Kelley Kosow is the author of The Integrity Advantage, a motivational speaker, and the Chief Executive Officer of the highly acclaimed Ford Institute. She continues the legacy of the New York Times bestselling author and thought leader, the late Debbie Ford, and leads the development and teachings of The Ford Institute’s transformational programs ...to thousands of people across the globe. Known as a “kick-ass coach” to high-level executives, change makers, and celebrities committed to personal transformation, Kelley blends her quick wit, laser sharp insight, and relentless compassion to help people upgrade their lives on a cellular level. Throughout her impressive career as a successful lawyer turned personal growth super star, she has been featured in Oprah Magazine as someone who could “Dream it, Do it,” as well as In Style, People, Working Mother, Latina, NY Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and LA Times. Kelley has also appeared on “The Balancing Act” and Better.tv. More

I Don’t Want To Be That Person!

romantic-time-of-loving-couple-at-cafe-picture-id49403863_20181018-172202_1 I Don’t Want To Be That Person!

This morning I was working out with a friend who was telling me a story about how he went to a quintessential Cuban cafe for breakfast. Although he used his best Spanish to order, they ended up giving him the wrong kind of steak with his eggs. Now my friend, who is dedicated to health and fitness, is vigilant about what he puts into his body and eating clean. When I asked him if he sent his meal back, he shrugged his shoulders and replied,

 

“No. I don’t want to be that person.”

 

Being raised around people who sent things back at restaurants, got upset if the service was slow, or took it personally if they didn’t get “the right” table, I vowed at an early age not to be a complainer. I, like many of us, have played the role of the meal martyr and tolerated underwhelming service, waiters getting my order wrong (you know, the whole “no croutons, dressing on the side” thing), and my biggest pet-peeve - cold food, just because I didn’t want to be that person!

 

I think it’s safe to say that most of us have sat silent, fought with ourselves about whether to say something or send something back or not, and paid for things we did not order because we didn’t want to be that person. Our fear and worry about being judged or labeled as a complainer, spoiled, entitled, or a pain in the butt has caused us to bite our tongue and swallow our integrity along with an order of food we didn’t want or care for.

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You Are Not Your Shame

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Over the past few weeks I have had the privilege of leading two transformational weekend workshops. I am always in awe of what an honor it is to be invited into people’s lives and have them share so openly about their past as well as the honest and raw feelings they have about themselves and their lives. Of course, we are also seeing so much of this in today’s culture – people, especially women, coming forward and sharing about the assaults, attacks, abuse, and secrets that they have not wanted, been able, or felt ready to share.

 

Although I am always very mindful of never assuming I know or can even comprehend what someone else feels, since I never want to diminish someone else’s pain by comparing or making sweeping assumptions or generalizations, I think it is fair to say that most of us have endured situations that felt off, wrong, or were just downright soul-crushing. And, in order to deal with or manage the pain or to just do what we have needed to do to get by and function, we learned to manage it, push it down, remain silent, numb ourselves, or stay busy and try to forget about it.

 

Although all of our stories are personal and unique, whether it comes from what we are seeing in the news, the #MeToo movement, or the people I have the privilege of working with, I am always so present to the insidiousness of the shame we all carry.


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Does Your Heart Need Healing?

Does Your Heart Need Healing? Does Your Heart Need Healing?

This past weekend I led The Shadow Process Workshop in Miami. In this workshop, as in so many of our other programs and workshops, there were people who were in pain because they:

  • Could not decide on the direction of their marriage

  • Were still struggling with hurt they’ve carried since childhood as a result of a critical, cruel, or absent parent

  • Were still carrying around the betrayal of a love that didn’t last


These people, our amazing workshop participants, were a mirror of the hurt that most of us are carrying around in our hearts as a result of some unhealed or unresolved relationships.

Although many people come into our lives with the best of intentions, whether through birth or happenstance, many relationships feel like they go from sacred to sour.

The fact is that every relationship is a sacred relationship -- especially our closest relationships. Think of what an honor it is to have someone open their heart to you or to be invited into someone’s home or even in this day and age to be included in a private group text. Any time we are being invited to be in relationship with someone it truly is a privilege and a profound responsibility.

