Why the F*** Would Anyone Get a Coach?
Written by a Startup Co-founder
At this point, I’m not even sure whether coaching is a good thing or not. So many people are doing it. And it’s actually caused a lot of damage in the world.
When I first set out on my journey, I devoured “personal development.” I was like a cocaine-addict who could always find his next intellectual hit in a TED Talk, a best-selling business book, a podcast, a medium post or weekend seminar.
Good lord, I read so many business books.
I listened to hundreds of podcasts, hanging on the interviewer’s every word, expecting that maybe…just maybe… this interview would be the one where I’d finally uncover the shortcut that I’d been overlooking for years. And like an addict, I’d return back to those goddamn TED Talks, workshops, seminars, masterminds searching for my next intellectual fix. It even got to the point where I’d go to events where we’d bang our chests, eat raw deer heart, walk barefoot over hot coals and write mementos in our own blood to really push ourselves to the brink.
Now, I don’t want to rag on that stuff because it’s well-intentioned and a hell of a lot better than wallowing in self-pity. All of that stuff helped me gain confidence, push past my limits and uncover new sides of myself, but it never quite plugged that hole that I had I always felt in my heart. All those socially-approved vices would temporarily distract me from the void, impermanently convincing me that I was inching closer to the elusive grandiose success that I could never seem to grab hold of.
And then my brain would demand yet another fix of dopamine….
And so the cycle continued.
With all that steam, I eventually burned my way into my first “real” company. I used self-development as a way to turn my self-hatred into perverse motivation. We hit 6-figures in revenues. We chased celebrities like Diplo and Lupe Fiasco until they’d take a selfie with our sunglasses on them. We got them featured in major magazines like Esquire, GQ and Men’s Health but it still didn’t break us through to the next level. We were taking on more Investor debt than we could handle, and were running it on the false pretense of “pre-revenue,” aka “kick the can down the road…to the next series B,C,D investment so then hopefully someone who knows what they’re doing can turn the revenue into profits,” so at least it would end up being someone else’s problem.
And we’d go to our little masterminds, brag about our “results” and my friends’ would fawn. Their faces would contort to subdue the same self-hatred I was inflicting on myself behind closed doors. They’d ask questions and live vicariously through our accomplishments and sooner or later, I developed the gall to start standing in the position of an authority. Worst of all, I thought that it gave my own thoughts more weight than theirs. I could always throw down my trump-card (disgusting pun intended) and they would leave me untouched from the pedestal that I’m retroactively revolted to have soapboxed from. They’d give away their power and for no other reason than our business had hit 6-figures, I felt justified to inflate my own opinions to the point where they were asserted on my peers as ironclad facts.
For example, nobody needs to wake up at 5AM, scream themselves into a cold shower for 30 days and drink a green juice before they do another 2 hours of accelerated enlightenment meditation rituals in order to feel like they’re not a colossal fuckup.
Nobody needs to do 30 days of cold showers to prove their mental toughness.
Nobody needs to read 107 books before they launch their first business.
Nobody needs to pump out blog posts that generate millions of unique click-throughs so they can lure customers into an onslaught of email marketing with a product ascension step-ladder.
These are all limiting beliefs. And startup-pop culture is bashing these into our skulls every damn day. Open your newsfeed if you need a reminder.
But won’t these tactics help me “crush it?”
What good is “crushing it,” if you “crush yourself” in the process?
When you beat the shit out of yourself, to win an imagined fight, who wins?
Now….let’s be clear. It’s one thing if people are full of shit and they’re just circle-jerking in a mastermind to masquerade as a SaaS CEO so they can look sexy on LinkedIn and have something to brag about at the bar. It’s another thing to endorse destructive productivity that fosters systematic shame and self-hatred.
I may be a crazy bastard but I’m willing to assume that the majority of people are earnest in their efforts to improve their lives. They’re trying.
