Should Personal Coaches be Worried?

Personal CoachingThe self-help and personal coaching industries continue to explode:  Personal coaching is now a $1.5 billion industry, and it’s only gaining momentum.

In the U.S. alone, there are some 15,000 professional life coaches, delivering services mainly by phone and email (still the top two delivery methods) and earning on average between $45,000 and $65,000 per year (source:  

And yet there’s now unlimited learning available to us all, often for zero or very little cost.  Prestigious Universities like MIT have opened their entire curriculums to the public, making programs that otherwise cost hundreds of thousands of dollars available to anyone, anywhere, for free.

Khan Academy, Udemy, and even YouTube have more free courses than could be consumed in a lifetime.

And that begs the question:  With so much available for free, how is it that personal coaches are able to charge thousands for teleseminars, conferences, and group coaching programs?

Too Much Learning, Too Little Focus

Perhaps personal coaches thrive precisely because there are so many (too many?) learning opportunities.  With so many options, how do we decide what to work on moment-to-moment?

Here’s an example:  This is what my desk looks like right now, as I’m writing this:

Joel's desk

The coffee cup is self-explanatory.  I decline to comment on the dental floss and single ear plug.

Here’s the shelf next to my bed:

Joel's bed stack

Books in varying levels of completion here…(and more earplugs & coffee money stash)

The stack just to the side of my desk:

Short Stack

The 4×6 cards are for the gems I find from my reading

And here’s what I’m currently carrying around with me in my backpack:

joel's backpack

Here’s what’s currently in my backpack

In addition to my reading, I have a playlist of audio books and podcasts on my iPhone with an eternity of hours, unlimited numbers of teleseminars I’m invited to, and probably two or three personal invitations to live events every month.

How to handle it all and keep focus?  Personal coaches play a huge role, including my leadership coach who helped me through a rough patch a year or so ago, as well as the two Mastermind Groups I now attend consistently.

I think coaches continue to thrive because they help us answer this simple question:  What should I focus on right now?

How about you?  How do you stay focused and get better at what you do?

If you’re a coach, how do you help others get better at what they do?


27 comments for “Should Personal Coaches be Worried?

  1. July 25, 2014 at 5:41 am

    I love that you love to read! I’m reading Jeff Walker’s “Launch” right now, too! Yes, there is so much out there to learn we have to focus. As a Certified Professional Organizer and business coach that’s what I help my clients do every day – and me!! Thanks for the great post.

    • July 25, 2014 at 7:39 am

      Hi Elizabeth: Thanks for your thoughts. Once I’m through with “Launch,” I’ll see if I can get Jeff on an interview with us!

  2. July 25, 2014 at 5:53 am

    Thanks for a great post. Sometimes potential clients ask, can I read this in a book? Yes you can be 1-1 coaching or specific coaching will get you where you want to go faster! I pay coaching etc as I don’t have years to figure it out. Long live the coaching and personal development industry.

    • July 25, 2014 at 7:41 am

      Hi Ann: Yep, our own live chat stats indicate, people prefer to ask for leadership & guidance instead of reading & finding out on their own (in reality, it’s a combination of the two, and always easier to help people who have already taken steps to help themselves…)

  3. July 25, 2014 at 6:00 am

    According to StrengthsFinder 2.0 my #1 strength is FOCUS. However, as a master coach to coaches, I’m tempted and tested to chase the shiny object just like everyone else. I love your question- What should I focus on right now? I rely on my personal mastermind group to help keep me focused and apply all the learning from books, events, and teleseminars. I’m keenly aware that us coaches also need to be coached to keep us focused on the right thing that will move us measurably closer to our current goal. Thanks for the valuable article Joel and the wonderful resource of InstantTeleseminar

    • July 25, 2014 at 7:46 am

      Hi Brent: The focus question comes from David Cohen over at Techstars – he calls it the most important question entrepreneurs must answer every day when they go to work. If more people would focus on their passion and solve the smallest meaningful problem better than anyone in the world, we’d have many, many more successful entrepreneurs!

  4. July 25, 2014 at 6:40 am

    Hi Joel

    Hello, my name is Catherine and I am an information addict!
    My desk; the floor beside my desk; the table beside my desk; the shelves attached to my desk; the table beside my bed; the carry bag for extra stuff sitting beside the door; the passenger seat in my car, all look like that. Books | Reading | Information | New ways of thinking | the list goes on. Can’t help it, I’m addict – and I will continue to feed my addiction. lol.