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Is Your Self-Help Helping?

selfhelp Is Your Self-Help Helping?

Market studies show that the personal development/self-improvement industry is growing at a rapid pace. More and more people are spending more and more money to help them lose weight, improve relationships, manage stress, attain success, increase productivity, achieve balance, and find fulfillment.

Yet despite the increase of people investing in self-help tools, techniques, technologies, teachers, and coaches, daily I hear from people who are stuck. They feel helpless, resigned, and frustrated after months or years of: 

  • being on diet and exercise routines yet not seeing a shift in their weight or inches
  • trying to adhere to a budget yet never getting out of debt
  • practicing yoga and meditation daily yet still being consumed/paralyzed by stress and anxiety
  • looking for “the one” yet finding no one special
  • wanting to start, ramp up, or change careers yet continuing to sit at the same desk or lie on the same couch

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The #1 Tool to Radically Shift Your Relationship!

close-up-of-couple-holding-hands-on-urban-street-picture-id901579888 The #1 Tool to Radically Shift Your Relationship!

“He/she never listens to me.”

“No matter what I do, it’s never good enough!”

“I can’t trust him/her to follow through.”

“What about my needs?”

 

On a daily basis, I hear stories from people about their relationships.

They are somewhere on the scale of feeling frustrated - fed-up - frozen - finished.

They are not sure if the relationship will make it or not and whether they truly want it to or not.

They question what is best for themselves, their partner, and their kids.

They have tried talking, therapy, and yelling, as well as silence and separate bedrooms.

As they share their stories about all of the things their partner is doing that causes them pain or drives them crazy, I let them get it out for a while before I jump in and ask,

“What if it’s not about them?
What if this is happening for you instead of to you?”
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Igniting The Fire of Your Inner Desire

new-ideas-with-innovation-and-creativity-concept-picture-id692714766 Igniting The Fire of Your Inner Desire

Last week I had a true proud mama moment!  I flew to L.A. to attend the premiere of a series pilot that was created, written, produced, and acted in by my 25 and 27 year old daughters.  Although as a mom, I was pinching myself watching what they have accomplished, the truth is I am always in awe of people who start with a passing conversation or idea and then actually make it happen! 

Many of us have a great thought or a brainstorm yet it never gets off the ground or comes to fruition.  So when it comes to:

  • creating something from nothing, 
  • doing something you have never done before, or
  • putting yourself out there in a whole new way, 


What drives those who do versus those who just think or talk about it? 


What have they tapped into inside themselves that fuels their fire and carries their commitment


Answer???  Desire!


Desire is the most important catalyst for bringing about radical change. 

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Why Don't You Tell Them?

adult-woman-holding-a-finger-on-her-lips-over-white-background-picture-id663991088 Why Don't You Tell Them?

We’ve all been there before.

  • You see a friend with a split in their pants, a stain in an unfortunate location, their zipper down, or some kind of wardrobe malfunction…Do you tell them?

  • A potential business associate keeps mispronouncing your name in meetings…Do you correct them?

  • A fellow professional has misspellings on their website, social media posts, or blogs…Do you let them know?

  • An acquaintance or even a stranger at a bar has something green in their teeth…Do you say something?


Especially at this time when being “politically correct,” more accepting, and less judgmental is being emphasized, you can’t help but getting caught up in the quandary of “Do I say something or just keep my mouth shut?”

Now before I go on, let me clarify two things.

First, I believe there is a distinction in terms of situations that are matters of opinion versus those like the ones mentioned above which are black and white or “facts.” This blog is about those hard truths, the times you know when that person gets home and finds their fly down or the lettuce wedged in their teeth, a wave of embarrassment will wash over them as they try to trace who might have noticed and how bad it was.

And second, this blog is not about the person who is being told about their mistake or faux pas since everyone reacts differently to honest feedback. And it is their insecurities, wounds, or shadows which will determine how they process, defend, reject, spin, use, or integrate the feedback.

This blog is for all of us who spend the five seconds, minutes, or hours belaboring the question “Do I tell them or not?”

