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Home of the Samurai Coaching Dojo blog where Toku McCree, Matt Thielman, and other guest Sensei share their philosophies and practices for deep coaching and honorable enrollment. SUBSCRIBE for updates to be notified of new blog posts, special opportunities just for subscribers, and more!

Definition: Playing To Win vs Playing Not To Lose

Little kid’s play to win. They might be a little sad when they lose, but usually, they just want to play again. Winning is EXCITING!!! Playing the game is fun.

Then at some point, we learn shame and guilt around winning and losing. We either learn that we risk being criticized when we lose the game or we risk it when we win, maybe we learn we get criticized no matter what, so we seek to find a way to not play.

No matter the case, before long we stop playing to play, we stop playing to win, we play not to lose, not to lose love, trust, the warm feeling of pleasing those around us. We start to play a different game called manipulating the feelings of others. We learn it without ever knowing we’re learning it.

And what we really lose is the joy of playing the game, of being ok with winning and losing, because it’s just a game after all.

We can play to win the game again, we can heal ourselves, we can learn to let others care for themselves, we can learn that losing ourselves in a game worth playing can help us find who we really are beyond winning and losing.

We might as well play to win, especially when winning means the world is more healed, more loved, and more transformed.

The Most Common Types of Black and White Thinking for Coaches

It’s never ok to give your clients advice.
You should never ask the questions why?
You should never deal with matters a therapist might.
You shouldn’t promise results you’re not sure you can deliver.
You should never work with a client that’s hard to coach.
You should never talk more than your client.
Your worth and your fees are related.
You should always be good when you coach your clients.
It’s a bad thing if a client wants to quit.
It’s a bad thing if you hurt your client’s feelings and you should avoid it at all costs.
The best coaches make the most money.
Coaches that charge a lot don’t care about their clients.
Making money and being of service don’t mix.
If you have a motive to sign clients it ruins your attempts to serve.
If you raise your fees you’re limiting who you can serve.
Coaches that market themselves are only out for money.
Coaching and consulting are totally different and consulting should never happen in a coaching session.
Coaching and teaching are totally different and good coaches don’t teach their clients.
Every coaching session should end with a homework assignment.
Every coaching session has to start with a clear desire and end with a clear outcome.
Accountability is key in coaching.
Accountability has no place in coaching.
The coaches with the most training are the best coaches.
The longer you coach the better you get.
I should be smooth when I sell to my clients.
It’s bad to be awkward when I coach or sell to my clients.
Being a beginner coach is bad and means most people won’t trust you.
Certifications are crap/essential.
If there’s something in it for you it can’t help your client.
You should never bring your personal life into your coaching.
Good coaches never upset their clients.
Making six/seven/eight figures means something about who you are as a coach.

(share your favorite one below)

None of these things are absolutely true about coaching. Some point to places to start, but in the end, all of them limit you as a coach. A master learns the rules so they can break them. A beginner treats rules like religion and never learns to let them go. Please insist on becoming a master coach.

Love,
Toku

Black and White Thinking — A Common Problem With New Coaches

Often when I talk to new coaches they get caught in black and white thinking about what good coaches should and shouldn’t do. 

– You should never ask a client why? 
– You should only ever ask questions. 
– You should never teach a client.
– You should never give advice. 

These guidelines are helpful when you’re starting as a coach.

– It’s easier to talk at a client than explore with them. 
– It’s easier to give advice than be curious. 
– It’s easy to ask why when you can’t think of something better to say. 

But these guidelines are simply guidelines and too often they become a religion for new coaches. Soon enough they are zealots preaching the gospel of pure coaching and the ICF standards. 

The best coaches I know push the boundaries of coaching while acting with a high level of integrity. Sometimes from habit but more often with conscious choice. Generally, they abide by the principles of what makes coaching work, but they aren’t bound to them. 

They see all the gray in between the lines. So if you’re new to coaching YES listen to the guidelines, try them on, if they feel hard to implement GOOD! That means you’re getting better as a coach. 

But don’t fall into black and white thinking. There are no rules to coaching and that’s the best and worst part about it. Your clients need you to be flexible enough to help them while maintaining enough integrity not to get lost. And learning how to make your way through the gray is essential is you’re going to truly become a masterful coach. 

What To Do When You Want To Quit Coaching

At least a couple times a year, I want to quit coaching. 

The clients are so annoying, they don’t want to do the work, they don’t want to change, and I start to feel like being a coach is pointless. 

The money (while good) is unreliable, it feels like I’m always just a few canceled contracts away from being stressed about money. Sometimes I’ve got plenty of prospects other times it feels like I only have a few. 

