Connector. Inviter. Truthteller Leith McHugh #174

Aaron McHugh


Leith McHugh, my lovely wife of 26 years, is in the house today on the Work Life Play podcast. She’s up to some amazing things in the world. We talk about “How McHugh’s Roll” and the importance of inviting our children into our family ethos. She shares about her LEITH. brand, and the coaching work she brings to women focused on identity and story.

How McHugh’s Roll

You are a McHugh, I invite you to…

Act like a McHugh especially when no one is watching.

Take time for yourself, you are very important.

Choose love over hate.  It always wins.

Take risks.

Offer to help clean up after dinner, especially when you are the guest.

Do things that scare you if they might build character.

Own your shit. Don’t own anyone else’s.

Be honest.

Stay open.

Listen to your gut, it is always right.

Take the higher road.

Love hard.

Advocate for yourself with integrity.

Be introspective.

Honor your body- it is connected to your soul.

Assume the best about them.

Be aware of your motivation.

Stay brave.

Know that you are enough.

Ask others what their experience of you is.

Do what you say you will do.

Remember that you matter.

Choose happiness.

Don’t be an asshole.

Practice your happy.

Invite everyone. They matter.

Know that you have agency over your life.

Take off your mask.

Be nice. You never know the fullness of their story.

Change the toilet paper roll when it is empty.

Remember that everyone has a story.

Take a nap.  Unplug. Reboot.

Find your tribe.

In an argument, ask yourself “what is my part?”.

Make sure your work and heart are aligned.

Ask if there is a third way?

Smile often.

There are two ways to look at everything: this is happening TO me & this is happening FOR me.

Be a better human.

Point your toes toward what you want.

Tip an extra dollar.

Play hooky.

Know that you are empowered. You are not a victim.

Ask questions before you assume.

Eff perfection.

Hang around the people you aspire to be like.

Live out loud.

Be present when you are with people.

Live abundantly.

Be good to people.

Know there are two sides to every story.

Believe in healing.

Your head might try to get in the way of your dreams, don’t let it.

When you want to make a change, start with a 2 degree shift.

Ask for help.

Forgive and move forward without delay, while holding them accountable for their actions.

Surround yourselves with healthy people.

Find ways to p l a y .

Know that self care is love.

Practice laying things to rest.

Follow your true north.

When you have an issue with someone, go directly to them.

Stay hydrated.

Know that we are on your team. 

And…always remember that kindness actually does matter.

We are FOR you.  We will always be your biggest fans.

You can find LEITH spreading sunshine at

Identity and Story Coaching

  • Because Identity and Story are the starting place. The root of all things you.
  • My intention is to capture your story with you and to support you in living in alignment with yourself.
  • I have spent my whole life training for this.

What is LEITH

Identity & Story coaching, speaking, workshops, yoga and mindfulness retreats. Sign up for a complimentary coaching call here

Leith McHugh transcription

AARON: Welcome back to another episode of Work Life Play, today I am playing with a special guest. My wife Leith McHugh. Hi Leith.

LEITH: Hi Aaron.

AARON: Welcome back to Work Life Play.

LEITH: Thanks for having me.

AARON: In two weeks’, time, our youngest is moving out to Southern California to be with our son and we will be finding ourselves with an empty nest, right as you have tears in your eyes tearing up. So what I want to do for many of you that are new to the podcast and you’ve not heard some of the backstories before, I want to introduce you to Leith and I’m going to read to you a bio that she recently wrote.

AARON: [Leith Wrote] I love humans. I see you. I hear you. I am a connector. I connect you to you and you to others. I like to invite everyone they matter. I’m a truth teller. You matter to me and your story does too. I aim to stay self-aware and welcome feedback. I know very little about politics. I love that. I love Jesus and God. I’m also comfortable with the terms higher power and a few others.

AARON: [Leith wrote] I love offspring. I love my offspring and I have three of them. Holden’s an outstanding human. He’s our 24 year old, by the way. He is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. Also on the Eve of five years sober here soon, also known as a sober empathizer. Hadley Ray died at age 12 of pneumonia. She also had severe special needs. My baby Avery lights up the room when she walks in. Her very presence is breathtaking. I like to cuss. I love me some yoga. I’m a straight shooter and I don’t own a gun. I like to shake things up. I love my box wine. I predominantly wear yoga pants and a hoodie. I like to get real. I occasionally eat ramen noodles. Yes, the 17 cent ones with MSG.

