One morning, while checking my inbox, I spotted an email from Michael Bungay Stanier, known in the life-coaching world as MBS. Despite growing up in Canberra â€“ where he listened intently to friends in cars as they spoke of disastrous love lives and teenage angst â€“ Bungay Stanier, 54, is not well known in Australia. But in coaching, heâ€™s a big deal. After studying arts and law at Australian National University, he won a Rhodes Scholarship in 1992 to Oxford University and went into management consultancy in London. Then, one day, he read about the rise of coaching in the US.
â€œIt all sounded a bit like woo-woo, touchy-feely hokum,â€ he tells me via Zoom. â€œBut thereâ€™s a part of me going, â€˜Thatâ€™s interesting â€“ thatâ€™s kind of what Iâ€™m doing as a consultant.â€™ So I started telling my clients: â€˜Iâ€™m going to coach you now.â€™ And they were like, â€˜All right, whatever that is.â€™â€†â€
Bungay Stanier, who lives in Toronto, Canada, went on to train as a life coach and build a leadership coaching business called Box of Crayons. In 2016, he self-published The Coaching Habit, a book that, he says, â€œstrips away the mystery to un-weird coachingâ€. It was an unexpected hit, and has sold 1.2 million copies. BrenÃ© Brown, the world-leading Texan researcher on shame and vulnerability, recently called it â€œa classic in the fieldâ€.
MBSâ€™s email that morning was just a run-of-the-mill note canvassing dates and times for a Zoom interview, but the last line stops me in my tracks.
â€œYouâ€™re awesome and youâ€™re doing great,â€ he writes. Hang on. How does he know Iâ€™m awesome, and what exactly does he think Iâ€™m doing great at? Perhaps he thought my interview pitch was particularly inspired.
â€œThanks MBS!â€ I write back, a flame of feel-good warmth lighting me up on the inside. Maybe Iâ€™m okay. I carry that glow inside for about 24 hours.
Until his next email.
â€œDone!â€ he replies, locking in our Zoom. And then: â€œYouâ€™re awesome and youâ€™re doing great.â€ I feel cheated. He says this to everybody! Itâ€™s his automated email response! The little light snuffs out. I must confront him about this.
A week later, he appears on my screen like a cool professor: thick dark glasses, floral shirt and a wild tangle of naturally buoyant hair. Doesnâ€™t the automated nature of the message, I ask, diminish its impact? â€œNot everybody likes it,â€ he agrees. In this he includes his mother, who says itâ€™s not grammatically correct and that heâ€™s a Rhodes Scholar, for goodness sake!
â€œThereâ€™s a whole bunch of people who read it and go, â€˜Damn those life coaches!â€™â€†â€ But, he adds, others donâ€™t hear that message of awesomeness enough, and that outweighs those thinking itâ€™s superficial.
â€œAnd you know what? I actually do mean it. However you are feeling about yourself, you are doing the best you can.â€œ
The mixed reaction to Bungay Stanierâ€™s effervescent email footer is like the broader response to life coaching. You either embrace the Instagrammable affirmations as you set off to live abundantly on purpose, or think itâ€™s a bucket of American self-help claptrap. But thereâ€™s no doubt this multibillion-dollar global industry is having a moment, particularly as we grapple with pandemic-inspired existential crises.
From Ted Lasso, the hit TV series about a hokey American who takes life-coach-speak to an English soccer pitch â€“ â€œI have a real tricky time hearing folks that donâ€™t believe in themselvesâ€ â€“ to Ben Crowe, the mindset-coach who tennis champion Ash Barty says helped her to world No.â€‰1, the idea that you can change your life by changing your thoughts has gone mainstream.
In the past few months, Iâ€™ve been on a journey into Australiaâ€™s unregulated life-coaching industry. Iâ€™ve been coached twice and found some wonderful professionals improving lives; some helping clients unpick years of harmful social conditioning and others promising a whole shiny new me if I take their life-coaching course.
