Inspired by and drawn from just a fragment of the dynamic people in my life “Getting to Know A…” is my way of introducing you to a variety of professionals who are excelling in their various fields. Some follow a traditional path after finding their inspiration in unexpected places. Others carved out their own non-traditional careers. What they have in common is they are all incredibly passionate about what they do. My hope is something in these inspires you, the readers, as well.
Since the subjects of these pieces live far and wide I had initially sent each of them a personalized questionnaire with the intention of drafting them into articles. Their answers were just so dang good there was no way I wanted to change them. I decided, with permission to leave them as is.
Tell me first what you do. The title and what you actually do.
I am a certified professional life coach, as well as a standup comedian and Laughter Yoga leader. I focus on inspiring my clients to experience life with greater joy, laughter and gratitude. I do this through one-on one coaching and through the workshops I teach.
What drew you to pursuing a career as a Life Coach?
I remember the very first time someone came to me with a problem. It was grade three and a boy in my class was being teased – he was the only Chinese boy in our school. I don’t remember what I said to him, only that years later he remembered. I’ve always been the person people confided in. When I had a free session with my first coach I knew I wanted to be in her chair.
Did you go to school for this?
Yes, I took my training with the Coaches Training Institute. It is the most reputable training facility for coaches. They are based out of San Rafael, California but do remote location training as well as certification which takes places over six months over the phone. I graduated with over 100 practicum hours.
Did you go to university? What did you go to university for?
I attended six glorious years of university and focused on my degree in English. Unlike the other English majors, I had no interest in teaching. I dabbled in 16 different disciplines – my theory continues to be: try new things and if you don’t like them after, don’t try them again.
How did this help your career?
While my English degree doesn’t specifically come in handy while I’m coaching the critical thinking and communication skills I picked up at university certainly do. As I develop curriculum for workshops, I’m able to draw on my university education. My coach training was invaluable. CTI’s training model teaches that our clients are “naturally creative, resourceful and whole” – meaning you know what it is you want, able to get it and you’re not broken. I bring this philosophy to all relationships, personal and professional.
Who are your biggest mentors/influences in your career?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have amazing women in my life who helped shape me and guide me on my journey. From teachers who instilled a sense of self worth and esteem in me, to close family friends who helped me understand family dynamics, and an amazing mom and mother-in-law. Right now, my two biggest influences are my mentor Leanor Vlug, a determined and passionate advocate within the deaf community, and Dr. Brené Brown. Dr. Brown’s work on vulnerability is changing our emotional landscape and the language we use to communicate. I hope to meet her one day.
From a personal perspective, how does how does your work inform your life outside the office?
I find that people gravitate towards me because of my work as a “joy and laughter coach,” sometimes to my detriment. People emotionally unload their issues on me on a fairly regular basis – complete strangers. My coach training has fundamentally changed how I interact with people. Typically in conversation people are listening for their cue to give advice or feedback and “fix” their friends. I tend to ask deep probing questions and flip it back on my friends. My coach hat isn’t always on, but it is always in the room.
What’s a pretty cool thing you get to do regularly that someone who ISN’T a Life Coach would get to do?
I am developing a web cooking series where I cook, speak and use sign language at the same time. It takes me a bit longer to cook, because it’s not like I can chit-chat while I’m chopping onions. I’m also getting back into standup comedy. I guess I love being in front of an audience, which I don’t always get when I’m coaching one-on-one.
What is a personal career highlight so far?
Being asked to be a guest speaker at eight events in four months when I’m relatively new to my city. I’ve spoken at four Motivational Mondays -an open mic night for speakers in Barrie, Toronto, and Guelph, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec.. I was asked to speak before the president of an international company owned by Warren Buffett. (I’d like to meet him one day too!) I organized Barrie’s first Free Hug campaign – 14 people hugged 2000-3000 strangers over 4 hours. One of the women who got a hug had not been hugged in 10 years. I live to put smiles on people’s faces.
Does your life outside the office inform your work? If so, how?
Through a lot of personal soul searching, I have found myself back in the deaf community after many years of feeling like I didn’t belong. While I identify as hard of hearing, I am still looked upon as a person with privilege because I can hear. There are some who begrudge my involvement in the community and many who have accepted me with open arms. I’m sensitive to these issues and they shape my coaching and teaching within both the deaf and hearing communities. My sense of humor as a comedian is always present – either on the call with a client or in a classroom with workshop attendees.
How is your life outside your office different from your work?
I’m a bit more of a potty mouth. I do my best to maintain a professional demeanor on social media, although since I’ve been getting back into standup comedy, I’m a lot more playful with words. Even though I love an audience, I also really value quiet and stillness. I don’t watch a lot of TV unless it is to binge on Netflix series.
Creatively and personally, what are the major benefits of your career?
There is something magical in being able to ask deep, probing questions and see someone’s “AHA!” moment come to life. To help people connect with that greater sense of meaning they’ve been looking for. It’s breathtaking. Living a meaningful life is of great personal importance to me, and I help others with that very thing.
Prior to pursuing coaching full time, I was an executive assistant for several years. I knew it wasn’t what I was meant to be. Towards the end, I was having atypical panic attacks and confounding my neurologist and GI specialist with constant migraines and digestive issues. These ended when I left that job. While my income levels at the moment are not where they used to be, I am more emotionally, physically and mentally healthier than I have been in years because I wake up happy to do my work.
What are the drawbacks, if any?
My gremlin (inner critic, chief jerk in charge) sometimes wreaks havoc on me. Are my clients getting what they need out of our sessions? Am I bringing value to this classroom? I think many of us feel that way about our work. One drawback are people who emotionally deplete me – I need to learn better ways to set boundaries.
Another drawback is that many people don’t understand what coaches do. They think we give advice on how to run your life. * We don’t – we help you dig deeper for what it is you want and you do the work. Business coaches are in high demand because executives understand their value. In my experience people view life coaches as a luxury item, instead of a necessity. The investment of three to six months of life coaching will give you clarity, purpose and drive to go further in your life but many people don’t quite get that.
*(MB’s note: Until I met Jean I TOTALLY thought the same thing!)
What advice would you give someone considering this as a career?
1. Try a free coaching session- many coaches offer a 30 minute sample session.
2. Research reputable coach training organizations. Get trained in coaching skills.
3. Partner with business-minded people if marketing and self-promotion is not your strong suit.
4. Do what makes you happy. If your job has you dreading each day, shore up the courage to ask yourself some tough and real questions about what it is you’re meant to be in your life. Then get started!