Episode 10: Lessons learned from S. Michael Wilcox

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I’m LDS Life Coach Hannah Coles and you are listening to The Confidence Catalyst episode 10: Lessons learned from S. Michael Wilcox

Hello my friends! Welcome back to another week. I have been so looking forward to this podcast today. I have decided that every 10th episode I would bring you one of my favorite authors, teachers, mentors, sources of inspiration and motivation so that you can get a taste of that too and maybe choose to look them up, read their books, and learn from them too.

I am an avid reader. I don’t go anywhere without a book or now thanks to digital copies, kindle, audible, scribd, deserestbookshelf, and overdrive I now have several books on hand everywhere I go. I love reading. I love learning from others and broadening my perspective and outlook. In fact, one of my sources of inspiration, who I’ll talk about in a later podcast is Brian Grazer. He is a prominent producer, screen writer, and author of “A curious mind” where he talks about how his curious nature, curious about other people and their lives really served him well by expanding his outlook and perspective on life. He made a personal goal to meet and talk with someone new everyday because he didn’t want to be narrow minded or believing that the way he’d lived his life was the only way so he wanted to get to know others and learn about their culture, way of life, beliefs, and what drives them. He said it’s a problem when we believe that our small corner of the world is how the world really is, he says. 

Trapped in our perspective

“We are all trapped in our own way of thinking. Trapped in our own way of relating to people. We get so used to seeing the world our own way, we come to think that the world is the way that we see it.” 

I’ve always loved that. When we talk to others, when we listen to others, when we’re humble and willing to learn from others our world does expand and we’re able to grow and see things we never knew existed. 

I’ve seen this many times in my own life and had beliefs that I’d grown up with just transformed when I allowed myself the opportunity to be open to curiosity and questions. So my goal and hope is that as I share some of the teachers, authors, people that have inspired me in deep ways it might inspire you as well or at least offer you an opportunity to be curious. Curious enough to go and check it out yourself and expand your world.

So I wanted to start today with one of my all-time favorite authors, speakers, teachers, S. Michael Wilcox. I’ve mentioned him before. I mention him a lot actually because his perspective just really speaks to my soul so I wanted to share lessons and ideas I’ve learned from him. 

He’s written several books, I think I might have them all and I’ve read and highlighted and journaled about them all because they’re THAT good. I just want to share 3 concepts I learned more deeply and vividly through his perspective that has really helped me in my life. There’s way, way more than 3 but today I just wanted to narrow in on these:

Three Concepts from S. Michael Wilcox

1.) Holding place

2.) It’s okay to be human

3.) Lead with the queen

Create a holding space

One of the concepts that I really love and resonated with was the idea of needing to create a holding space within us. He says, “Occasionally, answers aren’t given or the blessings we desire don’t come or the trials we bear continue because there is no place in our hearts for God to put the answer we need. Life must carve or hollow out this place. The very experiences we are going through help to create these holding places. Yet He still hears our prayers and promises the resolution will come in time.”

I love this visual. There are times in our lives that ask a question, we have a desire and we take it to Heavenly Father only to not get the expected result and it feels frustrating, confusing, and sometimes it can feel like our prayers aren’t being answered. But really it’s not that He’s not answering your prayers, He is, the answer is not yet and the reason it’s not yet, is because there’s no where for Him to put the blessing or the desired result.

Wooden Bowls and chisels

We have a family member that used to make wooden bowls. They were stunning and gorgeous. It took a lot of time for him to make these bowls. He’d take a solid piece of wood and chisel and carve little by little until he started forming this shape. Have you ever used or seen someone use a chisel? It’s tedious and time consuming. It just shaves off a thin layer at a time so to chisel away to create a bowl takes a while.

You can choose to think and believe that each of life’s experiences is a chiseling stroke. One step at a time. It’s not that He doesn’t want to give you the blessing. It’s just that there’s no where to put the magnitude of the blessing He desires to give you.

We don’t understand the whole picture yet. We only see what our current circumstances are and our limited vision of what we want and He sees the whole thing. He doesn’t just want to give us this limited, smaller blessing. He wants to give us something better but we’re not in a place to understand it yet. The growth is part of it that helps us to comprehend, appreciate, and hold the greater gift.

