Tag Archives: Breakdown Breakthrough

Moving Beyond Anger When People Ask For Free Help

This week, my colleague Ashley Milne-Tyte, who publishes a fascinating blog and podcast series The Broad Experience, reached out to ask me my thoughts about women who are beleaguered by people asking for free help, and how to best handle it.  The question got me thinking more deeply about the situation, and when I did, I realized that over the past few years, I’ve evolved beyond my initial anger and resentment over people reaching out with their hand out, asking for help.

I remember when it first started to happen in a bigger way to me – that strangers by the hundreds would ask for free help. Two years ago, a Forbes post of mine about LinkedIn and busting the 8 damaging myths about what it can do for you, went a bit viral, and that week, I heard from over 900 people asking for help to review their LinkedIn profiles, resumes and career directions. I was stunned, and frankly, really pissed off.  I thought, “Don’t they understand that this is how I make my living, as a career coach and consultant?” And I also scratched my head at the audacity of people to reach out to a stranger asking for help, hoping for it quickly, without offering anything in return.

Now, I feel quite differently.  After speaking with Adam Grant and reading his amazing book Give and Take, I was struck by the shame and sadness I felt at not being willing and happy to help more people in deep need.  I realized that I didn’t just want to be of service to the affluent; I long to help people of all socioeconomic levels and all walks of life.  So I got going building free and low-cost programs and resources that anyone and everyone can take advantage of, and be supported.  And I feel so much better because of it.

Many of us who run service-related businesses (and many who don’t), want to be of help in the world.  Yes, we run businesses and need to earn money through these ventures, and we have to learn how to charge fairly and appropriately for what we offer, but we also want to use our talents and abilities to move the needle in some important way. I’ve found that creating free and low-cost programs (that cost me very little to produce) as well as offering my top-level services is the way I can move the needle.

Below are 5 key lessons I’ve learned these past few years about how to view, experience, and handle being asked to give free help:

Stop being mad – it’s a waste of energy.

It’s best to simply get over being mad and resentful that people reach out for free help.  We need to realize that people don’t necessarily understand our business model, and aren’t trying to be disrespectful when they ask for help.  We need to educate them on what we offer and what we don’t, and be clear, without apology.

We actually can be of great help in just a few seconds or minutes of time.

Judy Robinett (author of the great book How To Be a Power Connector) demonstrated to me that you don’t need to spend hours with someone to be of help.  Just a few minutes, an email intro, a powerful connection, an opened door  – that’s all it takes.  Finding ways to help people without exhausting yourself to the bone is the way to go.

No, I no longer let people “pick my brain” for free, but where I can, I offer quick tidbits, insights and ideas.

Developing free or low-cost programs that help people who can’t afford your services is a WIN/WIN.

I’ve now created an array of great free and lower-cost resources that I point everyone to, when they’re asking for free help. I’m excited about these resources because I’ve seen that they move people forward. The free materials include Career Path Self-Assessment, Career Success Readiness Quiz, Resume Guide, LinkedIn Primer, Study Guide for my book, etc.). I also have more affordable training programs that a larger number of professionals can take advantage of.

I’ve found that having these resources to point people to allows me to be of service at the level I wish to for folks who can’t pay my coaching fees.  It also allows me to protect my private time and my private coaching work, which comes at a premium. I recommend this step — developing great, free materials that you’re happy to give away — a teleclass, newsletter, an audio, a video, downloadable guide, etc. —  to all folks in the service business who want to help people in the largest way possible. And the kicker is that the free materials always generate a great return of some kind for me as well.

Craft an authentic, personal response that works.

Because I hear from hundreds of folks a month, I can’t respond personally to each one. But I’ve developed communications that I’m able to customize and send out to folks who reach out to me wanting free help, explaining that due to the high volume of requests I receive for free help each week, I’m unable to offer tailored recommendations to folks who aren’t my clients, because to provide effective help I’d have to know much more, and that requires time and commitment. But I’m happy to point them to my free and low-cost resources that will be of service.

I value connecting with my community and with most everyone who writes me, but I’m not developing each response from scratch.

Helping people who need it doesn’t make you a doormat.

