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Shake off the Cobwebs


JEN:  I felt like I had dreams in a queue and they were just sitting there, stuck. And Sue and I, through coaching, we started just clipping away at that queue. So right away I noticed like I was changing because of that. I was accomplishing cool stuff that had been in the queue for years, dreams that were dusty and cobwebby. Like, we were shining those suckers up.

Welcome to Redefine U, a podcast that explores what happens when we’re challenged to change our beliefs, our thoughts or even who we think we are.

On a scale of 1 to ten, how would you rate your life? A five? A seven?

What if it could be a ten? What if it were even higher?

I’m Dan Baum and in this episode we’ll talk to Jedi masters of life coaching — Jen Lara and Sue Abuelsamid — to learn what’s possible when you foster curiosity and ask powerful questions.

First, Jen’s story.

DAN:         Well, I am so excited that Professor Jen Lara is here today.

JEN:           Yay! Can we do a drum roll?

DAN:         Absolutely.

JEN:           There it is.

DAN:         So Jen, what do you teach, and how long have you been teaching?

JEN:           Oh, gosh. This is year 19 for me at the college, so this fall will be year 20. And I pretty much, at this point, spend half my time teaching teachers, either current teachers in the state of Maryland or students who would like to become teachers. Then the other half of my job is training coaches, like people who want to be life coaches, executive coaches, leadership coaches.

DAN:         What is coaching?

JEN:           Oh, what is coaching? So, how I usually explain it to people is the role of a coach is to support another human as they move from point A to B to C and beyond. That means to be a coach is to ask really great, curious, powerful questions, to be a fantastic listener, and really to trust the process of coaching.

DAN:         Well, full disclosure, I have been through coaching with you.

JEN:           Yes, you have.

DAN:         So you're like Obi Wan Kenobi. I'm like a young Jedi with the visor over my eyes trying to learn how to use this light saber effectively. So I should clarify that.

JEN:           Ooo. Yeah.

DAN:         What got you into coaching?

JEN:           Let's see. What got me into coaching is, I worked with a coach for a year and saw such drastic improvements in my own life, and I really admired how this coach asked questions and listened and was able to help me tackle some big obstacles that were getting in the way of me doing the things that I wanted to do in life. And I thought, "I need these skills."

So I said, "Sue, I need your skills. I'd be a better teacher, human, family member if I had them." And she said this magic sentence. "Go get trained as a coach." And I was like, "I don't need that, right? I already have three degrees. Who needs another or something?" And she said, "Well, you don't have to become a coach. Just go take the classes." So I did.

DAN:         What grabbed you about the process?

JEN:           What grabbed me about the process? That's a good question.

When Sue was asking for volunteers, who wanted to be coached, because she was training as a coach, I was really resistant, because I thought, "What? That's even a job? What kind of woo-woo job is that?" I really actually felt pretty bad for her. I felt like, "No one's going to volunteer. She's trying to learn a new skill. I better help her out.”

It literally grabbed me the very first session. So, I volunteer for this, what I thought would be, very silly coaching session. And when I hung up the phone, it was under an hour long, I said to my extremely practical, reasonable husband, "I do not know what that was or what coaching really is. I absolutely need more of that in my life." And he's so awesome, he's like, "Well, then hire her."

DAN:         This is so fascinating to me, because I'm hearing the professor in you reacting, and let's be serious. Coaching rocked your world. It totally changed your direction and your goals. Tell me more about that.

JEN:           Yeah, actually, as you say that I literally have goosebumps, because it has transformed my entire world. When I started coaching with Sue, what rocked my world immediately is, if somebody were to ask me about my life and like give it a rating... "On a scale of one to 10, 10 being the highest, what's your life?" I would've given it a rock solid seven. Which, seven's pretty good.

DAN:         Sounds pretty good.

JEN:           No, right? It's all right. Cool husband, great kid, fun dog. Working, doing something impactful-

DAN:         Awesome colleagues.

