Course Participants’ Comments

Awakening heart,
spirit and joy in worklife

Course Participants’ Comments

“Dear M and D –
Thank you for giving me the gift of a lifetime and sending me to Heart of Leadership. While I was excited and grateful before I left, I really had NO idea how changed I would feel after only three days.


There’s so much to say. I’m excited to share more with you in person Saturday, but I didn’t want to wait to say thank you, thank you, thank you. I walked away with a completely new set of eyes and a heart that’s bursting with compassion and excitement for the future.

There were so many takeaways for me, but I’ll list some below.

1. I had no idea how much I was judging people. I never thought of myself as a “judgmental” person, but, well… I was wrong about that. I judged everyone in our class the minute I walked in the room. I scanned for people that looked similar to me—the smiley blonde over there, or the young person flicking through their phone—and assumed they would be only friends in the class. I assigned everyone else a narrow headline description, and figured that was that. Of course I would be KIND to everyone, but be friends with them? Appreciate them? Admire them? Connect with them emotionally? No way I thought that would happen.

But of course, as you both know, it did. Ten fold. I was amazed at how my heart just burst for every person in the room by the end of three days. I am genuinely interested and excited for each of their futures, and my mind is just blown by this 180. I was so moved by everyone that I cried just about every time I spoke in the class. The tears didn’t stem from nerves or fears, but genuine heartfelt emotion and wonder for these people.

It makes me sad for all the connections I’ve probably missed in the past 27 years. All the people I assigned to certain roles. All the lessons I missed. My prayer the first two nights was to “forgive myself for what I did not know,” and I’m doing that. But wow. How meaningful will my life be if I approach every person I meet like they are a member of that course with me? I’ve been actively trying to do this since I’ve been home. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. And I’m already seeing changes.

2. Welp, headline is in and it reads: “Woman Survives 27 Years Listening to Only 15% of What’s Said to Her.” Yeah… I had no idea how much I was NOT listening. I thought listening was closing your mouth and nodding warmly while figuring out your next nugget of wisdom to share. HA. That was wrong. The concept of actually remaining present with someone—and still—is absolutely life changing for me. It’s also really, really hard. I’ve been working on not interrupting people, and that alone is a HUGE change for me. I have to swallow my ego when it pops up in my throat and says, “but that thought is so witty,” and realize it’s okay not to voice every single opinion I have. Letting people finish their thoughts means I can actually LEARN from them instead of swimming circles in my own mind.

What a gift. A forever gift. My mom has opened up to me in new ways. Kyle is shocked to have so much room in the conversation to speak (oops). My friends feel appreciated. This is the skill I never knew I wanted but now am committed to working on. Thank you.

3. I’m fired up to work on the projects that matter to me in my heart of hearts. This means focusing on my own writing and investing time in myself everyday as if I am one of my clients. I realized a lot of my stagnant feelings about my current workload aren’t stemming from my laziness, but from a lack of integrity. Integrity is such a beige word. I didn’t think that section of the conversation would matter to me at all, but WOW I was w-r-o-n-g again. This is a theme, hah.

I learned that integrity is about having your deepest values and actions match up, and the way I am structuring my days right now does not reflect what I really want to do: write my own blog, write a book, get MY own voice out there.

This is something that’s been floating around in me for the past couple of years, but after taking a stand I am committed to writing for myself every single day. One of my stands was a commitment to creation, not perfection. Not everything I write for myself will be gold, but it will all be authentic, which matters more to me.

4. I am SO, SO grateful for the relationships I’ve formed with Tessa and Kelly. While I already appreciated both of them, I have a WHOLE new understanding, love and admiration for them. Kelly and I had gotten to spend a lot of time together, but I really needed this time with Tessa. I have such a clearer vision of who she is and we had MAJOR breakthroughs in our love for each other on the third day. I’m wowed by the stellar women these two are, and I know that this special, insanely close relationship we created will benefit a lifetime. I know that our ability to consider each other confidantes and true down-to-the-soul friends is HUGE for us, the family, our relationships with Kyle and Justin, and beyond. I’ve never had a sister before but I know how it feels now. My heart just bursts with love for each of them and I can’t wait to see the changes they make going forward. I think we each had some really meaningful, different, takeaways.