Read Adam Grant’s book Give and Take and you’ll see that many of the most successful people in the world are the most outrageously generous givers.  Giving something for free doesn’t make you a loser, it makes you a giver. The key, however, is to give in ways that nourish, enrich, and support you, not break you down.  That requires clarity, commitment, systems that work for you, a well-defined vision of what you want to achieve in the world, and powerful boundaries to support that.

In the end, I’d ask this: What would you rather feel – resentful and angry or happy to be of service in bigger ways than you ever imagined?

What’s your biggest challenge in addressing requests for free help?



5 TraitsTo Embrace To Live Without Regret

Today I had a shock. I heard from a mother of a lovely young woman I had spoken with on the phone nearly three years ago about career coaching. I learned from her mother that this beautiful, vibrant young woman was gone. She had passed away in her home in June 2011, just one month after I spoke with her. And amazingly, the young woman was from my home town.

I was truly rocked by this news. I was so touched by the mother’s beautiful note to me (she hadn’t wanted to just “unsubscribe” her daughter from my newsletter, but wanted to explain, and share the sad news personally). I was rocked because I have beloved children myself who are so precious to me, and I can only glimpse of the pain a parent feels at losing her dearest child so young.

And finally, I was rocked at the idea that this young woman’s life and my own had intersected only for a brief moment in time, and I wondered how she would have experienced and remembered our interaction. I prayed she would have thought of it as helpful and caring. If not, I would deeply regret it.

That got me thinking. We strive so hard to live good lives, to be “happy,” to find our way, and to create success and joy, and share it with others. But I’ve realized lately that it’s just not that complicated. It’s very simple, in fact. Maybe living well, with happiness and without regret, is simply about demonstrating in physical reality five essential traits that help us leave this world a better place than we found it.

If it were truly this simple – just five essential behaviors — would we all do a better job of living without regret, of embracing and sharing joy and love with others, and feeling much better every moment of our existence? I think so.

What are these 5 traits that are essential to regret-free, joyful living? I believe they are:


Kindness is the sweetness of life. It’s a gentle hand when we’re down, a non-judging, listening ear when we have a problem, and it’s an unselfish act that puts the best interests of others first. It’s giving without looking for “what’s in it for me.”

I, like you perhaps, interact with hundreds of people each month, and I endeavor to be kind to each one, but sometimes I fail. When I’m tired, over-worked, stressed, frustrated – you name it – my kindness wanes.

Truthfully speaking, I can often get grumpy and agitated when strangers desperately want and demand something from me. But I have found that I can overcome that agitation, and I am more successful at that when I’m more “present” in my life. When I can step back from what’s at hand, take three deep breaths and remember what I’m doing here on this planet, and when I connect to a higher dimension of myself that isn’t so worn down from the obligations in front of me, my access to kindness opens. Then, I’m able recalibrate and re-energize, and find my heart again. It’s not hard – it just takes commitment and practice.

Kindness heals sorrow, binds broken relationships, and mends souls (our own and others’). So why then are we so unkind?

What takes you away for your kindness and what helps you restore it? Can you make a habit of rekindling your kindness each day?


To me, caring is about taking the time to give a hand to someone, to show that their issues and problems are important, and their worldview matters. Caring means that you validate the individual before you, and show that you understand who they are at their core, and love and respect that essence.

The opposite of caring is the snarky back-stabbing, gossiping, hateful behavior we see around us every day – online and in person. Making someone wrong and judging them mercilessly is a hallmark of it. This lack of caring reveals that you’ve forgotten one core truth – that everyone is inextricably connected, and each person is a facet of you. So if you’re hateful to another person, you’re hateful to yourself.

Are you as caring for those around you as you’d like to be? Are you caring to yourself in equal measure (that’s where most women fall down.) What holds you back from exhibiting more care and concern for yourself and for others?


Of all of these traits, I believe compassion is the most powerful to heal the world. Compassion represents the feeling of empathy for others, the emotion we feel in response to the suffering or experiences of others that inspires in us a desire to help. In my work as a therapist and coach, I’ve observed that those who were raised without compassion, without empathy – by parents who were narcissistic, cruel, distorted, and unable to feel compassion – are those who suffer the severest forms of pain, isolation, and suffering.

Is your compassion for others and the world somehow being strangled by your current struggles and your mindset? Can you find a new way to grow your compassion for yourself, and for others?


