this is a loving ass-kicking for my fellow coaches. if you’re not a coach, you’re welcome to read along
Dear Beloved Coaching Colleagues,
We have a problem. Many of us need more clients. But we’re going about it ALL WRONG.
We like to think of ourselves as special, we coaches. After all, we didn’t become entrepreneurs because we like to fit in, follow along, and take directions. We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we have something unique to offer the world. We know it because we know EVERYONE has something unique to offer the world. We spend our days working with people to get that unique, amazing, magical, SPECIAL quality out and available because we know the world is a better place when each person contributes their best special sauce to the mix.
Folks, we’ve taken it too far.
Think about this for a minute. We have marketing professionals and other coaches telling us over and over that we need a USP (unique selling proposition), that we need a distinctive way of describing what we do, that we need to be exciting and scintillating and stand out from the crowd.
A lot of us say, “OH I’m not a coach. I hate the word coach.” Hating on ‘coach’ has become the fashionable thing to do, in fact. People who DO use the word coach might well be BORING plus they CLEARLY haven’t learned enough about marketing because if they had they would KNOW they needed another word.
Look around a bit.
Therapists and doctors and lawyers all call a spade a spade.
They are also unbelievably hard to book appointments with. My doctor is booking two months out. My therapist…I don’t think she’s even accepting new clients. (Touch wood, I don’t need a lawyer at the moment.)
Coaches, we are not so hard to book appointments with. We have a whole industry dedicated to helping us BECOME hard to book appointments with. Meanwhile an awful lot of us are not working to capacity, even though we are damn fine coaches.
What’s going on? I think we’ve overcomplicated the situation. We’re young, and brash and enthusiastic, as an industry. We tend to like novelty. We tend to want to find the next big thing. We want to BE the next big thing.
We need to establish a common understanding of what we do. This means that instead of being UNIQUE we need to be THE SAME.
Doctors: they help with physical health issues. If I get sick, I go to see a doctor. If I get injured, I go to see a doctor. There are specialists and there are generalists. Typically, you start with a generalist and work inward.
Therapists: they help with mental health issues. If I’ve got a superfund site masquerading as my past, I go to see a therapist. They purge the groundwater and clean up the heavy metals so something can grow again. Lots of therapists specialize in depression and anxiety. Some therapists specialize in eating disorders or trauma or what have you. I find one that seems like they do what I need. If something happens that could BECOME a superfund site, I go see a therapist RIGHT AWAY if I can get an appointment. The faster it’s cleaned up the easier it is.
Lawyers: if I need legal help, I go to see a lawyer. I pick the lawyer based on the area of specialty–if I need help with real estate, I find a real estate lawyer. If I need help with probate law, I find a probate lawyer. If I need help in the criminal justice system, I find a criminal law specialist.
In all these cases, the general case is OBVIOUS. EVERYONE KNOWS what causes people to go see a doctor. Or a therapist. Or a lawyer.
We need an OBVIOUS general case. Let’s try it on:
Coaches: help people solve current problems. If I need help with solving a current problem or changing my attitude and behavior, I go to see a coach. I pick a coach based on the area of specialty. If I need help with health, I go to a health coach. If I need help with relationships, I go to a relationship coach. Lots of coaches specialize in times of life transition…
If this were a common understanding of this word “coach” then when I said, “I’m a coach,” most people would have a clear idea of what I meant. They could ask relevant questions like, “what’s your area of specialty?” or, “My cousin is going through a career change, do you do career coaching?” And I could say, “well, I can, but I know someone who specializes in that. Let me give you her number…unless you think your cousin would be a great fit for me; I’d be happy to talk with them regardless.”
HOWEVER if I say, “I’m a life shift zapper master” because someone told me I needed a special name for what I do, then we get, “A what? What’s that?” “Well, I help people do xyz which allows them to get through periods of change in their lives and get pointed in the right direction.” “Ummmm…..”
Believe me. I’ve been working on this marketing thing for 5 years. In that time, coaching has come from relative obscurity to That Thing That Everyone Does.
Are some people dismissive? Sure. Don’t take it personally.
And if the “Life Shift Zapper Master” is working for you, GREAT! Don’t change a fucking thing! Really!
But I do believe we are finally coming to the point where “coach” is identifiable as a career description and you have the option of, “I’m a coach!” “What’s your specialty?” “I’m a life shift zapper master!” “So you specialize in life transitions?” is a totally possible conversation. We just need to get together on the broad definitions so we can spend more time figuring out how to convey our personalities.