Thank you from the deepest part of my big sappy heart. I am grateful beyond words that you have invested in my development. I didn’t realize I was so malleable. Now I have a lifetime of work to do. I thank God that you are such a big part of my journey.



Jessica Hagy


“I want to share with you both the profundity of this week for each of you as well as for our company along with my own personal experience in the work I have participated in with Amba over the years. It comes from the heart.

As you know, it was several years ago, (2012 I think) that we first began our work with Amba. Since that time, countless members of our team have experienced the Heart of Leadership and more. In addition, because I feel so passionately about the work and the powerful potential it holds for our lives, I have sent many members of my family including my husband and all of my children and their spouses to the course watching relationships healed and transformed through this work. I say this to you because we are at a very critical time in our company and each of you hold a powerful role in our success going forward. Heart of Leadership has the power to forward you both personally and as influential leaders within Stonefire Grill.

The work you are about to do is like nothing else you have ever experienced. I promise you. Embracing it and allowing yourself to be open to what it can mean for you personally is the intention I hold for each of you. In doing so, you will open new doors in your leadership, your relationships and your impact on all of those around you. Your willingness to be open and listen is key.

For me personally, Heart of Leadership was the beginning of a journey of transformation that I never, ever imagined I would find myself on. To be clear, I am still on that journey as the work is never done but I am filled with gratitude every day for the powerful shift it created in my thinking, my communicating and my leadership. It created openings for deeper and more meaningful relationships in all areas of my life and the tools I have acquired and developed have been game changers, life changers, to be more accurate. Watching those around me, the people I love most in the world and all those I love within Stonefire have the same powerful experience has been magical. It is truly a gift.

At Stonefire as you know, we have a very purposeful and intentional culture that intertwines our values with our operational day to day. We do not and cannot separate them or compromise them. I know this to be a critical key to our success for the past 19 years and it will always be a critical, continuing component of our success going forward. HOL provided the missing links to how we as a company speak, act and live our values every day. It opened a whole new world of communication that has forwarded us as leaders, as mentors and as a team working together in support of one another as we operate and continue to build a company. It provided the tools to not just speak our values, but to allow them to live in our actions.

With all of this being said, I am so excited you are about to experience it! I stand for each of you to open your minds and hearts, to have fun, to laugh, to discern and to be surprised in the next three days and I stand in full support of your roles as leaders in our company and the uncovering of the gifts that each of you bring to us in your own unique yet equally powerful beings. It’s all right in front of you waiting to be seen anew.

The added bonus of this week is that you will make new relationships that will both surprise and delight you as individuals from all walks of life come together and discover their one, same humanity. It is a beautiful bonus.


Amba is a big powerful kick in the pants…and Ruth is LOVE. My feelings for them run profoundly deep. Know that I am thinking of you each day routing you on as you forward your lives in a fantastically beautiful way.

With love,


Mary Harrigan


“As I edit my comments below, they seem to have a flatness that resembles the feeling I’ve sometimes experienced when I take a photo of a magnificent scene, only to be disappointed that the image doesn’t capture whatever it was that compelled me to take the photo. Likewise, the answers here don’t really seem to capture the depth and magnitude of what has opened up for me so far. That said, here goes.

‘What has continued to open up for you out of session one?’

Everything! I’ve discovered new possibilities in relationships, seen the contributions of others I’ve not seen until now, been able to recognize areas of growth for me and have ‘tools’ to move my work forward in those areas (e.g. I now have a set of relevant questions I can ask to help me move conversations/relationships forward), have been able to formulate a new stand for my life and as a result, feel more centered-complete-integrated!”