In working with women to move away from careers they dislike, there is inevitably a sense of meaning, purpose and helpfulness that is missing and that they long for. As Maria Nemeth shared in her powerful book The Energy of Money, we are all happiest when we’re demonstrating in physical reality what we know to be true about ourselves, when we’re giving form to our Life Intentions in ways that help others.

I know too many people who focus only of what they have in front of them – either their struggles and strife or, on the flip side, their wealth, achievements and outer “things” (toys, cars, houses, bank accounts) they are amassing — with no regard of how they can be of help in the world.

In the end, if you focus only on yourself and your tiny sphere of influence, you’ll be wasting your talents and your abilities, and losing a precious opportunity to make a real difference in the world. The result will be that, at the end of your life, you will experience deep sadness, regret and remorse that you wasted your precious time, energy and your life looking out for only yourself.

Who can you help today?


Finally, I’ve seen that people experience deep pain and suffering from the lies they’ve told – to themselves and to others. Lying reflects a deep-seated fear that we are not “enough” – not strong, smart, courageous, good or powerful enough – to deal with the real consequences of our true actions and beliefs, so we lie. But lying hurts. When you lie to yourself, you rob yourself of the chance to evaluate accurately and fully how best to move forward. And lying to others limits their ability to make the right choices and decisions for themselves. The bottom line: lying stops you and others from growing, living and loving life to the fullest.

The flip side – truthfulness – does indeed set you free. Truthfulness allows you to be free with and accepting of yourself, and lets others be themselves, and act with honesty, authenticity and transparency as well.

Where are you being false, and what truth can you share today that will change everything for you?

* * * *

These five traits can be viewed as agreements you make with yourself. If you commit to being to being more kind, caring, compassionate, helpful and truthful each day, I guarantee, without reservation, that your life experience will improve dramatically, and regrets will fade.

(For more on the power of giving, check out Adam Grant’s great new book Give and Take. For information on helping others and the world through your career and professional life, check out Breakdown, Breakthrough  and the Amazing Career Project.)



Successful People: The 8 Behaviors They Avoid

In my work, I’ve been fortunate to learn from amazingly successful, impactful professionals and entrepreneurs.  I’m defining “success” here as achieving what matters most to you, individually and authentically – not as some objective measure of outer wealth, accomplishment or achievement.  Observing people in action who are living fully on their terms and absolutely loving it, I’ve seen how they think, react, interrelate, problem solve, and lead.  I’ve applied these lessons to my own life, and to those I coach.

I’ve noted that people who love what they do for a living and have created tremendous success and reward, not only engage continuously in life-supporting behaviors, but also avoid certain negative actions and mindsets that other, less successful people habitually get lost in.

The 8 self-limiting, negative behaviors successful people avoid are:

Engaging in “below the line” thinking

“Below the line” thinking refers to a particular mindset that shapes how you view the world in a limiting way.  It leads to your believing that what’s happening to you is outside your control and everyone else’s fault – the economy, your industry, your boss, your spouse, etc.  Below the line thinking says, “It’s not fair what’s happening, and I don’t have what it takes to overcome these challenges. I didn’t expect this and I can’t handle it.”  Above the line thinking, on the other hand, says, “I clearly see the obstacles ahead, and I’m addressing them with open eyes.  I’m accountable for my life and my career, and I have what it takes to navigate through this successfully.  If I fail, I’ll still wake up tomorrow exactly who I am, and will have learned something critical.”

Mistaking fantastical wishful thinking for action

Successful professionals pursue outcomes that flow organically from their current actions. Unsuccessful individuals attach to fantasies that may relieve them momentarily of their situational pain but have no basis in reality.  For instance, I’ve heard from corporate professionals who share, “Kathy, I really hate my job and desperately want to leave.  I’ve been wanting to write a book and become a motivational speaker for several years now.  What’s your advice?”  I’ll respond, “OK, great.  Are you writing and speaking?” and more often than not, the answer will be, “Uh…no.”  You can’t write a book if you’re not writing anything, and you can’t speak in public if you haven’t developed any material to speak about.   It’s critical to take bold action toward your visions, in order to create success.  Successful people develop huge goals too, but they crush them down into smaller, digestible (but courageous) action steps that they then build on, which leads naturally to the end goal they’re pursuing.

