About Don

TWD-Don06Welcome to my website, which is also your website to find solutions to what you may be experiencing in life right now. I’m Don, and if you’ve made it here you may be considering talking with me to help you sort through things that are bothering, hurting, numbing, angering, scaring, or confusing you, among other things. Life can be hard, and sometimes very hard, and it is helpful to have someone to talk with to gain new perspective about life—your life—and the hurtful things going on within it. Life can take the strongest of people and drop us to our knees, the most confident and make us scared, the wealthiest and make us feel poor. I have experience helping people sort through these kinds of issues, and these issues are very real. I am just as comfortable with laughter as I am with tears, and both typically happen in our conversations as we discuss many of the parts of your life. The ultimate goal is to help you develop a basis for what you believe and value, and which things you are flexible about and those you hold inviolable and won’t budge from. This will help you maintain perspective so you have a solid basis for understanding your relationships, and for processing all the things that come up in your life. In addition to my Intro To Life Talks video, below is some information about me, in addition to the videos on my YouTube channel, that will help you decide if you want to talk with me about life.

Why I Call Them “Life Talks”
Whether you are a mother or father, a high-functioning surgeon or a retiree, an athletics director or elementary-school teacher, a stay-at-home mom or touring artist playing sold-out shows, widowed or married or single, sometimes we just need to talk about life with someone outside of our present circles. Sometimes we need fresh ideas and fresh conversation. By taking some time to talk, which involves taking time to think, we can develop a clearer view of life, so it made sense to call what I do with others “Life Talks.” Sometimes we don’t have someone to talk with about such things, or we don’t want to let anyone know we are struggling, or we just don’t make the time to process these things so we put it off. Taking some time to talk and think about bigger views of life, as set against the backdrop of many of the things going on in your life, will bring great relief because you will have a way to process what you are feeling and how you are living. For simplicity’s sake I still refer to it once in a while as “life coaching” because people are familiar with the term, but my approach is not to coach as much as it is to talk with you about life and things that are specific to your life, with the goal of helping you form your own view of what life is and what you want it to be. Our talks will help you unclutter some of the things that are presently causing you confusion, hurt, worry, fear, purposelessness, and other things that detract from our quality of life. Life is and has been my favorite thing to observe, think about, and talk about, and most people put it off until it becomes unnecessarily painful or confusing.

My Business Background, And How I Got Into Doing Life Talks
From 1995 to 2015 I owned and managed a large, advanced dance-training facility with two locations, which put me right in the middle of family life with thousands of families. My business partner was a trained dancer so she worked in the classroom, and I was on the customer relations and business side of things. I got to know many of the mothers so well that I eventually knew when they were going through a tough time even when they were trying to hide it. Sometimes it was just a problem with one of their kids’ teachers, other times they would tell me about deep marital problems. So we would talk, and at first they were surprised someone noticed, and just as surprised that it showed on their face. So while their daughter was in class it gave us time to talk, and I saw the struggles families had with the schools giving the kids too much homework, with moms and dads trying to get some time with each other, moms in carpools with other mothers who, as it would sometimes turn out, had no filters while driving the kids to and from dance, and mothers feeling unappreciated by their whole family for all the sacrifices they make. There were sick children, dying parents, divorces, unemployment, failing businesses, and everything in between that made life hard, sometimes unbearable. I talked with a lot of mothers about life all along the way and learned many things that impact their view of life, the things that worked for them and the things that didn’t, which gave me front-line insight into what we men aren’t necessarily aware of that makes being a woman and a mother so hard. It can be rewarding being a mother and a wife, but as with all rewards, it comes at a cost. And I loved this part of my work, since so many people trusted me with the details of their lives, and that made my work and my life so much more rewarding. In 2015, after twenty years of running the studios, I turned over my interest to two of our original students and one of our original instructors, as it was time to start a new project.

After graduating from college I had planned on working in the Department of Health and Human Services as a case worker, but a three-year hiring freeze at the state level the year I was graduating sent me into working in sales for a couple of years. This did not suit my personality at all since I did not like being the unwanted intruder in the room or on the phone, so I went on to start three businesses, each bigger than the previous one. This is when some of my views of the world were completely changed, the biggest one being that business ownership is all about cashing checks and taking vacations—turns out it was about listening, addressing problems, thinking, observing, hiring the right staff, meeting payroll, fixing burst pipes, and doing whatever needed to get done in the moment to make things work. I lived the 100-hour work weeks for months at a time, which ultimately caused me to think I was slacking off when I dropped to 70 hours a week. The success is thrilling and addictive, which creates plenty of opportunities to become imbalanced. The experience, pressure, successes and failures helped me know what business owners deal with, and how this ultimately impacts family life and other things. When you work too much for too long you can begin to feel like property, and getting balance in your life is essential to getting back to being yourself even if you are succeeding in your work.

