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The Call of Muscle Shoals

It was the flight back from my mother’s funeral and I was beyond exhaustion.

Every ounce of energy had left my body.  I was fully depleted but ever so grateful the plane was only half full, resulting in the middle seat not being assigned. I really couldn’t have coped with someone shoved up against me for nearly three hours.

The journey wouldn’t have even started if my friend hadn’t volunteered to cancel his clients and accompany me to Mum’s funeral, a gift I will never forget.  I had been so depleted of energy that I knew I would have a complete breakdown getting through an international airport alone.  So my friend said he would take me.

It had been a whirlwind three days and we could have either talked about it or talked about nothing at all.  The latter seemed the most appropriate.  

My friend had now wandered off to find the loo and I had grown tired of looking through the oval aeroplane window to the clouds below.

As New Zealand turned to a speck on the horizon, the only other thing I was capable of doing to fill the flight time until touching down in Melbourne Australia was to randomly surf the inflight movie channel.

I really didn’t have the brain power nor want to actually watch anything, but the peace gained between the earbuds on a long haul flight can be the greatest gift.

As I cruised through the usual trite sitcoms and mindless movies, my curiosity was aroused when I saw an image of a sunburst Fender Stratocaster guitar alongside the words Muscle Shoals.  The trailer showed a cameo of Keith Richards speaking about the magic the Rolling Stones experienced at Muscle Shoals.

One click immediately transported me to a place of safety, music and dreams.  I was totally immersed within seconds!

I didn’t even notice my friend return from the loo.  I think he would have been relieved to find me totally enthralled by the story of this tiny recording studio in Muscle Shoals Alabama.

Like many, I had always assumed the R&B hits of the 60’s had come from big city studios.  It was a real shock to realise so many of the songs I absolutely adored and had shaped my life had come out of a tiny studio in a country backwater in one of American’s most segregated southern states.  To learn this was the place where Aretha Franklin sat at the piano and recorded “I’ve Never Loved a Man”, the song she describes as the turning point in her career was amazing for me.

Every part of the documentary spoke to me in ways that I really needed to hear.

At 3 am earlier that day as I had sat exhausted, yet wide awake safely wrapped in Dad’s big chair, the idea for a book had suddenly downloaded into my brain.  It arrived like a small pin prick, a tiny dot of ink that spread to reveal the whole book.  I knew I had no chance of recording what was coming into my thoughts, or even for now remembering what came flooding in.  But I also knew the information would come back out when the time was right.

As the Muscle Shoals movie finished with Alicia Keys performing a Bob Dylan song  with the original members of “The Swampers”, a name given to the Muscle Shoals house band by Leon Russell’s producer.  The name was rocked in stone by the Lynyrd Skynyrd hit Sweet Home Alabama.  As I watched Alicia sit at the big black grand piano in the Fame Studio accompanied by some of the original members of the Swampers and the gospel choir from the Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Leighton performing a Bob Dylan song called “I’m Pressing On”, I absolutely knew, despite some pretty dark thoughts that had been running through my head in the past few months, I absolutely knew a higher power was telling me to just “keep pressing on”.

During that song a voice within me said to go and write my book in Muscle Shoals because the river needed to talk me while I wrote it.

When I got home I just got sicker and sicker and truly struggled on every level.  I knew I’d not be able to fly back to the USA until I got well.

Three years later and a lot of struggle to find the answers to what’s been wrong me ….. there is now some glimmer of hope on the horizon that I’ll be able to return and see what the river has to say.

In the meantime I’ve watched that Muscle Shoals movie again many, many times and have had so many insights into why this little studio created some of the best music on the planet.

Cosmic forces were colliding and the time was right to shape a generation with the particular style of music that was to come out of that small town with the river that speaks.

As my health slowly returns the urge to at least visit Muscle Shoals has never gone away.

Sometimes you just got to follow the messages and see what’s there.

The Importance of Higher Ambition

A business based in love will always have a desire to raise its ambition. 

Just last week I recorded a mini video of a very important principle from my Attraction Program called “Perfect Your Environment”.  It reminded me to constantly be in a state of raising the levels of the environments that surround us.