Prayers are always answered

He says, “Maybe the Lord is saying to us: I’ll answer your prayer. I’m aware of your needs. It is recorded in heaven, and I’m going to answer it. But right now in your life there’s no place for me to put the answer. Life will create a holding place, and as soon as you are able to receive it, I will give it to you.”

I think of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers. He was raised believing that he was different, set apart to save his brethren but he didn’t comprehend the vastness of that role yet. Then as you know, his brothers were jealous of him to the point where they threw him in a pit and sold him into slavery.

Through his many years and trials in a new strange land, being treated as a slave I can imagine him praying a lot. Help me. Save me. I thought I was supposed to be different. I thought I was supposed to be a leader. All worthy wants and desires and truly wanting something so badly it hurts and then year after year after year it may have felt like the answer didn’t come. He wasn’t saved then. His circumstances were still that he was a slave and then to make matters worse as he rises above his lowly circumstances to be held in greater esteem in Potifer’s household, he’s then thrown into prison. 

Help me. Save me. Please, help me. Years he’s in prison still not understanding what all this is about but little by little Heavenly Father is chiseling away, carving deeper and deeper a holding place for understanding, for growth, for a greater comprehension of compassion, faith, empathy, learning on the ground level what the people need. Then as we know he is saved. He becomes second to Pharaoh and does save all of Egypt and then the resolution. When he encounters his brothers again.

Go back and read this beautiful account. It’s one of my favorites. But he is able to find resolution because of all he experienced. He was able to forgive and feel unconditional love towards his brothers because of the trials and life’s challenges he was given. It was only through this path that he could comprehend the fullness of what Heavenly Father wanted to give him. He didn’t just want him to just save his people. He wanted him to develop a capacity to comprehend and create a deep love, understanding, humility, and faith which he couldn’t have had any other way.

When you feel like you’re not getting the answer or resolution you think you want or need, hang on because it’s coming. It always comes. He just needs to carve a special holding place for you to be able to receive it. 

Be human. Be accepting. Be compassionate

Another beautiful concept that I learned from him is that it’s okay to be human. So many of us don’t allow ourselves to be human. We want to be perfect and get it now. We don’t want to struggle we just want everything to be good and perfect right now – especially ourselves. He says, “We maybe judge ourselves a little too harshly. We feel guilt when we need not.”

When we’re human and feeling the feels we tack on guilt, shame, and frustration for ourselves only creating more pain to the pain we’re currently feeling.  A lot of times we do this under the pretense of striving to be more Christlike. A good member, a good Christian wouldn’t ever get frustrated or lose their temper or feel offended or simply put, be human. We think we’re supposed to be super human. We think we need to have it all figured out yet and when we don’t, when we fall short we feel guilty and judge ourselves too harshly.

He says, “Jesus as an individual, in his personal nature, accepted people. Because of His accepting nature, people came to him, even those who were sinful. Publicans, harlots, sinners, and others were drawn to him because they sense in him acceptance in spite of their own frailties.” 

Fearing and Trembling

He starts by giving an account of the woman with an issue of blood. This is found in Mark 5 where this woman believes if she can just touch the hem of his clothes she’ll be healed. In Mark it reads, “And Jesus immediately knowing in himself that virtue (meaning strength) had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?” 

Wilcox continues saying, “Why doesn’t this woman come out of the crowd, raise her hand, and say, ‘I did, and I’m healed, thank you very much?’ Turning to Luke’s account of this, when Jesus asks, “who touched me?” Luke adds, When all denied. (luke 8) The Savior was looking for her; He was trying to find her but everyone including the recipient of his virtue denies…Picture yourself in that crowd. You are the woman and Christ is looking for you. He’s scanning everyone’s faces. He wants to discover the person who pulled healing strength out of him. What are you thinking? – He continues, “When the woman saw that she was not hid – the verb used was hid. She is hiding back in the crowd. Can you see her, looking nervously at the Savior, trying not to meet his eyes? Why is she hiding? Why doesn’t she confess the miracle? I sense it is because she feels she has done something wrong. Her particular  problem, an issue of blood, made her unclean under the law of Moses…Finally, the time comes when Jesus finds whom he was searching for. Can you see that moment when their eyes meet? He is looking at her, right into her eyes; she still tried to withdraw, but the Master now sees her. He knows, and she knows that he knows. We read, ‘ but the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done…came and fell down before him and…he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole.”

