For five life-altering years, I was repeatedly asked to stand on the edge of a treacherous cliff. Here I would journey through a dramatic career shift, parenthood, numerous health hurdles, divorce, and what seemed like an endless rebuilding of basic foundational needs.
With each upheaval, I was forced to look down over loose gravel capable of dismantling itself — and me — with one false move. I was routinely required, not asked politely, to gather every ounce of courage I had to scale the unknown again and again.
For what felt like an eternity, I was dangling on the edge of my comfort zone.
The intriguing plot twist is that, over time, something remarkable happened: I began to crave the ascent, an act of genuine conviction. Surviving the cliff’s edge after many steps to reach it became incredibly empowering. The cold wind howling at the peak feels less bitter and, instead, reminds me of how much I have endured, how strong I have become, and how there is no turning back for me. Through repeated effort, I was forced to become a notably different person.
Naturally, I vehemently resisted this lesson at first. The pain of change was unbearable. Then, I realized, I am far greater than any fear my mind could attempt to create. This awareness was monumental to my personal growth and the construction of a life with little to no regret.
A Coachable Leader Practices Free-falling
My journey is rooted in a metaphor, of course, but the lesson is fundamental. We must be willing to continuously shed old skin, learn to rise, and step into our tremendous source of power over and over again.
This lesson is especially true when things get rocky. As an example, when tasked with the humbling, yet thrilling, feat of raising a Series A, B, or C round while receiving competing messages from prospective investors. We want to come out victorious, but what is the right path? Who can we trust? And, most crucial, how can we ensure our sweat equity won’t get destroyed before we hit our peak?
The answer is simple. Freefall into the abyss regularly. Stand courageously at the cliff’s edge with your arms spread wide, and peer down with nothing but blind faith. This is the moment where bravery meets brilliance — in the infinite unknown.
Skilled leadership coaches know how to spot leaders willing to make this jump. We refer to them as “a coachable leader.” And when we engage with clients on that dynamic precipice, the outcome can be remarkable. Before beginning this courageous coach-client journey, these are the four things leadership coaches wish their clients knew:
A Coachable Leader Embraces The Unknown
Hiding out in the security of the familiar is tempting because our human brains crave order. However, coachable leaders have shown us that we can arrive at incredible outcomes without ever knowing where we are going. Most leaders vacillate between two extremes.
There’s the deceit of the comfort trap, where everything is predictable, familiar, and feels flat beneath our feet. But this often leaves us feeling stagnant and uninspired as if there’s nothing left to do or accomplish. The polar opposite is overwhelming unknown, where everything is so foreign and complicated that we become paralyzed by fear.
The overly cautious and calculating leader might ask: How do I know when it’s time to expand our wildly successful app globally? With a steady stream of domestic traffic and impressive numbers for future investors, is that too big of a risk? It’s a dream, but how can I be sure it will work in our favor? As you can see, there is limited room for growth here.
We must venture out into the wilds of the unknown. Only when we choose to operate with courageous curiosity can we move out of this “stuck” place and become a coachable leader. Our common-sense perceptions keep us safe, but they do not serve an existence where we believe there are exhilarating discoveries yet to make themselves known.
Allow yourself to relax into the mystery and phenomena beyond the boundaries of the expected.
The World is Desperate For You to Be Who You Are
“To be nobody-but-yourself —
in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else —
means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.”
– E.E. Cummings
The world is a noisy place right now. The most influential and powerful leaders among us know we must develop new ways of approaching challenges that we previously handled unskillfully. And we must do so with absolute conviction.
Think of Steve Jobs. His self-governing attitude led him to disrupt and ultimately dictate the evolution of modern technology. Jobs jumped off that cliff, sans bungee cord, despite his fear and shortcomings for a real shot at accelerated, sustainable growth. He was able to access his most clear agency by simply listening to his internal voice and taking ownership of his intrinsic compass.
Let’s be honest, though. Steve Jobs was an anomaly. Most of us want to live authentically, but we’re not sure how. A skilled coach will be able to push you to this place just enough, without knocking you over. They will challenge you to examine yourself, edit limiting mindsets, take smart tactical risks, and learn to rely upon your internal GPS and intuition more readily.
Only when we can take responsibility for creating a consolidated and integrated roadmap for ourselves can we realize our full potential.
Fear is Your Untapped Super Power
Where there is fear, there is power.
We hear this often, but how many of us are willing to sit at the table and invite fear to pull up a chair? Instead, we do just about everything to run as far away from fear as possible. It’s biological, we are wired to self-protect, but this reaction doesn’t always serve us. The most successful people I know aren’t running from their fear. They’re investigating it. They have the ability to remove the armor, throttle back, and mine their fear for gold.
This exercise reveals a well of untapped personal power and strength (fire) that wouldn’t have been available to them otherwise.
When we choose to hide from our fear, we don’t just lose out on potential successes. Fear ignored manifests itself in sneaky ways. Think about when you feel the pangs of anxiety, greed, anger, over-consumption, technology addiction, and blame, to name just a few. That is often fear, left unchecked. It’s emerging as distraction, blocking the pathway to what is asking for our attention. Coaches help coachable leaders examine and recognize these patterns, and work with them to cultivate a radically different and rewarding relationship with fear.
What would happen if you decided to shift your fear and take a bold leap into the proverbial ring? Vulnerability expert, Brené Brown, nudges us in this direction: “Be afraid and do it anyway.”
In the spirit of rebellion and freedom, I’d like to invite you to become a professional cliff diver and consider this: At the end of your life, what are you currently doing or not doing, experiencing or not experiencing, giving yourself carte blanche to express or armoring against, and terrified to feel or not feel that would trigger the greatest regret?
Here is where your work begins.
Brown, B. (2018). Hello Humans: Be Afraid and Do It Anyway. How to Human Podcast.
Kallal, L. (N.D.). A Simple Process to Turn Fear Into Power. Tiny Buddha.