Interview: Life Coaching on Penn & Teller's "Bullshit!"

On Friday, 1/21/05, I spent (an intense and grueling) 10 hours being interviewed and filmed coaching two clients (one by phone and one in person).  <Click here for some pics from the filming.>  The filming was for a segment on life coaching which begins airing in May on Penn & Teller's Showtime series, "Bullshit!"

The show has been nominated for a few Emmy's, apparently has a large and intelligent following, and is going into its third season.  Pretty much, they do their comedic bit and their conclusion, as far as I can tell, for whichever topic they cover, is that, "It's Bullshit."   That is, after all, the whole premise for the show.  So, in short, I'll be appearing on a show where the conclusion will most likely be that, "Life Coaching is Bullshit," and on which I'll probably be the butt of their jokes.  Odds are that the program is going to try to refute that coaching provides real, tangible results that one couldn't achieve on their own...and/or that life coaches are charlatans in an illegitimate profession....

I do respect and admire the way they attempt to get people thinking about many things we take for granted, questioning our assumptions and the truthfulness of the (mis)information that our society/media bombards us with daily.  Still, I initially felt "set up to fail," that I'd be used to disparage my colleagues and profession, and told the producer that I wouldn't do it.  After considerable deliberation and some coaching, however, I saw the opportunity in this and decided to appear on the show.  Not for me, nor even for my coaching colleagues, but for a higher purpose....

In short, I'm willing to be publicly humiliated, for the opportunity to get a message out to thousands (perhaps millions), for the sake of all of us and the planet
.  I trust that, regardless of what's said on the show, how I or coaching is portrayed, that some portion of my message will make it through to the intelligence of people...and that the Truth of what's possible and how we're evolving how we live on this planet will prevail.  (Copernicus wasn't exactly welcomed with open arms, either!  But, almost all significant societal/evolutionary change seems to happen first "on the fringes," and resisted by the mainstream...until, of course, it becomes mainstream.)

What follows are the interview questions that I was given by the producer for the show (and my responses).  The portion of these responses that actually get aired will be a subset of what you read here--chosen, of course, by their sole discretion--based, I would guess, on entertainment value.  (After the filming, I'm completely out of the picture and I have no say whatsoever in which portions of what they filmed get aired on the actual program.)  Also, due to the time constraints and nervousness of being on camera, I didn't manage to actually get all these words out of my mouth.  I wish I had!  Because, regardless of what actually ends up being aired on the program, I believe what you read below represents the most accurate and complete truth of my day-to-day, first hand professional experience with these topics as of January, 2005.

PTBS-1:  What is life coaching?

Rich: Life coaching is a revolutionary, new type of professional relationship.  It's difficult to convey the essence of the coaching relationship with words.  Here's why:  Imagine trying to explain to a 7 year old what an adult romantic relationship is.  No matter how well you describe it, the only way someone will really know what "being in love" is like is to experience a love relationship first hand.  This is why most coaches offer free sample sessions: So that prospective clients can  experience coaching for themselves....

That said, let me take a shot with words:  Life coaching is a unique and extremely effective professional partnership, with coach and client working together as equals, to consciously design (from the ground up) the relationship that will best meet the needs, desires and aspirations of that particular client--especially with respect to creating the client's highest vision and ideal life experience.

This, of course, will look different for each person.  That is, each coaching relationship is optimized and customized for each client...and, as with a love relationship, how you experience it will be at least slightly different from how someone else experiences it.

You may have also noticed that it took you some time to figure out just how to be your best and get the most out of a romantic relationship.  It's similar with the coaching relationship.  Since it's so rare to have a relationship that's intentionally focused completely on you, one that you can really use any way you want and continually mold to best suit you, it takes most people a few months to figure out "how to use the attention," and thereby fully access the potential available from this new type of relationship.

