Not too long ago, I thought the very notion of a life coach was nonsense. I considered the profession - if it even was a profession - to be a notch or two below chiropractors and right up there with self-help book writers who prey on suckers down on their luck.
Then one day I had an epiphany, of sorts.
As you might expect, I get a lot of reader email. Mostly they want to tell me what they think of my point of view, pro or con. It might surprise you to know just how much writers value your feedback and perspective. Great philosophers might work in a vacuum. Commentators...not so much.
It probably comes as no surprise that some readers spout off with angry rants, usually because I've hit a hidden nerve or exposed some sort of foolishness they've gotten themselves involved in. Since I have extremely thick skin and a tiny sadistic devil living inside my head, I admit to getting a kick out of those.
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But the emails that interest me most are from people in need of help. Most are surprised that I respond, but, what can I say, I like to help people. Not that I do it for entirely altruistic reasons. Truth is, I do it because it's fun, it makes me feel good and I'm good at it.
And since I perform this service free of charge, I imagine the perks of the job include plenty of Karma points. That's very important to me because I suspect that, in a former life, I was an enormous jerk. Don't ask why; it's a long story.
As for this pro bono job of helping people with their career or workplace problems, what I generally do is provide guidance that comes from years of experience, as well as perspective that comes from not being in their shoes.
I help people see things that, on some level, they probably already knew. Once they gain that insight into themselves, they usually know what to do about it. If not, I guide them to the right conclusion. And my confidence that they're on the right track reinforces their own self-confidence, which makes it more likely that they'll actually act on it.
This went on for a long time until one day it hit me: OMG, I'm a life coach.
The problem is, people can't always see what's right in front of their face. They know things aren't going well but they lack the business or corporate experience to know why their career or business isn't working out as they'd hoped. And since they can't see themselves objectively, they lack the perspective to see what's really going on.
Funny thing is, that's exactly what happens with senior executives in the corporate world. It eventually dawned on me that what I'd been doing for a living for years as a management consultant and executive coach is more or less the same thing I've been doing for my readers. I guess that explains why I'm good at it. It requires the same skill set, albeit scaled down a bit. The need is there, that's for sure.
I just want to be clear about one thing before I finish this mea culpa and call it a day. If you approach me on the street and ask me to my face, "Is it true? Are you really a life coach?" I will flat out deny it. It just sounds too much like I have my own life together, which, of course, I don't.
But just because my life isn't perfect doesn't mean I can't help you with yours. It's all about perspective. So if you need any help, go right ahead and contact me through the link to my company, below. I'm happy to do it on the house ... and rack up all those Karma points.
This post originally appeared at Entrepreneur. Copyright 2014.
Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive and author of "Real Leaders Don't Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur." Learn more, contact Tobak or follow his new blog at stevetobak.com. Any opinions expressed are those of the columnist.