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“[John] is more than an artist, he’s also a life coach and his help is AMAZINGSAUCE!”

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Badass the Awesome

I'M a Badass?

It’s almost exactly a year ago now that I decided “maybe I should look into being a coach.” I was reading (and re-reading) Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass and seeing all kinds of parallels to my own life– lots of searching for meaning, lots of frustration with a less-than-renumerative writing career, and lots of being stuck. One day she decided she was sick of being stuck and decided to fix it, which led her into coaching, which led her into being a book-writing rockstar making millions. So when, in one chapter, she suggested “pick someone to emulate and do that,” I figured she was a good candidate for the job.

Some hunting around for a way to get started led me to Accomplishment Coaching, which in turn led to the intimidating decision to plunk down five figures for a year’s worth of intense vocational training and personal mentoring. If ever there was a leap of faith, this was it.

So here I am, one month away from my final exams, having faced my survival mechanisms over and over again, having changed my diet and sleeping habits, having dredged up all kinds of dark muck from the swamp of my childhood traumas and unexamined beliefs and exposed them to the light, and having done Scary Adult Things like setting up LLCs and creating business bank accounts. I look back at my “to do list” around coaching and see that item number one was “Get my shit together.” Well it’s taken me a year, a lot of money, some yelling and fighting and crying, and doing some stuff that had me absolutely terrified, but I think I can finally check off that item as complete.

Phew! Now. What’s step two, again? I have it written down somewhere…

In a moment of synchronicity, Jen Sincero happened to come to Politics and Prose in D.C. on a book tour way back in March or thereabouts, so I rounded up a handful of my Accomplishment Coaching teamies and we went to see her there… where I utterly failed to create any kind of meaningful connection with my would-be role model. It happens. But after that weekend, I kind of forgot about her and about You Are a Badass, because I was frantically trying to build a practice and reading lots of other books by Neale Donald Walsch, Debbie Ford, Steven Covey and more. I was too busy actually doing the work, to remember what had prompted me to go into it in the first place.

Yesterday, I remembered that I had the audiobook of Badass sitting on my phone, so I decided to revisit it. And let me tell you, coming around again after the past year, it’s a very different experience. Things that had been completely theoretical, and things that had me originally say “Yeah that’s great but…” have taken on a whole new meaning. You Are a Badass could almost have been called Ontological Coaching for Dummies, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s light, it’s breezy, it’s for the neophyte or the curious layperson, and it does a great job of introducing you to the concepts of the work.

But like the Dummies books, it’s also just a starting point. Unless you have the world’s most easygoing Big Snooze/Gremlin/Survival Mechanism, it’s going to take a lot more than a breezy read to actually get you up and at ’em. This isn’t a condemnation of the book, it’s simply the truth that a book is not a coach. And in fact, a book can be dangerous, because buying and even vigorously reading the book can feel like you’re “doing something,” even if it’s really more like a valve letting some steam escape to keep you lodged right there in your comfort zone.

But really, what else can a book do? Until a person is really ready to stand up, do the work, and really make a change, a few pounds of ink printed on wood pulp isn’t going to have any effect. The best the author of a book can hope to do is to communicate the idea that change is possible, and hope the spark of that idea lights the fire inside the reader.

You Are a Badass did that for me, and judging by its sales I imagine it’s done that for a lot of people. It couldn’t do the work, no book possibly could, but it did help me believe that it was possible to do the work, and helped me understand why I might want to.

Step two? Oh yeah! Get out there and actually be a badass. Got it.

Who wants to join me?

What Am I Afraid Of?

Buddha the cat. I miss you, little buddy.

You know what? Coaches need coaches too. Here’s what I mean…

Yesterday was my 25th wedding anniversary! Which just proves that I can commit to something if I really put my mind to it. 😉 My wife and I spent the day going up to Skyline Drive to enjoy the autumn leaves in the mountains, with the intention of doing some kind of more significant commemoration when we’ve got the financial situation nailed down again.