But hereâ€™s the most intriguing thing: thereâ€™s a whole profession out there which believes itâ€™s got a handle on this messy thing called life that has lately resembled a blob of dropped ice-cream on a hot summer footpath. Does that mean life coaches have good lives? And what exactly is a good life, anyway?
Think of a coach and the sporty type probably jumps to mind: a prowling figure beside a netball court, or an AFL type, steely-eyed behind glass. But other sorts â€“ executive, organisational, career, business â€“ have existed for decades; â€œworkplace coachingâ€ was first mentioned in the behavioural science press in 1937.
In the 1980s, an American called Thomas Leonard popularised personal, or life, coaching and in 1995 he set up the International Coaching Federation (ICF), still one of the industryâ€™s key, self-appointed accreditation bodies. A few years later, Leonardâ€™s new profession reached Australia. The ICF estimates about 20 per cent of its 1657 members are life coaches (most are of the executive and business variety).
Life coaching focuses on the future, unlike therapy, which can dwell on the past. And itâ€™s not about giving direct advice. â€œThe client is the expert in their own lives,â€ says Davia McMillan, president of the ICFâ€™s Australasia chapter. â€œThere is no telling, it is about listening deeply so you can ask the best questions.â€
Bungay Stanier describes it as a â€œfierce loveâ€: asking sometimes uncomfortable things a spouse might never ask. And sometimes, he says, itâ€™s about teaching. A coach may use dozens of tools, but Sean Oâ€™Connor, director of the University of Sydneyâ€™s Coaching Psychology Unit, says the main ones backed by evidence and research are: goal-setting; a solutions-focused approach; and cognitive behavioural coaching, which identifies and reframes thoughts and feelings that are influencing behaviour.
â€œThe client is the expert in their own lives. There is no telling, it is about listening deeply so you can ask the best questions.â€
But hereâ€™s the bottom line: your coach does not need one day of training in anything to call themselves a coach. In Australia, several bodies such as the ICF offer credentials to coaches and training programs. The ICF, for example, requires a certain number of coaching hours and training to qualify for its three tiers â€“ associate, professional and master â€“ and has a code of ethics and complaints process. But there is no government oversight.
â€œThe biggest threat to the industry is people who havenâ€™t done training and behave unethically,â€ says McMillan, who recommends interviewing a coach first and getting genuine testimonials. â€œAnd we have no way of stopping them because it is unregulated.â€
Psychologists have been known to take a dim view of life coaches, but Australian Association of Psychologists Inc director Betty Chetcuti thinks they are a welcome service, as long as they â€œstay within their competenciesâ€ and refer mental health issues to GPs or psychologists. But Chetcuti, a registered psychologist, does caution about Instagram-based life coaches, particularly ones who are more wellness influencers than trained coaches. â€œThey may have some really good content, but it may also hit someone with underlying psychological issues in a way that creates more problems.â€
Anecdotally, life coaching, as a profession and service, seems to be on the rise, says Sydney Universityâ€™s Sean Oâ€™Connor, whose coaching psychology unit offered the worldâ€™s first postgraduate degrees in the field in 2000. But its unregulated nature makes it difficult to put numbers to, and some life coaches might be just â€œdoing crystal healing sessionsâ€, he says.
Lawyer Vanessa Emilio, whose online firm Legal123 helps coaches with contractual issues, has about 200 life coaches on her books; five years ago, there were five. She attributes this partly to its popularity among Millennials. â€œThey canâ€™t really describe what theyâ€™re doing,â€ she says. â€œThey just want to help somebody.â€
The industry is also witnessing a rise in niche coaches â€“ in areas such as feminism, inclusivity and body image â€“ who address social injustices. Yorta Yorta woman Yolanda Finette found her psychologists and counsellors never understood the trans-generational impacts of racism. So, three years ago, after 25 years as a social worker, she trained at the Beautiful You Coaching Academy (â€œWe train heart-centred people to become life coaches with love,
creativity, passion and communityâ€) to help mostly First Nations women. â€œI wanted to create something that allowed particularly people of colour and marginalised identity to be acknowledged for our unique place in the world,â€ says Finette.