And, whereas people typically notice significant and even profound shifts from the start in "the things" of their life situation, it usually takes 3 months for the coaching to start transforming the person.  This can look like dismantling limiting beliefs and rigidified patterns of thinking or behavior, learning how to be conscious of and manage your inner critic/saboteur, building new competencies and strategies for living more effectively and joyfully, and shifting how you're relating to the situations and people in your life.  In general, after awhile the person being coached starts replacing old, less powerful ways with more conscious choice and creativity, more liberating perspectives, and more skillful personal habits/strategies for creating his or her goals, dreams, and the best possible life experience they can envision.)

PTBS-2:  Who needs a life coach?

Rich: Who needs a life coach?  Let me try to answer it this way:  Living next to a school, I often listen to the children at recess.  I hear such an uninhibited outpouring of joy and laughter and spontaneous singing from them...and never-ending creativity, passion and imagination in coming up with new ways to play and enjoy the moment.  Life is magical....

In a workshop I attended last week, I heard this statistic: "Only 1 out of 8 adults love their jobs and are truly happy with their lives."  So, 80-90% of us have lost the joy, imagination and magic of life we were born into.  People who seek out life coaches often know, intuitively, that they _can_ regain that childlike joy, passion and magic in their lives, but they either don't know how to go about it, or they can't seem to keep themselves focused and in action.

So, I'd say it's less a question of "need" rather than a question of "desire" and unlimited possibility: Who could YOU become...what could YOU create with your life...if you had the optimal, skilled and experienced partner...and the two of you focused co-actively every week to envision and create your ideal self and life experience....  (If you had regular assignments designed to move you forward in the direction of the most satisfying and passion-filled life experience you could imagine...and someone naturally gifted and professionally trained to hold you accountable for taking those actions, help you to learn from your failures, re-strategize and move past any blocks you hit, etc...?)

Some questions you might ask yourself to determine if coaching might be of value to you:

PTBS-3:  There are several tv shows about life coaching, and celebrities are now hiring personal life coaches. To what do you attribute the increasing popularity of life coaching?

Rich: That's a fantastic question!  Yes, why would celebrities, who have all the money they can spend and all the fame and material possessions anyone could want, waste time with a life coach?  I'll tell you why: Because our souls are parched.  We're wandering around this spiritual desert called "America," the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the planet, and our souls are dying of thirst....

And all the things that we've been taught will make us happy--the money, the success, the relationship, the power, the toys, the physical pleasures--are just like glass after glass of salt water to us.  They look delicious and we work so hard to get them.  They even taste good going down and quench our thirst for a short while.  But, in the end, they just make us thirstier and thirstier.  We get locked into this never-ending addictive cycle with no genuine, lasting satisfaction or fulfillment.

Coaching brings consciousness to this madness, and digs deeper:  Who are you really?  What will truly bring long-term fulfillment, joy, passion and magic to your life...and quench the thirst in your soul?  That's what the celebrities are after with life coaching.  If the riches, pleasures, material possessions and fame truly satisfied, they wouldn't waste their time with coaching.

The reason I'm here today, on a show that I'm likely to end up looking pretty full-of-shit on ("Bull" or other) is to get the message to you--the person sitting in your chair--that the hole most of us have been taught to dig in for our happiness holds no real treasure, no matter how fast, long, hard or deep you dig.  What you're really after is not down there!  If it were, why would so many of our planet's brightest stars and celebrities have died so young from drug overdoses and such, instead of living long lives of peace, joy and contentment with all they've achieved and acquired?

A coach can help you move over a few feet and start digging a new hole just above where your true treasure lies.  This is what all humans are thirsty for:  real peace, genuine and lasting fulfillment, and a growthful and passion-filled life that they can see is making a meaningful difference (as measured through their own core values).  People don't want to die with their real music still in them--even the rock stars!  This is why coaching is so popular and will continue to increase in popularity.

PTBS-4:  When and how did you get into the coaching field?

