ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – Plus

My wonderful niece, Yuni (Yunilka Nuñez), aka U.S. Navy Aviation Electrician’s Mate Nuñez, called me out to participate in the challenge, so here I am.

I’m doing this especially for my St. Anrthony’s, Nepera Park, Yonkers NY, Class of ’68 elementary school classmate, Rich Eletto, with whom I reconnected almost two years ago, and who was diagnosed with ALS several months ago. He’s got a great spirit and sense of humor.

To enhance my participation a bit, I’m going to donate a percentage of profits from the sale of The Quality of Effort and The Quality of Effort Workbook to the ALS Association for all sales through the end of September, 2014 as follows:

30% of profits from sales of both books purchased directly through the publisher’s e-stores (click on titles above or here for the book and here for the workbook).

The books are also available on Amazon, but the the publisher’s e-store pays a higher per-book royalty–so the 30% will be higher as well.


If you’d like multiple copies (5 or more) of either book for your organization or team, email me at and I will give you a discount code. Same 30% donation applies.

I’d also like to acknowledge some friends, classmates and former students who set the example in the last few weeks: Gary Greenhill, Tim Holland and Tom Hanney (Sacred Heart High School, class of ’80), Tom Lyons (SHHS, ’81), Mark Maggiola (SHHS, ’75), and my classmates, Bunny Santullo—sorry for the “Smith” in the video, and Rose DeVito Nedwick, whom I forgot to mention in the video (SHHS, ’72), Mike Bardunias (Iona College), Chris Rogers (Salpointe Catholic via Cardinal Spellman in da Bronx), Steve Butala (Rich’s and my classmate at St. Anthony’s), and Michael Brant DeMaria (composer and musician extraordinaire).

Find out more about both books at:

Healing Newtown: Poetry Writing for Adults

3 Saturdays: February 22 and March 8 and 22, 2014 | 10 AM – Noon
No poetry-writing experience necessary. Participants are invited to explore the theme each week at their own level of comfort.

February 22 – Theme: “I Never Told Anyone”

March 8 – Theme: “Self-Compassion/Acceptance” Part 1

March 22 – Theme: “Self-Compassion/Acceptance” Part 2

Location: Healing Newtown | Newtown Congregational Church | 14 West Street, Newtown CT

Click here for more information and registration.

Emerging Horizons of Complexity and Change

“With over 30 years in the field of visual art and higher education, I came to Reggie Marra to develop new skills that would enable me to confront emerging horizons of complexity and change within my institution. I wanted to develop new skills for constructively and creatively engaging this unchartered territory.

“I came to the right place. Reggie’s superb coaching skills, his substantial intellectual capacity, his clarity of verbal communication (both written and spoken) and his highly nuanced wisdom (which includes both fluid compassion and pointed directness) offered me a very effective set of insights, tools and skills.

“As well, the stage that he set for the journey—from a current way of being to a new way of being (which is still unfolding seven months after the six month coaching period)—was built with a rare mixture of technical ability, in-depth professional experience, honesty, creative insight and intuition. Reggie is able to expect, understand and navigate the necessary expansions and contractions of any new and creative endeavor, and as an artist and educator, I deeply appreciated his ability to do so.

“What I learned with Reggie enabled me to successfully launch four influential initiatives in service of my department, colleagues and students.

“Thank you, Reggie. Thank you.”

