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- julie

Arlington, VA
United States

Tailored Output is a professional development coaching company with an emphasis on goal-setting, career-planning, and team-building within the context of creating whole and fulfilling lives. 

Individuals working with Tailored Output will uncover their unique genius to identify career opportunities that will contribute to a whole and fulfilled life.

Organizations working with Tailored Output will learn how to assemble multi-disciplinary teams--staffed with engaged and motivated members--to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks in alignment with the corporate mission and values.



The Tailored Output Blog


Filtering by Category: Goal-Setting

What's Your Problem?

Julie Slanker

What’s Your Problem?

That is Question #1 on the path to doing the impossible. In coaching conversations we ask, “what is the best use of our time together?” Or, “Is there anything in particular you’d like to work on today?” But we all know that we really mean, “what’s the deal?” “What’s not working?” “What's the problem?” 

If you have a burning desire to do something amazing, or feel a deep need to make something right, or you’re bored and looking around for something new, you have a problem. And the start of the solution is to name it. 

That’s not always easy.

From the archive. I developed my "what's your problem?" face at a young age.

From the archive. I developed my "what's your problem?" face at a young age.

Problems can be overwhelming and tricky. They bask in uncertainty. They hide behind our assumptions. They feed on our insecurity, on the fact that we are only one person and this is a big world. They convince us that we can only make a small dent, so why try at all. Problems are jerks.

And just like your bully older brother, you overcome your problem by taking its power away. By tempering your emotional reaction and using your critical thinking skills to dig down to the root of what’s wrong. 

Let’s be clear: I am not at all advocating that you solve your problem by ignoring it (as much as that worked when your brother would not stop poking you on the car ride to Ohio). And I am not advocating that you bury your emotions or pretend things don’t bother you, either. 

Your emotions are vital. The strength of your reaction signals the strength of your commitment to solving the issue! But it's important to set the emotional charge aside to give yourself space to do some discovery. Maybe even schedule a time to think or write about what’s bothering you. Set up a business meeting with your problem. Treat it professionally. Just for a few hours refuse to take it personally. Pick a time when you are fresh and separated from the issue. If you struggle with something at work, for example, try Saturday morning when the house is still quiet.

Early morning in a quiet house is my favorite time to interrogate a problem. After coffee. I have a clear head. And I haven’t used up any of my creativity or willpower, yet. My brain is as focused and capable as it ever will be. 

Then ask yourself some questions:

What’s alerting me that something needs to change? What is that feeling? Anger. Sadness. Overwhelm. Boredom. Longing. Hope. —Don’t focus on what is causing the feeling just yet. Simply name the feeling.

When is the feeling strongest? What situations generate it the most?

What is my inner voice telling me in those moments? What does my gut have to say?

What is the story I’m making up about why this is taking place? (Hat tip to Brene Brown). —Write that story down!

What about my story is true? —Even made-up stories are built out of facts. Circle or highlight the observed facts.

What about my story is something I assumed? —We all fill in gaps in our knowledge with our assumptions about how the world works. It's what brains do. And it doesn’t mean that we're wrong! Your assumption could be 100% correct. Notice those assumptions so you can challenge them. Circle or highlight the parts of your story that you did not observe but filled in with your understanding of the world or of a particular person, in a different color. 

When have I been wrong about those assumptions? —Look at your assumptions and write down at least one time when that assumption was false. 

What is my problem? —Look back over everything and name the thing that needs to change.

An example:

The other day we were having a conversation about a large organization’s idea to change their promotion process to be more Google-like, requiring employees to self-nominate for promotions and raises. The whole concept upset me. Mere minutes of searching online turned up article after article about how women and minorities are statistically less likely to self-nominate for promotion than white men. And that just made me more upset. They should know better!

So I took my own medicine and I sat down to think about the problem one peaceful evening (with a skinny margarita to fortify me).

What is alerting me that something needs to change? What is that feeling? —Anger, Disbelief, Disappointment.

When is the feeling strongest? What situations generate it the most? —When I found out about the new promotion criteria. When I easily found articles and studies that show it will be bad for women.

What is my inner voice telling me in those moments? What does my gut have to say? —THIS IS BULLSHIT! Why are we still having these conversations?!

What is the story I’m making up about why this is taking place? (Hat tip to Brene Brown). —The leaders of this organization were so quick to make a change that that failed to spend five minutes on Google or take a quick glance through the Harvard Business Review to see if there might just be a downside to their master plan. Once it is in place, the organization is going to be overrun with jerks who self-nominate like crazy and the hard-working, diligent, women, minorities, and men without a mega-competitive streak are going to be left in the dust. Everything is going to go to hell!

What about my story is true? —The leaders were quick to make a decision. Competitive jerks do self-promote more than non-competitive people. It only took a few minutes to discover the downside. 

What about my story is something I assumed? —The leaders didn’t do any work to discover the down-side of their plan. Nothing can be done to empower or support the non-competitive, diligent people to encourage them to self-promote at higher frequency. 

When have I been wrong about those assumptions? —The leaders are super smart. They make their living weighing the up- and downside of decisions. I make my living empowering people to overcome incredible obstacles. 

What is my problem? —We need bigger systems that empower women and minorities so we feel part of the whole and motivated to self-promote our incredible skills (without feeling slimy). It is important to me and to many people I know, but it isn’t pervasive enough. The statistics are real.

My problem is that society needs to change. We need more women and minorities at higher levels in organizations. And to get them there, we need more women and minorities at higher levels in organizations... This is always my problem. A reoccurring theme that surges when I deal with large organizations, especially in government or the military. I have been dealing with this for a while now. 

