Why I Coach: My Journey to Adulting
I co-founded Bluetree Network in 2012, and due to a combination of luck, incredible colleagues, and just enough intelligence to squeak by, the company grew like gangbusters.
Only four years later, however, I stepped away from a comfortable leadership position at an awesome company to pursue coaching. Why would I do that? Allow me to explain...
My youth was, in many ways, joyous...but there was also a dark side. I was a fearful little boy (the possible reasons for which can be saved for another discussion). I was afraid of the basement, spiders (still embarrassingly true!), nuclear war, huge tidal waves that would somehow reach Wisconsin...you name it, it probably scared me. I was also a chubby kid, and faced the all-to-common challenges inherent to that classification, most notably, being an easy target for teasing. As a result, my childhood became largely defined by two goals: feeling safe, and feeling accepted. In other words, I possessed a profound feeling of insecurity about who I was and the safety of the world around me.
Of course, I didn’t know that about myself, so I acted this out unconsciously, and that unconscious manifestation of my insecurity stayed with me into adulthood. What that meant was that I was stuck in a loop, doing whatever I could to avoid feeling insecure, or conversely to seek pleasure and distract myself from the sadness associated with my insecurity. I was rarely malicious in my actions, but it’s astounding how terribly I could nonetheless treat people when unconsciously driven by my fears. I rationalized lying when it served my objective of avoiding pain and seeking pleasure. I stayed in jobs and relationships that I knew were wrong, preferring tolerable certainty to the frightening unknown of moving on. On the surface I was smiley and lighthearted, but inside I loathed who I had become.
At 29 years of age, I found Eastern philosophy - most notably, I began to understand how we create our own reality - and my world was rocked. I suddenly realized that I created the vast majority of my misery through my thinking and my beliefs. I felt a sense of power that I had never felt before - if I could simply shift my thinking, I could open up a whole new world of possibility in my life.
A seed was planted, but it didn’t blossom overnight. It took several more years of work to sort out the mess in my mind and the mess in the world that my messy mind had created. I stopped lying to myself and others. I had conversations that terrified me. I made career decisions that launched me into the unknown. It was, at times, incredibly painful, but I trusted the process.
Now, nearly a decade later, my life is virtually unrecognizable. I act out of integrity. I try to uncover my blind spots rather than run away from them. I surround myself with people who hold me to my highest standards rather than help me rationalize transgressions and shortcuts. I move toward rather than away from difficult conversations and new challenges. Instead of avoiding fear, I use it to shine light on where I have room to grow. I refuse to settle for mediocrity. I do work that reflects who I am. I consciously design my life. And through all of this, I routinely bring myself back to the humbling and exciting recognition that what I know is vastly exceeded by what I don’t know.
In my 20's, I wasn't a Real Adult. I was a child in an adult's body. Now, finally, I get what it means to really grow up, and it's pretty awesome.
So why do I coach? Because this shift has been miraculous, and I want everyone to have the opportunity to experience it.
Adulthood doesn’t come with a manual. But it should. I’m helping to create that manual.