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Reconnecting With Your Soul's Desires

lonely-rock-sculpture-at-the-shape-of-heart-preveli-crete-greece-picture-id695940520 Reconnecting With Your Soul's Desires

I hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July weekend. I have been in Greece for the past week or so. Although I have done a lot of traveling this year, my trips, although amazing, have been full of early morning wake-up calls and jam-packed itineraries. This trip was a true vacation, especially the last five days in Mykonos. I got up on my own accord and my biggest decision of the day was which beach club to explore. I enjoyed a wonderful beach read and basically flowed into each moment, one moment at a time.

 

Although most people like to stay connected when they travel, I reveled in the delight of disconnection.

 

Generally identifying myself as a person who loves structure and thrives on my ability to multi-task and accomplish so much in a day, I was shocked at how good I was at doing nothing! And I enjoyed it! Yet somewhere in between my third beach club and seventh Greek salad (yes, I was enjoying a feta-thon!), a very cool thing happened. As my life got quieter, I was able to hear a voice I hadn’t connected with in a while. I was able to hear the whisperings of my soul.

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Learning To Love Your Cellulite, Stomach, and Scars

bodylove Learning To Love Your Cellulite, Stomach, and Scars

I hope you are enjoying the beginning of summer. I am literally moving very slowly into summer since I had a procedure a few weeks ago that has curtailed my normal activity.

Several years ago, I had a pain in the area of my lower abdomen which was so acute that at times I could not sit up straight. After seeing several doctors, they determined I had a growth on my ovaries. At the time, they treated it with antibiotics and made the decision to monitor it regularly. Since the mass continued to grow, this past February my gynecologist suggested I consult with a specialist. Not thinking anything of it, I scheduled the appointment in between my workout and work day. I figured the most the doctor would tell me was that I needed to have the growth removed, which, in my mind, would be a quick outpatient procedure.

Determined not to miss a beat in my day, I arrived at the specialist’s office juggling my iPhone and iPad. Now, I must admit that I was a bit taken aback when I found out that the doctor I was seeing was a gynecologic oncologist, located in the new “Cancer Institute” building of the hospital. However, I shook it off and kept my eye on the prize which was trying to get in and out in under two hours.

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Your Inspired Vision Is Waiting For YOU!

Your Inspired Vision Is Waiting For YOU! Your Inspired Vision Is Waiting For YOU!

I can't believe that summer is almost here and that, like so many of you, I, am thinking about my summer plans. This summer I have the privilege of leading The Shadow Experience: Breaking Through to Emotional & Spiritual Freedom at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. For me this is still humbling.


I remember the first time I went to Omega in 2002. I had another business at the time. It was called Go Goddess! and we created games to connect and empower women and girls. As a result of the success of that business, we were asked to do speaking engagements and workshops. Although I was a "great girlfriend," I quickly realized that those traits didn't qualify me to stand up in the front of a room and hold, support, and advise other people. I decided I needed some sort of formal training. I called The Ford Institute because I'd heard that they offered the best life coach training program out there. The man I spoke with said that I could jump into the training which had already started if I promised to attend Debbie Ford's upcoming workshop at Omega. Something in my heart told me to jump and I did.

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3 Tips For More Self-Love

Kelley-Kosow-3-Tips-for-More-Self-Love 3 Tips For More Self-Love
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about this concept of unconditional love for both ourselves and others. Defined by many as “affection without limitations or love without conditions,” I sometimes question whether unconditional love in its purest form is attainable and sustainable.

When it comes to unconditional love for others, many say that although there may be times when they don’t like or are upset with the people they love, underneath whatever might be going on in the moment, they do always love them.

However, when it comes to unconditional love for ourselves, after working with thousands of people, it is clear that our love for ourselves is very much conditional. Why? Because we have lost sight of who we are. And as I write in The Integrity Advantage

To love ourselves, we need to know ourselves.