Andrea Westbrook, another Beautiful You graduate, is a coach for â€œfat, curvy or plus-sizedâ€ women. But she doesnâ€™t help them lose weight. â€œWomen are taught our value is in our looks, but I help my clients understand that itâ€™s actually in our hearts, intelligence, skills, how we treat people and even our unique personality quirks.â€ These coaches, Bungay Stanier notes, are a welcome relief from coachingâ€™s past, which he describes as â€œoverwhelmingly white, privileged and evangelical about prosperityâ€.
Thereâ€™s a picture of Jennifer Jones on her website. The owner and founder of Jones & Co â€“ which sells handmade ceramics â€“ sits on a brown armchair looking delighted, with short black hair, glowy skin and casually frayed blue jeans. The image projects success. But until recently, the North Bondi resident was wracked with fear. She knew she needed to put more of herself into her marketing, but dreaded criticism. She also wanted to be a better and more honest leader. In performance reviews, sheâ€™d just say: â€œOh, itâ€™s been a great year, there you go!â€
In September 2019, Jones heard ICF-credentialled coach Kemi Nekvapil on a podcast and was struck by her energy. Jones, 45, had a few high-flying friends with coaches and an â€œinklingâ€ she was looking for that, rather than a therapist. At the end of July last year, she signed up for six fortnightly, 45-minute coaching calls with Nekvapil, then priced at $3366. Nekvapil helped Jones set boundaries around the marketing of herself on social media, and gently questioned her fears.
â€œShe made me realise itâ€™s not like Iâ€™m going on Married at First Sight; Iâ€™m a middle-aged woman selling pottery, itâ€™s not really a troll-rich platform.â€ They also discussed how to hand over more responsibility to Jonesâ€™s six staff, who are now working more autonomously. With Nekvapilâ€™s guidance, Jones let go of the heavy responsibility she felt for her sister and mother after her fatherâ€™s recent death. After â€œfighting like crazyâ€ with her five-year-old daughter during home-schooling, a new approach led to a calmer relationship.
Jones says it felt like having one-on-one time with your favourite university professor â€“ one who asks direct, straight-shooting questions. â€œSheâ€™s literally revolutionised my life,â€ she says of Nekvapil. â€œSheâ€™s like a mentor, a teacherâ€‰…â€‰a Mr Miyagi.â€
â€œItâ€™s confronting and icky and youâ€™re put in a corner a few times. But it really does make you go into the marrow of the issue. Itâ€™s not for the faint-hearted.â€
I say to Jones that what came up was not only about leadership, but also included parenting and deep-seated family stuff. She laughs, a little maniacally. â€œIt could cost you the price of a small apartment to get all that stuff out in therapy!â€ So how does Nekvapil do it? Thereâ€™s accountability, including to-do-list worksheets, says Jones.
â€œItâ€™s confronting and icky and youâ€™re put in a corner a few times. But because sheâ€™s that force of nature, and also incredibly empowering, it really does make you go into the marrow of the issue. Itâ€™s not for the faint-hearted.â€
I soon find that out for myself.
â€œI can hear terrified giggling.â€ Kemi Nekvapilâ€™s calm voice is coming down the phone, rich in authority and no-nonsense efficiency. Iâ€™m not coping that well. A few minutes before, she had asked me about a deadline for the book Iâ€™ve been struggling to finish. Iâ€™ve been working on it in my spare time but â€“ surprise! â€“ it turns out I donâ€™t have much of that. I want Nekvapil to help me back myself, put on my big-girl pants and talk to my boss about taking some leave. â€œOh god! I donâ€™t know!â€ I say, squealing in discomfort at the mention of a deadline. â€œTell me about that squeal,â€ she says evenly.
Nekvapil asks me questions: Have you worked out what success is? What would your 85-year-old self say about this? Being deeply listened to feels amazing and, when said out loud, my excuses for inaction suddenly appear rather flimsy. She has a strange effect on me: I would do anything â€“ anything â€“ she tells me.