Rich: What I learned in the first coaching training that I did was that, "Coaches are born not made."  And I believe this:

Actually, I've been coaching since high school.  I was coming in before school, on my own, meeting with other students and helping them with whatever they were struggling with.  I have memories, many memories, of getting calls the night before an exam, and being up till 2am walking someone through a Chaucer poem, a geometry proof, or whatever.  It took longer, because I would only give the answer as a last resort.  I would respond, instead, with questions to help them access their own intelligence.  I wanted them to truly learn, to learn how they learned best, and feel the pride and confidence of having mastered something they thought was beyond them.  Then, they could take that with them to all their future classes and I could get some sleep!

Seriously, tho, I think I was born with an innate faith in the inner wisdom and unlimited abilities in everyone--the knowledge that your answers for your life, or at least the ability to find them, are within you.  As a result of this innate knowing and the genuine intention to see people realize and be empowered by this, I was coaching before I even knew what coaching was...and before "coaching" itself even existed as a profession.

Same thing through college (the university actually paid me for this) and afterwards.  Even when I was working professionally as a computer engineer designing microprocessors during the day, I would be up late helping someone with their relationship, with a crisis or special challenge, to figure out what they wanted to do with their life, make a career change, whatever.  Successful as I was as an engineer (and after that, a teacher), I finally realized that "who I am" and "who I've always been" is "a coach."  Somehow, others knew this before I did, since they've intuitively sought me out for as long as I can remember.  The next logical step for me was to align my career with my true nature and natural gifts.

Having made two (or three, depending on how you count) career changes while figuring this out has been instrumental in my helping others to discover "who they really are" and to align their lives and careers with their true nature and natural gifts.  I understand, from first person experience, what the "career transition" process really is...not just at the practical and intellectual levels, but, most importantly, at the internal and emotional levels.  It's the fear and other internal hurdles (emotional blocks, limiting beliefs, inner critic voice, etc.) that stop most people from finding their authentic selves and living their calling.

PTBS-5:  Tell us about your background and experience.

Rich: In addition to coaching non-professionally since high school, I've been coaching professionally for almost 5 years now.  As with any profession, the way you really get good at it is "on the job."  I learn so much from my clients, and they're my main teachers.  I also completed the full curriculum at The Coaches Training Institute, as well as doing workshops and courses with Coach University, CoachVille, the late Thomas Leonard (the founder of Coach University and CoachVille).  I met weekly with Laura Whitworth (one of the founders of The Coaches Training Institute, the Co-Active Space Leadership program, and The Bigger Game Company) and some other top coaches for two years...learning and helping refine a next-generation leadership coaching model called "The Bigger Game."  After that, I worked as a ghost writer for Laura and wrote the first draft of "The Bigger Game" book...which is a step-by-step manual for becoming a "Martin Luther King" with your dream.

PTBS-6:  What training is needed to become a life coach?

Rich: Since coaching is a new profession, it's currently unregulated.  So, yes, anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a coach.  But, since almost all clients come by way of referral, only the coaches that can consistently help clients achieve real results in their lives will be able to maintain a practice.  Coaches who truly love what they do, and are really serious about becoming the best they can be at their profession, will not only seek out the best professional training available at the top schools, but will also commit themselves to continual learning for the rest of their lives.  Again, true coaches do this neither for credentials nor to win over potential clients, but because they LOVE it!

PTBS-7:  What types of clients do you attract (younger/older, creative, married/single, etc.,--demographics?)

Rich: I work with clients from every demographic.  I mostly attract leaders, coaches, those on a spiritual path, teens, parents, and folks who want to make a significant transition or improve their relationships.

Since I work with teens as well, I've coached people from age 17 to those in their all different professions and income in my home town, and as far away as India and New Zealand.   (Most coaching is done by phone.)  I have clients that are millionaires and clients who are struggling to pay their bills each month.  I have a client who's a Hollywood actress who you may have seen on the big screen (and definitely will in the future), another who's an engineer working himself into a position of executive leadership, and others who are parents of an exceptional and gifted teenager with special challenges.  I've also mentor coached several coaches, and two of my current clients are coaches.  My passion and area of expertise is, "people."

