Archive for 2010|Yearly archive page

Can’t sleep…too busy!

In Action, Balance, Entrepreneurial Lifestyle, Resistance on November 17, 2010 at 5:40 pm



2 months ago I was sitting in traffic trying to figure out WHY I was so tired and cranky. The answer?

I have:

2 kids
2 private practices
2 jobs
2 board positions

I was recently sharing my tale of “whoa” to a former housemate who replied, “Sounds like you need to be 2 people.”

And it’s true, I can’t be 2 people.

One of my favorite things to say when community building (which is always) is “One person can not run around and a community be.” And apparently this is also true for a single mom with 2 of everything (except herself).

Back to the basics.
The first step in finding balance, is to understand our limits and boundaries.

Limits are not a bad thing.
Limits signify the outer edges of our capabilities.

Whether it is our ability to tolerate abuse, bullshit or achievement, limits provide a container that helps us to maintain a sense of integrity. (And by integrity, I mean the hull of a ship) Integrity speaks to the perceived continuity of self and if we can carry ourselves throughout a variety of circumstances in a consistent way, we have a more solid base to work from.

And when we bump up against our limits, we hit that moment of resistance.

I was joking during last weeks Work101 meeting that Sheila couldn’t have any resistance because all of it had come to stay with me for a bit.

But, I have maligned resistance. It is not squatting with me. I am just too darn busy to get anything done. In fact I am too busy to even deal with resistance and this may be the point of it all- My resistance to deal with my resistance? …What?… Wait…

You know what? Fuck it.

At some point we have to accept that it doesn’t matter why things are as they are… if they are out of balance, we just have to fix it… and my experience is, that through this process, we will have a better understanding of why.

Let’s see…so that means I now have:
2 kids
2 private practices
1 job
1 board position
2 (almost) free days to work.

SO I guess this means I only have to be 1½ people…
*snark* I can do that…
In my sleep.


Ghosts from our past.

In Action, Resistance, Uncategorized on October 22, 2010 at 7:54 am

ghosts from your past blog

you do not have to be more transparent than your ghosts

It’s hard to move ahead in our work when our present is clouded by the past. In the last few weeks, several clients have come to me with just this issue.  Haggard and hurting they come with lumps in their throats and stomachs looking for resolve, searching for the keys that will unlock their internal gridlock.

The decisions we make, how we feel and what we think is influenced by what we have learned…simple enough…right?  Simple but maybe not so easy.

If we find ourselves dealing with a lot of resistance or we feel like we are slogging ahead with our work at a snail like pace, this is a signal for us to take a moment and really ask ourselves “What the heck is going on?”

It’s hard though because, I have found, that we actually do not always want to know or even think about the reasons for our resistance and angst. Especially if the reasons have to do with hurts and/or issues from our past and childhood.

Often our inclination is to scan the world around us to locate the source of our angst. This is problematic though, because so often the conflict is not coming from outside us, but from within us and, after 20 years of doing this work, I have come to understand that we usually know when this is the case. We have a sense in the familiarity of our experience of what is ours and what is not ours. (By the way, it is often at this point that we double down our efforts to reject this reality and firmly plant the cause of our turmoil on others)

Also confounding this work is that what we have learned about our self and the world growing up has become an integrated and near invisible part of our sense of self and how we view the world and our place in it. These core beliefs become a very comfortable pair of glasses that color our perception and shape our experience.

As children, the things we do to deal with our hurts, trauma and frustrations are shaped by those closet to us. What they tell us is OK to feel, we feel and move through. What we are told is unacceptable to feel we build defense mechanisms to distance ourselves from. And as children these defense mechanisms can work passable for us, but as we grow, our worlds become more complicated and so do our defense mechanisms, until we find ourselves backed into a small corner, spending more time managing our resistance then actually dealing with it.

And this is exactly the issue. Instead of feeling our feelings, instead of dealing with our issues- our amazing minds work to create new and ever evolving ways to insulate ourselves from the things we have been taught it is not acceptable to feel or think.