He highlights two words, Fearing and trembling. He suggests that we worry, we fear, we feel lacking in our lives and we feel guilty and ashamed. We judge ourselves too harshly and too often and we worry that we’re not being a good disciple, a good person. To this S. Michael Wilcox says, “I think we have fearing and trembling moments too much. Let us find comfort in the assurance that Jesus has an accepting personality that he extends to us constantly.”

If He has a continually accepting personality and demeanor, maybe it’s a trait we want to practice ourselves of ourselves and extend to others as well. When we do, we invite comfort and good cheer and relief from trying to be perfect just yet. We get to be human and he loves us in our humanity. 

Lead with the queen

Another concept that I love from him is how important our role as a woman is and how needed we truly are. I’ve learned this from many sources and teachings from the scriptures but in his most profound way I was able to grasp this concept in a more powerful and empowering way. He says, “God sees the power within us to do good, and he moves us into positions where we can accomplish it.”

He uses this example of learning to play chess. He said he wanted to learn when he was young but didn’t have anyone to teach him so he’d go down to the public swimming pool and would watch the older boys playing. He said that each day he’d choose a new piece to watch and observe how the boys used it. He’d watch how they used the bishops, the knights, the rooks, the pawns, the king, and then the queen. After a while he was able to gain some what of an idea of how to play to the game. 

When he was younger he loved the knights. They were his favorite because they reminded him of his summers spent horseback riding. He liked how they could jump over things and move in the L shape fashion and because they were his favorite he often would start with the knight when he played chess. They were the first two pieces he moved at the beginning of the game. But the knights are not the most important piece in the game. The most powerful piece on a chessboard is the queen because she has the most unfettered movement and has the greatest reach and impact. He recalls not winning very many games when he focused on his knights. 

He says, “In time, I learned to lead with the queen because she was the most powerful piece on the board. In a manner of speaking, God always leads with the queen. He always sees the power within us and he will move us into positions where we can do good…Women in particular are very powerful pieces on the board of life, but they often fail to see themselves as such. They often fail to realize that God today still leads with the queen – with them!” 

Isn’t that powerful? I know of so many women who don’t or can’t yet see and value their worth and great impact they have in the lives of so many. I have the opportunity and privilege of working with many women who are so smart, amazing, kind, charitable, and just regal although they don’t always see it. I believe the adversary is a cunning and very cleaver opponent and he doesn’t want you to discover the great reach and power you have. So he distracts you with other thoughts, questioning thoughts that you’re not enough, that who are you to even try? If only you were better, smarter, skinnier, prettier, kinder, more creative, more confident…so we don’t lead. We sit and stay small and think we’re being safe but deep down we feel a pull, a tug, a gentle reminder that you were meant for more.

God sees our potential

Wilcox says, “God sees our potential – the final destination, the polished, liberated character we will one day achieve.” 

How different would your life be if you could believe you were the most powerful, influential, unfettered person in your life? In the lives of those around you? That your influence and example could inspire and motivate so many people to do good? How differently would your life be if you could catch a glimpse (that’s my word of the year!) of how God sees you, the final you, the polished you?

Ever notice or have someone in your life that treated you differently, higher than how you felt? You rise to the occasion. You start to think like, act like, and become that version of you. And it’s not pretending, it is you. That person that treated you as such was just giving you permission for you to finally be yourself. The you you really want to be but can’t quite let go of your past struggles, past limiting beliefs, your past failings. But what if you could? What if you could leave that past self behind and start getting to know your future self? The refined you? The you that has already figured all this stuff out? I mentioned this in the last podcast a bit and lots more coming but it’s one of the most fun things we can do. To access your future self and ask her questions. She’ll tell you. Even in the moment, you’re scared, you’re afraid, you’re worried so you pause and you think, what would my future me have done here? The me that is already all the qualities I want? She’s not struggling with this anymore, so what did she think, feel, do here to overcome this?