The work (while rewarding) is super difficult. I have to be the constant stand for deep possibility for each one of my clients. Even when those clients are being asshats. I have to do this even when I feel like I’m not present to much possibility in my own life and in the world in general. 

Wanting to quit is a normal part of life. 

During my marathon, I wanted to quit. 
During most of my long term relationships, I’ve wanted to quit. 
Hell even while writing this post, I wanted to quit. 

Stepping into anything worth doing creates tension. 

There’s the desire to complete the task, to keep going, to do the work, and the desire to get out of the tension, to take the day off, and do something easier or more enjoyable.

Getting out of the tension always feels pretty good. At least for a moment. 

Before the desire to quit shows up I feel this pressure to execute, then a thought occurs to me I could quit! and a wave of relief comes over me. I could be free of this whole thing if I just walk away. 

But of course, whenever I do this I eventually look back and wonder, “Why did I quit?” If I had just kept going I would have:

  • Written that book
  • Learned something about myself
  • Created something I was passionate about

So while the tension is uncomfortable, removing it as a strategy rarely leads to lasting satisfaction. And yet in the moment, it feels so tempting. A temptation I’ve given into so often I can hardly imagine listing all the things I’ve quit, though I can start with a sample:

Acting
Singing in groups
Writing my first book on coaching
My last engagement
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Rock climbing
Salsa
Learning german
Learning Spanish
Powerlifting

I could go on . . . and on. . . and on. . . 

This brings me to my desire to quit coaching. . . or anything else

Coaching as a profession is all about sitting in tension. 

I sit in the tension of my client’s desires. 
I sit in the tension of conversations around commitment.
I sit in the tension of a client having paid me and a sense that now I owe them some form of transformation. 

Like I said. A lot of tension. 

And if I think of that tension as a burden. If I come from a place of needing to prove myself then it’s not worth it. 

There are a lot of easier ways to make money. A lot of easier ways to prove myself. 

But when I let all of that go. When I just remember what it’s like to be with someone as their life and the way they think about the world changes. My desire to quit fades. 

And that’s because I’ve found my calling, a practice where my purpose can fully manifest, a path that demands everything from me. 

My desire to quit is a part of that. A human part. And it’s a part I’ve learned to love and accept. 

So when I want to quit I remind myself that the reason I love coaching is because of the tension, the pressure, and the possibility. 

But you’ve got to decide if that’s enough for you or not. 

So my advice for you. If you want to quit sometimes is this:

First, let go of any idea that you’re a failure if you quit. 
Quitting takes courage and commitment. So let the shame go, it will just cloud your judgment. 

Next get really clear on why you’re quitting. 
Maybe it’s because you’ve decided that you feel called to a different kind of work.
Maybe it’s because you actually prefer working for someone else (which by the way most people secretly prefer).
Maybe it’s because coaching asked you to become someone you don’t want to become. 

The reason doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get clear on it. 

You were creating yourself as a coach. Now you’re going to create yourself as something else. Not because creating yourself as a coach is hard, but because you feel called to create something else. 

OR

Don’t quit. Even a little bit. 

Go outside, take a walk, and remember why you started this. 
Feel the tension of what it means to be a coach. 
The annoying, hard, challenging, tension of it. 

Feel the heartbreak of clients who resist change (just like all humans do). 
Feel the discomfort of asking people to commit to something. 
Feel the challenge of declaring you’re going to help someone change their lives. 

Feel it all and choose it. 
Shake off the excuses. Love yourself. 
And choose it. 

The whole big ball of wax of it. 
And get back to work. 

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to quit. 
It’s normal. 
Expected really. 

It’s why you need a coach. 
It’s why you need a community. 
It’s why you need other people standing up for who you are. 

If you want to quit, do it. 
And if not, choose back in. 

It’s this simple act of choosing back in, that separates those who make it from those who don’t. 
It’s an act I do every day and have to do in real earnest a few times a year. 

Every path worth walking will give you the desire to quit. 
It’s what you do with that desire that matters. 

Whatever you choose. I believe in you. I hope you remember to believe in yourself too. 

Love, 
Toku

Humbled or Humiliated?

It’s normal to be humbled by something new. It reminds us that no matter what we do life can be challenging, that we always have new horizons to learn from and deepen. To be humbled is good and powerful and a sacrament. But humiliation is different. It’s an experience of becoming less than, of discovering ourselves flawed while at the same moment having those flaws exposed to the world. 

Humiliation is humbleness mixed with shame, self-recrimination, and with self-abandonment. It’s something done to us when we’re young that we learn to do to ourselves before the world ever could. 

