True Calling Project | Finding Purpose and Meaning In Life and Career

John Harrison is a professional psychotherapist and coach. He brings his insight and experience from his former career as a military officer, 9-5 office worker, and his current career as a therapist and coach, in interviews with professionals, psychology experts, and those living their higher potential. Each week you’ll get discussion, stories, and insights on finding your “why”, how to optimize your life and business, and the mental and emotional challenges that can keep you stuck. He and his guests explore the practical and spiritual aspects of engaging in a satisfying career and a meaningful life.
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True Calling Project | Finding Purpose and Meaning In Life and Career



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Now displaying: 2016
Dec 26, 2016

Lanie Smith is the owner and founder of Integrative Art Therapy and Registered Art Therapist. She is on a mission to reduce the chronic burnout that is common for so many women, parents, helpers, and healers using the power of art, nature, and the creative process.

You don’t have to be artistic or have any art experience to benefit from art therapy. Lanie didn’t discover art until she was 18-years-old. Everyone has a creative side, some of us just lose touch with that part of ourselves as we go through adolescence and become more self-conscious.

“This isn’t about you being the best or the worst artist. We’re not judging it. We’re just using a non-verbal style of communication here. This is just another outlet for you to express yourself.”

Embracing creativity can help change behaviors that are reinforced by ourselves and society, and these behaviors can cause us to push ourselves and burn out.  

You can embrace creativity in any part of your life – it doesn’t have to involve putting pen to paper or paint to canvas. You can be creative in the kitchen, at work or even in your closet. There’s no limit to the number of ways that we can be creative.

“You are enough. Regardless of how overwhelming things might seem, whether you’re starting a new practice or you’re a new graduate in school or a parent with multiple kids, you are enough.”

Lanie and her practice are a much-needed force of welcoming and warming in an over-worked world. Learn more about Lanie and her practice at and learn about her new project, a couple’s retreat with her significant other, at  





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Production & Development for True Calling Project by Podcast Masters

Dec 19, 2016

Dr. Lily Zehner, MFT-C, specializes in sex, intimacy and relationships. In this episode, we explore the journey that led her to developing her unique set of skills.

“I often tell people that I have thick skin and a tender heart. It takes a tender heart to really work with the people I’m working with and to really understand what is going on and what is felt and what is needed, but thick skin because there is so much shame and so much judgement.”

In the household that Lily grew up, sex was considered the devil, dirty and wrong – but she always had a curiosity about sex and sexual expression.

She also grew up divided between different identities.

  • She is a first-generation American
  • She is hearing, but her parents’ are deaf
  • She grew up in an upper-middle class neighborhood, but she grew up poor
  • She is a person of color, but surrounded by white people

“Understanding how these different parts of my identity intersect and how that impacts how I show up in the world and how I experience things – it really is a big part of how I show up in the room with my clients.”

There’s many layers to her identity and her experiences that don’t necessarily fit together, and all of it combines to influence her true calling in life.

She has come to realize that her true calling is to create a space where she can be show up for people and allow them the space to really be who they are, honor who they are, explore who they are, discover who they are, and share themselves with others.

“Give yourself permission to show up in this world exactly as who you are – whatever that may be, without shame, unapologetically – and know that, the more we all do that, the better we will be.”

I really respect the awesome work that Lily is doing. I think she’ll help a lot of people, which will in turn help change society’s perception of sex and sexuality for the better. You can get in touch with Lily at




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Production & Development for True Calling Project by Podcast Masters

Dec 12, 2016

Fiachra O'Sullivan is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a practice in in San Francisco. Couple’s counseling is tough – a lot of therapists shy away from it – but Fiachra loves it.

Fiachra is also launching, a free tool for couples to learn about who they are, and who they are together, from an attachment perspective. Couples will receive daily reminders or prompts that will help them continue to tend to their love and relationships.

“Love matters, and because it matters so much you’re going to feel threatened in moments where it looks like that love isn’t present.”

He is using a digital platform to share this information for free because he doesn't believe people should have to spend hundreds of dollars if they want to work towards greater understanding and healthier relationships.

As a couples therapist, Fiachra has to do all of the things an experiential therapist does, but he also has to match people’s energy and actively become a part of the session.

