Transcendental Trolleys

One of the things I like about leaving comments in other folks’ blogs is the way thoughts come bubbling unbidden to the surface and seem to express themselves spontaneously.

The same thing happens when I respond to the comments people leave in the boxes here. I found myself writing about my coaching background recently when I replied to a comment left by Nadia of Happy Lotus.

My coach training had me investigate [encouragement] from all angles, finding ways to acknowledge, co-create, fortify, uplift, inspire, invite expansion, build on achievement and elicit a person’s greatness. It’s my favourite part of coaching; I can do goal work and am brave enough to challenge folk when they’re hiding behind stories, but championing people…that’s my passion.

Being ill last week gave me the chance to ask myself a lot of questions; these are a few that have helped get me back on track:

  • What do you love most about blogging?
  • Which pieces of writing are you proudest of, thinking “This is who I am; this is what I do best.”?
  • What are you naturally good at?
  • How can you best support others, serve, contribute?

This is a piece I wrote for my coaching column last year. It touches on the many ways there are to support people and also looks at  how we take our skills for granted.

By the way, for those of you who don’t know me, I’m Scottish, so my native tongue is Scots and my second language is UK English. Trolleys are shopping carts in the UK!

Transcendental Trolleys

Success leaves clues. ~ Anthony Robbins

I’ve often said that coaching moments can creep up on us in the weirdest of places.  Last week I had a transcendental moment with some supermarket trolleys…

I’d slept badly and lumbered the two steps from our front door to the car like a bear just out of hibernation. While my husband drove us to his work, I daydreamed and dozily chatted about news items on the radio.

When we arrived, I got out of the passenger side to swap over and drive to the supermarket. Wham! The wind slammed me in the face! As I stood there looking like Medusa and grabbing onto my scarf,  my husband, completely unfazed, said “Wild, isn’t it.” He kissed me, smiled and headed into the building.

I scrambled to the driver’s side, got in, slammed the door shut and took a few deep breaths. He’d made driving through a gale look so effortless!

The problem is, I’m not a confident driver and don’t drive on very windy days if I can avoid it. But there I was, faced with a choice; get on with the shopping and drive home, or sit  there all day outside my husband’s place of work.

I made it safely to the supermarket, this time noticing the swaying trees and the cars being buffeted as they overtook lorries. I’m not actually a ‘bad’ driver – just a wimp with a weather-related comfort zone.

As I sat in the café, warming my hands around a chunky white coffee cup, I sat musing about mastery and unconscious competence.

My husband can reverse park in a space that looks too small to get through with post-Christmas hips and two bags of shopping. He can cook ten-item breakfasts without breaking sweat or swearing at the kids. He gets strikes every time we go bowling and can pot six or seven balls one after the other in a game of pool. All of it effortless, but here’s the thing… it’s probably never occurred to him that any of those skills constitute mastery. He takes them so much for granted!

When I was going for coach certification, I used to be intimidated by graceful, elegant coaches who made everything seem so effortless. I fought off envy until I learned how to analyse what I admired, what they did and what I could adapt and absorb. I worked very hard, learned how to learn, made a load of silly mistakes and eventually passed the IAC exam. The most important thing I learned from my certification journey is that success leaves clues.

As I was leaving the supermarket, muttering under my breath at my talent for picking trolleys with wayward wheels, I heard an announcement. “Due to the weather conditions, could customers please return their empty trolleys to the trolley bays.” I looked out onto the car park and surveyed a surreal scene; unaccompanied trolleys whizzing and clanging into cars, a tiny bouquet of cellophane-wrapped tulips buffeting and skidding along the road trying to take off,  newspapers flying around like kites, and people batting off litter and flying brochures with their flailing hands like a scene from Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’.

I saw people struggling with overloaded trolleys, trying to swing them around like rollerblading partners, outstretched arms in a spin. Others lurched for small light items snatched by the wind and watched in alarm as their liberated trolleys trundled off to freedom.

