Q&A Blog

Ask me anything, I'll answer.

Justin Asks...

I have no idea what "coaching" means. You just go to places and give a pep talk?

I get this question a lot. I think just going places and giving a pep talk might be more like cheerleading. Which I am more than happy to do if anyone wishes to hire me for such a thing. Along the same line as, "What is coaching?" I also hear, "What’s the difference between a consultant and a coach?"

Here's the short answer: 

When I’m consulting, I’m helping a client create a product. It’s like, “Hey, I can fix/design that for you.” or “Let’s workshop this and solve some problems!”

When I’m coaching, I’m working with teams and/or individuals on the process of changing behaviors. We explore challenges and goals, and come up with the best choices for them based on where they are at and their vision for their future. I don't do the work for them, I guide, inspire, listen, encourage and advise.

My coaching in greater detail:

This service offering was born from the pretty standard UX consulting arrangement, which I still do offer. What I found time and again in most engagements was that there were deeper challenges to work through than just getting said product out the door. Communication challenges within teams, across teams and departments, there were challenges with processes and understanding, professional development challenges, team-cohesion challenges, and in many cases I’d end up addressing many of those challenges as a part of the engagement just to get to the actual consulting/product makin' part. And wouldn’t you know it, I LOVED the people part. Even more than making the products in most instances because I am genuinely interested in the health and well-being of the people making these products. I've been studying coaching for longer than most people realize, exactly because of my human interest and my desire to make business and products more "human." I think in our iOS world, folks think of me as "a designer." That's OK, but I've actually got a whole lot of other experience to offer.

I’ve heard different Chefs say that what you’re feeling, your mood and spirit, cooks right into the food you're making. The same applies to artists, designers and developers for the things we make. If the team making the products is not happy and healthy, the products will reflect that. Thusly, corporate coaching focuses toward building-up and strengthening teams, their communication, practices and behaviors. I offer tools, skills and perspective in addressing challenges and growing from them.

My coaching engagements are designed to help people create positive change and forward momentum in their lives. For some clients, the positive change they most want may be in the realm of personal goals such as financial management, time management, work-life balance, stress reduction, simplification, health, overall “Life Design” stuff.

Other clients may be more interested in professional or business goals such as developing a personal brand, improving leadership skills, getting a promotion, starting a business, charging more, etc. I work with my individual clients to help them live a better, richer life - regardless of their type of goals. 

Please let me know if this answered your question! And thank you for asking.  :)

Rachel S. Asks...

How do you make a living? Every time I see your Instagram and Twitter posts, it seems like you're always somewhere on vacation? How can you afford that?

Awesome question and I actually appreciate it, because I didn’t realize it looked like I was always on vacation.

I am lucky enough to be an independent consultant and coach. Just because I'm traveling doesn't mean I'm not working. In fact, it probably means I am traveling because I'm working. 

And working independently, at least for me, has taken some practice. I suppose, if I can offer any insights, here are 7 things (Maybe we should call this, 7 things to make it seem like you live on vacation?):

1. Know what services you offer.
I make most of my income through coaching and consulting. It has taken me some work and rework, and redefinition to really be able to articulate my services clearly. But I’ve got a really solid set of coaching and consulting offerings now and I’ve been really lucky to stay busy. 

2. Have more than one revenue stream.
For me, supplementary income comes from a mixture of speaking engagements, writing articles or blog posts about things I've learned or can teach in UX, design, and fumbling through burnout and back again. All things I hope can save others from having to go through, or if they are "in it" on similar situations, maybe some good tricks for getting through. Oh, and the occasional selling of coffee stain art pieces. I've also considered offering rides to-and-from the airport for a small fee. :D

3. Have some savings.
You always hear, "Prepare for the unexpected." How much savings one needs really depends on your individual circumstances. I’m great at helping people figure out what those are, though!
I Like Suze Orman's advice, of 6-8 months living expenses in an emergency fund.
You want savings in case things get slow, or other awesome expenses crop up, like all of your 12 yr old appliances break down at the same time and each need full-on replacement AND your adventurous 5 yr old decides to jump off the big slide at school and needs stitches from an ER visit. These sorts of things are realities that happen to the best of us. The better prepared you can be, the easier negotiating a well designed life will go. 
My personal perspective on savings: "Having savings is giving yourself the gift of time." Feel free to pass that on. :D 

4. Constantly improve your self-discipline.
This line has come up about 6 times in the past two days for me, "A person that wants a thing will find a way; a person who doesn't will find an excuse."
Making sure whether at home, someone else’s office, at an airport or in a hotel, that actual work gets done for a minimum amount of time each day. I’m constantly working on improvements to my own productivity and I really feel like I’ve made a lot of progress that has stuck. I’ve started using the Pomodoro Timer app for Mac, and it’s been AWESOME for me. 

5. Have a Plan B.
This one is fairly straight-forward but seriously, have a Plan B. Outline what the worst case scenario looks like. Be really clear on what actions you can take, to not flounder or get stuck in a downward spiral. For me, my guide is my bank account balance. I have an amount that I live on, I know my monthly expenses to the penny and what effects spending over my defined budget will have on my timelines of comfort. I have built buffer for unexpected misc, and an amount that sends off the alerts to BUST A MOVE. And even if I hit bust-a-move mode, I still have some time before things get dire. And if things get dire, I list my house, and initiate: PLAN B. 

6. Make your mental/physical health a priority.
For me, the trick is really finding something that gets you into a rhythm that is repeatable. And I think that a huge part of self-discipline includes making time for healthy activity. It’s really been a struggle for me to come back to that one, but I feel really positive about the progress I’ve made in the last 3-4 months. And my brain feels the benefits.

I've always said this about living in Las Vegas, it's one of the easiest, cheapest places to get in and out of. Everything is about a 30-45 minute drive for me, many of the hiking/nature pics I post to Instagram are literally a 30 minute drive from my house, at either Mt. Charleston or Red Rock. When I’m home, I can carve out an hour and a half to go on a gorgeous hike, because it is important to me and the end-product of the work I do and the type of person I am/want to be. And if I simply cannot take that much time, there’s a 2 mile loop at a park that is a 3 minute drive from my house. I can knock that out in almost no time at all, right between dropping my kids at school or summer camp and making coffee.

7. Remain flexible.
This is in reference to as many things as you can make it apply, while still remaining clear on what you do and why. I offer a fairly defined list of services but I remain open to conversations about what people need or are looking for.  I like dialogue, if it gets us where we want to be.
I work within people’s budgets, I simply request knowing what the budget is, so that I can tailor services to match. 

I hope these answer your question and thank you again for asking! I’m not always on vacation but as an advocate for Life Design, I’m getting things figured out so that there’s not a lot of separation between work and life. It’s just… Life. And loving life. There are ups and downs, but you know what, I’m working hard to keep what I've got going, and growing!