Can A Business Become SELF-Actualized?

Short answer: Yes.  But what do I mean?  I mean that even though a business is a collection of people putting effort into a particular goal, the business has its own story.  The people putting effort into making that story everything it can be need to be aware of that fact.  They are serving not only their own careers or their own sense of self, but also serving to actualize the possibilities and potential of the business.

The business is a part of the life story of its founder and of everyone else who signs on in hopes of taking the next, hopefully-lucrative step forward in their lives, but it has manifest destiny of its own.  That’s why when someone on the team isn’t contributing to the success of the business, that person has to “go.”  The business can’t become SELF-actualized if there is no homage paid to that goal by anyone on the team.

It’s important to remember, by the way, that the business can only become SELF-actualized if its story is non-fiction.  That means that the product has to be real, and the team has to be really focused and must possess the needed skills to develop the product and market it.   It also means that assumptions made about the market for the product have to be rational and based on real data.  Competition can’t be downplayed; the competitive landscape has to be researched in depth and accepted for what it really is.

A business can’t become SELF-actualized with fiction baked into its narrative for another reason, too. Investors will tend not to “buy into” the story.  Good investors have a sixth sense for whether the narrative arc of a company is likely to include great success or whether it is an interesting, but fictional, story.

While people may criticize capitalism, one of the real silver (or gold) linings of capitalism is that it is a force that helps to SELF-actualize companies and those who expend true effort on behalf of them.  When you give voice to the goals of a company and they make sense, you set in motion the internal desire of many others to see the company become what it was meant to be.  Human beings are instinctively excited by and activated by stories with real potential to include great chapters.  Being the founder of Amazon, or Employee #11 out of an eventual 5,000 employees at a company, or an investor who heard the true promise of a venture and put his or her money “to work” fueling that venture, feels good because we all want to watch something or work on something that fulfills its promise.

This very human and very deeply felt creative impulse can’t be explained away by studies of the brain that look at how dopamine surges when success is achieved.  Because chemical messengers in the brain are just molecular tides.  The joy in helping a business become self-actualized is a mystical, immeasurable experience.  It’s no different than the joy in envisioning the form of a sculpture and then carving it out of stone.  The finished product, if excellent, brings a sense of fulfillment and excitement.  It also brings a sense of relief—the product of the artist’s imagination has now become a physical “product.”

Getting every single person in a company to understand that he or she has the profound responsibility to actualize that company requires a leap of imagination, too.  But only until the company is built—for real.

Dr. Keith Ablow

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Nicole Gee

Pain-2-Power Person of the Week: Marine Sergeant Nicole Gee

Nicole Gee


Marine Sergeant Nicole Gee died a hero in Afghanistan on August 26, 2021, along with 12 other U.S. service members, in a suicide bombing near Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Gee, whose husband is also a Marine, was from Sacramento, California and served as a maintenance technician with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.  She graduated from Oakmont High School in Roseville, California and joined the Marines a year later.

I’ve chosen Sergeant Gee as the Pain-2-Power Person of the Week not only because of her service to this country.  Of course, I feel the same gratitude to every man and woman serving in the armed forces and am moved equally by the sacrifice of each of the 13 killed last week.  I have chosen her because it so happens that a photo of Sergeant Gee is so gripping and loving and full of decency that it will, God willing, outlive everyone reading this blog. And that proves that her power persists, even in the midst of death, even in the midst of what can only be unfathomable suffering for her husband and other family members, even as the nation grieves the terrible loss of her and the others who died with her.  It proves that we know precious little about the ways in which God tells His story of undying love for mankind.  We can sometimes only watch, with eyes filled with tears and hearts filled with wonder and hope and faith.

Wonder.  Hope.  Faith.   In the photo I reference, taken August 21, Sergeant Gee is in uniform in Kabul and looking down at an Afghani baby she is holding in her arms.  She posted that photo on her Instagram account and captioned it, “I love my job.”

The innocence of that baby, the courage of Sergeant Gee, the juxtaposition of her loving gaze and her camouflage and munitions and the firearms propped against the wall behind her speak about the incredible power of human empathy and of the infinite and inexplicable ways we are all connected—one to another.  They also speak to the greatness of this nation and the reasons why it will be restored as a beacon of freedom and free will to the world, entire.

