Life Changes

So much of my life has been steeped in transitions that I rarely gave much thought to how my experience could support others. It wasn’t until a dear friend and colleague of mine suggested I support others through transitions that it even occurred to me. At first, I could not fathom why they thought I would have anything to say to others that could help them. Her reply was sobering, “Clearly Byron, you haven’t read your own resume.” 

We all have moments in our lives when we discover how significant our experiences can be to others, sometimes more than they seem to ourselves. Having worked with global leaders who do not see their lives as particularly noteworthy, I’ve discovered a similar point of view about my own life! I’ve also learned just how noteworthy my clients’ lives truly are as we work together to evolve their leadership. They lead fascinating lives when they have the opportunity to see it from someone else’s perspective. 

When I work with leaders one-to-one or in groups, one of the aspects of my coaching is to share vulnerably about myself when appropriate. I learned that when I demonstrate vulnerability with my clients, they experience the value of the impact for themselves and are more confident in showing vulnerability with their own teams, colleagues, and clients. Starting at the beginning of our working relationship, I strategically find opportunities to share about myself as a model for how it is done and why it is such an effective way to build long and lasting relationships with others. 

In the Beginning

Rather than simply tell you a story, I will share with you that my friend and colleague brought to my attention that I transitioned from being a puppeteer entertaining young audiences to beginning my figure skating career which opened my eyes to business. 

My interest in how the skating business worked led to the start of a twelve-year career in the food service and hospitality industry primarily as a waiter; the most accessible entertainment to the public, from my perspective. I learned how to be authentically engaging and attentive to what made diners happy and appreciative. It was an industry that significantly developed my stage presence.

The entertainment business was already in my blood from my father; a professional pianist and drummer. Beyond his 9 to 5 profession, he continued to return to his love of music right up until the last six years of his life. He taught me to sharpen my entertainment skills through music and I did. I began honing those skills at just about every imaginable level of the restaurant experience. I transitioned from a pizza parlor to steakhouse dining. I made my way into gourmet catering where I continued for over a decade. I had the opportunity to work in a number of fine restaurants in my career. To this day, food preparation is my greatest passion. 

During that ten-plus year timeframe, I was tapped to move into the hotel industry working in the banquets department through five-star dining. I remember how challenging some of those transitions felt. When I first learned about the concept of imposter syndrome in my coaching work, I recalled similar feelings as a skater, progressing from one level to another. 

It really hit home for me when I earned my first master’s rating as a figure skating coach. “What am I going to do when they all find out I have no idea what I’m doing?”, I used to think. “Worse, what happens when the master coaches who passed me, have to explain why and how I passed?” It never occurred to me that imposter syndrome was what I experienced as I got promoted to higher levels, changed jobs, shifted to different industries, and acquired new skills and various roles. I’ve experienced these doubts since I began acting in the second grade. Being emotionally stretched and facing rejection was then and still is now, a regular occurrence. 

It remained the same when I toured with Ice Capades. In a professional show, talent is hired, promoted, demoted, and fired. It wasn’t always about a skater’s ability either. Sometimes it boiled down to, ‘how easy it is to work with a skater more so than how talented or not they may have been?” There is also that moment when it becomes time for talent to move on. It could be leaving the ice show as I did after three years, to move on to a coaching career. It could be moving up in an organization when promoted to more advanced roles. Or it could be moving on from a role in a company to join a different organization

For me, leaving the show and moving into coaching skaters was nothing like being a performer in an ice show. Evidence of that took a bit of time to sink in after a very seasoned coach enlightened  me that “it takes about five years to feel like you know what you’re doing.” Except, I already knew what I was doing. Or so I thought! 

My mother used to reference people who thought very highly of themselves. Not unlike when we reach adult age and think we know more than we do. She called it “smelling yourself.” I was so busy smelling myself after I heard I’d have to wait five years to really know what I was doing as a coach, that it wasn’t until about the fifth year that I remember gasping; realizing how far I’d come and how little I really knew! That revelation led to many years of trying to prove I had any business in the sport, much less coaching. Champion? Olympic coach? Yikes!

Coming Full Circle

I think part of the reason I returned to my own skating, which eventually led me to become a professional pairs skating champion, was to reconnect with my confidence in performing. That is a strange thing to share given we balance on a quarter of an inch of steel during which the only time we are on the full quarter-inch of the blade, is when we transition from edge to edge, from one foot to the other as well as moving from backward to forward and back again. The only way to avoid spending most of your time on your rear end is to master transitions. Yet, skaters still spend a significant amount of time on our ass, getting up off our ass or about to fall on our ass! Go figure! Pun intended.

This makes for an ideal transition to share where I learned to develop a nervous system that allowed me to cover that much change in my life. It was during the countless and seemingly endless hours of tracing school figures that I developed the skill of mindfulness. Compulsory school figures are the backbone of the sport and one of the most mindfulness training grounds that I know. Meditation came along much, much later in my life. School figures are where it all began for me and they were a requirement until 1991, until then you were not considered a figure skater without having trained school figures. 

School figures are to a skater what barr work is to a ballet dancer. Without the barr, you are left with no foundation for classical dancing. Without figures…well, the sport is now without school figures. This means the sport had to change and experience the uncertainty and growing pains of transition. I was coaching when figure requirements ended and something new had to become our version of barr work. A group of coaches; several of whom were mine, a number of judges; some of whom are my contemporaries, and a pool of skaters; one of whom later became my student, developed Moves in the Field. I was invited to co-author the book of standards for the new discipline that replaced figures and ushered in a new type of skating athlete. Enter in deepening the concept of cross-training. 


As I became known as the MovesMaster demonstrating, coaching, mentoring coaches, and setting standards for judging them, my skills as a coach became known as well as my writing ability. Eventually, I found myself writing my own column in an international figure skating magazine and coaching on the Olympic level. I’m reminded of a lyric from The Talking Heads – Once in a Lifetime, “How did I get here?” It is a sentiment I thought of often as I transitioned in and out of a professional acting career that is still alive today. I recorded a book on tape, did voice-over work, and appeared in the global television special, “Ice Capades with Kirk Cameron.” 

Most of the professional skating experience I’ve had came after owning a chocolate manufacturing company; initially intended to financially support my skating. That business was what signaled my eventual retirement from the food industry. In each of the many professional roles I’ve had, I learned countless life and business lessons along the way. It finally inspired me to earn an academic MBA to go along with learning business on the job.

Navigating smoothly through transitions can help you Gain an Advantage.