– Denise Kelly-Ballweber, Multicare Health Systems

“Now I know that the first three days we were emptying the cup and the last two days we filled it back up again, with a new way of being. The last two days, everything came together, all the puzzle pieces fit. I learned how to communicate in a simple, powerful and positive manner. Being a pragmatic person, I love the practical nature of the Heart of Leadership course. It is information that I use every day in everything I do.

When I returned from the Heart of Leadership, people noticed something different about me. What I have is a more clear communication style and a clear idea of what I stand for, which has a profound impact on my life and my relationships.”

– Angela Aliabadi, South Tacoma Auto Sales

“In particular I think this has helped communication with my family. And in my workplace I have been able to direct people away from rumors, and at times been better able to keep focus. I’ve been better able to direct team efforts. My plans for work are better worked out, larger in scope, more daring yet more realistic than any I’ve made for years. This is a very good thing. Somehow a lot of wishful thinking is not happening right now, and the results are positive.”

– Charlie Hiestand, Musician

“My clear heart has wonderful news to share. My first day at work practicing removing the veil of judgment (of others, myself and my circumstances) before convincing myself of a negative story, wasspent observing and being glad I’ve shown up for my own development. I left Bainbridge Island knowing my life would be different. Now. So far, a mere 60 hours since your soulful poem and our deep connecting, I am hearing birds instead of my own negative self-talk. I am drinking a glass of essential fluid direct from The Source instead of mere water. I sit at the computer to express my deep gratitude, instead of recapping an old story of someone doing something to me that causes me suffering.

Your carefully designed training, facilitated with precision to a willing community, is appreciated. I am seeing how each of the 5 days of learnings fits snuggly into each other – how they build and support the previous work.”

– Diane Lachel, Click! Network

“Amba has a gift that is rare in my experience though I have taken many courses, seminars, workshops and conferences – especially during my Human Resources years when I was seeking things for my company as well as for my own personal development. She is able to take a body of information that, while not necessarily a brand new topic to you, is presented in such a way that you have a whole new level of listening, ownership, and genuine learning that truly inspires you to design action plans to make positive changes in your own life. It is equally applicable to personal life and professional life, and people define their own purpose in taking the course in advance and are free to work in the area where they will find the most benefit. For me that area changed after I opened up to the new pathways for deeply exploring my own personal inventory, but that was an unexpected surprise that I continue to be grateful for.”

– Susan Keith, Owner, Defining Directions, LLC

“I was skeptical about the forewarning of going back into the real world. ‘How bad could it be?’ I wondered. But the pace of life and the amount of unexpected stuff that is thrown at you can be overwhelming. To use a baseball analogy, facing a barrage of fastballs, curveballs, sliders and knuckleheads, ah knuckleballs is a nightmare, particularly for an ill-equipped hitter. And without the tutelage of a professional hitting instructor the career of a position player is over. I realized that I had been going through life swinging haphazardly at life’s pitches without the skills and understanding of the universe’s all-star pitcher’s stuff! And good stuff he has! It’s exciting to have new tools to enjoy playing in the big game.

As a result of attending and participating in HOL I feel more confident in my interactions at work and at home. It saddens me to think of a lifetime of conversations where I was not fully engaged. And I have a greater appreciation for the conversations had when I was totally immersed in listening. Memories of those times are sweet and rich and uplifting.”

– DW Green, Founder and President of DW Green Company

“The Heart of Leadership was a privilege to be a part of. You are an extraordinary teacher, learner, and human being. Thank you for committing so wholeheartedly to the work that you do and the people you develop. I appreciated how you created a space in which I could be inspired and empowered by others, and fully appreciative of my own unique contributions. You have created a new standard that I am so excited to live by. Thank you for honoring your many gifts so that others may honor theirs.”

– Erica Hutchinson, Director of Communications, DW Green Company