I was asked a while ago by someone wanting to find out more about my work as a life and leadership coach: "Why do people come to you, rather than speaking to someone more experienced in their direct field and is older [like a famous monk in Cambodia]?"
I explained what I do as a coach, which is different from mentors or people providing advice. I don't solve my clients' problems for them. I help clients transform and grow in the ways that they want to, and in the process they solve their own problems. I am an expert in helping people do this - find their own way to grow. I shared that, in fact, I believe that being an expert in the clients' specific area can actually be detrimental to helping them grow, being clouded if I rely just my own limited life experience (and everyone's life experience is limited).
That said, I added, I do believe that coaches do need to have experienced transformation in order to help their own clients transform. Coaches that have just taken an online course and have been taught methodologies, without having experienced a deep transformation themselves, cannot facilitate deep transformation for someone else just by using some tools. To put it simply, they need to have walked the talk.
Side note on niches
There is a lot of niche-ing (is that even a word?) in the coaching profession. There are clients that look for a very specific profile - "Female coach, 30-35, have experience of leadership positions in tech, must be into juicing and favourite colour is blue." Now, there is nothing wrong with business having niches for marketing purposes, or people being called to serve a particular community. What can happen, though, is that both coach and client can mistakenly think that the coach needs a particular experience that is very specific to what the client is going through.
So where the hell have I been?
I share this for the benefit of my current and future clients, so that they know what kind of person they are speaking to. That, although I have not been everywhere, I have been there. I share this for the benefit of my fellow coachees and my trainees, so that it encourages them to reflect on where they have been and where they can therefore lead clients.
I've been through the dark night of the soul. I've sat deep in my shame, sorry, helplessness and grief. I held on, when I could not see a way out. It, too, passed.
I've been through financial ruin, been thousands of pounds in debt and living on a few pounds a day. I've experienced excess, with more money than I knew how to spend to fill a void in my soul.
I watched as my marriage fall apart and as I pressed self-destruct on the relationship. I've lost my closest friends and made new ones.
I've lost my brother, my life long companion, and lived with unresolved grief for years, learning slowly to sit with it as it tore at my soul.
I've been crippled with anxiety at work. And found a way to go in again the following day.
I've been abused, emotionally and physically, and not been believed by those around me. I've been abusive, in my ignorance and self-pitying.
I've been subjected to systematic racism from the age of 7 and found a way to stand tall end carrying the scars of years gone by that still sting.
I've stood by loved ones working through suicide whilst feeling helpless. I helped and I failed to help.
I've restarted my life in strange lands. Once with my family. Once completely and utterly alone. I've known nonacceptance and prejudice in these places and won the respect of their inhabitants. And failed to win the respect of many others.
I've created out of nothingness. Held my creation up for scrutiny time and time again in the harsh world of cynicism. I had the courage to take a stand for something when others sneered and criticised.
I jumped, when there was nothing to catch me if I fell. I also walked away from many other jumps, paralysed by fear.
I've walked away from the tribe of my upbringing, calling out its sins and failings time and time again, forsaking the comforts of belonging for truth, justice and mercy. All whilst carrying a longing to belong to something again, and a deep love for them.
No, I haven't been through everything. And I have been through something. No, I don't know how you feel. And I do know how you feel.
No, I won't tell you what I did to get through all of this. But I will help you find your own way on your journey of life.