So what is the answer?

Deal with it. Not very helpful right? But wait…there is more.

The way we deal with it is key.

1.    Don’t try and deal with it all at once. Pick the most disruptive thing and just deal with this piece.

2.    Research it: We can only do what we know how to do. In order to do something different, we have to learn different things.

3.    Set a review or completion date.

4.    Figure out a budget and explore the resources you have available to you.

5.    Consult: Either with a friend or professional; this is NOT work we can do alone. On any given project, most all entrepreneurs know the value of getting a fresh perspective when moving ahead on a project.

6. Set some time aside to do this work. This is probably the most important piece that gets lost in the shuffle.This work takes time and the more focused you are about it the quicker it will shift.

7. Be gentle to yourself through this process.

This is challenging and difficult work. But the payoffs are huge AND it feels great!

Dena plotkin

therapist and collaborative strategist


Mothering and theWork

In Balance, Collaboration, Entrepreneurial Lifestyle on September 28, 2010 at 5:00 am


...finding our groove...together

Recently a single mother came up to me after I had spoken on a “Women in Leadership” panel, wanting to know how I, as a single mother, balanced the needs of my children with the needs of my growing practice and work.

Well, that is a great question and one that I struggle with everyday.

How do we know?

Sometimes it feels Ike a choice, either them or us. It’s hard and difficult and pushes a lot of the shame and guilt buttons that we were raised with, both in our families and in our culture.

I think even if you have a partner in parenting, there is just nothing like being “the mother”. It is a heavy  trip indeed. Our kids look to us, as the mother, for things that others could not possibly fill.

So how do we know? How do we determine what is “too much”.

For me, the answer to this question lies with my children. But this is also tricky because I know that my children’s one alternating mission in life is to balance their need to individuate from me while simultaneously striving to make me proud of them.

Talk about balance.

Sometimes it feels Ike a tightrope- too much either one way or the other and off I go… Praying there is a net on my way down.

And you know what, there is a net.  It was developed with intention and the fiber of it is constructed by the relational space created through the process of my collaborations.

First and foremost, with my kids and then with my workgroup and then with my community and family.

I guess for me the key to this journey through motherhood and professional creation has been one of integration. Finding the groove wide enough for us all to slide through our lives, in balance, together.



David Sedaris, Washington DC and Collaboration

In Collaboration, Events, Uncategorized on September 6, 2010 at 9:49 pm


The Vision:  I love David Sedaris… I mean that guy can crack me up and I was so excited because he is coming to Los Angeles and I actually had the time and day to buy tickets set in my calendar… with a reminder alarm. I mean I was ready. Plan in place.

Plan in action: So my alarm goes off and I am like…Right on…David Sedaris… I am so jazzed man. So I log on and wait until the clock clicks over to 9:00am and buy my tickets… in Washington DC.

What is that saying? The best laid plans…

I am always telling my clients that often the way a plan shakes out is not always the way we had originally envisioned it to be. The task is to go with it. Surf the experience and ride the wave all the way through.

So now it is time to surf…

The Solution: I love, love, love collaboration…It’s my thing. Collaborative therapy,  collaborative parenting, collaborative community building- I use this stuff like salt. I believe it is a transformative process in that it adds definition and depth to self and other. When used correctly, the space that collaboration creates is powerful and an entity unto itself .

So here is my question to you. What is the role of a leader in a collaboration?

The most intriguing answer wins the tickets.

If you don’t live in Washington DC and would still like to answer, I would love to hear it.

So bring it on my brothers and sisters. You have until Monday September 20. This will allow me time to mail (yes actual mail) the tickets to you.


Dena Plotkin


The 5 keys to unlock 6 doors to finding the source of transforming happiness- Yeah, Right!

In Action, Resistance on August 22, 2010 at 7:44 pm

What the fuck, ( and yes, I spelled it out) people.

We cannot fix ourselves in 5 easy steps or climb a ladder to self realization and happiness. It does not work that way.