Remaining powerless and speechless

Successful people are in touch with their power, and are not afraid to use it and express it.  They advocate and negotiate strongly for themselves and for others, and for what they care about, and don’t shy away from articulating just how they stand apart from the competition.  They know how they contribute uniquely and the value they bring to the table.   In addition, they don’t wait to bring up concerns – they tackle challenges head on, speaking about them openly, with calm, poise and grace.  They don’t hide from their problems.  And they don’t perceive themselves as hapless victims.

Putting off investing in themselves

I see this behavior over and over in those who feel thwarted and unsuccessful – they are incredibly reluctant to invest time, money and energy in themselves and their own growth.  They are comfortable only when putting other people’s needs ahead of their own.  They’ll make any excuse for why now is NOT the time to invest in themselves or commit to change.  They feel guilt, shame and anxiety over claiming “I’m worth this.”  Successful people don’t wait – they spend money, time and effort on their own growth because they know without doubt it will pay off – for themselves and everyone around them.

Resisting change

Successful people don’t break themselves against what is or drown in the changing tides.  They go with the flow.  They follow the trends, and embrace them.  They are flexible, fluid and nimble.  They react to what’s in front of them, and improvise deftly.   Those who are unsuccessful bemoan what is appearing before them, and stay stuck in the past or in what they “expected,” complaining about how life is not what it should be and why what is feels so wrong.

Honoring other people’s priorities over their own

Successful people know what matters most to them – their priorities, values, concerns, and their mission and purpose.  They don’t float aimlessly on a sea of possibility – they are masters of their own ship and know where they want to head, and make bold moves in the direction of their dreams.  To do this, they are very clear about their top priorities in life and work, and won’t be waylaid by the priorities and values of others.  In short, they have very well-defined boundaries, and know where they end and others begin.  They say “no” to endeavors and behaviors (and thinking) that will push them off track.  They know what they want to create and the legacy they want to leave behind in this lifetime, and honor that each day. (To get clearer on your priorities, values, and desires for the next chapter of your life and work, take my free Career Path Self-Assessment.)

Doubting themselves and their instincts

Those who doubt themselves, lack trust in their own gut or instincts, or second-guess themselves continually find themselves far from where they want to be.  Successful professionals believe in themselves without fail.  Sure, they acknowledge they have “power gaps” or blind spots, and areas that need deep development.  But they forgive themselves for what they don’t know and the mistakes they’ve made, and accept themselves.  They keep going with hope and optimism, knowing that the lessons from these missteps will serve them well in the future.

Searching for handouts and easy answers

I can often tell from the first contact I have with someone if they’ll be likely to succeed in their new entrepreneurial venture and career, or not.  How? By the nature of their expectations, and how they set out to fulfill them.  Here’s an example – if a complete stranger reaches out to me expecting free help without considering what she may offer in return, it’s a bad sign.  Let’s say she asks something like this: “I’m launching my new business and wondered if you can give me some advice. I can’t pay you because I’m a startup, but I hope you can help me anyway.”

From this one email, I know she’s not ready to make it happen in her own business.  Why? Because successful professionals (and those destined to be) wouldn’t consider asking for help in this way.  Instead, they: 1) understand that they have something important and valuable to offer in any situation, 2) are willing and happy to share or barter that in return for what they want, and 3) they treat others exactly as they would like to be treated.

Successful professionals are respectful, resourceful, curious, competent, tenacious, and they figure out how to get the help they need without asking for handouts.  That doesn’t mean they don’t seek assistance when and where they need it , or make use of the many free resources available to them (like, etc.).  It means that they don’t expect something for nothing.  They treat others equitably and fairly and know they deserve the same.  Successful professionals realize that if they’re not willing to pay for products and services they want, then others won’t be willing to pay them (yes, it works like karma).

They also know that their success is directly proportionate to the effort they put inMost of all, they understand there are no short cuts or easy answers on the road to success.

(For more about achieving greater success in your career, visit Ellia Communications, my free teleclass Breakthrough to Your BOLD Plan for More Happiness, Success and Reward, and my book Breakdown, Breakthrough.)


How To Create Your Own Breakthrough


Welcome to Episode #8 of my video blog Work You Love!  I’m happy you’re here!

Ever wondered why, despite all your hard work and efforts, you can’t seem to get a break or move forward as you long to?  There are reasons for it – it’s not random or just coincidence.

