Coaching vs Therapy – What’s the Difference?

About ten years ago, when I was just getting started as a property developer, my SUV was making a clunking sound and there was some hesitation in acceleration.

I remember meeting Bobby, the mechanic. When we shook hands, his grip was tight and large around my hand. He asked me about my car’s history.

“What happened? When did it start? What makes it worse?” 

As I looked at Bobby in his faded Boston Red Sox cap, I told him about my problem and what I remembered from the past. I could see in his eyes that he was beginning to understand. He was seeing clues as to what caused the disorder in my car.

We took it for a drive. He wanted to see the problem in action. When we pulled back into his shop parking lot, I knew he’d cracked the case. Bobby told me it had to do with the transmission and would cost $1200 to fix. I smiled, nodding gently and then told him I wanted to get a second opinion.

I didn’t really want a second opinion. I knew he was right. What I was really thinking was, “Shit, I can’t afford that right now”.  All my money had  gone into a new project and I was running on fumes.

At the time, I had just gotten a ‘construction loan’ to buy a piece of land and build a house to sell. All the permits and lawyer fees to make it happen had drained my bank account.

Leaving Bobby’s shop, I drove out to the land for my next meeting. Jack, the carpenter, was sat in his pickup truck waiting for me.

He too was wearing a Boston Red Sox baseball cap. It was bit less faded than Bobby’s. Jack stepped from the truck and stretched out his hand. As I reached mine to meet it, I saw it was thick and strong like Bobby’s was.

Jack spoke loudly like Bobby did. He asked me about what I wanted to build.

“How big do you want it? What do you want it to look like? When do you want it built by?”

Through speaking with Jack, he and I both became more and more clear about my vision for the house I would build there. As we discussed what it would actually take for an entire house to be created, I got more and more clear of what it would require of me. I began to understand what I would need to invest financially, time-wise and energy-wise. I got that this was going to be a real commitment and that it was going to be a lot of work. I could also viscerally feel that it would be a real risk as to whether I’d profit from this. I’d already spent most of my money, was taking on debt and the market was peaking. I was scared, but I was also excited.

Fast forward six months…

On a blue sky afternoon of a cool day in October, I walked out of my lawyer’s office carrying a $104,000 check in my hand and a lightness in my chest. In my mind, I looked back on all the days of meeting people at the land and how the house that now stood strong there had come together, literally, piece by piece.

From there, I went straight to the bank and made my largest ever deposit. When I pulled back out into the street, my SUV coughed and made a grinding noise.

I thought about how it had gotten progressively worse over the past six months, but how since I was so focused on building the house, I hadn’t let it bother me. I had essentially just ignored the problem with my car.

However, I didn’t need the problem anymore. Still not even fully up to speed, I checked my mirror, braked and pulled directly into the next parking lot – a BMW dealership.

They said they’d give me just $3K for trading in my SUV since it needed a new transmission.

“Deal,” I said.

An hour later I was sat alone in a slick, brand new M3. When at the exit of the dealership, I pressed the accelerator, the car leaped onto the road. The purr was deep and as I entered the motorway, I could feel the growl of the engine through the floor and on my back.

I thought of Jack & Bobby – how similar they were as people, how they both worked with their hands and how their hands had grown thick and strong from doing that work. At the same time, I thought about how different their work was.

It is when I think back to what Jack does and what Bobby does that I am most able to understand the difference between being a ‘coach’ and being a ‘therapist’.

Personal Branding is for Cows, Not People

When a hot piece of iron singes through the fur of a cow’s hide and then hisses as it boils off the moisture in its flesh, it leaves a permanent scar.

Putting aside for a moment the barbarism of it, the fact that the scar is permanent is OK. A cow doesn’t change. A cow is a cow until it becomes a steak or a jacket.

However, for a person, the moment a ‘personal brand’ is applied, it becomes a lie. This is because people are constantly evolving.

I am NOT suggesting that we don’t speak out about who we are and what we do.