JEN:           Awesome colleagues and so what happened right away is I went from being a seven to creeping up to a 10.

DAN:         Wow.

JEN:           Yeah. And I'm sitting here in awe right now, because back then I was like, "Life's fine." You can see my face right now. It's scrunched up, my hands in the air. I'm like, "It's okay. I mean, I'm not complaining. It's a seven. It could be so much worse." But my gosh, living life as a seven when it could be a 10... Or my gosh, what if it was even higher? So that was what was so compelling.

DAN:         You already had a number of credentials, as you said. You were well-established as a professor. What challenges or risks did you see jumping into this coaching thing?

JEN:           It's sort of twofold. I think as a client, what I didn't realize, what was keeping me at a seven, is there was so much holding me back. So much inner chatter in my mind. In coaching, we call that inner chatter the work of the saboteur. Saboteurs like to keep you at the status quo. So much saboteur voicing going on in my mind.

DAN:         So you still had the ideas, you just didn't fully believe you could pursue them or do anything with them.

JEN:           Not at all. Not at all.

DAN:         And they started to open up.

JEN:           They started to open up. Yeah. I think that's why life was a seven. Life was good except for there wasn't the growth that I wanted or needed, my soul needed. All these dreams were stuck in a queue. I wasn't brave enough to actually get any of them moving forward, because I didn't think they would actually work.  

I was moving through life, but it was at a slow pace, and it was like spending too much time in each part of life versus actually doing something that really had value.

DAN:         So then professionally, how did you apply the coaching skills in the classroom?

JEN:           Oh, gosh. That changed immediately. I remember after Sue said the magic sentence, "Go get trained as a coach," I signed up for my first class.

So, I remember on the second day... I'm now a day and a half into being trained as a coach. I am writing feedback to my students. And I literally was looking around the room, because I felt like a coach. I was like Sue. I was asking really good questions of my students. Instead of just like, "Good job" or "You need your period here," I was asking, "What would you do in this paragraph to improve?"

DAN:         So immediate impact.

JEN:           Immediately. That was 36 hours in. And then I go back to work on Monday, I was so much more present for my students, asking them powerful questions, listening. It was crazy.

DAN:         What about outside of the classroom? What was transferrable in other parts of your life? How did you see it in that way?

JEN:           Well, that's one thing I love about coaching. It's professional development that really is human development. I used my coaching skills, and I still do, everywhere. I use them at home, just even interacting with my husband and daughter. I remember coaching my sister. My mom to this day will say, "I love talking to you. You always ask the best questions." And I'm like, "Yay for coaching!"

DAN:         So we're talking about the transformation that you went through. What does coaching teach us about transformation and redefining ourselves?

JEN:           Well, the coaching model that I subscribe to and one that I later co-created with Sue. So, Sue and I later joined forces and created a coach training program. In our model, transformation is one of the pillars of the model. Coaching is not about... It is about moving from A to B, and during that A to B movement is transformation. In fact, one of my favorite questions to ask somebody during and then after a coaching session is, "What are you taking away?" Because inevitably, something has shifted. I'm a big believer in the power of momentum. Sometimes the shift could be just minuscule, but that little tiny shift, the little bit of momentum that somebody picks up from a coaching session or after a coaching session, could be enough to just make a ripple effect, a domino effect, of what happens in their life.

Coaching transformed Jen’s entire world. She shook the cobwebs off her dreams. Her teaching and family relationships improved. Her solid seven life became a glowing ten.

How does that happen? It sounds like magic — a mind trick.

To learn more we’ll talk to Sue Abuelsamid. If Jen is the Obi Wan of coaching, then Sue is Yoda. Sue was Jen’s original coach and co-creator of the coaching program here at the college. Sue will explain how coaching can change the stories we tell ourselves and what that means for individuals and even whole communities.

DAN:         So tell me in your words what you do.