I wish it did, really I do… But it doesn’t and often after a brief respite we find ourselves right back where we were before we journey’d through the “door of opportunity” du jour, struggling with the same problems, the same feelings and often the same destructive behaviors.

That’s because change sucks. It is hard and messy and full of resistance and self doubt. Resistance is a natural and predictable part of change. It is normal.

These things are not the problem. We can not get rid of them. We can not banish self doubt to the netherworld of our psyche.

Some of us have gotten pretty good at mitigating them, but all this really amounts to is that we are pushing the snooze alarm. At some point, we are gonna have to actually accept that resistance and self doubt are all a natural response to…life…itself (that’s why they write all those books, songs and movies about them).

And we are going to have to learn the tools to accept them into our lives. To invite them in. To allow ourselves to feel them and taste them and weigh the value that they have in our lives. Because we get to determine these things. Not our families. Not our neighbors, not our government.

The other day a friend said of other people in her life. “At some point, you are either for me or against me” and I can really relate to that sentiment.

When we are most vulnerable, we need those around us who reflect the people we strive to be back to us. We need them to hold our vision of self when we can’t do it for ourselves. And unfortunately, often the people who love us the hardest, have the most difficulty seeing us and the us they reflect back creates conflict for us.

Now I am not saying that if someone calls you out on something you just disregard it.out.of.line.

I am saying that just because someone believes we are something, doesn’t mean we necessarily are or have to continue to be.

This is the work of change. And it is messy. And often painful. And a lot of fucking work. And very worth it.

And you won’t find it with that rainbow colored key either.

Dena Plotkin


Collaborative Strategist

co-founder of theWork101

Teamwork vs. Collaboration

In Action on August 17, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Every time I speak about collaboration, I usually end up in a discussion about teamwork. People want to know why their “team” is not churning out the work that is needed.

You know, I will be the first to admit it… I am not a team player. When people hear me say that they inevitably screw up their face, roll their eyes and snort some version of “yeah…right.” But really it is true. I am more of a collaborator.

We have all heard the saying “There is no I in teamwork” and this is exactly why I think the concept of teamwork falls short for me. A group or community is made up of individuals. To only recognize the parts of that person that fits in with the group or team, can diminish and reduce the potential of the work that can be produced.

The most important thing in any collaboration is being able to know the perspective, needs and desires of those you are working with. This is probably one of the main ways that collaboration differs from teamwork. In teamwork, there is the assumption that everyone is on the same page. Everyone is working together and is aware of it. Working together is the goal, and the goal is a result of how well the team works.

Teams are also hierarchical. With newcomers and leaders and a flow of communication that is largely linear. Information flow is either top up or top down. But the important piece of this is that there is a top and a bottom. I don’t know about you, but I have found little in life is that straight forward and to act as if it is means that much is lost in the communication of the work being attempted.

The focus of collaboration is the process. The act of collaboration creates and shapes the work that must be done to finish a project to completion. As the work progresses the goal is defined. It is more like a living document: it is dynamic and flexible.

The focus of teamwork is the goal, the process is just a means to that end. One person cannot square off against another team and succeed no matter how talented they are. In teamwork, you need a team.

One of the most powerful aspects of collaboration is that not everyone involved has to agree to collaborate. I know this sounds crazy…it’s true. Since the point of collaboration is about working with others, not everyone in this relationship has to agree to collaborate. There are times when we will come up against a seemingly immovable person who will not budge from their narrow view of “how things should be done”, however, even this individual can be effectively worked with in the scope of collaboration. In fact, frequently working with these individuals can give us the most realistic glimpse of how we will have to work in order to succeed.

Collaboration is an intentional act. It is an inter-subjective space (I love this concept. It is the space between subjective and objective, in which we all come together. It is actually the relationship created by our collaboration. It is as huge as we make it. It is as functional as we work it. It is solely defined by our interaction and relationship.

