Can You Really Be Successful Without Being Coachable?

Can you be really successful without being coachable? The short answer is no. I first learned this as little girl by reading a Bible story, and it was reminded to me recently as I made the choice to fire a new client before it turned into a draining disaster.

Can you really be successful without being coachable?

My parents were not religious when I was growing up, but among the few beat-up books we owned, there was a Bible we read often, over and over, from cover to cover.

2 Kings Chapter 5 tells the story of Naaman, a very important captain in the Syrian army, described as “honorable” and “a mighty man in valor.” Naaman suffered much because he was a leper, so when he heard there was a prophet in Samaria that could cure him, he got so excited that he went and told his boss about it:

“And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment.” 2 Kings 5:5

Well, the King of Israel was quite troubled with the request to cure Naaman and thought it was a trap. Elisha, the prophet, having heard about this, invited Naaman over.

“So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.” 2 Kings 5:9-10

You probably know that Naaman was not happy with this prescription. He had a different idea on how things should go. I was in shock reading this because, even to a little girl, it was logical that if you have come so far to get something and seem so willing to do what it takes to get a result, you would certainly agree to do something easy, simple, and free!

But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.

Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.

2 Kings 5:11-12

Naaman was offended. He forgot the result he wanted and focused on the process he had envisioned. Thankfully, one of his servants talked some sense into this man, reminding him of what his goal actually was.

Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. 2 Kings 5:14

Naaman was more than grateful, and wanted to do anything to compensate Elisha, but he almost missed out on the chance of his life because it didn’t quite go as he had planned it would.

It’s really sad to see the potential outcome someone could experience in their lives if only they were coachable enough to let go of what they think should happen in order to create it.

I’ve experienced this in my workshops and in my coaching practice. There is often someone who misses out, because they resist an exercise or assignment, or feel offended at the way you did or didn’t do something.  They forget why they signed up in the first place and get caught in the trap of their own thinking.

As a coach and mentor, I love to help people reach a goal or obtain a result they deeply desire, however, learning to let go and to honor myself, my time, and my labor of love, sometimes requires me to make hard choices.

I feel so much peace and I’m proud of myself for looking at signs early on in the process and for listening to what my gut was telling me. Within seconds of refunding her in full (even when I had spent time and effort in her project), I received a confirmation that I had done the right thing because while monetization is one of the goals of most projects I teach, I don’t resonate with the “let’s get down to business,” “all about the money,” approach to things.

I am relieved I avoided the pain of dragging a contract that wasn’t a fit any longer than necessary, especially not for an entire year!

Whew!

I am clear that I am called to teach heart-based women who are ready to do the inner work sustainable and lasting success requires, and that are willing to surrender control to have faith in the process.

You may remember unorthodox master, Mr. Miyagi and skeptical and frustrated Daniel, from the movie Karate Kid. Daniel can’t see the connection between washing a car, sanding a wooden floor, refinishing a fence, painting a house, and learning karate.  “Wax on, wax off…” seemed like a waste of time, almost a joke, and it all happened to benefit his teacher. In the end, these all proved to be helpful and effective ways to learn, and thankfully, he trusted his master through it all.

"Before Enlightenment, carry water, chop wood. After Enlightenment, carry water, chop wood."

I love the Buddhist saying:

“Before Enlightenment, carry water, chop wood.
After Enlightenment, carry water, chop wood.”

I have carried water and chopped wood in both the literal and figurative sense, so I know the value of being coachable. But it wasn’t always like that, and in some areas, it still isn’t. As I’ve examined myself, there are many things that have come to my awareness the hard way, and others I have yet to awaken to

because of resistance to “someone else’s rules,”
because “it just didn’t seem like it would work,”
or
because I wanted what I wanted and I wanted it now. Surely there was a faster, more direct way…

Much of my inability to be coachable was coming from a place of insecurity, fear, and low self-esteem. It’s usual to have a high level of guardedness and to be afraid to be vulnerable, when you have experienced disempowering relationships or have allowed yourself to become a pushover.

One of the biggest benefits of being coachable for me has been to learn how to give up control in order to get the results I want in my life. And that’s what faith is all about: the product of change are often only obvious after the change has occurred.

But I guess as you start seeing the results, you learn to trust more, and to stop debating, rationalizing, or overthinking the feedback you receive. I am getting better at catching myself.

