My name is Leela.

I’m a pleasure-promoting renegade with an agenda: I think everyone should feel good, from the top on down, and not just because feeling good is good.

a series of pictures of a dark haired, brown skinned person wearing grey pants, a white shirt, a long black vest, and a red scarf in the woodsI have another motive.  Because when you feel good, everyone benefits.  The people under you.  The company.  Your family.  Everyone.  Pleasure promotes productivity, satisfaction, and effort.  Pleasure promotes teamwork and communication.  Pleasure leads to key intangibles like connection, flexibility, creativity, and growth.  Pleasure makes people healthier.  Pleasure gives people a better experience which leads to higher levels of integrity and lower levels of attrition.

Pleasure also leads to better intuition, stronger decisions, better innovation.

Pleasure is the missing key.

I don’t say this lightly.  I was a parish minister before I came to coaching.  I have also been a sexuality educator.  I have training in half a dozen different ways to make your brain work better and work better with your body.  I have a graduate degree.  All those roads led me here.

Here’s what happened: I kept meeting miserable people.  I could tell they were miserable because they were cruel without meaning to be.  They didn’t know why they were doing it.  What they said they wanted to do and be and believe in wasn’t the same as what they actually did or who they were.  And when I asked them about it, they got angry.

Someone who gets angry under those circumstances feels trapped.  Just like a lion backed into a corner by hyenas.  They shouldn’t be trapped.  But they are.  And they hate it.  And they hate anyone who can see it, anyone who points it out, anyone who asks about it.  They were miserable and so they took it out on the people around them: their loved ones, their kids, their friends, their colleagues, the people who worked for them.

It was heartbreaking and ugly and awful.

If they managed to protect their loved ones and friends, they took it out on themselves.  That was almost worse.  Addictions: to food, to alcohol, to drugs, to anything that kept them from having to feel, ran rampant.  They projected confidence but went home angry and had arguments with people in their heads all night.

And worst, they didn’t believe they could feel any better.

My theology is based in pleasure.  I believe that pleasure is a gift we all have access to, that is is the best thing we’ve got going as a human race.  We learned, from the very beginning of evolution, to move toward pleasure and away from pain.  It’s the most basic direction-finder in the living world.  It’s what keeps us alive.

Let me say that again: Pleasure keeps us alive.

Feeling pleasure, knowing how to find pleasure, moving toward pleasure is the most life-sustaining, life-affirming thing we do.  Period.

And we know the difference between false pleasure and genuine pleasure.  False pleasure gives you that sick-morning-after feeling.  Real pleasure feels like watching the sunrise with your long-awaited grandchild in your arms.  The key word is feels.  You’ve got to know how it feels.  You’ve got to be willing to feel it.  That’s where it all starts.

I know, there’s a lot of self-help out there saying “feel your feelings”.

It’s kind of ridiculous.  No one wants to feel miserable.  No one.  We are specifically wired to choose pleasure.  Not misery, not even a void.  Pleasure.

So I started asking, what if, instead of waiting for misery to “feel your feelings”, you went after pleasure, proactively, right now, on purpose–you know, they way you do everything else?

And I discovered that people didn’t know how, or had the idea that it was wrong.  Flat out wrong, like killing people is wrong.

That kicked my ass.  Because I remembered when I didn’t know how; when I somehow thought that feeling pleasure was giving up power.  And I remember when I discovered that it’s just the opposite.

Claiming pleasure is claiming power.  When you claim pleasure, you claim your power–a deep, primal power that goes back to those early days of trying not to get killed by the nearest predator.  That power, and the pressures of the world, led us to become the tool-building, learning-transmitting, growing, developing species that we are.  We became who we are through a power that was driven by a recognition of what pleasure felt like, and the compelling desire to get that feeling back–again and again and again.

Unfortunately, the very brains that allowed us to think our way into pleasure eventually allowed us to think our way out of it.  When you’re starting a company you make decisions fast, you try crazy things, you go out on a limb, you go with your gut.  As you get more established, it becomes harder to  hat.  You start collecting people who want to weigh in: your board, your staff, your friends over a beer.  Decisions affect more people so you feel like you have to be “responsible” which means laying it all out in a giant spreadsheet and poring over it late at night in the office.

Sometimes, that’s great.

Often, it’s terrible.  You get to the point where you can’t think anyway.  You make the best decision you can, scrambled by too many details, too much data, too many opinions, and way too much coffee.  And in the eleventh hour (or the ninth, if you don’t tolerate deadlines well) you make a choice based as much on stress as information, and wondering what information you missed.

There’s always something not on the table.

And sometimes, it feels like the right decision.

Often, it doesn’t.  It feels okay.  It feels justifiable.  But it doesn’t feel right.

That’s because your instinct for pleasure, buried under reams of printouts, is trying to get heard.  When you can feel your pleasure, you can feel what’s right and what’s wrong.  You’ve been in the business for a long time: 25 years, or 35.  You have so much experience you can’t possibly name it all.  But your brain, your amazing marvelous brain, still stored it all.  It’s in there.  And somewhere in there are a thousand tiny details that make you who you are.  They are what make you a better leader, stronger and smarter and two steps ahead of your competitors. But you can’t think your way into that.  There’s no way hold all those details in your brain.  You need to use pleasure to get there.

And most people don’t.

That’s why most people are staring at their spreadsheets at 2 in the morning.

You’ll still spend plenty of time with reports and spreadsheets and databases, don’t worry.

But in the end you’ll sit back, let it all roll around, and you’ll know.  You’ll know what’s right.  You’ll know what will work.  You’ll know that even though it doesn’t look like the number one choice on paper, something you learned somewhere is going to kick in and make the difference.  And pleasure will tell you that.

Pleasure changed the way I did everything: ate, made love, worked, studied, everything.

And because it changed me, it changed the impact I had on the people and organizations around me.

When pleasure was down, the effect cascaded out into every corner of my life.

When pleasure was up, not only did I feel better, I DID better, and so did everyone affected by me.

In coaching, in ministry, even in the tech world, pleasure is the key to your best work.  It’s always the key to your best leisure.

And we’re trained to ignore it, so pleasure becomes, over and over again, the forgotten key, the missing link, the one thing we would all be changed by.

If only we could hear it calling.

This is your chance.

Open your ears.

The world is waiting.