Friday, December 2, 2011

How to Have a Meaningful Christmas Without Breaking the Bank and Losing Your Marbles

Are you tired of knocking yourself out year after year?  Are you trying to please everyone with your gifts, Christmas Cards, and compulsory newsletter?  How about the holiday meal making, cookie baking, and tradition sharing?  Do you ever dread the decorating, shopping, parking, planning, photo taking, wrapping, mailing- and then possibly after all of that, the whining?  The testiness, the exhaustion, and the debt?  What if I told you that all of this is optional?  This is your freakin’ Christmas too, dammit.  You have a right to pick how you spend it.  

I once went to a pre-holiday shopping event at my friend Diana’s house. Her display of delectable holiday goodies amazed me, her homemade hot buttered rum impressed me.  Diana told me that she already had sent her Christmas cards-in October- to a place in Alaska called “North Pole” so that her envelopes would have that whimsical postmark.  She also made her girls a truly unbelievable scrapbook every year as a gift, complete with fabulous quotes she found inspiring and apropos- in her handwriting so gorgeous it should be a font.  When I left her house, I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide until February.   How could I ever measure up to this perfection?  My handwriting doesn’t look like that!  I didn’t know people actually drank hot buttered rum, let alone made it at home! I was completely confounded about her ability to mail Christmas cards from the North freakin’ Pole in October- a picture card of course, where her girls are wearing matching velvet pinafores and Mary Janes, curled hair, and serene expressions on their beautiful faces.  My Christmas photo that I took of my boys had been taken on December 23rd, under extreme duress, and possibly death threats.  I’m not sure, I think I blocked it out after I saw my older son put his baby brother in a headlock.  

Then something interesting happened to my friend Diana.  She called me a few days before Christmas- hysterical.  I thought something truly awful had happened to her, and I braced myself for her response when I asked her what was wrong.  Diana told me her family had cut themselves a magnificent tree in the mountain woods and dragged it home.  It was so wide that it wouldn’t fit through the front door- and she lost her cookies, right then and there.  Because her friggin perfect Christmas tree from the magic forest didn’t fit through the door.   I tried to console her, but she had already gone bat-shit crazy from the ridiculous, intense pressure she had put on herself to make a very Martha Stewart Christmas.  After the hyperventilating, sobbing, shaking and crying was over (I wish I was exaggerating. I’m not), she told me of all the tasks she hadn’t done yet-small things, like buying presents for her family- and proceeded to get a nasty migraine that kept her in her cold dark bedroom for the next few days, and Christmas.  I think her holiday was spent snuggled up next to her bottle of Imitrex  with a cool cloth on her head.  Not a very merry Christmas for Diana.

Sometime after the “too fat Christmas tree debacle”, I realized that I , too, was doing things that I thought my family cared about, but didn’t.  When I didn’t get a thank you or a pat on the back, I got pissy.  I put so much pressure on myself to make every Christmas so wonderful, that I was actually running myself ragged, making myself crazy, and I always got sick the week before the big day.   

While discussing this problem with my friend and fellow coach Connie Larson, we discovered a way to make sure that everyone in the family has the Christmas season that they want.  We came up with a series of questions that has freed us from much of the holiday hysteria we used to encounter. Here are the magic questions…

What are your top 3 holiday memories and why ?

What are 3 foods you can’t live without eating during the holidays?

What are 3 of your favorite holiday smells?

What are 3 things you want to see at Christmastime?

What kind of music, TV shows, or movies to you want to hear or watch?

Where do you want to go and who do you want to see during the holiday season? 

Don’t forget to answer these questions yourself. The object of these questions is to get your loved ones focused on what they want to feel over the holidays, so that you don’t run around guessing and spending time and money on things that no one cares about.  It is also a very easy way to track that everyone is experiencing their favorite things during this special time.  Now that you have compiled the list of holiday want to’s- say NO to anything that isn’t on the list.  Unless something extra makes you and your family feel good, don’t do it.  If you need permission, I’m giving it to you.  It feels great to focus on the feelings you want to have more than you focus on buying.  It truly does feel better to FEEL than FILL.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Get Your Flake On

I would imagine that the organizers of the Oscars are pretty perturbed with Eddie Murphy right now.  He just bailed out of hosting the academy awards after learning that his friend, producer Brett Ratner,  resigned (long story, google it).  Normally, I would think- "Wow, what a prima donna.  He made a commitment, he should stick to it."  Now I'm not so sure.  The situation under which he made the agreement had changed.  Maybe he decided he didn't feel good about doing the show without his friend for whatever reason.  So he backed out.  It happens all the time.

