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« Craving Balance | The Art of Organizing »
Tuesday
Nov272012

Ask the Expert: Denslow Brown

Denslow Brown, Organizer & CoachInspiring conversations continue with the “Ask the Expert” feature on The Other Side of Organized blog. We’ve spoken about possibilities with DeeAnne White, success with Lori Deschene, enlisting help with Janet Barclay, motivation with Dr. Shannon Reece, time management with Julie Morgenstern, clutter with Lorie Marrero, letting go with Geralin Thomas, next steps with Yota Schneider, and change with John Ryan. As we shift our focus this month, I’m thrilled to bring you the fabulous coach, organizer, speaker, and trainer, Denslow Brown to share her wisdom about creating a life that fits.

Denslow and I met almost 20 years ago through our professional organizing associations, NAPO and ICD. She is an industry leader and teacher who I greatly admire for her wisdom, unique perspectives, and ability to clearly communicate. I am honored to have her as my mentor and friend. My deepest thanks and gratitude goes to her for taking the time to join us. Before we begin, here’s more about Denslow.

Denslow Brown, CPO, CPO-CD, SCAC, MCC is the only person in the organizing and coaching professions with the highest credentials in both fields, attesting to her decades of experience, training, leadership, and pioneering efforts in these areas. She has also developed a specialty working with individuals with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder, also known as AD/HD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.) In addition to working with those who want organizing and life-design support, she mentors and trains many organizing and coaching professionals. She has been an organizer since 1974. Denslow is the founder and Director of Training of the Coach Approach for OrganizersTM. You can connect with Denslow on Facebook, Linkedin, or training and coaching websites.

 

Linda:  You’re an expert on helping others create a life that fits. What are some of the essential ingredients to incorporate into the mix?

Denslow:  Self-knowledge is the key to creating a life that fits.  You can’t know what your own incredible life could look like if you don’t know your strengths, values, needs, roles, passions, goals and preferences – as well as specific challenges (health issues, modality sensitivities, etc.)

 

Linda:  It’s likely that we’ll make mistakes as we design a life that fits. What is the value in those challenges?

Denslow:  Mistakes will be made on our way to a life that fits – it’s inevitable.  It helps, of course, to use those mistakes as learning opportunities.  Say, for example, you make a choice to enter a profession or take a certain job only to discover that it’s a terrible fit.  Think back to your initial thinking and assumptions.  What do you understand now that you didn’t before?  Was the choice of what kind of work to go into wrong or was the specific situation you found yourself in wrong in its own unique ways? In retrospect, could you have defined or shaped your company, job or industry differently (to suit you)?  Were you somehow naïve in your assumptions going in?  What have you learned about yourself?  Our mistakes offer us rich data for the all-important self-knowledge picture if we’re willing to deconstruct them.

 

Linda:  What becomes possible when we focus on our strengths, needs and values?

Denslow:  Focusing on strengths allows you to contribute the best of yourself.  You simply feel better about who you are in the world when you operate out of your strengths.  You’re more likely to feel that your day went well.  You also are in a better position to be appreciated and compensated when you offer your strengths (your best) to a workplace, group or family (generally speaking).

Focusing on and meeting your needs (what you need in terms of basic survival and well-being) offers the emotional freedom that comes from a sense of security.  Ignoring your own needs is draining and upsetting which undermines health and healthy relationships. 

Focusing on your values (what you need to feel fulfilled) enriches life and gives it meaning.  When we live our values we feel we are who we were meant to be.  The person who values family spends time with family.  The person who values beauty makes art, works in the garden or decorates her home.

 

Linda:  Sometimes we lack clarity.  How do we identify what is most important?

Denslow:  Making time to develop broad self-knowledge is important.  Any really wonderful or challenging experience is worth reflection.  Talk it over with a friend, write or mind-map about it, or mull it over when walking or driving (safely, please). What does that experience tell you about who you are, what your strengths are and what you value and/or need?

