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« Comedy, Knobs & Next | The 7-Step Journey »

Ask the Expert: Laura Berman Fortgang

Laura Berman Fortgang, Now What?® CoachingThe “Ask the Expert” interview series features dynamic, inspiring leaders. This year, we’ve spoken with Judith Kolberg about change and Sue West about fresh starts. As we shift our focus this month, I’m thrilled to bring you a pioneer in the personal coaching field, Laura Berman Fortgang, to share her thoughts about next steps.

In 2006, I had the pleasure of hearing Laura present “Have A Business Breakthrough!” at the NAPO conference in Boston. She captivated the group with her energy and insights. My sincere gratitude and thanks goes to Laura for taking the time to join us. Laura’s interview moved me to tears because she spoke to the best of who we can become. Before we begin, here’s more about her.

Laura Berman Fortgang is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the personal coaching field and as the author of five books including Amazon bestseller, Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction and The Little Book On Meaning, which was a finalist for a Books for a Better Life Award alongside the Dalai Lama. Laura is a trusted media resource having appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and all the national morning shows. She is also a sought-after professional speaker. Laura is founder of Now What?® Coaching and was a founding member and early board member of the International Coach Federation. You can connect with Laura on Facebook, Twitter, website, or blog.


Linda Samuels:  You’re a pioneer in the coaching industry and expert on helping others to become their best selves. How can we successfully prepare for “next”?

Laura Berman Fortgang:  The best gift you can give yourself as you prepare for the ‘next’ is to reduce the stress and anxiety in your life as much as possible. Hearing your own inner promptings and recognizing opportunities that are around you are not likely to happen when you are in a state of alarm over your circumstances.

Build in time to exercise, to have some fun and to meditate or journal as ways to ease your body and mind into a state where you can be receptive to new ideas and build the courage to take action.


Linda:  Sometimes our end goals seem so far away that we intimidate ourselves into inaction. What are some of your favorite strategies for moving past stuck?

Laura:  Small and steady is the motto for getting unstuck. Reduce the action steps into very small, do-able pieces and re-ignite your engine for action by having small successes.

For example, take on one thing a day towards your dream or make a deal with yourself to make two phone calls a day to people who can shed light on your chosen direction or help you explore the feasibility of an idea you have.

Small starts adding up and before you know it, you’ll be past ‘stuck’.


Linda:  What if “next” isn’t obvious?

Laura:  It is often not obvious what is ‘next’. The key is to follow the crumbs.  Even if it seems scattered and unfocused at the start, follow every lead and every whim until traction begins to occur or until your excitement in one area or another starts to build. 

Observe where things start falling into place and pursue that path. It’s taking you to your ‘next’ (or some variation thereof.)


Linda:  What has been your most surprising discovery about figuring out “next”?

Laura:  The most surprising thing is that if you start thinking that you are crazy and everyone is telling you so because of what you are considering as a next step, you must understand that you have found ‘IT’. That idea, inkling, nudging or longing is exactly the one you need to be pursuing. 

Many will run.  Only the brave will stay the course and be happier for it!


Linda:  What has been your biggest personal challenge around taking the next step?

Laura:  For me, the biggest personal challenge has been reconciling that the past is not to be repeated but rather to be rolled into what’s coming next. In other words, I have been slow to accept when it’s been time to move on. 


Linda:  Is there anything you’d like to share that I haven’t asked?

Laura:  I would ask:  What is the most significant tool you use to help people find their next step?

Surprisingly for many, it is not their resume. To many a client’s surprise and disappointment, I don’t look at someone’s resume when we begin the process of learning about them.  The reason for that is that it tells me only the chronological, logical progression of your career. It does not tell me if you are using all you have available to you. I know you are not, or you would not be calling me.

The most important tool I use is someone’s life story. I use a very specific way of extracting someone’s life history and then we analyze it together for specific clues to what would make the most satisfying future direction. 

A resume is linear and logical. A life story is not. And it is there that the rich information waits for the exploration of what’s next.  It’s very exciting.


Thank you, Laura for your generosity and insights about next steps. There are so many wonderful ideas here. Your thoughts about preparing the canvas or self so that you can be ready, rested, and open to next resonated with me, as did your “follow the crumbs” idea when next isn’t obvious. Perhaps more than anything, though, your last point about discovering next by exploring one’s life story rather than resume, really spoke to my core. Our stories reveal patterns, strengths, and passions.

I invite all of you to join Laura and me to continue the conversation. We’d love to hear your thoughts about next steps, getting unstuck, or your discoveries. What are you thinking about?

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Reader Comments (21)

WOW! Thank you Linda and Laura. First to Linda for bringing Laura to us! I was at that conference but did not have the pleasure of hearing you speak. Laura, I am a fan! so much of what you said spoke to me I don't know where to begin. I especially loved the piece about "your story" being what leads you to what's next. That could not be more true for me. Your story is what makes you you! what makes you three dimentional and allows you to truly bring your gifts to the table. I have often been stuck as to what is next or to lead by fear -- either forward or backward -- but have found that if I break it down and do one step at a time the path is naturally laid out for me. So inspiring!