â€œCan I ask when you are going to have that conversation with your editor? Itâ€™s my job to ask when,â€ she says. I suggest a date, and in that moment I know thereâ€™s no way I will let Nekvapil down. Thatâ€™s how my brain sees it. But, of course, itâ€™s myself I would be letting down. (I did have the conversation by the agreed date and my boss was completely lovely about my request.)
My second coaching session, this time with Nicky Hammond, who calls herself the â€œcoachesâ€™ coachâ€, has a different feel, somehow softer. Before our session, Hammond sends me a two-minute video message via email. She appears in her almost totally white office on Sydneyâ€™s northern beaches, with green ivy and ferns trailing from pots behind her. She says sheâ€™ll be looking at my thoughts and the stories I am telling myself in â€œa neutral wayâ€. It might be a little uncomfortable. â€œI am, in fact, on your side. I believe in you. I know that anything that you want to create is really possible for you. And I do care about you.â€
With Nekvapilâ€™s session, I gained the impetus to act on a concrete matter. That was extremely useful. But Hammondâ€™s session resonated with me for weeks: it was less about specific action and more about emotions. We talked about acknowledging self-doubt, about prioritising self-care, about imagining the worst-case scenario if the book didnâ€™t get published. What would that feel like? What would happen if the imposter syndrome I experienced when first attempting long-form journalism returned with this book? Instead of running from it, I could, she said, acknowledge itâ€™s just my brain trying to protect me and keep me safe. And that was strangely comforting.
Nicky Hammond had been interested in life coaching since she was 26, but knew she needed more experience in, well, life. In 2017, at 39, she searched her podcast app for life coaching and found Brooke Castilloâ€™s The Life Coach School Podcast. Castillo, an American recently dubbed by The Guardian as the reigning queen of life coaching, has built an empire turning over $37 million a year training new life coaches and running a membership
program called Self Coaching Scholars.
Hammond, then a multicultural officer at Willoughby Council, soon started making Castillo-inspired changes to her life. She became more organised and socially confident, less of a people-pleaser and perfectionist. â€œWhatâ€™s going on with you?â€ her husband said, two months later.
Having never left her two young sons, in September 2017 Hammond flew to California for Castilloâ€™s course, then $US18,000. A limousine picked her up at the airport and dropped her off at a hotel near Sacramento where Castillo taught 60 students for six days on her CTFAR model: all Circumstances are neutral, your Thoughts create your Feelings; which inspire Actions that create your Results.
Hammond still had a lot of self-doubt, so she paid another $US18,000 for Castilloâ€™s master coach training. Hammond said Castillo was a brilliant teacher who â€œover-delivered like crazyâ€. Sheâ€™s since earned back her outlay multiple times over. About 80 per cent of her clients are American.
Not long after we first spoke, The Guardian published an article airing numerous Life Coach School student concerns, including that tutors had told them that if they had failed in coaching it was because they hadnâ€™t managed their thoughts. Students also questioned whether Castillo was selling an unattainable fantasy: a lucrative career as a life coach (while a rare few make hundreds of thousands of dollars, the ICF put the average wage in Australia and New Zealand in a 2019 survey at $US61,100).
When I check back with Hammond, the article has ignited a debate among Life Coach School graduates, and Hammond has written her colleagues a passionate letter. She loved coaching, she wrote, but the industry could do better. Sheâ€™d witnessed pyramid-style marketing, programs that change midway and others that under-deliver for their â€œexorbitantâ€ cost. â€œMany of us are feeling manipulated, abandoned and betrayed by our coaches, teachers and mentors, in an industry that supposedly is fuelled by love.â€
â€œI now believe we have a choice in how we offer personal transformation and it should be less dogmatic.â€
In 2020, Castillo gave Hammond a glass trophy in a Tiffany & Co. box to mark her reaching $100,000 in revenue. Hammond, initially proud of the award, came to see it as propagating the idea that money equalled success. Her clients â€“ other coaches â€“ were beating themselves up for not making that kind of money. So in November last year, she posted a video of herself on Instagram dropping it carefully into her tiny white office bin.