As I walked alongside my wobbly trolley, gently but firmly using my weight to keep it on track as it tried to veer to the right, I suddenly realised that this is what coaches do when faced with clients’ ingrained paradigms, self limiting beliefs and stormy days. We walk alongside them, gently but firmly keeping them on the road they’d rather be on, helping them navigate obstacles along the way and sometimes relieving them of a burden so heavy it’s been paralysing them into inactivity.

We know the difference between directionless emptiness and a load that’s too overwhelming to manoeuvre. We know when it’s time to apply the brakes and when to keep on going and take advantage of momentum. We know how to focus to get through fear.

 I may not be the world’s most confident driver, but I’m good at getting the shopping home. (And don’t worry…I don’t actually talk to trolleys!)

 What unconscious competence do you take for granted, not just in your work, but in your whole life?


  1. hahaha, i would have had no idea about the trolleys = shopping carts if you hadn’t written that down here. thanks for pointing that out for us unknowing Americans. i love what you’ve shared in this post. i really enjoyed reading it. and your questions above about blogging really got me thinking too!

    Positively Present´s last blog post..3 simple steps for conquering unhappiness

  2. You always have such thought provoking questions, that I think I’ll start copying my answers into a journal.

    Unconscious competence…I think the one I take most for granted are my organizational skills. I always assume everyone has them since they come naturally to me, then I am shocked when being organized seems hard for some people.

    Once when I was a team manager at a large computer company, I had to attend Franklin Planner training with my team. I sat there for four hours of training, soaking it all in, and loving every minute. At the end, we were presented with our own planners, and were told that no one had better see another sticky note at our desks.

    After we had gone back to our cubicles, I started hearing the rumblings from the employees. It seems they didn’t “get” the training. They didn’t understand how using a planner can help productivity and why a company would ask its employees to use one. Almost half my team did not understand, after four hours of training from the Franklin Planner company, how to use their planners or organize their time.

    It was an eye-opener for me. What I thought was four hours of utter joy, they saw as drudgery. I had to take those employees into a conference room, answer their questions, and show them over again, how to use a planner.

    Most of my promotions in workplaces have come because I always had all my materials organized and at my fingertips. Other employees would naturally come to me because they knew I had the answers organized for immediate retrieval. Sooner or later I would get promoted since everyone always came to me anyway.

    I will never look at a shopping cart in the same way! What a beautiful analogy for what comes naturally to you—being a coach. Now I just have to ask, what is a lorrie?

  3. I was inspired once again, by your great post: Writers Write: Your Comments Are Part Of Your Writing Mosaic. I have two posts coming on my blog, The Writer Today ( based on this post. One is for tomorrow and the other for 6/28. Thank you so much for the inspiration!


  4. Hi Janice,

    Thank you so much for mentioning me and my blog. This post made me laugh and nod my head in agreement in so many places. My husband can also reverse park into any space which totally amazes me. He makes it look so easy and the only way I will reverse park is if there are no cars around me. He has similar talents in many areas which I have no skill in such as being able to make a meal out of any items that are in the refrigerator. I am a very good cook and baker but I like to have recipes. My husband just goes on imagination. Anyway..enough about him…now it is my turn! 🙂

    The one thing that I have come to realize that I take for unconsciously granted is my ability to be optimistic. No matter how tough a situation is, I have always been able to see the positive in it. My spirituality is such a part of my being that optimism just comes so natural. I used to think that everybody was like this because I really never had to work at trying to see the positive, I just do.

    As for what I love about blogging, I have made so many wonderful friends. I have learned so much about myself in the process too. For me, it is really important that whatever I post, it has to be a genuine and has to be something that I have experienced or am dealing with because honesty is so important to me. I have become a better writer as a result too. It has truly been a gift for which I am so grateful for and humbled by in ways that words cannot adequately describe.

    Nadia – Happy Lotus´s last blog post..Misconceptions about Meditation

  5. I hope you are feeling better. And, I very much enjoyed the story re: the shopping trolleys. 🙂

    Unconscious competence? Hmm…being neat, orderly and organized. People are always complimenting me on how neat and organized my classroom is. I like to organize and clean, and, while it does require work, I don’t really see it as such.

