How "It's My Life, Baby!" Was Born

A couple years ago I started to feel like I wanted to come up with a secondary career for when I'm not on the road, something that would inspire me and draw me out of my shell the same way performing does.  I was talking to a good friend about it - actually my therapist - we had 7 minutes left in the session and he asked what I would want to do.  I started talking about how much I have enjoyed coaching performers to be more present on stage and how I have always been the person my friends have come to for advice and to tell their secrets too.  Then he said "Maybe you could be a Life Coach!"  I liked the idea and we talked about it for what seemed to be 20 minutes, but when we looked back at the clock, only the 7 minutes had passed.  He was like "Did you notice how the time just slowed down so we could talk about that?  I think you're on to something."

I started researching options for Life Coach training and came across Austin Life Coach, a Coaching practice here that also offers workshops to the public and a training program for would be coaches.

The first workshop I attended was pretty life changing for me.  I had some reservations about it, like maybe it would be woo-woo, or too touchy feely and not effective of any real change.  Man, was I wrong.  The coaches, David and Carrie were so direct & concise while still being compassionate - it was so refreshing.  There were about 10 people in the 4 hour workshop, so as we went around the room, the coaches had to work fast to get to the heart of what obstacles each of us was struggling with.  I don't think I blinked once the whole time watching them - I felt like I had to absorb every single thing they were saying because I knew I had to become a coach too.  

I started the training course last winter.  Our first task as students was to choose an objective for ourselves - in other words if you want to coach other people, you have to get your own shit worked out first.  We were handed a quote from "The Scottish Himalayan Expedition" by W.H. Murray:

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.  Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way."

I started tearing up because I knew how true this quote was from my experiences as a musician - you have to show up for the stuff to happen.  Over and over.  You have to commit so deeply that the setbacks don't stop you.  I had a manager once who, when the music business as we knew it was falling apart told me "It's just gonna be the last person standing.  That's who will succeed."  He also told me "Vulnerability draws people closer."  I knew he was right.  These were the same things the coaches were telling people, the same thing this quote said.  I knew I was in the right place in the coaching program.

Eventually after multiple intensive weekends and workshops and practicing on volunteer clients, my teacher told me I was ready.  (As a point of pride,  I was the only student he said that to, but I also think I was the only one who went in with the goal of becoming a life coach ASAP.)

I started practicing on friends in the summer and fall and seeing clients this January.   I'm sure anyone who works in wellness will tell you that helping people is deeply satisfying.  But it's also good for me. And enlightening.  I've learned first hand that everyone has challenges and most people - at least the ones wanting to get over them - are aware of the 'problem' but not sure how to overcome it.  Because we develop these patterns often as kids, practice them our whole lives and it's hard work to change them.  It's like my teacher said- when you first learn to drive a car, all the neurons in your brain are firing all the time.  It takes all your concentration, your entire body and mind.  Eventually, because you want to be able to drive and do it over and over again, the learning becomes incorporated - second nature.  It's like that with behaviors and habits too.  It takes commitment and time to change them.  But watching people make that kind of commitment, watching people acknowledge their fears and then face them - man it is so inspiring.  It reminds me of course that I can do the same.

I've learned to change a lot of bad habits since I started coaching - some by necessity, like scheduling in time for exercise because I have less free time now, some just because I wanted it to be better, like not getting "on the ride" or overreacting when someone else blows up at me.  Like healing my anxiety by meditating with the mantra "I am safe" every day.  It takes focus and effort but it's so worth it.

Much the same with songwriting - I started writing when I was in high school to just express emotions so they wouldn't eat me alive from inside.  Later I realized it also helps other people to hear my truth - maybe it makes it easier for them to feel or speak theirs.  That's power.  Yet another great teacher I had, my voice teacher ages ago in Boston told me "Your power comes from your vulnerability".  I feel so grateful to have had all these mentors encouraging me to be real.

Coaching and songwriting are similar in another way too.  In both situations I have to be willing to go all the way into an emotion, look at it squarely in the face, accept it and then come out the other side with something new.  I love to write about overcoming obstacles.  I also have to be direct in both situations.  In a song, you only have 3-4 minutes to get the whole thing across - no time for filler!  In a coaching session I have 45-60 minutes to help someone see how they can begin to change something.  To show them it's in their power to change themselves.  When I write I feel powerful because I know that I can write my own story - I can decide where I am going.  It's the same theme in coaching.  It's encouraging someone to write their own story and not be stopped by fear.  

I call my coaching business "It's My Life, Baby" after the Junior Wells' album of the same name.  He always sounds to me like he can appreciate the rhythm and even humor even as he's expressing longing and pain.  It's my belief that to create effective change in our life we must first do what Junior does: dig deep, express our pain in some way.  Then we have reclaimed our power to create something new.  Then we are free.