AARON: [Leith Wrote] I am faith inclusive. I was sexually abused. I am not a victim. I accidentally put too much heavy cream in my coffee weekly. Inappropriate music often fills my tank. I don’t go to church, but I experienced God so beautifully in the company of my son’s sober gay community. I’m a risk taker. I’ve been married to one man for 26 years. He’s, I am intentional in what I do and say I own my shit. At least I aim for it. I value diversity. I love my dogs. They’re basically human kindergartners. I love walking with women through personal transformation. I bring order to chaos. I am always leading in learning, offering hope and holding space. My superpower is that I influence others by spotlighting emotions that in turn lead to positive forward movement. Welcome Leith McHugh. Thank you. What stands out to you? What comes up for you? As I read that?

LEITH: I had fun writing this. It was kind of a combination of several different attempts at it. I just kept kind of kept keeping a list of the things that are unique about me and decided that in the same way I can’t really wear, no I can, I, I prefer not to wear fancy dresses to luncheons. I also prefer not to have fancy bios like everyone else. So I wanted to create my own and probably one of my favorite parts that you keep pointing out. But as also a favorite of mine is I’m a straight shooter and I don’t own a gun.

LEITH: I’ve realized about myself that I don’t really like to write and I don’t really like to create writings if that makes sense. But what I do like to do is just take notes along the way of life. When things stand out to me, I take note of them and then they turn into something. So that’s my bio, the who I am. And then also this thing I created is titled how McHugh’s Roll. I just started thinking about our kids, our family and what makes us unique and things that I want to be sure my kids, our kids know along the way.

AARON: I remember being at Rob Bell’s, one of his events that we went to and he was talking about how Bell’s roll I think was his phrase. And he talked, he told a teenager story basically that one of his teenagers, you know, did something that was not admirable. And, you know, not major, but just wasn’t and, and the way I think the way he phrased it was basically we can call our kids up or we can put them down essentially. And when I remember him saying is that he came alongside his teenager and said, Hey, listen what you did there, a, B or C, that’s not how we roll. You carry the Bell name and this is what it means to be a bell. So then I think what I remember is that we started use kind riffing on that of like, , what would it look like? Especially when Holden, our son was in active drug use and kind of be the beginning of his recovery was talking about how do we call them up and how we started using that phrase, how McHugh’s Roll.

LEITH: I kind of had forgotten that, but , Rob Bell totally inspired this.

LEITH: What does it mean to be a McHugh and for us both in who we’ve become from learning from our families and our parents and mentors and people along the way, but also just beginning to frame this idea of this is what it means to carry a McHugh name and so and calling our kids up into it. So would you go ahead and start reading through this list that you’ve created and maybe just pause every so often and drop in a story or a reference point?

LEITH: Sure. Okay. Like I said, I call it a rough draft because I already have a list of add ons that I put at the end of this one. So how McHugh’s Roll. You are a McHugh and I invite you to act like a McHugh, especially when no one is watching. Take time for yourself. You are very important.

LEITH: Choose love over hate. It always wins. Take risks, offer to help clean up after dinner. Especially when you are the guest. Do things that scare you. Even if they might build character, own your shit. Don’t own anyone else’s. Be honest. Stay open. When someone is upset with you, ask yourself, how can I grow from this? Even if you’re not in the wrong, listen to your gut, it is always right. Take the higher road. Love hard.

AARON: On those first ones, what are some of them that stand out to you that are worth footnoting?

LEITH: I think it’s kind of a combination. It’s not any one in particular, but over the past five years that we’ve, since we rebooted our lives and have found a new way to do things a little bit differently, that’s where some of these things were born out of. For me, self-care has become a priority. So I think that’s why I put that as the second one. Also just not owning anyone else’s shit, staying in your own lane, but also owning it when it’s yours to own. And then I think as you and I have walked through when we were walking through some difficult marriage stuff a few years ago, the idea of how can I grow from, from something, even in an argument, even if I wasn’t the one who was in the wrong. And of course listen to your gut is just, that’s my gut drives everything I do.

AARON: What is it that you’re actually doing with this in terms of a practical sense of how you’re passing this on to our kids and our family?

LEITH: Well, each week ish, I think I have my calendar set to an alert pops up to send three to four of these off of the list to our family group text titled the sunshine gang every week. And the reason I do that is just so this doesn’t get lost, just a piece of paper that gets stuck somewhere and we don’t talk about it again. So every week I send three or four of them and sometimes somebody will respond. Usually Averi at least will put a heart, by it. And then but we just talked about it recently when we were all home together and everyone agreed that they like it, that I send it each week.