March 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie Josel

"Follow the crumbs"..I love that like crazy!
I remember someone once told me, when you are seeking God's will, you have to "untie the boat", get out on the water...and follow the crumbs!
I find the challenge is building that time in to just sit-meditate, listen, pray..that's a "tough-y"
Thank you for this inspiration today Laura & Linda!

March 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJaneen Violante

Linda, thank you for introducing me to another wonderfully wise woman!

The parts that really stood out for me were:

1) "... follow every lead and every whim until traction begins to occur or until your excitement in one area or another starts to build.

Observe where things start falling into place and pursue that path. It’s taking you to your ‘next’ (or some variation thereof.)"

I tend to be a very linear "do this, then that" type of person, yet some of my most interesting projects have been the result of following a random flash of inspiration.

2) "Reduce the action steps into very small, do-able pieces and re-ignite your engine for action by having small successes."

Although this is helpful to get moving towards "next" it also forces you to take it slow and not let a new idea take over your time. Slow and steady gives you a chance to make sure it's actually a good idea before you invest too much time, energy, and possibly money, into it.

March 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

What's to add? A chock-full of wisdom, experience, and plain common sense. Thank you both!
I especially appreciate the truth about our life's story vs our resume. It's in the nooks and crannies of our history that we can find the answers.
Onwards . . . following the crumbs:-)

March 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterYota Schneider

How powerful to prepare with reducing stress and anxiety! We are often unable to listen to inner promptings because of this. It is about this preparation that we become the best in baby steps.

Thank you Linda and Laura for sharing with all of us!

March 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

Thank you Linda for inviting me to join in this awesome conversation!

What a plethora of inspiration and motivational thoughts to chew on! I recently viewed Laura's video @92nd St. Y that Linda posted on FB, and I'm still gleaning from the "stop the shouldings!" Laura's acting career certainly showed off her candor on stage and she continues to captivate us with such wise advise today.

The takeaways are rich because she de-mystifies the fears each and every one of us experience as we explore our own individual "nexts." This process is very much the same as the organizing techniques we provide for our clients. Taking one step at a time, not being ruled by old thinking, open to change and allowing fresh ideas to marinate, are all effective strategies. But my all time favorite is Laura's ability to recgonize a person's "life story "as their most honest resume of all. For me, I'm all about our life stories because that's who we ultimately are at our core. Our emotional journery paints the real picture; our failures and successes, and life lessons can never be delineated on a piece of paper.

March 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Borg

What an awesome group! It's wonderful to "hear" all of your voices and love what you've contributed to the conversation.

@Leslie- And what a path your leading...or should I say, trailblazing!

@Janeen- Finding that quiet time can be challenging, but so essential.

@Janet- Love your phrase and insights around "random flash of inspiration." Fabulous!

@Yota- Here's to the "nooks and crannies of our history." Know you're tuned into the crumbs and beyond.

@Ellen- So glad you highlighted the preparation phase that Laura spoke about. Allowing in the fun and reducing the stress, enables us to more easily identify the possibilities for next.

@Nancy- There are riches in our life stories. Love to read between those lines looking for strengths, patterns, passions, and challenges.

March 19, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Linda - As always, you have brought us a gem of a person and professional who has shared with us openly, authentically and in an emotionally intelligent manner. Bravo to you for being such a great interviewer and blogger!

Laura - I have not yet had the pleasure of hearing you speak in person, but I look forward to that opportunity. You and I have so much in common that it is quite amazing (and I will not go into it all here, but suffice to say that I am also a performer and now a coach, author and speaker, and I, too, do characters and skits on stage to empower participants -- I can't wait to "meet" Life Coach Lurlene). All of the points you made above are fantastic, but I particularly loved how you advise people to reduce the stress and anxiety as much as possible before undertaking a big change or "next" step. Such important advice, and often overlooked by many! As we get ready for a big next step, the urge is to stress out over it and whip ourselves into a frenzy. But approaching it in as much of a calm, relaxed state as possible will serve us so much better. That, and letting the cookies crumble and following the crumbs... Love that! Hope our paths cross in person soon! Thanks for your wonderful insight.

March 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Montanaro

Wow! I feel so privileged to be part of the conversation here as Laura was one
of the few key luminaries that inspired my early days as a Success Coach, &
when she speaks I always pay attention as she brings so much value to the table.
Laura has such a beautiful way of distilling & clarifying subjects so not only do we
grasp them, but the 'next' appears in a logical way. The 'life story' concept is such a revelation, which seems to have resonated with many here; such a great little reminder that our lives are at times random & abstract because of the emotional beings we are & certainly do not follow a straight line syntax. I can only reflect on my own life story, & recall the impact of Laura's influence on my coaching career over many years. I still remain respectfully in awe. Love to both Linda & Laura for presenting such inspiration to us all today

March 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGrant Willcox

@Lisa- How cool that you and Laura have so much in common. You left "dynamos" off the list, but I'm happy to add that to the similarities. Reducing the frenzy and increasing the calm certainly helps us be more receptive and creative when it comes to next. We don't always think about this and I love the fact that it's resonated with many here.

