Today’s interview is with the lovely funky Michelle Ward the When I Grow Up Coach
1) For those who do not know much about life coaching, can you briefly explain the key concepts?
Sure! I know – life coaching is still a new field, and I think a lot of people are under the impression that we tell people what to do. But it’s absolutely the total complete opposite! As a life coach, I believe that my client is the expert in their own life, as they know themselves better than anyone! So I show up with my listening ears (as my hero, Judge Judy, often says), some “clarifying questions” to help the client dig deep into what they want and see how they could get there, accountability, my pom-poms and action plans we decide on together. I like to use the Road Trip analogy, with my client in the driver’s seat literally getting us from Point A to Point B, but me in the passenger seat with the traffic report, a map, and the GPS – reminding them there’s a pothole off Exit 3 they always land in or working with them to avoid the traffic jam on Route 10. Hopefully this is making sense. If not, I blame the red wine!
2) Tell us a little about the moment you realized you wanted to be a life coach?
Ohmygosh, I wish I could, but it’s tough for me to remember! It wasn’t a lightning-bolt moment – I don’t even know how it first came into my brain. All I know is that, when I signed up for a career change workshop at NYU, I went into it with life coaching in my noggin, but absolutely resisting it. It was entrepreneurial and I wanted something “stable with benefits” (I was sick of being an actor, after all!). I also bought into the life coaching stereotype that they’re all crystal-reading hippies, which I certainly am not. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that – I just didn’t want people to think that’s who I was! It was a big concern of mine, actually. But the more I went through the career change exercises, touching on my skills and values and whatnot, I realized there’s a reason that I’m always drawn to working from myself, and that it would rock my socks to be the person I needed at that time in my life – a non-hippy-dippy creative who helps other creatives through their career transitions. It just made sense, and I realized how passionate and exciting it could be for me. It was huge, because I was pretty pessimistic – even though I was determined! – that I could find something I could love as much as performing. But when I did, well, anything else would be unacceptable.
3) I love your name “when I grow up coach?” How did this name come to be?
Oh, I tortured myself! I knew I was gonna be working with creatives through their career transitions, so I knew I needed something fun and playful (that was absolutely also part of my business model). I used the line, “I don’t know what I wanna be when I grow up!” often when I was trying to figure out what I was gonna do post-acting career, and it never failed to get a laugh or a smile or a reaction. I knew people got it, and that it was the tone I wanted. I think that might’ve been the first name I came up with, but I still tortured myself coming up with others – Sing Out, Louise! Coaching, With a Cherry on Top, The Chutzpah Coach. Thankfully none of ’em stuck, because I can’t imagine not being The When I Grow Up Coach!
4) I’m working towards my coaching certificate this year, like many others out here, What advice would you give newbies starting out in their coaching career?
Geez Louise Louise, please make it fun. There are so many niches and so many ways to market yourself – there is not one right way or one wrong to do it. Just find the products, the services, the marketing means that really excite you, that totally light you up, that absolutely enthuse you – that’s your path. Also, Geez Louise Louise times twelve, please don’t think that everyone out there knows more than you do. They don’t. Not to say there aren’t people to learn from, but pick ’em carefully. I remember signing up for, oh, every single email list/free ebook I came across when I first started, and within a week I was drowning (drowning!) in emails and stacks of reports about PR and newsletter and stuff that I thought I needed. Um, I didn’t. After a few weeks (it took me a while to own my own knowledge), I unsubscribed from everyone’s newsletter that I didn’t click with. If their personality didn’t do it for me, or their content wasn’t aligned with my mission, then out it went. Same with all those reports I printed. I knew more than I gave myself credit for, and when I realized I didn’t I consulted the people I knew, liked and trusted – whether they were people I “knew” from online or off.
5) How do you think your passion and studies in acting has helped you in your creative coaching?
Well, as an actor you’re taught that listening to your partner is the most important skill. It’s not about waiting to say your next line – it’s about really, truly hearing what your partner is telling you and then reacting naturally, truthfully, from a real place. “Power listening”, as we call it in the coaching biz, is absolutely the most important piece, I think. That followed by being curious and inquisitive, which I think is instinctual for actors. We approach roles like we’re solving a puzzle, asking questions and trying to find the answers as to what makes that character tick. Asking strong, clarifying questions is another huge piece of being a coach (honestly, if I did nothing but listen and ask questions, I’d still be an amazeballs coach – maybe even better than I am now!), and I often refer to my clients goals as pieces of the puzzle that we have to find, put together, and step back from to see the big picture. That, and just the fact that I am creative and I’ve “been there, done that”, so to say. I love that my clients know my back story and see that I’ve lived through the heartache of giving up my dream, drudging through Corporate America, and coming through to other side a pretty together, happy, alive-and-kickin’ Woman of The World, as I like to call my entrepreneurial self.
6) What is your biggest challenge with coaching and how do you overcome it?
Shutting my trap! Seriously, I’m always impressed by how little I talk during my sessions based on how much I talk in real life. And while I’m uncomfortable with silence “in real life”, I treasure it in my coaching…because it usually means the client’s thinking, digging, discovering. If I talk 40% or less over the course of a session, I know it’s a good session.
7) Congratulations on making the leap to run your own business. What advice would you give to others who dream about taking this leap themselves?
I think the same thing I wrote for the new coaches. Trust yourself. Only listen to the people who speak to you. And don’t be afraid to put you out there. That’s where the connections are on the client end, and that’s your branding. I call it your uniquity, and once you articulate it, you can put it on everything.
8) I know you love to make up your own words, what’s your favorite?
Amazeballs! For sure. Although I didn’t make it up – I stole it from a hilarious friend of mine. So I guess “uniquity” would be my favorite word that I made up!
9) Congratulations on your “The Declaration of You” e-course with Jessica Swift, what is the single biggest reason people should sign up?
If you don’t know what it is you want, if you don’t know who you really are as an adult and what makes you tick, if you think your life has been taken over by The Shoulds and what society is expecting of you, then…how can you live a passionate life? How can you ever be happy? It’s really the first step to all that lovely hippy-dippyness.
10) What is your Dream for your creative business?
Man oh man – it changes day to day. Recently, it’s being a TV host, although it’s not fleshed out and I don’t really know how/why. But I’d love to be a coach, an author, a workshop facilitator, and a speaker. But without my head exploding. I’m still figuring it out :)
11) What or who Inspires you the most?
My husband. He’s my rock and supports me a trillion percent, and without him…well, I just don’t think I’d be here, talking to you. He inspires me, and the life we wanna create for ourselves inspires me, too.
12) What kind of things do you like to create?
It’s funny, because since I’ve gotten away from performing regularly I don’t really know! I really found my way back to writing – that’s my #1 creative outlet at this point. I loved creating the host of The Declaration of You, Pierre François Frédéric, with my partner-in-crime, Jess Swift. I love making iMovies and I still love singing. I’m toying with art journaling, although I’ve never been a visual artist so that’s super scary. I also signed up for a screenprinting class, so who knows?! Oh! And I just wrote a workbook based on my career change exercises, and I rewrote all the existing exercises so that the entire book rhymes. All 50 pages. I’m a nut.
Thanks so much Michelle, so energizing and fun reading your responses. Connect with Michelle below: