I can say with confidence that I have some of the highest prices in the vast and growing admissions consulting industry. At the peak of my prices, I have been paid $375 for a one-hour consultation call and $10,000 to fly and meet a client in person for a full day of working together on her applications. For the last three years, coaching people around the world 1-on-1 is how I’ve made at least 90% of my income. The money is great, I love my clients, and my clients are happy with my services—but I’m leaving it behind.
My close friend Steven, a fellow Kennedy School alumnus who lives here in Austin, was surprised but empathetic when I told him I was for real leaving 1-on-1 coaching behind—at least for now.
“So you are really going to pass it up, even if someone is willing to pay you $10,000 to help them with their applications?” Steven challenged me. (Steven is one of my favorite shopping partners, so he knows how hard passing up $10,000 would be for me.)
“Yep. I love my clients, but it’s not how I most enjoy working,” I said. “I love having wide open days with no appointments where I can just create. I love teaching people strategies for achieving their personal and professional goals, but I thrive in classroom-like group settings. I can live and work from anywhere, but more than that, I want to be able to spend my time exactly how I want to, and I can’t do that with a lot of individual appointments and meetings. I love to work, but I need to be able to be spontaneous.”
“I completely understand,” Steven replied. “That’s why I love my job. I’m given autonomy to work the hours that I want as long as I get my stuff done. I make my own schedule and decide how to get my work done, and it really works for me.”
“Yes!” I exclaimed. “That’s flow. You were in the flow. Lots of appointments disrupts the flow of my day.”
About six months ago, I thought the problem was simply that I needed to move on from admissions consulting. I thought of it as my shadow career to my true callings—writing and teaching. I thought that I could fix everything by simply changing my topic focus. Then, I took on some 1-on-1 coaching clients for life coaching and love coaching. And to my surprise, I was just as antsy with that!
It turns out that fulfilling my innermost desires for the work I was put on this earth to do is less about what I am teaching and writing but how I am teaching and writing, and how the way I go about my work makes me feel.
I know it sounds strange, but I love teaching so much, I would teach anyone just about anything as long as we could do it in a group.
Seriously, if someone put me in a classroom at the senior center down the street from my apartment and said, “Teach these 80-year-olds how to use Twitter,” I would be like, “Suh-weet! Let’s get started, and then we’ll take a pudding break!”
If someone put me in front of my septuagenarian downstairs neighbor and good friend, Joe, and said, “I’ll give you $10,000 to turn Joe into a Twitter expert,” I would be like, “Um, let’s not and say we did. Joe, let’s go sit by the pool and tell stories instead.” And then Joe would tell me a story I’ve already heard, and I would pretend I hadn’t heard it, and laugh at all the places I know he wants me to laugh.
Of course my clients aren’t 70- and 80-year-old Twitterphiles. They are young, vibrant, ambitious 20- and 30-somethings who have a fierce determination to go to a top graduate school. But the result is still the same: with 1-on-1 coaching, neither of us is getting the best of the situation.
Why? Because I am at my best when teaching and writing to a group of people—not in isolation. I get energy, inspiration, and am challenged by the need to meet the learning needs and keep the attention of several people at the same time.
I also strongly believe that the most growth and development happens in community, not when we’re trying to do it alone. That’s why Weight Watchers is so effective, why Alcoholics Anonymous has helped so many people recover, and why coworking spaces are exploding around the nation.
People are social creatures, and the more we work alone together, the better off everyone is. In Weight Watchers, every person has her own individual target weight. In AA, everyone has their own particular bottom line behaviors they are working to overcome. In coworking spaces, everyone has their own individual projects and businesses they are moving forward. But magic starts to happen when all those people working alone come and work on their individual goals together.
I’m still figuring out exactly how all this is going to work, and there is no guarantee that it will. All I know is that I am 100% clear on my life’s callings, and I’m getting increasingly clearer every day how I want to do my work in this world. I’m not sure what lies ahead, but I’m also willing to close the door behind me in order to provide space for new ideas and opportunities to emerge.
My clients from this season and I still have a lot more work to do. We have to prepare for interviews, fight our way off waitlists, craft reapplication strategies, and apply for fellowships. I truly feel that this final season of 1-on-1 admissions consulting has been my best. I am closing out this season with a bang and I look forward to seeing all that is next for me, for you, for all of us.
What is an individual goal you worked on with a group, and how did it go?