Ray DiCapua, Associate Professor of Art
Associate Head for Admissions and Recruitment
Department of Art and Art History
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT

ProVisions Interview with Ryan Leech

I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Ryan Leech on October 28 as part of his ProVisions interview series. Ryan is a fellow Integral Coach™, gifted yoga instructor, Professional Mountain Biker and good friend. His stewardship during the interview allowed us to move into some surprising, and I think essential, territory.
     Our conversation began with The Quality of Effort and our respective experiences with sport, and evolved into a wonderful exploration of sport as metaphor for life: success, loss, culture, development, practice, intention, authenticity, resistance, self-doubt, compassion, fear, the illusion of control, presence, embodiment, death and love. Even poetry showed up toward the end.
     Check out the interview and let me know what you think. Check out Ryan’s work on YouTube and at

Original Identity Theft

Some decades ago your parents, relatives, and the rest of the adults in the community, marketplace and culture-at-large stole your identity in order to help you fit into their world. Their intentions were generally good, but limited by the theft of their own identities years earlier. Depending upon the specific details of your theft, you experienced some powerful emotions, repressed and/or acted them out, and in retaliation for the theft and to protect yourself from further violation, you began to close down parts of yourself, build barriers, and engage specific defensive strategies.

To compensate for your loss, you’ve attempted to replace what’s missing with substitute gratifications that offer temporary relief, but just don’t fill the void. Deep down inside, you know this. The good news is that through conformity, rebellion, insight, hard work and luck, you survive—even thrive within the ephemeral breaks these substitutes provide from remembering your loss.

Even better news is that your identity can never be consumed or destroyed; it’s merely hidden, and you can reclaim it. Unfortunately it’s buried amid gazillions of words, images, secrets, opinions, habits, worldviews, lists, best practices, only-things, how-to’s, to-do’s, even voodoos.

Because you were a child when it happened, the theft wasn’t your fault. It is, however, absolutely your responsibility to recover your identity. No one will or can do this for you. In order to even recognize and admit that it was stolen—much less get it back, you’ll have to do some work, drop defenses, remove barriers, and see the substitute gratifications for what they are. They’re not bad; they’re just substitutes.

The work required varies. It may be spiritual—looking into ultimate concerns, or perhaps it’s somatic —really grounding your awareness in your physical body. It might also be cognitive, emotional, moral, or interpersonal, and you might access what you need through one or more practices and environments—the arts (musical, literary, visual, performance, etc.) business, teaching, service, laughter, nature, or meditation, among many possibilities. No one-size-fits-all is available, although healthy relationship and community are inevitably essential.

In very general terms, what was stolen is the space in which pure, infinite wisdom meets deep, unconditional, all-embracing compassion. It’s the paradox of letting everything in the world arise as it is, completely free from any attachment or aversion to it, and simultaneously embracing life fully and having your heart broken wide open when you see even one person’s suffering—including your own. Neither of these alone—the infinite freedom nor the unqualified embrace—does it or is it. You need both, and you have to walk in this world with and as that paradox.

One way to move toward recovering your identity is to begin a conversation with someone whom you trust and who cares about you. Keep the conversation going. Pay attention to what comes up. Be skillful—practice accountability, acceptance and forgiveness, especially with yourself. Engage life with fierce gentleness. Hold the paradox lightly. Love fully. Risk vulnerability. Catch yourself as an identity theft, especially with those you love. Keep paying attention to what comes up.

Personal Development in the Workplace

“Development,” as used here refers to adaptive or transformative change, as differentiated from technical change.

Technical change implies a new skill or an improvement in a current skill or process. To be clear, technical does not imply unimportant, basic or simple: a surgeon who creates a new surgical procedure or improves on a current one is working with technical change.

Adaptive or transformative change refers to an authentic shift in worldview—how an individual or culture views itself, others and the environment. This type of shift makes possible new, perhaps previously unimagined capacities, behaviors and outcomes. Staying with our surgeon: after she undergoes surgery, she sees herself, her work and her patients, for the first time, from both a surgeon’s and a patient’s perspective, and engages her patients through a whole new set of capacities (especially, but not only, empathy).

Both technical and adaptive change have important roles in our day-to-day lives.


Increasingly the workplace calls for ongoing developmental opportunities for individuals and teams at all levels of any organization that is committed to the integrated health and wellbeing of its employees and its relationships with multiple stakeholders—clients/customers, vendors, local community, and the marketplace at large.

