The single biggest mistake that coaches make is to call themselves a coach…
Coaching is a tool, not a title.
When you’re a “coach” your clients compare you with thousands of other coaches. When you’re a “coach” you don’t stand out in a noisy online world. And, when you’re a “coach” you need to clamor for attention.
When you see coaching as just one of the tools in your toolkit, you can respond to the question, “What do you do?” with the answer, “Well, sometimes I’m a coach, sometimes I’m a consultant and sometimes I am a trusted advisor…”
When coaching is a tool, you’re not a “coach”, you’re an expert in your field. And when you are an expert in your field, clients seek you out.
How do I become an expert? you ask.
You already are…
Michelangelo noted that “The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”
That’s what I do when I am working with a client. I help them strip away their stories until we are left with the expert they have always been.
Sometimes, I help them utilize the invisible thermal uplifts from early moments in their life and career. Sometimes, I shine a light on the 3 circles that make them a thought leader. Sometimes, I help them find what makes them weird and wear the t-shirt to prove it. Sometimes, I help them uncover their obsessions. Sometimes, I help them write the book they are scared to write – their second book. Often I help them see that they are already superheroes. And sometimes, I use a tool to remind them: your dream client is you!
If you want to stand out in the world of coaching, you need to be a leader and a creator. And you cannot stop.
I’ve written every day for the past ten years. In the past 5 months alone, I have written 60 articles, recorded 30 podcast episodes, made 14 videos and created or launched 9 different coaching and teaching experiences.
Before I tell you how to create, it’s important to understand why to create. As Dave Trott says:
Creativity is the last legal unfair advantage we can take to run over the competition.
However good you are as a coach, you live in a world where every other coach is constantly learning, growing and creating. If you are not constantly creating, re-creating, inventing and reinventing yourself, they will pass you by like the tortoise in the fable who wins the race against the speedy hare.
So, what’s keeping you from creating?
Being a leader is scary. To be a leader is to carry a big burden of responsibility. You might get it wrong. You’ll probably be criticised. In an uncertain world, there are no clear answers.
Creating something and putting it out in the world is scary. You’re worried you might be judged, you’re afraid of change, you don’t want to lose control. That’s understandable.
Most people have an unwillingness to think differently. You see, for most people, for most of history, there’s a biological advantage in believing that change is stressful. You get to live another day.
Don’t be most people.
You see, humanity has only ever evolved when leaders took action for a cause that was important to them. Or they shared their wisdom with the world. Even when they were scared. Even when they were criticised.
Be a leader who takes action. Be a leader who creates. Be a leader who shares wisdom. Even when you are scared. Even when you are criticised.
Here’s to the crazy ones
You probably remember this wonderful statement about creativity from Steve Jobs and Apple. But it contains a massive problem within it…
Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits. The rebels.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire.
They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy…
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
The problem is that when we think of creativity we tend to compare ourselves with geniuses like the 17 people in the ad that this quote comes from: Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King Jr., Richard Branson, John Lennon, Buckminster Fuller, Thomas Edison, Muhammad Ali, Ted Turner, Maria Callas, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Alfred Hitchcock, Martha Graham, Jim Henson, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Pablo Picasso.
That’s a high bar!
And it can hold us back from creating or from sharing our wisdom. So let me lower the bar a little…
There’s really nothing new in the world.
Everything has been done before. There are 100 billion people who are no longer alive and they pretty much tried everything we’re trying today.
So, get over yourself. If you want to thrive as a coach, a consultant, a trusted advisor, you need to be a leader. You need to create. You need to share your expertise.
No one is coming to save you. And your people need you.
When I trained as a yoga teacher, years ago, I was nervous. How could I possibly teach yoga?
My teacher changed my life when she said, “Rich, some people want a yoga teacher who can cross their ankles behind their neck. And some people want a yoga teacher who is just one tiny step ahead of them…”
I can do that, I thought.
It’s time to put humility to one side and share your wisdom with your people.
7 ways to out create your competition
1. Quantity vs Quality
A ceramics teacher divided their class into two groups. Group 1 was graded on the quantity of pots they make. The more pots, the higher the grade. Group 2 was graded on the quality of their best pot. All that counted was how perfect their pots were.
Something interesting happened on assessment day: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity…
People see my successes and have no idea how many failures I’ve had – on a regular basis.
Failure is actually a competitive advantage, so long as you keep creating. So, always be creating.
As Thomas Edison responded when he was asked who had the best ideas, “The person with the most ideas.”
2. Production vs Perfection
Did you – like me – have a grandma or an aunt with a sideboard full of her best china teacups that no one ever used? “They are for special guests…” I was told, when I asked why we couldn’t use them. Although, those special guests never seemed to arrive!
In the ceramics class I described above, the quantity group kept making pots and learning from their mistakes. The quality group had sat theorizing about perfection – and it never came.
Don’t wait for perfection. When you are 70% ready, share an idea with your community. And then another. And then another.
3. Use your voice vs Find your voice
In the book, Show Your Work, Austin Kleon says, “You can’t predict your best work. Nobody can consistently predict what will do well and what will bomb. Share your work to get constant feedback.”
