The Life Coach

Not long ago a new instructor at the local gym introduced herself as a Pilates teacher, kickboxing trainer, and life coach. This being Los Angeles, all three professions are common, but the life coaching bit is a newer phenomenon, newer even than pierced lips.

I don’t know what training one needs to become a life coach, but I suspect doing the job is qualification enough, like being a movie critic. In the case of film reviewers, having a degree in cinematic theory could be helpful in formulating smart-sounding ideas, but the chief practical criteria is convincing someone to publish your opinions. You opine in print; therefore you are (a critic). I imagine a life coach works similarly. If you can convince people worse off than you to pay for the advice, guidance, and empathy that a friend (or self-help book) would normally offer, you’re officially in business.

The older I get, the more convinced I become that I know nothing about anything. The grand unifying theory offered by science or religion is at best a compendium of good guesses. There’s nothing absolute or certain about being alive — other than the knowledge that it will all end. Life cannot be mastered, only muddled through. Psychiatrists and rabbis, marriage counselors and yogis can attempt to clarify some of our more vexing questions, but their ministrations are colored by their own confusions and ignorance. They, too, are stumbling toward nirvana, searching for answers to unsolvable enigmas.

Aside from being born, which is more difficult on someone other than ourselves, none of us has any special qualifications to coach anyone on how to get through life. Yet all of us are indeed life coaches, each with a single client. To hire someone else for the task is not only unfair, it’s asking for the impossible.

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