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How To Become a Life Coach for Clients Who Are More Successful, Intelligent, or Wealthy Than You

Do you ever get afraid of losing a potential client?

What about being embarrassed in front of a client?

Have you ever feel inferior?

Do you ever think, “I couldn’t coach that person…”?

According to Patrick Lencioni in his wonderful book, Getting Naked, there are three fears that sabotage the creation of great clients.

Immersed in these fears, coaches censor their feedback. And to avoid difficult issues, they hold back their ideas, hide their mistakes and edit themselves to save face. They’re trying to look good in front of their client at all costs.

Why do they do this? Surprisingly, there is a fundamental misunderstanding that clients don’t want to the challenge to face their fears. Also, they do this because they’ve fallen into the myth of the “expert”—so they want to appear to be one. And they do this because they are afraid to step into their power as a leader.

How to Become a Life Coach for People More SUCCESSFUL Than You

What most people don’t realize about success is that the biggest challenge success brings is success itself.

You see, everything that got you to the level of success you’re at today is precisely what will hold you back from your next level of success.

Or as Marshall Goldsmith put it quite succinctly, “What got you here won’t get you there.”

Anyone who has worked in the corporate or start-up world is familiar with this concept. A great reporter becomes an editor, a great accountant becomes a manager, a vice president becomes a CEO, a great teacher becomes a principal… and you have a world of struggling leaders and managers.

A start-up becomes successful and its biggest liability—once its biggest asset—is often its founder. What it takes to lead a start-up is very different from running a thriving business or a business with investors and shareholders.

Ever worked for a boss who was working beyond his or her ability level?

The Peter Principle

There’s a name for this concept. It’s the “Peter Principle”—you rise to your level of incompetence.

The Peter Principle is the idea that, in most fields, the easiest way—often the only way—to earn financial reward is by rising up the “career ladder.” It’s rare that mastery of the skills that you love in the first place will lead to the same kind of financial success.

So we live in a world where highly intelligent, creative and thoughtful people are far too often working beyond the level of their current abilities. Leaders are rarely trained to turn their intelligence, creativity and thought to mastering their next level of success. We are in a world where editors, managers, principals, CEOs and leaders are struggling to understand why doing MORE of what made them successful in the first place just isn’t working.

As Tracy Goss explains in The Last Word On Power: Re-Invention for Leaders and Anyone Who Must Make the Impossible Happen, it is the very power that brought you to your current position of success as a leader that is holding you back from achieving “impossible” goals in your life and in your work.

When you live life based on the power that has been the source of your success in the past, you hold yourself back from a more creative future.

So, how do you become a life coach for clients who are more successful than you?

You help them see the things they simply cannot see in their own world. In addition, you support them in a mission to build a new kind of power—the power to consistently make the “impossible” happen. You help them access the source of their new power by completely re-inventing, again and again.

It’s the scariest thing in the world—especially for highly successful people. You help them put at risk the success they’ve BECOME to create the success they DESIRE, to create what looks impossible—to them, but not to you.

How to Become a Life Coach for People More INTELLIGENT Than You

 “Experts are good at working on problems that require known skills. But innovation requires that you make new mistakes, which is something that experts don’t do. Also, experts supposedly have all the answers, but innovation requires that we ask new questions; experts don’t do this.” —Joe Calloway 

If intelligence was all it took to live an extraordinary life, create an extraordinary business or have an extraordinary relationship, high-performers would have no need for a coach.

Yet, the title of this book says it all: The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron.

Before its bankruptcy in 2001, Enron employed around 20,000 staff with claimed revenues of nearly $111 billion. It was named “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years by Fortune magazine. But by the end of 2001, it was engulfed by the “Enron scandal” before it closed its doors forever.

Even billion-dollar companies go bankrupt

Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual and Delta Air Lines were all billion-dollar companies that went bankrupt. Arthur Andersen, formerly one of the “Big Five” accounting firms, ended business after being found guilty of criminal charges. The UK-based retail site spent $185 million before it shut down and was sold for less than $2 million less than two years later. It is now hailed as one of the greatest dot-com busts in history.

And Harvard Business School is now citing research that three-quarters of venture-backed firms in the U.S. don’t return investors’ capital. That’s three out of four start-ups that received venture funding of at least $1 million went on to fail.

In his research into why smart people do stupid things, Rajesh Setty notes that smart people test boundaries by breaching them a little beyond normal limits. They then give repeated deviations a positive twist and start believing their own story.

As he says, “The problem with repeated deviations is that they become ‘normal’ routine in your mind. The world notices the deviations but won’t speak much and in your early stages of fast-growth career, these things won’t matter much.”

How will you measure your life?