    Marcy Webbb´s last blog post..Bob Marley

  6. Beautiful post , Janice. Superbly written.

    I often insist that I am not analytical, but guess what? It is my unconscious competence. I do nothing – make no decision, take no action – without thinking it through very carefully, dissecting, probing, researching and writing my thoughts. I analyze every thing and because I do, when I make a decision and take certain actions, I do so bravely and passionately with a vision of success.

    Cheryl Wright´s last blog post..Your dream book

  7. Definitely meditation. I am comfortable with silence. I love it, crave it and could fall into oblivion just staring at a creamy white wall. It is a difficult act for people to quiet their souls for a period of time. The act of moving completely into your heart, soul and mind to maintain piece for a brief period and stay balanced in the achieved zone of solace no matter what. I teach my children at our Writer’s Workshop how to quiet their mind and souls so that they can pour their words onto paper. Today is Day 3 of our summer workshop and I saw the magic start to happen. A blessing to teach the young the wise gestures that will empower their life forever. Sweet post.

    Cindy´s last blog post..Top 10 Thank Yous for our Best Dad

  8. Thank you for your provocative question, Janice!

    For me it’s my comfort with the Unknown, the time/space of unfolding, where change and creativity occur or mystery continues.

    This week an old friend mentioned that the example of my ongoing change has inspired her to live differently. I told her I realized at some point that not all people like change, which came as a surprise to me as someone who sees change and life are synonymous.

    1. @The Nester,
      Thank you! It’s taken me ages to pluck up the courage to comment over at Melissa’s. I’ve been to your blog before, too, and I enjoyed all the tales of the conference you guys were at! I love the overlapping communities that include the Inspired Room, Hooked on Houses, Remodelling this life and a whole load of others. I visit there to soak up the kindred spirit passion! I’m a relatively new blogger although I’ve had a regular coaching column for a while. I’m only now starting to learn to upload photos, but when I master it, I want to be able to participtate in some of the link-love spreading you guys do. I love my home and my family; most of my writing springs from the daily details and I love the way everyone passes that joy forward in different ways.

  9. @Positively Present,
    Glad you enjoyed it!

    Lorries = trucks!

    I’m so glad my questions inspire you, Randi! I tried to slim them down this time from rapid machine gun fire interrogation to manageable! And if you noticed, my coaching articles usually end with only one question!

    I smiled to hear of your talent for organisation; that’s one more thing we have in common! When you talk of Franklin planners, is that Franklin Covey planners? I use my own adaptation of a Covey idea in my Filofax: I printed off my own pages with all my ROLES on (mum, wife, friend, writer etc) and that’s where I write my goals for each role, weekly or daily, depending. I had a chance once to be a Franklin Covey coach/faciliator but something child-connected came up and I had to sigh, shrug and lay it aside.

    It doesn’t surprise me to hear you were promoted a lot either; I suspect you had a knack for supporting and bringing out the best in folk.

    I’m glad you find inspiration here and pass it on! I’m sorry I don’t comment on your site very often; I can’t. Something about certain Blogger sites with Guest Books and other plugins causes my Internet Explorer to replicate the pages like Mr Smith in the Matrix and it crashes my laptop.

    Isn’t it strange how easy it is to list our loved ones’ strengths while many folk find it difficult to list their own! My husband’s great at using what’s available in the fridge, too, but he flicks through recipe books to get inspiration. There’s actually a book over here about why women are often less happy reverse parallel parking and refolding maps than men are!

    The connection’s one of the things I love most about blogging, too. That and the immediacy and the chance to be my own boss, editor , designer and publisher!

    I’m glad one of your strengths is your indomitable optimism. Many people benefit from it!

    I hope you got a chance to read Randi’s comment. I’m so chuffed to have natural organisers in our community! I have loads of organisational pieces I’ve been hoping to write. I was surprised when I discovered how hard home organisation is for some folk who have phenomenal talents that lie elsewhere.

