A couple of weeks ago, we passed the one-year anniversary of having adopted Ella, a red-nosed pit bull mix whose first year and a half were spent at a dog pound, an SPCA shelter, and, for a brief time, a first family who returned her emaciated, ill, and scared.
Since joining our family, she has also joined our Saturday farmers’ market trips. In the early days, she would stay close, at least twice pressing to our legs with shaky overwhelm until we led her back to the car and home to decompress.
In recent weeks, a number of people have remarked on her transformation. Where once there was a shy and nervous pup, there is now a sense of freedom and safety. She pulls us up the alley toward the vendors making up the small pop-up village of food growers and product producers. She has a special little bounce for when she sees market manager Connie or her daughter. Though her distrust of men lingers is much of the rest of the world, at the market, she has come to eagerly accept the treats we hand to the men who ask permission to meet her; this past Saturday, she immediately curled around to rest her back against the legs of one such man.
While there are some new vendors and new shoppers, there’s not been a substantive shift at the market in the year since Ella started going. Instead, it’s been her decreasing fear as she’s learned more about where she can expect safety and care – where she can trust her surroundings and herself in her surroundings.
This time of year not only now marks Ella’s Gotcha Day (as my friend Cristina calls it); it has also long marked my career transition into coaching. This July marks nine years since I hired my first mentor coach and joined my first training program; a couple more weeks and it will be nine years since I first sat across the table from an official coaching client, putting the tools I was learning and honing to immediate use.
Over these nine years, I’ve occasionally asked myself if the “business” in my self-appointed moniker of business & empowerment coach still fits me as snugly as it once did, in those early days of transitioning from my last business – a micro-business consultancy – to coaching.
And then I think of the many people who I’ve been lucky enough to coach, people who Ella brings to mind for the way they, too, have found their ease and place due to shifting their relationships with fear.
Sure, there are technical skills and logistical details to starting and growing a business – or a career of any sort. Yet what I’ve noticed – in myself and others – over all these years is that those tend not to be the most stubborn obstacles. It’s the fear and the stories of limitation, rejection, and failure (and, also, sometimes the daunting stories of success) that act as rebar-reinforced walls to a person’s professional contribution to their unique Life Well Lived. I delight in co-creating the sledgehammers that smash holes into those walls.
There’s another reason I keep coming to a “yes” when I question calling myself a business coach. It’s also demonstrated by the farmers market, a place where vendors have chosen the labor of living their ethics, not just in their private lives but also as their means of making a living.
Last fall, Theresa and I went to visit Restoration Acres, a farm that raises the pork, chicken, and turkey that makes up much of our omnivory. The farm tour took us through acres of pasture where pigs forage and comfy spaces where mama pigs build straw nests to corral their newborns. Chatting with Matt, who runs the farm with his wife Rachel, on the way back to the picnic area for a brown-bag community gathering, we talked about our decision to be conscious omnivores rather than vegetarian.
Matt said something like, “Most people just don’t understand how interconnected the whole thing is,” as in, the animals and the plants, the fields and the insects, and yes, the humans, too. After 10,000 years of farming, the farmers and their plants and animals have grown together into a symbiosis… at least when farmers make profit the handmaiden of ethics instead of sequestering ethics in the back of the pantry with the 5-year-old canned peas and desperation-only can of Spam.
Not only do I find it personally gratifying – downright exciting, truthfully – to support those who are building their careers around their core values (an intimate and lovely approach to challenging the profit-above-people norms in which we live); I also find it heart-filled to discover just how holistic this work is.
Time and again, I’ve seen that when people shrink the boulders of fear into manageable pebbles, it also opens them up in other places in their lives. People who came to me for professional coaching found more space in their lives for their families, more depth in themselves for their loved ones, more generosity in themselves for themselves…
And so yes, after nine years, I can again affirm and stand in my role as a business & empowerment coach, a coach to those who are set on something bigger, something badder, something more aligned, something more them.