What I am saying is that the idea of a brand carries with it an essence of static-ness. This essence is what causes conflict for many people when trying to figure out their ‘personal brand’.

People aren’t permanent and deep down we know it.

To make it easier, and to stay in integrity, what we ‘speak out’ about who we are and what we do should be free to always evolve.

Also interesting is that many people (unconsciously) reference their past when speaking out about who they are and what they do. Not only are they singeing hot iron into their own flesh, but they are doing so with the mark of who they were instead of who they are becoming.

Forget branding yourself.

Speak out about who and what you are becoming and do that differently every day.


  • What if instead of speaking out with the story of your remembered past, you spoke out with the story of your created future?
  • And if you allowed that story to evolve every day, what would that story be today?

How to Coach Without Listening

Yesterday somebody gave me ‘feedback’ during a coaching session.

“You aren’t listening to me,” they said.

They were right!

Patience and listening is considered a virtue in coaching.

I can be patient. And I can listen. I can listen to you more deeply than most people will ever even come close to listening to you.

And yet sometimes…I throw listening completely out the window.

Sometimes I will decidedly STOP listening to a person who I am coaching. In fact, I often interrupt my clients so I can stop listening to them.


I have no patience for stories about why things are difficult. I will not waste your time listening to you explain why something cannot be done.

Your reasons why something is difficult or impossible may very well be TRUE! (They often are.)

And yet, as far as our work together is concerned, those reasons only matter when they are what you focus on.

For me, coaching is about creating a new reality to focus on.

I love you too much to let you go on and on and on continuing to create a reality that does not serve you.

When I interrupt you, I want you to STOP looking at the blindingly obvious. I want you to STOP looking at the brightest light.

Instead I want you to walk with me into the darkness…into the unlikely and the impossible

In that place, I want you to find the tiny specks of light in the darkness. The white twinkling dots.

I want you to focus on those and I want you to discover that you can navigate your entire life and create everything you want by those stars.

That is why sometimes I coach you by NOT listening to you.


  • What is the story that you have been telling yourself about why it is challenging to do what you want to do?
  • What might be another story that is also true, but which is about succeeding at what you want to do?

Your Desires are a Backwards Strategy

I get loads of emails from people telling me about what they want differently in their lives.

A pattern I see is that people will often first list the things they want for themselves…

Money, Freedom, Relationship, Passion, etc…

And then they will continue, suggesting that after they have that they also want things for others, like…

Contribution, help people, make an impact in the world, leave a legacy, etc

In one sense, the order of these things is good. It makes sense that we worry about taking care of ourselves first. We need to be healthy and safe before we can be of value to others.

In another sense – the more actual one – we are completely insane.

We are already safe and secure enough to move on to the second list. We just think we aren’t.

The ebb and flow of life has a particular rhythm to it. So many people want to ebb without flowing.

But flowing is where you have to go before you get to ebb again.

Put doing THESE things first EVERY SINGLE MORNING:

Contribution, help people, make an impact in the world, leave a legacy, etc

And more of THIS will then come to you in your afternoons:

Money, Freedom, Relationship, Passion, etc…


  • What are all the things that you want?
  • What order do you typically place them in?
  • Could reversing the order of your desires be the perfect strategy for creating those desires?

How to Find What You Want – Seeking to Creating

Are you searching for something?

Maybe a relationship partner, a passion or purpose, a business idea, a job?

Whenever someone tells me they are trying to ‘find’ something, I immediately see how and why the thing they want is evading them.

Trying to ‘find’ something is a very passive approach. It amounts to looking around,  watching and maybe even listening too. You may in fact be all ears and all eyes in your ‘search’, but if so, you are still leaving out half of what you can do.

Listening and watching is all about input. If you are ‘searching’, then you’re probably forgetting the output.

By output,  I mean the things you can do to impact and shake up the world. Your output oriented actions can change the environment you are looking and listening in.

People do this mildly in their search, but mostly they are just poking their heads around corners and peeking inside cupboards.

Instead of ‘searching’, ‘seeking’ or ‘finding’, I prefer the idea of ‘creating’ stuff in life.