7 Environments of Self

There are at least 7 Environments of Self

1.  Physical Body/Spirit/Gifts/Talents

2.  Relationships

3.  Mimetic – Knowledge, concepts, ideas

4.  Networks – R&D team, clients, friends, interests

5.  Nature – Outdoors, seasons in life

6.  Intangible – thoughts feelings values

7.  Physical Space – home, office, possessions

A business has the same seven environments

Like a body we need to keep feeding and nurturing each area to keep it in tip top shape.

From my experience of working with a lot of small business owners, I see area 3, the mimetics or mindset as the one that gets over looked the most.

The mindset of a business is what allows it to expand.  But so often our mindsets are closed off and we continue to churn out the same old ways of doing things and our business becomes stagnant.

Frustration is the feeling that you get when your mindset isn’t stretching far enough.

When I started to hang out with coaches who charged and got high fees I realised my mindset had been constrained by a set of “mind rules” or “memetics” given to me by people who had awesome intent in their work but had never got past charging more than $60 an hour for their services.  Not only that, they guilted me out every time I mentioned charging more than they did.  I don’t hang with those people any more.

You know you are hanging with people of higher ambition because they cheer you on.  People with constrained mindsets make you feel guilty for wanting more.

The result of constrained mindset is very talented therapists over on facebook bemoaning the fact that clients no-show and they are left out of pocket.

Firstly it’s very unattractive to be bagging what should be your treasured clients in such a public space and secondly all they are doing is publicly bagging themselves.

Bad no-show policies are the fault of the therapist, not the client.

If you haven’t got full payment from a client 24 hours before their appointed time, then that’s your fault.

Then I see practitioners prisoners to their mobile phones just in case someone is going to call to book in.

These are all environments that can be fixed easily – over night in fact if you have the courage to implement some solid business practices.

There are many online booking systems that allow clients to book online.  When they are set up properly they are very easy to use and they take the nightmare out of client bookings.  I still use a simple little free system called Clickbooks to do my bookings.  It works a treat and has saved me hours upon hours of chasing clients to get them booked in or rearranging times.

I also have a zero no-show rate.  Why?  Because people pay up front for their sessions with me.  Now you are likely to say, oh that only works for coaches.

Well not so.  Many therapists have converted from the standard model of clients paying at the end of a session, to clients paying when they book.  Guess what happened.  The clients started to adhere to the new system immediately.  Yes a couple still asked if they could book the old way and of course that could be accommodated.  But in general most took to it like the proverbial ducks to water and what’s more, many commented that they liked it because it made their life easier.

Yes there was a initial dip in bookings, but once the therapist got comfortable with the online booking system and actually started to see people not only booking but paying for their session online before they arrived ……. well let me tell you they were pretty happy.

Then something interesting happened, their practices went gang busters.  They couldn’t keep up with the demand, quite simply because their clients were seeing their new professional posture and started referring in a more professional way.

Everything raises when your ambition raises.

But still I see many highly experienced therapists with crappy systems in place that don’t serve their clients or themselves.  Its just plain wrong.

Then I still see practitioners who don’t have product tiers set up that allow clients to purchase multiple sessions or blocks of their time in advance.  Just this week I sat down with a long term client and we developed packages for her business.

I could see she was a little uncomfortable with some of the prices I suggested she charge up front, but being a trooper she mentioned the package to the next person who phoned.

Not only was this person prepared to pay for the $975 package up front, they were also prepared to fly interstate to work with her because they were in so much pain.

I’ve heard stories of therapists being flown in business class to visit clients abroad.

So many have their mindsets stuck in a state of poverty and lack that they would never attract anything like this.  What I have noticed is therapists who do attract this type of thing have very open mindsets and have done a lot of personal development.

What stops people implementing practices that make you stand head and shoulders above the crowd and attract people who honour your work highly and are prepared to reward you adequately is simply a lack of higher ambition.

Low ambition is very dangerous because once it gets into your practice, it starts to get into your treatments as well.

The most extraordinary thing I’ve noticed with people who step into advanced practice techniques is that the standard of their treatments raise and they start getting even more stellar results for their clients.  That results in more referrals and more happy clients.  It is a win all round.