SUE:          Oh, that's a great question. Mainly, I ask questions. I spend a lot of time cultivating relationships, I guess is what I do. So whether it be between colleagues or me and my clients, me and teams of people, it's really about creating conversations that help move people forward.

DAN:         Do you typically work with individuals or groups, or do you do both?

SUE:          I do both. I have a whole collection of individual clients, some who just found me on their own, some who came through corporations that I do contract work with, and then I work with teams. I love working with teams, groups of people to help them work better together.

DAN:         You also write. You've written a book, and you write regularly. Tell me a little bit about that.

SUE:          I try. I love to write. Every so often, I get inspired about a topic, or I learn something that I want to share with other people because it's really helped me. So, yeah, the book is about curiosity, which is really about what I do, and I'm a believer that curiosity is the basis for all effective leadership and relationships really. I mean, if we can stay curious, we can stop making assumptions. We can be less judgmental. And that really just builds bridges to people, and things, and ideas. Not just people. It just takes us forward.

So when we're not doing that, we tend toward making assumptions based on past history, things we think we know, trying to predict behavior of other people, and that just really builds walls around us and keeps us from trying things.

DAN:         I'm trying to think of that in terms of leadership. It makes me think of Stephen Covey's principle of seek first to understand before being understood. Is that kind of where you're coming from with that idea?

SUE:          Yeah. We all, I think, are raised in the educational environment of needing to know answers. When I was a kid, it wasn't okay if a teacher asked me a question to say "I don't know." It was I had to know the answer or I'd look bad.

DAN:         And vice versa. It was even worse for the teacher to say "I don't know."

SUE:          Right. Oh, totally, yeah. So that idea that we need to know and that we need to be right, and then we get entrenched in that idea, and that's what creates arguments. That needing to be right. So when we can believe and accept that more than one thing could be right and get us where we need to go, or take us forward, that really just opens doors and takes away a lot of friction.

DAN:         What is the reason most people come to you and seek coaching?

SUE:          I think mostly when they feel stuck, just not moving in their life. They're just kind of spinning their wheels and then there's sometimes when they have a goal that they have really wanted to move to, whether it be professional or personal, and they've tried a bunch of things, or they think they've tried a bunch of things, and they just haven't made any progress. So those are probably the two most common reasons.

DAN:         Can you give me some examples of those challenges and what being stuck is?

SUE:          Sure. Yeah. Well, self-doubt, number one. Not trusting ourselves, not believing in ourselves. Imposter syndrome. "Can I really do this? I have these dreams. They don't feel real. They don't feel like I deserve them. I want to be able to do this, but who am I?"

A lot of those things are very common to a lot of people, and I think it's partly that a lot of us are raised with this idea that we shouldn't think too highly of ourselves, and that's not a bad thing, but it can also be a double-edged sword. It can go the other way, where we put ourselves down, which takes away from resiliency, right? A big part of resiliency is being able to acknowledge when we're good at something, and when we've had successes, and we're not very good at that as people. So that, in turn, kind of slows us from moving toward our goals a lot of the time.

DAN:         So you're talking some really fundamental things. I'm sure people would come to you with more symptoms. Like, "I want to lose weight." But you're drilling down into deeper issues. What holds people back from really diving into the coaching experience?

SUE:          What do you think?

DAN:         It's committing to being all in. I think you have to be willing to go wherever the coach is asking you to go, and that is a deeper exploration, as you've just described. It's not just the surface level, "Oh, I think I want to do this. I'm not sure." It's really digging into things like self-doubt, or whatever might be holding you back from being stuck and breaking through that.

SUE:          Yeah. It's a longer process than just one conversation, and I think that something important is that commitment piece. We're good at putting out fires and solving little problems, but if we dig deeper and we get to the underlying stuff, it can help us all over the place.