LEITH: So to me it just keeps it fresh. And then when you break it up into chunks, it gives you a chance to digest them a little more individually. . Versus the whole entire list. It feels like, to me also what’s happening is it feels like we’re embedding in our family DNA, this idea of what does it mean to be a McHugh? And the way you’re leading us in this is you’re bringing it to our attention each week and recycling through these things to say, Hey, and just remember, you know, be honest, stay open, and then we’ll even have conversations of, Hey, it’s okay. You know, you get a, you own your shit. Don’t own somebody else’s. And when something’s sideways, ask yourself, how can I grow from this? Like those are actual sound bites that we’re using in our home. It’s not just a list of something we have on the wall.

Aaron: Right? . . And you’re coaching our kids. We’re coaching our kids in these ways as we’re living it ourselves too. Take us through another batch.

LEITH: Advocate for yourself with integrity. Be introspective in an argument. Ask yourself, what is my part? Honor your body. It is connected to your soul. Assume the best about one another. Be aware of your motivation. Stay brave. Know that you are enough. Ask others what their experience of you is. Do what you say you’ll do. Remember that you matter. Choose happiness. Don’t be an asshole. Protect your happy. Invite everyone they matter. Know that you have agency over your life. Take off your mask. Be nice. You never know the fullness of their story changed the toilet paper roll when it’s empty. I noticed it got changed frequently when everyone was home. Remember that everyone has a story. Take a nap. Unplug, reboot. Find your tribe. Make sure your work and heart are aligned. Ask if there’s a third way. Smile often be a better human.

AARON: So these which one has been the most challenging for you?

LEITH: Sometimes it’s being nice. Say more. Sometimes I can lead with judgment and then I remember these little words that I typed out for my family and I go, Oh , but I don’t know their story. So I think that’s one thing.

AARON: When you’re missing something in the house and you can’t find it, what’s usually your first assumption that somebody stole it? Who might that be more likely?

LEITH: You definitely one of the kids and the kids always blame it on Hadley who is no longer with us or the cleaners. Cause we had some cleaners a long time ago. We did, , the cleaners still our DVD set. They didn’t take the boxes, they just stole the inside of the CDs and we found half of our library missing. Right. Okay.

AARON: All right. For me, the one that is the most challenging is it’s probably the don’t be an asshole. Since we just had a marital conversation about that yesterday. And I know asshole has a sliding scale of extreme to minor. But , that’s probably the one that I run into the most.

LEITH: That’s what you felt like our marital issues work yesterday?

AARON: No, but like when I’m intense, it’s can still be, Oh . . I can still be asshole ish.

LEITH: Good point. Okay. All right. Page two. Point your toes toward what you want. Tip an extra dollar. Play hooky. Know that you are empowered. You are not a victim. Ask questions before you assume F perfection. And you know I wanted to write the real word, but I do respect people who don’t love that word. Live out loud. Be present when you’re with people. Live abundantly, be good to people. Know. There are two sides to every story. Believe in healing your head might try to get in the way of your dreams. Don’t let it. Ask for help. Forgive and move forward without delay while holding them accountable for their actions. Surround yourselves with healthy people. Find ways to play. No. That care is love. Practice laying things to rest. Follow your true North. When you have an issue with someone, go directly to them. Know that we are on your team. We are for you. Hang around the people you aspire to be like.

AARON: Would you say more about that last one right there? Cause we just had some conversations about it over the holidays.

LEITH: Somewhere along the way. It might’ve been Donald Miller talking about that, but I heard it from somebody just talking about if you’re not the person who you want to be today, surround yourself with the people who are doing things that you want to do. Doing things that you love, things that you admire and aspire to be like and you, you kind of become who you spend your time with. So that’s why I added that one in there.

AARON: Our friend John Dale, I think it’s him who told me about it, basically the phrase was we become the average of the three to five people that we spend the most amount of time with. And I find that to be really, really true is whoever I am or we are spending time with, we rub off on each other in a way. And then just kind of the blended average. It’s really true. I remember this one time I was on a business trip with this guy and he, Oh my gosh, he was one of the most vulgar human beings and I spent three days with him in Seattle. And when I came home, the number of times I said the F word, I just was shocked. But I realized like, Oh my gosh, I just, the input was so, so much. Like of course it just became part of my normal. So that to me is always an example of like, Oh, being around people actually affects me way more than I would want to believe. But even just in daily life, this idea, so in talking with our kids is in our reboot, we talked through the idea of who the life giving people who are the life sucking people that we spend time with and who were the yellows. They don’t necessarily add or suck, but they aren’t like adding to the Yahoo and just being conscientious about, Oh , if, if I’m the leader of the pack every time, then that’s probably not good. I’m not probably growing much if I’m the leader of everyone around looking to me for direction. That was some of the conversations that we had.

