Life and Work Design Coach

July 8, 2009

I am grateful to the handful of you who have followed along while I was Chasing Wisdom, then veered down the Twisting Road, stayed On The Twisting Road, and then tried to update my Travel Log regularly. You are the ones who know I have never settled on a title for the work I do in this business I am growing. I can’t say I’ve decided for sure, but I am very close when I call myself a “Life and Work Design Coach.” This begs the question: How is my own custom life and work plan coming along?

First, I want to take a moment to celebrate the clarity. I got to the idea of calling myself a life and work design coach while revising my “Who I help and what I do” answer. Some people call this an elevator pitch, but I prefer a different name for it. The elevator pitch is a concept for people with a big idea who need investors or a distribution contract or something significant to bring their product or service idea to life. It’s the synopsis of the prospectus.

The idea is that you’re in the elevator with the guy who can change your life by saying yes. You have until he gets off in a couple of floors to hook him into asking you for more information. You need to squeeze the main points into a couple of sentences and make sure they’re sticky and memorable.

What I’m describing here is more of a networking tag line, or more generally your “What do you do?” In modern American culture, we are overly defined by our work. When we meet new people we aren’t inclined to say, “Tell me something about yourself,” or, “What do you enjoy doing?” We ask, “What do you do?” which only means, “What do you do for work?”

Most people aren’t interested in hearing all the rest of the things we do when we first meet. They’re just trying to place us into a relative social class and category. More or less money than me? Smarter than me or not as? Is this one useful to open doors, get me noticed, or help me make sales? Should I feel inferior?

Marketing training for us self-employed folks suggests we have a catchy way of introducing our work so people will be more likely to hire us or recommend us to someone they know. We’re encouraged to have a one- or two-sentence “What do you do?”

I haven’t had a comfortable or succinct “What do you do?” since I started coach training. I decided to work on it this past week. I followed the simple pattern I’ve heard from a few wise people, although Barbara Winter is the only one I can remember and name. They recommend answering by saying who you work with and how you help them. Here’s what I came up with.

“I work with people who can’t stuff their lives into someone else’s boxes and cubicles. I help them create a custom designed life and work plan that fits them just right.”

It’s not poetry so I’ll be polishing it. I need to say it out loud a few times to give the words that want to be spoken a chance to show up and introduce themselves. But the content feels really comfortable. It points to customized and creative careers and self-employment. But it includes aspects of life beyond work, like family and volunteering and hobbies and recreation. I’m having a debate with the words “create” and “plan” because I don’t stop at the plan. I enjoy helping people throughout implementation. When the debate settles I might add a word or two, find new ones that better capture my work, or let these words be my ambassadors.

After the celebration comes the tough part. Clarity seems to work like a two-edged sword. It points me to where I want to go, but it also shines the light on where I am. The more I learn and develop ideas about life and work design, the more I see how much of my life I leave to circumstance.

Fitness experts are usually fit. Personal finance experts tend to be financially sound. We expect professional organizers to be pretty well organized. We won’t hire them otherwise.

So, Mr. Life and Work Design Coach, how is that life and work plan of yours coming along?

Like any creative endeavor, it’s a mess. I have reminders and notes and lists here and there. I have written answers to a lot of different people’s recommended exercises for finding my calling and my purpose and my gifts. They’re not all in one place, and when I do gather several together they often point in very different directions.

I think about the test canvases painters use for trying different textures and colors. I think about the many pieces glass blowers have to throw out because they fall apart during blowing or crack during cool-down. I think about wadded up sheets of paper containing the false starts and sputters and roughest of drafts while a writer is digging through to the treasure. I think of clay, lumpy and mushy, smeared on work surfaces and fingers and clothes, and all the Freudian meaning that conveys.

I keep moving forward with my own messy exploration and rough sketching. I move forward believing I am learning to create a masterpiece. I move forward because I prefer the confusion and clutter and messiness to anyone else’s mass-market blueprints for a happy life. And smeared with paint and clay, tossing out wadded up paper and sorting through the notes and sketches that remain, I learn that playing in the studio is an important part of my design plan.

May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,

Steve Coxsey
Life and Work Design Coach

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