It was June 2022, just three weeks before my dad passed, that I became familiar with the concepts of Energy Leadership. It was introduced to me as a self-awareness model, a mirror that was held up to our consciousness. I was skeptical about the word “energy”. I am an objective thinker who relies on facts and data, and my association with the word energy was with spiritual healers and the new age movement. I was too practical for all of that (judgment), until it was presented to me in this way: our thoughts and feelings hold a charge, and that charge can work for us or against us. With that understanding, I became a deeply curious student.
Energy Leadership takes something abstract, the way in which we view the world, and makes it tangible. It reveals the set of filters we have developed over time to view ourselves and the world. My dad’s mindset allowed him to live life in the moment. His energy was inspiring to all, and there was nothing “woo-woo” about it. It was a grounding force.
My dad, Dr. Mark Levy, was a visionary extraordinaire. Of course, he had the same self-doubt and insecurities as we all do, but fear never stopped him from pursuing his dreams. He always had what my coaching school calls a “B-HAG” – a big, hairy, audacious goal. He embraced the idea that life was not about the pursuit of happiness, but the happiness of each moment. It was his favorite quote, “There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.” He was a dentist by trade, but an artist at his core. He was a creator of magnificent design – gardens, waterfalls, exterior sanctuaries, interesting interior spaces. He worked with natural elements to create one-of-a-kind sculptures. When he was well, he loved to travel and see new parts of the world. He also loved to meet people from different cultures, and his art reflected this. It simply couldn’t be duplicated because it flowed from his vision and love of life.
If I had to describe my dad using just a few words, he was love, curiosity, and intuition in perfect harmony. He had a deep trust that things would work out, and without question, his energy afforded him that peace. I had only just started my coaching business when we found out he would be placed on hospice care for pancreatic cancer. I had the extraordinary gift of time to soak up all of the last moments of his life. I was exactly where I needed to be: with him for all of the beautiful and excruciating moments at the end. He told me he wasn’t scared, because he experienced everything he could possibly dream of in his one life, but mostly profound love.
According to the Energy Leadership Index by Bruce D. Schneider, there are seven levels of energy: each corresponds to a lens through which we see our situations, ourselves, and the world. Our ability to recognize the choice in our lives is what ultimately allows us to access higher levels of energy. While I’ll save the description of each energy level for another day, today I want to focus on the level of creation: level 7. Anabolic energy refers to the type of energy that builds up to inspire and achieve success, fulfilment, acceptance, synergy and joy. It is found as early as level 3 , the level of responsibility, and increases in levels 4-7.
“At level 7, winning and losing are illusions. At level 7, we engage strong intuition and inner faith to access genius thinking, creation, and unconditional love. We are tapped into an intelligence of the highest order. We are participants and observers of our lives at the same time. It’s the most abstract of all the levels because the energy resides in “no”thing and “every”thing.” Yes, you’ll need to get Eastern Philosophy with me here. It is the embodiment of our passion. We become the noun form of our adjectives – we are not loving; we are LOVE; we are not creative; we are ART.
Consider it this way. Let’s say you love the game of basketball. I’ll start at the higher levels of energy:
At a level 5, you play the game, and regardless of whether you win or lose, you learn something from it. It’s win-win, because you build skill.
As you transcend the ego in level 6, everybody wins because of the shared love of the game. Being able to enjoy the play is more important than the outcome.
At level 7, you ARE the game of basketball. You embody the love of the sport.
No human entirely resonates at level 7. Some of us touch it in moments throughout our day, or in pockets of our lives. My dad spent a lot of his life at level 7, even during periods in which he was in chronic pain at the end of his life. You might assume that comes from a religious perspective, but Dad was not religious. However, he was deeply, deeply spiritual – feeling completely connected to humanity, various art forms, song and dance, animals and nature. When we were little, he loved taking us to see the gorillas at Busch Gardens. There was always a gorilla that seemed to like my dad, who wanted to share his bamboo shoots or flash him a smile. I think they responded to his joy, or perhaps his beard. Dogs too went crazy for him.
In March, I was at my mom’s house. We opened up a desk drawer and Mom pulled out an envelope of quotes that he had collected throughout his life. The emotion hit me like a hurricane as I saw his too-familiar handwriting, indecipherable to most, on post-it notes and notebook scraps filled with all of the words he lived by. My dad had all the tools, all the wisdom, and perspective to live his own masterclass in life. On these pages were the law of being, the gift and opportunity in failure, the growth mindset, the importance of play, the meaning of life (to him, love and connection), and the freedom to choose.
There were hundreds of these quotes. Here are a few:
“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”Confucius
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”Jimi Hendrix
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”Abraham Lincoln
“Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”Lao Tzu
“People say that motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.”Zig Ziglar
“Failure is only opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”Henry Ford
“A man once asked his father, ‘how will I ever find the right woman?’ His father replied, ‘Forget finding the right woman. Focus on being the right man.’”Unknown
“Doing what you like is freedom. Liking what you do is happiness.”Frank Tyger
“I am thankful to all those who said no. It’s because of them I did it myself.”Albert Einstein
“Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream things that never were and say, why not?”George Bernard Shaw
My dad didn’t just collect quotes. He lived them.
Flashback – July 4, 2022. We were all by my dad’s bedside. He says, “I want to write a book. I’m going to call it, ‘A Great Way to Die’.”
Flashback – July 12, 2022. We were at my dad’s grave and just about to conclude the burial process, when suddenly, the sprinklers at the cemetery went off by accident. In the middle of our most intense grief, I let out a burst of laughter that was so entirely joyful that I knew I would be okay. I could still laugh. His love was still with us. While I’d might say that was dad having fun, I think something else was happening. He left us the tools not only to survive, but maybe even to thrive. To dance in the rain, even on our very darkest days.
That’s level 7 in its purest form. My dad’s parting gift was the power of perspective. He gave me everything I need to do this beautiful work. What makes for a great coach is not her certification, her resources, her session preparation, or her empowering questions. It’s the gift of seeing others without judgment. My dad held space for each of us to just be.
The last note I picked up had my name on it. Dad wrote, “Tiff, you see things and absorb them through not just your eyes, heart and mind, but also with your soul.” Beyond his life, he is still my greatest teacher.
Pictured on cover: Dad feeding the seagulls in Mexico
This piece contains my interpretation of the copyrighted work of Bruce D Schneider and the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC).