If there was one thing I’d change if I was going to start another business or go back in my life and journey through the formative years of my career again, it would be to have a tough love sounding board, a tough bastard life coach. Someone like me on my side.
I’d want someone who’d stand up to me, tell me things from their point of view about what I was doing and how I was doing it. I wouldn’t have followed everything they’d said but man, that would have made me think about things with a whole different perspective. And I certainly would have benefited from that.
I was one of these perfect examples of people who get buyers remorse. My brother was the complete opposite, he’d spend a year choosing a pair of socks while in contrast, I’d spend 30 seconds choosing a car and then wonder for the next 12 months whether I’d made the right decision. I needed a coach more than him.
The difficulty with paying someone to give you advice in a non compliant environment, (you volunteer to listen) is that commercial interests and your ability to walk away from advice you don’t like, puts the advisor under a lot of pressure to, on one hand speak their truth and, on the other, keep you engaged and committed.
That’s where I’ve broken the rules. I support and challenge the people I work with. When my clients are challenged, I support them, when they are supported, I challenge them. It’s nature’s way of keeping an even keel and I believe in nature’s ways.
The Benefits of Self Improvement
DIY self improvement is like tickling yourself, it’s not funny and it doesn’t work. Self-improvement only works when someone else does it for you. Would you do heart surgery on yourself? DIY self improvement is the equivalent to doing yoga to a video, or climbing up a hill in Nepal without a guide. It’s all possible but the likelihood of getting it right drops exponentially when we self administer personal improvement.
Einstein was supposed to have said “you can’t solve a problem at the level the problem was created” And we extrapolate that to self development. We are the creator of our problems so we are probably the worst source of a workable solution.
When I developed my skill as a management consultant I took the same critical eye for business improvement and focussed it back in the mirror on myself. I became my own life coach. Now I look back on it and recognise that not all I did in the name of self improvement, improved things.
How easy is it to rationalise? “I followed my heart” is the catch cry but how often do we sit back and recognise that our “heart” is just another emotional centre in our body, looking for and following lopsided data?
Why Tough Love Needs to Be Tough Love
In my self improvement seminars I’ve been punched twice, threatened with a gun, chased out of town, slapped, had food thrown on me, been pissed on, vomited on, spat at and been cussed out hundreds of times.
Well there’s two reasons. The first is because some people who go to self help seminars would be far better off in one on one therapy and, secondly, because people don’t always come to self help seminars to be challenged, they want to nod a lot and agree with what’s being said.
I remember as a trainee keynote speaker attending a workshop run by the Australian Institute of Professional Speakers and being told “you get rewarded and paid for making the audience nod” (that’s in agreement not “nod off.”) It means that although we all want change in our lives, we also want change agents to agree with what we already think. And given that what we already think is usually the cause of what we want changed, our problems, we’re put in a catch 22.
A Delicate Line Around Very Personal Beliefs
Take the environment as an example: In my self improvement workshop I ask people to find the benefit and the drawback of deforestation. Some people, often the most academic of the audience find this absolutely abhorrent – even the possibility that there’s a single benefit turns their stomach, and they really do get upset at the exercise. For them, one single benefit of deforestation would attack the platform on which they’ve built their identity.
Another example of a rather vicious assault reaction was when I asked a lady to write the positive and the negative qualities of a parent they’d hated since childhood. They wrote 390 negative things and not one single positive. When I worked side by side with her to help find even one single positive, like, “they didn’t kill you” – as she wrote the words in the currently blank positive column, she vomited all over me. Lucky I had a change of clothes in the hotel and after a quick shower we were able to add another 100 positive qualities. Still not balanced, but a huge shift for her.
Could she have done this self improving? Could I have done this with her if her approval became more important than the process, which is what friends are for? No. Could I have done this as her spouse? No way, you’re never a prophet in your own home.
The Toughest Life Coach You’ll Ever Love
But there’s still a difficulty in life coaching: people choose what they tell their coach, they choose when they see their coach, they choose to hire and fire their life coach based on how much they “like” the process or not. And because of that, life coaching can often turn into an approval seeking experience rather than a self improvement process.
My old motto was “the toughest life coach you’ll ever love.” I liked it because it sort of validated the level of honesty I needed when I was younger and building a family and running business’. Anything less than a tough coach would have been a total waste of time and money. I needed to hear what I didn’t want or like to hear, but instead, I chose to tickle myself in the belief that the path I was cutting was authentic.
In retrospect, I wish I’d had a life improvement coach who was “the toughest life coach I’d ever love” I needed it and it would certainly have saved me millions of $ and years of time.
It isn’t always easy to accept this level of truth and honesty, it isn’t always easy to choose a self improvement teacher who doesn’t pat you on the head and offer platitudes of “well done” and “great job” when really, the role of a teacher is to support and challenge you, equally.