I was supposed to be somewhere else today.   A dear friend invited me to take part in a life coaching clinic with her at a huge conference in downtown San Francisco.  We were to be volunteers, laser coaching participants in 15-20 minute sessions for several hours.  It was for a good cause, but not anything near or dear to my heart. But my friend was excited about it, so I was excited about it.

My friend called me last weekend to tell me she broke her leg and was now unable to drive, much less hobble around a large convention center.  I soon realized that I was now committed to go to this event alone-where the organizers were expecting 30,000 people.  Where I didn't know a soul, and my only anchor to this event was stuck at home, laid up and unable to participate.  My friend later told me she was really surprised by my terror,  because I am such an extrovert and never seem to shy away from a social occasion. True, I told her, but on my terms.  She had no idea that crowds give me hives, and that the thought of being there without her literally made me ill.  A wave of nausea washed over me, and then I tried to talk myself into going to the event alone. Try as I might, I couldn't let go of the sick feeling I had inside, or the urge to run for the hills.

So, I did the irresponsible thing and cancelled. Yeah, I did. Even though I had committed to being there to volunteer my time and talents for a good cause.  Even though I knew the organizer was probably having a hard enough time replacing one coach,  and now,  I was asking her to replace two.  Even though it was a great opportunity to create new business contacts and meet potential new clients.  I didn't even have any sort of scheduling conflict I could blame, although it did run through my mind that I could make up a story.  Yes, I could lie and tell the organizer that I wasn't actually flaky, but this pretend thing had happened to me and so I just couldn't make it to the event, and sorry, sorry, sorry.....etc. But, that's not what I did.  I told her the truth.  I told her that I knew that I had committed to this event, but now that the situation had changed (i.e., my friend can't be there, and now, I don't want to be there without her), and I was very uncomfortable participating alone.  I gave her a week's notice to find someone else.  I wished her luck and told her I was genuinely sorry that I felt I needed to back out.  I'm sure she's pissed, and I totally understand why she would be.

Here's the thing I want to discuss- the situation that I had agreed to be a part of changed.  When I made the agreement, it was to be my friend and I, super buddies, volunteering and saving the world...blah blah blah.  But she broke her leg....and for me, that changed the game.  Even a few years ago, backing out would have been unthinkable to me.  I would have gone to the event, after dreading it for a week, felt queasy, fulfilled my obligation, and then been pissed off at myself for following through with something that didn't feel good to me.  Because I used to do things all the time that felt icky to me, and I used to think I had no choice. I would have acted on thoughts like "Once you make a commitment, you stick to it.  No matter what.  Just buck up and get it done."  What I have realized after years of working to become my most authentic self, is that I can sometimes change my mind when the parameters of situation I agreed to change.

Crazy, right? I can change my mind, even if the only reason is cuz I don't want to.  I've learned that it is important for me to consider my feelings as well as the feelings of others when I make a commitment.  Since coming upon this radical idea, my life has become immeasurably better, lighter and happier.  I almost always do what I say I'm going to do when I say I'm going to do it- but now I give myself an escape hatch in case of "feeling icky" about it.  And you know what? People get over it.  Because I am reliable 99% of the time to other people.  It's just that now I'm reliable 100% of the time to me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Controlling, Critical and Splitter Vampires

The last three vampire types according to Dr. Judith Orloff are:

The Controlling Vampire-
This vampire starts sentences with “You know what you need to do about that is…..” 

They want to tell you how to feel and what to do and who you are supposed to be. 

Remember the movie Sleeping With the Enemy? 

Yeah, like him. 

Things need to be a certain way- his way, or they are wrong. 

There are policies and procedures that only he knows, but he thinks his yardstick is the only one to measure by. 

He’s not really controlling in his eyes, he’s just right.

How can he help it?

Controller Kryptonite-


Thank the controller vampire for their concern or input, and then tell them that you’d like to try it your way.  

Or, hmm, I didn’t think of it that way.  

Or- how interesting! 

Then walk away.  

