Lance Buchan is a coaching client with whom I started working with in October 2012, almost a year later we reflected on all that has changed and shifted for him and his life, and I was delighted when he agreed to share his story. (so far)
Can you share a bit of background on your situation and how things were for you before you started your coaching journey?
I’m a 43 year old entrepreneur from Cape Town. I felt stuck…uneasy about my own success. I’d been trying for five years to market a software product I produced with a customer. But the harder I tried, the more I felt a breakthrough would not be a good result for me. I assumed this was due to low self-esteem and worked on this with a therapist. I also worked with an experienced business mentor to improve my sales skill, marketing approach, strategy, and confidence. I read the best books I could find on success, tried visualisation and affirmation, and worked harder. No breakthrough; but I couldn’t let go either. I pondered Plan B; ‘Maybe I should quit being an entrepreneur and find a job as a software developer?’ But even though I had the willpower to write the half-million+ words of Java code to create the product for my own business, I could not see myself writing code as an employee. I also felt confused about where to base the business: Here or London? No matter how I reasoned, I felt only one option: Push on! Then, in a talk at Kirstenbosch in September of 2012, Prof. Tim Noakes got my attention with the words “overcoming limiting beliefs”, and I feel indebted to him, because he referred me to Tim Goodenough that morning—someone who could help me do just that.
What was the most valuable thing that you got/experienced from this process?
I’ve learnt that, to succeed as an entrepreneur, one must start by having fun, and be able to feel whether a strategy would be fun and support a great life all-round. At Kirstenbosch that morning, I was looking for ways to remove a block that I felt was keeping me from working harder. I was out of touch with my feelings, blind to emotional pain—a condition that had taken hold of me, starting in childhood. Within minutes of meeting, as I made coffee, Tim offered a metaphor around a picture of London on my wall: as the picture was contained by the frame, our thinking is contained or even constrained by our beliefs, which are often invisible to us—when you are the picture, unless you step back, you can’t see the frame.
As we sat down, I explained that, each day, I’d feel detached from priorities I’d set the day before, as though set by someone I didn’t know. Tim drew a stickman with beliefs in the mind, stacked like a skyscraper; some positive, others negative, and explained how we all carry around thousands of beliefs, each of which has some impact on our experience, our body, and our lives. We hold beliefs-about-our-beliefs, which can hide the most powerful beliefs, the CEOs, so it’s vital to review our beliefs, and update the (hidden) beliefs that aren’t working for us. I had a belief that, to succeed, I had to slave-drive myself, no matter the impact on my life. To compound this, I couldn’t feel what my body was trying to tell me, so I couldn’t know (upfront) whether a plan, once fulfilled, would create a life I desired. At the oddest moments I discovered limiting beliefs—powerful chains deep in my mind—that drained my energy and denied what I truly desire. These moments of insight emerged spontaneously in-between coaching sessions with Tim—an immense curiosity had started deep within me. I found another crippling belief: before I could enjoy a vibrant personal life, I first had to achieve major career success. My most powerful awareness, and one that literally has changed my life, is that writing endless lines of computer code which is lonely and intense is not what I am meant to do with my life. My joy comes from interacting with and doing things to champion people.
Specifically what techniques did you use, and how did they help you?
Early on, I scripted a day-in-the-life-of-my-dream-business—an HD Movie. It started as snippets, and blended into a narrative, which I imagined before sleep. I let the script evolve; stints at the office, software demos, developers at work—but the scenes that warmed my heart needed no computers. They weren’t in the office, so I realised I was chasing a goal that wasn’t “ecological” for me, but I couldn’t yet see why. (Ecological means checking to see if something is positive and healthy for ALL parts of my life.) Then, before a tennis lesson, six days after Tim and I had last met, I woke up feeling odd…and read up on the Basic Change Technique in Raising Talent. I wrote ‘what belief holds this in place?’ and for each answer that welled up ‘what does this mean to me?’ The deepest one—the CEO—startled me: “people can’t define who they are with my product.” I realised that, to love my work, I need to feel I’m making a difference for people. As a boy of eleven, I ran a little business farming chickens, and brought a smile to many a farmhand, but the enterprise was gobbled up one night when I left the chicken coop gate open. Due to circumstances, there was no chance to make good…to rekindle my early enterprising path. A belief formed: “I don’t deserve to succeed in business.” At high school, I dropped Business Awareness—a favourite subject and teacher—and in five years at Uni I never set foot in the business faculty. Then, thirty years later, Tim helped me reshape that event into the learning it merely was, and by using the Coaching Funnel, Lightning Rod, and A+ Why Question techniques, I’m embedding a strong desire to deserve success by serving people in ways I value.
To rebuild my trust in running my own enterprise, I’m breathing life into my dream with a new HD Movie—a vision to guide my life with a script that keeps me centre stage having fun.
What are the key lessons that you have learned at this stage in your life , that would benefit other’s like you earlier in life?