It is good to be humbled, but bad if we turn this into a subtle form of self-abuse in the form of humiliation. If instead we can be gentle and kind to the parts of ourselves that feel humiliation the most, and offer a form of acceptance they so long for, regardless of success or failure. You can learn to absorb the barbs of humiliation and transform them into humbling lessons that help you grow stronger on your journey. 

Conditional vs. Unconditional Leadership

Conditional leadership means I’m a leader if you follow, if you do what I want, if you treat me right, if it’s fair, if it’s fun, if it’s easy, if it feels like it should.

A conditional leader can only lead when the conditions are right, sort of like a fair weather fan.

An unconditional leader chooses to stand as a leader, chooses to stand in a place of leadership, chooses to be their commitment in the face of all conditions. It doesn’t mean the conditions don’t impact them, they certainly do. Conditions can motivate, enrage, confuse, frustrate, inspire, distract, and compel an unconditional leader, but the unconditional leader keeps returning to the place they look from.

It reminds me of my favorite GB Shaw quote:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

I would love for you to consider what your stand is as a leader? What is your vision for how you interact with the board? What is your vision for the possibility of that relationship? How might you start being that? What would it look like to be that in the face of them showing up exactly how you expect them to show up?

You Don’t Have To Be An Expert To Be A Great Coach

How can I help someone build a multi-million dollar business if I’ve never done it?
How can I help someone with their law firm if I’m not a lawyer?
How can I help someone have a dope relationship if I’m still single?

I hear this kind of thing a lot from coaches. I get it. I mean I wouldn’t want to learn how to cook from someone who couldn’t make toast. I wouldn’t want to learn guitar from someone who can’t play basic chords.

But coaching isn’t like cooking or guitar.

To be a good cook you need to do cooking. Because you have to learn the nuances of making food in order to teach it to someone else.

With coaching you’re not teaching someone a skill. You’re using a totally different set of skills to help them improve their skills.

Skills like:
– Observation
– Curiosity
– Contextualization
– Empathy
– Analysis

Just to name a few.

But even more important than those skills… you’re being someone for your client.

You’re being a stand for possibility. Which just means you choose to stand in a place where you can see that so much more is possible than your client realizes.

In the movie, a Star is Born the famous singer sees a young singer with talent performing somewhere and takes an interest in them. The famous singer is standing in possibility. They see that so much more is possible for this young singer then they even realize. More so, they have the ability to draw it out of them.

THE MOST VALUABLE THING YOU DO AS A COACH IS THIS!!!

And you don’t need to be a famous singer to do it.

What you need is an intimate understanding of possibility. What you need is an experience of someone standing for your possibility.

What you need is practice in the art of being with someone, finding out what they want, figuring out what’s in the way, and supporting them to take on the steps and beliefs. It’s a whole different set of skills than building a million dollar business or running a law firm.

And it’s why I coached a CFO at Nokia.
A CEO of a digital marketing agency in Peru.
A writer with work in the NYTimes
without ever doing ANY of these things.

The skill they needed to do their job was irrelevant to the skills I needed.
I never let a client’s desire for something I can’t do, stand in the way of what I see as possible for them.

If you’re wondering how you can help these people.
PRACTICE HELPING PEOPLE.
The deeply felt confidence you get when you realize you can choose to stand for anybody’s life, and possibility is irreplaceable.​

Love,
Toku

PS The Spring Dojo is already over half full. If you want one of the five remaining slots. Please let us know. It’s the ONLY dojo we’re running in 2021 right now.

Is This The Year?

You’ll become the coach you dreamed of . . . making a living, doing the work, hiring that coach you admire?

You’ll become the leader you pretend to be . . . empowering others, stepping outside the pocket and taking a risk, putting yourself on the hook?

You’ll become responsible for not just who you want to be, but who you are right now, fame and flaws?

It may be and it might not . . .

But one thing is for sure, it won’t happen through grand pronouncements or resolutions. It won’t happen because you made a big post about it on JAN 1.

It will happen through a thousand little choices, a thousand little practices. And perhaps the most important practice of noticing when you’re not being it, without shame, without judgment, without avoidance, and then choosing to return.

Performance is NOT morality.

Failure is not a sin. It’s not even that significant.

I wish for you a year of practice, more than victory, or success, or millions of dollars, or followers.Because there is no separation between Practice and Mastery. Practice and Success. Practice and Liberation.

Practice is mastery, success, and liberation.

It’s all the same.

May you practice well.

And thank you in advance for supporting my practice and very often without even knowing it, for being my practice as well.

