This new blog series is about me purposefully opening myself up more than I ever have before and seeing what flows. This is me committing fully to hide nothing and hold nothing back. It’s an experiment in vulnerability. Yet in the process I hope to reconnect more with who I really am so I can better serve others.
Today I’m coming out and saying it proudly; I am not perfect. I am muddling my way through as I go. I am not some Instagram ideal of what a business / life coach is and I’m tired of pretending otherwise.
As I’ve come to terms with this idea recently its opened up a whole range of emotions and new insights for me. Its dawned on me how much I’ve been hiding and pretending these past few years and I’m ready to move past that. Right now.
This was highlighted recently for me when I found a poem I wrote when I was younger titled: If I was David Bowie I wouldn’t have had my teeth done.
And I really meant it too.
Because the thing is I’ve always liked things a little edgy, a little earthy and real. I grew up listening to Nirvana and Guns n Roses and The Stones. I spent my 20s obsessed with the Beats and Bukowski. I used to drink far too much, and stay up all weekend. So, the idea of being overly polished and shiny-teethed wasn’t something that ever really appealed to me.
Yet, next month I finish off a 2 year course of Invisalign, which has made my teeth all straight and nice, and ends in a treatment to make them all white too!
You see something changed a few years ago and its only now that I’m really seeing it fully. Somewhere along my journey I reverted back to acting from fear rather than love. A state I thought I’d grown out of a long time ago. And actually what I thought was me having it all figured out was actually just me getting a whole lot better at tricking myself.
Now don’t get me wrong, my life is good by and large. I love what I do, I’m very grateful for all I have and I get married in September which I can’t wait for. Yet recently I’ve managed to peel back another layer of the onion of Matt and discovered a whole heap of blocks and complexes I didn’t even know were there.
So while its still a step further on my journey of self-realization I also feel its a weird time for me right now while I deepen my understanding and step beyond these things.
You see, I’ve been coaching now for just over 2 years now and I absolutely love it. I love every client I’ve worked with and I’m really good at what I do. I know 100% this is my calling. But….its been a long journey here and looking back now I’m starting to see a pattern that perhaps explains why I’m writing this now.
Because if we were to have a quick rundown of things I’ve done over the last 38 years we’d see:
Artist, guitarist, singer, actor, writer, poet, theatre and film producer, personal trainer and now coach…
And that’s not including the ages between 5 and 12, where, in no particular order I wanted to be; Han Solo (still do really!); a ghostbuster; a magician and The karate kid…
And, as this is experiments in vulnerability, while that all reads rather grand it’s important to point out here that there is also a lot of soul-destroying office work in that mix. The kind of work that isn’t worth talking about but that actually paid the bills for most of the time.
However, despite being a creative soul and being pretty damn tenacious with all those projects for most of the time, there always came a point when I stopped enjoying what I was doing. The lightness and joy of creativity got overtaken by struggle and perfectionism. As I went forward with my vision I fell into the trap of comparing myself to others. To the point where I ended up second-guessing myself and eventually giving in and moving on.
The pattern seems to go that whenever I’m operating from fear I revert to hiding behind a shield of faux-perfection. I feel I’m not enough so I act out, trying to go the other way – to counter the feelings; to try and kid myself, as much as the world, that I’m flawless.
But I’m not going to do that any more.
I realised that for too long now that’s what’s been happening with my coaching. Rather than standing firm footed and allowing the real me to show I’ve been hiding behind the sheen that social media allows. I’ve not been untruthful, but I’ve been very selective in what I allowed to be visible. But I realise now how counter-productive and silly this really is.
In fact, at the very start of my coaching journey I even chose to go under another last name – which partly was due to me still being an actor and not wanting to confuse the 2 careers – but really, if I’m honest, its because I was scared of this new world and wanted a buffer between me and the ‘me’ I was putting out on display.
These insights all came to me recently after a coaching session I had (as coachee) with the brilliant Ankush Jain, who helped me see where I’d been going wrong. What I realised during the conversation, and more so as I’ve deepened my understanding afterwards was that I’ve been trying too hard to be perfect when actually I should work more on being me. And I’m already perfect at being me. I was caught up in the old ‘I’ll be happy/successful/complete when..’ trap. A misunderstanding that outside circumstances were responsible for my happiness and sense of purpose. But I know they never, ever are.
So I’m committing now to being the perfect me, and that is someone who is very imperfect. But someone who is ready to let that really show. I’m committing to sharing myself more and allowing deeper connections to form.
Because for too long I felt I had to show prospective clients how impressive I was. Which I imagine put some of them off. I know now how counter-productive this is; how coaching is never about impressing people but instead about building strong relationships, connecting on a deep level and true, impactful service.
By trying to be perfect and impressive I wasn’t allowing true connections to be made. And its perhaps only the clients that I felt comfortable enough to let my guard down with that have hired me up to now.
I also had some powerful insights regarding fees that fit with this idea of a need to impress. I guess it all goes back to the idea of comparing myself with people much further along in their careers. I felt that to be truly impressive as a coach it was important to set high fees from the off. To show how amazing I was, how top class I was.