When playing hide-and-go-seek with my nephew, I will NOT be a ‘creator’. I will be a ‘seeker’, because it takes me much longer to find him and this is fun for him. I’ll just walk around, allowing my eyes to glance in different directions.

When playing hide-and-go-seek with a particular person or opportunity, I WILL be a ‘creator’.  I’ll  talk often about what I am looking for. I’ll tell everyone. I ask questions. I’ll create things that might attract that person or opportunity. I’ll shake up the world like I’m shaking an apple tree and let that person or opportunity fall out and hit me on the head.

Creating is much more active than seeking.


  • What is it that you are currently trying to find?
  • What could you do differently if you transcended ‘seeking’ and began CREATING instead?

How to Create an Elevator Pitch

If you had one minute in an elevator with someone, why would you want to spend it talking about yourself and your idea?

Why not spend it focused on the other person, being curious about them, connecting with them?

In a world where everyone is focused on themselves and their thing and their idea and getting everyone to love them – you will stand out much more by being interested in a person than by trying to get them to be interested in you.

In fact, you are much more likely to create the opportunity to spend MORE than one minute with a person if instead of trying to ‘wow’ them with your song and dance, you connect with them on a human level.

Deep human connection will serve the creation of your vision more than an elevator pitch ever will.

What the world needs is not another pitch. What the world needs is people willing to listen.

If you have been working on your elevator pitch, please stop.

And ask your friends to do the same.

How to Inspire People

The other day my yoga instructor, an inspiring vegetarian, ironman triathlete and yogi named Jessica, said something funny that triggered a new insight for me.

(I know I’ve been mentioning ‘yoga’ often recently. What can I say – I’m hooked! Going almost everyday now.)

After saying ‘inhale’, instead of saying ‘exhale’, Jessica said a made up word: ‘out-hale’.

Upon hearing that, my mind wandered to the explanation of ‘inspire’ that I like – that inspiration is the inhalation of spirit – in-spirit. In other words, when you feel inspired, it is because you have breathed in spirit that resonates with you deep inside.

(To hear more about this, check out my video You Are What You Admire)

If that was what in-spire is…then would what out-spire be?

It struck me quite quickly that out-spire – the breathing out of spirit – is exactly what I do and what I help my clients who are coaches and leaders to do.

I was reminded of how a mission to ‘inspire people’, which I often hear people proclaim, always strikes me as a bit misguided and even controlling.

How could I possibly have any control over whether or not a person is inspired? I can’t force spirit down into their hearts. I can’t ensure the spirit I have access to will resonate with their heart.

For example, try as you may, you will likely find it very difficult to inspire me with your demonstration of skills at bird watching (people have tried and I’ve fallen asleep).

What I can do instead of trying to inspire people is focus on ‘out-spiring’. I can focus on breathing out the spirit that resonates with me. I can focus on speaking and doing the things that give me the strongest feeling of inspiration.

And maybe this is all we are supposed to do.

Referring to trees again (another great teacher for me recently), trees ‘breathe in’ carbon dioxide and they ‘breathe out’ oxygen. They don’t try to ensure that YOU breathe in their oxygen.

Imagine a tree saying, “I want to give people MY oxygen.” 

That would be nuts! (Besides the fact that a tree would be talking.)

Trees don’t give a shit who breathes their oxygen. They are just doing what they do. Breathing in and breathing out. And during that process, through their uniqueness, the air is transformed a little bit.

When you breathe in spirit and it connects with you, it transforms a little bit too. It gets a piece of you with it.

Your job – your only job – is to ‘out-spire’.

Breathe it out. Do your part. Speak your truth. Do what you love.

That is how you inspire people.

How Your Desire Causes Suffering or Bliss

When in my mid twenties, I told my Mom that I was going to spend some time staying at a monastery in northern India to meditate and study Buddhist thought with monks, she said, “OK, have fun. Just don’t come back as anything weird this time.”