PTBS-8:  With what types of concerns/issues do you help your clients?

Rich: What types of concerns/issues challenge, or are irresistibly attractive, to you right now...?  I help people with stuff just like that...whatever's most important to them on that day, or in this particular phase of their lives.  Since this is "life coaching," the list is as varied as people's lives are.  Larger areas of focus for the teens, adults, families and groups I work with include:

    •     Reclaiming the Magic of Life!
    •     Leadership Development and Creating Large Scale Change
    •     Relationships/Communication/Intimacy/Boundaries
    •     Spiritual Path/Liberation/Enlightenment
    •     Taking Your Life Back: School/Work/Life Balance, Stress Reduction, Fun/Play/Free Time
    •     Defining, Envisioning and Creating a Dream or Vision
    •     Clarity and Skillful Decision Making for Long-term Fulfillment
    •     Values-based Prioritization and Sustained Focus on What's Truly Important
    •     Emotional Health and Well Being
    •     Becoming a Powerful and Successful Coach
    •     Career Transition/Renewal, Starting Your Own Business
    •     Overcoming Rigid/"Uncontrollable" Patterns of Behavior and Thought
    •     Study Skills/Life Skills/Art of Living
    •     Life Path/Transition to Adulthood (for teens)

PTBS-9:  What's the most unusual or outrageous concern you've coached someone on?

Rich: Since coaching is focused on evolving you...either in terms of self or life wisdom or building new competencies, most things I'm working with people on are both unusual and outrageous for them.  One of my current clients, in her 40's, just wrote me that she's had conversations with her husband, children and friends that she never would have dared attempt before.  If you've spent most of your life pleasing others, avoiding confrontation and taking on other people's battles, then setting boundaries and standing up for what you really want, need, and believe in is going to feel quite least the first few times.

If you're in your 60's, have never been in a position of leadership or in a prison before, but decide that "making a difference" with your life means "transforming the culture of hatred and violence in the prisons," then it's going to be quite an unusual (although exhilarating) experience.  One of my clients did just that, and last I heard from her, she was working weekly with teams of staff and other allies she's built in both the Rhode Island and Colorado State Prisons.

Humans seek comfort and ease.  It's natural for us to live our lives within our comfort zones.  Yet, if something's comfortable, easy and routine for you, there's probably not much growth and learning in it for you.  You already know how to do it.  So, if you're someone who's looking to evolve yourself, you will tell your coach to push you into unusual and outrageous territory.  You might be surprised to learn that, for many people, this means doing less, rather than more!  After awhile, you may actually start challenging yourself to choose specific experiences that are outside your comfort zone, when you decide that you want to consciously design how you evolve and who you become as a person.  Would you call that unusual and outrageous?  Coaching is for people who aren't daunted by this, and want to really go for it with their live so fully today so that they'll have no regrets if they die tomorrow....

PTBS-10:  How do you attract clients?  How do they come to hire you?

Rich: Most come from referrals from my clients, friends or coaching colleagues, some from the trainings that I assist at The Coaches Training Institute (I love to coach coaches!), and some from workshops and classes I've taught.  The rest find me via my website.

PTBS-11:  What are your rates/rate structure?

Rich: I offer an optional 2-4 hours initial foundational intake session which ranges from $150-$400.  My all-inclusive monthly coaching packages run from $300 to $400 per month.

PTBS-12:  What makes your practice different from other life coaching practices?

Rich: I've been teaching for several years in a couple of local juvenile halls and, as a result of my affinity for that age group and my learning from them about their special challenges and what might help them, I realized that what they were really asking for was personal coaching.  So, I started coaching teens, which has also lead to coaching parents and families.  Most coaches work only with adults and just one-on-one.