So, let’s get nerdy and define coachable…

Coachable: adj. : capable of being easily taught and trained to do something better

And this is what being coachable means to me:

  • You’re coachable when you keep in mind that the coach is on her side and that her purpose is to help you succeed
  • You’re coachable when you realize you can’t know or do everything on your own
  • You’re coachable when you are committed to the end result and focused on the vision, avoiding distractions or excuses
  • You’re coachable when you are willing to accept responsibility and look at your own performance, rather than blaming everyone for your shortcomings
  • You’re coachable when you demonstrate a commitment to actively improving your development: you put in the effort and complete your assignments, even if they may seem ‘pointless,’ challenging, or intimidating at the time.
  • You’re coachable when you are able to receive direct feedback in a gracious manner, and with gratitude, rather than acting defensively, taking it personally, or as a personal attack
  • You’re coachable when you realize there is always room for learning and improvement, and you welcome learning opportunities

As I read the list I just wrote, I chuckle thinking, I just described a “dream child” to mother, and a “dream student” to teach, and certainly describes an “ideal athlete.” Anyone could benefit from being coachable. Being coachable is not only the secret to an enjoyable and profitable mentoring relationship; it is the key to growing in any area of life, because it allows you to advantage of someone else’s wisdom, experience, and expertise.

"Foolish men learn only from their experience. Wise men learn from other people’s experience." ~ Proverb

“Foolish men learn only from experience. Wise men learn from other people’s experience.” ~ Proverb

If you think about it, the attitude of being coachable is a determinant factor of being successful in any area of life, and one of life’s most important skills one can possess. Ever since we take our first breath on Earth, we are being assisted to learn by someone else.

Our ability to be vulnerable, set our own ego aside, and trust the process will determine how quickly, and how easily we obtain the outcome we desire… and sometimes, whether we achieve it at all.

You can determine whether someone is coachable or not, even when you don’t coach them, and even if they don’t have a coach.

A person who decides to read a book, listen to a podcast, read a blog post, attend a conference, or contract with a trainer of some sort, had to come to these terms:

I really want it (that thing you want really badly)

I really need help to go further than I’ve gotten on my own

This did it and knows something I don’t

But listening and understanding is only part of the equation. It is what you do AFTER you read the book, listen to the interview, show up at the conference and even take notes, and after you’re done reading the post, or listening to the trainer’s advice. You must be willing to act, even when you’re not that excited about taking dips into the Jordan, and you when you just don’t see the point in “wax on, wax off…”

The uncoachable student is she who is defensive, rolls their eyes when given feedback, takes things personally, puts people down, is disrespectful of others or their opinions/methods, is always questioning, not grateful, very negative or pessimistic, thinks she is always right, blames others, she’s not open to change and is unwilling to learn or do what it takes to improve, but often complain about not achieving the results she wants in her life…. I’m sure you can think of someone.

And as you think of her, you know she is not happy, not fulfilled, and she is missing out on accelerated learning, and ability to steadily improve and grow. She is stuck. Sigh. Being open and receptive are some of the most crucial attitudes to learning, growing, and achieving any goal.

Coachability is the willingness to be corrected and to act on that correction. When we are coachable, we are prepared to be wrong. We can withstand a high degree of candor. We are willing to let others evaluate — and perhaps even plumb the depths of our performance because we understand that the journey of personal development cannot be traveled alone. We understand that our first fiduciary obligation is to ourselves, and that obligation is to gain accurate self-knowledge and then take the next step of progress. For the highly coachable, feedback, as the chalkboard aphorism goes, really is the breakfast of champions.” ~ Timothy R. Clark

It would be weird to ask someone “are you ready to be wrong about what it will take to be successful?”  but answering “yes” to that question would be like saying “yes” to succeeding in life. I don’t know many things for certain, but one guarantee I have in life is that I am wrong more than I would like to be, and that the awareness that I could be wrong is what will help me be right.

Adopting a coachable mentality is a personal journey – only you can help you get better at it, but the good news is that you can get better at it. Coachability is a skill. If I could learn it, anyone can… you can.

It doesn’t matter how effective your coach or how amazing the coaching plan is, if you aren’t coachable, you will miss out: even with hypnosis, to succeed, you’ve gotta have a willing subject.

Do you think a person must be coachable to be successful? I’d love to read your thoughts on what coachability means to you!

Elayna Fernandez - Author - 
Speaker - Success Guide to Moms and Mompreneurs
© Elayna Fernández ~ The Positive MOM

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43 thoughts on “Can You Really Be Successful Without Being Coachable?

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with being coachable. I always want to learn. I love getting feedback, unless it’s not done in a constructive way or it’s mean spirited.

  2. Oh loved reading this post and the list of whether you are or are not coachable It turns out that I am learning to be after many years of not being.

  3. Great article and absolutely true!

    Being teachable or coachable means being willing to let go of everything you THINK you know. So no, I don’t see how anyone can be successful without opening their mind to take in new information, even if it seems to fly in the face of what is “accepted”. Many people find that difficult to do. A favorite acronym of mine for HOW to live a successful life is to be Honest, Open Minded and Willing. Even Albert Einstein, considered an iconic genius, is quoted as saying, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious”.