    Thank you! I’m really glad I asked this question; it’s good to discover what people think their own strengths are. I’m very analytical, too. It’s the Virgo in my astrological chart. I love how it’s helped me carve a path between right and left brain hemispheres. Long may you contnue to have a bold passionate vision for how you’d like your life to be!

    I’m thrilled your new venture is going well! I’m sure your students’ parents and Sean and the kids would add muse to the list of things you’re unconsciously competent at! Meditation is one of those things, isn’t it, that many folk find difficult and some folk seem to be able to do at the drop of a hat. I worry at how easily I can do it because I sometimes ‘come back to earth’ with a start, wondering how long I’ve been ‘gone’! I have a draft post about meditation I hope you’ll like when it goes live.

    Thank you – I love it when you enjoy my questions; yours open me right up like a tin opener! I resonate with your friend’s awe. Your openess to change and the unknown has always inspired me too. I think that’s why you’re such an amazing creativity coach; you’re so at home in the whole field of potential yet your comfort with it creates a safe place to explore. Me?I get what I call ‘blank-cheque-itis’ if I have too many options, too wide a horizon, too much unlimited choice. I’m resourceful; I work well arranging what’s already there and transforming it into something else by filtering it through my awareness, sometimes my soul.

  10. Janice,

    I love insight and wisdom! I can relate to the driving in windy weather…cars and trolleys. You eloquently put into words exactly what coaches do. You wouldn’t be able to write it if you weren’t good at doing it!

    I received my new book, The Charmed Life in the mail today! Thanks, thanks, thanks!

    Tess The Bold Life´s last blog post..51 Tips for Living The Good Life

  11. Janice,
    The wind and the carts going round the parking lot just conjured up quite a scene in my head – the sharing was better for the trolley’s.

    I think coaching is more about what parenting is about after the child’s survival skills are set in place and they start growing and I think parents wait too long to let the child move into guidance phase and out of intense parenting stage –

    Very nice post and I am so glad you shared it. Thank you

    Patricia´s last blog post..Vows Another Word for Promises

  12. @Tess,
    I’m glad the book arrived – you’ll finish it before I do; my copy’s earmarked as a summer read!

    I love coaching. Training to become certified not only improved my coaching and confidence, but it helped me evolve as a person. After I passed, I eventually went on to co-run a membership site to help coaches become certified because I believed so deeply in the transformational aspects of the process. That’s why I love my coaching column as much now as I did when I started. I was just saying to Nadia today that I feel like my coaching met my writing and they fell in love and got married. I used to write fiction, poetry and lyrics, but there’s something about what I call my ‘coachwriting’ that taps into all I am and have been, if that makes sense. That’s why I chose lifecoachwriter as my Twitter user name.

    I’m glad you liked it! I feel being a coach has helped me over many a parenting hump, mainly because I’ve learned to give less unsolicited advice and do more active listening. I’m also getting better at loving what is, without being judgemental. I’m not there yet, but at least I’m trying not to resist everything I feel ‘should’ be a certain way. I’m less attached to outcomes, more curious, loving and grateful than I was a decade ago.

    It was weird re-reading this piece; that whole experience in the carpark came flooding back. I even remember where I was parked!

  13. I loved your story, Janice, and Randi’s. Learned a new word too — chuffed. I love sharing stories with people and reading theirs. This post is a great place to do that.

    As for me, I can reverse parallel park with the best of them. My unconscious competence is probably my speed now that I think about it. I seem to be able to do many things faster than others. Well, not running or writing, certainly, but cooking or parking or shopping. . .snap, it’s done. I used to be the kid who turned her test in first. If my legs had been longer, I might have been a better runner. Writing takes me forever. Your writing seems so fluid and fluent. Do you write fast or slow? Do you edit a lot or a little? You’re one heck of a good writer, I think.

