I had already been working on this article when I hopped onto LinkedIn and saw three different posts that spotlighted the importance of investing in yourself. To me, there was no clearer sign that I needed to put my thoughts out there.
I agree with the others: It is extremely important to invest in your personal and professional growth…BUT –
What not enough people talk about is how many millions of dollars have been wasted on coaching investments that don’t work out.
…about how many entrepreneurs take huge leaps of faith in coaches and programs offering to help them grow, only to end up right where they started but now with massive credit card debt and a huge sense of failure.
…about how many people, despite those failed investments, still want to believe in themselves and this industry enough to take one more chance, but they’ve secretly lost faith in themselves to turn any additional investment into something profitable.
That last part is the saddest for me, especially when it might not even be their fault that their investments didn’t work out.
In early 2018 I watched a webinar by a coach who is known for teaching people how to grow their businesses using webinars. When I noticed the “results not typical” footnote under one of his success stories, it was like my brain suddenly broke and I became enraged by thoughts of how many online marketers seem perfectly OK with a success rate that might be 10% or less.
Do I know that 10% is the typical success rate for online coaches and marketers? Not at all. But if I do a rough head count of my peers whom I’ve watched stay stagnant or return back to a 9-to-5 job after majorly investing in themselves, I’d say 10% is a close enough guess, so I’m going with it. And even if I’m way off, any success rate that is less than 50%, perhaps even less than 75%, merits the same scrutiny I’m offering here, because why would such a low rate be acceptable?
If we go with the assumption that the success rate for coaching programs is 10%, then what about the other ~90% who don’t succeed? The assumption seems to be that if people don’t thrive after investing in themselves, that it’s their own damn fault. So that means 90% of entrepreneurs are too…what? lazy? uncommitted? incompetent?
But we’re talking about entrepreneurs – possibly the most un-lazy, committed, and competent demographic of people there is! If 90% of clients aren’t getting results from an industry, then maybe the fault is with the industry, not the individual clients.
For the month following that 2018 webinar, I went on a tirade against the online coaching industry to anyone who listened. I even posted a challenging (but not rude) question in that coach’s Facebook group that resulted in my being ejected from the group.
Eventually, though, I started to shift my thinking – especially because I hadn’t forgotten at any point that I was a member of the very industry I was railing against.
At that point I started asking the simple but important question: “Why?”
If this problem I was perceiving was real, then why did it exist? What was the major flaw that kept so many people from realizing a return on their investments in themselves?
I also started asking, “What?” As in, what could I do differently, so that I could become part of the solution rather than the problem, so that investing in yourself could be the great thing that everyone touts it to be?
After a good dose of contemplation, investigation, and conversation with some of my peers (including those who’d made significant coaching investments that didn’t pay off), I discerned that the “Why?” came down to three core psychological issues that involved both the clients and the coaches. (If you’ve invested in yourself and it didn’t pay off, I’d love to hear in the comments whether these resonate with you.):
1. The “you” who made the investment isn’t the same “you” who shows up to do the work. At the moment when you say “Yes” and give your credit card info, you’re embodying your best self. You’re optimistic. You’re clear. You’re tapped into the reality of what happens if you don’t invest and things stay the same. The fear of not changing is driving your decision as much of your hope for change is.
But when it’s time to do the work – to go through the program modules or show up for the coaching sessions – you’re no longer in that clear, optimistic state. Fear, worry, and doubt have taken root in your mind again. Where the fear of not changing had driven your initial decision, now the typical human fear of change has taken the wheel, steering you away from the work you need to do within the program in order to succeed. You procrastinate and avoid the work – or attempt it with a mind that is clouded by confusion, so that you never completely trust the answers you get in the exercises you’re going through. Your mind stops you from putting answers into meaningful action if you don’t trust they’re correct.
2. Your fear of success – known as the Terror Barrier – is determined to stop you. Your subconscious mind is more afraid of success than failure, because no matter what path you’re on, succeeding on that path means breaking out and becoming different from everyone else. Claiming your worthiness to do something that hasn’t already been done by others literally sounds like a death sentence to your subconscious mind.
Yes, I’m saying that your subconscious mind believes that if you succeed you will die. If you need evidence of that, look at how you’ve avoided the simplest tasks that would contribute to your success, and recall the twinge of fear you’ve felt in your stomach at those moments.
