HYCS #44 – Client Crippled by Anxiety? See Paris First.

HYCS #44 – Client Crippled by Anxiety?  See Paris First

When the going gets really, really tough, I reach for a poem.

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Reading Time: 2 mins

Assignment Time: 1.5 minutes

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I’m noticing quite a bit of tension in some of my clients lately.  Anxiety is a poor substitute for leadership and I become wary when I see it running the show.  At times like these, I need to pay attention to two things:

1. Not participating in my client’s anxiety

2. Not letting their anxiety infect me

I have no hope of doing the first one if unless I’ve taken care of the second one.  Because anxiety is imagined, and exists only in the future, letting anxiety move my feet is the victim’s approach.  Being a victim is the opposite of being a consultant, just as it’s the opposite of being a leader.   I use poetry to escape the timidity that infects leaders when they are overwhelmed by anxiety.

Poetry is an anti-anxiety superpower.

There are 3 poems I keep near me at all times. When I need to remind myself of the vast difference between anxiety (an imagined bad event leading to an imagined bad outcome) and fear (a life-threatening event happening to me, right this minute), I read one of these poems.  When I’m surrounded by people who have lost touch with their own resourcefulness, I read all 3 of them.

In my experience,  I have not found a single imagined bad outcome that hasn’t worked out quite well.  I use these poems remind me of that when everyone around me has forgotten.

If you’re not a fan of poetry, you might not know that poems are meant to be spoken.  Reading these out loud, or having someone else read them to you, enhances their power.


Fill your bowl to the brim, and it will spill

Keep sharpening you knife, and it will blunt

Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench

Care about people’s approval, and you will be their prisoner*

Do your work, then step back – the only path to serenity.


(Lao-tzu, Tao Te Ching (5th Century, B.C.)


“…the sound of the genuine.  Each one of us waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in ourselves, and it is the only true guide you’ll ever have.  If you cannot hear it, you will all of your lives spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”


(Howard Thurman, theologian)



Suppose that what you fear

could be trapped,

and held in Paris.

Then you would have

the courage to go

everywhere in the world.

All the directions of the compass

open to you,

except the degrees east or west

of true north

that lead to Paris.

Still, you wouldn’t dare

put your toes

smack dab on the city limit line.

You’re not really willing

to stand on a mountainside

miles away

and watch the Paris lights

come up at night.

Just to be on the safe side

you decide to stay completely

out of France.

But then danger

seems too close

even to those boundaries,

and you feel

the timid part of you

covering the whole globe again.

You need the kind of friend

who learns your secret and says,

“See Paris first.”


(“See Paris First”

Truman Cooper)



1. Read these 3 poems out loud.  If you feel a bit foolish, that’s just anxiety and an indication you need to read them again with more conviction.

2. Read them out loud until you no longer feel foolish.

3.  Then, be the kind of consultant – the kind of leader – who says “Let’s go see Paris first.”