What if you CAN do it?  Reflections on Building Capacity

Since my last post I have successfully managed to go to France and come back again to my work and family (which includes my older son for the first time in years!  He got a job in L.A.! Woo hoo!)

My primary goal for attending this particular leadership workshop was to increase my capacity to do the work that I am doing and want to do more of.  I was also very intentional about seeking out a training that would help me to think about my personal growth within a broader context than what I find typical in either leadership or coach trainings, which are often dominated by a white middle-upper class perspective on life and work.  

I wanted to learn from people who take into account the pervasive and negative impact of racism, gender discrimination, capitalism – and seek to move towards new models.  I wanted to learn from women. I wanted to learn from leaders of color – from an interracial team of people who understand that our identities intersect in all kinds of ways.

Though it’s hard to describe my week at Your Leadership Recipe Live  in ways that do it justice, I can say that it did not disappoint.  

It pushed me to my edge over and over again.  I kept waking up in the morning thinking to myself, “Don’t make me go do hard things again.”

But I paid a lot of money for it and I was determined to get what I came for.  So I kept showing up.

That’s so often the way it works.  We build capacity by DOING the things that we think will break us, and pushing just a little bit past our current limits.

We also build capacity by accepting where we are right now.  It’s a paradoxical both/and.

For example, one of the challenges for me early in the week was that I was having trouble really being present.  I was working SO HARD to try to really be present, but my protective shell was just not coming down. One of the facilitators — Andréa Johnson check out her Coaching as Activism work; it is world changing.  I’m not even kidding. She is offering so much of what we need desperately in the white-dominant world of life coaching — looked me straight in the eyes and said something along the lines of “maybe you just don’t have the capacity right now – and that’s okay.”  In that moment, I relaxed a bit. I played around with just accepting where I was at even though it wasn’t where I wanted to be.

Sometimes we need to stop pushing and accept our limitations.  For the moment.

BUT WAIT.  If you’re about to stop there with “Oh, good, I don’t need to do that hard, scary thing I thought I needed to do.  I’m not ready. Deb said I can just accept where I am.” Think again. I’m not saying that.

You see, the tricky thing is that sometimes we need to accept where we’re at, accept the slowness of the process of growth, the step-by-step-not-so-magical-uphill-climb of the journey.  

And other times we really are kidding ourselves thinking we can’t do the hard thing in front of us, the next step towards what we say is our dream.  The step of saying, “Okay I’m doing this (period) – now what do I need to make this happen.”

The latter is what the very same coach said to me this morning.  After she said that in relation to my current dilemma she believes that I TOTALLY have the capacity to do what I think I cannot do.

This is an example of why we can’t do this work on our own - this work of growing and changing so we can be who we’re meant to be in the world and do the work we’re meant to do — work like

  • starting a wholistic health center for African Americans

  • or writing powerful words that help young women know how much they matter,

  • or starting a theater company that centers LGBTQ and women’s experiences –

…just a few of the dreams I’ve heard about lately from clients or potential clients,

There’s this part of us that is just not going to get on board because it’s scared.   And that part is a great shape shifter. It can say “push harder” when we need to rest and trust, and switch to “oh you don’t need to do that hard thing after all” when we need to be brave.  It will do whatever it takes to keep us from playing big.

I went to France to surround myself with powerful, amazing, imperfect, humans who want to develop new ways of leading and bringing change in the world because we humans just aren’t made to do this kind of work alone.  

I am stronger than I know AND I can’t do this work alone.

Same goes for you.

So, get yourself moving towards that work you’re meant to do.  Throw out the Book of Excuses.


Don’t believe the American lie that you have to make it on your own.  That’s a patriarchal, white supremacist kind of lie about how people get stuff done.  Most of you are not down with those perspectives on how life works. So, don’t buy into the lie with your actions.  You can choose a different path. Find support.

Call a friend who believes in you and won’t buy into your B.S.

Connect with a spiritual director you trust.

Find (or start) with a co-working group with like minded people.

Check out the options for working with Andréa Johnson

There are so many ways to find support – on and off-line.  

And if you think I might be able to provide the support you need, sign up here for a strategy session.  You’ll leave the call with some next steps you can take whether or not working with me 1:1 is one of them.  (I only have space for one client right now anyway.)

I woke with a few lines from Mary J. Blige’s “The Living Proof,” which I leave you with now…

It’s gonna be a long, long journey.

It’s gonna be an uphill climb.

It’s gonna be a tough fight.

There’s gonna be some lonely nights.

But I’m ready…to carry on.

I’m so glad the worst is over (cuz it almost took me out)

I can start living now.

I feel like I can do anything.

And finally, I’m not afraid to breathe.

It’s not easy, but you, you, YOU.  Somewhere deep inside you KNOW what you were made for.  

It’s not too big or too beautiful for you.  

And your people are waiting for you to show up.  Don’t make them wait any longer.  Get support and get moving.

Here’s to thriving – and equity.