The problem is that most people know themselves in a distorted or limiting way. Our sense of self has been largely formulated by the projections and programming of others. We take on what other people think of and say about us, even if the other person doesn’t have any idea who we are. We also take on the projections of others without questioning whether that person is seeing themselves or us. As Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

Our sense of self is also slanted by our limited view of ourselves. Most of us are walking around constantly beating ourselves up and berating ourselves. When it comes to ourselves, we are constantly judging and fixating on our flaws and what needs fixing. We see only pieces of ourselves and focus on what we are not instead of realizing all that we are. We forget that we are born whole and complete and that wholeness is our birthright. It is not and cannot be taken away. It is the integrity of who we are and it is inside of us. It’s just that events happen that cause us to create negative interpretations and limiting beliefs about the essence of who we are. As a result of these situations, we cease from knowing ourselves.  We cease seeing our true selves and, as a result, our view of and love for ourselves becomes compromised.

But the good news is that it is never too late to get to know yourself and take on self-love. Here are 3 tips to support you on this journey.

 

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Choose U!

Choose U! Choose U!

Have you ever thought about what or who is driving your choices?

 

Week after week I hear stories about:

 

  • The people-pleaser who does everything for everyone else besides themselves

 

  • The baby-boomer who puts their life and dreams of traveling more on hold to stay in close proximity and take care of their aging parents

 

  • The sibling that not only financially supports their own family but also feels compelled to pick up the check when they go out with their family or give money to their brother or sister who has fallen on hard times

 

  • The millennial who is trying to make their parents proud

 

  • The partner who is working around the clock because their significant other has certain materialistic expectations and desires

 

  • The creature of habit who lives on autopilot, doing the same or slightly different versions of the same thing that they did last month, year, or decade

 

  • The person born into a certain religion or culture who feels obligated to live in accordance with expected rules or norms, even if those values are not in alignment with their truth and desires

 

Although the specifics may vary, the common thread that runs through all of their stories is that they are letting others or their tendency to live on automatic pilot dictate their life. They are being driven not by what is in their hearts or in their highest. Instead, they are running around like the proverbial gerbil on the wheel, putting others, organizations, and societal expectations in front of themselves. And as Lily Tomlin famously said,

 

“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you are still a rat.”

 

Making choices based on the expectations of others or placing the needs of others over ourselves is a setup for disappointment and exhaustion. Even if you accomplish all the things that you set out to do, the accomplishments will eventually feel empty. Why? Because they aren’t being sourced by your dreams, your desires, your truth, and your wants and needs.

 

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Claim Your Life!

kelley-kosow-Claim-Your-LIfe Claim Your Life!
This coming weekend, I have the extreme honor of leading The Shadow Process Workshop in Los Angeles. No matter how many of these workshops I have attended, participated in, or led over the years, I am always in awe of the shifts that people experience in the short time span of 2 ½ days. I am also so grateful to Debbie Ford for creating a process that continues to live on and transform the lives of so many.


On a personal level, I am always amazed that even after having experienced this process numerous times, I always take away so many insights and a-has! One of the most powerful concepts that emerged from one of our amazing workshops is that it is up to each of us to "claim our life!"


We all have heard the adage "You teach people how to treat you." Yet what many people might not realize is that it is often your unconscious mind, which is far more powerful than your conscious mind, which tells and teaches people how to treat you and how to interact with you. It is also your unconscious mind that is filled with shadows and shadow beliefs -- all of that internal dialogue that plays in your head and repeats disempowering statements like "I am not good enough." "No one will ever love me." "It is not safe to stand out and shine or be seen." Ultimately, it is your negative internal dialogue that is your inner teacher, instructing the world how to treat you!

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What Are You Running Away From?

kelley-kosow-what-are-you-running-away-from-NEW-PIC

In my last blog post, I wrote about a situation which has been causing me a lot of heartache and how, despite all of the tools and wisdom that I have as a life coach and teacher of transformation, it has been hard for me to find a sustained sense of peace. I shared how after going to healers, therapists, and doing lots of deep work around my core wounds and projections, I was so grateful to read Debbie Ford’s new book Your Holiness: Discover the Light Within because it reminded me that when I feel cut off at the knees, I need to get down on my knees and ask to be shown. Bottom line, I needed some divine guidance to support me in finding resolution, relief, and a deeper understanding of self.

