Meet My Neighbor, The Life Coach

“You thought your way into this,” the voice said. “Now think your way out of it.”

Author by Cole Kazdin
Art credit: Megan Schaller

I was working as a network news producer in Los Angeles, covering breaking news all over the Western region of the country — wildfires, crime, natural disasters. One afternoon, on a slow news day, my boss in New York called and asked me if it was hot enough in LA to fry an egg on the sidewalk. I could tell by the tone of his voice that the only acceptable answer was “yes.”

So I tried. I bought an egg and fried it on the sidewalk. Or, more accurately, I put a raw egg on the sidewalk and filmed it.

Because — FYI — it’s never hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. It’s just an expression. I know this because I’ve been asked to do it many times and it’s never worked. Unless you’re inside a frying pan, on top of a stove, it’s never hot enough to fry an egg on the surface you’re standing on. 

But I had to film it to prove that it wouldn’t work. And staring at a raw egg on the sidewalk gives a person time to think. I was feeling a futility in my work and in my life that I hadn’t fully acknowledged until that moment. I looked down and saw that the egg wasn’t even getting white around the edges. It wasn’t changing and neither was I. Watching it, I realized that I was the egg.

I’d been a journalist most of my life. I loved the news and I wasn’t going to quit because they asked me to film eggs and, one time, ice cream. I filmed an ice cream cone melting in a parking lot, which made it onto the evening news in a story about record temperatures. “It’s hot enough to melt ice cream!” (Ice cream melts in the refrigerator, by the way.)

I needed a job and money and health insurance, but I also needed the courage to make a change.  

Transformation Starts At Home

I was thinking about this one night after work, on my terrace. My husband and I had just moved to a building where all the apartments had terraces that faced a pool in the center of the complex. I was sitting out there, thinking about my life, when suddenly, I heard a voice.

“You thought your way into this,” the voice said. “Now think your way out of it.”

The voice didn’t come from within. It didn’t come from above. It came from the next terrace over. It was a low, deep voice.  My neighbor, I guessed. I leaned forward to see who it was, but he had five dream catchers hanging from his terrace that blocked my view.

And then he said, “I ask questions that other people are afraid to ask. I believe in transformation. How about being authentic?”

Was he talking to me? He wasn’t. That night, I learned that I lived next door to a life coach who did sessions on speakerphone, which let me hear both sides of the conversation. Mainly, though, it was just him rattling off platitudes that he clearly made up because they rarely made sense. “Iron rusts when you don’t use it,” he told one client. “Like your mind.”  

This was not exactly the guidance I was looking for. But it was entertaining. Having a life coach in the building felt like an amenity, just like a pool or a parking space. I wasn’t sure what life coaches did, or what their qualifications were. This one bragged to his clients that he never took any classes in life coaching; it was all “intuitive wisdom.” He told them, “If you come to my house, you won’t see any books.”

He made nebulous references to his work at “The Center” and told his clients that he used his techniques to transform his own life. I saw him once at my gym, which costs $29 a month, so he couldn’t have been doing that well. If he really transformed his life, he would have worked out at the Equinox in West Hollywood.

“Does the sun really set?” He asked a client. “Isn’t the sun always sunny? It’s always there.” I looked up at the night sky and wondered if maybe he should have a book in his house and if it could be by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Make The Change

I started writing down everything he said. I live-blogged his sessions on Facebook and Twitter. He had a distinct voice. Whenever I’d hear it through the kitchen window, I’d drop what I was doing and run out to the terrace. I became obsessed.

The definition of a problem is something that interferes with your ability to live a normal life. And this was definitely that. I changed my schedule to make sure I’d be home for his sessions. If he said, “Talk to you next Thursday at 7:00,” I’d skip the gym that day to be home in time. I felt a sense of purpose that I hadn’t felt in a while.

But I also felt schadenfreude, along with a sense of twisted superiority I wasn’t proud of. Until I heard him speak again: “I realize I said the opposite before,” he explained into his speakerphone. “But now I’m making an adjustment.”

One evening during couples’ counseling — they were regulars, Tuesdays at 5:30 — he assured his clients their session was confidential. But it wasn’t, because he was on speakerphone and, also, I was live-Tweeting the whole time. I only Tweeted his side of the conversation, though, because I respect life coach-patient confidentiality.

“The firefighter and the arsonist are really the same person, if you think about it,” he told them. I wondered if that helped their marriage and which one of them was supposed to be the arsonist.

His whole philosophy was rooted in the power of intention — changing your life with your thoughts. “If I want to live in New Jersey and drive a Porsche,” he said, “I put in my order with the universe and it will happen. It’s mathematics.” And then he put that client on hold while he made a smoothie. I heard a Vitamix for two whole minutes.

And then one day I heard him say something that genuinely changed my life: “I charge $175 a person,” he said, adding “I am going to teach in New Zealand for a month.”

Wait. One. Minute.

If this ding-dong, who, just the day before, walked into a wall of mailboxes while wearing a “Be Here Now” shirt …

If this dimwit, who has a made-up job that he does badly …

If this charlatan, who’s so lazy he conducts private sessions on speakerphone …

… gets $175 a head and managed to finagle his way into teaching in New Zealand, then why am I moaning about filming raw eggs? I can do anything I set my mind to!

I’ll tell you what I didn’t do next — I didn’t set an intention. Instead, I got a second job. I paid off my debt and my car. And I opened a savings account. When I had enough money put away, I gave notice, left television news, and went back to being a freelance journalist.

A few months later, my husband heard the life coach yelling at two movers for the way they were handling his giant Buddha, and I knew the day had finally come (my biggest fear): The life coach was leaving. He took down all of the dream catchers from his terrace and then he was gone. But that’s ok. I didn’t need him anymore. I had already transformed my life.

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About Woolly

A curious exploration of comfort, wellness, and modern life — emotionally supported by Casper. It’s a beautiful magazine published by a mattress. Come on, you know it’s not the weirdest thing to happen this year. The first issue includes a love letter to comfort pants, a skeptic's guide to crystals, and an adulting coloring book.