Jack was running his business in the cavernous footsteps of his larger-than-life father. The father loved to make big deals and was very successful for most of his life. Jack’s father was prominent in the community, a philanthropist, sought after by the boards of local charities, and honored as a major contributor.
Not surprisingly, Jack idolized his dad.
Jack was not a great student, which was somewhat disappointing to his parents. Instead of going away to school, Jack went to the local junior college. He knew he would have to work extra hard to get into the state university in his hometown. He graduated with a commendable grade point average, but only with outsize effort. Jack went to work for his father who viewed him as a nice kid but unlikely to set the world on fire as he had done. He worked in his father’s shadow for more than ten years and met his dad’s expectations — which is to say that he had not — to his regret — set the world ablaze.
When I began coaching Jack, his dad was at retirement age and had just tried one more huge deal. This time it tanked. The losses would effectively wipe out his entire wealth, and the stress was affecting his health. Jack would be required to do all of the work of saving the family business while settling his father’s debt. He supervised the sale of substantially all of the family’s assets while trying to keep enough money flowing into the business. During our executive coaching sessions, he defined the artificial limits he perceived as coming from his father’s great success and low expectations of him. That had been a great barrier to Jack for too long and he needed to get it handled or suffer the worst consequences of his life.
He soon realized the seeming futility of bumping up against his perceived limits had made it easy for him to give up. He often did not expect to win, therefore always quit before the job was really done. Understanding this barrier did not end his thoughts of inadequacy or fear of failure — but it did make them easier to push through. With coaching, he learned to identify his own strengths and match them to opportunities where he could have the best chance of success. Jack also began to own his weaknesses and avoid setting himself up for failure by accepting the wrong challenges.
In a short time, Jack was closing deals that met the revenue needs of the business. He fed his growing family and took care of his parents’ needs as well. In time, he became more involved in the community and his church and in a few years, began to serve on charity boards which drove more business success for him.
I met with him recently. Jack has just completed his second term as President of his father’s favorite charity. His business has changed. Much of his work is now fee-based. He is a recognized expert in his area and a sought-after consultant. Through coaching, Jack discovered his barriers to success and learned to manage around them. His success is due to his own talent, but may never have been achieved without the work we did together as coach and client.
All of us have erected some psychological barriers for ourselves. These are the voices in our head that keep us limited. When we believe we cannot achieve a new level of performance, that belief has been constructed within us. If we believe we are limited because of cultural or educational factors or station of birth we may very well stay dutifully inside artificially constructed parameters for most of our lives. If we have internalized the voice of an authoritarian parent or teacher that pigeonholed us, it may limit performance or drive us relentlessly. We become what we imagine ourselves to be.
If we believe we have restrictive limits, we certainly do. If we believe we are limitless and we only need find the right path, our chances for success are huge. Therefore, our coaches know how to uncover limiting beliefs and teach clients to navigate around them, so they can thrive.