Having been through it myself, and continuing to go through it because I still have a coach and probably always will, it is both scary and once you've done it a few times, then you know that it's worth it. You know? The beginning is the hardest because it's uncertain, and again, we need to know. We need to know what's ahead of us. We need to be able to see where we're going, and predict the endings, even though the irony of that is, as Kathryn Schulz talks about in her TED Talk videos, we hate to know what the end of a movie is going to be, or the end of a book before we read it, but we always want to know what the end of our thing is going to be.

DAN:         "What's the point of this? Why am I doing this?"

SUE:          "If I start this, it needs to look like this at the end, and if it doesn't, it's a failure." Even if it's better. It might be different, but it might be better. Or really have produced the same result, but we don't like not knowing. So that question asking, and the "I don't know the answer to that, and I really have to think about it," that's scary for people.

DAN:         So it's scary. There are challenges with it, but what do people gain from it?

SUE:          I think the biggest thing is almost a sense of freedom. They can kind of let go of some of the old stories they have, and that creates a lightness for a lot of people. That, "Oh, I don't have to believe that stuff anymore. It's actually not true, or it's only a little bit true, and there are lots of other things that are also true." So I think it really frees people to make choices that really align with their values.

DAN:         You mentioned stories, and people do tell stories in their head. Are people surprised when they find they've been telling themselves certain stories for years, or on a particular topic? "This is just a story I'm telling myself?"

SUE:          Oh, yeah. Totally. A lot of times, at the beginning, people will say, "Well, no, but it's true." I'm like, "Well, there's truth in it, but is it the only truth? Is it the only possibility? Is something else possible?" And, yeah, they are surprised, and then they also are, honestly, relieved. They're like, "Oh, there is something else that's possible. Wow!"

DAN:         I don’t have to cling to this version anymore.

SUE:          Exactly.

DAN:         As many years as you've been doing this and helping people, a lot of this is about transformation. What can coaching teach us about our ability to redefine ourselves?

SUE:          Why don't you tell me?

DAN:         No, I'm asking you this time. Sorry, Coach. It's coming from you this time.

SUE:          Okay, what can it teach us about our ability to redefine ourselves? I think the idea that there's truth in every perspective, because there's truth in everything, we can be everything, we can try everything. We can be right about many things, we can be wrong about many things, and we can both be right and both be wrong about the same thing. So it just opens up chances for us to try things a different way, and when we're reinventing, that's what we're doing. We're still ourselves, but we're showing up in the world in a different way.

And it's not that we're changing who we are fundamentally. We're just picking a different path, and we're still taking our experience with us, and our core values. But it just allows us to own a new thing without thinking we're wrong, or we're on the wrong path. You know? It's an opening.

DAN:         Now, you also teach coaching, and you teach with Jen training the trainers. Tell me a little bit about that experience.

SUE:          It's super fun because people can see so many practical applications for it as well as themselves. So right away, it just exponentially changes their world. They go home the first night of class and they try it with their kids, and then the next week, they tell us, "I tried something with my class." It's exciting because we wanted a broader reach. That's why it was so important to bring coaching to education because for every teacher we teach, hundreds or thousands of students are going to be impacted. And that's important to us, because we feel the skills are so crucial to developing good humans.

DAN:         So along with it being potentially scary, as you said before, some of the language you use to describe this to an outside listener might be thinking, "What is this, magic? It's like pixie dust? What are you talking about?" So what are some of the skills that people are learning that they're able to apply so quickly? What are they doing?

SUE:          Well, first and foremost, they're being curious. They're forgetting what they know, or they're letting go of being right, and they're really getting curious and saying, "What else is possible here? What else do I believe? What else do I think? What else could be true?" So that's the number one thing. You're learning, and we all were born with the ability to be curious, right? I write about in the book. We're babies, we're kids. We see it in children, and we tend to beat it out of our kids by the time they're ... I mean, not physically, but-

DAN:         Hopefully not.

SUE:          Because of the nature of our lives, and technology, and how much stuff we include in our lives, appointments, and things to do, and then the content that teachers have to get in in school, there isn't time to sit and say, "I don't know. Let's explore." There's curriculum to do, so we've kind of constrained ourselves, and pushed curiosity aside in an effort to check things off. Get the boxes all checked.