And I am motivated to be part of the solution. My strong emotional reaction tells me so.

The thing you name might be simple and small and easily fixed. Great! It also might be enormous and overwhelming and incredibly difficult to fix. And that’s great, too! Don’t let the size or scale of your problem overwhelm you. Every solution starts with a single step. And you’re taking it. Name Your Problem. And you’re already on your way!

We're all trying to do great things, including me. Sign up here to receive a weekly Rise and Shine! email with exclusive content about my own journey; Monday morning musings designed to motivate and inspire.


Getting There: A Book of Mentors by Gillian Zoe Segal

Mastery by Robert Greene

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath

The Truth about Leadership by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

My Desire Map

Julie Slanker

I had high expectations when I first opened The Desire Map. I’ve read my share of self-help books that couldn't possibly help anyone, but this book seemed different. And I really wanted it to be great. In fact, I needed it to be great. I was searching for something to free me from the check-lists and striving and go-hard-go-fast attitude that was running me ragged. So I was immediately interested when I found what seemed like a solution: a process that rejected actionable, measurable goals with deadlines (that just become yet another to-do list), and instead promised to first determine how I want to feel and then help me set goals that will accomplish my desired feelings. 

I wasn’t disappointed.

It took me a while to discover my Core Desired Feelings. I worked through the process in the second half of The Desire Map over multiple late-Spring evenings, sitting on my patio. Often with a glass of wine. Basking in the soothing atmosphere. I didn’t work on them after overly stress-filled days, or when I was in a rush, or when I had too much on my mind. I wanted to breathe. And do them right.

I discovered my Core Desired Feelings on May 9, 2014. 

I was working through the final steps of the process, reading definitions, saying words out loud and sensing how they made me feel. Eliminating any that didn’t sound right or feel right or look right on the page. And then—all at once—six little words ripped my heart out.


Authentic. Brilliant. In Awe. At Peace.


They hit me with a tidal wave of emotion. I was exhausted. And exhilarated. And overwhelmed. I had never seen anything so true about myself. In any shape or form. And I cried. Oh did I cry.

I tried them on for a few days, and then a few months. And I started to see the connection between those feelings in every decision in my life. The things I wanted to do. The things I didn’t want to do. And the burning feeling inside me that something was amiss—that action was required—when I wasn't feeling the way I want to feel. I linked them to my work. I crafted them into a vision for how I want to exist on my team. And I started passing out copies of The Desire Map to everyone I know.

I was all in.

When the new year rolled around, I used them as my guide to set my intentions for 2015. I was in love with the idea of dedicating my energy to feeling good. To establishing happiness as my metric for success. 


Throughout 2015, I have continued to refine my Core Desired Feelings. My initial selections felt great. And it also was my first bite at the apple. I knew from reading The Desire Map that CDFs can become more refined over time. As our comfort with the concept grows, we are able to dig deeper within ourselves and get closer to the true core of our desire.

I was no acceptation.

Authentic and Brilliant expanded and rolled up together into Vitality. It is a word I use frequently to describe how I feel after an amazing meal, a wonderful workout, or a restorative night's sleep. All times that I would like to recreate as much as possible. When I looked up the definition, I realized Vitality fits me perfectly.

At Peace was a harder one. I wanted to be more specific. What, I asked myself, was preventing me from feeling At Peace? And the words flooded in: restriction, confinement, rules, regulations, asking permission. It wasn’t peace I was searching for, it was freedom. But then that wasn’t really enough. I wanted to feel abundant energy, and immensely capable of creating the life of my dreams. It turns out: that's also my definition of Vitality.

I felt a little silly, actually, that it took me more than a year to hone in on that word. I use it all the time! 

In Awe, I thought, would be the easy one. I knew exactly what I meant: the feeling when you see the ocean for the first time. That's Awe. And then I realized that I also get that feeling when I am with a true expert, someone who has command of their subject and also a passionate drive and enthusiasm for their work. There is a reverence about Awe that doesn't quite fit in that situation. I realized that with the experts, I was not only impressed, I also wanted to understand them and be just like them. There was an element of Curiosity. Of how do you do it?

I expanded In Awe to Childlike Wonder to capture that feeling. And then I was done. 

Except, no. There was something missing. A nagging feeling in my bones. And I walked around with it for a while not knowing what to do. I read through my journal for the last year. I looked back at my entries in my Desire Map Planner (affiliate link). And it hit me like a ton of bricks:

I was still in the scientist-mind. Protecting myself. Scared to say that I also long for the mushy stuff. The stuff that requires someone else. Risk of rejection. Vulnerability and recovery. I act on my desire to know others and be known every single day. And yet I was afraid to put it in print. Until now.


My Core Desired Feelings:

Vitality. Connection. Childlike Wonder. 


And I am thrilled! You might be thinking, what's the point? Your new Core Desired Feelings aren't all that different from your original list, why spend all this time refining them? Danielle LaPorte has a great quote to answer that. She says,

“Knowing how you want to feel is the most potent form of clarity that you can have. Generating those feelings is the most powerfully creative thing you can do with your life.”

Clarity is important. My Core Desired Feelings are the foundation for my hopes and dreams, my goals and plans. My Life's Work is to create situations where they are made manifest, because these feelings are the key to my happiness. The original solution was excellent, and a great place to start. But because we are talking about my future happiness, refinement is worth the effort.

We're all trying to do great things, including me. Sign up here to receive a weekly Rise and Shine! email with exclusive content about my own journey; Monday morning musings designed to motivate and inspire.


The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals With Soul (affiliate link) by Danielle Laporte