J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

Month: March 2016

What Makes a Good Coach?

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Photo by Carl R. Jr.

I became interested in the topic of coaching after reading this excellent article in the New Yorker by Atul Gawande, published in 2011. Gawande, a skilled and well-respected surgeon, noticed that he had more or less stopped improving at surgery. Instead of coasting, he chose the path of self-improvement and hired a coach (a retired surgeon and mentor). Though his decision raised some eyebrows in the O.R. (it’s unusual for a practicing surgeon to use a coach), Gawande found numerous areas for small, incremental improvements (how he positioned his elbows, how his lights were placed). This was true even for operations he had successfully performed hundreds of times.

Since then I’ve offered pro-bono coaching services in various areas to a few friends. I was curious … would I enjoy it? Would I be good at it? I did enjoy it, and I think in each case my coaching services were helpful (though not enormously helpful).

Recently I met with a professional business coach, Ellen Ercolini, to learn more about coaching, both as a craft and as a profession. Ellen specializes in helping entrepreneurs and lifestyle businesses* make more money. Unexpectedly, the second half of our meeting turned into an impromptu coaching session for me (my career goals, strategy, how I present myself online, etc.). A short session with a highly-skilled professional coach made me realize just how powerful an insightful coach can be. I left the meeting inspired, and within 48 hours took action on several major projects I’d been putting off (including transitioning this blog from wordpress.com to a self-hosted wordpress.org plugin).

Meeting with Ellen also helped me understand just how deep coaching can go. Not only does Ellen have detailed comprehensive systems in place (both for her own coaching process, and for her clients to implement within their own businesses), but she has a method for categorizing the personality types of her clients, and a corresponding set of motivational/behavioral modification techniques for each type.

Reflecting on what I’ve learned about coaching to date, here’s my current list of what it takes to a be a good coach in a particular area:

  1. A deep understanding of the technical aspects of the craft/sport/business/activity, usually acquired through many years of experience.
  2. A well-tested, constantly-refined teaching system or program (exercises and lessons that result in incremental skill improvement).
  3. The desire and ability to observe closely and provide helpful feedback.
  4. The desire and ability to understand different personality types and what methods and communication style motivates each type.

My “A-ha!” moment was realizing that I personally lack the desire to try and understand what approaches best motivate different types of people. I’m interested in motivation in the abstract (especially for my fictional characters), but the nitty-gritty of applying various psychological techniques to motivate other people just isn’t my thing. It doesn’t fascinate me. It does fascinate people like Ellen Ercolini (for her, I think, clients are like puzzles waiting to be solved), and that’s a big part of what makes her an effective coach.

Hiring a Coach

I’m definitely open to the idea of hiring a writing coach, but first I want to experience what it’s like to work with a professional editor. Editing and coaching have some overlapping areas (another thing that Gawande discusses in the New Yorker article), and a good editor may function something like a coach. I’ll report back once I have more to share.

Would I hire a coach in another area? If I get more serious about racquetball, I would consider it, but at the moment I’m learning in leaps and bounds from watching youtube videos and getting tips from more experienced players. Same with chess. But if/when I hit a plateau, hiring a coach will be my first move if I wanted to break through to the next skill level.

Have you hired a personal coach? For what? Was it helpful? I would really like to know.

*  What does lifestyle business mean? It’s a controversial term, sometimes used derogatorily to refer to businesses that aren’t startups (businesses that aren’t trying to massively scale and maximize revenue at any cost). I use the term with a positive connotation — a profitable business that doesn’t entirely take over your life. As 37 Signals co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson points out, the direct correlation between hours worked and income is an antiquated notion. In the modern economy you can work very little and makes gobs of money, or vice versa. There is no virtue (or even necessarily profit) in overwork. I consider my own freelance database consulting to be a lifestyle business; I work <20 hours a week and have time to write fiction, write this blog, spend as much time as I want in the music studio, spend time with my family and friends, and play tabletop RPG games. I’ve been asked why I haven’t jumped into the startup game (I have technical skills, I know people in the startup world, I live in the Bay Area). Because I like my life, and I don’t need more money.

New Release: Jondi & Spesh – Love Over Laps EP (and free download)

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I have a new tech house release out this week with Spesh: Love Over Laps EP. Four tracks, all 115bpm, with many parts and beats shared amongst them (could play quite nicely with each other in the context of a longer mix).

Just found out today the release is a Beatport Staff Pick in the Tech House genre, which is nice. Thanks Beatport, we like you too!

Only available on Beatport for now — will go into general release (iTunes, amazon.com, Spotify, etc.) in a couple weeks.

It was great to get back in the studio with Spesh. We had a good time, and took our time with it. A few of the tracks had over a dozen iterations. Quite a few parts cut, but many ended up recycled in one of the other tracks on the EP. Very organic, very groove-centric. We used the 303 for round, warm bass tones (acid house not so much, though we couldn’t resist a little knob-tweaking in Bare Knuckle Champ).

For those interested, the gear involved was:

  • Arturia Minibrute (analog synth)
  • Roland TB-303 (analog synth, MIDI-adapted)
  • Battery 4 (virtual drum machine from Native Instruments)
  • Massive (virtual synth from Native Instruments)
  • Kontakt 5 (virtual synth from Native Instruments)
  • Oddity 2 (virtual synth from GeForce)
  • Halion 4 (virtual sampler)
  • Cubase 8 (sequencer/DAW from Steinberg)

If you want to join the Loöq Records mailing list, you can download one of the tracks from the EP here. You can also listen/subscribe to our monthly Loöq Radio podcast on iTunes.

Blog posts I’m working on (titles may change):

  • Reinforce the Behavior, Not the Result
  • How I Experimented With Coaching and Decided Not to Continue
  • Update On No-Car Experiment ($, Fitness, etc.)

Thanks for reading/listening! Follow me on Twitter for updates and infotainment.

5 Things You Can Eat to Improve Your Mood and Brain Function

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As part of my daily writing log I also track my mood and energy levels. Over the past few years I’ve noticed a trend — my mood and energy levels are consistently “good” or “very good.” This wasn’t always the case. Though I’ve never suffered from major depression, I know that I’m vulnerable to anxiety and mild depression, especially during times of stress (I wrote about one such time here).

When I’m not under stress my baseline mood is pretty good, but I’ve been wondering what’s going on with my increased resilience over the last few years — feeling steady and optimistic even in the face of big stressors (members of my extended family have weathered some serious illnesses — both physical and mental — during that same time period).

Could be I’m just older and wiser. But I’m not that old, or that wise. I suspect my nutrition and supplement regimen has the greatest effect. This post lists my “core five” substances for mental health and improved disposition.

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Why We Love Conor McGregor (the Wonderful Insanity of Calling Your Shots)

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Like many people I got pulled back into UFC because of Conor McGregor. I watched the first UFC fights in the nineties, on VHS tapes rented from my local video store. Ninjitsu vs. wrestling, karate vs. thai boxing, a 150 pound man vs. a 220 pound man — who would win? What style would prevail? It soon became clear that Brazilian jiu-jitsu, specifically the Gracie family brand, was the most effective martial art in the world in terms of one-on-one battles. Any sane man will tap when a choke hold prevents him from breathing, or an arm bar threatens to snap his humerus in half.

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