Because ultimately, if you put fifty coaches or lawyers or doctors or therapists in front of me, what I’m looking for is a GOOD FIT. That means personality and expertise. My therapist is a trauma specialist who understands my science/woo blend and really appreciates it. My doctor is a D.O. who understands my science/woo blend and really appreciates it. They are smart. They treat me like I’m smart, and an active participant in my care. They are comfortable with email and text as communication when I have a quick question. They are honest with me. They are real people with me.
That’s what matters. That’s how I pick.
But first, I have to know that they do the basic thing I need. I knew I needed a therapist. I knew I needed a doctor.
We need people to know they need a coach. We can take it from there.
I shared this on my Facebook feed recently; it’s an article about how someone realized she was criticizing everything her partner did, in a way that was neither helpful nor respectful, and was probably damaging. It’s Just Hamburger Meat And then I was talking with my therapist, who said, “Don’t you work with couples?” And I said, sure, I work with people in relationships, and […]
Posted on May 19, 2015 by
I’ve been thinking, a lot, about the consequences of engagement. (And this piece is definitely in dialogue with Christine Claire Reed over at christineclairereed.com and with Briana Saussy over at brianasaussy.com. They are both brilliant.)
Which is to say, what happens when you really truly get both feet into a thing and do it like there’s no going back. It’s commitment with a vector–a direction of movement.
What happens is that you crack open. The energy of motion starts to tear away the protective tiles on your spaceship and you become exposed to the world and to the possibility that what you have known is not what is.
And you keep going and keep cracking open, and you discover that under all those tiles your skin and flesh and bones are exquisitely, intensely sensitive. Anything can happen in there. You can feel it all, feel it as sharply as the day you were born, feel lit like sunrise on the morning after, feel it like opportunity, like becoming, like the sharp slice of truth.
And you keep going.
Learning to orgasm is the art of learning not to stop even when the sensation is so big you might come apart at the seams. It’s finding the ways to shift into pleasure and shift again and shift again, even as sensitive skin and nerves report in at blinding speeds and you can no longer think your way through anything. Learning to go deep is the same way.
You don’t get to see the end of the tunnel. You don’t get to watch the scenery. You get to be present with feeling in a way that almost hurts it’s so rich.
And then you get to the core where it’s meltingly hot and you, in fact, melt and are reformed, cooled into a different kind of being than you ever have been before, impurities burned away.
This is what the old ones used crucibles for.
There’s a deep kind of meditation required to transform pain into something else, but it can be done; much of pain is a story we tell about a sensation we are having. The rest of it is the sensation itself, about which we can usually tell a different story if we will.
It’s a commitment, then, a commitment to transformation, a commitment to re-encounter intensity, a commitment to allow intensity at all.
It’s a commitment to welcome something bigger and deeper than the everyday.
You will come apart.
And you will be reformed.
Why does pleasure matter, anyway?
I’ve got a whole website here, devoted to pleasure, which sounds shallow and materialistic and a whole host of other things, if you let it.
But I don’t let it.
Because that’s missing the point entirely.
Pleasure matters because it matters, because it’s part of the human experience, because it brings balance. But it also matters because it matters, because it’s the first way we learn to tell up from down, good from bad. It matters because it tells us where to go next.
It’s like everyone has this golden bowl of melted chocolate sitting right between their hips, and you have to get to it, through all the other layers, and then let it come up like a fountain…and when you have it running through your veins, you know what to do.
You know what job you should have, what foods you should eat, what clothes you should wear (or at least you recognize them when you see them). You know when you should exercise.
You know who you love.
Commitment is effortless.
And pleasure is everywhere.
and when you’re in that state, you can seduce the world to share what you’ve got.
because who doesn’t want that?
The world becomes a better place when everyone knows what pleasure feels like and can hear it whisper in their veins.
When I say, “you’ll know” it doesn’t mean “you’ll like it”
you might discover that your partner isn’t a good fit.
you might discover that you’re in the wrong job
you might discover that you shouldn’t be vegetarian or that you have to move to the coast.
but you might discover how to be blissfully happy in yourself, without changing your job or your partner or anything else that matters to you.
if you had a brand new, smoking hot lover standing behind your chair kissing your neck, you probably wouldn’t stay on facebook very long, would you?
because the pleasure centers in your brain know they’ve got better odds by turning around
but the truth is your pleasure centers have better odds almost all the time
you’ve just numbed yourself to them
so you sit in front of the screen
just a little more
a little more
a little more pleasure
but when you drop into your body and really relearn what pleasure feels like and how to follow it (and not ignore it) then you get your ass out of the chair unless there’s a compelling reason to stay there.
because you feel discomfort
when you learn what pleasure feels like you become aware of not-pleasure
and you notice, for example, that those impulses to fidget are actually a desire to move your body (exercise! shhhhh.)
so then you stop sitting in the chair because you want to move.
