The Difference between Me and Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer

Romeo in his zen-mind
The Olson family dog after eating a half pan of something Erika baked....not for him!

The Difference between Me and Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer

If you are a fan of Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer, you know that while he is world-famous as a dog trainer, he is actually a boundary teacher. He actually uses the word “boundary” on his website more than I use it on mine. If you don’t believe me, check out

I love watching Cesar’s show. I never tire of watching him teach boundaries to humans, again and again. Teaching boundary skills is so darn rewarding because like Cesar, I see results immediately. Like Cesar, I empower humans to achieve balance in their lives.

Of course, teaching boundaries to humans interacting with dogs is different from teaching humans how to use boundaries with other humans.

#1- Dogs go into a calm, submissive state when you set boundaries with them appropriately. Unfortunately, humans do not. In fact, when you set boundaries with humans, sometimes they have a fit. The emotional storm can vary in intensity. No need to stand there and watch the storm! However, it is essential that you not allow your boundaries to be manipulated or moved based on emotions.

#2- No leash. Sorry, I don’t have any kind of leash to give you to when you set boundaries with a human. But in a three-hour workshop, I can equip you with every skill you will need to set boundaries effectively with people.

#3-I don’t recommend giving humans a hug right after you set a boundary with them. Try giving a hug to a teenager right after you said No to something and you’ll find out what I mean. Humans get confused and think you’re apologizing for having a boundary. They imagine that you don’t really intend to stick to your boundary.

#4- While you may have one dog or several dogs, most of us have lots and lots of human relationships.

It’s very stressful to have a dog that is out of control. The same is true when we don’t use our boundaries to manage relationships with other people. The stress can be overwhelming. But, when you are ready, you can find balance. When you learn the techniques and use the tools, you will feel relief.

Did you visit Cesar’s site? Were you surprised to see success stories about parenting and overcoming disabilities? It can be hard to see all the invisible ways that boundaries are at work in our lives and in our jobs. Learning how to use your boundaries to take care of you in any demanding situation will change your life for the better.

Are you ready to learn more? Come to a workshop. We use my book, Transform Your Boundaries, and I walk you through this process.

Upcoming Open Workshops:

This workshop is approved for continuing education credits for social workers, marriage and family therapists, and mental health counselors.
CEUs have just been granted for Oregon… see you there soon.

Moving People Forward with Kate

I’m doing Transform Your Boundaries® Workshops on the road, training a variety of people in professions working intensively with people. This interview is with Kate Grossman McVay, who I believe is truly masterful at transforming organizations and communities by moving people forward together. I am honored to say she is my friend. When I met her many years ago, she had stepped in to clean up a huge mess in an organization. She won me over with her diligence, teamwork, ability to see a better future, and honesty.

Sarri: Share a little bit about the breadth of your work.

Kate: I have been engaged in work with youth and families for almost 30 years.  I began my career at a Community Center in Chicago, working in an immigrant community to develop youth leadership and job training programs.  When I came to Seattle in the 1990s, I became involved in developing and operating residential programs for homeless youth. For the last 12 years, I have worked for the University of Washington’s Northwest Institute for Children and Families and the Casey Foundation, doing program evaluation and public policy analysis around issues relating to children and families.

Sarri: You now live on Whidbey Island with your husband Pat. How old is your son?
Kate: My son Reilly is 11 years old and entering middle school in the fall.

How long have you been the Executive Director of Mother Mentors?

I have been the Director of Mother Mentors of Whidbey Island since January of 2014.

What is it about Mother Mentors that attracted you to work with them?

I really love the idea of neighbors helping neighbors as opposed to an “expert” telling someone what to do, or in our case, how to parent.

If you could look back to your younger self and give her advice, what would you tell her (knowing what you know now)?

I would advise my younger self to figure out what specific types of work are most meaningful, then to strive to reach the stars with that work and don’t give up until you have achieved your goals.   Although I have had a very rewarding career, I have sometimes shied away from leadership positions, even though I knew I could do the work.  Also, finding ways in which to achieve a sensible work-life balance is important. I did not realize this when I was young; I just worked all the time.

What has been your greatest challenge or the life lesson you have personally danced with in your career?

My greatest challenge has been learning to have confidence in myself as a leader and trusting in my own abilities.  It is amazing how, when you speak with confidence, other people respond positively.