“There is nothing I will be able to do with a couple unless we have an alliance.”

Fiachra describes himself as the typical psychotherapist cliché in that he was drawn to the field by a desire to heal his own emotional pain and suffering – he also considers this one of his greatest strengths as a psychotherapist.

“The number one qualification I have to do this work is I am another wounded human being that has managed to do my own personal work so I can help other people.”

Fiachra believes it is unbelievably powerful to be comfortable with who you are, warts and all, but it has taken him a long time to achieve that comfort. It helps people feel safe and contained.

“The most important rule for me is that nobody gets shamed. No one will ever leave my office having felt shamed.”

Fiachra is hugely influenced by Sue Johnson – the creator of Emotionally Focused Couples Training (EFT). There’s a map that allows him to keep track of where they are at nearly every moment, and “the moments where I’m not sure where we are? That’s where there’s potential magic that can happen.”

Fiachra does really important work and I appreciate having the opportunity to talk about the challenges of couples therapy, why he is launching, and the journey that he took to discover his True Calling. Check out to see what Fiachra is building and head over to to learn more about his practice and read his blog.




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Production & Development for True Calling Project by Podcast Masters

Dec 5, 2016

Welcome back to the True Calling Project. Today’s guest is Nicole Gordon, licensed marriage and family therapist, and she has a very unique way to approach couples and family work.

Nicole sees clients in both a private practice and in their homes. She practices experiential therapy that uses cooking as a tool. It’s basically a platform to help clients understand themselves in situ and relate their emotions or thoughts to what has come up in traditional talk therapy.

“By going through the process themselves, they’re able to observe more about themselves.”

What does cooking therapy look like?

  • It starts with an introduction to talk about the clients’ backgrounds and goals with therapy
  • The activity might involve a couple or family creating something together, creating something for each other or creating something without knowing what the ingredients are
  • The activity is geared towards the clients’ goals
  • During the activity, Nicole will ask questions to help clients process along the way

“People love it because they get to do something fun, but also relate to each other in a safer way.”

Cooking therapy sounds fun, and we don’t typically think about psychotherapy as something enjoyable or fun. It’s a refreshing approach to couples and family therapy that focuses on what patients observe about themselves during the process, as opposed to what Nicole observes about them.

“It was taking two loves and putting them together and saying I can do both at the same time.”

Nicole is writing a dissertation about the relationship between therapy and cooking. She is particularly interested in the different physical and emotional levels on which people relate to cooking.

  • On an instinctual level, we eat to survive
  • On a family level, we relate food to different cultures and traditions
  • On a societal level, we relate food to health, enjoyment and more
  • On an emotional level, different foods and dishes affect us all differently


Nicole has truly found her true calling. She learned to find joy and creative expression in what she does – an empowering technique that you can apply to any career to improve your life and the lives of people around you. You can learn more about Nicole and her techniques at




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Production & Development for True Calling Project by Podcast Masters

Nov 28, 2016

Today’s guest, Jane Zarse, is the author of Love and Compassion Is My Religion: A Beginner's Book into Spirituality. The book is a guide to finding your spiritual self – no matter how much you've lost yourself. It's a guide on how to find your way back.

“Spirituality saved me, so I felt compelled to pass that on.”

Jane fought bulimia and drank to excess after graduating from Boston University, then worked first as an actress and later as a high-volume trader at Chicago's Options Exchange. She lacked compassion for others, but didn’t realize why until much later.

Jane lacked compassion because she didn’t really love herself. Spirituality helped her embrace authentic self love – the desire to take care of yourself, even when it requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice.

Jane was first introduced to spirituality in Alcoholics Anonymous, which was actually disconcerting at first. She didn’t know if it was religion or what was going on, but she knew she didn’t want to drink herself to death. She learned to tap into something bigger than her, and that helped.

“I was sick and tired of being sick and tired for years, but nothing changed until I was sick and tired enough to be willing to do something about it.”

These principles can be applied to anyone who feels stuck.

  • Be honest – You can’t fix anything you won’t acknowledge.
  • Find hope – Hope can produce positive results in your life.
  • Pray – Jane believes in the power of prayer.