Fear of success is so strong that it is nearly impossible to overcome by yourself – especially since your subconscious mind is clever and knows how to deter you with very reasonable-sounding excuses. For my mompreneur clients, for example, it usually has something to do with redirecting their attention to the kids right at the moment they’re about to make a big breakthrough, making sure they don’t seem like “bad moms” for giving so much attention to their business.
With so many programs being DIY group offerings, you probably didn’t get the personal attention needed for someone to recognize that you’d hit your Terror Barrier. You simply slipped away as another casualty of the process.
And even with 1:1 coaching, a coach who isn’t familiar with the Terror Barrier and the tricks of the human ego might mistakenly agree with your excuse for redirecting your attention, inadvertently reinforcing your Terror Barrier and helping you quit on yourself instead of successfully coaching you past it.
I can’t say that I’ve successfully coached 100% of my clients who try to quit when they hit their Terror Barrier; free will is always a factor that I have to respect. It helps tremendously that as a healer, I can release the root causes of the Terror Barrier directly from the client’s mind. If someone is determined to quit, I have to honor their free will even as I’m doing everything in my power to hold space for their ego to have a tantrum while their higher power calls them to a breakthrough.
3. Coaches have blindspots. While there are definitely people selling programs on the internet who only care about taking your money, they are not the majority. I believe more often what happens is that the coach has a sincere desire to help, even the skills to help, but they get caught up in their own blindspots.
Every human walking this planet has a Core Wound – meaning they secretly feel unlovable or unworthy – along with plenty more issues subsequent to the Core Wound. Coaches are no exception to this, which means that if a client is having an issue, the coach might not be able to recognize the true nature of it if they have the same one. Instead, the coach’s subconscious mind reads the situation as, “If I acknowledge that the client has this issue, then I have to acknowledge that I have it myself.” The coach might not be ready to delve into their own issues at that moment, and it might be compounded by them not wanting to appear unworthy to their client by being seen having their own problems. If this comes up, the coach will inadvertently misidentify or mishandle the issue.
In addition to the Core Wound, another deep subconscious pattern I see come up in the coaching world is Abandonment. Some people are deeply conditioned by their childhood experiences to avoid being abandoned, while others are actually conditioned to abandon people. I perceive that to be part of what’s happening when a client struggles with a program and the coach’s response seems to be “well, that’s your problem” instead of leaning in to help. I’ve noticed this especially with male coaches who pull away when what the client really needs is for them to lean in. (This happened to me with a very high-end coach. It has informed my own work on many levels.)
If these are the issues, then how does it change?
Right now, the most power is in your hands as the client to choose the coaches and programs that are a right fit for you. Let me offer some guidance on what to look for:
1. Pay close attention to testimonials. Do they talk about how great the coach was to work with, or do they talk about actual results that were achieved? If no one’s talking about results, they might not have gotten any.
Even in work like mine where the promised results are intangible, result-oriented testimonials are possible. “I feel better about myself” or “I’m more focused and have better boundaries” are examples of results.
2. Examine the terms of the program. How long is the coach offering to work with you? How long do their clients typically take to see results? What happens if there are no results?
The #1 change I’ve made has been to remove the end dates from all my client agreements. After all, you hire me for a result, not for my time. This is how the Duration clause of my Platinum client agreement now reads:
Yup, it says in writing that we keep going until the client is satisfied. No renewal fees, no abandoning the client in the middle of their transformation because “time is up.” I am committed to every client achieving their desired results!
You might think I’m taking a big risk but the crazy thing is, since I made this change, no client relationship has significantly exceeded my expectations of how long the work takes. I’ve had two clients come back a few months later because they were getting stuck on something, and in both cases I honored the original agreement and did a few more sessions with no additional fee.
It feels so freeing to do it this way! And because I feel that freedom, I’m able to focus on what’s best for my clients.
3. Ask them if they currently have a coach. If they don’t – even if they try to justify why it’s not necessary – run away. This tells you they are OK with being stuck, which means at some point they might be OK with you being stuck.
Not only do I keep working on myself, but I specifically wish that every coach would get their Core Wound healed. This has had a tremendous positive impact on my work: Now that my Core Wound is healed, there’s nothing that my ego can hide from me. I do occasionally encounter a momentary blindspot, but I’ve learned how it feels in my body when that happens, and unlike before I want to uncover the blindspot and get rid of it.
If you’re willing to consider investing in yourself one more time, use these three guidelines to choose your next coach. My hope for you is that you’ll receive bountiful, tangible returns on your investment.
And if you’re a coach who read this, thank you. We need to work together to make internal and external changes so that more people experience the true benefits of investing in themselves.