And it’s sickening to me when I speak to clients that have convinced themselves that they need to be a 7-Figure Business Owner, who’s a NYT Best-Selling Author, who’s also got a perfect relationship with an “11” and they have a 6-pack that would make a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader blush, before they can look themselves in the mirror and feel like they deserve to exist.
“How are you doing?” asks someone who appears too rushed to digest your response.
We’re conditioned to parrot-back “Yea man! Everything’s so great right now! If life were any better, it’d be illegal!!!” (insert phony laugh here).
Nobody is doing that great. And what’s even more harsh is that we feel we need to conceal our embarrassment for not measuring up to a comically-set bar of achievement. Go skipping through Palo Alto with an “Elon is Overrated” shirt, and just watch the pandemonium that ensues. I bet it’d make a Trump rally seem tame. Through tightly clenched smiles, furrowed brows and uncomfortable bull-shitting, we are all narrowly escaping moments of loathing.
Ask yourself, what would it take for you to feel like you’re actually doing a good job?
Now, that you have a to-do list of 393 things to accomplish and brag about on social media, it’s no wonder us millennials are so depressed that we compensate with embellished social media profiles.
We’re leading quiet lives of desperation and every video, blog post or piece of content that tells us that “you need to become the best version of yourself and live your purpose every single second of your life otherwise you’re wasting it,” just piles on another layer of self-hatred onto overburdened shoulders of people who already doing their fucking best.
Our culture doesn't need more motivation. Sure, motivation has its place, it keeps us honest. But if someone’s full of shit, believe me, they know it already.
We need to chill out.
Some coaches, my prior self included, think that reinforcing negativity helps. Newsflash, people don’t really like public shaming (also known as “motivational speeches”). Nobody likes inflicting embarrassment (mastermind “accountability” groups). Or linking their self-worth is to their bank account balance.
Our industry isn’t creating inspiration, it’s inflicting motivation.
And before I blame anyone else, let me point the finger right back at my self.
I am a recovering “motivational inflictor” who thought that more accountability and force, would solve everything. Turns out, I was simply uneducated. I was just another one of the blind leading the blind. I had sincere intention wth one micro-success that I thought warranted me to be a self-proclaimed seer of truth who could supply you with the inarguable “10 Steps to Entrepreneurial Success” that 5,730 other coaches hadn’t already thought of.
As if anyone could define what success is for another human being! The monk doesn’t want your extravagant lifestyle. The playful father doesn’t care about having a chiseled six-pack, he wants to make sure he reads his kid a bedtime story every night. The CEO who is happy to provide salaries for his staff and provide them with wonderful lives, shouldn’t have to get addicted to VC injections so he can fulfill his ego’s desire to become the next Elon Musk.
That’s right. You don’t have to be the next, Elon Musk. One is plenty for the world. He’s got the rocket thing handled. Focus on what you want. Who do you want to be?
But anyone who isn’t the CEO of some hot, new, early-adopter, SaaS app startup is immediately shunned. Masterminds have been contorted to a creepy version of good-ol’-boys clubs. “Be careful who you surround yourself with,” they recite, “because you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
That limiting belief’s positive intention is to help people see possibility and to get themselves into a constructive environment, which is useful if they’re dodging gunshots on the way home from school. It’s a reminder that we can always reprieve to our imagination and have conversations with mentors from within our minds. It’s a nudge to surround ourselves with kind-hearted, intelligent friends that want to contribute to the betterment of one another’s lives. It’s not a permission to start being an asshole to people because they don’t know what SaaS means.
This is just one idea that we’ve misunderstood to the point where we exclude fellow human beings… because their revenue projections aren’t as big as ours, because they don’t employ enough people, because their projected “impact” isn’t in the billions. If your social media strategy is to post motivational quotes with your new startup and cite Gandhi’s “Be the change you want to see in the world,” don’t post it and then go to your neo-good-ol’-boys club and brag about how many people you’re “impacting.”