I wonder if that baby survived to taste freedom in America.

I hope that that baby one day sees the photo of himself or herself with Sergeant Gee.

And I have faith that Sergeant Gee’s kindness and care and courage, captured as they are in that photograph, make plain that her spirit is, even now, transmuting pain into power.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Click HERE to schedule a complimentary discovery call with Dr. Keith Ablow.

Too Late for Pain-2-Power?

One of the most daunting psychological resistors to using Pain-2-Power to become the most authentic, powerful version of yourSELF is the idea that it is “too late.”  It’s too late because you’re so far along on a career path that, while it doesn’t speak to your soul, pays the bills.  It’s too late because the business path you are headed down has cost you too much to reverse course for a more profitable trajectory.  It’s too late because too much harm has come from misunderstandings in a relationship to resurrect it.  It’s too late because you look around the room at the people registering for courses at college, and they all seem so young, compared to you.

It’s too late because you’re too old, too much in debt, too far behind on the career trajectory you actually have passion for.  You’ve got too many car payments left, too many other ideas that didn’t work out, too many “friends” telling you to let that “pipedream” go.

Let me tell you something:  That’s baloney.  Massive bestselling author James Michener wrote 40 books after starting to write after age 40.  Frank McCourt published his Pulitzer Prize-winning Angela’s Ashes when he was 66.  J.K. Rowling lived as a single mother on welfare while completing the book Harry Potter.  Harlan David Sanders (Colonel Sanders) was 65 and bankrupt when he started Kentucky Fried Chicken with his first Social Security check.

The voice inside you that is telling you that it is too late to become the person you were meant to be, from all time, is a voice of fear fueled by past disappointments.  It isn’t the core YOU.  You’ll need to talk back to it and tell it, in no uncertain terms, that persistence and determination are omnipotent.  You’ll have to remind yourSELF that living a life that doesn’t honor who you truly are isn’t really living, at all.

Many scenes in great literature honor this FACT that you had better get going on the Pain-2-Power pathway. Here’s just one from the iconic play, Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller:

I ran down eleven flights with a pen in my hand today. And suddenly I stopped, you hear me? And in the middle of that office building, do you hear this? I stopped in the middle of that building and I saw—the sky. I saw the things that I love in this world. The work and the food and time to sit and smoke. And I looked at the pen and said to myself, what the hell am I grabbing this for? Why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be? What am I doing in an office, making a contemptuous, begging fool of myself, when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am!

I AM.  Those two words don’t change with age or debt or missteps or mistakes or mortgage payments.  Those two words won’t ever let you down.

It’s never too late for Pain-2-Power.  It’s never too late for the real YOU to be born.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Click HERE to schedule a complimentary discovery call with Dr. Keith Ablow.

Yury and Sam Shapshal: Pain-2-Power People of the Week

Yury Shapshal, 44, and Sam Shapshal, 14, were driving home to the Oaks of Boca Raton, Florida when they and two of Yury’s younger children noticed something wrong on the road.  A crowd had gathered near a ripped section of guardrail.  There was smoke coming from the canal.  Then they saw a car overturned in one of west Boca Raton’s canals.

“Stop the car, Dad,” Sam Shapshal said.

The crowd didn’t seem to know what to do.  There was one young man trapped in the car, which was filling up with water, and another young man in the canal pleading for help.  And Florida canals are notorious for being home to alligators.

That’s when Yury did something that he says came to him almost automatically.  He jumped in to save the young men.  I say it was almost automatic, because he told me that he had one thought before rushing into the water.  “I thought, ‘I might die doing this, but I know I can’t live with myself, if I don’t do it.’  See, I have three kids.  I know what it would be like to lose one, God forbid.”

That’s Pain-2-Power. Pure and simple.  It’s a willingness to accept the pain of risk for the long-term power of reinforcing one’s character.

What Yury Shapshal didn’t expect was that his son Sam would be right behind him.  Sam leapt into the water, too.  And then Yury Shapshal had another thought:  How will I bear it, if my son is killed because of this choice I made?  How will I explain this to his mother?  Why didn’t I tell him to stay in the car? 

