Dad’s (half) Dozen

Dad’s (half) Dozen

My dad was a gentle giant – not physically, but figuratively speaking in his heart, spirit, and all-around “way.” There was nothing he couldn’t do. I lost him to Alzheimer’s a couple of years ago. It’s such a dreadful disease – slowly chipping away at your loved one until they’re only a shell of who they once were. You’re stuck grieving your loved one while they’re still living. In his slow ten-year fade, we found joy in going on long walks where we’d talk about all the things. I’d seek his business advice, and he would teach me through his stories.

My mom and dad were business owners – both farming and a retail jewelry business. They had a jewelry store in the city, and later moved it into our home, where dad designed and created custom fine jewelry, while mom took care of customers and the finances. I still smile today thinking about how these two enterprises couldn’t be more different from one another, yet they so perfectly reflected who he was: artist, builder, nature lover, enterpriser. He’d go from wrangling cows and horses by day to delivering his beautiful and intricate jewelry designs for customers in the evenings.

I was the youngest of three kids, and we all worked in the businesses, from chores of taking care of the farm animals and the property to stringing pearl necklaces and sorting gemstones. Like most kids, I didn’t realize it then, but I was absorbing so many lessons and shaping qualities that would later serve me well.

It’s in starting and running my own business that I think of my dad most today and feel his influence. He served as a huge impetus. I could write so much about him, but I’ll stick with my “Dad’s (half) Dozen” for now. It’s these qualities that made him such a beautiful human being, encouraging mentor, and humble, effective leader…for which I’m so grateful.

Dad’s (half) Dozen

  1. Possibility: The quote, “If you can dream it, you can do it” is attributed to Walt Disney, but it could just as easily be my dad. The man knew no limitations and believed that anything was possible. He started with nothing (in fact less than nothing) and built businesses, made an abundant life for his family, and taught us that we could do the same.
  2. Creativity: I so appreciate and value the creative human being my dad was – jewelry designer, landscape architect, master gardener, home and barn builder, and more. If he saw something he wanted or something he desired for his family, he went after it, most always doing the design and work himself.
  3. Knowledge: Building on his creativity and infinite resourcefulness, if there was something he wanted and didn’t know how to do it, he learned how and made it happen. It seemed like there was nothing he couldn’t do. I remember the time he put in a lake on our farm. A natural stream ran through our property, and he’d always wanted a lake. So, he drew up the plans for it, bought a backhoe and bulldozer, built it, then sold the equipment for more than he paid for it. And best of all, he stocked it with bass, brim, and catfish which made for hours of fun fishing from our paddleboat. My dad…
  4. Perseverance and Grit: Dad was ambitious and enterprising and knew that success came with pure hard (and smart) work and the ability to stick with it through all the ups and downs. I couple these two because it makes me think of Angela Duckworth’s book, “Grit: the power of passion and perseverance. It describes my dad to a “T.” In it, she defines the key characteristics of courage, conscientiousness, long-term goals and endurance, resilience, and excellence. Ok…if I could only have one of dad’s traits, it might be this one!
  5. Relationships: In life and work, my parents were all about relationships. “We do business with those who do business with us,” they would often say. They built a great following of customers with this mantra and generously cultivated loyalty. On our farm, we had a small but prolific orchard of pecan, apple, and peach trees, a vegetable garden, and several dozen rose bushes. Every week, dad would harvest whatever was in season, arrange vases and gift bags, and make their “Friday rounds” delivering gifts to clients, customers, and vendors. He was famous for it!
  6. Courage: One of my favorite quotes comes from John Wayne, who was adored by my father, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” This should have been on display in dad’s store; I remember him most for this kind of boldness. I’m sure he had plenty of doubts and was even terrified at times, but he did all the work, he trusted, and took the leap. And without ever saying a word, he taught me how to do the same.

Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, and coach, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 

Welcome to the Neutral Zone

Welcome to the Neutral Zone

We’ve been waiting. Waiting for 2020 to end and 2021 to finally arrive. But the turn of the calendar didn’t solve our problems – in fact, not much feels different at all. If anything, it feels like a continued or even an increased sense of unknown, uncertainty, and chaos.