Why does everyone want to “impact” a billion people with their business?
The same people that are addicted to this type of impact, forget to hold the door open for an old lady, they yell at the customer service person who doesn’t know why their website is down, we run around on conference calls and don’t smile at the sweet innocence of a child flicking his lips while he makes a “blubblubblubb” noise. We’re too busy cramming in one more podcast so we can “impact” the world. The opportunity for impact is right in front of us! The impact is now!
How you do work matters immensely more than what you’re doing.
The point is that I shoved so much of this personal “development” stuff down my gullet that I eventually spat those frameworks back at my peers. I prided myself on always having the right answer and I loved leveraging the fuck out of my status-based credibility. We had landed a grossly unprofitable, but ego-catapulting partnership with Tim Ferriss, the adopted godfather of my entrepreneurial wet dreams, and even though we didn’t make any money it still felt like a success.
I’d say shit like…. “Well, I was having dinner with the Founder of 24 Hour Fitness the other night and he said…..” or “When we landed a piece in Esquire magazine our sales doubled in a day. So, for your app I’d recommend using these PR strategies...”
And people would listen. They’d surrender themselves. It was such a gross energetic exchange that I’m embarrassed to have ever participated in it before.
The hard truth is this….There is no “best” strategy.
We have no fucking idea how business works. If we did, we’d all be multimillionaires already. Business school would pump out successful businesspeople.
But the problems in our lives are there for a purpose. All of them.
And to go around solving everyone else’s life for them isn’t doing them a favor, it’s a denial of their incarnation. We’re robbing people of unbelievable joy that comes when they get to save themselves. Imagine if they became their own superhero, turned their life around and every time they looked in the mirror, it’s became a privilege to see their reflection.
Coaches of the world, your heart is in the right place. Help your clients out by all means, but don’t forget, they need to be the star of their own movie.
What I’m saying is that nobody needs coaching. And anyone who says otherwise, is poking at your insecurities with a pointy, fear-inducing, credibility-stick.
Yet, I still call myself a professional coach as I write this. To top off the irony, I even work specifically with highly-ambitious, high-performers who are usually CEOs, Professional Poker Players or Co-founders.
Despite, all the emotional acrobatics, I do this work for one reason.
Because I get to watch miracles happen with my clients.
A COO client of mine was suffering from a silent depression in her 15+ year marriage. Despite having accomplished more in her career than others do in a lifetime, she still doubted her self-worth, which would get triggered especially during arguments with her partner, who also happened to be the CEO of the company. She asked me to help her rewire her brain to generate self-worth instead of self-doubt when conflict arose. We worked on it. Within days she became different. Vastly different. She started to demand a relationship based on mutual respect, unflinching connection and complete vulnerability. She went from being a “damsel in distress” to an “emotional titan” who would make Beyoncé look shy.
Her marriage ended within 4 weeks.
Update: They’ve been working on their marriage and whether or not they get back together, she congruently told me, “I’ll be alright, no matter what happens. I’m kinda in love with myself, again. Thank you.” She loves herself, again. And even though an ended marriage feels like the world’s worst testimonial it shows how powerful neurological changes can be. I have to remain impartial and allow her experience to unfold.
Or another transformation with one of my young guns. He is a highly ambitious entrepreneur client who wanted to replicate his career success into his romantic life. The problem was an unconscious belief, which had prevented him from going on a single date in over 2 years. Despite being a handsome, confident, kind-hearted, successful entrepreneur, we discovered that his brain was subconsciously programmed to say, “Unless I’m a millionaire, why the eff would any woman actually want to date me? Let’s just stay in tonight.”
Three weeks after our single session, I called him. He had gone on over 7 dates. She eventually became his girlfriend and flew them to New Zealand (she’s a pilot). Every time I see pictures of them, smiling together, I smile to myself, knowing how much joy this client has been able to give and receive in his new relationship. A year later he called me and thanked me for changing his life, but most importantly, he got to be his own hero. I was just the IT guy for his brain.