LEITH: I can, I’ll read a couple of the add ons that all in all kind of incorporate into this. Over the next few days maybe one of them is stay hydrated. When want to make a change in your life, start with a two degree shift. Asking for the people who need what you have to offer to find you and vice versa. Let’s see. Oh, there’s two ways of looking at everything. This is happening to me or this is happening for me and I cannot remember where I heard this, but basically there and I, I need to figure out how to condense it. But there are two things happening in every conversation or piece of communication. What the speaker is saying and how the listener perceives it. And then another piece was what he thought he said, what she heard and what was actually said. So I want to figure out how to kind of condense those to add that into the mix of this. .

AARON: And how do you resonate with those that you just read?

LEITH: I think the two ways of looking at everything goes back to the victim mentality. I think I used to live with a little bit of a victim mentality of, especially when our life was really hard with Hadley’s needs and some of Holden’s story and it felt like things were happening to me and I chose to shift my perception or perspective of what was going on and realized that those things were happening for me and they all have made me a better person and a more resilient person, more grounded person. And then I think just being open to things like in communication, just because you might communicate something what you think is clear, how the listener perceives it is a different story. So that’s important in, in all kinds of communication.

AARON: And for you, as you’ve been walking this out with our family this last, what year? Probably two maybe. What are you seeing? Like what are the effects that you notice? And even me mentioned I think over the holidays how sometimes one our kids may or may not acknowledge something directly, but then when you hear them use the same language themselves later. So say more about that.

LEITH: I think it was really sweet as we did our intentions, which we might talk about in another episode. I noticed that, well since I don’t have permission, I’ll just say one of our children wrote some almost verbatim words of some of the things that are in this piece. And so I realized that even though it feels sometimes when we’re raising our kids, like the things that we say go in one ear and out the other, I think that they stick more often than not. I also noticed everyone offering to take care of dishes after dinner, which they’re usually pretty good about. Yes. like I said, the toilet paper, I noticed, which is great, but more importantly than those funny little pieces, I notice the integrity that our kids have, the character that they have, the risk that they’re willing to take. I do see them both being very introspective. They’re incredibly brave. They’re not assholes. They care about other people and they invite them in. I mean, we really could go down the whole list and say that they’ve, they’re, they’re rocking it. .

AARON: And we do agree that this is our way also of just kind of almost documenting for us, for our family, for our kids, and hopefully influencing their future and the legacy that we leave and that how they’re going to lead their lives. And they’ll adapt. They’ll, decide what it means for them, but that we’re seeding into that very intentionally for them.

AARON: [Sponsorship message] This episode of work life play is brought to you by my new book fire your boss, which is about the deep and perplexing questions facing us as humans. Questions like, how do I live more wholehearted? What can I do if I feel stuck and I don’t know what my purpose is and how do I learn to experience more joy at work and in life independent of the circumstances I’m facing. Soulful questions, no doubt. Worth exploring together. Discover work you love without quitting your job or side note, winning the lottery and wherever you buy books, find fire your boss. You can do this. Keep going.

AARON: Leith started working with women predominantly on identity and story coaching and really digging into who we are as humans. The stories that we tell ourselves and how that is in tangled and intertwined with our identity as well as how we view the world and interact in the world and deeply integrated in the stories we tell ourselves, but also in how we our stories of origin. How much they drive, how we show up in the world today.

LEITH: My intention is to capture you, capture your story and to support you in living in alignment with yourself. Speaking to women predominantly at some point, maybe open to coaching men as well. I would say my superpower is that I influence others by spotlighting emotions that turn into positive forward movement. And I’ve really spent my entire life training for this. My hope for women is that they’ll have a new awareness of their story and begin to make kind of a two degree shift in life taking steps forward towards things that make them come alive. I talk with quite a few women who feel stuck or they might be empty nesters. They may be wondering if their story is valuable, if it matters, if they’re valuable, if they matter. So I like to come alongside women who are in that space and I find that whether it’s entrepreneurs who are starting their own business to stay at home moms, to business women who have been working in the corporate world, if we don’t start with us, that’s a problem. So you got to move forward in that. And the reason I focus on identity and story because it is the starting place. It’s the root of all things you identity and story impact you and shape you and all that you do. So awareness of that is the most crucial place to start.

AARON: For people that maybe don’t know or think of story in the same way you do because you live it every day, what do you mean by story? What does that mean to you?