Since March 2020, I’ve often felt like I’m in the middle of a dense forest with no obvious way out. My “way” has become one of putting one foot in front of the other, literally taking the next step, and then the next. Most days, this helps me feel like I’m making progress, albeit slow.

My consulting and executive coaching work focuses on helping leaders and their organizations navigate change and transition. These days, I lean on my own practices…a lot. One of my favorite sources is the work of William Bridges and the Bridges Transition Model. In his book, “Managing Transitions,” he presents the stages of transition: Letting Go, the Neutral Zone, and the New Beginning. Let’s take a look at the Neutral Zone he describes.

The Neutral Zone

“It’s a time when all the old clarities break down and everything is in flux. Things are up in the air. Nothing is a given anymore, and anything could happen. No one knows the answers: one person says one thing and someone else says something completely different.”

Sound familiar?

This Neutral Zone is a huge chasm of discomfort between an ending and a new beginning. We’re waiting – for a new president to take office, for spring to come, for a vaccine to be widely available, to return to school and work, to hug our friends and family, and to travel. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Telling yourself it’ll be worth the wait, but also feeling exhausted, isolated, and worried because time can feel like a finite resource.

Bridges continues, “One of the most difficult aspects of the Neutral Zone is that most people don’t understand it. They expect to be able to move straight from the old to the new. But this isn’t a trip from one side of the street to the other. It’s a journey from one identity to another, and that kind of journey takes some time. The attitudes, outlook, values, self-images, and ways of thinking that were functional in the past have to ‘die’ before people can be ready for life in the present.”

So, what do we do in this neutral zone? What do we do while we wait? How are you in this zone? Probably like you, one day I’m up, the next I’m down. Some days I’m optimistic, others, I can’t find that optimism no matter what I do or how hard I try.

But hang on…there’s hope!

As we’ve sustained in this abyss now for nearly 12 months, I’m learning to be with it and also recognize it for its gifts and opportunity. Somehow, it helps to know we’re all in it together…it literally feels like there’s not one person on the planet with a “ticket” to escape this time of pandemic, social and racial injustice and unrest, and political turmoil. We’re faced with doing our work and living our life the best we can. What feels most right to me is openness, kindness, compassion, flexibility.

“This is not the wasted time of meaningless waiting and confusion that it sometimes seems to be,” offers Bridges. “It’s a time when reorientation and redefinition must take place, and people need to understand that.”

Yes, it’s a time of anxiety and even chaos, but also it is a time when we’re more open to new ideas and opportunity. I remind myself daily that there’s power in this place. For me:

  • Priorities have become clearer, and I realize what’s most important in my life.
  • I can do with less. A lot less, in fact: money, material things, activities, work hustle…all the busyness
  • Losing what “was” is teaching me to exercise my creativity and look for new opportunities to cultivate and apply myself – my interests, skills, talent, and experience. Coupling this with new insight around my priorities is giving way to a new and more aligned path.
  • I’m reminded to celebrate the highs and the wins, even the smallest wins (especially those!)
  • I look for the lessons in the lows and greatest challenges.
  • I realize that my happiness and power come from within. I’m developing my spirituality practice to help me tap into that.

Since March, I’ve discovered that not only does my old way not work now, but I no longer even wish for that way. There are many things I quite like about this middle place and how the present is informing what I’m building. I’m learning to trust myself and my intuition and inner voice much more every day.

How are you finding ways to maximize and leverage your neutral zone?

Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 

Seismic Shifts From the Tried-and-True

Seismic Shifts From the Tried-and-True

A few weeks ago, I began the practice of “morning pages” again, and I feel the shifting of my internal tectonic plates.

For those unfamiliar with morning pages, the tool comes from Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way, where she guides readers on a path to freeing their internal creative self, and introduces this pivotal daily morning writing ritual.

The idea is that you awake and, first thing as you rise, free write for about 30 minutes, emptying yourself of thoughts, ideas, wonderings, and such. Keep the pen moving for 2–3 pages’ worth and whatever comes, comes. The purpose isn’t to produce anything spectacular, although sometimes you might! Simply write.

