Dec 082014

Dr. Earl R. Smith II

Many people ask themselves this question only to dismissively conclude that the answer is that they don’t need a coach. But highly successful people always seem to have a different take on the issue. ‘If a coach can help me win – I want one – because I want to win.’


One response is particularly interesting – “I don’t seem to have time anymore.” The first implication of this ‘defense’ is that life has become so crammed with other stuff that learning has been squeezed out. We have become too busy to learn – rather like saying that I am too busy driving to have the time to stop for gas. Life has become a desert in which an oasis is only to be dreamt of – as there is no time for an extended visit. I don’t buy this no-time argument. The most successful people that I have known seem to have more hours in their days than ‘normal folk’. They have time for coaching, learning and a rich range of other personal interests. Something else is at work here.

So what is the major block? What turn of mind causes well educated and experienced individuals to avoid seeking help in areas critical to defining the success that they are going to be able to achieve? Having given this question considerable thought, I believe that the answer can be found in the final verse of one of my favorite poems – “Advice” by Bill Holm:

If they dance together, something unexpected will happen

If they don’t, the next world will be a lot like this one.[1]

For many, change has become a threat – the admission of adult incompleteness that, within a world-view strangely akin to the strong-silent-types of the 50’s, brings shame and the suspicion of inadequacy. The impossibility of the admission of need is the deployed prophylactic against the unsettling nature of future possibilities. When you add in the amazing capability of well educated people to self-deceive, you have a recipe for inertia that is hard to overcome.

But there are others who respond quite differently to the question. “Why do I need a coach?” is only the beginning of a conversation in which the question of needing a coach quickly fades as the focus becomes “How can I derive even more value out of working with a coach?” These are truly the ‘others’ – those whose unquenchable thirst for learning, growth and new experiences drive them to continue the evolution of the person that they are becoming – and will probably still be becoming up to the very moment of their final breath – individuals who view life as a process of continually crafting and re-crafting what has become into what can be.

As with most important journeys in life, this one begins with an apparently small step. But once the question is reworked this way, the process becomes more rewarding and far more productive for both client and coach. This is when coaching kicks into high gear. Instead of me saying “here take this and think about it” – the client begins to insist “I want more – what else have you got?” Once through the early stages of pushing and prodding, I sometimes find myself running to keep up with a client who has discovered a whole new set of capabilities and possibilities – and is anxious to explore them all ASAP. And it is then that the wonder of it all – the satisfaction, discovery, growth and tremendous empowerment that effective coaching can provide – comes into play.

Maybe the guide in this journey should be Robert Frost who, in a poem titled “The Road Not Taken” wrote –

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

In my experience, effective coaching can make “all the difference” between a career of mediocrity and one of excellence and undreamed-of accomplishments. Coaching is all about making a difference – all about tapping into the value of the knowledge and experience of others to open your own possibilities. In fact (and if you read the biographies of successful people) the willingness to learn through being coached is not just a habit of successful people – it is an obsession. Ah la Frost, the ‘coached road’ is “less traveled by” – but its travelers tend to be more successful people living lives closer to their potential.

The very idea that you don’t have to ‘go it alone’ is central to this formulation – but the really important message is that you deserve (you are worth) the support of an experienced coach. Take this single step and a world of new opportunities appears – like the proverbial lotus flower, it will open before your eyes. The value of a supportive ‘world-view not my own’ becomes evident and empowering.


© Dr. Earl R. Smith II

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