I’ve got a story for you, following on the idea of play as a strategy. Here it is….

Andrew called this morning from his office in St. Louis very agitated. During 20+ years in IT he had done stints at two Fortune 500 companies, Centene and Boeing. For the last few years he’s been thinking about leaving the corporate world and starting his own business. Last year, he finally took the big leap. He is now out on his own.

Like many people who change careers, his worry was that there would be a challenging money gap that would put his family under great stress. He also – perhaps most of all – worried that his grand vision would fail. That he would fail.

His panicked phone call was like this: “Lisa! I thought I would get this coaching certification, and that ICF credential, and then I’d be good to go. I’d circle back to my contacts at Centene and Boeing and get on their list as a coach, and boom, I’d have clients. But I just heard from one of my buddies that they do that sort of thing internally now and for two weeks no one at HR will call me back. Is this certification going to even do anything for me?”

He went on, “Now I’m not even sure what the plan oughtta be. What should I do?” I asked him a few questions – starting with “what do you expect a certification and credential to do for you?” His reply, “get me in the door.” Huh.  Ok.  And…then what?

We agreed at the end of the day, ‘then what’ really had to be making a meaningful difference. We agreed that if people got great value from working with him as a coach, and if they were able to solve problems with his assistance, THEN he would have clients – but not because of a degree, or piece of paper, or license to practice.

This is true in all professions don’t you think? Getting a law degree and a license doesn’t guarantee that you will be a good lawyer. And, if you are not a good, or better, really exceptional lawyer, you will not continue to have clients; at least not the clients you want. The same is true for doctors, accountants, hairdressers, teachers. At the end of the day, the best job security is to be really outstanding at whatever your job is.

“The only thing that a certification gets you Andrew, guaranteed, is a certification.”

He was gobsmacked. I could hear it despite the lengthy phone silence. (By the way, I said this to him even though I have both, a very high level certification, AND a credential. I do not intend to imply that these have no value.)

“Well crap!” he finally spoke.

How do I make sure I’m really good?  He wondered.

The reason this is relevant, is that this applies in everything that matters to you. And, the way to be truly great at something you’ve committed to, is to understand at the root of it, WHY are you doing it? This might take digging in to understanding who you are – at your core. What is the essence of who you are? How does that relate to why you are committed?

At first, Andrew thought this sounded awfully deep. Really, all he wanted from me originally was a business plan that he could work hard and follow. He wanted a formula that would get him what he wanted: a full client load, replaced corporate income, financial security for his family. I asked him, “why leave your corporate job if that’s all you want?” He spoke then of passion. His own journey of change that helped him see how his priorities had been ALL upside down. And miraculously, when he got in alignment, how his work and his teams dramatically increased in efficiency, fun, accuracy, creativity. It was awesome, he said.

“So, again Andrew, WHY do you want to BE a coach?”

He said, “I light up inside when people find their way to being excited again.” Why Andrew? And Why again – until he understood something about who he is.

He is a man who has discovered the delicious power of being in full acceptance of all his own parts: The vulnerable parts, the courageous parts, and the brilliant parts too.

He is a man who knows how painful it is to stay stuck in hiding, not expressing his true thoughts and feelings. There was a sort of sucking sound his spirit made in his heart, as it drained away. He didn’t need to leave his job to come alive again. In fact he didn’t leave it, not for many years. Now, he wanted to assist others to be whole again – in their jobs or outside of them.

The end of this call was interesting. He said, “I guess I need you to do the same thing for me I want to do for others eh? I thought since I had already woken up that I didn’t need a coach anymore.”

“No one needs a coach Andrew. Only people who are really committed to stretching to their true potential work with a coach, just like committed athletes, performers and leaders.”

It was a wonderful conversation. I’m so glad Andrew called. I sent him a link to an article about the Business Case for Coaching, which you can read at this if you like.

I want to ask you, Who are you at your core? What are you deeply committed to? What’s your next step? What might it look like to take your next step with a spirit of fun and play?

To your continued greatness,


Focused Leadership Consulting