While attending a conference sponsored by author Jack Canfield about 5 years ago, I met a guy who seemed nice enough. He was an author and had somehow arranged to have his first box of books from the printer (he self published) opened by Jack, on stage, in front of the 1400 attendees. He was from Vancouver and his story was that after his wife had an affair, he became an expert on relationships. As an aspiring author, I arranged to have lunch with him during the conference. It was nice enough, although I was a little weirded out by some kind of spray that he doused himself in to “open his chakras and stay cool in the Arizona summer heat.” It turned out he sold these magic potions. I enjoyed hearing about his writing process and his hopes for the book and thought I’d made a quirky new friend.
Even though we had shared just one meal, with others, he later called me in Florida, from his potion kiosk in Vancouver and told me that if I didn’t hire him as a life coach that my wife would die of cancer by the end of the year because she was putting out too much “masculine energy.” For a mere $1,500 a month, he would make sure that I could help my cancer survivor wife become more feminine. It’s five years later, and despite his diagnosis of a woman 5,000 miles away whom he’d never met, the very feminine and beautiful Teresa is fine. My getting to know Jean Pierre was my introduction to the world of life coaches and it turned out the conference was full of people trolling for coaching clients.
Beyond the conference, life coaches are everywhere. All you have to do is check Linked In or Facebook and you’ll find no shortage of someones who have taken a multi-weekend course and are now qualified to heal your energy, fix your career, help you publish your book, find the perfect match, become a college speaker, or teach people to meditate. (My favorite, Deepak Chopra, for a mere $10,000, will have his people certify you to teach people to sit quietly and meditate.) Often, they are tied into some type of multi level marketing, using their contacts to sell vitamins, weight loss schemes or makeup to supplement their coaching income. (Pyramid schemes, it should be noted are illegal; unless you have a product to sell.)
Here’s the thing, while most of these people mean well and won’t threaten your spouse’s life, they are usually someone who is coming from desperation or need themselves. They are often victims of this bad economy who have taken action to pick themselves up and build a business from scratch involving their interests and passions. While they may mean well; they often give pyschological (or medical or nutritional) help without the proper training, certification or degrees. They have read the essence of all self help books, The Little Engine That Could, and are going to use positive attitude to fix your life and theirs.
In my day job, I obtained the Certified Financial Planner designation after making excuses for not having it for 20 years. Getting the certification didn’t really change anything as far as my practice, but I proved to a certification board that I really know and understand my craft. That should count for something. It does to me. See, anyone can give advice, we all have an opinion. I honestly believe it counts more when a series of obstacles and tests have to be crossed to prove that you have the expertise that you claim you do: it makes your opinion matter just a little more than someone who couldn’t be bothered to put in the time. True expertise can’t be bought or earned in a few weekends.
In my “retirement career” I plan to have documented expertise in the field of creativity and psychology. I found that I was headed down the self appointed expert road myself because I was reading everything in sight on creativity and talking to lots of people. Although I know a lot about the subject, I woke up one day and realized that this just wasn’t enough; I embarked on a path to earn my doctorate before I turn 60. I want to be able to take my message to boardrooms, colleges and conferences around the world.
Here’s the thing, for what I could pay for life coaching or various certifications from various gurus, I can earn an actual degree that means something to anyone who sees it. And, I’m sure Teresa will be there to see me walk down the aisle at my graduation ceremony.