“You have to first admit you’re immersed in the quicksand before you can conceptualize a way out.”

You can’t live a good life with a bad attitude, whether you find a good attitude through hope, a higher power, meditation, or the people you surround yourself with. Jane shares a powerful journey about getting unstuck and bringing herself up from rock bottom to a place where she has authentic self love through spirituality. Jane’s book is an excellent starting point for others interested in beginning their own spiritual journeys.



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Production & Development for True Calling Project by Podcast Masters

Nov 21, 2016

Should you quit your job? Over the past few years, I have seen a lot of discussions and advertisements online encouraging people to leave their job, take risk, step into the unknown and really go for it. I want to offer another perspective.

I did quit my job about two years ago, and it did open up new opportunities in my life that I would not have had otherwise – however, in hindsight, there are a few things I would have done differently.

Eckhart Tolle suggests that there are three ways that we can improve a situation in which we are unhappy:

  • Can you change your situation?
  • Can you accept it?
  • Should you leave it?

Before you decide to leave a job, first consider what about the job is making you unhappy. Are you doing things you don’t like, or not doing enough of the things you enjoy? Improving that situation may be as simple as sitting down to talk with a supervisor.

“Practicing acceptance within my line of work has really been focused on the fact that I need to be present with the people that I’m working with and that I’m connected with.”

When we’re talking about changing things, we’re approaching the situation from a cognitive or logical mindset. When we’re talking about accepting something, we’re coming from a place of being in the moment or noticing our resistance. Is there something we’re resisting in our work environments? Are there things that we can acknowledge as common consequences or inconveniences of any job we might have, and view them as things we have to deal with to do the things we love to do? Acceptance can lead to gratitude.

“When I adopt a mindset of gratitude in my work, it’s that I recognize the awesome potential of what it is I’m actually doing.”

The question then becomes, when can I or should I leave my current situation? No one can answer this question for you, but good planning can help you figure the answer out for yourself.

  • Take an inventory of your financial situation, and how it will be impacted if you leave your job.
    • If you’re transitioning from a job with steady income into a job without a steady income, you’ll want to save at least 6 month’s income.
    • If you’re transitioning from job with steady income into a job with less steady income, you’ll want to save at least 3 month’s income.
  • Why do you want to leave your job? What opportunities will open up that are not currently available?
  • Talk to people who have already transitioned and learn from their experiences.
  • Abundance vs Scarcity
    • The idea that things are in scarcity keeps many people stuck in their current situation.
    • When we come from a place of abundance, we realize that time isn’t necessarily finite. Just because we don’t like where things are at now doesn’t mean things won’t get better.

So, should you quit your job? Before you make the decision: slow down, consider your motivations to make the change, take a personal inventory, do careful financial planning, consider the unexpected, and identify things that you can change today to improve your situation.




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Production & Development for the True Calling Project by Podcast Masters

Nov 14, 2016

Welcome to the True Calling Project. I’m your host John Harrison, professional psychotherapist and coach, and today I’m talking to a long-time friend, Lt. Col. Phil Forbes. Phil has been affiliated with Special Operations for the majority of his career and has supported numerous contingencies worldwide. He has commanded at the detachment, squadron, and group level in garrison and in combat and has been awarded the Bronze Star on two occasions.  He presently works in the Pentagon for a three-star General as an Executive Officer.

“On a very small scale, we can affect great change in our lives by being a little audacious.”

Phil and I met as freshman at Virginia Tech and the Corps of Cadets, and like most of us he struggled with the regiment of military life.  At one point a few weeks after we started he actually considered quitting.  He was visited by Medal of Honor Recipient Col. Wesley L. Fox, who served as an assistant commandant, and was asked the fundamental question: What is your five year plan?

“It was a very diplomatic way of saying, ‘you’re missing the big picture, Phil.’”

This heart-to-heart meeting with Col. Fox meant a lot to Phil, and he came back from Fall break mature enough to accept that step into a new existence. This was a huge turning point in Phil’s life.

“It wasn’t so much the fact that it was the military or it was the Air Force or it was my uniform or shining my shoes. It was structure, and it was allowing yourself to become part of something bigger.”