 

Linda:  What has been your biggest personal challenge around creating a life that brought out the best of who you are?

Denslow:  My biggest challenge was learning to accommodate my late-diagnosed inattentive ADD which came to the forefront when I was in my late 30’s when I entered that long pre-menopausal period when hormone (specifically estrogen) support is less consistent for women.  Until then, my intelligence, cheerful nature, organizing skills and willingness to make some unconventional choices meant that my ADD symptoms weren’t as problematic or noticeable as they could have been.  For example, I was self-employed and a renter – and I’d chosen not to have children -- so my life seemed pretty manageable. 

But with a new home (which I designed and helped build over 6 years) and the lack of consistent hormone support, my ADD symptoms became really problematic.  I needed to identify my real priorities (values, needs), take better care of myself (sleep, yoga, scheduling), and then identify and hold my boundaries. 

These were big shifts and they happened over time.  To create my life that fits I needed to learn about ADD.  The support of an ADD coach was really important in helping me understand how ADD shows up in my life specifically.  There was a lot of humorous but negative self-talk which I had been pretty unaware of.  I learned to replace it with more positive and accurate statements.  I had no idea how those muttered comments could undermine my days. I also needed to learn to leverage my strengths more.  Like many others, I didn’t see all of my strengths, as they seemed natural to me.  That leveraging of strengths was huge.

Ten years later I again worked with a coach to redesign my organizing and coaching business.  This time we really looked at the whole picture: strengths, values, needs, roles, passions, goals and preferences, as well as limits and boundaries.  Through a process of elimination and experimentation I determined that teaching coaching skills to organizers was the next stage of life work for me.  I love to teach and I love organizers and the work they do in the world.  I passionately believe training in coaching and ADD are critical to the organizing industry, which I’ve long been devoted to.  I’m still self-employed so I have a lot of say about my “working conditions.” I have considerable administrative assistance.  I work with training partners, which helps my focus and provides back up.  All these choices are ADD supportive.  And because I train by phone I can live in the beautiful countryside with lots of land, privacy, animals and community. 

Recently my life partner had a terrible illness.  I wondered, as her unconscious body worked through the decision to live or die, whether we or I would want to stay in our home and life – and if I would want to continue my work.  Now that we are a year into her recovery, I am excited to realize that the life we’d created for ourselves and the work life I’d created for myself, still excited us.  The only change was a much deeper gratitude for a life that fits!

Thank you, Denslow for sharing both your life philosophy and personal journey with us. Your ideas and life are a testament to the fact that by searching for self-knowledge, enlisting the right kind of support, focusing on one’s strengths, passions, values, and needs, you truly can flourish and design a life that fits. I invite all of you to join Denslow and me as we continue the conversation. Which ideas resonate with you? 

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Reader Comments (31)

I love Denslow. Thank you for sharing your passion and intelligence with us.

November 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanine Sarna-Jones

Powerful words! Thanks Linda for this fabulous interview series, and your thought-provoking questions.

And thank you, Denslow, for giving us a glimpse into your personal and professional life, and the choices you've made that have defined you. I agree that self-knowledge (which I tend to call self-awareness) is vitally important to living a life that is meaningful, authentic and rich. And you demonstrated and shared how you used self-knowledge to help yourself through some challenging situations, as well as create a business and life that matches your strengths. Bravo! My hat's off to you. You are a credit to the organizing and coaching industry.

And on a personal note, I am so happy that your partner is in recovery and you have more precious time together!

November 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Montanaro

@Janine- Happy to know another Denslow fan. So glad you joined us.

@Lisa- Thanks so much for stopping by and for your positive words. I'm thrilled that you are enjoying the "Ask the Expert" series. It's been a wonderful talking with industry leaders. As you said, Denslow is living proof that she practices what she teaches. Completely inspiring.

November 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Lisa -- thanks for your warm statement of support for my interview with Linda. (She knows how to bring the real story out of a person.) It means a lot to hear from you in this way and I appreciate it.