It is our job to raise people up to a new ambition, but if we don’t keep raising ourselves up, then others can’t raise with us.  Having high personal standards and high enough regard for yourself to create high professional posture and your to ability to charge decent fees is the first step in creating a new way of doing a business.

Constantly standing holding your begging bowl at the end of a session is not only letting yourself down, but its also letting your clients down.

By creating a strong environment around the way you charge and the standards you set in your business allows you to show up and shine.

I’ve also been raising my ambitions this past year and I’ve been doing a lot of work on my packages and products, raising them up to match the needs of the new people I’m attracting.

In fact I called one of the new programs The Higher Ambition Program because its the one thing that is most lacking in our industry – higher ambition.

This program is for more advanced practitioners not beginners because it contains much of what I was taught in New York last year so the content is at the edge of cohesion.

Then shoot me an email  if you are interested in a spot on the program.


Susan Joy Coombes Speaking with Margaret Gill

A Google Hangout with Susan Joy Coombes and Margaret Gill speaking about the concept of Wise Work in the new energy of 2013 and how different it has turned out to the way many thought it would.



Eat Chocolate and Cry …. but where was my bloody chocolate!  

After the funeral phase was complete, I began clearing out the shelves in Mum’s pantry, and wiping down the dust and grime that accumulates over many years.   

So many memories lurk in a pantry, so cleaning and clearing allows an ideal walk down memory lane. 

The different ingredients for baking every week, the meals served on the “good” dinner set now with many pieces either chipped or missing from years of use.   

The “Pie Guy”

The “pie guy” that I got to put in the middle of the pie when I stayed up the farm and was allowed to help my grandmother make delicious pies and then drive them down to feed the workers in the shearing shed in the old red vauxhall car. 

The incessant short pieces of string, sewing cotton, knitting wool and Christmas tinsel that were used to tie up stuff in the garden, but mostly kept “just in case” they were needed. They never were.

Then what seemed like hundreds of small things that had broken off things and were kept “just in case” they could be re-used.  They never were. 

There were armies of empty jam jars, some with lids, some without.

Where would a pantry be without a specialist platoon of empty Agee branded bottling jars, some with lids, some without. 

As I wiped, music flowed out my iTunes favourites playlist making the job a little easier.   

With the job nearly done, I’m standing on a chair wiping out the top shelf and on comes Elvis singing Amazing Grace. 

Between the tears and being surrounded by all the memories, all I could think about was a blues musician and honky tonk piano player called Jan Preston who wrote a song called Eat Chocolate and Cry …. but where was my bloody chocolate!  

Imagine my joy when I remembered the shelf below had a jar containing a packet of white chocolate buttons for baking muffins!  My blues song was complete. 

Clearing out Mum’s house has bought many lessons.   

The biggest learning is that when you die there are many decisions you don’t get to make anymore and your family just run riot through things that were important or dear to you. 

Me with Pom Panda Before He Was Even Unpacked From The Christmas Stocking He Came In With SO MANY toys …. but Pom was my favourite!

Yes we have salvaged the family heirlooms and all those special little memories including my 52 year “Pom Panda”.   I won “Pom Panda” in a Christmas raffle when I was 5.  We had been through so much together, I just couldn’t put him in the rubbish skip.   

After 50 years of giving constant love …. Pom Panda is looking a little worse for wear

He will live to at least strut his stuff at the local thrift shop, complete with new bandana.  An old chap with his growl now gone and most of his fur loved off.  Pom needs all the cosmetic help he can get! 

Fingers crossed a small child will adopt him and he will find a loving home for another few years. 

But the miles of string, ripped up sheets and tinsel holding the plants up in the garden were snipped and thrown as the house was made “market ready”. 

That plate with the big crack that loyally served a purpose for so many years but won’t even be welcome on a thrift shop shelf.  Well that just hit the bottom of the rubbish skip in one shattering second.   

Thank goodness for cousin Tony who has an obsession with collecting old tools and interesting stuff for his garage museum.  Bless best friend Heather who I’ve known since she was a baby.  She can’t bear to see teacups left to their own devices, but even those people have limits. 

As we try to give stuff away, the response is generally, “thanks, but I’m trying to get less stuff now, not more”. 

Stuff loses its significance 

The significance of most stuff goes when a soul departs and we are only left with the memories associated with what then becomes thrift shop clutter.   

