I have a huge confession to make. I’ve invested more cash in personal coaching than could have paid for a brand new BMW or sent one of my kids to USC.

I was an easy target. I feared the unknown and whenever we fear something, we look for a place to hide. I chose self-development. While other design studios in my industry filed Chapter 11, stopped paying their freelancers and even shut their doors altogether, I vowed it would never happen to me. I believed a business mentor would help me focus my marketing and reach new clients so I attended my first workshop, then another, then another. I took diligent notes, practiced cold-calling, built a marketing plan, but it never seemed enough. I was an addict for the next great nugget of insight, and this addiction to learning opened up a giant wound I didn’t know I even had. It’s called “not enoughness.” I was telling myself I wasn’t smart enough, organized enough or business-minded enough to do it on my own.

So I joined a mastermind group, at a whopping $500+ a meeting! I hired a personal coach who billed over twice my own hourly rate. At one point, my mentor even made regular visits to my office where he coached my design team. Then I discovered their conversations had inspired my employees to pursue work outside my doorstep. Yup, I know. Silly me, that may not have been the smartest idea.

Still, I don’t regret a single dollar spent on coaching. I can’t regret it. It paved the path to where I am today. I learned critical and costly lessons about myself. I faced my fears. I discovered my personal strengths. I found a new passion for words. I uncovered my authentic voice. I also built trusted relationships with other creative entrepreneurs who, like me, search for something more in our “not enoughness.”

Seven years later, my world transformed. I don’t manage employees anymore. I don’t carry massive real estate debt for property that is too big for my britches. I’m no longer the bank to mega motion picture clients who don’t pay their invoices until 60 or even 120 days past delivery. Today I’ve rebranded my business, learned to manage both creative and finances, and I thank goodness every day that I made that five figure investment of time, money and energy rather than buying a “Beemer.’

So if you are considering hiring a coach, allow me to give you a little head start on what to expect and share what fifty-Gs taught me.

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Create your space
Let me start by asking, do you know what “being fully present” means? Presence isn’t just tuning out the noise, the endless chatter or day-to-day clutter, it also means you’ve given yourself permission to listen to the deepest desires and wisdom of your heart, no matter how obscure or illogical they may sound. This doesn’t come easy. It takes discipline, practice and commitment, but it’s also the most rewarding, loving thing you can do when your business or personal life are in the middle of a transformation. You have to give yourself permission to create this space. Block out a specific time each day, reserve that table in your favorite coffee shop, enjoy your 30-minute commute, take that lunch time walk, meet yourself, say hello, and then just listen. Silence is where your insight and strength have space to grow. Keep a journal and write from that full presence every day. This sacred space can be your morning yoga or meditation practice, a walk or run in your favorite park, or just cozying up with your furbabies. This is your time and yours alone. I like to call it FATE. Focus Attention Time Energy.

There are tons of resources available to help you create your space. I would begin by reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth and The Power of Now.

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Filter and focus
In my opinion, distraction is the worst of all addictions. For me, distraction shows up in the form of the latest self-help book, online workshop, email, social media buzz, sink full of dishes, laundry, shopping or any number of other shiny objects laying around. Distraction protects me from facing my biggest fears. It also stops me from doing my best work and gets in my way of creating what matters most. If we want to be free of any addiction, a major purge has to happen. I call this purge The Art of Detachment. Letting go can feel like we’ve given up. It can feel like we’ve broken a promise. It can feel like we’ve failed. But here’s the huge secret I learned, the more I let go, the more space I create to do the next right thing. We have to be okay with a little cleansing, a bit of chaos, and some times even massive destruction. We can only be free when we have nothing to lose.

If this sounds terrifying, or you don’t believe me, check out Brene Brown’s The Gift of Imperfection and Don Miguel Ruiz Jr’s The Five Levels of Attachment. Or, just listen to the wisdom of my good friend Yoda: Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.

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Build new boundaries
Let me introduce you to the most trustworthy word in human history – NO. Say it with me now, NO. It’s not to be confused with wansy-pansy facsimiles like “maybe later,” “not really,” “not sure yet,” “let me think about it” or “I’ll get back to you.” NO is short, abrupt and transcends every language.

Here’s a little allegory to further illustrate the power of NO.

First, let me introduce you to “Yes.” She lives in the land of accommodation. She reassures her clients, gives her children everything they desire and wants everyone she meets to be happy. She says Yes to impossible deadlines, too many parties and way too much chocolate. By the end of the day if she isn’t bouncing off the walls from a sugar high, she has fallen asleep in the car while parked at her kids’ school. Yes thinks she can do it all. She’s convinced herself she’s a superwoman. But with Yes, something always falls through the cracks leaving her to feel she should be doing more.

NO, on the other hand, lives in the land of trust. NO knows her limits aren’t a fault, they’re her strength. She loves working on projects with her clients; she also knows how much time it takes to do her best work. NO loves a good party, but puts a priority on her family life. NO clears the way. NO respects her space. NO trusts herself.

You likely know Yes pretty well already, so introduce yourself to NO more often. She’s around to help you set boundaries and do your best work. And if you’re having trouble deciding who to side with when Yes and NO get in an argument, in the words of my mentor, If it’s not a “Fuck yeah!” then it’s a NO.

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Join a tribe
Every good coach will encourage you to find a tribe of people who share your goals, face the same challenges and don’t want to go at it alone. You can find tribes everywhere – mastermind groups, meet-up groups, networking groups, Toastmasters, yoga classes, dance troupes, bowling teams, knitting circles or simply gather together with a small group of your Superfriends. It doesn’t matter what you name these communities or where you find them, what’s important is to give as much as you get. Showing up is just the first step. To really connect in these relationships you have to go to the deep end of the pool. You have to unearth the messy, vulnerable parts of yourself then lay it all out for everyone to pick apart. If your tribe is the right one for you, they will love and nurture you through your transformation. And when the time comes to move on (I guarantee it will happen), you’ll find a new tribe and they’ll welcome you with open arms too.

Speaking of embracing vulnerability, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown is essential reading.

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Make an agreement
Most of us would like to believe we can self-prescribe and self-medicate our way through self development, but the truth is we can’t! We all need accountability, and in this case that comes in the form of time and money. So if you meet a coach who can help you accomplish all the above and more, hire her! But before you sign over that first fat check, create an agreement. Take the lead. Let your coach know exactly what you expect out of your experience together. Trust me, they’ll appreciate and respect you immensely for it. Here are ten expectations I shared with my coach:

  • I expect my coach to help me see where my time and energy will be best served in order to accomplish my goals.
  • I expect my coach to identify ways I can develop my authentic and unique voice
  • I expect my coach to share resources and tools that will allow me to make wise decisions and create necessary boundaries
  • I expect my coach to point out areas in my leadership and personal growth where I may have a blind spot
  • I expect my coach to encourage me to stand back from issues, consider all choices, look at challenges from alternative points of view and ultimately make a well-educated, committed decision.
  • I expect my coach to provide a mutual level of accountability
  • I expect my coach to be a trusted partner as I reach and achieve higher levels of leadership
  • I expect my coach to be present and focused in each conversation and work session
  • I expect my coach to offer unique and individual insight as they relate to my specific challenges
  • I expect my coach to hold all conversations and activities in strict confidence

Working with a coach has been a rewarding, life-changing experience and I don’t regret a dollar or an hour spent. I hope by sharing my experience it will help shed some light on what you too can expect. When you’re ready to step things up, the perfect mentor will show up for you.

Until then, you got this!