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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

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