Do not get into a pissing contest with a controller vampire- they have a will of steel and will argue their point until a murder/suicide feels like a good option. 

The Critical Vampire-

A close cousin of the controlling vampire is the criticizing vampire, who feels it is their mission to let you know just where you fall short and where you need improvement. 

They really feel they are being helpful by judging you and giving “constructive feedback” because if they don’t tell you, how will you ever improve? 

When you’re in the presence of a critical vampire, your self-esteem goes into the toilet, you question your worth, your choices and your sanity.

It’s all the more confusing because many times this vampire is someone close to you who is telling you for your “own good”. 

Critical Kryptonite-


Tell the criticizer that you hear what they are saying, but when they behave in a critical manner, it makes it hard for you to listen. 

Let them know that their criticism doesn’t feel helpful, the source and think about how hard it must be for the criticizer to live in their own head, where they are way more critical of themselves than they are of you.  

Don’t beat yourself up if that doesn’t really make you feel any better, but just consider it.

The Splitter Vampire-

This borderline personality disorder of a vampire sees things in black and white, good and bad, love and hate- with nothing in between. 

First you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, then you are the hair in their soup. 

This vampire is skilled at pitting people against each other, spreading lies, acting out in hateful rages, and keeping people off balance for fear of inciting their wrath. 

They give mixed messages like “I hate you/Don’t leave me.” 

Dealing with a splitter vampire will keep you unsettled, nervous, feeling persecuted and guarded with your true feelings. 

You do not want to get on the wrong side of this vampire.

Splitter Kryptonite-


Expect nothing from this person because you can expect anything  from this person. 

Go into any interaction with this person with your big huge imaginary bubble of white light around you and try to remain in your most peaceful state of neutrality. 

Refuse to be taken by surprise and expect the unexpected.  

If all else fails, run!

Remember that you choose who you spend your time with, where you work and who you love.  

Do not accept an emotional vampire’s negativity by playing by their rules.

Exercise your right to self-determination and spend time with those who nurture you, support you, make you laugh, and make you feel seen and heard.
You deserve no less.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Narcissist and Victim Vampires

Dr. Judith Orloff identifies five emotional vampire types in her book “Emotional Freedom”.

They are:
1) The Narcissist
2) The Victim 
3) The Controller
4) The Criticizer 
5) The Splitter

The Narcissist Vampire-
You know that joke-“Enough about me, what do YOU think about me?” 

Yup, that’s a narcissist. 

Everything is about them.

They believe they are extremely special, love the spotlight, and feel very entitled to attention and admiration. 

They are dangerous because they lack empathy and have a very limited ability to love. 

The Narcissist Vampire can be very charming- but it’s a ruse to obtain your sympathy, attention, admiration, soul...

Narcissist Kryptonite- DISINTEREST.

Do NOT try to please this person- you will end up in an inescapable black hole of emotional need. 

You will never measure up, do enough, or be enough. 

Make sure that you keep your boundaries up, yourself centered, and do not fall for any new bait- which consists of more drama and emotional hooks.

The Victim Vampire-
Debby Downer or Needy Neighbor.

“Poor me, woe is me, everyone is mean to me, I am a martyr, and nothing is ever my fault.” 

It’s always someone else putting him in a bad situation. 

“I’m the black sheep, I never get promoted, I never get to do what I want, other people are trying to keep me down, they’re jealous of me...etc.” 

Here in America, victimhood is a choice- but you’d never know it coming from this vampire. 

You’ll know you’ve hit your limit with a victim if you never want to answer her calls, stall making plans,
feel drained by her requests for time, assistance or attention, her neediness pulls you into a funk.

Victim Kryptonite- DISENGAGEMENT.

You can say, “I’m sorry that happened and I can see you are very upset about this situation. I can listen for a few minutes- but you need to come up with a strategy to overcome this problem.” 

Feeling sorry for our selves rarely helps anything, so suggest a serving of gratitude with a helping of optimism and call it a day.

Next time we will look at controller and criticizer vampires.

Friday, July 8, 2011

How to Combat an Emotional Vampire

Within the last several years, it seems that all things “vampire” have become cool- the wildly successful Twilight series, True Blood, etc. 

With one exception, the emotional vampire. 

Dr. Judith Orloff  defines them as “people who suck the serenity and optimism right out of you.” 