Janine -- Thanks for your LOVE! Very sweet of you and I'm sending it back your way!

November 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDenslow Brown

Thanks for giving us the opportunity to learn more about Denslow, Linda, and for sharing your story with us, Denslow - I always appreciate opportunities to benefit from your wisdom. I'm so sorry for the challenges you and your partner have endured - what a powerful testament to the importance of creating a life that fits!

November 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSue Becker

What a powerful personal story attesting to strengths, needs and values! I concur that having clarity about all these areas helps us design and live our best life. It is creating these awarenesses that brings these aspects forward. I am grateful for your teaching skills too as a long time fan and class member in Coach Approach.

November 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

@Sue B.- You're most welcome. Happy to have you with us and glad you enjoyed Denslow's insights and story.

@Ellen- As a fellow Coach Approach student, I understand your comment about being grateful for Denslow's teaching. She is a skilled communicator and stretches all of us to be more, learn more, and do more. Wonderful as always to have you join the conversation.

November 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

To our wonderful Linda, I must say thank you. This series has been so enlightening and enriching. It's not only that you have brought all these people front and center, but it is what you personally have been able to dissect from them. You ask such powerful questions and the answers show.

To the amazing Denslow. Your words so resonated with me. 10 years ago when I was recovering from a serious illness and my son was diagnosed with his special needs, I also needed to "build a life that fits". What makes it so special and unique is that we get to reexamine and reinvent all the time. It truly is an organic process. Life takes you one way and you might be going another so we need to stop, breathe, reasses, gather our inner resources and redirect. Now isn't that what we teach our clients to do? PS: thank you for your bravery in telling your partner's story. Wishing her only good health.

November 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie Josel

Linda, your questions are always so well conceived, sensitive and helpful to the process of facilitating your experts to provide meaningful answers. Denslow, thank you for so candidly sharing your journey and wisdom in a very complex topic. Your ideas resonate with me, as I’m sure with many others. We all appreciate your time to be a part of this series.

November 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Samuels

Linda, I just love how you're bringing this circle of experts to us. The people & your topic choices are relevant and inspiring, and your questions are thought provoking.

Denslow, it's interesting to read how a life change/transition can have us review our definition of what "fits." Your questions to ask ourselves when we think we've made a "mistake," are so useful to continue on our self-knowledge journey and to creating a life that fits.

Thank you both, for all you do.

November 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSue West

How wonderful to hear from each of you.

@Leslie- Thank you for your words of support. I especially appreciate that you liked the questions. Denslow is a master at asking the right questions, and so concisely. You spoke about reinventing, assessing and keeping that process organic to create a life that fits. It's wonderful how you faced your challenges to allow this to happen.

@Steve- Love that you stopped by to join the conversation. I see that you picked up on how fabulous Denslow is at being direct and insightful. Life is certainly a journey...a beautiful one at that. So happy you and I are on this road together.

@Sue W.- Beautiful phrase, "circle of experts." Thank you for that. The idea of "what fits" evolves as we grow. If we're willing to do the work, we have the opportunity to use the best of who we are.

November 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Focusing on strength takes away the paralyzing bite of your weaknesses. Add to that focus and know how and there's nothing you can't do.

Great post! :)

November 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHaim @ IQTELL

Thank you, Linda, for bringing these interviews to all of us, and thank you, Denslow, for sharing your story. All my best to everyone for the new year!

November 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLorie Marrero

@Haim- Strength, focus, know how...a winning combo!

@Lorie- You're welcome, Lorie. Love sharing these interviews with insights from amazing industry leaders like Denslow and yourself.

For those that missed Lorie's interview about clutter, here's the link: http://theothersideoforganized.com/blog/2012/5/22/ask-the-expert-lorie-marrero.html

Great that you both stopped by to join in the conversation. Always great to hear from you.

