In the spirit of the season, here’s a favorite tool from Phil Stutz and Barry Michels (authors of Coming Alive and The Tools). They are LA-based shrinks whose clients include A-list Hollywood writers, directors, actors. Phil and Barry champion a set of practical tools to help us get past obstacles so we can fulfill our creative potential.

Their “Grateful Flow” tool is terrific for changing your frame of mind and getting out of “the maze” of negative thinking.

On the surface, this may seem like a “counting your blessings” exercise. That it might help for a second or two, but then you’re back to the same old negative loop.

But here’s the deal: by making this quick exercise a part of your daily routine, it helps re-set how you habitually see the world and your circumstances. This can change how you interact with others, and how they respond to you. This tool may just be the real ground zero of making positive change in our lives and in our careers. It’s a great foundation.

If this seems too “woo-woo” for you (it did to me at first!), you don’t need to buy into anything. Try if for a week and see what happens. I’m interested to hear!

The thing I find so helpful with the Tools is that they focus on sensing with your body. It’s not simply about thoughts or abstract concepts. These are practical, in the moment interventions that cause a real shift.

As I write this I’m struck that the tool is named Grateful flow. The “flow state,” of course, is one of peak creativity—the ideal state of mind for performers and composers to operate at their best. Whoever thought that gratitude could help us get there!

Get your gratitude on with Phil and Barry’s quick instructions for tapping into Grateful Flow.Grateful Flow

But wait — there’s more:

Your Insights Needed—thanks!

I’m excited to be working on a 5 day FB Live Challenge with New Music Box. The Creative Productivity Challenge is set to run Mon-Fri Dec. 4-8, 12 noon ET (3 pm PT). That week NMB has a set of writers contributing articles related to helping musicians become more productive.

Each day of the Challenge we’ll focus on a specific area (procrastination, negative self-talk, fear, etc.) and we’ll explore a range of solutions. Please mark your calendars and participate—it would be terrific to have you writing in with questions and comments!

In advance, to help me shape the challenge, please respond to these two questions:

#1 What has hindered your creative projects?

(By ‘projects’ I mean both artistic and ‘career’ projects: composing a new work, launching an ensemble or concert series, recording an album, booking a tour, etc.)


Negative self-talk


Lack of time: too many commitments

Lack of an organized approach or system

Lack of accountability

Lack of support (emotional and otherwise)


#2 What has helped you overcome these obstacles? (Be specific)

Scheduling system (please detail what you use)

Accountability partner

Specific time management software / book / videos / other resources (please detail)

Support group

Re-evaluating and clarifying your priorities

Changing how you respond to fear and negative self-talk (please detail)



I am so grateful to be connected to such talented, motivated, and inspiring people—

This week: try the Grateful Flow: I’d love to hear what you experience! And if you can, please write back with responses to the two questions above—thank you!

As always, I welcome your comments and questions—looking forward to hearing from you!

If you’d like to discuss your career goals, and find out how coaching can help you achieve them, let’s talk! Reach me at

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well!



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