I also work just 4 days a week...and Friday is my "Play-only/self nurturing" day.  This is about modeling (for my clients) living my perfect life.  (1/7 of my life is play!)  It's also about doing what I need to do to make sure I'm really at my best (for them and myself).  I'm often working with people on the most intimate and precious parts of their lives, and looking more for the nuances of what they don't say and don't see than what they do.  I need to be relaxed, in balance, clear and have all my own needs over-met so that I can be fully present and have 100% of my attention available to focus on them when they call.  The "Friday Play Day" is an idea that came out of one of my sessions with my own coach.  I don't know any other coaches who do this.

Having written the first draft of the book for Laura Whitworth on her revolutionary new model for leadership, personal evolution and social change called, "The Bigger Game," I coach leaders from years of experience and an intimate knowledge of a powerful system that's so state-of-the-art that it's just now becoming publicly available.

I assist the training of new coaches at The Coaches Training Institute.  This gives me special insights into the development process that people go through, both in becoming coaches, as well as making the career transition and building a thriving practice.  I've mentor-coached several coaches, and am currently coaching two coaches, in addition to my "non-coach" clients.

I'm also fairly fluent in Spanish and have a special affinity for the Spanish/Latino culture.  As a result, I've done some coaching in Spanish.

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, I also do some teaching as part of my consulting business, as well as some computer and web programming.  In addition to that, I drum in two bands, lead a spiritual group, have traveled in over 20 countries and lived abroad, and spend a lot of time out in nature alone.  These other activities ensure that I don't burn out on coaching, and they also give me a rich diversity of perspectives, insights and life experiences to draw from when working with my coaching clients.

PTBS-13:  How would you describe your coaching style?

Rich: One of the things that makes coaching powerful is the fact that others see us much more clearly than we see ourselves.  To honor that truth, it's safer for me to just relay what my clients have said:

They tell me that I'm fun and that they like my sense of humor.  They like that I coach them to design me as their optimal partner, that I learn quickly, and that I'm a sort of chameleon:  That is, I adjust my style to what best serves their unique style and preferences.  They like that I am always open and responsive to evolve my style as they evolve, to remain "in step" with them as their optimal partner.

They say that my empathy, compassion, non-judgment, along with my comfort and competency with intense emotions provides a safe space for them to go to whatever level of honesty or emotional depth is required for them to get past what's blocking them. 

They tell me that they experience profound insights from my provocative questions, coupled with my sensitivity and deep listening to both what they say and what they don't say.  I'm always surprised at the powerful new understandings they report from my simply clarifying and reflecting back what I've heard or sensed, sometimes using slightly different words or "reframing" things a bit.  They say they're often surprised to find themselves saying things they didn't know they knew as my questions and the listening space I hold for them takes them into deeper parts of themselves than they normally have access to.

They like that I dance with them, sometimes leading, yet more often encouraging them to lead.  They like that I'm continually learning from them as well as seeking out the best teachers around the world...and that, as a result, I'm always bringing powerful new tools, techniques, and wisdom to our calls.

My clients say that they love how I always hold their agenda for their life, rather than bringing my own...and that I'm much more curious about their views and interested in eliciting their innate abilities, resources and wisdom than I'm am in pushing mine.

Finally, they've told me that they feel empowered and championed by the fact that I always hold them as perfect just the way they are--and that I believe that there's nothing wrong with them, nor has their ever been.  (Even if they don't believe these things themselves, they find it valuable that I believe them with absolute certainty.)  When they're held as creative, resourceful, whole and completely capable of finding their own answers, they respond to this by stepping into their own power in new ways.  They find themselves propelled to greatness beyond what they imagined they were capable of by my unfailing assertion that they're an extremely precious, unique and important person, someone with unlimited potential to become and create their highest dreams and aspirations...and that the world is waiting for those invaluable and unique gifts and messages that they (and only they) are here to share.  I believe that there's a world-changing "Einstein" within each of us.  I never say, "That's not possible," nor "You can't do that."  I say, "Let's go!" or "Dream even bigger!!"  And, they do!

