Closing Counts: What we can learn from Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart got it right:  closing counts.  For over fifteen years, fans of the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - popular comedic news show on cable TV - tuned in for a potent blend of fun and facts, myself included.  

During his last year and the final weeks leading up to and including Stewart's last episode as host of The Daily Show, we were not only treated to his edgy brand of humor with heart, we were shown how to create a good ending.  

As fall begins and we look to year-end, how are you attending to the endings in your life, small or large? It may be the end of a summer vacation or the end of the third quarter with only one quarter left to meet the 2016 goals you set for yourself back in January.

What can we learn from Jon Stewart about creating good endings? A lot.

Here’s what I saw in the final episodes that speaks to the Gestalt practices I learned and now teach at GISC.


Stewart didn’t go cold turkey; he practiced leaving. First, he took a leave of absence for several weeks. Whatever the reasons, it gave him experience letting go of a job, a role, and a routine that he’d held for over 15 years. During his leave, he tried something new by working on a movie production – more practice letting go of The Daily Show.

Not all of us can take a long leave and land a short-term gig in a dream role like Jon Stewart. But we can practice letting go of our work identity, role and routine in small ways. For instance, on your next vacation, what would it be like to truly leave behind all responsibility for work? What does that mean? Well, it could be as small as committing to: “on my vacation (or on the weekend, or after 5pm . . .), I will not check my emails from work.” The point is that to end well you need to start small and practice. Design a small test run of a bigger goal.

Get Support

I’m willing to bet a week’s pay that Jon Stewart didn’t cook up this plan on his own – he had help. Maybe it was his wife, colleagues, friends or a trusted advisor, but at some point there was probably a professional advisor – a coach or a therapist to support the meaning-making that leads to a good ending. How do I know this? I didn’t count, but in the final weeks of his tenure as host of The Daily Show, Stewart repeatedly said, “I had to come to terms with it,” that is, leaving and letting go.

As you and I plan and practice our own endings in the coming weeks, with whom will we meet and talk as we create endings for the year, the vacation, or even the weekend? It can be as small as a conversation with family about why the weekend, vacation or year mattered. Or we could hire a coach or reach out to work with one of GISC’s coaches-in-training who start their coach certification program in late October.

Endings matter and even the smallest degree of attention can support the experience of closure and our internal transition.

Take an Appreciative Stance

In his final episode, Jon Stewart ran long. The 30-minute show lasted 60 minutes. The way I see it, Stewart took his time. And he needed the time to both acknowledge his colleagues and, I would argue, to take in the acknowledgements and appreciation expressed to him by others.

As he said so often, “I had to come to terms with it.” If we can do that for ourselves by adopting an appreciative stance and perspective for what has been and what is, then we free ourselves to be available for the actual ending – the good-bye.

And it is in the smallest of gestures or practices that all our preparation and work on “coming to terms” with closure shows up. For me, Jon Stewart’s good-bye from The Daily Show is captured in the handshakes of thanks he took the time to make with each individual member of Springsteen’s band at the very end of the show.

Jon Stewart showed us how to create a good ending and that’s what we all need in order to make a good beginning. So I wonder, what’s next? For Stewart, for you and for me?

[Originally published 9/14/15 at]



Sonia Says: Disappoint. Do it with regret, but be sure to disappoint.

First of all, who's Sonia?  

Sonia Nevis is the co-founder of the Gestalt International Study Center in Wellfleet, MA and a founder of the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland.  At this point in her life, she's on a mission to share what she knows and impart what she's learned.  And I've been fortunate to hear what Sonia has to say -- first as a student at GISC, and now in my role as a Professional Associate and current Faculty member.  

So here's what I've heard Sonia say about disappointment:

  • One of the hardest things to do in life is to bear disappointment and to bear disappointing others.
  • Even so, she hopes we disappoint alot.
  • Why?  Because that means we are living our lives from our own authentic needs/goals/desires.  And we are not living our lives in order to satisfy the needs/goals/desires of others. 

When I first heard this, I was surprised.   As time has passed, I recognize its truth again and again.  In my last blog post, I wrote about saying "No."  I definitely disappoint others, and sometimes even myself, when I say "No."  

Understanding my own discomfort with the disappointment of saying "No" actually helps me to say it more often.  This means I'm even freer than I was before -- free of the obligation I might otherwise have half-heartedly undertaken and free of mucking about in a mix of feelings around unresolved disappointment.  

For me it just helps to know what I'm feeling so conflicted about, to name it, and then to move on.  It's all about learning to manage disappointment.  

So, go out there and do what Sonia says:  Disappoint.  Do it with regret, but be sure you do it.  It's how you'll know you're living your own life.  


Summer Sun & Slowing Down

Here on Lower Cape the summer season brings a shift in routines, not only because of the sun and the beach that calls, but the increase in people out and about on the roads and sidewalks of our small towns -- tourists, second home owners, seasonal workers, college kids, school kids.

So, even if you want to hurry, you usually end up having to slow down.  And that's what I've been doing alot of lately...slowing down...not just on the road, but in my daily routine and in smaller moments.

One way I do it is by saying, "No."  I can't volunteer for that committee.  I don't want to commit to our women's group for another year.  I can't meet you & MJ for coffee and then get to my next appointment without feeling rushed, so I'm going to choose, rather than try and do it all.

By saying "No" I'm being more mindful of how I decide to use the time I do have.  

And I'm freeing myself to let the summer season in...

 How about you?  What do you do to help yourself slow down?


Mixing "It" Up & Sonia's Gem

Well, I've done it.  Completed five weeks of training at the Gestalt International Study Center and received my GISC Coaching Certificate!

Now I've really mixed it up:  not many lawyers out there, in practice, with coaching credentials; and not many coaches out there with legal training, but our numbers are growing.  Then, add my first career and training as an educator to the mix and you get a rare blend! 

Finding ways to experience and demonstrate the integration of my skills and professional trainings is especially gratifying.

So, I was elated to learn that the American Bar Association had accepted my paper "Communication Counts: Coaching Strategies for Estate Planning Practitioners." to be published in the Real Property & Probate journal in November 2012.

Sonia Nevis, a founder of GISC, saw me the morning I got this news and her comments stick with me:  "That's wonderful," she said in the most simple and genuine manner.  She continued:  "Truly, it's great.  You can't give that recognition to yourself.  Only someone else can do it."

And there is the gem:  "You can't give that recognition to yourself.  Only someone else can do it."

That's why we need each other, as coaches, counselors at law, educators, friends and even family.