Let me tell you something about Sam Shapshal, having spoken with him:  He wouldn’t have stayed, anyhow.  He is his father’s son.

As it happens, tragedy was averted.  Father and son forced the car door open and pulled the man in the car out to safety.

Sam told a reporter, “I didn’t really think about it.  I just went.”  If only more human beings were Sam Shapshal, instead of the onlookers who stood on shore, watching the car fill with water, the world would be a safer place.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Click HERE to schedule a complimentary discovery call with Dr. Keith Ablow.

American Flag Ripped Down from Veteran-Owned Business

Sal DeFranco, a former Navy SEAL, knows all about Pain-2-Power.  He was injured while serving our country, yet returned to the United States and started his own business with his wife Dana.  That business is called Battle Grounds Coffee, which not only sells top-shelf coffee products online, but also operates a number of cafés featuring their brew.

One of the locations of Battle Grounds Coffee is in Newburyport, Massachusetts, which happens to be the birthplace of the U.S. Coast Guard, among other things.

DeFranco and his wife proudly hung an American flag outside their café, only to find it ripped down and on the ground in the morning, when the business opened.

“Like a lot of veterans and a lot of Americans, I’ve been heartbroken by some headlines of late,” Sal DeFranco told me.  “And then to see the flag defiled that way was gut-wrenching.  My wife and I want to believe it was thoughtless, kneejerk vandalism by teenagers or something.  But I also believe we have to take a stand as a couple, as members of this vibrant community in Newburyport and as Americans and say, ‘This is a wonderful country.  It affords people miraculous opportunities.  I was willing to die for it.  And it is time we all showed due respect for the good things about it.’”

For her part, Dana DeFranco is clearly undeterred by any ill-will someone might feel toward them or the flag or America.  “We have faced far worse together,” she said.  “And one thing we have resolved, again and again, is to never give up or stand down or hate anyone.  We have only become more and more committed to our marriage, our business, our employees and to the future as we have faced adversity.  This time is no different.  Maybe people hearing about our flag being ripped away from the façade of our store, which happens to sit squarely in one of the oldest retail districts anywhere in America, will galvanize some of their commitment to the ideals Sal fought for, too.”

I am buying a pound of Battle Grounds Coffee and a tee shirt at right now.  Because Sal DeFranco and Dana DeFranco and their business stand for the best in America and are shining examples of Pain-2-Power.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Click HERE to schedule a complimentary discovery call with Dr. Keith Ablow.

Afghanistan and Pain-2-Power

The horrible outcome in Afghanistan leaves America severely wounded in terms of its stature and leaves tens of thousands of Americans and Afghanis who worked with America at risk of death.  We abandoned our post, abandoned our friends and set the stage for mass killing and the repression of ,many millions of people.  What’s more, we dishonored the heroic work of the US military in Afghanistan and to the heroic work of the US military in stopping al Qaeda and ISIS (which nested in Afghanistan).

It isn’t just those in the military who served since 9/11 who will be impacted psychologically by our Saigon-like retreat from Kabul.  It is tens of millions of other veterans who know only too well that the selfless work they have done for our nation here and in so many distant lands has not always been honored by their own nation.  Several of them have emailed me and called me over the past few days asking me to write something about what is happening.

How could the President of the United States and his team orchestrate such a series of blunders as to script our leaving Afghanistan without pride, without showing loyalty to those Afghans who served alongside us and without sustaining gains in liberty for that nation?

Do we need any other enduring image of our failure than the fact that human remains were found in the wheel wells of a C-17 US cargo plane that was rushed by terrified Afghanis seeking safe passage out of their country?  Hundreds made it inside.  But some clearly decided to try their luck flying to freedom by hiding in those wheel wells, only to die there, crushed.  Such is the symbol of what it means to stand with America for freedom and expect America to stand with you.

And that image won’t be the last seared into the minds of Americans who care about people around the world.  If they aren’t censored (and they shouldn’t be) we will be seeing lots of images of wholesale slaughter.