Recent, specific quotes:

"Rich does not have his own agenda or miracle cure or advice.  He listens.  And then he suggests one or two ideas and waits for me to decide on the next course of action.  He listens.  From real listening, he can accurately reflect back to me my own words so that I can make up new interpretations or clarify or abandon.  He is professional, has excellent references, teaches classes, takes classes - he's not playing at this.  This is his calling."  ~ Carlene

"Rich has the most amazing calming, healing energy that he shared with me so kindly and selflessly.  His keen insights help me delve even deeper into a journey of self-discovery, even towards areas that I hadn't dared venture before.  His brave authenticity prompts me to realize my own pretense (however conscious or unconscious) and inspires me to start  living my own truth."  ~ Vera


PTBS-14:  What sort of tools or visuals do you use in your sessions?

Rich: To use a metaphor (we coaches love metaphors), I have a kitchen fully stocked with ingredients from around the world...whether it's something I've learned from a shaman in the Amazon, an ashram in India, from a traditional university, or from state-of-the-art coaching and leadership programs here in the US, I have an arsenal of tools, experiential exercises, techniques and visuals that I draw from in the moment to create the perfect meal to satisfy whatever my client's hungry for that day.  It's sort of like "just in time" coaching.

I have fun, experiential exercises to mine for your core values, to quantify your level of satisfaction in each area of your life, to assess whether you're ready for a relationship, to help your create a vision and realize your specific goals.  I have visualizations (interactive and on CD) to help you access your right brain creativity or break rigid and "uncontrollable" patterns of thought or behavior.  I have visuals that teach the stages of learning a new competency or how your perceived probability of success affects your mood and motivation level.  I have step-by-step models for setting boundaries, for completing difficult communications elegantly and with minimal conflict, and for becoming a Martin Luther King with your dream...just to name a few.  And, I'm continually discovering, creating and integrating new ones.

PTBS-15:  Describe your typical coaching session.

Rich: Everything is optional and completely customized to each particular client.  Generally, tho, here's the format for most clients:
  1. Prep form  (Clients fill this customized form out the night before their weekly session.  This allows them to catch me up on how they're doing, what challenges they're facing, how their homework went, what they learned that week, what they want to accomplish with this week's call, etc.  This serves several purposes: It makes our time together much more focused and powerful.  It gives them time each week to reflect on the life experience and where the greatest point of leverage is to improve it.  It gives them a place to record important thoughts, desires, insights, dreams, learnings, and successes, so that they have a record of the progress they've been making in their life and development.)

  2. Gratitude/what's going well.  (This one has come from my clients.  One of my them taught me that, "Gratitude does not come from Happiness; Happiness comes from Gratitude."  So, the practice of noticing and voicing gratitude for what's going well trains the mind to appreciate/enjoy the positive, rather than making life a series of "problems to be fixed."  This preparatory step also gives folks a solid footing in the good/positive which gives them even more strength and courage to take on the really hard/scary stuff.)

  3. Connect and sync up with where the person is that day...address anything pressing in the moment so the client is ready and capable to go to work.  I coach the person first, and the issues second.  (Self esteem is the #1 psychological need: Without that, working on issues is like working on the 2nd floor of the building before the foundation is solid.)

  4. Move to what they stated (in the prep form) that they wanted to accomplish with the call and accomplish that.  (This usually takes up the majority of the call.)

  5. Feedback/learnings/alliance tweaks (This is their retraining me, as needed, to be their optimal partner.)

  6. Homework/inquiry/accountability/check-ins  (In between the calls, the client will have homework assignments designed to forward the action in their life, and provocative questions to ponder to broaden and deepen the learning available from whatever we're working on.  They typically use email to check-in with me if they get stuck, or to send me a "deliverable" from one of their homework assignments.  Alternately, they also regularly use email to send me a status report of something that they had committed to do by a certain date...and, if they failed to accomplish this, they'll include information about what got in the way, what they learned from that, and what they need to be successful next time.  "In between the calls, in their lives" is where the coaching really "happens."  This is the client in action, creating change in themselves and their life.)