 

Days after working my way through the book and using prayer as a vehicle to connect and receive, I was running outside and heard the words, “Just be with the hurt.”

 

Stunned and amused, I stopped dead in my tracks. I realized that I had been literally running away from my hurt. In my fixation to figure out and fix my pain, I had avoided really feeling the deep hurt that was being triggered inside of me. I was trying to get to the destination without going on the journey. I’d been trying to bypass the feelings in my heart and resolve my pain in my mind, which, of course, was a strategy I developed long ago and even wrote about in The Integrity Advantage.

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Ask and You Shall Receive!

kelley-kosow-ask-and-you-shall-receive
Often, people think that as a life coach or teacher of personal growth and transformation, I know how to "do life" better than others and can somehow fly above life's ups and downs. Although I, like many life coaches, do have a big toolbox full of techniques, practices, and knowledge to support me in traversing life's challenges, I have found that in certain emotionally charged situations, all that I know is definitely not the cure-all for all that I feel. 


The past few months, I have been dealing with a situation which I thought I should be able to process, deal with, work out, fix, find peace with, and move on. I have read about it, sought help from professionals, healers, and teachers, and looked at my core wounds, projections, and automatic self-sabotaging behaviors. On a cognitive level, I understand what is being triggered and how I should handle it. But the truth is, there is an ache inside of me that just won't go away. (Now let me pause and say that since I am a big believer on calling myself on my own BS, it is very true that on some level I might be getting something from holding on to my pain. However, that is another newsletter and teaching.) 


This past week, another incident occurred in this ongoing situation which triggered another palpable response inside of me. I knew that I had to dig deeper in my attempt to heal and grow. I had to find other resources. I just had no idea who or what to turn to. I was so caught up in my own drama, I did not realize that the answer to my search was sitting on my nightstand. 

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Our Children Are Our Change

Our Children Are Our Change
For the past ten days I have been traveling outside of the United States. We had a packed itinerary and my intention was to disconnect and just be where I was with the person I was with. Halfway into my trip, the Parkland shooting occurred. Since these horrific acts of mass violence have unfortunately become part of our daily life, I realize that I've actually developed a pattern of how I digest these heartbreaking events. I tend to watch hour after hour of commentary, making sure I check in from the morning shows to Jimmy Kimmel Live’s opening monologue. Since Parkland is less than an hour drive from where I live and I know people who live there, I am sure that had I been home, I would have been that much more fixated on learning more. Being in Europe, I actually felt a bit guilty about not being more on top of the subject. Yet every time I entered a designer store in Paris, I was consistently struck by the lack of gun control and safety precautions in our schools. How was it that to enter a designer store my bag would be searched and in some cases an armed guard would stand at the door, but in most schools in the U.S., people can walk in carrying anything? 
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The Inconvenient Truth

kelley-kosow-inconvenient-truth-mirror
In the past few weeks I have been fixated on the news and stories surrounding the world of USA Gymnastics. Like most of us, I have looked on with horror, disbelief, and heartbreak as well as a profound sense of admiration for the 156 women and girls - "the army of survivors" - who shared their victim impact statements and testified against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. I also cheered when Judge Aquilina sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison and so matter-of-factly said, "It is my honor and privilege to sentence you. You don't deserve to walk outside a prison ever again." Just yesterday, Nassar was sentenced to an additional 40 to 125 years in prison after a second sentencing hearing where more than 60 young women and teenagers read or presented victim impact statements. 


Like many of us, I can't help thinking about the other people and organizations involved in this situation who were told or put on notice about Nassar's behavior and did nothing to stop it. Whether it was Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee, or private training facilities, I am a huge proponent of the investigations that are and should be conducted as to how these entities and people - these enablers - ignored or mishandled the sexual assault complaints lodged against Nassar. It's chilling to realize that he could have been stopped decades ago. 


Being a mother of three daughters the same age range as many of the women I watched testify, what stops me in my tracks are the victims and survivors who shared that they told their parents what was going on and, for whatever reason, their parents dismissed or minimized what their child was saying and did not advocate or did not advocate strongly enough to put a stop to Nassar's sick, destructive, abusive behavior. 