Can this much pain be turned into power?  The short answer is, “Yes, of course.”  This pain, this evidence of the shortcomings of American leadership, this clear demonstration of something lacking in the character of our government, will lead outraged patriots to, ultimately, demand better and do better.  These steps taken back toward fear and cowardice and complicity with evil will lead to a greater number of steps back in the direction of courage and liberty.

Not until we have seen what we have become can we be something else.  Something better.  Something truer.  Something stronger.  And, so, we need only keep our eyes open to the scenes unfolding before us, in order to set the stage for better leadership, greater gains in liberty and winning freedom for more and more human beings.

Those who say that America cannot be the police force for the world had better take a long, hard look at Afghanistan over the next several months.  Who else than the sons and daughters of liberty will be that police force?

Right now, there are young men and women whose pain at our nation falling to its knees before barbarians will be turned into powerful resolve to lead us forward toward the light.  And I would say this to those hoards intent on demonstrating the darkness in their souls:  Mind you that Americans always turn pain into power.  We do not sleep forever.  You will rule for the day and awaken our resolve to defeat you for all time.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Click HERE to schedule a complimentary discovery call with Dr. Keith Ablow.


Andrew Cuomo has announced he will resign August 24 as Governor of New York amidst claims that he sexually harassed numerous women who worked for him and sexually assaulted at least one of them.  He will leave office and, perhaps, face criminal charges, after inheriting a political dynasty from his father, New York Governor Mario Cuomo.  The elder Cuomo, of course, was a man of extraordinary oratory skills who captivated the nation with his brilliant speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention and famously had a jet ready on a runway, waiting to take him to announce his candidacy for President of the United States.  For reasons that remain unknown, the elder Cuomo never took that flight.

Andrew Cuomo stands accused of far more than sexual harassment or misdemeanor sexual assault.  Many accuse him of making the ill-fated decision to send elderly Covid patients back to their nursing homes, not only limiting their access to better medical care, but also then infecting others in the nursing homes, some of whom died.  Some say he made his decision to spite then-President Donald J. Trump, who had sent the USNS Comfort hospital ship to New York Harbor.

How can Governor Andrew Cuomo be the Pain-2-Power Person of the Week?  Keep reading.

Mr. Cuomo already had a reputation as a bully who trampled on people in his way, as he ascended to political power.  He wasn’t liked by many, many people on both sides of the political aisle.

Mr. Cuomo’s has also been accused of manipulating the MeToo and Time’s Up movements—endearing himself to them while making women who worked for him feel uncomfortable with his overly familiar words and his uninvited touching.

So, how can Governor Cuomo be the Pain-2-Power Person of the Week?  First of all, it’s because he’s got to be in a world of pain right now.  Secondly, it’s because I would tell him that, with everything being said about him and with all the mistakes he has made, even if those include letting politics and ego dictate public healthcare policy that ended up costing people their lives, that it is incumbent upon him to distill power from all the pain he is experiencing and even from the pain he may have visited upon others.  It is his responsibility as a human being to find the most productive way to redeem himself as a human being possessed of no small measure of intelligence and no small measure of charisma and no small measure of political skill.  I have chosen Andrew Cuomo as the Pain-2-Power Person of the Week to call upon him to not shy away from this challenge—perhaps the greatest of his lifetime.

Today, Governor Cuomo knows far more about many things than he did, say, three months ago, when he was the darling of liberal media outlets and the Left, in general.  He knows what it is to be derided, to be described as a monster, to be spoken of as responsible for many deaths.  He knows what it is to have to sit with his daughters and talk about accusations that he is a sexual predator.  He knows what it is to have his brother Chris’ career as a television anchor at CNN stained by association with him.

I don’t know exactly how Governor Cuomo ought to proceed to turn his pain into power, yet I know it is possible.  I know that the worse the pain, the greater the power can be.  I know that it will not be easy to accomplish that alchemy, and I also know that the difficulty only means it is more important to make it happen.