Love,
Toku

The Best Coaching Sessions Are Boring

Don’t get me wrong. I love it when a session with a client is full of emotion. Maybe they burst into tears and are on their growth edge, or they are so fueled up with energy that they cannot wait to take on a new challenge.  If I’m honest the best coaching sessions—the ones that have the most lasting impact—are the boring ones. But this is hard for most coaches to understand, especially new coaches.

 

The difference between swings and homeruns. 

If you want a truly masterful coach you’ll likely be impressed by their ability to cause big tectonic shifts with relative ease. In the world of coaching, you might call these home runs. 

They are:

  • The questions that crack a client open
  • The reframes that shift perspective in a big way
  • The words of appreciation that open a client’s heart

I love home runs. I remember watching coaches like Rich Litvin, or Steve Chandler, or Michael Neil, or Byron Katie and many others. And being blown away by their home runs. 

And I remember going out and trying to replicate them. 

I’d ask BIG QUESTIONS 
I’d stare intently at the client willing them to cry
I would pluck on heartstrings
I would give bold speeches

A lot of this ‘worked’ in that it created a reaction in my clients. 
But much of it wasn’t great coaching. 

Slowly I began to notice something. While the home runs were great, they didn’t lead to change. 

So I went back to the drawing board. I began watching sessions in a new way. 
I stopped looking for the home runs. I started watching in between them. 

Eventually I began to see what these great coaches were doing.
They weren’t trying to hit home runs at all. 

They were trying to take swings. 
They would listen and take a swing. 

Sometimes it hit, sometimes it didn’t. 
But that was ok. 

They would learn from the last swing. 
They would listen even more closely. 
They would lean into the client. 

And then they would swing again. And again. And again. 

With each swing, they would notice what landed or what didn’t. 
No one swing mattered that much to them. Their swings were graceful, elegant. 
They were mostly unattached to hitting a home run, they swung because they loved to swing. 

That’s when it hit me. 

If I want to be great, I need to learn to swing. 
Even when I don’t hit the ball. 
Maybe even especially when I don’t hit the ball. 

I need to learn to swing. 

And sure enough, the better I got at taking swings the more home runs I hit. 

But it was only by letting go, by not needing to hit home runs, and by letting myself be boring that I saw the results. 

So now, when I have a session that’s all swings and no hits, I don’t worry about it as much; 
I simply let myself swing. I feel the motion of the conversation. I enjoy the sound of dialogue. I know that if I keep swinging and paying attention, eventually something will open. 

A whole session of swinging can feel boring. But these sessions are often the ones that create the momentum, lay the groundwork, and inspire the big changes that come later on. 

Please don’t get attached to hitting home runs, or making your clients cry. 
Focus on the swing, the being, and the way you stand for your client. 
If you put your attention there not only will you get better home runs, but you’ll also enjoy being a coach so much more. 

Coaching Only Takes 3 Steps

The Surprising Truth: Coaching Is Actually Very Simple

If I want to sell you on coaching, I will make it seem like it’s super difficult. And then like a magician (or a con artist) I’ll remove the barriers. I’ll tell you that I’ve got a magical map through the forest. One where all the traps and beasts are marked on it. If you use my map, you’ll be nice and safe.

But this is a lie.

Coaching isn’t complicated. It’s actually very very simple.

This is how coaching works.

First, you become possibility. You don’t talk strategy and offer suggestions. When you sit in front of the client you believe in and embody that anything is possible for them.
You breathe it. You embody it. You express it.

Second, you sit across from someone and you ask them what you want.
And you keep asking them until you can feel you’ve got it. You’ve got a hold of what they really want. Not the strategy, the thing they think they can get, or the thing they think they should want. But the thing they actually want.

Third, you find out what keeps them from getting it. What stops them or how they stop themselves. You explore it until you understand it completely. Until both of you know this thing with the intimacy of your own breath.

That’s it.
Be possibility.
Find out what people want.
Becoming intimate with what’s in the way.

It’s not complicated.

All the tools, questions, and processes are really just designed to help you do that.
Be possibility.
Find out what people want.
Become intimate with the obstacles.

So simple and also quite challenging. The simplicity itself is perhaps the biggest challenge.

That’s why at some point learning more doesn’t help.
The only thing that helps is practice and being.

The practice of keeping it simple.
The practice of being possibility.
The practice of standing for your client no matter how they show up.

Don’t make it complicated so you can avoid the challenge.
Keep it simple, so you can fully embrace it.

Love,
Toku

PS If you are ready to embrace the simplicity and become a master coach, apply for the spring 2021 dojo here.