So I did, then I put them down when no one wanted to hire me. Then I got some clients, so I put them up again, and I got some more clients, so I put them up some more, then I had a few ‘Nos’ so I put them down again, and then I got some more and blah blah blah…
I’m sure if you’re a coach or service professional or anyone who sets their own fees you can relate to this.
But here’s the thing; to date I’ve never had a full coaching practice. (And thats really edgy for me to write but this the game isn’t it?) Sure I’ve had quite a few clients at any one time, but I’ve never been full. And Ankush helped me see that at this stage of my career its much more important to get a full practice and coach my ass off than work with just 4 or 5 clients at any one time. So this is something else I’ll be exploring going forward.
Because I see now how comparing myself to others, be they people in other bands, other actors, other coaches, other humans – its a path to nowhere good. Its like trying to go straight to the finish line without enjoying the race.
Actually that’s a terrible analogy, no one really enjoys races do they? Instead how about we let Alan Watts take this as this is a beautiful, apt and wonderful quote:
Life is NOT a Journey – remember to dance and sing… Because music, as an art form is essentially playful. We say, “You play the piano” You don’t work the piano. Why music differs from say, travel is when you travel you’re trying to get somewhere. In music, though, one doesn’t make the end of the composition the point of the composition. If that were so, the best conductors would be those who played fastest. And there would be composers who only wrote finales. People would go to a concert just to hear one crackling chord… Because that’s the end!
For too long now I’ve been focussing on the last chord rather than enjoying the symphony (there, much better) I’ve looked at other coaches that I admire, other people in the industry and I’ve compared 2 year me to 5, 10 even 20 years them.
And looking back this is what happened with my music, my acting, everything. I heard Rich Litvin once say that he realised he’d been comparing how he felt inside to how others appeared on the outside. I’ve been doing exactly the same. And I realise now this is what has held me back a lot in the past. Comparing myself to other people has made me fearful of being truly me.
And this doesn’t allow for deep connection with others, it doesn’t allow for my vulnerabilities and foibles to give my clients the go ahead to share their own. It stops me being as authentic and open and grounded as I want to be. As I should be.
And I know I’m intelligent, I know I’m empathetic, caring, a good listener and I have really great imagination. I’m fantastic at lighting fires under others, helping them see how special they are and to see how things that might seem impossible are actually really achievable.
These are all great traits for my work with clients when I let them really flow.
But… I’m also clumsy, self-conscious, introverted, sarcastic, messy and grumpy sometimes. I can procrastinate for days, I skip meditating some mornings to watch the cookery channel, I can be argumentative and downright silly when I want to be. I read a lot of pretty heavy books but I watch quite a lot of ‘crap’ TV too, and enjoy it. I still tear up every time I watch Rachel appear at that door and say ‘I got off the plane’ (Damn it I’m tearing up now just typing that!)
And just because I’ve had this insight doesn’t mean I’m any more sorted either. I’ll still get caught up in the outside-in misunderstanding on a regular basis of course. Just like we all will. I’ll still get envious and impatient and blame external things for my ‘lack’.
But its all part of the game, all part of the dance.
And you know, I don’t regret any of it, least of all getting my teeth done. In fact, I love them. What I once described as a ‘row of wonky tic tacs‘ now looks pretty good. And I’ll even get the whitening treatment. Though this might be more for the wedding photos than personal vanity. (Nope its not, its mainly vanity.)
But really what I like about them most is I feel like I’m smiling a lot more now. And maybe it’s the teeth, but maybe also its because I’m enjoying myself again, maybe its because I feel I am allowing ‘me’ to come back and I’m becoming more connected to who I really am, imperfections and all. Whatever the reason. I’m now loving the
journey dance again and can’t wait to see what’s next.
I’m so glad I’ve had this insight. I feel like a massive weight has lifted off me, that lightness of creativity feels like its come back and I feel like I’m ready to show up a lot more powerfully but also more playfully from now on. No more being apologetic and muted. No more being anodyne and ‘easy listening’. I want to be me, shit tattoos and all (and believe me, they really are) (OK, some things I do regret a bit!)
It also feels fateful, or maybe right on, that I’ve had these insights now – as I begin working with Ankush and the legendary Steve Chandler in 2 weeks on their group programme for coaches. I can’t wait to see where this takes me and I’ll try and document what comes up, what happens and where it takes me next.
So if you’ve got this far thanks for reading, thanks for being you. I hope we connect soon.
Oh and I dug out the Bowie poem and include it below…reading it again it feels quite apt.
IF I WAS DAVID BOWIE I WOULDN’T HAVE HAD MY TEETH DONE
If I was David Bowie
I wouldn’t have had my teeth done
I liked his teeth before
In the videos
and on the record sleeves
They looked odd
Lupine and mysterious
I guess it’s a symptom of fame
You lose sight of what you are
What you really are
Or what you were
Now he’s just a sanitised
Coca cola version of himself
(Spelt with a ‘Z’)
(That’s pronounced’ Zee’)
Fame hits and destroys the soul
People get lost in it all
A thousand empty egos
Into the blank expectant crowd.
If I was David Bowie
I wouldn’t have had my teeth done
And nobody would, they say
We tell ourselves
we won’t fall into all that
we’ll fall on our swords first
We’ll rise above it all
we’ll get sucked in
Bask in the avarice
Relish the mirror
And do it
all over again.
RIP DAVE x