I strongly believe the trick in life is to create memories strong enough so they don’t need a physical item associated with them to be special. 

Clutter Stifles 

After ditching so much of my own stuff a couple of years ago I’ve become very grateful for the not so pleasant garage sale experience that caused my massive de-clutter.

Left with nothing, it would be very easy for me to want to scoop up everything from Mum’s house and have it shipped somewhere so I can have a “normal” life again.   

Instead what I’m taking will fit in my suitcase and its only photos, 8mm movies converted to digital format and the silly stuff like “the pie guy” that’s coming with me. 

The empowering thing in all this is the realisation that my new “on the road” freedom based lifestyle is something I want to keep doing, for the next few years anyway. 

So as I sit here listening to Elvis again, grateful the sun has come out and melted the frozen lawn.  I can now go out and pick up the leaves and sweep up the recurring mess the birds leave on the path as they dig in Mum’s garden looking for worms.  But the thing I’m most grateful for is the decision I made years back to create my own business.   

Yes this time off is a disaster for the balance sheet but it has given so many gifts and rich experiences (along with a few hissy fits) that make the physical not really matter.   

I’ve had cousins I haven’t seen in thirty years phoning up inviting me around for dinner.   

I’ve had friends bail me up in a corner to tell me if I need cash to come and see them.   

I had a local retailer who recognised me from my rock and roll days offer to come and move furniture with his trailer.  I don’t even remember him sneaking in under age to hear us play.   

These are the things that matter in life, not stuff.   

I’ve been in way worse scrapes than this.  I know having garnered that key marketing information, when you’ve built once ……. you know how to build again.   

I always like to say that rock bottom provides a solid foundation for building your dreams upon, and this is just another opportunity for the phoenix to rise …… again. 

Freedom is one of the greatest gifts 

Having this time to reflect and immerse in the process of grieving and getting Mum’s house sold.  Getting all the ends tied up.  Despite the blistering cold and a suitcase full a summer clothes.  Despite the inevitable family stuff.  Despite being back in a place I left 35 years earlier to “make it”, now knowing that dream never really manifested.  The gift to chose to take a couple of months off is greater than anything a corporate pay cheque bought me. 

The Funniest Lesson – Never Cull Too Hard 

I had a little bit of left over soup I wanted to store in the fridge last week.  Guess what I couldn’t find to put it in??? 

You guessed, not one single glass jar in the place.  All the jam jars and bottling jars were taken to the recycling unit at the rubbish tip! 

I could only smile and hear Mum saying, “you never throw useful things out because there could be a rainy day when you need it” 

Dam …. it’s not raining ….. but I don’t have a glass jar in the house and need one …….. she was right …… again!

Pom Panda update

This was his breakfast, served in bed and although he prefers bamboo, he was ok with this change of pace.
The bandana did seem to win friends and influence people and Pom now has a companion to spend his twilight years with.

 Pom has been saved from the indignity of the Op Shop.

 He took flowers, he offered gifts of tea cups from Mum’s cupboards, and in the end my friend Heather broke down and stated “Pom, you are such a suck …. but you can stay for now!

 He even has his own chair now!

 He is pictured above over 50 years ago the Christmas morning I won him in the local brass band raffle – priceless!


Goes to prove you CAN teach and old Panda new tricks!

What Limits Our Unlimitedness?

Hooked on American Idol and only just through the heats!

Considering I rarely watch TV and am highly disconnected from anything “commercial” or “media oriented”, it is funny how our passions cause dichotomy.

I love “Idol” firstly because it gives the underdog a genuine go at living their dream.  But the real reason is because of the feedback the judges and mentors give the participants.  It would cost millions to get this level of backstage insight, but if you know what to look for, those judges spill the beans on stage craft and marketing for free.

For instance, don’t look down on stage because it shows the audience you lack the self confidence to look them in the eye.  A golden tip I share in my speaking programs!

I also watch for trends.

This year along with the usual vocal, style and wardrobe mentors, the contestants even have “non denominational Spiritual Mentors”.

The ‘S’ word is officially mainstream folks.