Write your own script. Imagine you know someone who is a master at writing essays; you get this person to write your essays, and you hand them in as your own, but the teacher is unaware. How would you feel about your marks, and would you keep your report cards? If you allow anyone but yourself to sway you, or neglect to research the ideal career for you, you’re at risk of feeling like that about every salary and award you’ll receive in your career. As time goes by, your emotions will desensitize, you’ll become ever-more unaware, and feel uneasy, but you won’t know why. I’ve found that a bumpy career and a lacklustre personal life have a lot in common. By not being who we truly are, we’ll not only feel out-of-place at work, but limit our chances of meeting the right life partner—like a salmon in a tropical river.
While Tim and I explored what I value, I had an idea…something I should’ve done in 1987. I asked: ‘what does school say about me?’ I thought about classes I loved, fun projects, “peak” sports moments, teachers who inspired me, and when I asked why they were fun, I felt glimpses of my why—my life’s energy. I summarised my school marks—all twelve years—and, as memories lit up, painted each column: orange if it was fun, blue if it was scary—no matter the mark. My memory of Maths is icy—25 years on. Blue. Yet what did I do? Engineering. Why? Well, it started when I dropped subjects I loved; one of them Business Awareness. It seemed normal to specialise early, particularly for bursaries, and keep the minimum subjects needed to qualify for Uni. In Grade 8, I loved 7 subjects out of 10, but by Grade 11, I loved only 2 out of 6, giving me a lot less variety (which I love), and making school feel ordinary. Outside school, I invented all kinds of ways to have fun, like building rockets, much to the cheer of friends and family. In Grade 11, Mum helped me fill out bursary forms, and as we did, I chose Mechanical-, rather than Chemical Engineering as expected by teachers, as that seemed closer to my passion given my pursuits outside school. As a parent, always ask why—the emotional reason—for the things a child likes to do, not only what they’re doing or how they’re doing it.
After school, I celebrated, and started Uni without looking back, but I was shocked to find two tons of Calculus books. At the same time I pined for my final year’s school results; I felt ashamed, as people at school had high expectations. I didn’t stop and ask how I was doing after the first semester, visit career guidance (and a therapist) on campus, or switch to a degree that would be more interesting—and useful. I pushed on, and graduated (doing final year twice), and was soon bored in my job. Three career changes and twenty five years later, I’m adjusting career again—with care.
So here’s what I’d do today…
One: I’d ignore my final results.
Two: I’d do a Myers & Briggs personality test.
Three: I’d hotlist careers based on my personality type.
Four: For each, I’d arrange for job-shadow to find the career I’d thrive in.
Five: I’d align my major subjects at Uni (or other tertiary) with subjects I loved at school.
Six (and most important): I’d take great care to think how to blend the tertiary skills (tools) I plan to gain into my career, particularly whether I’ll be employed or independent, as it gets harder to start a business later. For every career there are tools (skills), and there are ways to serve people that energizes us (purpose and values), and the two should be seen independently.
Ask yourself who you are, how you can best apply yourself, and master your skills. It’s a journey, and the greater your mentors, the easier it will be—independent or employed—so hold the company of people who see the superstar in you. Then, as an entrepreneur, especially at the start, be sure the values of your customers match your top values—e.g. fairness—because it’s your energy that’s at stake.
Can you share a short testimonial on the impact that coaching and the Raising Talent principles have had on you in your life?
When I met Tim, I knew that purpose and values are important, especially for entrepreneurs, but I was confused about how to know- and apply them. I found it tough to get feedback from my body, to hear what it was trying to tell me all along, to assess the relative “ecology” of distinct ideas. This low sensitivity to my emotions, my weak mind/body link, and limiting beliefs I had conspired against the quality of my life—in business and in person. After each coaching session with Tim, my mind/body link quickened, and I could start to feel—in advance—whether a word, thought, or strategy was good. Then, a while ago, while sipping a coffee at the Sports Science Institute in Newlands, as I read their mission “we exist to…”, I felt part of my why, my purpose: I’m at my best when I can be a hero for people. I can express this in many ways, e.g. do a special dinner for friends, connect people, promote a cause as reporter/advertiser, dazzle clients by inspiring teams, or write about my mistakes to alert others… It’s the envisioned outcome for people that supercharges me—pleasant surprise, idealist experience—but my work has rarely given me this; entrenched in technical work, I was doing busywork rather than ‘joywork’.
I’ve learnt we each have a ‘sweet spot’ in our make-up; situations that supercharge us, things we do with ease, ways we’re most effective. The further we move from our ‘sweet spot’, the more energy the brain needs to keep us there, starving energy from other parts of our lives…loving relationships, play, adventure, creativity—but most of all—our initiative to invent a better path and follow it with gusto. I’ve seen that our achievements are subject to patterns stored in the subconscious; we can decide we want something, but if our subconscious ‘wants’ something else, it can be a chaotic battle over time, which causes lacklustre outcomes. This is the structure of limiting beliefs; unseen barriers that held my life hostage over many years, and now through coaching I’m able to release them, first with Tim and now also by myself using the Raising Talent techniques. The journey for me has only just begun; having discovered what I have inspires me to keep on daring, learning, and sharing…as someone who has (finally!) found his ‘sweet spot’ after 25 years and is now crafting and shaping it into a new and exciting adventure.