Dr. Martha Beck calls them “emotional  muggers”. 

No matter what you call them, you know one when you see one-or rather, know one when you feel one, but unfortunately, we may not be able to pry ourselves out of their desperate grasp until the damage is already done. 

Depending on the skill of the vampire at hand, it could be hours or days until you start to feel like yourself again.  

Here are the signs you are in the clutches of an emotional vampire:

-You get the urge to bolt, but for some reason feel like you are standing in quicksand.

-You are afraid to seem impolite, and keep thinking of possible ways you can get out of the conversation.

-You feel that you are supposed to care about or feel sorry for the person speaking, but you don’t.

-You may be asking yourself, “Why is this person telling me this?”

-Your gut is screaming “DANGER”, but you remain strangely passive and unsure of yourself.

-You feel sleepy, very sleepy.

-You may feel attacked or “slimed”.

-You may get the urge to drink or eat some comfort food.

I always tell my clients to pay attention to how they feel when they leave a person, group or environment. 

If you leave an interaction feeling any of the above mentioned ways, ask yourself what about it caused you to feel icky. 

If you see a pattern where you usually feel “icky” after you see someone- it’s time for a relationship evaluation. 

The vampire brings you in with a tentacle, attaches with a vice-like grip, and holds on until you are sucked under.  

They do it by hooking you with drama, stirring up your emotions, or pushing your buttons.  

I was recently facilitating a group where a woman decided it was time to tell her story after the group was gathering their things to leave.

She launched into a drama filled rant where she carefully left breadcrumbs of worry for her safety, leading us to ask her if she needed a restraining order. 

It was only a few minutes into her story before I realized this woman was an energy vampire.  

She continued to talk ad nauseum and undeterred, even after participants were leaving the meeting! 

It was only after several facilitators stood up and pushed in our chairs that she stopped talking. 

I left feeling like I’d been held hostage, slimed, and depleted.
The next morning I still felt crappy, and then remembered what this vampire told us she did for a living. 

She’s a phlebotomist- she takes people’s blood for a living.  

Honest to God, true story. 

The irony of the situation was beyond belief. 

You are in danger of attracting an energy vampire if:

You are a people pleaser, a “nice” girl, hate being rude, need work on your self esteem, have depression, or routinely play the role of victim.

We tend to attract vampires who mirror unresolved issues in ourselves. 

Once we can find the pattern, we can work on healing it so that we can develop a super-shield against it, rather than a funnel for attracting it. 

My next blog will be about the 5 types of Emotional Vampires, and what you can do to prevent needing a transfusion when you encounter them.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lock Up Your Inner Mean Girl

We've all had the delicious pleasure of encountering a mean girl in our youth.

You may have even been her prey.

Due to my dad's career as a corporate climber,  I was the new girl every couple of years, and my arrival made me fresh meat for the resident mean girls at my new school.

The worst part was that I was NICE- actually pretending to ignore their hateful remarks and rude stares.

I was taught that if you just ignore them, they will get tired of picking on you and leave you alone.

That actually didn't work any better than trying to gently pet a rabid dog, and I think it just made me easy pickins.

Thankfully I went on to college, where I felt fully accepted and appreciated for my uniqueness, and the road from there on out was so much easier.

In the outside world, but not in my own head.

See, each mean girl seemed to morph all of her most obnoxious traits into an amalgam, which gave birth to my own INNER mean girl- a wretched bitch if I may say so, that has something nasty to say about a lot of the things I feel, say, do or wear.

If you were unfortunate enough to have family members who liked to kick your self esteem around for sport, add their nasty voices to the scrum as well.

In response to this, I propose a revolt.

Yes, I want you to lock up your inner mean girl.

Just shut that bitch up- here's how.


Keep a log of her put downs for a day.

What's her MO?

What does she say?

When does she strike?

What provokes her?


Go back to the scene of the crime- in this case- the slanderous remark.

Where have you heard that voice before? Does it sound familiar?

Your inner mean girl is usually just a copy cat, picking up for the real mean girl where she left off.

You don't have to believe every thought that goes through your mind.

Some of these thoughts aren't even yours.

Which is why I am perfectly fine with stopping her in her tracks.

Draw a composite sketch of the perp.

Give her a name.

Now we are separating her from you, which makes it much easier to squelch her without remorse.


