WHEN I TOLD my wife that I was thinking of becoming a life coach, she said, “Well, you like telling people what to do with their lives.”
I thought that was sweet. You are a perceptive human being who likes to help people achieve their goals, she seemed to be saying.
And she was saying it right in the middle of an argument, which, I thought, made it doubly sweet, like cream.
When I told a friend, he suggested that maybe she seemed to be saying something else: You are a controlling know-it-all.
Dude, I thought. Why do you have to curdle my cream?
Hey, helpful and perceptive, controlling and know-it-all — really just two sides of the same cream-based dessert. You know?
Which gets us back to life coaching.
It seems like a slew of folks are doing it these days. When I googled life coach, I came up with more than two and a half million results.
That raises obvious questions. Who are all these coaches? Were they players who’ve retired from the game? What the heck am I talking about? And most important, how do I get in on the action?
TO GET STARTED, I’ve been developing hypothetical exercises. A life coach needs to have hypothetical exercises in order to show prospective clients that he possesses the wise counsel to help them negotiate through murky waters toward the glistening shore (or some verbiage like that) and, of course, to legitimize charging them a bundle.
Here is one hypo (as we call it in the life-coach trade) I’ve come up with:
Let’s say you have an idiot for a boss. I don’t mean someone you don’t like and therefore call an idiot. Nor do I mean someone with whom you disagree from time to time and so consider an idiot.
I’m talking about a real, honest-to-goodness, certifiable idiot. Clueless. Unqualified. In the succinct second definition in Merriam- Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “a foolish or stupid person.”
Now, let’s say that your boss, the idiot, is also vindictive, petty, secretive, condescending, and dictatorial. Oh, and a champion screwup, the type who wreaks havoc on an almost-biblical scale.
As a result, let’s say your work life is all but unbearable. You are at a crossroads in your career, your life.
What do you do?
A. Quit and upload those Christmas-party pictures to the Internet.
B. Sing his praises to his bosses so that he will soon be kicked upstairs.
C. Foment an office uprising, or at least start a whisper campaign about his fondness for Barbra Streisand movies.
D. Repeatedly put a laxative in his food.
Not easy, huh?
That’s where a life coach comes in.
That’s where I intend to make the big bucks.
AS I THINK ABOUT my newfound opportunity to make money off people, er, I mean, help people achieve their dreams, my mind goes wavy, into fantasyland … buldaleu … buldaleu … buldaleu … and I drift into imagining striding life’s sideline as the hard- driving, old- fashioned übercoach, Vince Lombardi (which is weird because I have a beard, but this whole thing is imaginary anyway, so it works).
“You! Pennington! Drop and give me 150 résumés. I can’t hear you tapping on that keyboard. Make it a thousand.”
“A thousand résumés, Coach? I’ll be here all night printing those.”
“Winners never quit, and quitters never win, Pennington.”
“Coach, I just don’t think I can take it anymore. I’m exhausted.”
I blare the whistle around my neck.
“Exhausted? What are you going to do when you’re on your own five yard line, there’s a minute left to go, it’s third and long, and your relationship goes south? You going to say, ‘Oh, I’m exhausted, I can’t take it down the field’? No. You’re going to do what you’ve done in practice. Go to therapy. Hard, grueling couples therapy. None of that namby-pamby group-therapy stuff. This? This résumé stuff? It’s just getting ready for the playoffs.”
“Coach? What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about life, Pennington. Life! And football. And metaphors. Know what I mean? It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.”
“I think I’m starting to understand, Coach.”
“Hit the tackling dummy first, and then finish your résumés.”
AS THIS FANTASY EVAPORATES, it’s replaced by another one. This time, I am the coach of the 1–15 Miami Dolphins. No matter what I say, how hard I try, what schemes I devise, all my guys just lie on the couch, watching Judge Judy.
This is harder than I thought. Perhaps I should leave life coaching to the professionals.
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