November 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Linda and Denslow;
What captured my thoughts during this interview is that finding the right pathway is a process...a 'journey.' However, for some, the timing required to finding 'a life that fits,' by one's self is overwhelming. The need to find a 'short cut' becomes a true survival need. I'm referring to those many people who's lives have been heavily impacted by our poor economy and/or hurricane Sandy, or other types of loss. Some will need to completely start over! Perhaps what occurred to me while reading through your interview, is that for those who's lives are in crisis (and there are so many), working with a Coach may just be a life-line...the 'short cut' pathway toward achieving better clarification and self-awareness, as well as having someone to provide guidance in exploring valuable options that will lead to a faster recovery - a 'life that fits.' Thank you both for this thought provoking interview. Linda for asking such profound questions, and Denslow for always being yourself...open and real! GREAT thought-food for the soul.

November 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSheila Delson

Denslow is seen as a pillar in the PO community. Guess what? She actually is a pillar! In working with her for 7 years in developing her dream that is now Coach Approach I have gotten to see how she creates a Life that Fits. She unapologetically lives her life and makes choices based on what is most important to her. And we all get to benefit from this. A real model for all of us with ADD and without.
Thanks, Denslow and thanks Linda!

November 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCameron Gott

Linda,

I so appreciate your generosity in sharing your enlightening conversations with these amazing individuals.

Denslow,

Thank you for who you are and for all of the gifts you have given to the world of professional organizing, especially for encouraging organizers to incorporate coaching into their work. I especially appreciated the gift of a reminder in the above post of just how many "ingredients" factor into the creation of a life that fits. There is no magic one ingredient potion.

Hugs to you both!

Andrea

November 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Sharb

Such a wonderful set of insights from Denslow here, & surely a totally personal revelation about the core facets behind creating a life that fits. One of my top take-away's from the interview was the importance of zeroing in on your strengths needs & values to create a core alignment & direction for an authentic life that fits. As a Success Coach, for me it's one of the essential elements I feel to maintaining an empowered life, & having a self 'check-in" every now & then to ensure my self-ecology is where it needs to be.

Thank you Denslow for sharing so many powerful concepts with us here, & a big virtual hug to Linda for being the caring & sharing luminary that she always is for bringing such value to our lives yet again.

November 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGrant Willcox

What a wonderful group! You're each insightful and have added your special wisdom to this conversation. Thank you for being here and for your uplifting words of encouragement.

@Sheila- Love the idea of coaching being that "life-line" in times of change and challenge. Especially when going through life transitions or extremes, having the guidance by the right person can be the key to creating a "life that fits."

@Cam- Denslow lives what she teaches and inspires us all. It's fabulous that you get to work with her every day.

@Andrea- Loving your positive words and hugs. I see that the idea of many "ingredients" for designing a life resonated with you. No one potion, no single ingredient.

@Grant- How often do you do a "self check-in?" I love that idea. I have some daily mini ones, do a more extended version each quarter with the change of seasons, and a bigger review at the year end. Appreciate the virtual hug...here's one for you.

November 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Linda and Denslow, Great interview and wonderful insights!

November 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather Burke

Heather- Happy that you stopped by with us. Thank you for your kind words. Did one thing in particular resonate with you?

November 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Reading this brought to mind my own path to discovering my true passions and strengths, which I touched upon in a post called If I Only Knew..."

It's wonderful when all the pieces fall into place.

Thank you, Denslow, for sharing your wisdom, and Linda, for connecting me and your other readers with so many experts.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Oh my -- what a wealth of loving comments! Thanks to each one of you.

Many are good friends and I appreciate you showing up here, dear ones.

So nice to "meet" Steve who I feel I know as Linda speaks so eloquently of her loving family when she and I grab our visit time at conferences. Nice, too, to have the participation of Haim and Grant -- thanks for chiming in and good to be introduced to you, too, in this way.

