I’ve been a coach my entire life in some form or another, but I didn’t start getting paid to be a coach until 2003. In reflecting back on my journey as a coach, author and speaker, I realize I’ve given some terrible, albeit unintentionally so, advice.
Here are few of the doozies … and what I say today:
- “Suck it up” — I said this to my sons, the youth football players I coached, friends and clients. It was often accompanied by “Calm down!” For years, I was terrified of unleashed emotion — mine and others. Whenever I saw a person suffering through something, my bias against emotions spurred me to — at best- get them through that period. Certainly there are times that require us to be intensely present, and temporarily manage our feelings and responses to get s**t done. But now I say “Stay focused”. This is practical encouragement — which is what we mostly need in high pressure moments.
- “Go find yourself”- This is another example of well-intentioned but poor advice. I said this to Lynna when we moved to Austin. I’ve said it to friends and clients. I now know that we don’t find ourselves, we become ourselves. The original you exists inside you — not out in the world in some place, condition or situation. So now I say “Go inward.” This is where the journey of becoming begins. It is an invitation for self-examination. It is a reminder that you have a map inside you if you seek it.
- “Be yourself but not too much” — This was a one-liner I used whenever I gave presentations about personal branding. My intention was to remind people to be aware of how they are perceived. This is important, but the tone of this statement was more about being something so that others would accept you. It perpetuates attachment of your value to someone’s opinion of you. That’s why I now say “be bold.” Boldness is the very rare ability to speak truth in any circumstance and in the face of any kind of pressure. It serves your personal brand far more than managing perceptions.
- “Don’t do/say/be that” — I have often told people what to not do or say as a reflection of my own fears and biases. This is a common thing in unaware coaches — we project on others what we want them to be (or not be) and call it “coaching”. That’s not coaching. It’s controlling. I still struggle with this one; always ready to jump in with a “better” way of saying or doing something. I realize now this is reflective of my own insecurities. I now say “What do you really want to say/do/be?” By diving to the root and asking it as a question, I can focus on them and guide them through the process of true expression.
I’m certain there are way more than these four. In fact, if you’re reading this and I’ve ever given you bad advice, post it in the comments! I’m also certain there will be more mistakes as I continue coaching. That’s part of the perfect imperfection of being human — a cycle of fail, improve, grow that, if we’re willing for it, propels us to new levels of love and awareness.