Unengaged employees, unconscious leadership, employee turnover and other similar issues take both financial and cultural tolls on large and small organizations alike, and these occur even where leaders and employees feel they are justly compensated for their work. For one case-study and research-based take on the other-than-money motivators that keep people engaged, I recommend Dan Pink’s (A Whole New Mind, Drive, To Sell Is Human) under-20-minute TED talk:

In organizations in which employees at any level feel they are justly compensated, more money motivates them only in cases of narrow, simple tasks—many of which are outsourced and/or done by computer. Among the intrinsic, other-than-money motivators that Pink addresses are autonomy, mastery, and purpose—we want to be treated like adults, we derive satisfaction from doing our work well, and we have a deep desire to believe in the work we do.

Evidence is also clear that most of us, even if we’ve achieved a comfortable level of socially visible success (status, income, title, etc.), regularly have issues with confidence, overwhelm, shame and anxiety, among other “not-enough” or “in-over-my- head” experiences.

With all of the above in mind, intentional, ongoing personal development workshops and trainings serve at least a twofold purpose: first, employees at all levels engage and develop an enhanced sense of identity and perspective along with the accompanying increased capacities; second, they recognize that their employer cares about them beyond “just” the workplace and financial bottom line, and they show up at work happier, more engaged and more productive. Conscious leaders understand this and make it happen.

The particular approach to conscious leadership that informs my work is integral—simply put, integral leadership recognizes multiple leadership styles and engages what is appropriate and most effective in a given set of circumstances, utilizing the best of what’s out there. The same is true with personal development—working with emotional intelligence or personality type or conversation skills or any other important area may or may not be what an individual needs (i.e. if my only tool is a hammer, that’s what I use). Rather, an integral approach assesses strengths and areas that need to be developed, and leverages the former in service of the latter (if I have a well-equipped tool belt, I choose what’s best for the job at hand—no preconceived notions of what is needed).

I am interested in conversations with leaders with whom the above resonates, and who are open to exploring the possibilities around bringing this level of engagement to their organizations. Whether we simply have a single one-on-one dialogue, or we dive in more deeply through coaching or training with my partners at ParadoxEdge, or we engage in ways as yet unimagined through our network of integral practitioners, coaches and leaders on six continents, these conversations have value.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, concerns, observations.

What Each of Us Can Do When Things Get Messy

Be aware of the mess.

Be aware of how we see and feel about the mess.

Remember (or consider) that calling it a “mess” is a perspective we’re taking (or that’s taking us).

Consider that it may not be a mess.

Ask for help, or offer it.

Accept* and love ourselves as we are.

Accept* and love others as they are.

Do the hard work to bring about necessary change, starting with ourselves.

Forgive ourselves when we (think we) have come up short. Forgive others.

There’s more, but these will suffice for now.

*Accept here means to receive or recognize what’s here in the moment, and does not suggest that we have to like, tolerate, encourage how things, we, and others are.

The Unexpected Good

From The Quality of Effort Workbook, Chapter 5 – “The Varying Natures of Success and Justice”:

“Think of those athletes who have excelled in or even dominated the sport(s) you enjoy.  Every generation in every sport has its amazing performers, so focus on those most familiar and meaningful to you.  Despite the publicity they get, they and their exploits are very, very rare.  Not all of us will realize our dreams of professional sports, entertainment, professional, political or entrepreneurial careers, but some of us will—and that’s great.  Whether we realize our dreams or not, we can commit to discovering and realizing our ability to accept and embrace the unexpected good that comes our way.   Sometimes the only difference between the “successful” and the “unsuccessful” person is the ability to see both the vast forest and each individual tree, and to hear, and then open the door when opportunity knocks.  Commit to learning to look and see ever more clearly, and to listen and hear ever more deeply.”

