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Experts & Coaches: The New Hustle?

above: Jeanine Yoder, former actress-turned life coach, 27

When I was 27, I thought I had it together. I was returning from the Bay Area, moving back to Brooklyn into a fly apartment, reconnecting with friends and seemingly had it all. Looking back at 32, I honestly can say that I didn’t know shit. I was returning to New York from Oakland with tons of new emotional baggage and self-image issues, a slight drinking problem, and to an apartment in an attempt to rekindle a friendship and live with someone who had severe emotional and behavioral issues. True, I was doing OK from the outside, but inside — I was a wreck. Add to the fact that 27 had always been a big deal for me, it was when my mother had me and the age that I wanted to have a child … yeah. A year later I would’ve started Parlour, a growing process in itself, and sprout stronger legs but I was still getting comfortable in my “grown woman” panties. Through it all, I always had my instincts and stark common sense to guide me and share with others.

So I would’ve made a perfect life coach, right?

According to an article published in The New York Times, I just may have a shot now, especially since I’ve grown a little bit and really matured — at 32. A good example is Jeannine Yoder, a successsful life coach who charges $125 per person for weekly hourlong sessions. She’s 27 and dolling out Four Agreements style wisdom such as:

“I feel such a strong energy, fearfulness, anxiousness, frustration,” she said into a headset over the telephone. “I want you all to know that you are all infinitely talented and capable of achieving goals beyond your wildest imagination.”

Really? I can tell you that you are talented, cook you a meal and hook you up with a better paying gig if you are paying me $125 an hour. Apparently, the practice of life coaching is seeing an upswing in practitioners under the age of thirty, like Chanie Messinger, 20 who got into her Torah-based life coach degree program recently and already has a base of 10 clients. Notably, she just had a breakthrough with a 48-year-old woman who was living in denial of her diabetes, Messinger says:

“It was a very difficult breakthrough for her, she was crying,” Ms. Messinger, who charges from $25 to $75 an hour, recalled of a recent session with the client. “I just made her aware of more options, like maybe you can try Splenda.”

She charges $25 to $75 an hour.

We are living in a time when it seems that anyone can just tweet on a subject repatedly and become an “expert” to make some cash. Like having sex and writing about it? Sexpert! Like to date? Relationship guru! Pretty fashionable taste and know the top three current designers? Style Expert! But what is there when we really take a closer look?

This isn’t to say that your average “expert” isn’t knowledgeable about their craft, however there is a difference between having a passion and having an education/experience about a topic that separates the enthusiasts from the experts. There a plenty of sex and relationship experts who also have the time and well-honed foundation to back it up. Any woman who has dated long enough can tell you a few tricks, but I leave the “expert” title for the woman who can also beef up her views with personal qualitative research, statistics and studied socio-biology insights that explain why men and women behave the way that they do. The same goes for fashion, if you can’t correctly break down looks and themes historically, how can you offer a learned opinion on an industry that consistently repeats patterns and themes?

The danger that most people don’t realize when they start to label themselves as an expert without sufficient experience is that someone is believing them, and in some cases, paying them. Like a 48-year-old woman paying a 20-year-old girl to tell her to “try Splenda” for her diabetes, but may not have the courage and insight yet to explore why a woman would avoid an illness that is associated with old age. Oh hey, Steve Harvey.

Ladies, if we are gonna lean on the experts, know that the “expert/client” relationship is a two-way street. Do your research, ask questions, get second and third opinions to make sure you just aren’t another check for someone’s latest hustle. This caution applies to not only your doctors, but stylists and, if you choose to get one, your life coach. If you wouldn’t trust your life savings with your “smart” friend who knows a little bit about 401-K’s and IRA’s after taking one class, why would you trust your personal life goals with anyone who can repeat a self-help book and quote you common sense? Personally, I need for my life coach to have had a life first—the same goes for any other expert I would defer to. If you are a relationship expert who has never had a successful, long-term, monogamous relationship…stay away.