Leslie, Lorie, Heather, Sue. So good to see your names and so kind of you to take the time to reconnect through Linda's thoughtful blog.

And Sheila -- your insights about the value of coaching for people in deeply stressful transitions is well said. FYI, there are teams of coaches who go out to do that work when disaster hits and many more who take on one or more of those clients gratis when the dust starts to settle. It's a generous profession.

Not to be facetious or in any way discount a true crisis like Sandy, but I like to reach out with a free coaching session or two when freinds/colleagues join our national NAPO or ICD boards. Those responsibilities tend to up-end the life and business of the individuals and their families for their whole term which sometimes lasts for many years!

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDenslow

At a time when the word "expert" is being uttered way too easily, it's truly refreshing and utterly gratifying to read through this conversation between the two of you! Thank you both for this opportunity!
It's evident that you have taken all that you are and have experienced to not only create the life that fits but also share your knowledge with those who need you, Denslow.

Life presents all of us with numerous opportunities to learn, grow and change. Many choose to wish they were someone else and live someone else's life. It takes courage to ground ourselves in our reality and from there gather the strength and inspiration we need to create our own magic.

Introspection, self-knowledge, acceptance, creativity, inspired choice, adaptability, bounce-abiility, self-respect; these are your gifts, arent' they?

Thank you Denslow and Linda! A truly inspiring conversation!
Blessings.
Yota

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYota Schneider

I'm grateful that you took the time to share in this conversation. You're all wonderful.

@Janet- Just read your post, "If I Only Knew..." about your experience discovering your path. It's incredible what can transpire when we take the time to reflect, dream, and future project. Your story is inspiring and a testament to the power of imagining.

@Denslow- Feeling all your warmth and wisdom shining through. How lucky we all are to have you in our lives. Thank you for being part of this community.

@Yota- "Courage" is the operative word choice. It DOES take strength to create "our own magic." We have to invest in knowing ourselves, taking chances, thinking outside the box, and listening carefully to our intuition. Sometimes it's hard to decipher that voice through all the external noise. But when we witness someone that has been successful in living their life to their fullest, truest self, it's awe-inspiring.

December 2, 2012 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Wow, Linda your blog & your "Ask the Expert" interviews are exceptional. You ask important, thought provoking, inspirational questions.

Denslow, thanks for sharing your wisdom, insights, kindness, passion & generosity. When you stated that self-knowledge is the key to creating "a life that fits," this statement really resonated with me. It gave me pause & ask myself some important questions. Lucky to have been given the gift of this blog tonight.

To live an authentic life takes guts, but for some it is the only life they know. Linda & Denslow thank you for sharing your authentic lives with us.

December 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRandi Lyman

Randi- It's wonderful that you joined the conversation. Your uplifting words of encouragement are greatly appreciated. I'm so happy that this dialogue encouraged you to pause and ask some key questions. Sometimes we don't know the questions to ask. Sometimes we don't afford ourselves that pause to reflect. Sometimes we're just not ready to dig deeper. You are thoughtful and compassionate. I know you will find your answers. Wishing you all the best on your journey my friend.

December 4, 2012 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Dear Linda and Denslow.

What a powerful meeting and I absolutely love the interview.
I have learned so much from both of you and creating a life that fits is all I'm striving currently, so this interview comes as a holiday gift to me.
Thank you so much for always bringing wonderful guests!
Helena

December 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHelena Alkhas

Helena- Lovely as always to "hear" your voice. Thank you being part of this wonderful community of sharers and conversationalists. You share your gifts with us all the time. I'm so happy to know that the interview with Denslow felt like a "gift" to you. Continue to do what you're doing...questioning, evaluating, searching, learning, and pausing. I know you will design a life that is just right for you. Safe and happy travels. Enjoy the time with your family!

December 6, 2012 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Great interview. Your blogs are always so helpful. Very candid interview - appreciate the insight from Denslow. Always learn something new from her. Thank you.

April 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTheresa Finnigin

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