Or another client, a Real Estate CEO who was questioning whether or not he wanted to remain in his industry after huge success in his first year, but paralyzing boredom. He had flipped nearly 30 homes in his first year. After a few sessions, we flipped some neurological switches and then he decided to leave the industry and pursue his passion of music! I was shocked so we checked back in a few weeks later and we concluded that he did want to continue his entrepreneurial career. After another few sessions, he asked me to rewire his brain to start generating confidence. Within weeks, he began dating his dream girl and was offered a $500k investment for his real estate company.
Or the time another CEO client and best-selling author was stuck on releasing her 2nd book. After having already released an Amazon bestseller, she was paralyzed at the prospect of the second book not living up to the popularity of the first. Despite the fact that her book was about her inner strength that she summoned when she entered a coma, was pronounced dead, experienced the afterlife and came back to life to share her insights! The woman who had actually faced and overcome death was terrified of accomplishing something she had already accomplished. In one session, we released all of her resistance. She’s happily writing, again. She has asked me to partner with her. She decided to share her vulnerability and now she’s her own superhero, again.
Or the professional poker player who wanted to beat his World Series of Poker finish of 19th place out 6,000 players at this year’s event. We trained for months, so his mindset would be impenetrable. Less than 5 weeks before the event, his completely healthy mother, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away in her sleep. He was devastated.
Shortly thereafter, his grandfather, from his deathbed, requested that my client marry his fiancé so he could see the wedding before he passed away, too.
They married 3 weeks later.
The Honeymoon was postponed because of the tournament. We went to the event and even though we needed to hit the top 10% to make money, we fell short at only the top 33% of the pack.
Then his beloved grandfather died in his sleep. I got to watch my client go through the rawest moments of his life and had the honor of holding emotional space for him through the most trying time any human being could experience.
We lost the event and then found ourselves sitting in a Vegas diner and even though I was furious at the world for doing this do him, for piling on the successive burdens he looked at me and said, “Just wasn’t my year, man. You know who I’m really mad at, right now? Fucking Guy Fieri, he bought out my favorite restaurant at this hotel! I loved that fish place!”
And he smiled. Genuinely.
The man who had every reason to justifiably loathe the world, flip over the table and kick a hole through the wall, sat there like a Tibetan Monk, laughing along at the destiny that he was at peace with. Sure, there was plenty of pain to process, but he wasn’t controlled by it. He told me that I reinvigorated his love for the game.
“The mental roadblocks which had been playing on repeat in my head for over 7 years took a matter of a few months to demolish working with Zach.”
Or the transformational coach who I coached who was stuck even though she teaches other women how to unlock their own prosperity and align their lives with their heart’s purpose. After 6 months of being so furious with one of her in-laws that she they weren’t speaking anymore, in only one 2 hour session, we rekindled their beautiful friendship and my client got to reconnect with her beloved niece. She’s got to be the hero, again.
The miracles keep happening.
People come to me looking for clarity, awareness and optimism. And as much as we can intend to achieve a certain result, I never know how my clients’ lives are going to go. I ask them what they want. They make choices. And I align their neurology with their desires. Shifts happen. Big shifts. I refuse to pretend like I can control their experience, which is god-awful for marketing this stuff, but good for my heart and feelings of remaining in integrity.
These results aren’t nearly as sexy as the celebrity endorsements I used to love bragging about at masterminds. The revenues don’t raise eyebrows and get approving nods like our 6-figure revenue days. But instead of tears of exhaustion at the end of my days, I cry tears of joy for my clients.
I have no idea what will happen when we work together. But I know for sure, it will be big. The shifts can happen effortlessly. They can also be absolutely brutal. But I guarantee you that if you commit to this dare-I-say “spiritual growth work,” your soul will clamor with applause for your bravery.
Leap away you fucking superhero, you.