Standing accused of putting politics ahead of public health, Governor Cuomo could announce the Cuomo Quest to End Cancer and use his notoriety to raise money to endow that effort.  Standing accused of bullying and other insensitivities and indiscretions (and, yes, more than that) he could announce his determination to create the Cuomo Center for Compassionate Communication and seek to understand why our nation and the world has descended into such polarized recriminations between young and old, black and white, male and female, Republican and Democrat.

Shut out, perhaps forever, from elective office, he might decide to found Cuomo Capital Partners and raise funds to fuel the growth of third-world nations.

Of course, Governor Cuomo would be pilloried by much of the press for his attempt to contribute to our world.  Of course, there would be innumerable cynics.  That’s part of the inevitable pain of the moment at which he finds himself.  But that pain can also be the fuel for an equal and opposite amount of power to do good in this world.  And I, for one, am telling Governor Cuomo to get on with the work of burning that fuel.  Today.

See, I don’t think there is anyone in this world or that there ever has been anyone in this world who is beyond redemption.  And if Andrew Cuomo agrees (and he should), then he has no time to waste.

Dr. Keith Ablow

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There’s part of the musical version of Don Quixote, the Spanish novel authored in the early 1600s by Miguel de Cervantes, that I occasionally find myself reminding people about.  Don Quixote is, of course, the nobleman from La Mancha who reads so many romances involving chivalry that he comes to believe that he must revive chivalry in Spain.  He recruits a farmer named Sancho Panza as his sidekick or squire and sets off on his quest.

Don Quixote has, of course, lost his mind.  Yet, Sancho Panza continues to follow him through a series of adventures or misadventures, including attacking a “monster” with his lance, when the “monster” is actually a windmill.

At one point in the tale, Sancho Panza is asked something like, “Why do you follow him?  Surely, you know he is mad.”  And Panza breaks into the song, I Really Like Him:


I like him, I really like him.
Tear out my fingernails one by one, I like him!
I don’t have a very good reason,
Since I’ve been with him,
Cuckoo-nuts have been in season…
But there’s nothing I can do,
Chop me up for onion stew,
Still I’ll yell to the sky
Though I can’t tell you why,
That I like him!

It doesn’t make any sense!

That’s because you’re not a squire.

All right, I’m not a squire. ] Now does a squire squire?

Well, I ride behind him… and he fights.
Then I pick him up off the ground, and…

But, what do you get out of it?

What do I get? Oh! Why, already I’ve gotten…
I’ve gotten…

You’ve got nothing! Why do you do it?

I like him, I really like him.


No one we embrace in our lives is perfect, and many of those whom we embrace are imperfect.  But if we like them—never mind, love them—then that is often enough of an explanation for standing with them, or helping them stand up, again.  The energy of those interpersonal bonds can’t be seen under a microscope, but, thank God, it surely exists.

Now, here’s a really important thing:  We are all Don Quixote, in lesser or greater measure.  And for each person who sticks with us, nonetheless, we are blessed.

One more thing—the most important thing of all:  We have to be our own Sancho Panzas.  We have to keep loving ourselves even with all our quirks, our insanities, our misadventures.  Because life is a journey, and we will all need to be not only one another’s squire, at some point, but also to squire ourselves forward from pain to power.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Click HERE to schedule a complimentary discovery call with Dr. Keith Ablow.

American Depersonalization

Depersonalization is a psychiatric term that means having the sense that you are observing yourself from outside your body or that things around you are not real.  It is essentially the feeling of being a detached observer of oneself, and it is extremely painful.  People need to feel firmly rooted to a core identity, in order to not experience profound anxiety or depression or both.

America may be adrift in depersonalization at this moment in our history.  Our politics are so polarized, our boundaries so porous, our elections in so much doubt, our sense of manifest destiny to accomplish anything much so anemic that Americans, in wholesale fashion, risk being shaken loose of any true national identity and left to observe their nation and their own citizenship “from outside the body politic,” as though they are “not real.”  This can cause mass anxiety and mass depression and desperation.  The symptoms can be epidemic mental illness (which is present in America), epidemic suicide (which is present in America), epidemic drug addiction (which is present in America) and epidemic violence (which is present in America).