Although, I would like to think that as a parent I would have listened and taken charge, and now there is no question that I would, 15 years ago when I was a newly divorced, single mother of three girls trying to juggle so many aspects of life, the truth is I don't know how I would have responded...And that haunts me. Doing a good deal of soul searching, I have been asking myself questions like: 
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From Monkey Mind To Mindfulness

mindfulness

Although it feels like New Years was weeks ago, we are still very much in the conversation of "New Year, New You!" Even though every January we tend to engage in a dialogue about what we can do to revamp or upgrade our lives, each year we see a few new concepts or practices added to the "what's trending now" lists. In the past few years, the concept of mindfulness or being mindful has become a crucial part of the self-care conversation. 

From the boardroom to the kindergarten classroom to centers and apps dedicated to the practice, mindfulness trainings are widespread and have become mainstream. Credited with reducing stress and anxiety and having several other physical and mental health benefits, mindfulness is often defined as the practice of bringing your full mind to a singular object or situation or, as Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and leader in the field of mindfulness, defines it, mindfulness is "paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally." 

Although being totally present to one thing for even five to ten minutes might seem like a no-brainer, for many it is a challenge. Described as a practice that takes practice, many beginners are encouraged to practice mindfulness by bringing their attention to day-to-day activities, even something as simple as drinking a cup of tea or eating food. We are urged to smell the food, taste the food, chew the food, and truly be in the experience of the food. 

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Empowering Bad Behavior - #TimesUp Now!

Kelley-Kosow-TimesUp

Happy New Year! I have been thinking a lot about this first newsletter of 2018. In a perfect world, I might be using this post to share with you some profound, uplifting, spiritual experience that I had ringing in the New Year and setting the tone for the upcoming year, but the fact is I cannot. I rang in the New Year experiencing emotions that ranged from horrified, shocked, and speechless to feeling victimized.

I was at what I thought was going to be a sweet get-together which quickly got hijacked by the bad behavior of a 40-year old woman who, in a nutshell, was committed to proving that she was right and everyone around her was wrong because they were not adhering to her demands and doing and acting as she wanted them to. Although I've only known this woman for a relatively short time, from what I have seen, this woman's bad behavior had nothing to do with New Year's Eve. It has been on display since the day I met her and from what I have heard from people closest to her, it has always been ever-present in her life – igniting toxicity, trauma, and trouble where ever she goes and with whomever she is with.

Yet, just as troubling as this woman's consistent bad behavior has been the reaction of everyone around her. Not wanting to have to "take on her stuff," they let her stuff dictate and infect every move, moment, and mood. That was until New Year's. Seeing the horror, hurt and humiliation reflected in the eyes of people like myself and others who were bystanders as we watched the events of the evening unfold, the people closest to this woman could no longer ignore the proverbial elephant in the living room. It was painfully obvious that the air and joy was being sucked out of the room and that their tendency to choose "harmony" over truth had landed them in hell and empowered bad behavior as well as a negative, venomous presence in the space. 

Interestingly, if I have seen any theme so far in 2018, it has been very much in keeping with the one I just described. I have already received numerous calls and messages from people who can no longer tolerate accepting or enduring the bad or inappropriate behavior of others to rule the roost, be it their children, spouses, co-workers, employers, or friends. They've had it with living in denial, turning a blind eye, trying to make it better, or being blinded by their own wishful thinking. The cost of living in an environment of constant judgment, righteousness, and pessimism has not only brought them down, but also been downright depleting. 

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What Do You Need To Eliminate Before 2018?

kelley-kosow-eliminate-for-2018

As the holidays kick into high gear, I am thankful and a bit overwhelmed as I fill in my calendar. There are parties to attend, dinners to organize, presents to buy, decorations to hang, and visits from out-of-towners, friends, and family to prepare for. As I anticipate the month to come, it feels like my to-do list is infused with a sense of accumulation. Although I look forward to the abundance and merriment of delighting in the decadence of December, I also feel a strong sense of urgency to resolve and handle certain issues so I do not carry them forward into 2018. And the good news is there is still time. 

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