  7. "Quickie calls"  (These also happen in between our regularly scheduled calls.  "Quickie calls" are 5-10 minute, short, spot coaching sessions that can be scheduled just before that big talk with a partner, that big job interview, etc.  Clients also use them for when a crisis situation comes up and they need just a bit of quick coaching in that moment, rather than having to wait until their next scheduled call.)

PTBS-16:  Any client you would have coached differently?

Rich: I spend a fair amount of time thinking about each of my clients and how the coaching's going in between our calls.  Sometimes, I'll even work with my own coach on it if the coaching with a particular client feels stuck.  One of the most powerful parts of the coaching relationship is its continuity.  If anything's not going well, either in my perception or the client's, there's always the next session and an open invitation to dialog about whatever might be more powerful for them.

In this way, we stay in sync.  And, as it's a consciously designed relationship, we're in continual dialog about how to evolve the relationship to continue to match the client's needs, even as the client is evolving.  This is a partnership, with both sides holding equal responsibility for the success of the coaching.  I empower my clients to ask for what they need, tell me what's not working, and do whatever's necessary to make sure the coaching's powerful for them.  In fact, each of my clients and I have a written agreement in which they commit to "making the relationship powerful."  This includes, specifically, that if a client feels that the coaching is not working as they desire,  they commit to "communicate and make requests for what's needed."  This is a great place to practice the skill of noticing just what one needs and making requests for that...a skill with they can perfect with me and then start using everywhere else in their lives...with their managers, significant others, family, etc.

With some of my clients, we've even designed in a time at the end of our call when they give me feedback about what's working well and most impactful, and how they'd like me to be coaching them differently.  As a result, there are enough "checks and balances" built in to the coaching relationship that the necessary "course corrections" happen promptly, as long as the client is fully honest with me.  I do everything in my power to create a space that allows them to be completely candid with me.

PTBS-17:  What is the best thing about being a life coach?

Rich: I love that I have the honor and privilege of participating in people creating dreams and lives they never thought they could have.  I get to see them exude new levels of passion, confidence and excitement as they become and achieve far more than they previously dared imagine.  I know I'm doing something important with my life when they write things like, "Thank you so much; you're an angel in my life" on their checks to me or say publicly, "We consider Rich part of the family."

I also love that it's my job to model for my clients living the life that's perfect for me.  (How could I possibly coach with any integrity if I wasn't walking my own talk?)  I live so much more consciously, as I'm always curious and experimenting, every day, with what brings the deepest fulfillment and greatest learning, with the most fun and least effort, in the various life situations I find myself in...and I'm constantly thinking about how I could assist others to access similar wisdom. It's almost as if "my life" is the R&D [Research & Development] for my coaching practice.

PTBS-18:  What is the down side?

Rich: When I go on TV, magicians make me look like a butt-head charlatan in a profession that's "Bullshit!"  ;-)
Seriously, it's that people don't know what coaching's really about, even though they think they do because of all the misinformation out there, or because it's a word they've heard before in different contexts.  I received much more respect, and it was much easier to make a living, when I was a computer engineer, doing little that I could see helped people in any way that was truly meaningful to me (or that actually made the world a kinder and happier place).  Now, I'm part of people transforming themselves and living their dreams, creating their highest visions and falling in love with their lives, so much so that, sometimes, client's wives have said, "In addition to everything I've seen him accomplish and how he now feels about himself and his life, my husband's coaching is the best thing that's happened to our marriage.  If there's ever an issue, I'll pay for his coaching!"  ...and I tell ya, professionally, I still get no respect, no respect....  <Dangerfield accent>

PTBS-19:  What advice would you offer anyone considering a career in life coaching?

