Archive for August, 2008

A happy convergence of two separate ideas:

First, earlier in the week I started reading Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman in which he explains learned helplessness, a condition that results when a person is in a situation where he feels like nothing he does matters.

Second, yesterday I read the New Coaching Manifesto by Milana Leshinsky in which she explains the near impossibility of creating a successful business based almost exclusively on 1-on-1 coaching.

And what I realized was that over the past year I’ve been learning to become helpless in my business by pursuing a business goal that’s almost impossible to achieve. As clear as day I saw how common it is I have this thought (or some version of it): “No matter how hard I try I’ll never be successful at this business.”

I had assumed there were many people who had succeeded at what I’m trying to do, and that I was failing at it despite the fact that I know I’m creative and resourceful. Despite the fact that I learned (when I was at college studying mathematics) that if there’s a solution to a problem, I can find it.

I’d been banging my head against the wall for so long in my business that I’d unlearned that lesson from college, and learned instead that nothing I do matters.

What I got from Leshinsky is that, not only is what I’ve been trying to do virtually impossible, but I’m doing better than most other coaches pursuing the same goal. So my feelings of failure are not rooted in actual fact. They come from a perspective of helplessness that I learned by trying to do something that (almost) can’t be done.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that this goal is “almost” impossible. There are three cases where Leshinsky reports that coaches can be successful with 1-on-1 coaching businesses: If they serve a niche market of high-paying clients (for example, business owners spending $1000 or more per month on coaching); if they serve lots of lower paying clients (30 or more) which would require 70+ hours of work each week; if they certify or license other coaches to use their methodology (but in this case, the business has grown beyond 1-on-1 coaching to include teaching and certification).

The parameters in which I was working on my business did not allow for any of these, and that’s why I’ve learned to feel helpless: I don’t serve a market of high-paying clients (yet); I don’t define a successful business as one that requires me to work 70 hours a week; and I don’t have a clear methodology that I can license (yet).

So, now I know that my model for my business was flawed. And I feel confident that if I pursue a different model, one that’s been shown to work, I will be successful. As that new model takes shape, I’ll share the details.


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I used today’s Integrity Day to develop a new teleclass on overcoming procrastination.

The great lesson — a common one from Integrity Day — is the power of focus. I focused for almost 4 hours on completing this project, and I did it.

It’s common sense that when we focus on something our productivity increases, and when we are distracted by several points of focus, our productivity decreases. Yet having the experience of the power of focus never gets old for me. Thanks for my Integrity Day buddies who help create that experience with me!

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I learned two valuable lessons from today’s Integrity Day:

  1. I wrote for the first hour and it flew by. At the end of the hour I was convinced I’d hardly written anything at all. When I did a word count I discovered I’d written 765 words! So my subjective experience was not a reliable indicator of my level of productivity. The lesson is to quantify my productivity so I can measure it objectively.
  2. My intention was to create a feeling of joy in my work. As often as I would remember this intention, I’d almost immediately forget it. The lesson is to use structures (music, for example) to support my intention to experience joy in my work.

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Last night I was feeling negative and mildly pessimistic about two apparent setbacks, one personal, the other business. In both cases, things that I thought were going in one direction became uncertain, with a clear possibility that they might go in a different direction. (I’m choosing not to describe the specifics.)

What I’d read in Martin Seligman’s Learned Optimism about learned helplessness was still with me as I laid in bed. And I began repeating in my head the words, “What I do matters.”

This morning I awoke feeling empowered in both situations.

With the personal situation, I recognized that the negative feelings were coming from an expectation I was holding about the future of a particular relationship. In other words, I was attached to a specific outcome. What I see now is that the event that raised the uncertainty has made me conscious of the attachment, so I can release it. And I can be more in the moment in the relationship, which is really the best way to create the desired future anyway.

With the business situation, I recognized that my focus had shifted from one of service to one of “what I’m getting out of this.” Now that I’ve refocused on coming from a place of service, I feel peaceful and confident that no matter what the outcome, it will be the best for all involved. Again, I’ve released my attachment to a specific outcome.

I’ve changed my explanatory style (Seligman’s phrase), or way of explaining the situations to myself. And the result is greater peace and optimism.

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Source of inspiration: Learned Optimism by Martin E. P. Seligman

I completed my short stint watching my nieces. Both days this week were early and long, and I did not write in the mornings. This evening I began reading Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman, and I’m fascinated by it. It fits amazingly well with what I’m writing about in my book, and it revealed to me a third key structure that will support my writing.

Structures I’ve identified to support my writing:

  1. Make my daily writing intention public and request support (“Curtis, how did writing go this morning?”).
  2. Write in the morning, the earlier the better.
  3. Read for inspiration.

There are two kinds of inspiration I noticed from reading. The first concerns the information. New information activates my creativity. I start to related the new info with my current theories and thoughts, and I discover/create new ideas and ways of expressing existing ideas. The second inspiration is energetic. I feel a boost in my energy and joy that translates into wanting to write.

So, writing in the morning taps into a natural kind of energy and joy. And I can use reading later in the day to spark an energy and joy that is otherwise more challenging for me to manifest.

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I’m meeting some friends in New Hope today. My intention is to be present with them, to feel relaxed, and to release any expectations I form as to how the day “should” go.

I’m also going to leave open the option of returning home sooner than I typically would. In the past, I’ve tried to cram so much into an experience that I end staying longer than I feel comfortable. I’ll keep in touch with my feelings and see what happens.

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I could have over-scheduled myself today. I had several social options to choose from, and it has been my tendency to try to fit them all in. Which leaves me feeling less than relaxed.

I’m getting clear that weekends can be like mini-vacations for me. A time to relax and rejuvenate. In Stephen Covey’s language, a time to sharpen the saw.

Today was successful in that respect. I chose from a place of feeling. “What do I feel like doing now?”

And I enjoyed the day.

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