Why I Hired My Biggest Critic to Be My Coach.

We all need someone in our face telling us we can do better.

Sure criticism stinks!  But so does not getting to your goal...

In fact, that second part of the equation is the part that we can easily forget if we aren't tough enough on ourselves.

And not that "don't eat one more Twinkie" type of toughness.  The type of toughness where you put yourself at the very edges of painful discomfort.

It's that one hand on the branch hanging off the edge of the cliff type of discomfort...

Look.  I get it.  When you think of motivation, what first pops into your mind?

No one wants a middle-aged, masochistic drill instructor spitting inspiration six inches too close to their face.

Not you.  Not me...

But putting yourself in that position can pay off big time for you.

In fact, there's a darn good chance you'll find yourself exceeding your expectations in a big way.

When I was CEO of ALSS, back in Washington, DC I was invited to join Vistage by the chairman of a local group.  I had been asked to join Vistage a year earlier by another leader, but my schedule was way too busy for me to consider joining anything else.  But this time when Lowell asked me to join, it felt right.  And so I joined (8) other CEO's -- soon to be more than a dozen in the coming weeks -- in meeting once a month for an all-day strategy session.

I was a member for about (15) months.  Some of the hardest days of my life.

I was in the middle of growing my company to multiple locations up the East Coast while talking with buyers about selling the company and signing away $6.5 Million of money I didn't have to the shareholders of the company in order to option my rights to the company.  I was traveling non-stop, working for days (literally) without sleep, and training for ultimate fighting during my lunch hour.  My marriage was a huge mess and although I was seemingly doing the "impossible", I was becoming deeply depressed inside.

My one solace, was this group.  Once a month I got the chance to spend the day with other executives who really understood the pressure.  And I was about to find out that that was about to be over.  In the middle of this horribly stressful time, Lowell called me one afternoon and asked me to leave the group.  He was kicking me out: "I wasn't right for the group..."

We had had several differences of opinions in the past, but I never imagined that "being annoying" would earn me the boot.  I felt completely misunderstood.  And pretty upset.

Fast forward two years.  Lowell is my personal coach.  I pay him hundreds of dollars per hour to push me in ways that shouldn't ordinarily be possible.

Why Would I Do That?

Well, I realized that Lowell might be right.  He wasn't right about my motivations, my intentions, my strategy, or what made me tick.  But deep down I realized that I needed to be a better me.  He was right about that.

My relationships, my talents, my dreams, my ambitions -- they all needed to be taken up another level or two.

So when the time was right, I hired Lowell to help me do that.

Here's a few things to think about:

  1. We can't do it on our own -- When things get tough, we tend to pull back.  Sure we may push ourselves harder and farther than a lot  other people.  But those people don't rally count.  You do.
  2. We need brutal honesty -- Critics can be cruel but they can also be honest.  Think about it -- their whole mission is to find that one little shred of slight evidence that you are full of sh*t and throw it back in your face as evidence that you are some sort of hypocrite.  Stand up and listen.  It's painful.  But inside the spiteful accusations are clues to unlimited success.
  3. We really want to fulfill our dreams -- Nothing matters more than you realizing one day that you have accomplished your wildest dreams.  And that (sadly) is a rare event for a lot of us.  Having someone shouting at you from the sidelines sure makes it easier to grab your dreams.

Who is your biggest critic?

You might not be able to hire him (or her).  That might not even make sense.  But you might want to listen to what they have to say.  You don't have to agree.

Lowell Nerenberg is my coach (and my critic).  But he's more that - he's helping me be successful.

Who do you have in your life that is doing that for you?