    However, to answer your question – How do I stay focused – well, that is a tricky one. My #1 strength is Fairness and #2 is Leadership, so focus is down on the list. My head is always out there in the future creating stuff. How it all happens to come together I never am sure. I run workshops series called So You Think You Can’t BRAG! and planning for those does really keep me focused. I’ve also hired a business coach who also keeps me on track. But in all honesty, I get up, walk my dog, make my tea and decide right away what I really want to accomplish today – and that is my focus. This often means that other “stuff” gets pushed to the side that I’ve been told I’m “supposed” to be doing, however if I don’t want to, it’s not going to get done well anyway. So I give myself a list of no more than 3 things that I KNOW I will get done, and focus on those. The thing is, I know me. When sh*t hits the fan and I have a deadline, I make it happen.

    • July 25, 2014 at 7:54 am

      Thanks for the thoughts, Catherine. RE: Info addiction: Somehow books keep arriving at my door in twos and threes from this company called Amazon. The guy ordering those books doesn’t seem to realize that I already have dozens of in-process and unfinished reading material. RE: sh*t hitting fans: deadlines with people counting on us are focus machines aren’t they? Magic!

  5. July 25, 2014 at 7:31 am

    I simply love this article as I too am an avid reader. After one day realizing that I spend a lot of my week on teleseminars, webinars, reading, etc. I decided to FOCUS. I cleared the clutter and banned myself from everything that wasn’t on the scheduled “to do” list for that week. It was a little challenging as I often almost took detours during the week. I now use that as a coaching tool, except I suggest clients begin with a few hours of fasting from distractions.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • July 25, 2014 at 7:59 am

      Hi Dora: I love the phrase “fasting from distractions.” One way I’ve learned to do something similar is with the Pomodoro method: focusing on a single task for 25 minutes and then stopping for 3-5 minutes, then starting another 25-minute focus session.

  6. July 25, 2014 at 7:31 am

    Joel: You are so right! Everyone is so bombarded with information that it is a real challenge to focus and stay on target with your goals. Coaches help! But coaches can no longer continue to be generalists, coaching anyone, about anything. They too need to focus on what will help their target clients achieve the success they want. That means specializing and having the specific knowledge, skills and tools required to work within their niche. Understanding your client will enable you to better help them focus!

    • July 25, 2014 at 8:03 am

      Hi Frankie: You might be right. Like I said in a previous comment, the best coaches (and entrepreneurs) seem to have an incredible passion for smaller but meaningful problems. If you can solve someone’s “small but meaningful problem” better than anyone in the world, you can truly crush it.

  7. Marcus Walton
    July 25, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Thanks for the valuable article and comments!

    As a lover of witnessing the process of transformation unfold, which is often a by-product of the coaching arts, I am struck by the power of the coach, as artist, to co-create a space for transformation to occur. As alluded to in the other comments, the coach facilitates application of knowledge, which often includes providing structure in the form of visioning, goal-setting and organizing priorities.

    History proves repeatedly that collecting all of the information in the world does not necessarily translate into change, nor does it amount to effective problem-solving. In fact, too much information (as with anything in excess) sometimes makes the situation worse by triggering feelings of overwhelm, confusion and resignation. Ironically, this cycle of emotions tends to reinforce inaction and result in maintenance of the status quo.

    I appreciate the explicit declaration that the role of the coach is in high demand. Personally, this encourages me, as it suggests that despite the proliferation of forces that tend to separate and isolate people, there is measurable value in our collective desire to interact with others to produce desirable results for ourselves, families, businesses and communities.



    • July 25, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      Hi Marcus: Perhaps overwhelm, confusion & resignation from info overload is a necessary “stopping point” on the path to transformation. A coach can get us moving forward again and, when that happens, we just might realize how to use all those tools laying stagnant in our brains…

  8. July 25, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Joel, I read when I’m flying to or from a speaking gig or cruise ship event I’m running, and listen to audio-books as “drive-time learning”. Way too much on technology, marketing and self-improvement. 🙂 The rest of the time, I’m taking action to implement strategies I’ve learned to continue to grow my business, which also involves group coaching to travel professionals. I run a mastermind group and have been in another for years. To become a good, highly paid coach, I’ve had the fortune of being guided by some great coaches.
    Just like Instant Teleseminar, my business has been around for over a decade as I stay focused on my core passion and mission and not get distracted by too many shiny objects or “information overload”. Big shout out to Rick and Amanda, and hope to meet you one day.

