The hardest thing about being a project coach is not explaining what I do – it’s marketing myself as a project coach precisely because no one knows what a project coach does.
So I’ll give the simple answer first, then come back to it: I help creative people develop actionable, doable plans for the many different projects they have going. I then provide the accountability and hand-holding they need to get their stuff done. I’ll not spend too much time today explaining how I do this.
Maybe it would have been easier calling myself a life coach, a productivity coach, a launch coach, or a business coach, but a large part of why I went with “Project and Creativity Coach” is because each of those types of coaches attract different types of clients and carry different types of expectations, and what I do is a hybrid of all of them. Perhaps it would be easier to explain why I’m less and more than any type of the coaches listed above.
Why I’m Not A Life Coach
I’m a pretty open guy, but, to be honest, I’ve never liked the title “life coach.” And it’s not just me – something about the title doesn’t sit well with Americans. Life coaching may have crossed the berm in Europe, but here in the States, a lot of people aren’t comfortable saying “I was talking to my life coach, and…”. I didn’t want to fight the stigma of “life coach” right out of the gate, especially since I’m not a certified life coach.
But there are a few other more important reasons I decided not to call myself a life coach. The biggest reason is that people looking for life coaching tend to be overly interested in the high level definition and identity creation that comes from a fascination with personal development literature. While I think it’s important to have goals, intentions, character, and a desire for personal improvement, I’m not particularly interested in helping people work on these things in the abstract. I’m also not very good at helping people find their life’s purpose – but I am really good at helping people instantiate their purpose and goals.
Much of my complaint here comes from a deep belief that we become by doing. Wanting to become a better artist, entrepreneur, parent, or friend is great, but the way we become better at these things is by actively doing things that make us become the people we want to be. Which leads me into…
Why I’m Not a Productivity Coach
If people who look for life coaches are wanting to focus on personal development, people looking for productivity coaches are generally focused on efficiency. They want to become faster and better at doing what they’re already doing – to use the parlance, they want to crank more widgets.
Although I’m really good at helping people become more efficient, I really want them to become more effective. And the only way to become more effective is to start questioning why you’re doing the things you’re doing. However, my experience is that people looking for a productivity coach aren’t really wanting to do the type of introspection and reflection needed to become effective. The truth about productivity is counter-intuitive: to become more productive, you’ll need to (at some point) focus on doing fewer things and stop worrying about becoming more efficient.
Focusing on productivity for productivity’s sake inevitably leads to two things, in this order. First, people continue to add things to the list of things to do until they reach max capacity. Second, there’s a catalytic moment in which the weight of everything crashes down and one goes through a productivity meltdown. There are more stages to this cycle, but my point is that attempting to divorce productivity from personal development is unsustainable and, ironically, counter-productive.
I don’t want to lead people to the crash – I want to get them off the GTD hamster wheel. I’m focused on helping people develop sustainable processes that helps them do the meaningful things that they’re wanting to do.
Why I’m Not A Launch Coach
I’ve helped a good majority of my clients launch a product. I’ve really enjoyed helping them do it, too, whether it was Naomi with SEO School, Havi with the Kitchen Table, or Jonathan with Reclaim Your Dreams. I’ll continue to help people launch things if that’s what they want to do, but what I’ve come to learn about launches is that a lot of the hard parts about launching stuff isn’t the launch – it’s the workflows, habits, and processes of the individual that are the hard parts.
There’s also the fact that I’d like to help people who aren’t to the point of launching a product. A lot of people have the potential to create a sellable product but need some help getting to the point in which they’ve established the credibility and confidence to consider themselves ready.
Product launches are intense and require a lot self-work than they do product work. I have no doubt that I’ll continue to land a lot of clients interested in launching something, and I’ll help them get it launched. But I’m just as excited about helping creative people become more creative, confident, and happy as I am helping them launch a product.
Why I’m Not a Business Coach
I’ll continue the theme of saying why I’m not something even though, in a sense, I am. I’ve helped a lot of people market and sell their ideas – and for some of my clients, a major portion of what I do is help them come up with sound business practices and processes.
But most creative entrepreneurs can’t separate “work” and “life,” and many of the people I work with want to focus on doing less work and living life more. Sometimes it’s a matter of streamlining their business processes and practices so that they can do more of the creative play they want to, and other times it’s a matter of quitting business activities that are making money but aren’t worth the amount of life sacrifice that it takes to earn that money. And sometimes they just need to talk to someone who’ll remind them that their families are important and need their attention as much as their business does.
Why I’m a Coach and Not a Consultant
In my mind, the main difference between a coach and a consultant is that a consultant tells you what you need to do and walks away, leaving you to your own devices. A coach helps you figure out what needs to be done…and then actively helps you do it.
I spend time every day working with my clients helping them do what needs to get done. I’m there to help them celebrate their victories and work through their setbacks. If I see that they’re falling, I grab their arm and keep them upright. And, depending on the client and our rapport, I put on the boots and start kicking.
It can get rough sometimes, as it’s not uncommon for them to both love and hate me. But having me in their corner, at the end of the day, far outweighs trying to do it all alone.
What’s a Project Coach?
Coming back to what I said earlier:
I help creative people develop actionable, doable plans for the many different projects they have going. I then provide the accountability and hand-holding they need to get their stuff done.
Creatives are fun people to work with, but what I’ve noticed is that many of them haven’t really harnessed left-brain, analytical-style thinking such as learning to take data and making it meaningful or breaking big ideas down into smaller, logical chunks. Often times, the first thing we start working on is plans, processes, and evaluation – precisely because they articulate that that’s what they have the most trouble with.
But a truth of creative entrepreneurship that many people don’t talk about is how lonely it can be. If it’s lonely at the top, it’s even worse when you’re not there. Making decisions and plans in a vacuum takes its toll, especially if you already have problems committing to a given course of action. Having someone that’s been there and worked other people through the process helps considerably. It’s easy to freak out and get overwhelmed; it’s hard to do that when you’ve got someone that remains calm through the storm on your side.
One of my main goals is to teach people how to do things on their own, though. There comes a bittersweet moment when the product is launched, when the processes are in place, or when the plans are working when my clients realize they don’t really need me any more. The best thing I can give my clients is self-mastery – not in the sense that they think they can do anything, but that they know what they can and should do and what they can’t and shouldn’t try to do.
We learn how to master our creativity, business, and self not by reading books or learning in the abstract, but by pushing our boundaries through action. This is why I focus on the project level instead of higher or lower levels – projects are low enough to be actionable but high enough to be meaningful. It’s also that middle ground between the trenches of everyday work and the view from the sky that people have the hardest time getting a grip on.
Perhaps “Project & Creativity Coach” is not the best of titles. At the end of the day, I don’t care what I’m called, as long as I get called.