You get up and boogie for fifteen minutes. You WANT to exercise.
then you notice you’re having a sensation in your digestive tract.
but you take the time to notice that it’s not a desire for chocolate, it’s really that you want a glass of water. (boogieing is hard work)
so you drink water and notice how full you feel and how good it feels so you drink another glass.
Then you wiggle your toes because you notice the linoleum.
Just the other day I noticed (I’m always barefoot at home) how greasy the floor felt near the stove…for the first time. I’ve been living here for three years. There’s always more to notice.
That noticing made me want to clean the floor.
Let me repeat that: WANT TO clean the floor.
because I noticed the unpleasant sensation under my feet.
(I’m tactile, the visual doesn’t get me as much and besides, the grease was invisible.)
I bought some Sweet William at the nursery, know why? Because it SMELLED GOOD.
now I’m torn between putting it where i can see it and putting it where its scent will come in the windows
so now I’m planting flowers. Because pleasure.
And meditation: could be boring, except when you’re present with the sensations, it’s anything but. Now it’s a total trip through what might be called being turned on, if only turned on weren’t restricted to sex. Because the energy buildup and flow…not just for sex anymore. Not just for anything. Because it’s everything.
So now: I want to meditate. I want to exercise. I want to eat carrots and salad.
Do I also eat ice cream? Hell yes. But it’s so intense that I only need a spoon or two of the good kind.
Close your eyes, pay attention, and your pleasure centers get such a hit they are happy right away. No need for a giant waffle cone.
the desire for food, sleep, water, and sex are all RIGHT next to each other in the brain.
So you think you’re hungry when you’re tired.
Or when you’re thirsty
Or when you need sex.
That “hungry look” in the eyes of your lover? Only kind of a metaphor.
And finally there’s this:
We do three things that turn that-which-is-not-us into that-which-is-us: eat, breathe, have sex.
Something outside of is is welcomed in and becomes part of us. (Folks of all genders, if this is not your experience of lovemaking, let’s talk. Quick no-strings fucks are a different story.)
I talk about this when I do communion services and boy howdy do I get some freaked out looks
then I ask people to serve communion to each other
UUs don’t do communion often
but that’s what it is
this is the most sacred of acts
taking something into our bodies is a holy moment
a breaching of boundaries
a union of something holy
it is a moment of transformation, of creation, of life.
Why does pleasure matter? Because with pleasure, everything else becomes crystal clear. Pleasure is an experience.
Pleasure is a lens.
Pleasure is a passage.
Pleasure is home.
And when you’ve found pleasure for yourself, you can draw it out in others. And that makes the whole world better.
I was just reading an article about Holocracy in Fast Company, and it seems to me that the “you can’t x until you y” formula comes straight out of the older thinking and leadership models and as such, may be becoming outdated.
We’ve all known (or heard about) kids who ran before they walked, or seem to have sprung from the womb already understanding calculus. We’ve seen brilliant people supported in unconventional ways do unbelievable things–only unbelievable because we decided it couldn’t be done. World records get broken first in the brain–then everyone can do it, because we know it has happened.
Even in the world of psychology and neurology we see the old models of “this has to take forever and be long and painful” dropping in favor of things like neurofeedback and EMDR. We are skipping the “convince the person” part and going right to “rewire the hardware”. And why not? There is no valor in misery, despite some of the teachings of some of the religions around here.
Which brings me to coaching. One of the reasons I chose CTI as my school is because they are explicit about their underlying belief in the people we work with: all clients are “naturally creative, resourceful, and whole”.
Put another way, YOU ARE NOT BROKEN. And neither am I.
And every time I see a coaching ad that says, “you’ve got to (love yourself, have a mission, get focused, etc whatever) before you can (be happy, be successful, stand on your head) a piece of me jolts, and now I think I understand why.
Because I’m too damn not-like-that.
I don’t put much stock in paying dues. And the older I get, and the more dues I’ve paid, the less stock I put in it. Seriously. I don’t see why we should be wasting time and talent on principle. I’m dynamic, creative, and often impatient. I grew up in the UU church, trying to find the balance between leadership and chaos. In the last 40 years I’ve learned a lot, and nothing I’ve learned says that putting in your time really gets you anything except acclimated to the old way of thinking. If you are deliberately trying to preserve a culture, go for it, that makes sense. If you are at all interested in innovation, you might want to rethink.