Share your ideas before they are ready. Give away your best material. Share your secrets.
My friend, Steve Pavlina – who has been a world-class blogger since 2004 – told me years ago, “You probably won’t find your voice until you have written your first 100 articles. And every great writer I know hates their first 50 articles.”
I loved that idea. It gave me freedom. I might as well get those first 100 articles out of the way, right?!
I used to be terrified of being on camera and I used to be scared of speaking on a stage. Now, I film with big film crews and I’ve spoken on stage in front of thousands of people.
How did I do it?
I made videos. Bad videos!
I gave speeches. Bad speeches!
And I got incrementally better over time.
Share your work. Something small. Every day.
Build ideas. Share your ideas. Build community. Share your ideas with your community. Don’t stop…
4. Be disliked
Alan Weiss, the author of Million Dollar Consulting, once told me, “You’re not a thought leader if you’re not being criticised every day.”
That really struck me because people sometimes criticise me (like the woman who wrote “I find Rich Litvin repugnant…”) but it’s nowhere near once a day. I have to really up my game to hit the bar that Alan set for me.
In the book, The Courage to be Disliked, Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga, write, “Freedom is being disliked by other people. It is proof that you are exercising your freedom and living in freedom, and a sign that you are living in accordance with your own principles. Conducting yourself in such a way as to not be disliked by anyone is an extremely unfree way of living.”
To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing. – Elbert Hubbard
5. To be unique, make connections
Creativity requires originality. You can’t ask other people what to create. As the marketing genius, David Ogilvy, once said, “The trouble with market research is that people don’t think what they feel, they don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say.”
In his book, The Medici Effect, Frans Johansson explains that all new ideas are just combinations of old ideas.
He proposes that true innovation comes from diverse industries, cultures, and disciplines – where they intersect. And that collaboration with people from different backgrounds is the key to success.
Thought leaders bring ideas from one field into another. Seek out the intersection of unrelated ideas.
Read a magazine on knitting or guns or sailing or private islands or farming. Read an ancient book – The Talmud, The New Testament, The Quran, The Tao Te Jing, The Bhagavad Gita. Read a military manual, a restaurant training manual or a manual for surgical interns. Read novels over 100 years old.
Look for a single insight that could be of value in your field. And then share it.
6. Creativity is not a skill, it is a state of mind
Jamie Wheal researches flow in elite athletes, Navy SEALs and creatives. He says that if you use Red Bull, coffee and pizza to stay up all night creating, you might get lucky once or twice – but it’s unsustainable and the quality of your ideas and thoughts will degrade.
If you actually want to be more creative, you need to exercise, meditate and eat a small serving of chocolate! All of these trigger anandamide, the neurochemical credited with runner’s high. It prompts lateral connections and generates insights and it’s the reason you get your best ideas while exercising.
Sandi Mann is a senior psychology lecturer in the UK. In her book, The Upside of Downtime, she says that getting bored is an underrated way to spark creativity.
To tap into true boredom, she suggests activities that require little or no concentration. Walk a familiar route, swim laps or even just sit with your eyes closed. Do nothing but let your mind wander, without music or stimulation.
Or tap into your inner wisdom, while you sleep. Reid Hoffman says, “I never go to sleep without giving my subconscious a problem to solve.”
7. Creativity requires courage
Courage is the one attribute that you will need to be creative.
Courage pushes you beyond your comfort zone. Courage allows you to speak your truth when everyone else is holding back. Courage lets you take risks in the face of uncertainty.
“Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.” – Erica Jong
Courage will help you fight the three dragons of creativity that Michele Cassou describes in the book, Point Zero: Creativity Without Limits.
- The Dragon of Product fights your spontaneity. This dragon is strongest when you focus on what other people think. It’s the voice in your head that says, “That’s not very good…” or “That won’t sell…”
- The Dragon of Control holds back your emotional expression, so that people think well of you. It prevents you from being fully seen, from doing things badly or from doing things outside the norm – which is actually where the real magic begins.
- The Dragon of Meaning fights intuition and creativity by demanding interpretation and logical answers. It asks, “Why are you doing that?” And it gets angry if your response is “Because I want to!” When you approach creativity like an intellectual pursuit, you stifle your creative genius.
Ten years ago, the entire text off my website (including my testimonials!) was used by a coach in Florida. At the time I was horrified. But I’ve learned that when you create and innovate, others copy. It never stops. Once, I called a coach on the phone to tell him how hurt I was to see him passing off my writing as his own. He picked up and was mortified to have that conversation. Credit to him, he changed his entire website the very next day.
You can spend your time in litigation or you can spend your time in creation. I choose the latter and rarely bother chasing people who copy my ideas any longer. Always be creating is a far more interesting mantra for me.
True creativity requires leadership. You can only create ahead of the pack, not within it or behind it.
Morgan Housel once wrote, “Popular things seem safe because so many people are involved, but they’re most dangerous because they’re most competitive.”
The etymological root of the word expert means to try, to risk. That’s what leaders do. It doesn’t always work. That’s not the point. Your job isn’t to be popular, or to do what’s popular. It’s to try. And to try again. And again.
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