Is her testimony truthful?

Does she tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? So help her God? 100% of the time?

Yeah, I didn't think so.

Mean girls lie.  They lie to make themselves feel better because they feel woefully inadequate.

So, believing her story is like believing the guy who said the world was ending May 21st.

You could, but in order to do so you probably depleted your savings, racked up a boat load of credit card debt and went on a wild goose chase because you listened to a delusional nut case with a ridiculous ego.

Wait, that really happened.

But it doesn't have to happen to you.


If this sounds harsh, call it "reform school"and assuage your guilt.

Picture her in a very institutional time out at the detention facility of your choice.

Tell her it's time for her to take care of her own mess and move on.

It's justifiable self-defense.


The time for self inflicted pain is over.

As part of your rehabilitation process, you must learn to love each scar, each vulnerability, each "imperfection".

Perfection is passe- it's boring, unattainable and lacks character.

I tell my clients who are going through a very difficult time to take care of themselves as they would a small child.

They usually register a degree of shock on their faces, not because the idea sounds ludicrous, but because it makes them realize how unkind they have been treating themselves.


You are now free to look at yourself as you would a baby in a nursery.

Are there any "unworthy" babies there?

Any babies who would be perfect if they would just stop being so lazy, stupid, or unloveable?

Of course not, what kind of a whack job would think such a thing?

It's no different for us adults, just because our spirit suits (bodies) have cellulite, wrinkles or hairy backs.

Each of us is a magnificent creation, filled with amazing capabilities and endless possibility.

So, the next time you hear that mean girl spew something toxic, tell her to zip it or else.

As I heard Martha Beck say, "Self loathing is so 20th century."

It's a new age, give your inner mean girl up to the feds and watch your self esteem soar.

Friday, April 15, 2011


“The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.”  Maureen Dowd

Heard your self say any of these things lately?

It’s not THAT bad.
I guess it will have to do.
I couldn’t find anything else I liked, so I ended up with this one.
He/She wouldn’t normally have done that, said that, behaved that way. He/she was just tired (stressed, cranky, overworked, horny, sick, hungry, drunk, not thinking…fill in your excuse de jour here)
It doesn’t happen that much.
That’s just how he is. I just have to deal with it.
That’s how she was raised.
She doesn’t even know she’s being rude!
One of these days I am going to tell him that…
As soon as I (fill in the blank), then I will be able to (blank).
They didn’t mean it.
That’s just the way it is.
Someday it will be different-when I have more time (or money, health, kids are older, have a baby, get married, get a divorce, get a new job)

Step One- What are you settling for?

What are the last five things you complained about?

Write them down, is there something there that you are making ok that really isn’t?

Step Two- Why are you settling for it?

Are you afraid that this is all you can have?

Are you afraid to change your circumstances because you are afraid of the unknown? (The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t)

Do you feel like you deserve it? Or do you feel that you made your bed and now you must lie in it?

Step 3- Do you see a pattern?
Do you notice that you are settling in a certain area of your life?  Relationships, career, money, material things- or just life in general?

If you notice settling in one area- ask your self a question.  What thought goes through your mind when I say, “What am I telling myself to make this ok?”  It may be a self-defeating phrase you heard from your parent or teacher.
So you think you’re special, huh?
Life’s a bitch, and then you die.
Life isn’t fair.
You can’t have everything.
You’re LUCKY to even HAVE a boyfriend!
At least you’re not alone!
People like us can’t expect more.
This is the life you chose.

Yuck! I am feeling sick just typing these phrases.  Can you see the passivity in these statements?  The victim mentality?  The “WHO the HELL am I to WANT MORE?”  These statements are no more than your ego shielding itself from complete defeat- the idea being if you don’t want for more than what you have, you’ll never be disappointed. 

Step 4- Cut the Crap

You will never be able to have more for yourself if you don’t feel like you deserve it.  This is a self worth issue.  Does someone else deserve to be happier, thinner, richer, more loved, more respected, or more successful than you? Why? If the answer is yes- please see me for coaching!  If the answer is no, you must….

Step 5-Envision What You Want

Allow yourself to imagine what it would be like to have what you want.  The AWARENESS is all you need.  Focus on the opportunities that may come you way courtesy of the universe.

Step 6-Decide That You Are WORTH It!