And that's not a terrible thing, but what it serves to do is keep us from asking questions.

And then from there, it extends into really just being present and listening. So where we forget everything else, and we just be with the person we're with, and really hear what they're saying. And not plan the next thing.

So it starts with that. And then there's other skills that go along with it, like mirroring the actions and emotions and words of people that we're talking to, whether it be a client or just someone we're in a conversation with. And then challenging them with deeper questions, and compelling them to really think. And, again, really just staying present with them to see what comes up. And sometimes it's about repeating back what they say so they can hear it and go, "Oh, is that what I said?"

So a lot of it's about curiosity and presence.

DAN:         How do you help someone who really is resistant to understanding that? What helps them break through?

SUE:          Well, I'd say there's two things. One is just meeting them where they are, so not forcing them past where they really can go. And the other part is we can't force anyone to do anything, so if they are really resistant and they don't want to change, we can't change them. But what we can do is we can change how we show up.

So if we show up the same way every day with our students, they're going to expect that, and they're going to automatically respond the same way back. But if we show up one day completely different, they're going to be like, "Oh. Dude. Teacher's different. What do we do now? We can't be our snarky selves because it doesn't fall in, right?"

DAN:         It's not landing.

SUE:          And that's what really helps us is remembering that we can't change people, but we can change how we show up. And so by learning the skills that we teach in engagement coaching, what it is doing is changing how the people in the program show up, and that's helping the people around them shift. It's a domino effect.

DAN:         If you could give everyone one skill from coaching, what would that skill be?

SUE:          I think it would be the pause.

DAN:         The pause?

SUE:          Yeah, the ability to really stop for five seconds before we respond to somebody, and think about what do we want to do now? Do we want to tell them something, or do we want to ask them something? How do we want to be? Because a lot of the way we show up is just so unconscious. It's just reactive. And like I said, we're in a pattern. We show up the same way with the same people, and so if we can really just pause and get present, we have then that space to make a choice of what's going to serve me here. Because we don't have to be curious in every single minute, but when we can consciously choose what's going to serve us and the people we're interacting with best, it's really useful.

And what needs to happen for that to happen, just like creating any new habit, we have to stop and we have to think about what's the choice I want to make here.

DAN:         If all of us did that, what would that do for our relationships, for our communities? What would you see as an outcome?

SUE:          Oh, my God. The whole world would change.

DAN:         In what way? What would change?

SUE:          Because I think people would look ahead a little and think, "If I do this, this might happen, and it won't be good, but if I do this, it leads to a lot more possibilities. And I'd rather, at the end of the day, feel good, and feel loved or liked, and feel like I did something positive versus contributing to the fire that's already out there."

DAN:         What about your own self-perception? Over time, how have you changed in how you see yourself, who you are today, as opposed to years ago?

SUE:          Good question. Wow, Dan. Are you a coach?

How has how I see myself changed? I think I'm, well, more accepting of who I am. Like I'm not trying to be someone I'm not anymore I think, at least for the most part. And I'm able to lean into my strengths more because of that, instead of trying to fix weaknesses. Or things that I'm not necessarily gifted at or natural at. I just stick with what I'm good at, and appreciate that others can fill in the gaps. And that takes the pressure off a lot, so it just makes me more relaxed, and lets me show up just as who I am, and not as a persona that I think I have to be.

DAN:         Would you say you've redefined yourself?

SUE:          Oh, totally. Many times. Yeah.

We can weave a web of stories and assumptions about ourselves, others and how our lives should look. What’s possible when we push all that aside? What would happen if we paused long enough to be intentional about our response to those around us? According to Sue, the whole world would change.

Let’s return to Jen. How has coaching redefined her? How has her world continued to evolve?

DAN:         So at a certain point, you wanted to go beyond your own experience and bring coaching to the college.