But said financial situation, and the “Un-suck Our Lives” project generally, has been a topic much on my mind lately. My coaching practice is taking a bit longer than I would like to really take off, which largely boils down to my reluctance to go client-hunting. This is a thing I’ve always had and why, even though I probably could have made more during the dot-com boom as a freelance designer/web programmer, I opted to find a job with a company instead. My preferred mode is for clients and/or customers to come to me, rather than hunting them down.

But short of finding a life coach clearing agency (do such things even exist?), there isn’t really any way to operate in that mode as a coach. Until someone has actually had a good coach, the benefits of coaching can seem esoteric. Everyone understands that the best athletes have coaches and why; leaders in any field from business management to filmmaking understand the value of coaching and will gladly pay top fees for the best ones. But to more “down to Earth” people in everyday life, it often seems like something that just doesn’t apply to them.

So if I want to coach, I’ve got to get out there and clearly get across to people why they’d want me to coach them. And that means, for me, buckling down and going out there and actually finding some ding-dang clients.

This is where I get stuck. Not in the coaching work itself– that comes naturally and I’m actually pretty darn good at it– but in the process of finding people who can benefit from coaching and finding a way to talk to them about it. I have a project plan around that, but the best plan in the world won’t help if, instead of doing the thing, you spend the whole day staring at your computer screen telling yourself “Do the thing, already!”

Despite having some clients (I love you guys!), I’ve spent the past two months fighting with the problem of both needing and wanting more. I had an interesting epiphany about it earlier today, while talking to one of my coaching colleagues. I told her that the things I’ve had success with in the past (such as my comics), had that success because I was motivated by love. I love my comics and my readers, so when I get bogged down I remember that and it keeps me going. I loved The Hobbit Hole. I loved my cat Buddha, so even though he had FIV and we were advised by a vet that we “should probably put him to sleep,” we moved Heaven and Earth to give him 8 happy and healthy years before his body failed him.

I told my teammate that I loved coaching, but for some reason I was still getting stuck, mired in my defense mechanisms. Since defense mechanisms are a symptom of fear, she asked, “So, what are you afraid of? Is it love?”

I have been asking myself the same question for two months. Today, being coached by my teammate, an answer came to me.

Ten years ago I had a life that, while not perfect, was certainly successful. Friends and family, a house I loved, a cat I loved, and so on. Then my Aunt Iris died. Then my parents died. My best friend and business partner died. We lost the house. Buddha died. So many of the things I loved were suddenly and painfully gone. And it’s hard, now, to let myself love things, because I don’t want any more things that I love to be torn away.

My teammate said, “So you’re not afraid of love. You’re afraid of loss.”

And honestly? I think that’s a big piece of it. The immediate pain of grief has largely passed, but the trauma of it is still there. I think that on some level, I’m afraid of building a new life, because I don’t want to risk having it come crashing down again.

These ideas are an illusion, of course. First, there are so many things in my life I haven’t lost, not the least of which is my wife (as our 25th anniversary so clearly demonstrates). I have friends. I have Dasher and InkyGirl, who are also great cats. I have my comics. As tempting as it may be to think of myself as being bereft, the truth is that I am actually surrounded by things that I love every day.

Secondly, I am perfectly capable of building anew. I have many new friends, who I’ve made in the intervening time since so much of my previous life collapsed. I’m building new skills as a coach every day. I’m creating a whole new self based on the values that I think are important, instead of those that I’ve passively “inherited” from my upbringing or other external sources.

I don’t think that fear of losing the new life I want to build is necessarily the thing that’s immediately jumping out at me every time I drag my feet about hunting for clients. There are plenty of “lieutenants” of that fear I get to play with around that specific issue– insecurity, being trained to come from lack instead of coming from abundance, attachment to outcomes as a validation of self– but I do think that fear of loss is the Boss Battle of my Client Game. All these other little fears are what the fear of loss throws at me to get me stuck.

Knowing that, I can see these other fears for what they are: distractions meant to keep me small and disempowered. And seeing them as such, strips away a lot of their power. I’m sure I would have realized all this eventually on my own, but being coached by my teammate absolutely saved me tons of wasted time and energy to get there, and for that, I’m very grateful.

Fear of loss? I’m coming for you, Jack.