It’s possible that I never will be.
Socks, soup and success…
I coached full-time from 2002-2007, but made only just about enough to keep myself in socks and soup. Working from home every day for 5 years also drove me a little loopy, so I decided to go back into a “real-life workplace” with real people and stuff, for the health of both my sanity and my bank balance.
In those 12 years I’m pretty sure I’ve helped people, but sometimes it feels like I’ve fallen way short of what I could have achieved, or indeed, dreamed of achieving.
In parallel, my freelancing work as a Producer in ad and marketing agencies has flourished. Quite unwittingly and unwanted, I’m in big demand in this capacity, and have the luxury to tell the big agencies when I’m working, when I’m not and how much I cost.
As a Producer I get to be in a room full of decent people, throw around creative, strategic and technological ideas, and shape something that’s hopefully pretty cool. That part of it works for me, but the day-after-day, office-bound nature of it doesn’t work quite so well. Plus, I’m acutely aware that advertising and marketing are simply about helping someone else sell more shit. I can’t really get excited about that.
So, I’ve built this flexible, high-income and in-demand role from nothing, and my “career” as a Producer is apparently a lot more successful than my career as a Confidence Coach.
Does this mean I’m a better Producer than I am Coach?
Maybe. Who knows.
But actually, I don’t think that’s a helpful question.
A much better question…
I prefer to ask myself, what value am I adding, regardless of job title?
As a confidence coach I may not have a major book deal and a huge advance. I may not be able to charge $25,000 for a speaking gig. I may not have a sock butler (applications gratefully received here) to help me find my socks in the morning.
That stuff may or may not happen (fingers crossed on the sock thing), but in the meantime I have some simple choices to make.
Do I define my success solely by the currency of dollars and pounds?
Do I stop engaging with what I love because I’m not where I dreamed of being?
Do I quit the idea of adding value and making a difference because of an expectation I had around volume and reach?
Those feel like the right questions to me.
They bring me back to what matters, remind me of where I am and tell the expectations to jog on and get lost
Success is such an emotive and confused concept that it almost becomes meaningless. You succeed and fail all the time, just by living your life.
Take breathing, for example. Way to go! You just totally breathed in! That’s epic! You’re awesome at breathing in! Great stu…oh hang on, wait a second. Did you just breathe out? You let that breath go? Shit. Erm, what the hell, you were doing so well with the whole breathing in thing. Epic fail.
Both success and failure are thoughts we have to help weave a narrative around events. Success is a thought, just like a thought about how green the broccoli on your plate is or how stuffy the room is.
The narrative thought doesn’t matter; what matters is tasting the broccoli and deciding what you do in that room.
Of course, I don’t have all the answers any more than I have all the llama’s, rainbows or tambourines*. I’m not in the business of accumulating answers, I’m in the business of continuing to learn, adapt and shed.
So, it’s healthier for me to gauge my impact as a confidence coach by the quality of value I offer to a single individual, rather than how many thousands of seats there are in the stadium I’m talking at. If I’m able to make a real difference to one person, that’s bloody amazing in my book.
And it’s healthier for me to gauge my impact as a producer by the amount of fun I have when working with others, rather than how much money I’m making for Brand X. If I’m able to laugh with the people around me and make their working experience easier, that’s bloody amazing in my book.
Through the traditional lens of success, I might never be a successful Coach.
I think I’m okay with that.
* Actually, I do have all the tambourines. All of them. Mine.