My Educational Background
Prior to going into the work force full time I was a student at Rutgers College, from which I graduated with a double major: Administration of Justice, which was in the School of Social Work, and Philosophy, which was in the Humanities. The School of Social Work was recently ranked #7 in the country, and the Philosophy Department was ranked #1 in the U.S. and #3 in the world. Philosophy was where much of the intellectual heavy lifting took place; we were taught to consider, support, and articulate our positions on issues relating to life, and this process led to understanding how to connect the whole to its individual parts. What constitutes a good quality of life were chief among the issues we spent much time studying—anyone who has taken a basic philosophy class might remember the lectures on What Is Happiness? These two majors reflect my ongoing approach to life, which constantly involves wanting to help people through thinking about what makes life—your life—worth living, as set in the context of driving the kids everywhere and trying to find time with your spouse, for example. One of the most significant mistakes many of us make is to spend so much time trying to engineer things out of our lives that we give up a lot of time actually living our lives. Some things will always hurt because some things that happen to us are really bad, and when we allow this rather than trying to engineer it away, it reduces some of the mental and emotional pain we cause ourselves. As for engineering the various parts of our lives to make things just right, there is a balance to be struck between what the so-called experts say is good for us and what you consider to be the desirable path for your own life.

My Theological Pursuits
My natural curiosity about life led me to theological pursuits, mainly in the Christian faith (however that is defined), with a dose of learning from rabbis (in the U.S. and Jerusalem) and other sources about Judaism. My willingness to challenge conventional views, as well as embrace having my own deeply-held views challenged, engendered questions and doubts about many things that have been assumed to be true or aren’t ordinarily challenged within the faith itself. The depth of study and reflection eventually led to me being a published author (book and articles), as well as a guest speaker/teacher in various places, from New York to Arkansas, on various topics. The conclusion I arrived at, through all of this living and thinking and occasional changing of views, is that kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity toward each other, is among the greatest achievements and guiding principles, and perhaps among the greatest requirements, in life. If you see a person who is kind, thoughtful, and generous, you will see a person who is kind, thoughtful, and generous in spite of being hurt by the things of this world. Some people see faith as an end in itself, that having the right beliefs and right doctrines are the goal, whereas faith seems more to be a means to an end, and that end is to be kind toward others in spite of what difficulties may have been heaped on you. That is a challenge worth engaging, and spiritual pursuits can enrich life enormously, and they come with additional challenges, especially when life isn’t lining up with what we believe.

In addition to the published and unpublished writings, I spent eighteen months writing the New Testament in my own words (known as a paraphrastic version rather than a translation). I based the work on six radically different translations, which gave me a lot to think about as I contemplated what the different translators did with each word, phrase, and verse. In the end, I discovered that when I tried to write some of the words as I thought I had understood them, they wouldn’t write as easily as I thought they would. This gave me great pause on many issues. My purpose wasn’t and isn’t for publication, it’s just for me to have a better basis for what I believe and what I don’t. I am in the process of going through it a second time to re-work the updates in perspective I’ve accumulated since doing the first version. This whole process has opened my eyes to many things, and causes me to regularly challenge some things that I had formerly thought about what I believe. From this I coined a phrase that has become my guiding principle in life: “Get comfortable in the discomfort and chaos of life.” When we allow internal challenges to what we believe and what we value, life is more chaotic, but it is a true life we will be living. The pretend life isn’t worth as much, because it tries to show people that things are in order when there is no way anyone’s life has internal order to it. We may have routines we follow, but on the inside we’ll become dissatisfied with them, and getting comfortable with the discomfort and chaos is a good start to being peaceful.

Some Of My Other Interests
Among my other interests are listening to seminars on every subject, from English to physics, history to game theory, theology to critical thinking, calculus to probability, (and virtually anything else the Teaching Company puts out); yoga—I’m a certified teacher; Pilates; writing song lyrics and writing prose; and am a big fan of college sports.

In addition to what I’ve written above, the featured video titled Life Talks With Don, will give you insight into my approach to life talking. There is also a Contact Page for you to email me questions directly, and I will get back to you pretty quickly.