The Best I Will Ever Be Is Human

Artwork by Clemmy Le Busque, the illustrator of Get Out of My Head, It's a Mess in There!
 

Q&A WITH ART DIELHENN ’65



The Best I Will Ever Be Is Human 

Art Dielhenn ’65, television director turned professional career coach and author, is living a full life. 

After thirty years in the entertainment industry, directing over fifteen television pilots and 200 episodes — including Punky Brewster, Head of The Class, Sister/Sister, and many others — Art Dielhenn found a second career as a professional career coach. In 2022, he published his first book, Get Out Of Your Head, It's a Mess In There!: 101 Simple Aphorisms for Better Thinking and Living. His second book, Addiction Is a Family Disease, is at the publisher now, and his third book is coming next year. 


 

Dielhenn on set with Soleil Moon-Frye shooting Punky Brewster — his Hollywood directing job.

You got your start in television. Tell us about that.

As a child, I did school plays and worked as a commercial actor. At Pomfret, Don Gibbs ’65 and I directed and acted in productions under the tutelage of Cap Marble. At the University of Wisconsin, I focused on theatre work, determined to become a professional actor. On the first day of an introductory theatre course, the professor shared the staggering statistic that only 5 percent of actors in the Screen Actors Guild make a living wage. In that moment, I re-considered my career choice. I wanted a career that paid.

A dean advised me to try broadcasting. I loved it. After graduating, I found a job at the public TV station KRMA in Denver and earned my stripes directing hundreds of programs over the next seven years before moving to San Francisco. There, I worked for another public station, KQED, before making connections at Norman Lear’s company in Los Angeles. I worked for seven more years as an associate director with many directors, including Jack Shea. After Jack directed the pilot of Punky Brewster, I took over for the first and second seasons. That was the beginning of my commercial directing career.

What was your favorite part about being a director?

There were many things I loved about directing: discovering the essence of a script, the hook that drives the story, putting all the puzzle pieces together, the technical challenges of shooting the show in front of an audience, and the speed and intensity of the process. It was like a wild rollercoaster ride. My favorite part was working with the actors during the three days of rehearsal to find funny. These were sitcoms, after all. Finding funny was a central objective — not a bad job. I laughed a lot and got paid, too!
 

Dielhenn has been a Certified Coach for twenty-two years, serving hundreds of clients.

You became a professional coach after a successful career in the entertainment industry. What made you choose this career? 

I've always been interested in how I think — my own psychology and the psychology of others. Each life tells an amazing story. In my final years as a director, I began studying to be a therapist. Then, a friend told me about coaching. I did some research, talked to a coach, quit therapy school, and began coaching school that day. Instead of helping people with their problems and pathology, I wanted to work with them around their potential and possibilities.

What does a professional coach do?

Most people who come to work with me at Los Angeles Coaching are at a crossroads in their lives. They want to clarify their options, create a plan, overcome both internal and external resistance, and get into action. They want to expedite accomplishing their objectives. We work together for a short time to turbocharge their progress. Coaching is a two-pronged approach: deepening the learning and forwarding the action. 

How is being a professional coach similar to being a director?

With experience, I became a Socratic director. I wanted actors to feel free to find their own way in a scene, chiming in when needed. The progression from directing to coaching was natural because I don’t give my clients advice or tell them what to do. I ask them what they want their future to look like. My assumption is that they are creative, resourceful, and whole. I’m there to help dig deeper, plan strategically, move forward aggressively, provide an accountability structure, and celebrate their accomplishments.

What is your favorite part about being a professional coach?

The beautiful thing about coaching, or any helping profession, I imagine, is being a witness as others grow and thrive. It’s a very intimate sharing. I’m always deeply honored to be a partner during the journey. Coaching affords me a real connection that wasn’t always available while directing.
 

Dielhenn's book is an Amazon #1 Bestseller.

You wrote a book during the pandemic. Tell us about that.

Get Out of Your Head, It’s A Mess in There is 101 simple aphorisms for better thinking and living. It was percolating in my brain for a while. Covid pushed me to write it as a “get-me-through-the-pandemic-with-my-head-screwed-on-straight” project. I realized that I better double down on my serenity and sanity tools if I was to survive what was coming. Perhaps writing about my thinking would keep me sane. Since I love to laugh, I enlisted my friend, Clemmy Le Busque, to draw the cartoons.

What is an aphorism?

Aphorisms are tried-and-true principles for living. They are concise, often witty, truthful sayings that have been tested and refined over time. We use them in daily speech and often take their importance and depth of wisdom for granted. They are concise rules for life. I’m dyslexic, and these short phrases and condensed bits of wisdom are easy for my little brain to remember and digest. They fit my personality and style of thinking and leave plenty of space for my imagination to run.

What is your favorite aphorism?

Over my lifetime, I have collected nearly 100 pages of aphorisms. Some collect stamps; I collect aphorisms. When writing my book, narrowing the list to 101 was challenging, but I selected the ones that impacted me most. My favorite is: “The best I will ever be is human.” It is so gentle, generous, and liberating. It recognizes and accepts our strengths, struggles, and broken parts of us. It forgives us for being less than perfect and acknowledges that we embody all that is human. 
 

(Right) Dielhenn with his Pomfret roommates Buzz Yudell and Sevor Leslie. (Not pictured: Bill Whipple)

How has the book been received?

It’s a page-at-a-time book, accessible and easy to read. Some keep it in the bathroom. Much to my delight, it became an Amazon #1 Bestseller for about a nanosecond. The book is selling slowly, but the feedback is good. Surprisingly, it is being used in mental health and addiction recovery treatment centers. It is used to lead discussions in group sessions, and the coaching questions at the end of each aphorism’s description are used as writing prompts. 

I introduced some of the ideas in the book to one of Pomfret’s wellbeing classes. Most everyone stayed awake, and I had a lot of fun. The whole Wellbeing Department is so important. Learning how to manage thinking, emotions, and psychology is essential. I wish I had the opportunity to take these types of classes when I was a student. They are essential skills, and Pomfret appears to be at the forefront of teaching them.

If you were to direct again, what kind of projects would you want to work on?

If I were to direct again, I would love to travel the world with a small crew and document amazing people doing miraculous things. But at my age, I think those days are behind me. Film and TV production are grueling enterprises. Now, I’m more than happy, working with clients, witnessing their adventures, writing about the things I’ve learned over the years, loving fully, and enjoying every moment of every day. 


 

Recent Posts

The Long Way Home

In her Chapel Talk, Olivia Bourgault ’24 reminds us to the long way home.