Copyright © 2013 by Reggie Marra

Who and What You Truly Are

From The Quality of Effort, Chapter 11 – Athletics and Life: A Permanent, Positive Relationship:

“In the movie Rocky, Adrian and Rocky spend their first date at a skating rink after Rocky bribes the maintenance man for some ice time on Thanksgiving night.  During their first few minutes on the ice, Rocky tells Adrian that his father told him he’d better learn to use his body because his brains wouldn’t get him anywhere.  Adrian laughs and says that her mother gave her the opposite advice—she’d better learn to use her brain because she didn’t have much of a body.

“Both funny and poignant, the scene allowed each character to share a somewhat awkward self-perception, and it also portrayed the strong sense of “perceived specialization” that characterizes so many of our journeys. We’re either smart or dumb, quick or slow, athletes or scholars, liberals or conservatives, thin or plump, peaceful or angry.  We do not allow ourselves to be human beings who happen to have certain interests and talents, who have chosen certain careers or vocations, who engage sports and spirituality, and for the sake of an example, have a knack for carpentry but no clue when it comes to cooking—or vice versa.  Don’t get me wrong—the differences do exist, relatively speaking, but the differences are not who we are.

“People seem easier to sort out, classify and understand if we group them by size, shape, color, sex, wardrobe, profession, ethnicity, religion, and other arbitrary characteristics.  If you’re a plumber or a surgeon, we know what that means, or if you’re Catholic, or short, or don’t believe in God, we know what that means as well.  While you’re in school, you may be a jock or a techie, or a goth, or a preppie, or a loner, or … you name it (the labels get outdated and updated pretty quickly).  If you’re lucky, perhaps you’re in touch with that part of yourself that allows you to move easily among your classmates in all the various groups. Regardless of the category or categories you embrace, or into which others place you, the groupings don’t really matter except in people’s minds, and while that can affect perceptions, it does not affect who and what you truly are. Why not strike a balance?  Why not develop athletically, as well as intellectually, emotionally, socially, professionally and spiritually, as you grow chronologically older?”

Copyright © 2013 by Reggie Marra

How We Hold Our Stories – Talent, Effort and Results

From the Preface to the revised 2013 edition of The Quality of Effort:

“….What prompted me to write the book was the dynamic around talent, effort and results…. As a teacher and coach, I constantly faced the diverse mix of learning styles, intelligences and levels of effort in the classroom and the gym.  Faced with the myriad sagas of my own and others’ victories and defeats, I wanted to more deeply understand the place of effort in life.  I explored the “well-played loss” and the “poorly-played win,” the prospect of doing the best I could and falling short of my perceived goal, and the frustrating experience, especially in youth, of engaging someone with great talent, who seemed to make little effort, and always, it seemed, came out on top.  In a nutshell, I wanted to understand my own experience more clearly—to take a close look at any chosen endeavor, my quality of effort within it, my preconceived notion of success, and the ultimate meaning of the experience, both in light of and completely divorced from any final result.

“As I was completing the revisions to this edition, the 2012 Summer Olympics lured me to spend more time in front of a television screen than I would ordinarily. As I watched these amazingly gifted and hardworking athletes with their respective reactions to winning gold, silver, bronze or no medals, or to not even qualifying for the medal rounds of their events, I was both moved and intrigued by their diverse perspectives. Some were elated just to compete in the Olympic Games, some made it clear that a silver medal was a failure, and others danced in joy with their bronze medal in hand as they celebrated the gold and silver winners.

“These games reminded me yet again of the very human story behind every gold, silver, bronze, and no-medal performance, and of the countless stories of those athletes who don’t make it to the Olympics. Every performance everywhere—from local youth leagues to the NBA, from Major League Baseball to intercollegiate competition, from the NFL to high school sports, and from the World Championships to every other level and class of athletic competition—guarantees that for every win, another, or ten, or a hundred, or thousands of other performances didn’t win, at least not in the traditional sense of score, time, weight or distance. This book is about how each of us holds these stories and performances—within the context of, and completely apart from, the final outcome.”

Copyright © 2013 by Reggie Marra