What has helped you thrive doing social work for this many years?

I think having a strong sense of compassion for people and realizing that we all have much in common has helped me continue the work. I also think having a sense of humor and being able to step back from the work have been critical to avoiding burnout.

Avoiding burnout is an essential skill if you work with people. Anyone who works with people extensively is at high risk. My workshop is designed to address this issue.

Upcoming Transforming Your Boundaries® Workshops:

October 17: Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma * CEU’s for licensed therapists and associates; MFT’s, MHC’s, LICSW’s, LASW’s
October 18: Tacoma, WA

Stress and Leadership

In the book 'Leadership and the Art of Struggle', Steven Snyder has interviewed leaders across sectors and industries, all facing challenges. He concludes that many executives struggle with resilience when they are thrown 'off balance'. He describes all of the symptoms I describe when we become symptomatic without sufficient self-care skills.
The truth is that our boundaries are the main operating system for our self-care. When leaders were out of 'balance" as he describes, he saw symptoms of hair loss, sleeplessness, depression, anger, self-doubt.
These symptoms undermine the ability to dig out of extreme challenges. In the face of challenges, leaders and executives will find themselves unable to problem solve and provide support and leadership to their team.
This is one of the many reasons why I have devoted myself to teaching people about their own boundary system and how to use it. This is your main operating system to problem solve, face challenges when there aren't solutions in sight, and give you the strength to persevere, while minimizing the potential symptomatic negative impact to you.

Join me for a Transform Your Boundaries® workshop this Friday, July 11 in Mukilteo.

Upcoming open workshops:
July 11- Mukiteo
August 1- Edmonds
October 16- PLU, workshop for continuing education credits for LMFT's, LICSW's, LASW, LMHC's. and associates.
October 17- Tacoma

3 Steps to Do Your Big Things That Matter and manage your sh#*-list

If you want to accomplish your mission, your purpose, get the things that really matter to you done, it requires setting boundaries on your sh#*-list.

Someone attending a workshop raised her hands to her face, set her hands like walls around her face and said, "I am trying to focus on what I really want to do, not just my list of things I need to do."

She spoke a brilliant truth.

It is easy to get consumed by the things that are due, the stuff on the list. It requires setting boundaries on that stuff so you can get to what really matters, your Really Matters list.
#1 Write the Really Matters list every day. (RM next to it on the list you make for your day)

You have to know your things that really matter for the year, set your vision, and then break that down to month, week and days. Just important to know what do you need to do to actually be doing the stuff that Really Matters.

Usually people keep track by writing down all the little things, like mail this, return that call, send this information somewhere, but they don't write down the Big Things that Really Matters to them personally to get done. Always write the Really Matters list. If it is on the list, you will get to it.
#2 Apply your strength and best energy of the day to your Really Matters list. Save the little things that don't matter like paying bills, scheduling things, for the time of day when you are worn out and tired. Or you only have 20 minutes to do something, knock things off the little stuff list.
#3. Allow yourself flow time with your Really Matters list. Flow is uninterrupted long periods of time. If I am working on my Really Matters, there is no email, phone checking, or intermittent conversation.
Flow is blocked on my calendar so I can get the time to actually do what Really Matters.

I have been reading Hillary Clinton's book Hard Choices, her memoir as Secretary of State. The book clearly spells out the boundaries that were required for her to accomplish the Big Things that mattered to her in this role. She had to use boundaries all the time to not allow her time and attention to be distracted and consumed. As you read it is clear she was working with a vision of the future. It takes boundaries to move a vision forward.
The same is true for all of us. We all have a Big Things That Matter to Us, a vision or purpose. It requires boundaries to accomplish anything.

If you would like to attend a workshop and focus on your boundaries, we will talk about things that Really Matter and all the ways to use your boundaries to support you. These are the next open workshops: Click here to register.
July 11- Mukilteo      
August 1- Edmonds            
October 17- Pacific Lutheran University-Training for therapists for CEU's 
October 18- Tacoma
In the next 3 weeks, July-August 55 people who work in human services in Snohomish County are taking the workshop in privately scheduled groups. I am so excited! In September, I have been invited to return to Island County Human Services and provide CEU workshops.