I never set out to be a coach.
It was never intentional, nor did I spend long hours daydreaming about it as a child, imagining myself on the phone with earbuds or headphones attached to my ears, pacing the floor in time with my client’s cadence and energy, holding space for their dreams, pain, and challenges.
I dreamed of being a writer. And an artist. An actress too, if truth be known.
I wrote my first Academy Award acceptance speech at age five, sitting in front of our small television inspired by Julie Andrews’ elegant acceptance of her Best Actress Award for Mary Poppins.
In fact, I was so inspired, I made an intention to become a famous actress right then and there, grabbed my piggy bank and walked out the door determined to go to Hollywood.
Since Hollywood was not easily accessible from my front porch in Akron, Ohio, that dream died with the arrival of my mother showing up, hands on hips dragging me back inside.
Best laid plans and all of that.
Shoot forward to age fifty-five, and I have four published novels to my name, shared with my amazing co-writer Deborah Dorchak. I am an artist, gleefully pouring the mental hallucinations of my brain out into canvas with bright paint. And…I have been an actress and director for over forty years.
Yes, I have won awards.
No… sadly, none of them have been from the Academy.
Still waiting on that one.
Coaching snuck up on me. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was always there, hovering in the background of my personality. There was six grade when a girl I’ll call Ellie slipped a note in my desk asking me to help her learn how to make friends because she didn’t have any. (That broke my heart. She instantly had her first one. )
From there, it seemed that there was a light bulb glowing on my forehead, attracting other Ellie’s into my life. I wasn’t sure how they found me, or how they knew how to come.
They just did. With notes, or conversations at lunch, or in the hall, or at the grocery store. Always with some version of, “I wonder if you could help me with…” And I was gone… down the rabbit hole of giving advice, help, clothes, money, and often a hug.
My home…There are a few long, dismal and very frustrating stories about those times.
Yeah. About those boundaries.
Real coaching didn’t come as naturally as metaphorically cutting open my heart and bleeding out for anyone who asked. I had to learn that lesson over and over and over again. In big ways and small ways, getting used and abused and stepped on and taken advantage of and placed in a few dangerous situations that, as it turned out, I had almost no one to blame but my wide-open, loving, big-hearted self.
Over and over again, life tried to teach me lessons about boundaries. About keeping my mouth shut and not offering up advice that wasn’t asked for. About not riding up on my magical white horse and trying to save people that didn’t want saving.
That’s not coaching by the way. That’s being a pain in the ass.
I had to learn how to be a coach. In the beginning, I mostly learned how to be a coach by learning how to stop being a pain in the ass. (Don’t talk to my kids. They still think I can be a pain in the ass. But that’s called being a mother. Different subject altogether.)
Then, I learned how to be a better coach by getting a really great coach. For six years. An amazing coach, who trained the snot out of me and called me out on all of my lazy excuses and backward mindsets. Who taught me about accountability and personal responsibility, creating intentions, focusing attention, taking action and not settling for anything less than getting the job done with exemplary service to others.
I learned to keep my mouth shut and listen. Coaches, as it turned out, did a lot less talking and a heck of a lot more listening.
I still didn’t know I wanted to be a coach. Even through all that time of learning how to coach. I thought I was just learning how to help people. I was learning sales, and marketing, and consulting and being trained on how to project manage, and taking business classes and psychology classes and hand-holding people through one of life’s most stressful situations, buying and selling their homes and moving. That required negotiations, and timelines, and nervousness like many of them had never been through before, and mood swings and heartache and tears of joy and sadness and all the time, I was there for them, being that port in the storm they could turn to.
I still didn’t think I wanted to be a coach.
I can remember the day I realized I already was a coach.
It was a day not unlike one I have each week. I had been on the phone for about five hours, helping different clients figure out their goals, work out their next steps, create action plans, turn around mindsets that were no longer working for them and getting others past blocks of fear that had left them paralyzed in inaction.
Then I had a call with my own coach and said, “I just really don’t know what I want to do with my career next.”
She said, “What do you enjoy?”
I said, “I love what I do”… and explained how I was spending my days.
She said to me… “Coaching. Just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s called coaching.”
That was almost two decades ago and I have never looked back.
Sometimes life is about setting an intention, creating a plan and taking action. But if you are five years old and Hollywood isn’t on your doorstep, the best intentions in the world might take some time. Or just might not work out at all.
Other times, life is about looking within, and seeing what has been there all along. It might require some fine-tuning. You might require some education. You might not get it right the first few times, or a hundred, or…thousand.
But if it is the thing that happens without you trying, if it is the light that shines on your forehead, if it is what others see when you walk into the room within moments of knowing you…pay attention.
Your Spirit Might be Calling.