In How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen, he notes that we often employ the marginal cost doctrine in our personal lives when choosing between right and wrong: “A voice in our head says, ‘Look, I know that as a general rule, most people shouldn’t do this. But in this particular extenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s OK.’”

The marginal cost of doing something wrong “just this once” always seems alluringly low. It suckers you in, and you don’t ever look at where that path ultimately is headed and at the full costs that the choice entails. Justification for infidelity and dishonesty in all their manifestations lies in the marginal cost economics of “just this once.”

The challenge that most businesses and leaders face is that they are biased to leverage what worked well in the past instead of building the capabilities they will need in the future.

Since the future is almost always different from what came before it, this is almost always the wrong thing to do.

So, how do you become a life coach for clients who are more intelligent than you?

Explain that their very intelligence is their biggest challenge and demonstrate that your naivety is your biggest asset. You’re a coach, not a consultant. You don’t need to know more about their job or their industry than they do. And if they are a real high-performer, how could you?

Instead, tell them that you are there to ask potentially dumb questions and make potentially dumb suggestions. You are there to support them—not to look good.

Demonstrate your vulnerability and take risks even before you begin coaching together.

Admit your weaknesses and celebrate your mistakes. And serve them as powerfully as if they were your highest-paying client—even before they’ve paid you a single penny.

Serve them so powerfully that even if they never become a client, they’ll never forget your conversations for the rest of their life.

How to Become a Life Coach for People Who Are WEALTHIER Than You

Several years ago, I was chatting to a woman who was rather unhappy. It turned out that she was a multi-millionaire, but she was constantly worried about her money running out. She was also worried about someone stealing her fortune from her or how her investments were doing.

She told me that if she stopped working that day and didn’t change her lifestyle one iota, she could go for another 37 years without any income.

When I asked a financial expert about her situation, he told me that based on interest earned alone, she’d never need to work another day in her life.

I’ve now coached several millionaires and ultra-high net worth clients. Now more than ever, it’s clear to me that you can never have enough of what you don’t really need.

Money is good for buying stuff. It doesn’t solve any of our deeper, underlying issues.

A client of mine with a twenty-million-dollar net worth once called me, full of frustration with her husband. He’d been really upset with her when she paid for dinner for a group of their friends at an upscale restaurant in New York. She was having a hard time understanding it because the amount of money she’d spent had been tiny compared to their wealth.

She loves to be generous—generosity is one of her highest values. But her husband has this deep underlying fear that one day all the money will run out. Security is one of his highest values.

I was able to help her see that their issue was never going to be resolved solely based on the surface question of whether or not to pay for dinner for friends.

We had to dive much deeper.

Another client, who managed billions of dollars of assets and was amongst the top 0.1% of income earners, was secretly driven by a deep personal shame of being an immigrant. An Ivy League school education, millions of dollars in his bank account and homes in several countries would never be enough to counter his deepest underlying fear that he wouldn’t ever truly be accepted.

As I said before, you can never have enough of what you don’t really need. And money can never solve issues that are not related to money.

So, how do you become a life coach for clients who are wealthier than you?

Dig deeper than anyone has ever gone with them. Explore their secret doubts and their deepest fears. Then remind them of their own mortality—because there are only two real truths in this world:

One, we’re all going to die. And two, we don’t know when it’s going to happen.

Remind them that they can’t take their money with them when they’re gone, and dive deep into the impact they want to make and the legacy they want to leave.

Don’t be afraid of speaking the truth. Wealthy people have few people in their lives who are willing to tell them what they most need to hear.

Care so much that you don’t care.

Tell your client that you care so much for them that you are willing to hide nothing and hold nothing back. Also, tell them you’re not looking for another friend or to be liked or to get hired. Tell them you are here to SERVE them and not to PLEASE them.

These things aren’t easy to say. And they aren’t easy to hear.

But if you show up powerfully in this way, your “right” clients will, too.

One day, I was in a session with my own coach at the time, Steve Hardison. I’d been sharing my own doubts and dreams, my own deepest fears and deepest desires, when Steve looked at me with his piercing eyes.

He was silent for a moment.

Then he said these words: “I’ve got nothing on you, Rich. I’ve got NOTHING on you.”

And it was one of those INSIGHT moments for me. I got it in an instant.

This powerful man—this powerful coach—was telling me that he had “nothing” on me.

The deepest work we do as coaches is to let go of our own stories, to make visible our own blind spots and to speak out loud our secrets, fears and desires.


Great coaches ARE great leaders.

Great coaches COACH great leaders.

Love. Rich

P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about how to become a life coach, then I implore you to join our Facebook community, connect with us on LinkedIn, subscribe to our YouTube Channel, and follow us on Instagram.

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