Rich: Get a who coaches coaches.  Start coaching...anyone you can, and as much as you can...even if you have to do it for free.  Decide to be the absolute best coach you can be and seek out the best training available.  Be truly honest with yourself and bail on all of this if you're not doing it out of genuine, heartfelt caring for others and the sincere desire to see them become and create their highest vision.  Otherwise, you won't be happy long-term, nor will your clients...and, as a result, you probably won't be successful enough to make a good living at it.  (And, it's actually not an easy business to make a living at.)

PTBS-20:  Why do people need to hire a coach?  Could they get the same results by talking to a good friend or family member?

Rich: I say, "Try it."  If you're already getting the results and satisfaction you want in your life, hitting your goals and living your dreams, having the impact you want to have in the world, becoming who you really want to be, and in love with your life on your own--or, you can achieve these things with the help of a friend or family member--why hire a coach?

In general, tho, when caring and emotions are involved, it's difficult for people to be objective, since those close to us usually have a personal investment in our lives.  They generally have their own idea of what's best for us, and what's not, which makes it difficult for them to hold our agenda.  As coaches, we rarely coach friends or family members for this reason.

Here's an example: One of my clients has an huge passion for acting.  She loves school and knows she'll return someday, but really wants to go for her dream of becoming a successful Hollywood actress.  Her boyfriend, on the other hand, keeps trying talk her out of it...trying to convince her to play it safe, put her dream on hold, and go to school first.  This is the boyfriend's agenda, not the client's agenda...and it's probably more about keeping the boyfriend safe--ie, not losing her--than it is about keeping her safe.

Another client tells me that her friends and family are rarely able to deliver the hard truths, ask the hard questions, or to push or challenge her for fear of hurting her feelings, etc.  Examples she cites of questions I've asked her that they wouldn't: "How much energy do you want to devote to this situation?"  "What's really best for you?"  "For homework, ask 5 people to help you with xyz."

Another client came to me after having "tried everything else."  He said that he had tapped his colleagues at work, his friends, his wife, and his spiritual community, but that he still wasn't able to make his dream happen.  He even quit his job and got specialized training.  But, for reasons that he didn't even fully understand, he ended up going back to his job and giving up on his dream.  Until he and his wife started talking about having children, that is.  He called me up, not even really knowing what coaching was, and said, "I need to do this.  I don't care what it costs or what I have to do.  I don't want to be a father who models giving up on his dreams."

This was an extremely motivated and committed client, who went gang busters with the coaching and made his dream happen in just three months.  That client said, "I'd characterize my experience as transformation driven and accomplishment heavy. Rich's coaching was one of the best things I've ever done for myself (as my wife and I both agree). In the proverbial, I both caught fish and was helped to reveal my own ability to fish."  For whatever reasons, he wasn't able to accomplish this even with the plethora of support he received from good friends and family members.

Second to the emotional/closeness issues, there's the fact that coaches are professionally trained and have years of experience.  Like anything you continually seek out training in and do day after day, after awhile, if you have any natural talent at all, you'll eventually become an expert at it.  Obviously, if everyone had friends and family members with this level of skill and experience for supporting us, there'd be no need for life coaching and it would not exist.

A recent quote from a current client not mentioned above:

"I've only been working with you for a couple of weeks, but I feel that I have broken out of a huge logjam of my own creating.  My family, friends and therapist hadn't been able to help me see what you did  -- that I have to go where my heart is.  They all supported me in pursuing the things I was saying I wanted to do.  All the activities I have surrounded myself with, felt compelled to do, etc., are not really what I want.  It's sort of like the story where the emperor has no clothes.  Thank you Rich, I am quite astonished at how energizing this has been!"  ~ Barbara



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Rich Raffals ~ Awaken the Magic Coaching
Committed to Your Success
415-295-7267 /

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