For the last ten years, I’ve been on again, off again with this practice. Every time I start back, I wonder why I ever stop. For in these pages over time, I’ve scoped out a yearlong sabbatical, launched a business, and discovered and claimed my identity as a gay woman. Shifting plates…

I think of morning pages as a writing meditation of sorts – I watch my thoughts and feelings flow from my pen onto paper as I release about events, experiences, and dreams, and with them, anger, fear, love, joy, loss, excitement. I let go, I imagine, I question, I leap. I’m safe here – free to be whoever I am in this space and be with whatever emerges.

A practice so simple, yet I feel its quake. This time, it’s revealing my inner creative, me claiming who I am as a writer. A professional writer. Not an amateur, or hobbyist, and my craft isn’t play or my sidekick – although the roar of resistance sometimes tries to convince me otherwise.

This time around while reading The Artist’s Way, a particular passage really stood out to me – the one where Cameron describes the shadow artist…

“Artists themselves, but ignorant of their true identity, shadow artists are to be found shadowing declared artists. They often choose shadow careers  – those close to the desired art, even parallel to it, but not the art itself.”

“Artists love other artists. Shadow artists often gravitate to their rightful tribe but cannot yet claim their birthright. They want to write. They want to paint. They want to act, make music, dance…but they are afraid to take themselves seriously.”

“In order to move from the realm of shadows into the light of creativity, shadow artists must learn to take themselves seriously.”

I thought, “Could this be me?”

As I process coming out of this creative closet, it feels like the fruition of a decades-long crescendo.

  • As a child, I grew up with arts and creativity. My older sister, Melinda, and I took piano lessons and played our entire childhood. I performed flute in the school band, sang in my church choir and school chorus, wrote for my school yearbook and newspaper, and took up photography as a hobby when I got a camera for high school graduation.
  • In college, I studied journalism and wrote and photographed for university publications. And although I didn’t plan it, my early work out of college took me down a professional path of nonprofit arts administration – my first job with a private music academy, and a dozen years later I became CEO of an urban arts council…truly my dream job.
  • When I left that post, I took a sabbatical for a few months to gain clarity on what would come next in my career. How did I spend the time? I painted for the first time in my life, I learned Spanish with my son, I took up guitar lessons again, and I started a blog as a new writing challenge – all arts-related pursuits. I’d spent so many years helping arts organizations and artists build capacity and develop resources, that I was drawn to finally explore my own creativity again. The space and playground of the sabbatical inspired me to start my own business focused on my passion of helping people and organizations transform.
  • So attracted to artists I am, that I fell in love with one, and in October this year, I married Lyn Koonce – a professional contemporary folk musician. Music fills our home, and I have a front row seat to her amazing work and recent new album launch.

As I reflect back on this trajectory through my recent morning pages, I can see how central art and creative expression have been to who I am and who I’m becoming.

If indeed I have been the shadow artist Cameron describes, I feel myself emerging from that and claiming my artist self. I’m a bit in awe of the revelations that come from this practice. Plates shifting…

Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation.







Horses, Dirt Bikes, & Slingshots: shaped by my childhood adventures

Horses, Dirt Bikes, & Slingshots: shaped by my childhood adventures

Growing up on a farm, my big brother, Lee, and I filled our days playing with cows and horses, riding our dirt bike, fishing tadpoles out of the creek, and making forts from hay bales that filled our big red barn…the structures soon to became territory for our slingshot battle. The fact that neither of us is blind today truly is a miracle.

As thrilling as all these activities were, they paled in comparison to the work we did in the treetops. If we were to account for our total childhood handy work, we’d have a considerable tree house village! We could make an entire lumber pile and 500 nails disappear in a day or two. In the summers, we practically lived in our rickety tree dwellings, carving our names in the thick branches and telling stories, all with our Daisy BB guns never far from our sides.

