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
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
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.
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.
This could be about my cat.
He’s beautiful and sweet, 25 lbs, laid back, totally the opposite of his brother.
He has long hair and a slightly flattened face–seems like he’s probably half Persian, but you know how shelter cats are. He likes pets, sleeping on the bed, and pets.
For the longest time he was just fine, grooming wise. I’d brush him when I wanted to and not when I didn’t. But this year, something changed. He’s getting older, he gained some extra weight, I moved the litterbox to the porch which is unheated, who knows. But I went away for a few days and one little clump of mats had become mats EVERYWHERE except his back. Everywhere. Belly was a giant tangle. Back end totally locked up. Now I used to have long hair. I know what big snarls feel like. I couldn’t even imagine how uncomfortable he must have been. And he wouldn’t let me touch them because they probably hurt like crazy.
Finally, two days ago, I put my foot down. He kept coming to curl up with me, and I started work on his belly. After about half his belly was clear, he started to get that I was helping and stopped nipping at me. I got his belly, mostly, and half his hindquarters before he was way too sore to continue.
I figured I’d wait a couple of days and finish.
But today, he’s working on it himself. He’s pulling and fussing with the mats that are left.
He needed a window. He needed an opening. He needed a way to get started. I’m not abandoning him to his efforts, but I think things will move much better with both of us working on it.
He needed to know he could feel better so he could feel like the effort was worth it. He already hurts less, just halfway there, and he’s more nimble.
Maybe I’m projecting.
But maybe not.
The thing about impermanence is that it cuts both ways
The plant in the cup dies
The wild things die
Our pets die
So do we.
On the other hand this
Illness, grey days, the seeming
Endlessness of winter.
For a select few
The illness passes only into death,
The injustice lives on,
the grey stretches out forever.
We would like to think that few is a few,
Three, maybe four souls per
We know we are wrong.
A few is a fallacy,
Naïve gentling of the ranks that fall into line under
The classified ad:
For lifelong relationship
I am lying here, grateful,
Joints, nerves, muscles, bones,
Pressing like clockwork with every beat of my heart,
Secure in the fairy tale
That this will not last forever.
Not two hours south is a new mother whose freak accident has left her paralyzed from the neck down.
I cannot possibly imagine.
She is determined to walk again.
I will cook,
I will drive,
I will go to the ball,
I will walk away from this one.
One of the things about being a minister, or working in any kind of volunteer organization, is that you start to see really clearly how the lines between work and home get blurred. Volunteers, after all, are not in work mode–they are on their own time, doing something for fun or to contribute because they feel it is important.
When people come in feeling like they’re not working, however, it means they often bring fewer boundaries and less formality with them. Sometimes, that’s awesome. It allows a kind of bonding and camraderie that is rarely possible in the workplace. Sometimes, though, it means that people behave badly–in ways they would never consider appropriate if they were at work.
We’ve almost all done it. And when that happens, it’s often because something about the situation is reminding us of something from our past, from home, from an old family pattern. We might not even be aware of it. In fact, usually we’re not. We respond from a sense of threat and from the gut, with only a vague awareness that it feels icky before we act.
And usually that action only makes it worse, because we’re reproducing a pattern from home, one that was strong enough to get echoed forward in time.
You’d think this would be less true in the workplace, where you try to be on your best behavior. But what I’m seeing, especially as a coach, is that family systems and patterns get played out just as often in formal work environments, although the way they play out might be a little different.
That’s the bad news. The good news is, if you know about it you can fix it.
Once you start trying to notice it, you might see it in a physical reaction–a tension in your belly or the way your shoulders creep up to hug your ears. Or you might just realize that whatever you’re feeling is out of proportion with the experience you’re having.
Then you have a few choices.
You can change the physical first. Turns out that forcing yourself to smile can improve your mood. So can standing straight, shoulders back, feet firmly planted. Or raising your arms in the victory pose. Amy Cuddy has a great TED talk about that.
If that’s not working or not your style, you can go for the emotional, remind yourself that this situation is different, that you’re safe, and talk yourself down.
Or you can take a timeout. The inital biochemical wave of panic lasts about 90 seconds, whether it’s from your boss asking to speak with you later or a tiger chasing you across the savannah. In that moment you lose higher order thinking, creativity, and your sense of humor, among other things. After that, if the threat has passed, you can either retrigger the chemical cascade by telling yourself the situation is terrible, or you can take a deep breath, relax, or even meditate to calm down. That will give you the rest of your brain back.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Now the tricky part is that for most of us it’s nearly impossible to see the family connection from inside the situation. We’re just too close–and too triggered. And that’s where it’s good to get help.
There are tons of resources out there, too. Plenty of books and articles, if those help. But often you need a person with some perspective–a friend, a coach, or a therapist. There’s no shame in getting help.
That bears repeating: there is NO shame in getting help, and I don’t just say that because I’m a coach. We need help. As humans we’re made to live and connect and grow in community. And as we’ve slowly moved from villages and extended families to isolation and hyper-self-sufficiency, we’ve lost the incredible gift of outside eyes.
We’ve lost it because we are somehow ashamed to be anything less that perfect. But we need to see ourselves and each other as three dimensional, capable of beauty and grace and redemption without perfection. And in the cases where friends are not available for that, we can, with total grace and confidence, pay for help.
And that’s where true strength lies: not in success when everything is going right; not in toughing it out and pretending we’re fine when we’re hurting, but in knowing when we need help and having the self-confidence to ask for it.
Getting support is what makes us truly robust, truly reliable. And when you can see what’s going on, you can find a way to make it better, which makes life better for everyone. Most important, though, it frees you up to really be present in the world, to give and share what you have to give and share, so the world can benefit from your brilliance.
And that’s truly a gift. For all of us.