Besides, a best friend is the one who will tell you an honest opinion, support you and encourage you whether you ask for it or not and she’s free.

Should A Life Coach Have A Life First? [NY Times]

above image: Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

Last 5 posts by Shannon Washington

  • Sherisa D

    I feel like while these people might actually think they are sincere, they are just too YOUNG to offer advice on life when they’ve barely had one to live in the first place. I see this all the time in the small business circles. Everyone is a coach. It feels predatory.

  • Kathy

    It is not entirely accurate that a life coach “gives advice,” at least, hopefully they aren’t. A coach’s job is to listen deeply, ask questions, help a client probe alternative ways of looking at something, assist them in clarifying their goals and holding them accountable to the actions they need to take to reach those goals. A skilled coach (of any age) could legitimately be of assistance to someone about nearly any topic, because a coach is not there to tell a client what to do, but to help them access their own wisdom.

    And this may sound surprising, but as a 48-year old women who IS a certified coach, I once considered hiring a coach 20 years younger, even though I knew several older, experienced coaches. Why would I do that? Because another thing a coach does is believes in their client’s success. And because the older we get, the more excuses we have, the more complicated life seems, the more likely  we are to have experienced many failures as well as successes.

    There was a purity, an innocence, a boldness about this young, successful coach. I thought, “She’s not going to buy my excuses of why I’m not more successful… she’s going to bring energy, a simplicity, and a positive expectation to my situation.” I thought the same when I read about the 20-year old life coach with 10 clients. I thought, “She doesn’t realize she’s supposed to struggle for a year-and-a-half to get 10 clients… she’s young enough to just go DO it without creating a struggle around it.”

    As far as getting advice from a best friend, well, best friends are wonderful. But they are also more likely to see us “as we’ve been” and not as we desire to be. Plus, when a client invests money in the coaching process, they become much more committed to reaching their goals. If I want to get in shape, my girlfriend will “understand” if I’m late or tired, but a paid fitness trainer will kick my butt… hard! Sometimes we really do get what we pay for, not because a best friend couldn’t be an excellent coach, but because we need to be accountable to someone we have  a professional relationship with.

  • Soulfulcoach

    Hi! I have to agree with you Kathy and I thank you for defending our trade.  Too many people out there tend to judge coaching without doing their research about what coaching IS.

     MRS. WASHINGTON I would hope as some sort of expert your self, in publishing a magazine, that you would of looked a bit more into the structure of coaching before calling it a hustle. 

     No one is telling you what to do, I would be a doing a disservice to my clients if I did.  I encourage, listen, and support them in being their own expert in life.  It runs a little deeper than “you should try splenda”. 

    I am sure the breakthrough that the client experienced about diabetes and her denial is much more important.

     And so it goes in coaching, I want to ask you a few  powerful questions (read more on coaching and you will understand why we do this…)

    okay ready?

    …where do you put your focus in this article MRS. WASHINGTON and why?  Why on the splenda comment or and why not the BREAKTHROUGH?  What are you attempting to promote in your articles and why?  How does that make you feel about yourself?  What part of you does it serve?  Does that fulfill you?  When you first starting writing what were you trying to create?  Are you happy with the results?   If you had one year left on this planet, what would you write differently? 

    Answer that for yourself and this may give you insight into what coaching is really about…

    Your life experience or age is not important, in fact a good coach takes that out of the equation, because my experience might be different than yours and that is a good thing, it is not about age but about a coaches perception of life.  To be a good coach you must still believe anything is possible for that person and shine that light when they do not see it.

     The truth is coaches wake up every morning doing what they love whichis helping others, that alone is great proof of them walking their talk,  for those that need proof to believe.

    And no I will not reveal my age….

    I mean what is age really about anyway? lol.

  • Kathy, thank you for your thoughts. Much appreciated.
    Soulful coach, no I am not married.
    – Shannon