A couple of years ago, I had a pretty nasty fall off my mountain bike. After hitting a rock, I was thrown from my bike and found myself rolling down a cliff that led to a creek some 200 feet below. Sliding for about 20 feet, I was able to grab onto some roots that were sticking out of the ground to stop my fall and prevent further catastrophe. Immediately, I noticed my lungs struggling to pump air into my chest and pain in my collarbone area. Not surprisingly, my first thoughts were, “that was scary as sh*t” and “I think I need to go to a hospital.”
Living in an industrialized country, when we are sick or hurt, our first thought is usually to seek help from a medical professional. However, when an Entrepreneur, CEO or Senior Level Executive has difficulty; delegating to others, managing their internal emotions, or finding harmony with their home and work life, rarely does one stop and think, “I need to find myself a Leadership Coach.”
Around the same time I fell off of my bike, I was leading a business of 250 employees spread across 15 nationwide locations. This business was one of the fastest growing companies in the country and was named as one of Outside Magazine’s best places to work. As I addressed staff, customers, or partners, I projected a smiling and forward-thinking leader who was in control, confident and always positive. What I didn’t show to others, is that I felt more similar to the Dan who was flying off his bike, gasping for air, and sliding down a cliff heading towards certain doom.
As I led a business that received accolades and admiration from others, I lived with a stomach that constantly felt as though I had consumed sour milk, my sleep was frequently interrupted with nightmares, and I lived in fear that an unseen business misstep would drive the company into bankruptcy or worse.
Put it simply, my business was killing me from the inside out.
Whether it was due to arrogance, ignorance, or both, I never thought to seek the help of a coach. Instead, I turned to books, podcasts, journaling, meditation, and other business owners for assistance with my stress related issues. While many of these tools or words of wisdom helped to soothe my worries or implement a tactic to relieve some of the weight from my shoulders, nothing was the quick fix I was looking for.
Therein lies the problem – real change isn’t found in an easy to implement “quick fix.” What I had needed was a transformation, an entirely new way of living and operating as a CEO. This transformation would have included modifications to my identity, increased awareness, tweaks to my emotional intelligence, and a greater understanding of my values and purpose.
The places I was looking to for help, aren’t in the business of transformation.
- Books provide ideas, but they fail to provide an accountability partner
- Journaling is good to relieve unproductive thoughts, but it fails to provide suitable feedback
- Colleagues and others are sometimes good listeners, but they fail to truly act outside of their egoic wants and needs
- Podcasts provide a drip, drip, drip of information, but they rarely provide custom guidance solely for the ears of their listener
- Meditation can provide all sorts of newfound awareness, but that awareness never comes with a manual on how to implement within a dynamic Western society
I don’t fault myself or others in failing to think about appropriate modalities for change and transformation. In fact, I have a deep sympathy for anyone who is looking to improve. My sympathy lies in the fact that we live in a society that preys on the hope or desperation of its inhabitants. Overall, it’s difficult to truly know who is genuinely trying to assist and who just wants to make a buck off of you.
In addition to not knowing “friend” or “foe” in our search for assistance, we have been trained our whole lives to seek the “quick fix.” From the dawn of the industrial age, billboards, newspapers, radio, television, and now our phones communicate a constant and unrelenting message that your problems can be solved quickly and for the introductory rate of $19.99.
For my business-related stress issues, I thought I had found my quick fix when I was unceremoniously fired by my business partners. However, the firing didn’t resolve my problems, they simply morphed and presented themselves in new ways. Stress and anger towards my business turned into aggression towards myself and family. Ultimately, there is nothing we can do to escape our issues – we either deal with them or live with them.
In my experience, lasting transformation is hard. No book, no podcast, no course and no coach will ever change you. Only you, can change you. With that said, a good coach can help to facilitate transformation.
I like to think of a coach as a trail guide. This is someone who you tell where you want to go, and they help you identify a personal path to follow. Throughout your journey, the coach will act as a trusted advisor, an accountability partner, and a curator of transformation tools, to help provide newfound awareness to ensure you reach your intended destination.
Similar to hiking the Appalachian Trail, transformation takes time, effort, determination, perseverance and most importantly, belief. Belief that you ARE capable of changing you.
If you are reading this, I judge you are on your own quest for change, improvement or transformation. My unsolicited advice is this – shop wisely.
As you wander the aisles of your personal self-improvement grocery store, ask yourself if you are shopping in the inside or outside aisles. On the inside aisles, you will find slick marketing selling sweet sounding quick fixes that ultimately leave you with a rush of achievement, yet devoid of real growth. On the outside aisles, you will be accompanied by a personal shopper who will help you find wholesome, organic, but time intensive transformation that will not come easy, but whose consumption provides everlasting substance.
Whatever purchase you choose to make, don’t forget that the ingredients have been with you the whole time.
Author Bio: Dan started Fired and Free in 2017, to provide his “truth” after being fired as CEO of the company he started and led. After a diverse 17-year career in management consulting and entrepreneurship, Dan now leads 3Sixty Leadership, where he provides coaching and consulting to business owners with 5 to 500 employees, helping them to work “on” their business not “in” their business.