JEN:           Yes.

DAN:         So, tell me about that.

JEN:           What I noticed is I totally was transforming. Then I kept telling my colleagues, especially who are in the education department, they train teachers. I kept saying, "You need these skills. You're not going to believe these coaching skills. They are going to transform every part of what you do in your work, but also in your entire life." About a year later, they finally took me up on it and got trained as a coach, too, and were like, "I can't believe it took me so long." I'm like, "Yes."  

And I was in a meeting with one of the higher-level leaders, I kept saying, "We need more coaches. We need more coaches. We need more coaches." And she said, "You're a teacher and a coach. Why don't you create a program?"

DAN:         Nice.

JEN:           It had never even dawned on me.

DAN:         So then what became your vision?

JEN:           I don't like things half-done, half-baked. It needs to be awesome.

DAN:         You're going to go all-out.

JEN:           We're going to go all-in. This is going to be high quality. People are going to learn a skill, practice it, and get feedback so they can become better very quickly.

And I also had two ideas. I collaborated with Sue, my original coach, for this. One is some people are going to want to become a certified coach, which this would then be step one of that certification process. But some people are going to be just like I was. They just want the skills. They just want to show up more coach-like in the world.

DAN:         How has the program grown and changed since that initial kickoff?

JEN:           Yeah. Well, it has grown a lot. At our college, at AACC, we have I think close to 135 coaches.

DAN:         Wow. That's incredible.

JEN:           Yeah, we're the only community college that has an accredited coach training program, so that's like, huge. We made sure it was high quality and that it could be accredited. We wanted it to be awesome.

The other thing is, I don't know of another higher ed institution that has this many coaches trained at this level. This is over 70 hours of professional development. It is fully accredited. If you want to become a certified coach through the International Coach Federation, this is step one to that.

DAN:         For the average person that does want to get some skills, maybe a few hours at a time, what can it do for them?

JEN:           Well, it just changes how you show up in the world. First off, you show up differently because in the training, you get coached throughout the entire training, both from whoever is leading the course and then also peer-to-peer coaching. So there's all this growth happening just within yourself.

And so people just start showing up differently in all facets of their life. I mean, people are changing their relationships at home. I cannot tell you how many people tell me their families are so much better and stronger because they're a coach and they bring coaching into their home. We have lots of spouses who are interested in being trained as coaches, because they see their partner transforming and they can't believe what they see in front of them.

And then I know, and this is totally selfish, but I think the coaches would agree, it really changes the workplace.

DAN:         Shared experience, shared language.

JEN:           Absolutely. We can call each other out. We can name the saboteurs that are getting in our way. We can design relationships with each other, which is a skill we teach in coach training. We just get it. And we show up real and authentic. We don't put on airs. We bring all of who we are. It just changes. So it makes work so much more fun and productive.

DAN:         What I'm hearing in your experience and for yourself and through the coaching process is it really begins with yourself, and as you transform, then you begin to transform your workplace, your relationships, etc. So when you think back to the person you were before coaching to who you are now, what do you see in terms of similarities and differences?

JEN:           Oh. Gosh, if I look back to young Jen or Jen prior to coaching, I really have so much compassion for her. I do. Like, girl, she was-

DAN:         This well-established professor with two master's degrees. You have compassion for her.

JEN:           I do. She was trying her best, right? She was living that hardcore seven life. She was. I know you're laughing, but I really feel like... I have compassion for her because what she didn't know back then is that life could actually be a 10 and sometimes even higher. What she didn't know is all the junk and baggage that she was carrying around for decades could be put down and didn't have to be carried anymore. Oh, I'm getting kind of emotional.

DAN:         We have tissues. That’s quite fine.

JEN:           Oh, thank you.

What she didn't know is that she could have impact in the world in a way that really would change, literally, the world. And not only how she shows up and her family shows up, but also just the ripple effect. Over 100 coaches working with students in a community... I didn't even mention, we now have teachers being trained as coaches.

