How to Do the Ridiculous

I couldn’t wait to start coaching! It was 10 years ago, and after a bewildering two years of trying to figure out how to support myself and my three children, I heard the words “corporate coach,” and I knew that was it! I didn’t know exactly what coaching was and had never been in a corporation (or even worked in an office) but I had made everyone I had come into contact with rich (except me!), and it seemed I would now have an occupation that would allow me to benefit financially from my gift.

It was two years since I had become a single mother to my home schooled children, the oldest being 11, and I had a continual flow of thin envelopes in my mailbox communicating in complex terms that I had late fees, overdraft charges and utility cutoff dates. I was teaching art with my children (I told the school and camp directors they were my “cleanup helpers” and they taught alongside me) and showing my paintings, but having decided I did not want to sell my artwork (I loved my paintings!), I knew I had to find another “revenue stream.”

That was a new word in my vocabulary. I learned it at my first networking event, when some sort of financial professional used that phrase and also “passive income streams.” I imagined gold flowing freely into my house (a good idea!). I apologetically told him I had no idea what he was referring to, but since it did sound promising, I told him to give me a call. Next day the phone rings. “Lisa Yakobi?  I’d like to continue our conversation.” I’m interested.  After fifteen minutes of him going on in the same vein as before I said I was sorry and told him I still didn’t have the slightest idea what he was talking about (or what he wanted from me), at which point he hung up abruptly. I thought that was rather rude and added “revenue stream” to my vocabulary list of words to investigate…and as something to acquire!

Well, after hearing about corporate coaching, it seemed I found my magic key to riches (which meant at that time paying my array of bills, mortgages and loans). I began by signing up for coach training on the phone (now I did “school at home” too!) and learning from students and teachers all over the world how to “empower” others.

I went about “empowering” everyone I met, at no charge (as was my habit anyway), but now I engaged them in more lengthy conversations about their “challenges.”

I soon discovered that absolutely no one wanted coaching (even at my price: which was zero per hour)! Ten years ago, no one knew what coaching was (or even wanted to know). Unfortunately, I couldn’t describe it. When I said I was a coach, people asked me, “What sport?” I always responded with curiosity, “What sport do you think?” and they all answered, after a pause, “Lacrosse?” I have a vague memory of playing an inane game with sticks in high school, with my very athletically inept schoolmates (sports weren’t cool in the Hippie days). To this day, I have never seen a Lacrosse coach (but if any of you wonder what I look like, that might be a helpful description!).

I had to practice my “coaching skills” and being newly single, my first prospects were any man who asked for my phone number. I gave it out liberally, and when my men called, I kept them on the phone for hours, with my coaching question list in front of me, asking them about their early “passions,” “limiting beliefs” and the like. If they endured this drilling and still wanted a date, I would meet them for coffee and reveal my true intentions (of converting them to coaching clients). Needless to say, I did not convert one “prospect” nor get second dates.

Six months went by in this way, with my adding to my “free coaching for men” several meetings that I organized of the few coaches that lived on Long Island and offering every single coach an opportunity to barter coach with me. I even mentor coached a few with my very limited abilities! One of my coaching barter “mentees” I liked so much I asked her to be my business partner. So far I hadn’t earned a penny through coaching, but neither had she, so we were in business! I had started facilitating classes for $5 an hour at the local Women’s Center where I snuck coaching into their program (we were only supposed to “share” without comment or “judgment”) and invited her to co-lead one of my groups. I even split my pay with her!

She advised her daughter to coach with me…and I had my first real “client!” Wow! I started her at $200 a month for 4 one-hour coaching sessions that took place in my master bedroom! My home schooled kids did what was called unschooling, which resulted in a great deal of noise, mess and running about the house, but my bedroom had a lock on the door and was relatively quiet. My client went from what she believed was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to a new job, a boyfriend, a volley ball league, art classes and a townhouse condo! She now seemed way happier than me! Although that was somewhat disturbing (and a trend that continued), I went on to have a full practice of coaching clients (all female) that coached in my bedroom! By the time I found a man to coach, it was spring and we coached at the picnic table in my backyard. In the summer, after many mosquito-bitten clients, I tamed my children and had clients sitting indoors at my dining room table.

It took many years for me to stop the threatening mailbox flow and become a corporate coach in reality, not just in fantasy. I had always been accused of being on “cloud nine” (where were clouds 1-8…and beyond?). I supposed that meant I lived in a fantasy. Well, it was my fantasy that drove me. It was my fantasy that made me believe people would pay me $200 to coach in my bedroom. And it was my fantasy that brought me my “revenue stream” after all.

How do you do the ridiculous?

Get on cloud nine and keep going!

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