So no, you don’t have to x before you y. You can fall in love without loving yourself, and do it well. You can run before you walk. You can discover that speed helps you keep your balance. In the Intensive Extravaganza we had a big conversation about how we love to see people do what they’re brilliant at as soon as possible. Because we’re attracted to the energy, and that’s where it lives.
Sometimes, leapfrogging is the exception, sometimes the rule. Sometimes you can afford to skip practicing, sometimes you can’t. But creating a paradigm where everything has a prerequisite? Lends itself to an environment where it’s easily too late to start over. And in life, that is rarely, if ever, the case.
What you have to do is take the first step. Everything else may well be optional.
One day (I was about ten) I found out that someone thought I was a snob.
I found out because they lashed out.
I had no idea. I was shy. We were in a photography class. I was trying a different hairstyle and it was a pain in the ass, so I was constantly pushing my ponytail back over my shoulder. She thought I was tossing my hair.
I was shocked. I was hurt. I couldn’t figure out how anyone could misunderstand me so profoundly.
Almost twenty years later, I found out again. I wasn’t paying attention for a while; the idea that people saw me like that was so far outside my daily experience that I couldn’t even absorb it.
But I was gifted that truth, in a place and time where I was much more able to hear it. And it hit me right in the gut:
When people look up to you, they are granting you power.
When you have power, you have responsibility. You can’t just hide your head in the sand and say, “I don’t believe in it, so I don’t have to act on it.” You have it. You affect people. You affect people whether you like it or not, whether you want to or not, whether you asked for it or not. Here you are.
Step the fuck up.
Owning that power was one of the best and scariest things I ever did.
I had to ask all kinds of hard questions:
What if everyone I thought was rejecting me thought I was rejecting them? What if they thought I was too beautiful or powerful or smart or capable to talk to them? What if they had handed me power, and I had handed them power, and so here we were with the power floating around like a loose cannon?
I was abdicating my responsibility, and giving up the chance to make someone’s day.
A woman named Marla had given me a taste of what it was like to be explicitly included just the day before. I knew what a difference it made to be invited.
So I started inviting people. I decided the power was awesome. It was the power to change the world, starting with people who thought they were being rejected when I had no intention of doing any such thing.
I started reaching out, assuming the best.
It changed me and my world forever.
Claiming your power is an act of joy, of love, of responsibility, of spiritual growth, and of service.
And it changes things. All the things. It changes everything.
If you’re free to come to Boston this weekend, join us at the (last minute! When the spirit say yes, say yes!) Love Your Power retreat Friday night and Saturday. Three seats only. And me. And power. Deets here: leelasinha.com/retreats
So about being intense. It means that I dive RIGHT IN to whatever I’m doing. (This is kind of funny because I still have a fear of diving that prevents me from going headfirst into the water, pretty much ever. Working on it. Not there yet. Anyway…)
I dive in. Both feet. Sometimes I tell myself I’m going to Do This Forever, but that’s only true in rotation with the other hundred and fifty million or so things I’m interested in. I never lose interest, I just keep adding things. (Intense learner, yep, that’s me.)
I LOVE that I’m intense about learning. But what gets in my way is when I decide that if I’m going to learn this, it’s going to be PERFECT.
I’m going to be the best. I’m going to LEARN ALL THE THINGS. And do them at a paraprofessional level, so help me heaven and earth.
All this does is make me SUPER STRESSED. I’m used to high levels of adrenaline and cortisol for a bunch of unfortunate reasons. And my body tends to lean in that direction anyway but there is no reason on earth that I have to do it to myself.
(Also, adrenaline and cortisol fuck with functions like short term memory, so if you’re stressed at a networking meeting or a birthday party you’re screwed.)
When I decide that I’m going to do it PERFECTLY that leads directly to…
Not Doing It At All.
That’s right. Perfectionism leads to procrastination. ARGH. So I’ve had to learn to be intensely laid back.
It works like this: I can do as much or as little of -this thing- as I want to. I can do it badly. I never have to show it to anyone if I don’t want to. It totally helps. In creativity I’ve even designated a few things (painting and drawing) as things I am allowed to do badly. I’m even SUPPOSED to do them badly. If I do them well it’s a total accident.
As intensives, we need permission, support, and guidance about how to be less intense when it’s not working for us. Perfectionism? Not usually working for us. When it works, it works. But sometimes you just have to do it for sheer joy. Do it for the pleasure of the feeling of the brush loaded with paint gliding across the paper.