How did this happen?  I would argue that self-reflection as a nation tilted into self-reproach, then self-hatred, then hatred for one another.  We allowed ourselves to abide apologies for the personality of our country and the character of our country and the history of our country.  That then set loose an internal witch hunt for those groups—men, women, old, young, rich, poor, white, black, east coast, west coast—were the ones responsible for our supposed failures.

Without the momentum of communal pride and interpersonal good will as part of the fuel for the “patriotic personhood” of a country, national depersonalization can set in.  It has.  We are looking at America as though from outside America.  For many, many Americans—in the tens or hundreds of millions—national identity is no more.

Those who are citizens of America, but who no longer feel particularly American, and who don’t know what it would even mean to feel particularly American, are, arguably, now in the majority.  That is a perilous moment for a nation.  It threatens the nation with extinction.

What might be a way back?  Surely, an external threat can galvanize an internal sense of self.  Americans threatened with the loss of freedom from an external aggressor could remind us who we are.   Something even worse than the Covid pandemic could do it, as Americans would seek to tap into the huge creative, economic, scientific engines that comprise elements of our soul.  But who wants to be reminded we exist because of such suffering?

It would be better, of course, to re-visit and re-embrace American ideals by seeing external threats on the horizon long before we have to meet them head on and gearing up thrive, despite them.  Gearing up might look like an equivalent of the Manhattan Project, but targeting the destruction of newly-emerging viruses.  Gearing up might look like the recognition that we have enemies on the face of the earth who want to do away with our national identity, in order to attempt to forcibly impose their own.  It might look like wrestling, in earnest, with the epidemics of depression and drugs and violence in our country and committing to truly turning them around.

From this pain, we can and we must, realize—once, again—our power.  The alternative is darkness we have met with before, but should not need to meet again.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Click HERE to schedule a complimentary discovery call with Dr. Keith Ablow.

Marcus Ericsson: Pain-2-Power Person of the Week

Marcus Ericsson is the Pain-2-Power Person of the Week for maintaining calm under pressure and not quitting.  He won the inaugural Nashville Indycar Music City Grand Prix, but not before crashing his car, going airborne, having the front wing fly off the vehicle and making the crowd surely believe he had to be done with the race, if not done with racing.  He himself worried the car might snap in half.

But Marcus Ericsson never stopped.  Sure, we wouldn’t and couldn’t blame him had he worried about the roadworthiness of the vehicle racing through the perilous Nashville streets and pulled over to call it a day.  We wouldn’t and couldn’t blame him if he felt glad just to have survived the crash, the mid-air moments and the potentially back-breaking impact of landing.  But, instead, Marcus Ericsson persisted, in the face of adversity, in the face of worry, in the face of pain and powered on to win the race—not just finish it, but win it.  And in so doing, he delivered all of us an inspirational story to fuel our own journeys to the finish line.

See, sports matter to me not because I care which team wins (although I understand why some people do), but because they can be a metaphor for almost unfathomable grit, grace, faith and perseverance. Think of Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary 63-yard pass into the end zone on November 23, 1984 to win the Orange Bowl for Boston College with no time left on the clock.

That pass happened to be caught by Boston College wide receiver Gerard Phelan, Flutie’s college roommate, leaving us to wonder whether anyone who knew Flutie less well, who didn’t communicate with him for hours every day, could possibly have leapt into the air, over the University of Miami defenders, to make the catch.

So Marcus Ericsson may have done what he was trained to do.  He may have done what was instinctive.  But he had to have decided, through some miraculous combination of character, skill and commitment, to keep on driving and to keep on trying to win.

We all find ourselves, at one time or another, where Marcus Ericsson found himself in the race called life.  We run into massive headwinds in our businesses.  We confront potentially “fatal” challenges to our relationships.  We have to deal with illnesses in ourselves or loved ones.  We face a pandemic.  We meet bullies.

But for one day, in one city in America, on one roadway, one man decided that crashing and even breaking into pieces and staring death in the face didn’t have to mean he stopped driving and didn’t mean he couldn’t win in the end.  And for anyone who saw that happen or hears of it happening, I hope they can channel its magic and truth and strive to turn pain into power.


Dr. Keith Ablow

Click HERE to schedule a complimentary discovery call with Dr. Keith Ablow.