Phil considers being a commander to be one of the rewarding experiences in his life. He has been a commander three times in combat and once in garrison, or in a peacetime setting. Each time has presented its own challenges and unique demands because each command was different in the extent to his control or what was expected of him.

“The most rewarding aspect of command is not that I was in charge of people, but rather that I earned those people’s respect.”

Phil shared a few lessons that he learned from 18 plus years in the military. He emphasizes that leadership is about being seen, not necessarily being heard or getting your fingers in everybody's’ pie. Good leadership is characterized by:

  • Being available for people
  • Having the appearance of ubiquity
  • Admitting when you don’t know everything
  • Knowing when to show gratitude
  • Realizing that the people you are in charge of weren’t drafted – they’re volunteers
It’s great to see Phil doing such amazing things, and taking such a high leadership position gives me a sense of comfort and assurance that things are evolving and changing. I thank him for his service, and I appreciate him coming on the show to share. If Phil left any stones unturned and you’d like to get in touch with him, you can email him.

Phil lives with his awesome wife and children in Northern Virginia and is an avid cyclist in his first season of racing cyclocross.  When he's not raging on his bike, doing something outdoors, or writing, he's probably listening to Best Coast while home brewing.




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Nov 4, 2016

I’m your host John Harrison, professional psychotherapist and coach, and I’m getting the project started by talking to someone who has been a big inspiration to me. Melvin Varghese is a therapist and Founder of the podcast and blog Selling the Couch, which helps aspiring and current mental health private practitioners to become better business owners.


“If you want to get to a certain place, one of the best time and financial investments you can make is to invest in people that have already done it and have had success.”


Melvin and I talk about how he found himself in the mental health podcasting niche, the things that he learned about himself and his business by starting a podcast, and great tips for people looking to further their careers by starting a podcast.

Melvin saw an opportunity to serve a larger population and develop alternative income streams by podcasting. It is a unique medium because podcast listeners are consuming episodes passively, while doing other things, and headphones allow podcast hosts to speak directly into the ears of their listeners.


“At the end of my life I didn’t want to have a bag of I Wish I Had Done This and Regrets. I wanted to have a life where, even if I failed at something, I could tell myself and I could tell my family that at least I took the step.”


Selling the Couch’s first episode launched with nine listeners during the first week. It currently has around 170,000. So many people stop when they feel overwhelmed or feel the process is taking too long, but Melvin believes the most successful people understand that the building stage is temporary and necessary. Overcoming obstacles in the season of building will help prepare you for growth.


“Everybody goes through the season of building.”


If you are interested in starting a podcast, Melvin has some great advice:

  • Launching a podcast has a lot of potential because it is still a new medium, but it is not easy on a practical level or an emotional level.
  • There’s a lot of free content all over the web. Melvin has The Complete Guide to Launching Your Podcast available for free on his website.
  • Invest in people that have already started podcasting and have had success. Reach out to people who resonate with you or hire a coach.
  • If you’re at a stage where you’re ready to scale your business, a podcast can help you extend your reach beyond your immediate geographic area. 71% of people are consuming podcasts on smartphones, and in 2016 there are 2.3 billion smartphones in the world. By 2020 it is projected there will be 6.1 billion smartphones.

Melvin has a very intentional morning routine that sets him up for success every day. He’s in bed by 9:00 and up by 4:45; spends his first hour drinking 32 ounces of warm lemon water, working out and meditating; then watches a TED Talk to get into the right mindset.


“If I’m going to consume media, I want to start my day by consuming media that is about people that are doing big things in the world because it puts me in the right mindset.”


Melvin is a huge inspiration and a key part of me launching this podcast, so I can’t thank him enough for being my first guest. His podcasting course is an extremely useful resource for aspiring podcasters, and you can find the Selling the Couch podcast on his website, iTunes or Google Play.



Nov 4, 2016

Welcome to the first episode of True Calling Project, a podcast dedicated to exploring the purpose and meaning in our lives and chosen professions, how we can achieve satisfaction and fulfilment, and live our life to our fullest potential. Do we all have a True Calling? I’m your host John Harrison, professional psychotherapist and coach.