When I think about what matters most to me today – things like nature, adventure, creativity, and freedom – it takes me back to my childhood and how much those experiences have shaped who I’ve become. I’m thankful for parents who gave us this beautiful space and so much freedom to explore and play. When I consider all the risky things we did, it gives me proof that kids are surrounded by a pack of angels! I mean, in this photo, we’re about to jump a stack of concrete cinder blocks with a ramp built of plywood and 2X4s and I’m riding that dirt bike in shorts and am barefoot!

I feel these values alive in me today – mostly in my spirit and essence in how I show up in life and work, and in the particulars of my behaviors and decisions. For example, even though I live in the city now, I’m never too far from the woods, a stream, or a trail. My windows are open to feel the breeze and hear all the sounds of nature. Although my “farm” animals now are Hendrix and Fred, my Labrador and Beagle, I love a horseback ride whenever I get the chance. And three years ago, I bought a Triumph motorcycle. I love my riding and camping adventures. It’s through these experiences that I’m most fulfilled.

How have your roots shaped who you are today?




Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help  them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, and coach, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 

Practice Productive Procrastination

Practice Productive Procrastination

I’m sitting on my back porch today enjoying lunch surrounded by what sounds like a tropical aviary – ahhh, theporch benefits of a home office. I brought with me some rich lunchtime reading material, “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon, one of my all-time favorite books.

I randomly flip it open to the section “Practice Productive Procrastination.” I swear it’s true! (Just two days ago I posted a blog piece on being frustrated with my procrastination.) This, naturally, piqued my interest…giving me hope and maybe validation in support of a personally plaguing condition.

“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.” – Jessica Hische


Ok. I’m really not sure I can convince my husband that I should sit daydreaming all day long. “Trust me, baby, it’s good for my business.” Or go trail running and never come back. Or curl up in the hammock with my Labrador, Hendrix. “Bye honey. Have a good day! – hours pass – Back already? Wow, I’ve had a great day, how about you?” That would go over splendidly in my house.

Austin offers up “It’s the side projects that really take off. By side projects I mean the stuff that you thought was just messing around. Stuff that’s just play. That’s actually the good stuff. That’s when the magic happens.”

I completely relate.

When I started my business four years ago, that’s how it began. I just started doing the kind of work that I love to do – the kind of things I would do whether I got paid or not. And at first, I didn’t – offering my services pro bono to a key organization or two. Before long, my business pipeline was full (yes, with paying clients), and I’ve never looked back.

I’ve since sharpened the focus of my work, honing my niche and services more and more around what feels ideal and fun for me. For it’s in this space that I’m my most true, authentic self. And I am concerned far less with what others think, how ‘perfect’ the result is, or how ‘good I am.’ Here, I lead with natural instincts and tap into my skills, strengths, and passion. Isn’t that what play is?

This sounds so simple and straightforward. But its simplicity is its complexity. Every day, I have to be conscious and purposeful with this, otherwise I can get ‘wrapped’ quickly. Client priorities and deadlines build tension. I over-think and analyze things. I work and drive too hard.

tools of the trade for the Center for Arts and CraftsTo help combat that tendency, I have a few ‘structures’ and people who help hold me accountable to play, fun, and creativity…to procrastinating and finding joy in those side projects and hobbies. For example, I keep my guitar in my office. Part of my desk is covered with art supplies and funky objects that inspire me. I’ll spontaneously go for a run or workout. My son is a great instigator too and has been known to drag me out to play basketball mid-day.

It’s been said, “When I get busy, I get stupid.” Isn’t that the truth! When I find myself in overdrive, my performance actually goes down. I make careless mistakes. I send emails I wish I never sent.

Can you relate?

I was on a trail walk the other day with my daughter and she commented that it was boring. I smiled and thought to myself, “Exactly. It’s boring. That’s what is so beautiful about it.” For me, getting in the woods – and doing anything – is a complete escape. I take in the smells, sounds, textures, the peace. And it becomes a meditation…melting tensions, dissolving barriers, and creating flow. Boring? Bring it.

As Austin says, “Take time to mess around. Get lost. Wander. You never know where it’s going to lead you.”

So, let us hear about your wandering and wondering. How do you practice productive procrastination?


photo credit: pennstatenews via photopin cc