Dena Plotkin
Psychotherapist and Collaborative Strategist

Working Together

In Entrepreneurial Lifestyle, Success, Uncategorized on July 28, 2010 at 6:50 pm


I have witnessed and participated as individuals, communities and organizations have worked together on various projects- Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t.

I have a real relationship with work and working with others.

My first co-worker was my brother.  He and I spent endless hours as kids working on assigned projects around the house.  The summer camp I was blessed to go to as a child was all about cooperation and working together.

I grew up with the concept that we HAVE to depend on those around us if we want to survive.  This idea has held up for me over the years.

For the past 9 years I have lived with 12 other people in a house that needs a lot of work. Although I work alone, I share a multi-use workspace with about 20 others.

From jobs that necessitated working with large bureaucratic agencies like immigration, the legal system, social security and community agencies, to my personal journey through the red tape of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety and community politics, I have been patching together avenues of communication and collaborative work.

Some collaborations have been successful and some have fallen short.

The main trick to working with others is to listen. I mean really listen and understand what the others in your group are saying.

Sounds simple right?  Well not always.  Sometimes we are so anxious to be heard, so ready to be understood that we lose sight of the opinions and thinking of others.

I have come out of meetings in which not once did I do anything but ask questions and clarify the point of what the others in the room were saying. And in the end I have gotten what I needed.

Information is our friend and the more information we have, the better off we are at understanding exactly how we have to work in order to achieve our goals.

But whatever it is we learn, it will ultimately make the possibility of our success more realistic; because we are just that much closer to understanding the logistics of any given situation. And this allows us the vision too see exactly what we are working with and what we need to do in order to accomplish our goals.

Sometimes we have the urge to charge ahead of ourselves. Pushing the work forward with a sheer act of will. But this process creates a huge amount of resistance. And the energy we have to exert is massive and often beyond what we have the capacity to generate. Either through lack of  internal or external resources, utilizing brute force to move through a given situation just gets us sore muscles and if we are lucky and inch closer to our goals.

The first thing I do is try and get a sense of why others I am working with do not think what I want to achieve can be successful.  This gives me a real sense of how I have to work in order to succeed.

Working with others is not easy but it is very simple.

Here are some steps to working with others effectively:

1.     Listen.  Even if you think you do not like the information that is being shared take it in.

2.     Ask a lot of questions. Make sure that when you leave, you know what those you were talking to are saying.

3.     WAIT for the answers.

4.     Do not be overly concerned with being understood.

5.     Even if you have the opportunity to correct someone or point out the paradox of what they are saying…hold your tongue.

6.     If there are more than a few people in the room, look at the people who are not talking.

7.     Before you leave, have a real sense of what your personal action items are.


MFT, Life-Strategist, Co-Creator theWork101

theWork101. All grown up: A blogs fate hangs in the balance….

In Entrepreneurial Lifestyle on July 20, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Lately I have been pondering on the fate of theWork101 blog.

The blog has represented the collaborative work of our group. It has been a reflection, not of our personal work, but of our collaborative work together. It has been a looking glass into the process of collaboration-our collaboration. But as our own individual projects come more sharply into focus, we have less and less time to reflect on the process, outside of the time to do it.

And beyond this, theWork101 has become such a huge part of how we work (and approach life in general), that we have folded it into the substance of how we function. Collaboration has been our guiding principal and when we find ourselves individually or as a group faltering, we have, time and time again, fallen back on the process of our collaboration to see us through.

So as the very fact of the collaboration recedes into the background and our work rightfully steps into center stage, where does this leave the blog?

For a minute I considered the possibility of beginning something new. But when I checked in with my cohort, we all felt resistance to letting it go… letting it drift into the cyber abyss. But the reality is that, as we have internalized the process of collaborations, we have outgrown the enthusiasm of thework101 blog.


theWork101 has become  a functioning part of the way we work, a comfortable background hum, feeding the fires of our own individual work.  The work101 has become a core value for us- for the way we conduct our lives and our work.

