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What I did on my summer “vacation!”

Posted on July 21, 2017

What I did on my summer “vacation!”

It feels so good to be writing this post! So much has happened since my last post about leaving the Coldspring Center. The last few months have been an emotional roller coaster ride of sadness, excitement, and exhaustion. I would like to share a little bit of this journey with you.

As I mentioned in my last post, leaving the Coldspring Center was one of the most difficult professional decisions of my life. I loved the people and the work. I helped co-found the Coldspring Center back in the winter of 2013. When you have been such an integral part of an organization since its conception, disconnecting is a complicated and emotional process. I knew it was time for me to leave, but it didn’t make it any easier to do so.

While the decision to leave was thoughtful, it did happen quickly. Coming out of Memorial Day weekend I was sure it was time for me to move on and was confronted with decisions around what I was going to do next. The last time I resigned from a job was 2005, and for the first time in years, my short-term future was up in the air. Should I start interviewing?  Do I start my own business and try going on my own? What about this book I am working obsessively to finish? Oh, and how do I pay my mortgage and feed my two huge dogs?

As these questions haunted me, I was still traveling and training. Work with the Trust Clinic in Oakland and going to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council Conference reminded me how much I loved this work and the people I get to work with through training and writing. I have been given this fortunate opportunity to speak and write about my passion, and it seems like my message resonates with people. How could I do anything else?

I decided to give the going out on my own a try. The first step was to create the Bennett Innovation Group (BIG), L3C. As I was thinking about what type of organization I wanted to create, I decided the L3C structure was perfect for my work and personality. If you are not familiar with the concept of an L3C, it is a hybrid between a non-profit (501 c 3) and for profit (LLC) often referred to as a mission driven low-profit business structure. For me, this work is about the mission, not money. Bennett Innovation Group will allow me to live my purpose in a way I can communicate my values and focus on my training and writing.

As I was leaving Coldspring Center and establishing BIG, I was also trying to finish and publish Connecting Paradigms. The whole idea of writing a book on a trauma informed and neurobiological framework for Motivational Interviewing (MI) came to me one morning as I was waking up. In that half-conscious half- dream state, I realized that I had hundreds of pages of edited material due to my blog, trainings, and other work. The thought was whether I could add to the trauma, brain, and MI literature by showing how MI could be utilized effectively with those with histories of trauma and struggling with things like homelessness, addiction, chaotic family situations, incarceration, and other stressful situations.

Waking up this initial idea started to make some logical sense. MI is amazing! For good reasons, most of the MI literature speaks to helping the “average” person change. As readers of this blog know, trauma and high levels of stress impact brain functioning and require us to think differently and deeply about the types of services and approaches our clients need to thrive. I wanted to write the book about how to implement MI specifically addressing those with histories of trauma . As I wrote, I saw the need to bring in other paradigms into the discussion. Connecting Paradigms is not only a trauma-informed MI book, it also brings in harm reduction, stages of change, mindfulness, attachment theory, and epigenetics to present a complete and integrated approach to both understanding the needs of those with trauma histories and practical skill sets that any professional can utilize in their work.

Typical to most of my ideas, most people I shared this with thought I was crazy until I shared it with my wife Sarah who said, “Do it!” So, 18 months ago. I started to write. I would wake up an hour early each day and write. I spent nights and weekends editing, rearranging huge parts of the book, and coming up with new material. Sarah became my first editor; the deal was that I would clean the house on Saturdays and she would spend the afternoon editing.

Sarah did a fantastic job, and her edits gave me the confidence to engage another great friend, trauma expert, and brilliant MI trainer Russha Montag Knauer as my development editor. Russha challenged me, added great ideas and content, and helped take the book to the next level.  Besides Russha, I had so many other friends who served as cheerleaders and sounding boards throughout the process. The love and support I got from everyone made the book possible.

As I was going through this process, I was also figuring out how I would get the book into your hands. I discovered the self-publishing movement. Thanks to Amazon the publishing world looks very different today. Publishing is going through a similar transition to what music went through a decade or so ago. Today you can write the book you want to the audience you choose. You still must write a great book, but you can avoid the hassle of finding an agent, submitting drafts, and writing book proposals, and waiting for responses that never come.

As you can imagine, being part of this revolution got me excited to become an independent (“indie”) author! The one detriment of not going the traditional publishing route is that you must do your own editing. I found a great copy editor, Kathy Nida, who had training on trauma-informed education. She helped ensure that every word was perfect.

I also ran a design contest to get the best book cover possible. It was so much fun to see total strangers create visual representations of your ideas. The problem was that I was falling in love with many designs! Finally, I decided on a design that not only worked perfectly as a book cover; it also gave me a visual representation that I have already used in numerous trainings.

That pretty much brings us up to this week where I got to offer you all the first shot at purchasing Connecting Paradigms. The initial response has been great, both by the support I’ve gotten and the books sold. I’m excited that the book is getting into so many people’s hands!

My training schedule is also filling up! For now, it looks like my dogs will be well fed and that I am going to be able to make a living off my passion. The journey has been equal parts exhausting and exhilarating, but I know my path is going in the right direction for me to maximize my message to those that find value in these words.

Thanks so much again for all your support. I can’t tell you how much it means.

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