I think she was referring to the six months I spent as an evangelising born-again Christian after a college-roommate fed me stories about the coming rapture and the elite’s conspiracy for a one world government (I should have seen it coming considering he was using heroin and kept a loaded AK-47 under his bed!).

Anyway…I loved learning about Buddhism. It is one of the simplest philosophies I’ve come across for living an enjoyable life and a lot of my personal philosophy stems from it.

One idea has always niggled at me though: it is the idea that desire causes suffering.

The reason this niggled at me is because elsewhere I honour desire. It is the orientation of that which you have the potential to create. When we follow our desire, we can make a better world and a better life.

So how is desire both a good thing and a bad thing?

Buddhists make the distinction that it is ‘attachment’ to a desire that really causes suffering.  Until recently I wasn’t seeing how a desire typically becomes an attachment.

There seemed to be ‘good desire’ and ‘bad desire’, and I couldn’t find an answer to how one becomes the other.

What I now think it is, is something very simple: ACTION.

Desire without action is frustrating. The time and distance between you and that thing you want gets longer and this begins to cause suffering.

Desire acted upon is satisfying. The time and distance between you and that thing you want gets shorter and this feels blissful.

The less we act on a desire – the more we yearn for it from a standstill – the more that desire hurts.

The more we act on a desire – the more we indulge ourselves in the journey – the more that desire fulfils us.

And so, it is within our will to decide whether our desire will cause us pleasure or pain.

It is your choice to act or not act that determines whether your desire will bring you suffering or bring you bliss.

Which will you choose?

Which will you choose right now?

Is Your Mission Statement Empty Words?

Too many organisational ‘mission statements’ I come across are empty words drafted only to sound intelligent on a website or the cover of an annual report.

Is your organisation’s purpose and mission a part of the consciousness of everyone involved?  Or is it something you have because you’re ‘supposed to’ have one?

Organisations that excel do so for the same reason that people do – they have purpose within them that drives them.

Some will call this ‘organisational culture’. Culture isn’t strong enough though. I like ‘organisational religion’.

What is your organisation’s religion?

Do you know it? Do you believe in it? Does everyone believe in it?

If you want to lead a wildly successful organisation, then it needs a religion.

Every powerful and lasting religion has a purpose – this is your organisation’s mission. Every great religion also has rules to live by – these are the principles your organisation stands for.

Your work as a leader is to bring everyone into the faith. To have them be devout followers of that religion. To live it.

How do you do this?

Wear the robes. 

Be the example of faith in your religion.

Create a mission for your organisation that you will die for. Create principles for your organisation that you will live by, every day.

Live for this mission and by these principles even when nobody is watching.

Because the god of your organisation – the potential to succeed or fail – is ALWAYS watching.


  • What are YOUR beliefs and values?
  • Where are you NOT living them?

Be The Creator of Everything

The Victim believes she is at the mercy of circumstance. She is an unfortunate slave to the whims of the world. The world wins and she loses.

The Controller believes she creates her own destiny. She rises up in defiance of the world’s whims and through force and effort, she exerts her will against the world, making her own destiny. For her to win, others must lose.

The Participator sees life as a dance. Recognising that all creation is co-creation, she asserts her will at times, but she also allows the whims of the world to move her too. She aims for a win win, concerning herself always with the world’s win first.

The Creator also recognises life is a dance and yet she chooses to lead the dance. She understands the world has whims and desires of its own. She is empathetic to these whims, but only to inspire her own next step. Win-wins happen because you are always leading a dance.

When you Be The Creator, your reality is that YOU CREATE EVERYTHING you experience – both desired and undesired.

Everything that happens IS your creation – your job, your relationship, your health, even the weather over your head – you created that.

Yes. You made it rain today. You even made the sun shine.

Indeed, this reality is an illusion, but it is one chosen in the included transcendence of illusions that less served you.

Living inside a reality where YOU CREATE EVERYTHING gives you access to your fullest potential in the perpetual dance of co-creation.


  • What are you currently creating that you do NOT want?
  • What will you create instead?
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