But thereâ€™s also a more existential disillusionment going on with the 45-year-old. To be a life coach requires confronting your own issues, and Hammond says she had to turn herself inside out to be the trainer she is today. â€œBrooke knew how to pour gasoline on you and light the fire of your personal growth,â€ says Hammond. â€œBut I want to be the one who decides to pour the gasoline on.â€
She adds: â€œI now believe we have a choice in how we offer personal transformation and it should be less dogmatic.â€ And thatâ€™s the thing: life coaching sells transformation â€“ a new you â€“ for people who become life coaches and their clients. And while thatâ€™s always seductive, it is often elusive and sometimes painful.
Itâ€™s a Friday morning in October and, as Melbourne enjoys the first easings of lockdown, Iâ€™m standing in the high-ceilinged foyer of The Coaching Institute, not far from the CBD. The institute, which says it is Australiaâ€™s top coaching school, was founded by Remi Pearson (then Sharon) in 2004. Since then, Pearson, who is now 58, says her school has produced 8500 life, business, executive and relationship coaches. In front of me, printed on a eight-metre-high board that soars up the wall, is the instituteâ€™s 160-word manifesto, starting with â€œLife is short and it is not a dress rehearsalâ€ and ending with â€œLaugh often and loudly. Live your dreamâ€.
My tour guides are general manager Justine Page and the head of creative â€“ and former chief extraordinary officer â€“ Elysium Nguyen, who, for reasons that are immediately obvious, everyone calls Glam (sheâ€™s in a plaid blazer shimmering with clear sequins and wears a chunky silver Alexander McQueen ring).
Pearson is everywhere along the walls of the curved staircase: here she raises an arm triumphantly on a poster advertising the signing of her self-published book, Ultimate You, at a Barnes & Noble store in New York in 2019. Here she is on Channel 10â€™s morning show as its resident life coach in 2006. And here, in a simple black frame, is the first certificate, issued the same year, of Pearsonâ€™s Diploma of Life Coaching, which she says is a world first. The certificate is both awarded to Pearson and signed by her, as the chief executive officer of The Coaching Institute.
Upstairs, the now billboard-sized manifesto confronts us again, plastered across a wall. Through a green door, we enter the Emerald City training room, inspired by The Wizard of Oz. Itâ€™s from this room that trainer Matt Lavars performs his free, six-hour introduction to coaching every Saturday. On Pearsonâ€™s invitation, I watch an hour of one session and all of another.
To get the link to the training, I must let Lavars into my Facebook Messenger and download a â€œfree giftâ€ by clicking a wrapped box that explodes in a hail of gold confetti (it was a seven-page PDF revealing the three things that make a great coach: be humble, decide not to live life alone, and be a demonstration). In Messenger, Lavars posts a GIF of seven people wildly clapping and fist-pumping.
In the first session, about 40 people watch a video of Lavars interviewing graduate coach Olivia Martin. â€œThe greatest life is on the other side of your fear,â€ says Martin, who looks to be in her 20s. Many of those watching appear much older, peering down their noses at the screen. Judy in the red glasses yawns. In the second, weâ€™re shown a recorded demonstration of Lavars coaching a client, and he takes us through some basics of Pearsonâ€™s coaching method. He plays recorded interviews with five successful graduates, and peppers the training with glowing testimonials. One is from a student who, he says, is only 23 and recently made $10,000 in a month.
Lavars regularly offers us the $9500 Global Quest Coach online program, which I can get today for $997 (just one payment of â€œnine, nine, sevenâ€) or a weekly payment of $29. Heâ€™ll also throw in for free the three-day Foundation of Coaching Success course worth $3000 and, he says, while holding a roll of paper tied with a gold ribbon, I can work with paying clients straight afterwards. He encourages us to applaud those who take up this deal. When questioned about accreditation, he says the institute is aligned to the International Coach Guild. (He doesnâ€™t mention that Pearson set up the guild, and is one of its three directors.)