    Captain Lou Edwards

    • July 25, 2014 at 1:39 pm

      Hey Captain Lou: Great hearing from you! is a great example of getting out and playing while learning. Most of us spend too much time in our left-hemisphere, analytical brains and not enough time in our right-hemisphere creative brains. The kind of thinking & collaboration you facilitate leads to creative breakthroughs that allow for leaps in growth as opposed to incremental steps (tho baby steps are important too). Yes, let’s meet someday soon!

  9. July 25, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Love your commentary and the photos. Reminds me of my desk, book shelf behind my desk, iPad, iPod, and inbox. One added benefit of a great coach is not only helping you identify what to focus on NOW/NEXT but to help clarify what’s really getting in the way of taking the actions you absolutely know you need to take. then helping you resolve them to move forward.
    Your insight is spot on!

    • July 25, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      That’s true, Deb. A coach’s job is as much about removing clutter as it is about focus! Two sides of the same coin?

  10. July 26, 2014 at 1:32 am

    Thanks for the article and pictures!! I’m a minimalist, and usually give away most of the books after reading them (love books, so that’s why I give them away – minimalist thinking, of course). I find myself encouraging my clients to clean away the old stuff, to make place for the “new and better”. Sometimes it’s old beliefs, and many times it’s just the old things that represent their past beliefs.

    • July 26, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      Hi Monica: I’ve given away hundreds of books over the years, and I now regret doing it! But I do agree that minimalist living makes life simpler. I personally live in a rather small condo, which forces me to be efficient about my what stuff to keep and what to recycle!

  11. Ginger Black
    July 26, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Just like an athlete, reading all the books on running, cycling, swimming or tennis may get you started but it will never get you to the Olympics. It may even get you a modicum of success. If, however you wish to be the best and beat out the competition, you must be able to pinpoint those areas that are uniquely yours. That is close to impossible to do for yourself because of your own blind spots. That’s where coaching comes into play. I tell people I am not the coach for everyone but if you want brilliance, you are not going to get that from a book or a teleseminar. BTW I just recently deleted over 55,000 emails. After that I unsubscribed myself from at least 40 lists. What a freeing experience. I also have learned to put books on my wish list until the urge/need to have them passes. I am a recovering information junkie although Kindle one click is still hard to pass on sometimes.

    • July 26, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      Hi Ginger: Thanks for your thoughts. That’s right, coaches see things about us that we cannot see ourselves…but what a key dynamic to get right! The right coach at the right time can turn us into Olympians in our chosen field. RE: unsubscribes: I’ve gone through purges of unsubscribes as well, but I find buying books irresistible!

  12. July 26, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    Done it again! Just bought “Launch”… De-cluttering today and looked at my many book collections, wondering to myself what to give away and what to put in the loft. I took many looks at my books and kept saying… I can’t throw my books away. I believe that are an investment, whether electronic or physical, a source of reference. Thank you Joel for a good blog and especially the pictures, it made me realized I am not alone in the book reading and collection thing. Regarding the title of this post, coaches don’t need to be worried. In fact because of the excess information people need someone who they consider knowledgeable to guide them in the right direction. Imagine how many people in the world divided by the number of good coaches… not enough. There is a high demand for focus and results. If you are a coach, it’s your time to shine.

  13. July 27, 2014 at 12:01 am

    Like the photo with PLF. I’ve been plotting how to use PLF with InstantTeleseminar–a match made in heaven. As for coaching, it’s always good to have someone to sift through the bullshit, which usually leads to begin-at-the-beginning and yeah-you-don’t-need-that. Unfortunately, I have trouble with focus and enjoy learning and teaching, sometimes to the detriment of developing systems. All businesses are a work in progress!

  14. July 28, 2014 at 5:47 am

    What should I focus on right now?
    That is an interesting question as I feel really stuck!
    When I feel stuck as I am right now the best thing to do is close my laptop, put my paperwork aside and go for a walk as that seems to be the only trick in moving the energy!
    Wish me luck in getting out of this sticky patch!
    I may need a coach!!!!

  15. August 5, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    I like to say: Information doesn’t lead to action. Emotion leads to action. That’s where powerful coaches & mentors can step in and help us generate the emotional states that allow us to take action on our most important priorities. It’s what I love to do.

  16. August 8, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Knowledge alone is not enough. If it were, no one would drop out of college, take drugs, or smoke cigarettes, and everyone would exercise and eat well, but that is not the case.

    A good coach helps the client to work with their own habits and beliefs to create change. This requires a great deal of insight, empathy, and challenge, and you just don’t get that from reading a book or watching a video. Coaching continues to look very promising through that lens.

    The downside in coaching is that many coaches are terrible at running a business. Those who can tend to do rather well, those who can’t tend to bail out and get a job again.

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