It’s hard to be a good coach. If you want to be a mediocre, sort of ok, minimum wage coach, that’s much less hard. There are literally thousands of books and courses on how to be an ok coach.
But to be good, to be great, that’s hard. So before you take the leap, make the investment, and quit your day job, ask yourself, “Is becoming a coach worth it?”
You can only really answer this question yourself, but I’m going to do my best to help you figure this out before you get too far down this path.
#1 Do you love people? Are you also driven mad by them?
When I first wrote this, I typed, Do you enjoy helping people? But then I realized too many coaches get started because they like “helping” people. Except what they call helping people is really just telling people what to do.
Most advice isn’t followed and it’s also not asked for. So changing someone is rarely about getting them to do something different. It’s about helping them discover what they really want.
To be a great coach you have to love people. You have to love them even though they make stupid choices over and over again, you have to love them even when they get mad at you for telling you the truth, and you have to love them even when they are really whiney about something they can easily change.
If you love people, becoming a coach might be worth it. If you just like telling people what to do, then work for TSA.
#2 Are you curious?
Some people like being right and some people love being curious. Some people love both.
Most great coaches I know love being right, but they love being curious even more. Curiosity has an element of humility to it. A willingness to be wrong and to not know.
Even great coaches are wrong a lot, often they don’t realize it at the time and neither do their clients, but as we shift people, we do so from a series of guesses, distinctions, and explorations.
Like working through a maze, there are a fair amount of dead ends. There are less as you get better but there are dead ends nonetheless.
So you need to be curious and you need to long for curiosity more than you long for being right. If you need to be right, coaching will become about your ego and agenda. Sure some people will love that and you may find success, but that doesn’t mean you’ll find mastery.
#3 Can you sell? Are you willing to learn?
Great coaches sell. They get clients to sign up. They do this in conversations and online. Great coaches simply learn how to get people to commit to change and then hiring them to create the change.
Selling isn’t as mysterious or evil as you think it is. It can actually be enjoyable. But if you think selling is evil and you hate the idea of asking someone to pay you, you might be better off having a job where you sell once during the interview and collect a paycheck for years.
If you sort of enjoy talking people into things or helping people get to yes then becoming a coach is worth it, if not you may want to do something else.
#4 Do you really want to do meaningful work?
This may seem obvious, I assure you, it’s not. People say they want to do meaningful work, but they really don’t. They don’t like the pressure, the significance, or the depth of commitment meaningful work requires.
You may prefer to have some lightness in your life, to keep things simple, or to not actually say your work is about changing lives. And that’s ok.
Meaningful work sounds great on paper but what it asks of you is harder. It asks you to put your life, your ego, and your heart on the line.
If you do meaningful work, you’ll be disappointed. You’ll wonder if it’s ever enough. You’ll work hard to change someone’s life and they won’t change. You’ll have to let go, let them be on their path, and trust that they will find their way.
So be honest with yourself if you’re really up to this or not.
So is becoming a coach worth it?
For me it’s never been a choice. Once coaching found me, it hasn’t let me go.
It’s magic. You get on the phone. You talk to someone. And their lives change.
Recently a client of mine finally settled her divorce after years of strife around it.
Another client got the promotion at work she had wanted for a long time and started enjoying her life more than ever before, she even let herself be fully committed to her amazing boyfriend for the first time.
Another client repaired a relationship with a major client he was sure was at its end. All in the midst of the client getting some tough medical news.
To me that’s magic. To me, all the things that are hard about being a coach are worth it, because of who I get to be for people.
But it isn’t easy, it takes work, commitment, and guidance from a master to get great.
So if it’s not worth it to you, choose something else. You can always be a great listener for your friends in between shifts at your amazing startup job or tell lots of people what to do at the airport while they are going through security.
Being a coach isn’t a ticket to freedom, but it IS a ticket to an incredible life, if you decide it’s worth it for you.