This episode explores the critical blocks to creating the success and happiness you want, and also shares 5 key steps to creating your own breakthrough.

If you have the sense that no matter what you’re doing, the needle isn’t moving as it should in your life and work, you won’t want to miss this video.

Here’s my take:

The key steps to creating your own breakthrough are:

1. Do the inner work required to know who you are authentically, and what you really want.

2. Don’t fight against what’s happening – see what your life situation is trying to teach you.

3. Take concrete steps to change how you operate in the world.

4. Release your subconscious blocks to greater wealth, happiness, power, and success.

5. Bring more happiness into your life NOW, regardless of your external conditions.

Today’s top message:

CLICK TO TWEET: Doing the work of becoming MORE in this world is up to you. Realizing who you are is a great place to start – @kathycaprino #WorkYouLove

Thanks for watching, and wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

All Best,


Your Magnificence Lies In Your Deepest Imperfections

Cheryl Hunter

Cheryl Hunter

I’m proud to offer a powerful guest post this week from my friend and colleague Cheryl Hunter – author, speaker and transformational coach whose personal story is both riveting and deeply inspiring.

Cheryl shares:

When contrasted against the backdrop of urban sprawl and the fight we face for a sliver of square footage in the city, it’s almost unimaginable that places exist where there is nothing but empty space.  Rye, Colorado, is one of those places.

I grew up on a horse ranch there, in the remote Rocky Mountains.  We lived atop a high mountain meadow and were so remote that in every direction but one—miles off in the distance—there was no sign of civilization whatsoever.

I loved it; it was idyllic, and I spent my entire childhood atop a horse, but what had once been my haven had become my prison by the time I was a teenager.  I longed for civilization, culture, buildings.  I wanted to live someplace where I could wear the clothes I saw in magazines—anything other than boot cut Wranglers, really—and I longed to go somewhere where there were people who weren’t related to me by blood.  The city was calling my name; I just had to figure out how to respond.

One day I played hooky to come up with my master plan.  I hopped on my mini bike and drove the hour round trip to Colorado City—the nearest town that had a store—and I picked up a Glamour magazine.  Sure enough, there was an article in there that spelled out the game plan for my life right before my eyes: I could be a model!  I was tall enough—I was already on the boys’ basketball team.

I just needed to get myself somewhere they needed models.  I chose Europe.  I talked my best friend into going; we got several jobs each and saved up…and the big day finally arrived.

No sooner did we land in France then a man with a big camera around his neck approached me.  He asked me if I was a model; he told me he could make me one, if I went with him and his friend.

I thought, “Wow! This is how easy it is to become a model in France!”

My best friend told me no, but she was content to go back to Colorado when we were through; she had no desire to get out of there.  So I ditched her and went off with the man with the camera and his friend.

They drugged me and took me to an abandoned construction site.  They beat me mercilessly.  I had no idea a head could make a sound when kicked by boots.  They drugged me again and they raped me repeatedly, and they cut me.

They dumped me in a park in Nice three days later.

I didn’t tell my family; I didn’t tell my friends; I couldn’t.  I was now ruined; I was dirty and disgusting and damaged and filthy.  If anyone knew what happened they’d know all that about me, so I decided to just push it down and pretend it never happened.

To cope I became very removed from people and aloof.  I became a loner.

I did become a model—the lifestyle suited me really well.  Never in all of the years that I was a model did anyone ever ask me to engage in a deep conversation.  I had found my people.

The concept of “the grass is always greener somewhere else” is thriving in the modeling world; each of my agents wanted me to go somewhere else to work because it was looked upon as cooler than wherever we were currently.  My agent in Paris sent me to New York, Milan sent me to Paris, London sent me to Japan.

It was in Japan that my journey took a turn.

Other than when I was actually shooting, I spent the entirety of my stay in Japan in my agency itself; it had a big, completely unused conference room.  No one was ever there, except for the grandparents of the owners.  They have an interesting tradition in Japan; they include their elders in their business and personal lives; the elders are looked upon as a resource for the wealth of experience and knowledge they bring.

One day I was sitting in the conference room, lost in thought as usual, plotting my revenge against the two men in France.