Here’s another thought by S. Michael Wilcox. He remembers catching bugs and his mother, the queen in his life at the time would love and support him with his treasures and one day he found caterpillars. He watched and waited for weeks and weeks as they formed into their chrysalis’ and then for them to emerge as beautiful butterflies. In this phenomenon he said, “In their caterpillar brains, did they know they would one day fly? Did they know that, pests though they were, they would one day delight?”

I love that thought. Lead with the queen. You are more powerful than you realize. You are more than enough. You have the power and capacity to not only overcome your current trials and struggles and set backs you have the power to soar amidst your trials. You have the power to turn each trial into a blessing merely by your thoughts about it. Instead of thinking, why me? How can I? Who am I? You can try on these thoughts: Of course it’s me. I’m the queen. There isn’t anything I can accomplish – especially yoked with the Savior who promised, You can do all things through him. All things, not some things well, except for this one thing. ALL THINGS. It has to be you. It has to be this. Who am I? The queen. The most powerful, influential, unfettered person in your life. Lead with the queen. You’re that powerful. Of course you can do this.

Recap of the three:

I love the writings and perspective of S. Michael Wilcox. There’s so much more that will inspire, uplift, and offer you a different way to think about things in your life. These thoughts have served me so well in my life. Just a recap and summary of these three concepts, ideas, and perspectives – I’ve adopted the belief that my life’s experiences are chiseling out holding places in my heart to accommodate the magnitude to the blessing and teaching Heavenly Father wants to give. It’s not that the answer isn’t coming yet, it’s just that there’s no where for it to go yet. So hang on, keep going, keep believing, and accepting the positives and the negatives as necessary for your good. He’s carving a holding place within you. The answer is coming and the resolution is always better than anything we could have imagined.

It’s okay to be human. It’s okay to not hold yourself up to the level of scrutiny and judgment because you’re not your idea of perfect yet. God doesn’t see with comparing eyes. He loves you. He’s accepting of you. I love the line in the hymn, “I stand all amazed” where it says, “Sufficent to own, to redeem, and to justify” – You are sufficient to call as his own, loved enough to redeem and save, and enough to justify and advocate on your behalf for your good.

You don’t need to judge or criticize yourself. He showed us by example that compassion and acceptance trumps judgement and condemnation. He reminds us to “come follow me” – it’s an invitation to let love motivate and lead more than judging and berating. It feels so much better to love and accept while striving to become than to hate and fight against ourselves wishing we more already. Let yourself be human. Try love. 

Lastly, for today anyway, Lead with the queen.

Infinite Capacity

I love what Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Believe in yourself. Believe in your capacity to do great and good things. Believe that no mountain is so high that you cannot climb it. Believe that no storm is so great that you cannot weather it…You are a child of God, of infinite capacity.

Believe that you can do it whatever it is that you set your heart on. Opportunities will unfold and open before you. 

The skies will clear when they have been dark with portent…He who is our Eternal Father has blessed you with miraculous powers of mind and body. He never intended that you should be less than the crowning glory of His creations.”

You are enough right now. More than enough. You are infinite, blessed with miraculous power. Believe in yourself. You were meant to lead. 

Okay, go check out his books, Talks of CD – I recommend starting there actually. I love hearing him give these messages in his own voice. Once you listen to his perspective and experiences you’ll never be the same. He’s made such a profound impact on my life and I’m so grateful. He has been one of my best teachers and helped me strengthen my faith and offered me new thoughts to believe and think. A new perspective to try on and adopt and my life has been all the more because of it. 

So go look him up and be prepared to be changed for good. Okay, talk to you next week friends! Have a beautiful week, leading, accepting, loving, and preparing for great blessings, answers, and miracles.


Don’t forget to take advantage of my free consult call. It won’t always be available so jump on it now while it’s still offered! See how different your life can be working with LDS Life Coach Hannah Coles




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