Back on the tour, I follow Glam and Page past neon letters that radiate life-coach speak from the walls â€“ #Live Your Dream, EPIC starts here â€“ to an office near a basket of feather boas (staff are encouraged to dress up and, when a new student enrols, a bell rings and they break into dance). Glam shows me a video of Pearson talking to a member of her Seven Figure Coach Club (for those aiming for $1 million in turnover).
It feels like no coincidence that Iâ€™m being shown this clip, because this practice is what she has been accused of by some unhappy students in the past.
The student, Scott, is talking to Pearson about another coaching outfit he knows that â€œsells during the emotional partâ€. Heâ€™s referring to when prospective students get caught up in a high-pressure, transformational sales pitch during free training sessions and sign on to a course, then regret it later. â€œThatâ€™s a very strange mentality to me,â€ says Pearson.
It feels like no coincidence that Iâ€™m being shown this clip because this practice is what she has been accused of by some unhappy students in the past. And a week prior to this tour, when I raised this point with her, things became tense.
Remi Pearson sits amid several plump orange and brown cushions, wearing an off-white knit, pale pink lipstick and a ready smile (at least for a while). In 2003, she experienced a defining moment. At 37, everything was, as she puts it, â€œexternally perfectâ€: happily married, beautiful house in Melbourneâ€™s bayside Middle Park, no money worries.
But over 11 years, sheâ€™d written five unpublished crime novels. She was a â€œvolcano of messâ€: negative self-talk, catastrophising, low self-esteem. On this day, she stood behind a chair frozen with fear. She thought of Oprah Winfrey and Nelson Mandela, whoâ€™d suffered terribly yet were living extraordinary lives: if they could do it, so could she.
Weeks later, she enrolled in a life-coaching course, to manage her mind better. â€œI found my thing,â€ she says. â€œI came across some beautiful clients. We both knew I had my L-plates on. And they created phenomenal, radical transformation.â€ Within 12 months, she had a waiting list of 50 clients and other coaches desiring her secrets. In late 2004, she opened The Coaching Institute.
Pearson spent $500,000 on her own coaching and business education, which includes four Tony Robbins courses, a masterâ€™s in applied positive psychology at the University of Melbourne, and training in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), which uses the power of language, metaphor and suggestion to influence peopleâ€™s behaviours and perceptions. (NLP came from the psychology world and is used in coaching, therapy and motivational speaking, but has been co-opted by the advertising industry. â€œWe joke that NLP is being used for evil,â€ says the ICFâ€™s Davia McMillan. â€œBut it can be used to embed a desire or thought pattern â€“ to reprogram a negative into a positive that supports you.â€œ)
Her investment in her education has paid off. â€œI am very wealthy,â€ she says, when I ask how much money sheâ€™s made from the institute. And business, she says, has grown since COVID-19, now reaching students across 100 countries, compared to 20 pre-pandemic.
But itâ€™s not been all smooth sailing. In 2016, SBS published an article quoting former students who accused Pearson of encouraging high-pressure sales tactics and charging students after theyâ€™d withdrawn from courses. The national training regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), had received 40 complaints about the institute between 2011 and 2015 and, in the same period, 11 cases against the school were taken to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
These issues havenâ€™t gone away: ASQA tells Good Weekend that since 2015 it has received another eight complaints about the institute, and in online forums thereâ€™s a significant underbelly of discontent.
In the past three years, disappointed students have put their names to 18 detailed Google reviews. Complaints among unhappy students involve â€œup-sellingâ€ in a cult-like environment of excitement and â€œemotional manipulationâ€, taking advantage of â€œthe poor and vulnerableâ€ and difficulty getting refunds. â€œBoiler-room sales tactics caused me, at a very vulnerable time in my life, to sign up for something that in the end I did not need or want.
â€œI lost $4000-plus to these people,â€ says one. The Pissed Consumer site carries 68 mostly critical reviews averaging 1.4 stars, and $460,000 in claimed losses. Some of these are as recent as late November last year.
