Originally posted on LinkedIn in June 2021
Drawing from some experience, I imagine many introductory life coaching conversations start off like this: “tell me about yourself, what are you looking to get from this engagement?” Typically, the answer is “I’m not sure, but I know I want to get better at everything.” That creates a lot of ambiguity. Problem-solving is hard, but it is even more challenging when the objective isn’t clear. This leaves a lot of people wondering, what the heck is life coaching anyway? And it leaves me imagining what the coaching industry could look like if we combined a more concrete data-centric framework with economic tools and traditional coaching acumen. I think it would open the door for a lot more people to improve the quality of their life and the quality of our world.
When I ran competitively in high school and college, I had some great coaches that taught me how to train. This allowed me to coach myself in a post-collegiate career.. eventually running a 2:22 marathon / 1:07 half marathon. This is the philosophy I have for life performance coaching – the goal is to get you to be able to train yourself. Contrary to the ambiguity I imagined above, when I say life performance I am referring to optimizing a combination of specific objectives; money, time, and flow. There is certainly a trade-off between these things, but the idea is to raise them all.
The goal of this work is to increase that outcome metric. Different individuals will do it in different ways because we assign different weights to each of those components. For me, at this stage in my life, I want more time and more flow… and more money is relatively less important. My weights would be 40%, 40%, and 20% respectively. I want more time & flow, but I don’t want to cut my earnings to achieve that. Luckily, I have learned how to raise the outcome metric without sacrificing any single component.
Some might argue that life and life performance is an individual sport. Sure, to an extent this is true. But a peripheral benefit arrives when life-optimizing individuals join forces to create something great. The 1990’s Chicago Bulls. Netflix. The Manhattan Project. A life-performance coaching engagement should give you exposure to the possibility of linking to something great.
More concretely, here is how I might put this philosophy into practice. We have a 14-week engagement to build a set of skills consisting of:
- Pre-engagement week to take care of Agreements, financials, and scheduling.
- 12-week working session.
- Post-engagement week for data review, lessons learned, and next steps.
Within that 12-week session, we have 3 phases (note that 4 weeks = 1 month in the diagram below). First, you work on defining values – this is the base of the pyramid for everything. Second, you develop your ability to think with models. Finally, you build your muscle for developing disciplines.
Remember, the goal would be to get you to be able to train yourself so that you can continuously raise the outcome metric (since most likely, it will take longer than 3 months to see significant gains).
I have a background in and a passion for economics and the behavioral sciences. I would use pricing as another tool to help you succeed. Each month would cost $500. In the final month when we implement a daily practice, each day you complete the practice you will earn $10 back (4 weeks = 28 days). So long as you follow through, the final total cost of an engagement is $1,220. The point of doing this is to leverage the power of financial incentives to help you build an appetite for developing routines, habits, and disciplines that are the key to achieving objectives.
Any cost should only be interpreted relative to the potential value. But in life coaching, the “return” is often nebulous. We can modify that with a few mental models. Imagine an individual’s income is $80K annually. They will get 2% annual raises over the next 30 years driven by cost of living adjustments – the 2% is free. If life coaching can help you practice the skills you need to achieve a 3% raise for just a single year instead, what is the present-day value of that? You can check my math here, but it’s roughly $23,000. That’s because the temporary increase compounds over time. A small catalyst can have a profound impact.
Compounding is amazing and shows why it’s so important to raise your bar just a little bit each day. We can use the same compounding model applied to time and flow. If you can get just 1% more efficient with your time and/or just 1% happier every day relative to a baseline, what happens over time? Start with an arbitrary index number of 10 (imagine this is a personal HDI of sorts). If you can get 1% better every day, then in 20 years your starting point of 10 becomes 3.5 x 10^32. Maybe that’s too optimistic. Let’s shoot for 1% happier every month. In those calculations, your initial 10 becomes 108 over 20 years… with a 10x increase in happiness. Is that worth more than $1,220 today? That’s the individual’s decision to make, but it should help reduce some of the ambiguity associated with the value of a life coaching engagement.
There are absolutely way too many people that would want to learn and practice these lessons that are boxed out of the market at $1,000+ per month (even if you determine that the ROI is technically positive, the cost is a barrier to entry). That should change. What would an engagement actually look like?
# Detailed Structure
We would meet synchronously 4 times for 1 hour; 1x for pre-engagement, at the end of each Part 1 and Part 2, and 1x for post-engagement. In-between, we would communicate asynchronously through email and the platform (either Google Docs, Google Forms, or Google Sheets).
It is worth mentioning that we could go deeper and explore more facets like physical health, relationships, family, etc. But the whole point is to get you to be able to coach yourself. Focusing, first, on money, time, and flow will serve as good core objectives to do that. At the end of the engagement, as we explore you “in the wild”… we could discuss options at that point.
I participated in a coaching engagement a few years ago. I wanted to overcome the sentiment in my head telling me that a coach can’t teach me anything I can’t read in a book. Having a partner to learn just a handful of ideas, techniques, and disciplines was more transformative than I imagined it would be. It is possible that I would have learned these things eventually, but learning them faster and relatively sooner – I believe – has allowed the benefits to compound and accumulate faster. While the return is challenging to concretely quantify, I have no doubt I am a better dad, husband, leader, analyst, runner, and writer for having pursued the endeavor. I wonder if I can open that same door for others…