DAN:         Outside of the college.

JEN:           Outside of the college.

DAN:         In the public school system.

JEN:           Yes. So they're out in their school buildings bringing coaching to their K-12 students. It’s just … younger Jen didn't know any of this was possible, because remember, the dream queue was stuck. This Jen is super appreciative and grateful.

DAN:         What's the next chapter for the program?

JEN:           Oh, gosh. Well, if I had my way, it would be world domination, just coaching everywhere. I have lots of next chapters. I want more coaches at the college. And I want that because folks are taking their coaching skills in the community, in their homes, in their churches, everywhere. So I'm not trying to be selfish that this college needs as many coaches as possible. It's just, people are using it in such creative ways.

In the state of Maryland, there are 53,000 K-12 educators. We right now have trained 15. That means — I'm going to do the math quickly — 52,985 to go. So, clearly I've got some work to do.

DAN:         A little bit of work to do.

JEN:           Yeah. I want our educators trained.

I drive by the prison system out in Jessup, Maryland at least twice a week, and every time I do, I raise my finger and I point and I say, "I will be in there training inmates to be coaches." Because I am tired of the statistics that I see from our prison systems, and we're going to change the prison system from the inside out. We're going to train inmates to be coaches so they can use their skills with each other. Let's do prison reform in a different way.

And so I want coach training to be accessible. It is at a community college. And so, if I can get maybe more community colleges maybe to have a program like ours, it won't just be the state of Maryland that gets to benefit. We'll just keep spreading the coaching love everywhere.

DAN:         Clearly you've redefined yourself. How would you say you've redefined yourself?

JEN:           It's hard to encapsulate that. It feels like I'm just a better, stronger, braver, more open, more growth-minded version of my younger self.

DAN:         It makes me wonder, if you were a seven before and you feel like you're a 10 now, do you almost reset the bar and say, "Hey, I'm here now, but I could go to 15"?

JEN:           That is such a good question. I actually have to have coaching sometimes, because my favorite coaches are the ones who get coached themselves, right? Because we're always evolving.

DAN:         It's almost like working out. You got to keep in shape.

JEN:           You do. Sometimes I get coached on sustaining, because there is so much loveliness in life. It can be such a 10. I don't think humans can sustain that level of just enjoyment and fulfillment and soul work. So I get coaching on, how am I going to take care of myself? This is such important work and I love it so much that I don't want to burn out, that I want to sustain. Because oftentimes it feels like a 20. You can hear it. It's like 20 in my voice right now. I love this so much, and it really has such deep impact that to me, this isn't a seven. This isn't even a 10. This is a scale that never existed in my wildest dreams.

DAN:         I love your vision. I love your energy. It's so great to talk to you.

JEN:          Thanks, Dan. Thanks for having me.

We don’t have to be Jedi masters to change the world. If we nurture our curiosity, we can create conversations that move us all forward. If we learn to pause before reacting, we can consciously choose to be a positive force instead of feeding the fire of negativity.  If we ask powerful questions of ourselves and others, we can quiet the inner chatter that holds us back.

It’s not pixie dust or science fiction, it’s a set of skills. Skills that can give you the power to live life on a scale you didn’t think existed — not even in your wildest, cobwebby dreams.

So, what are you taking away?

Be curious, think about it and if you want to share, post a comment on social media or email us your answers at


Redefine U is a production of Anne Arundel Community College.
Our executive producer and creative director is Allison Baumbusch.
Our producer is Jeremiah Prevatte and our writer, Amy Carr Willard.
Others who helped with this podcast include Angie Hamlet, Alicia Renehan, and Ben Pierce.

Special thanks to Jen Lara and Sue Abuelsamid.

Find show notes, how to subscribe and other extras on our website: 
I’m your host and creator of this podcast, Dan Baum. Thanks for listening.

DAN:   I feel a little froggy.

SUE:    That’s funny. You look a little green.


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