Melbourne life-coach and counsellor Emma Dabb, 45, trained and worked with The Coaching Institute in 2010. It was only after she took its NLP course that she realised the trainers had used NLP tactics to upsell students to a $13,000 diploma. â€œI was a single mum on benefits and I wasnâ€™t working at the time. A lot of people in the room were unemployed,â€ she tells Good Weekend. â€œThey give you brilliant skills, but itâ€™s unethical to upsell using NLP, which taps into the unconscious mind.â€
But there are certainly plenty of happy students, such as finance broker Kelly Bowen, who studied there between 2012 and 2016. â€œThere are definitely places that do put you in those peak states and sell like that, but thatâ€™s not The Coaching Institute,â€ she says. â€œRemi has changed so many lives and what sheâ€™s created is phenomenal.â€
When I raise the SBS claims with Pearson, she cuts me off and shifts back on her cushions. â€œIâ€™ve done enough work on myself with my coaches to know thatâ€™s a boundary.â€ Later, she refutes the allegations of upselling when people are in an emotional state. A student is questioned three times on meeting payments, she says, and can downgrade to a smaller program, put it on hold or make smaller payments. â€œDo I use sales techniques? Of course I do. So does everyone in sales.â€
I ask whether someone is monitoring the online criticisms. She says that while she owns the school, is a trainer, writes programs and ensures it is â€œresearch-basedâ€, she doesnâ€™t â€œwork thereâ€. Eventually she nominates her husband, John Pearson, to answer my questions.
A few days later, John calls, and says my questions on â€œthe darker sideâ€ were â€œextremely concerningâ€. He says there have been four VCAT cases against them in the past three years, and one is pending. Consumer affairs departments in Victoria and NSW have contacted them twice, maybe three times, in the past five years. But this is nothing, he says, compared to the â€œthousands of peopleâ€ touched by Pearson â€œin the most remarkable wayâ€.
The majority of the instituteâ€™s clients, says John, have often been told they are not good enough and are now living lives theyâ€™d never dreamed of. â€œWhy would we take that opportunity from people?â€ He says Pearson is about to be filmed in a â€œworldwide eventâ€ for Apple TV+ called Coach TV, with an episode dedicated to her. â€œ[She has] frankly done things in this space that no one ever believed was possible and is revered throughout the world as being fairly well accepted as a leader in her field.â€
Do life coaches have better lives? I ask this of all the coaches interviewed for this piece. I even ask Michael McGowan, a Melbourne life coach I once briefly dated. Good coaches, he says, are busy learners, and anyone constantly learning is likely to have a better life. â€œSome coaches actually have bigger problems than anyone else â€“ which is why they are so busy learning, â€ he says.
Some of those skills come in handy. Yolanda Finette now knows how to tap into help. â€œAnd when Iâ€™m in a funk, Iâ€™ll give myself an expiry time. Being a coach definitely doesnâ€™t mean I have a perfect life, but itâ€™s a lot better than it used to be.â€
â€œSome coaches have bigger problems than anyone else â€“ which is why they are so busy learning.â€
Sydneyâ€™s Sean Oâ€™Connor, who is a coach and academic, says coaches probably get a lot of meaning from their work and use their training to set their own goals. â€œBut in some cases, itâ€™s probably like the plumber who never fixes his own plumbing.â€
Kemi Nekvapil, who grows flowers and is an endurance runner in her spare time, says sheâ€™s proud of the life sheâ€™s created. But sheâ€™s done it with a lot of coaching and mentors because she believes weâ€™re not meant to tackle life alone. â€œI am the mother of teenagers. I am a wife. Iâ€™m going through perimenopause. None of this stuff does not happen because you are a coach.â€
In 2006, Michael Bungay Stanier attended a conference in the American city of St Louis with about 400 other life coaches. â€œIt felt like there were a lot of people talking about their amazing lives,â€ he recalls. â€œAnd it was not all sounding true.â€ He also remembers his coaching school where every trainer (all great coaches) was recently divorced. â€œYou can say thatâ€™s a measure of success. But itâ€™s also not a measure of success.â€ No matter how awesome you are, no matter how great you are doing, life is messy and difficult, he says.
â€œEverybody has times when life is hard.â€
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