LEITH: For me in this context, I think it’s looking at their actual story. So their story of origin, childhood, where they come from, parents, the impact of their story on their life and on who they are. Also, I, you know, there’s the stories that we tell ourselves. It kind of can go down lots of different paths, but I would say predominantly it’s looking at how their childhood story has shaped them

AARON: Then how that shapes them in how they show up and how that’s influencing the life they’re living today based on this anchored in the past of our stories of origin.

LEITH: And even their story along the way, you know, for us, we each had our own childhood stories and then it led into the story of our kids and our family and there was a lot there. So that impacted us. So I like to go through all the different phases.

AARON: As you’re working with clients then that as you mentioned, it’s everything from professionals in the workplace. It’s stay at home moms, it’s one of your clients is you know, in retirement, but it doesn’t kind of matter where you’re at in your journey. You’re specifically helping women today move forward from wherever they are today. And it kind of, that place where they feel stuck, like you mentioned, where they’re like, I just kinda like a little like, right? Like life isn’t what it could be. And really helping them step forward in new ways by discovering deeper truths about themselves in these identity places and the story places said right

AARON: [Into the Wild segment] After a short break, we’ll be back with more with Leith McHugh. We’re putting together all kinds of great extras into our podcasts, like a new section called the wild where we feature audio snippets of discoveries that I’ve encountered along my many travels across the globe. And the spirit behind it is to help us wake up to the more to see the world around us and to stay curious. So just as a teaser, here’s a recent fun one. As a kid growing up, my grandfather worked at Disneyland and he would tell us stories about him working side by side with Walt Disney. And I remember the happiest place on earth was this, this magical place, this time capsule we could get lost in. And as you enter in to the front gate of the park, you walk underneath the overhead train passing and there’s an announcer that comes on and today’s audio capture for into the wild adventures is from that. For those of you that have been there, you’ll recognize it. And for those of you that have not considered it as an invitation to not only visit the park, but also really just again open up our eyes and our ears to the world that is around us Last call or the Disney land limited. Now leaving for a complete trip around Walt Disney is magic can go through the grand Canyon and primeval world stops at Frontierland. Mickey’s Toontown and Tomorrow Land, last call.

AARON: On the yoga side. Anything to mention on retreats and things you have coming up for the year.

LEITH: Oh my gosh. Our yoga mindfulness days are something you’d just don’t want to miss. They are so life-giving and it consist of doing some yoga in the morning enjoying an incredible lunch in the afternoon. And then I lead us through a mindfulness session. Usually there’s a theme that we work around, whether it’s self-care, discovering more of who we are, those types of things.

AARON: Will you close out also and say what you’re doing with Left of Center

[grief group]


LEITH: Thanks for asking about that. So, well that sparked some tears.

LEITH: I think two things are happening. I think we’re about to be empty nesters. So I’m really Tinder this morning. Also I have a huge tender place for moms who are grieving and for several years have wanted to start a group, a grief group of sorts. Grief groups were never really a huge fit for me. Not that I tried super hard at them or gave them a lot of time and energy, but I didn’t feel a lot of life when I would walk away from a grief group. And so I wanted to create something that would bring life to specifically in this case moms who are grieving the loss of child or children. So it came to me one day in yoga, actually the name left of center because it’s the location of the human heart. And so, I offer this group, we get together once a month, we get real, we talk about grief and what the hell do you do for the holidays and self-care.

LEITH: And we’re going to be talking about trauma in the body next month. So my desire and intention is just to create a space for moms to come and feel safe and be able to share and also learn from each other in this grief journey and for them to become empowered and start to feel like they can at least point their toes towards making some forward movement. I think a lot of us moms and people who are grieving get stuck in our grief, or at least it’s just really hard to take any kind of step forward sometimes. So this is my hope that there will be at least forward movement for these mamas and now that this is going so well, I’m considering starting a grief group for folks who have lost spouses and people close to them as well. So,

AARON: And that’s just what you do, right? Nobody like calls and says, Hey Leith you should do a, B or C. You just sense the spirit moving in your life and as you said, you pay attention to your gut. So in your life with God you hear things sense things, feel things and as you said in your who I am, I’m a risk taker. Like, so you run a risk and just say, I’m going to do this, right. I’m going to start a grief group called left of center, and I’m going to invite people. I’m going to invite her. I’m an includer, right? Yep. In this way, you do. So if we find all things Leith, where would we find you?

LEITH: come on, come on. You can also find me on Facebook and on my public page at Leith R McHugh, those are probably the two best places to follow me. Instagram as well. Sweet. All right. I love you. I love you too.