Big tip right there – if you are struggling to describe the S part of your work, benefit from the expensive Hollywood ad agency that probably coined it and whack “non denominational spiritual advisor” on your business card – everyone will be wanting one soon 🙂

This year the top 13 are a motley crew with big hearts.

I just about fell out of my lazy boy recliner last night when they didn’t put the highly styled good looker through, instead the dressed down dude with the biggest heart took the ultimate golden ticket, even though his “last gasp” performance was far from perfect.  


Because the judges know the world is becoming more heart centered.  

When a Simon Cowell production openly mentions the “S’ word, you know we are close to other hard core bastions changing and there must be a dollar in it!

Who Would Have Thought!

This year the list of finalists reads like the nerd section of a high school year book and include the first outwardly gay contestant, a tuber playing frizzy haired girl with thick rimmed glasses and braces, a farm hand who by his own admission “could lose a few pounds”.  The gal with pink hair who is sick of living out the back of her car.

Harry Connick Jnr praised one guy for ending his song on a 9th (in the 1doe 2ray 3me 4far 5so 6la 7tea 8doh, he ended on #9 ray, a full octave & one note above where most would have landed) …. commonly known as jazz.  No self respecting Idol (who wanted to stay) would have dreamed of dropping in a jazz note 5 years ago.  Then we have a big voiced rocker, a nurse, the list of unlikelies goes on.


Because the mainstream is seeking more realness and heart.

Many of the contestants also performed original songs in the heats, previously a death knell, now rewarded for their originality.  Big messages for our industry if you care to scratch the surface.

So who will win this year?

It’s easy.  The contestant who can listen the hardest to the judges comments, raise their ambition the highest, stay focused on themselves AND manage the stress of the hype.

When I am down I play a YouTube of Stan Walker while rehearsing Amazing Grace describing how it felt to be in the top 3 of Australian Idol.  He stated the reason he wanted to win was “now I know I can’.

It’s that difference between THINKING and KNOWING you can do something. 

It is the massive totality of the authentic self gained from “I once was lost and now I’m found” that turned his humble potential to limitlessness.

This deep level of knowing, an unfettered desire to stay authentic and a constant determination to raise to their ambition each day is what gets people what they want.

Stan probably predicted Dicko’s comment about “God botherers” after he sung the traditional gospel hymn.  But with the new signs of acceptance coming through from the USA, it might show Dicko wasn’t ahead of the curve on the spiritual trend that is now hitting the mainstream.

Holding yourself to higher ambition while the world turns in mediocrity isn’t the easy path and you will always get knockers.

When you live in higher ambition you need to drive the world, not have the world drive you.

It is what you don’t allow in that matters more than what you do.

  • Having difficult clients
  • People messing you around, canceling, no showing.
  • Your advice not being respected or heard.
  • Not making the difference you desire.

All signs the world is winning.  

When I was putting my new Logical Product Flow framework together, I kept wanting to put my Higher Ambition Coaching program in the top chakras.  But it kept NOT fitting there.  Vision HAD to be third eye, voice HAD to be throat and the high end spiritual stuff had to sit at the crown to let everything flow from above.

In the end there was only one spot left ….. THE SELF, solar plexus – DUH!  Of course higher ambition can only be activated when we are fully connected to and carrying a warts and all acceptance of self.

I have noticed the unsuccessful Idol’s sit championing other contestants.  The ones who get through sit quietly waiting for their name to be called.  It’s not they don’t love their mates, it is because when it comes to the important stuff, their state of totality means nothing else registers in that moment.

People that have been through my 3 month Higher Ambition Coaching program have all come out with an interesting outcome.  They have ended up on the track they openly stated they didn’t want to be on.  You might think WTF – that’s not a good outcome!

Well, it’s an awesome outcome when it is the one thing that makes you make total sense to the whole wide world AND yourself, but you’ve been fighting the greatness it will bring if you embrace it.

So often we deny or fight the obvious thing, when …….. “it’s the obvious thing!”

That is our ego at work and being in ego is when you can’t change.

If you are someone who might not be a singer, but refuses to sing other people’s songs, dances on the off beat, insists on your focus being original, maybe it’s time for us to talk about your higher ambition.

If you want to embrace more of your uniqueness and it’s time for your 3rd chakra to rise and your 9th note to shine, email me now.