Even in high school I enjoyed tutoring and training people. I loved helping someone have the light bulb moment where they understood something they hadn’t just moments before. I was phone support for Windows 95 when it was first launched and supported other team members field difficult questions. In college I was a mathematics tutor and taught people how to use email and setup networks as the Internet was getting popular. As a VP of Technology I would train and support our on-site technicians. I have always loved making a difference with people.
My path to personal development came in 2002 when I was invited by a good friend to attend the Landmark Forum. I didn’t know what it was and I had never heard of personal development. It sounded way too new age for me, but he was one of the few people who was less touchy-feely than I was and we had the type of relationship where if one of us asked the other to do something, you did it. I was intrigued at the introduction and registered for the next course. I walked in and got a seat third row center in a group of about 150 people. The course leader asked us what we wanted for our life and why we were here. People talked about their stories, which to me sounded like “I don’t have the courage to…”, “I wish I could…”, and “One day I’ll stand up and say….”. I was happy these people would get some confidence and a sense of Carpe Diem, but I already had those things. The course leader said if it didn’t seem like the thing for any of us we could raise our hand and get a full refund. I knew in a group of this size there would be at least a few people, yet when I raised my hand and looked around I was the only one.
Jinendra (the course leader) and I had a conversation in front of the room and at the end of it he said he understood and that I should go to the back and get a full refund. As I was walking he asked if anyone else felt the way I did and five more people left. As I walked out a gentleman (Mike) asked if he could speak with me about what I talked about and inside of that discussion he pointed out that I liked being right. I said that it wasn’t that I liked it, I was just smarter than everyone. (You might get a sense of what a delight I was to be around.) He asked me what it was like being right all the time.
I told him, “When I’m driving down the road, I know what the person ahead of me should be doing, I know what the car in front of them should be doing, and I sure as hell know what the car behind me should be doing. I even know that the guy in the middle lane, while technically not at fault, could easily speed up or slow down to help us all out. At the grocery store I know that the person in front of me should have their checkbook or card out. I know the cashier should have pushed the dividers all the way to the back of the belt instead of just putting them next to her.”
Mike said “It sounds tiring.” “It’s not tiring, it’s exhausting.”, I said. He then asked what was going to have things go better, and I told him, “If everyone would just do what I told them, they’d be happier and I would, too!” When he asked how that was going I said, “Not very well, no one really cares what I think.” He then told me that that’s what I could get out of the course. Not that I wouldn’t see things that didn’t work, but that I wouldn’t be driven by them. I would have access to the off switch. So after thinking about it I went back and completed the course. I figured either I would be right and there wasn’t anything for me (and I was now clear how much I did enjoy being right), or I would be wrong and a miracle would occur, and that was worth being wrong for. And at the end of the course there was a moment where a huge weight disappeared from my shoulders. I hate the cliche, but I actually felt lighter, unburdened. I had gotten a new relationship with my mom and my dad, I was clear on what I wanted to create for a business, and I got peace. I also became very interested in the answer to the question, “What the hell just happened?”
I started assisting on courses to see if the feeling was temporary and to see what else I could figure out about the way I worked. It wasn’t temporary but it did require work and attention, and I saw the connection to the training and tutoring I had done for most of my life. I wanted to have conversations with people that left them free, lighter, happier, and excited about life. I entered into a leadership training with Landmark and spent seven years first learning how to coach, then coaching participants, then coaching our coaches. I realized that was what I wanted my life to be about.
I also worked with a global coaching company that went bankrupt six months after I started with them. They were unable to pay me and the other coaches, but I and another coach agreed to finish the contracts of all of the customers in return for rights to the coaching material. I adapted their curriculum to what I saw worked, removing the parts that were ineffective and adding in things that weren’t covered, and started coaching under my own company.
Now, years later, I am clear that my life is about making the difference for others through conversations. I have the training to help people see things in a new way, and to be able to have them be heard and know that I can be in their shoes and see their point of view. I can then help them have access to another point of view that is in line with what they say their life is about, resulting in peace, freedom, happiness, business results, better relationships, or whatever else they say is important. Doing that also gives me a life that I love. I can’t coach if my life isn’t exceptional! You’ll know, I can’t hide it. When I am coaching, my life, my business, and my relationships work.