    Brenda´s last blog post..Toward Gladness

  14. You’re welcome, Randi. I feel bad for not leaving a comment on your vacation piece but it might mean more to you to know that I still remember the experience of reading it after all this time. Stories have people in them and they move through time and space. That’s what I like to read, especially when they’re well-crafted by writers like you and Janice.

    Brenda´s last blog post..Toward Gladness

  15. @Brenda,
    You’d smile at my daily slowness; I tend to linger over a lot of activities, from chopping to shopping and I can end up spending a lot of time in my head, moodling. But my writing is only hindered by my typing speed (and how quickly I can correct laptop typos!).

    I love “fluid and fluent”. Thank you. It got me thinking. I do write fluently and quickly, especially in the blogging world where people want to feel connected to an authentic voice. I’m not a sloppy writer by nature, so the speed’s not a problem. The language and communication processing part of my brain works at a different pace from other parts (Mercury highly placed in my birth chart.) I pick up new languages really quickly because I switch quite easily between right and left brain, analysing patterns and enjoying the creative process of putting together phrases. That’s why I enjoy editing as much as writing. I tend to edit as I go along; for me it’s part of the writing process. The drafts are still drafts, but I let my inner voice dictate pace and rythm. A lot of the time – and this might sound a bit weird – I don’t really choose what I write; it gets itself written in a sort of inner voice straight to paper/keyboard process.

    I’m so happy that you feel comfy writing here. I love these comment boxes. I love that many of the comments are like mini blogs within a blog and that they always make me feel, when I log on to look, that I’m nipping into the café, wondering which friends I’m going to meet and chat with. Soppy, I know, but that really is how I feel.

    @Brenda and Randi,
    I’m sitting in a carpark right now, working offline on my laptop, waiting for my kids to finish karate.(I’ll cut, paste and post this when I get home.) Knowing that folk follow the comment threads makes me smile. I’ve been trying to find a rythm, logging on less and spending less time online when I do log on, but I’ve realised that one of the things I miss most is being able to respond promptly if someone takes the time to leave a comment.

  16. Brenda,
    Yes, actually that does mean a lot that you still remember my piece. Your kind words mean a lot to me. That’s why I love hanging out here at Janice’s place. It’s like she’s opened up her living room to her guests, whether she’s there or not. She’s equally happy when she’s with a lot of people in her living room chatting or when she’s out for a moment and we hang out on her couch without her. Yeah, drinking her tea and spooning her sugar cubes. Just don’t touch her bird’s nest…

    Randi´s last blog post..Sunday Serenity 6-28-09

    1. No more sugar cubes for you, missie – go fix us some wheat grass! And put that book back on the shelf…I may not be around, but I’m counting!

      I’m happy for anyone to chat to others here when I’m not around. I remember you and I blethering in Sean’s boxes when he had a hiatus.

      I’m deliberately experimenting with the length, content and frequency of my posts to see what I feel comfiest with. It’s scary, but it also allows me to learn from the stats what suits the folk who visit. Not posting daily also lets me enjoy the comment boxes more, both here and in the blogs I visit.

  17. I love the title to this post/column 🙂

    It reminds me of my early Aikido days and one of those a-ha, lightbulb moments.

    I remember watching the higher grades during training, wondering how long it would be before I’d join their ranks. I remember my meticulous attention to detail as I was taught various techniques; where does my hand go, where do I position my body, what comes next etc.

    It was kind of overwhelming, trying to remember all these details and thinking I’m never going to get my black belt. Then it struck me.

    Maybe it was the process of giving up, of letting go, I don’t know, but all of a sudden everything just ‘clicked’.

    Years later, while watching Last Samurai, I realised I had experienced mushin or “no mind”.

    Similar I think to how your husband has “mastered” many different things.

  18. Hi Marc,
    I love the Last Samurai! (But you’d have guessed that 😉 ) Mushin is the perfect way of expressing it. You are so going to love the guest post I’ve got lined up for this week. Please come over and comment; your Aikido mind and computer skills will really add to any dialogue in the boxes.

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