We need to let ourselves play. Let ourselves scribble. Let ourselves be wrong.
We’re at our best when we move fast, fix fast, iterate, develop, edit, and move on.
To do that, we have to start.
Memo: to everyone who knew me when
don’t expect me to be depressed.
He’s not welcome anymore.
When you expect depression, I spend a lot of energy fighting gravity.
I’d rather use that energy to keep
re-terraforming my brain,
which is much more rewarding.
I know it’s hard. You have expected depression for so long that expecting is as ingrained as the depression itself.
You used to come over all the time and find him
with his dirty boots on my coffee table
which he had covered in Dunkin Donuts cups and
I asked him to leave.
I know you’ll slip up.
I slip up.
But I’m changing. I’ve changed.
So if you think you know me,
He tried to stay, said he was close to all my friends,
that they wouldn’t like me if not for him.
I handed him his bag and his wallet.
I am still loving, still kind, still
into every handcraft on the planet
still obsessed with Natalie MacMaster
still tactile, still kinethetic,
still increasingly seduced by water.
I am still opinionated, too,
still fiery, still intense, still a total wiseass,
still an athlete, still fierce, still proud…
but that might be news to you.
He was kind of jealous, wanted
me to stay indoors and
weep into my pillow.
He told me I had nothing to offer.
He told me a lot of things.
I got out the duct tape.
I’m planning to surprise you,
With who I really am.
The depression covered me up.
I’m stepping out, now.
Every day is a revelation.
He stopped talking.
And I would love to have you come with me.
He was only quiet for a minute.
But first, stop expecting depression.
I opened the door.
a desire to learn to surf.
I called my old friends. They were glad to hear
that we weren’t hanging out much anymore.
They wanted to have dinner.
bursting into song,
They suggested I learn to sing, swing, speak Portuguese.
They suggested I change the locks.
impatience at being expected to hold still.
I took his key.
the spark of life.
I watched him pull away, still talking.
But don’t expect depression.
He isn’t welcome here anymore.
So as an intensive, I’ve had an interesting relationship with pleasure.
Maybe I should start here: a few weeks ago I was sitting in a friend’s living room. We were discussing tantra and energy and this thing called a kundalini awakening, which is basically a way of talking about what happens when you really for real unlock the incredible energetic power in your own body.
It can blow the top of your head off, metaphorically speaking. In fact, some stories exist about people doing it before they were ready and disrupting their psychological equilibrium quite a bit.
For better or for worse, my experience has been different from that of everyone else I was talking to. I’ve known that energy intimately from a very young age, and so I’ve had a much more gentle coming-to-terms-with-it. It’s more like a steady, hot fire.
Pleasure was always hooked to it, but in a really broad way. On the other hand, sexual pleasure was a bit of a puzzle.
I was aware of sexual pleasure from an even younger age than when I first connected with that energy. I started masturbating very early in life. But orgasm, for decades, eluded me.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want it.
It was just that I had no idea how to get there.
I was eventually very lucky to get exactly the help I needed with that puzzle. But somewhere along the line, running on a parallel but separate track, I was doing a similar thing with other kinds of pleasure: I was sidestepping them at the last minute.
I was afraid to be loud. I was afraid to be seen. I was afraid to be foolish in public. I was afraid of showing UP. I had my reasons. Visibility had turned out to be really dangerous for me for a long time.
But how it happened matters less than what happens now, which is this: I’m taking the cork out of this carbonated bottle of awesome, because there is NO REASON to cap my pleasure off. No reason to mute my laughter. No reason to not be utterly, completely, gleefully delighted.
This is what intensives DO. We dive in and love the hell out of whatever we’re loving, for real, completely, totally, thoroughly, and quite possibly with sound effects.
Why be shy about delight?
Why hide that you love something, or someone, THIS MUCH?
Haters maybe gotta hate, I don’t know about that.
But lovers gotta love, and that’s where I’m setting up camp.
I was meditating this morning. Last night I watched the chakra scene from Avatar: The Last Airbender. I’m sure that helped inspire this.
There is no point in struggling for nonattachment. That is an attachment in itself. When nonattachment comes, it will be time to leave the earthly plane. Until then, attachment is what keeps us here. You have work to do.
There are some things you can let go of: anger, guilt, shame, fear, lies. But complete unattachment is separation from the physical body that brought you here. Do not rush toward it. It is in the process of becoming enlightened that you can serve the world.