Use that thing that keeps you from falling over called a BACKBONE and stand up for yourself.  Find small ways to assert your new attitude (like sending back your salad with the wrong dressing, or returning clothing that doesn’t fit quite right) and work your way up to some bigger things (asking for a promotion, a raise, flexible hours, better treatment, friends that don’t talk behind your back.)

What is the first thing you want to stop settling for?

Why do you want to stop allowing it? 

What do you tell yourself to make it ok to settle?

What can your replacement thoughts be?

How will you feel when you hold out for what you really want?

Overcome the impulse to settle and you'll find that you are living a life that exceeds your wildest expectations.

Monday, January 31, 2011

How I Raised a Successful Kid

     Before my son Tyler turned 2, his favorite toys were dump trucks and his tool belt.  He would scurry around the house with his plastic hammer and ask me what he could "fix" for me.  When Tyler wanted me to read to him, it was always the books about construction equipment that he picked out.  He used to sit on the back of the couch that backed against a window of our new house so that he could take in the construction going on in our new neighborhood that was being built around us. Then he would take all of his construction toys and reenact the scenario on our family room floor.  Tyler did this literally every day for years.  His biggest dream in the world was to drive a bobcat, but in the meantime he would talk to me about front loader back hoes and auger drillers.   We had numerous construction themed birthday parties, which worked out great because I didn't have to peel the tool belt off of his body before the big event. As Tyler got older, he graduated to playing with legos- constructing amazing structures with a laser like focus. After that came woodworking and robot building.  Whenever I  needed something to be put together, Tyler was cheerfully on the job.
     You may be asking how he juggled all of this love of construction with piano lessons, soccer, and French club.   Well, he didn't.   After school, Tyler did this thing we've forgotten about here in America called playing.  He actually used his imagination without any direction from me, or anyone else.  Somewhere in our quest for raising the perfect child, we forgot that kids actually learn from playing.  We have scheduled our kids to tightly that they practically need their own assistant to get them ready and keep them organized.   Oops, that job falls to us parents, doesn't it? 
     How did I come upon this highly irregular form of parenting?  I wish I could say it was because I was above wanting my kid to be the best, strongest, fastest, smartest, kindest, most amazing child ever.  But that would be a lie.  What I did actually do though was really listen to Tyler.  Which wasn't really that hard because he was screaming- or throwing some sort of fit.  He would drag his feet and get all cranky and eye rolling on me when I would tell him it was time for baseball practice.  When I would try to take him to some wonderful puppet show performance at the library to broaden his cultural horizons, he would tell me it was dumb.  After a while I got so tired of signing him up for activity after activity, and then having to listen to the kvetching all the way there and back- I just stopped.  Why was I spending money and time to take him to events and classes that he plainly didn't want to go to -  and making myself crazy in the process?  Because "everyone else" was, and you know if you want your kid to get into a good college, they need to have several talents, clubs and sports.  And don't forget about the 14,000 volunteer hours either.  If you don't do it, your kid will end up living in a two-story Dorito bag- poor, unskilled and probably toothless.
     Now I fully realize that everything I've said would distress that "Tiger Mother" Amy Chua terribly, considering that I treat my children as actual individuals with their own thoughts, likes and dislikes -rather than pack animals to be herded about to violin lessons and SAT prep classes for toddlers.  Apparently I should be demanding that my child be first in his class in everything or I should just hang up my uterus and go home.  My area has loads of "Tiger Mothers", and as a former teacher let me tell you something I have noticed about the kids that are raised this way.  These kids cry when they get an A- on a test, because their parents will be very mad at them.  If you ask them a question about what they think about a certain subject, they have a very hard time answering you because they don't know what the "right" answer is.  As if there is one.  Because for these kids, there is always a right answer.  
     Today Tyler is 18, and a freshman at Cal State Chico.  He is studying construction management, the perfect combination of Tyler's favorite things- building stuff, and telling other people what to do.  Preferably with a bull horn, because he also loves the sound of his own voice.  This won't embarrass him if he reads it, he's proud of these traits.  As he should be.  He followed his inner voice that told him to study what he loves, which just so happens to provide lots of opportunity for a very lucrative career.  Tyler comes home with a huge smile on his face every few weeks and tells me how much he loves his new life and the choices he's made.  That, to me, is success.