As I daydreamed, I absentmindedly traced my fingers along the large, wooden table that was in the conference room.  The table was probably ten feet long and carved from one solid piece of wood.  It was beautiful, but it contained nicks and divots and dents. The eyes of the wood had been left in and one end of the table narrowed as the tree must have.

I was tracing one of the table’s dents with my fingers as the grandmother walked in the conference room and watched.

“Wabi-sabi,” she said, shocking me out of my stupor.

“What?  What’s that?” I asked, “wabi-sabi? Is that like wasabi?”

From the other room, Miyoko, my agent, put her hand over the mouthpiece of the phone and laughed, “No!” Wabi-sabi is the Japanese aesthetic, Hon.”

“Oh…” I said, having absolutely no idea what she meant.

Soon Miyoko and her grandfather came in and joined us.

The three of them took turns telling me their version of what wabi-sabi means; according to the grandfather it is “The most important of all Japanese principle.”

Wabi-sabi states that the beauty of any object lies in the flaws of that object.  The misshapen parts, the errors and mistakes are actually sought out.

Beauty, the grandmother said, is derived from contrast.  So an object can only be seen to embody perfection if it also embodies imperfection to the same degree.

These people were blowing my mind.  I got up and ran out of there to clear my head and take a walk.  As I walked I wondered, “Did this mean that the principle of wabi-sabi could even apply to…me?”

No, I decided; that was impossible.

I walked for a while, then stopped in a busy outdoor café for lunch.  I grabbed my French fries and soda at the counter and sat outside to read my book.

Within moments I heard shouting.

I looked up to see a disheveled-looking woman sitting alone at a table across from me.  She was shouting, “Naze!  Senso Nihon,” and she was staring straight at me.

I looked around—certain I was mistaken—but there was no denying it, she was directing her words to me.  I fidgeted and looked nervously around.  A man at the next table leaned in and said, “She asked why.  Why you make war on Japan?”


I didn’t make war on Japan!
I am a teenager!
I am not some 60-year-old dude with an army uniform; I am not the president!  I hate war, too!

I looked back to my book and tried to pretend the whole thing wasn’t happening.

She continued, “Naze.  Senso Nihon!  Senso Nihon!”

The woman then took a little cloth envelope out of one of her bags; she carefully unwrapped it.  It held two little tattered black-and-white photographs; one was a man, the other was a woman.

She held the photos above her head and started shouting again.  This time there was no ignoring her; she was sobbing as she shouted and every person in the restaurant was silent, staring at the two of us.

The man at the next table leaned in once again and said, “She asks why.  Why you kill her parents?”

That was it; I’d had enough.  I slammed my book closed and started to gather my belongings.  Who did this woman think I was?  I didn’t kill her parents!  She was crazy and that was all there was to it.  In the middle of grabbing my things I looked up and saw that she was crying so hard that snot was bubbling over her mouth as she shouted.  Then I accidentally caught her eye.

In her eyes I saw the confusion, the bewilderment, the fury.  I looked deeper and saw the outrage she felt as well as her inability to express it.  I saw the hurt and the anger and the despair and the deep, dark pit of her aloneness and I no longer saw a crazy woman; I saw me.

Everyone continued to stare; they were rapt with attention.  I set down my belongings and bowed to the woman.

She stopped shouting and became silent.

When I finally raised my head I said the only words that made sense: wabi-sabi.

Everyone remained silent; I reverently assembled my belongings, bowed to them all.  Everyone—young and old alike—bowed back.

I used to pray that wabi-sabi was real, and that it could somehow apply to me.  For a while I thought in order to be anything other than damaged I’d have to live in Japan for the rest of my life.

Now I know differently.

If there’s one thing I know for certain, it’s that wabi-sabi is real.  You are magnificent, and what makes you magnificent is everything you’ve previously believed is wrong with you.

I leave you with my deepest wish: that you recognize your beauty; that you know your magnificence; that you claim your wabi-sabi.

For more information about Cheryl Hunter, watch her TEDx Talk Wabi-sabi: The Magnificence of Imperfection, visit and read her take on Forbes on the 8 Essential Resilience Behaviors That Help You Recover and Thrive After Trauma and Suffering.

(For more about career success and growth, follow me on Twitter, and check out my Amazing Career Project, Career Success Training monthly program, and my book Breakdown, Breakthrough.)


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