board and found ways to improve themselves because of their winning streak. Vital information that was sought out because of uncomfortable emotions surrounding our humanity like embarrassment, shame, sadness, or self-doubt would be completely and utterly set aside, or worse, never found if all we ever did was win.

So, proverbial hat in hand, after stepping back to reflect on my fears, shame, embarrassment and work through a big dose of genuine discomfort, I hit redial on my phone to acknowledge my humanity and ask my generous benefactor his name! Next time I’ll own my mistake a bit sooner — humble pie is definitely easier to swallow when it’s only a forkful.

I’m sure I’m not alone. What’s something you’ve improved on for yourself? I’d love to hear about your progress. Please share in the comments below.

Forgive Yourself and Find Your Center

I was feeling like a rock star! I had provided two workshops in the past week, to rave reviews from those who had attended. I’d had several other schools reach out to begin talks with me about setting up workshops with them. I was in contract negotiations to present at a university. My confidence was riding high!

So, to capitalize on that success, I headed over to the coffee shop to get some work done. I stepped up to order my coffee. But, before I could get a word out, the attendant said in a snarky tone, “I appreciate you want a coffee, but there are other people waiting.” I looked behind me and saw the line I unknowingly stepped in front of.

I felt embarrassment flood my body, blood heating my face. I felt this guy smirking at me. At least my outrage told me that’s what the coffee attendant was doing. My shame decided to make no eye contact as we walked to the back of the line. My irritation tightened my fists, and my throat (that might have been my embarrassment).

As the line moved forward my anger seethed with all of the things it was going to say when I got up there after that public embarrassment. Another person was served. “Who the hell does he think he is?!” The list of emotional discharge grew (without my knowledge… I wasn’t identifying anything). I was now one person away from letting this guy have it. My frontal lobe was ‘out to lunch’ and my emotions were having a field day, going back and forth between ripping this guy a new one, and being ‘monkishly’ quiet (repression) denying him the satisfaction of seeing that he ‘got to me!’ As the person in front of me got their coffee and was about to leave, Lucifer, the coffee attendant was relieved by another person.

“Can I help you?” With what, I thought. Right. I was getting a coffee.

I had just spent the past five minutes overrun by my emotions – caught up in the whirlwind of embarrassment, humiliation, and anger. Five minutes where I had completely forgotten about all of my earlier ‘wins’ with my workshop. Forgotten even that all I really wanted was to grab a coffee and settle in to get some work done. My frontal lobe had been completely highjacked by my knee-jerk emotional reaction to a perceived public humiliation and personal attack by a clerk with less-than-stellar customer service skills!

If I am completely honest, it took me a good while to re-center myself after this incident because, on top of my initial reaction, I then proceeded to stew about how I had allowed myself to get emotionally blind-sided like that. I mean, here I am blogging and coaching others about building mental emotional tools, and I can get worked up by a small mistake and poor response from a clerk… Talk about a field day for self-doubt gremlins!

It took more than a few moments before my frontal lobe was able to ‘hear’ the emotional beating I was giving myself.  I had to acknowledge that I had gotten caught — overrun by embarrassment and anger that was completely out of proportion with the actual thing that happened.  I re-engaged my brain and was able to apply my well-earned mental emotional tools and re-center myself.  Then I got back to being productive.

As I sipped my coffee, I thought back over the incident with the clerk. Emotional resilience isn’t about never getting caught in the energy of another, or in a circumstance that is unpleasant and coming off the rails and blowing up, feeling overwhelmed, or humiliated to the point you where you just want to run in another direction. It’s about allowing for those feelings fully, forgiving yourself for the times when you might get ‘caught,’ and re-center yourself back into your own sacred space. Yourself.

No one, and no thing holds the key to your actions but you. It’s not about holding your breath, acting like everything is fine (repressing), and then going on a drinking binge, fighting with loved ones, or venting your emotions all over. I’ll cut to the chase. Will this happen from time to time? Sure. Will you slip up, allow for another’s energy to pull you off of your center, blow up, point that judgmental finger at that so and so, and then feel the incriminating shame that you are not an emotional Jedi? Yes… and welcome to the club. None of us are.

I’m sure Martin Luther King Jr. may have felt a bit of anger every once in a while at the cops whose dogs were attacking innocent marchers in Selma.  The Dali Lama’s compassion and forgiveness may wane and turn to contempt every so often for China. We are all in good company, because we are all human.

Letting go of self-judgement and shame is step one. Remembering that you can take responsibility for your thoughts, your actions, and your emotions. If you get tripped up, you can acknowledge why you felt or reacted the way you did. Then you can forgive yourself and use your tools to get back to your own center – your authentic self. You don’t need to allow whatever it was outside of yourself that ‘caught’ you to have one more moment’s sway over how your emotions. Forgive yourself, re-center, and then act in your own best interest. It’s the best Jedi trick I know.

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