But the time to devote to understanding and deconstructing the experience and process of our collaboration diminishes as our individual work demands more space,

And there lies the answer. Collaboration is a part of the work we all do. It represents the vehicle we use to move forward. Although a given for us…still a function of the work we do. So I guess the blog stays. And we continue to write and share and deconstruct and represent.

theWork101 has grown up. And just as we all mature, we lose the wonderment of what once was new, but is now assumed.


theWork101: Collaboration in development

theWork101.:Collaboration in Action


MFT, Life-Strategist, Co-Creator theWork101

What is theWork101?

In Entrepreneurial Lifestyle on July 9, 2010 at 9:34 pm

It is interesting, in many respects, theWork101 has become my work.

theWork101 is the work of entrepreneurs: the work of dreamers and creators. It is the work of those who are looking to effect real change in their lives… and this is my work.

It is both my personal work and my professional work.

I am a people person.  A community builder.  A therapist.  Coach and facilitator.

I am deeply committed to the process of collaboration.

It.  Is.  Aliiive…

About 2 years ago, I decided to leave the non-profit world I was so committed to and begin a private practice. This was not an easy decision. Until then, I had been able to eek out a living doing what I love to do in various agencies focused on providing assistance to a very disenfranchised population of individuals. But as the recession hit and contracts and budgets began to get slashed, it was clear that my run of stitching together part-time jobs that would afford me the flexibility I needed as a single mother, were numbered.

Standing in the kitchen of my home, I was talking with a housemate of mine who was also looking at beginning to hustle up some work for herself.  Very quickly we were joined by a third and then a few months later a fourth-and this was the core of theWork101 .


We created a container for the group: a container that was managed and defined by the process of our collaboration.

It grows…

The energy of sitting together in this intentional and collaborative way was initially wholly engaging. As we tasted the power of our created space, we got wrapped up in the pedagogy we were creating for ourselves. The transformative value of it was impossible to turn away from. This blog was born of this.

It goes to college…

It is from our efforts to understand our collaboration that we learned how to better understand ourselves. Our individual work came more sharply into focus and necessarily began to be the focus of our time and energy. We were growing up. Our work was maturing.

In the end, we all begin to embody the principals and process of collaboration. Sheila thru film production, Kaye through relationships, Elizabeth thru art and community action.. and me?

Well I am all about collaboration… in every aspect of our lives. From dealing with the tasks of daily living, to the projects of daily work. From home life to work. Collaboration is key.

Collaborative therapy

Collaborative parenting

Collaborative living

Collaborative work

Collaborative community building.

Collaborative relationships

This is my Work and my Work101.


MFT, Life-Strategist, Co-Creator theWork101


In Balance, Resistance on July 6, 2010 at 10:53 pm


So I know this is a blog about work and how we approach our work as entrepreneurs, but so often our personal work is a part of this and frequently it is our personal work that gets in the way of our work101 work succeeding.

It sucks, I know, but it is true.

Even though some of us try to use our work 101 work to stay away from our personal work… it doesn’t work. (If you think it does, check in with the people who deal with you daily… you may be surprised.)

It always pops through at us at the most inopportune times.

Personal work has some serious weight and packs a hefty punch.

Self doubt=death for entrepreneurs

It is here, in the land of “What the fuck was I thinking?”, that I begin to loose my work101 work groove.

I don’t get it at first.  It comes on me slow.  I start missing work sessions with myself. I slow down in my writing. I am a bit slower to answer emails and a few extra calls go to voicemail first.

It is subtle.

A slow burn.

But then.

After a minute.

I am sitting around a table looking at a notebook and 3 sets of beautiful eyes looking back at me and I am like “Why can I not be accountable to myself?”

And then I am like, “Awe shit… I need to do some personal work”

I don’t mean to imply that I am not always working in some way on myself.  I like to think that nowadays I have a pretty good balance going.

The thing is that sometimes I catch up to myself and push my  limits, and then I feel the burn…the slow burn of personal work.  The soft ache of mental muscles toeing the edges of resistance.

Nothing for it…better get to work.


MFT, Life-Strategist, Co-Creator theWork101