@Grant- Wonderful to hear that Laura has been such a strong influence in your life, especially on your path as a Success Coach. One of things that makes Laura so special is exactly what you've described. She has a way of getting to the essence of the matter with wonderful clarity so that we understand and are able to move forward. Even in this short interview, her clarity is evident.

Feeling so lucky to have you both here with us to share. Thank you for taking the time to join the conversation.

March 20, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Thank you, Linda, for this inspiring interview with Laura. Having read all the other comments I don't have anything new to add to the conversation. I loved reading this interview and agree that a person's story is most telling - rather than their resume..

March 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

Thank you, Linda, for introducing me to this amazing woman. She has opened my eyes to a new way of looking at "next". Wish I had more to bring to the conversation today. I am still soaking up all the amazing insights shared by Laura, you and everyone else that has joined in the conversation. I just wanted to let you know how much this topic resonated with me today. Thank you, again.

"The best gift you can give yourself as you prepare for the ‘next’ is to reduce the stress and anxiety in your life as much as possible."

Great advice ... sometimes my stress skyrockets because I have too many "nexts." Once stress is under control, I still see all the "nexts," but I see them more clearly and I can put them in their proper place (in my head and on my schedule).

March 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDeb Lee

That resonated with me, too, Deb!

I was at that Conference in Boston and had the pleasure of hearing Laura. I so appreciate the insights she shared with you (and us), Linda.

The bread crumbs I've been following these days are the fluttering butterflies I feel in my belly when an opportunity knocks that feels scary! Our story is always unfolding. I want to stretch mine out and enjoy it!

March 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanine Sarna-Jones

It's so great to "hear" all of your voices. You've each added so much to the conversation for all of us to enjoy and learn from.

@Diane- Happy to know that you found the interview inspiring. Like you, it was the idea of focusing on one's life story instead of the resume that really hit home.

@Peggy- Great to introduce you to Laura. She is amazing. So direct and clear in her ideas. Knowing how many things you're juggling these days, I can understand why you're feeling especially connected to this conversation about "next."

@Deb- No question that stress can create havoc with our thinking and well-being. Love the distinction you made that when you reduce the stress, which then increases your clarity, you're able to put those "nexts" into their proper places in your head or calendar.

@Janine- Awesome that you were at the Boston conference too. Loved that one! Based on our last conversation, I know that you're doing an awesome job following those bread crumbs and butterflies....stretching, growing, and enjoying. You go Girl!

March 20, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Wonderful article and very encouraging! I too follow the strategy of breaking large tasks into small doable ones to complete my goals. Before you know it you're on your way to achieving success! Thanks for sharing this interview!

March 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Heide

Thank you everyone for the lively conversation and the kind words. It's heart-warming.

For those that asked, you can meet Life Coach Lurlene at or on Facebook Life Coach Lurlene (watch the spelling!)

I look forward to hearing from you as Laura or Lurlene!

Best to you all

March 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Berman Fortgang

Linda, as always thanks for bringing these insightful individuals to my attention.

I am a member of the ICF and am in the process of trying to figure out where I want to go next with coaching - there are SO many options. In light of this, I really appreciated Laura's words,

"Even if it seems scattered and unfocused at the start, follow every lead and every whim until traction begins to occur or until your excitement in one area or another starts to build.

Observe where things start falling into place and pursue that path. It’s taking you to your ‘next’ (or some variation thereof.)"

I'm in the process of doing just this and it is nice to have the reinforcement. Thanks Laura!


March 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Sharb

@Laura- Glad you're feeling the love from this special community. Your words of wisdom and clarity of message are resonating big time with us. You are inspiring and encouraging. We're so grateful. Thank you for giving us yet another way to connect with you via LIfe Coach Lurlene.

@Suzanne- Wonderful to have you with us. Yes...breaking things down to those small, doable steps help in enabling us to consistently move ahead. It's a great strategy.

@Andrea- You're most welcome. I love doing this interview series and having conversations that extend beyond. How wonderful that this particular conversation with Laura is supporting you where you are right now with "next." With all the tools, skills, and wisdom you have, I know you will find "it."

March 21, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Loved the point about traction being your guide. Most important was to listen to our inner voices/instincts/wisdom. Whatever we call it, that's the one true thing. But how often do we not hear the voice? Or hear it, yet not accept what we know is true. That's my take away; calm down, relax and listen. Love this.

March 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSue West

Sue- It's so enjoyable to read which ideas speak to each person. I love how you've pulled out yours and highlighted it for us to think about again. Allowing that calm space to relax, trust and listen to our inner wisdom can be a wonderful guide for figuring out next. Your question, " often do we NOT hear the voice?" is so true. We either don't allow the quiet to hear it or don't trust ourselves enough to give it credence. How marvelous, though, when DO listen and have the confidence to act!

March 23, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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