  4. That’s a very lovely story and one that will help you in life as well. We should do the work and be rewarded or find out if we should continue or not. I like the message, it’s a good reminder for us all.

  5. I totally agree that a person must be coachable to be successful. One might reach some level of success without coachabity, but will eventually hit a ceiling of personal limitations.

  6. To be Successful you ave to be ready to listen to and accept guidance and even mentorship from others, even if they don’t seem to be as successful as we want them to be. SO being coachable is an essential part of successful growth and business building! Awesome post Elayna!

  7. To succeed we all need to be coachable, as you mentioned, we start learning from the very first day we are alive, and usually get stuck when we refuse to learn. What I have learned so far about being coachable, is that learning to let go and being vulnerable is what I need to continue to be coachable. Also, having the discipline to continue on the course, not getting distracted with things I know are not going to get me where I want to be, needs to be a daily exercise. Thanks for sharing this, is a good reminder of the work we need to do in order to improve ourselves and our lives.

  8. I think sometimes not being coachable is very hard to avoid in order to suceed, but what is important is that in the end what we do won’t really affect others or have mean intentions behind

  9. hahah you fired your client? genius
    wow! you have no idea how much this resonated with me, i’ve come across so many people who not coachable in any sense of the description you elaborated on. it’s always failed them in the end and is sad to see.
    but thankfully when i find a mentor i listen and act upon everything and anything he or she says. they are my guiding forces, just like you are. They help me look at things from a different perspective even though yes i also have those moments of “because of resistance to “someone else’s rules,”
    because “it just didn’t seem like it would work,”
    or
    because I wanted what I wanted and I wanted it now. Surely there was a faster, more direct way…”

    yet i know in my heart of hearts i’m following this person because they have what i want, they do what i want and they live the way i truly want to live. for me it’s copy paste lol. bonus points for the karate kid reference!

    that buddhist quote has me both intrigued & befuddled at the same time. really made me think but upon hearing your break down i totally resonate with that. Only you can know your true struggle and one day I want to be able to share my story with the world through a platform like the one you have built with unbelievable and uncanny perserverence. Arigato for the amazing read. I’m literally bookmarking this so I can read on those days that i need a pick me up or just confirmation that i’m on the right path.

  10. Everyone has a coach in our beginnings. I think a coach can be in any form, a loved one, a friend or a professional coach.

  11. This post is really good, I enjoyed it so much. I think being coachable is the best way to find success, we just have to be careful with others, we don’t want to affect them.

  12. I’m not religious, or very coachable. In fact, my husband jokes that I do the opposite of what I’m TOLD to do. I don’t like following the herd and accepting truths without proof, that’s why I’m so difficult. But I am open to scientifically proven and well argued points. So there is a small window for me and I’m not completely hopeless.

  13. I am definitely able to be coached. There is always something to learn and when you open yourself up the possibilities are there.

  14. In my opinion, I don’t think you can truly be successful without being coached by someone else where your weaknesses may be.

  15. I have always been easy to coach since I was a little girl. I find that if someone is taking their time to teach me something, I need to take the time to give it a try.

  16. Success is achieved with hardwork of course. It is not an easy step. But if you aim for something, go for it!

  17. Yes, I do think you need to be coachable. I see this in kids when they play sports. The ones that don’t follow directions, that think they are a superstar, tend to want to go their own way and fail half the time.

  18. My second oldest has always been outside of the box. I like it. He’s original and fun to be around too. Glad you have your calling, that’s an important thing to have in life. 🙂

  19. I am coachable, I like learning and I never stop from achieving my goals. Coaches are very important to our success.

  20. Anyone who isn’t will to learn and to achieve their goal need to get hit on the head with a pillow! lol I think it only natural that we would want to have a coach to achieve success. am i making sense?

  21. I’m not realigous at all, but I don’t think you have to be coachable to be successful either. Sure it can be great though, I just don’t think it is a must to be successful.

  22. Yes, I totally agree, a person has to be coachable. Part of my job as a direct sale is to recruit and train new teammates.The only way they will be successful depends on whether or not they are willing to learn.

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  24. I love this and agree 100%. I am very well aware that I am one that likes to do things my own way or quite. And mostly due to my own insecurities. Slowly I am learning to trust others in their knowledge and that they are doing it for my own good.

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  28. It’s interesting that you asked if someone had to be coachable in order to be successful. You didn’t say if someone had to be coached in order to be successful…and with that my answer is yes. I believe you have to be coachable in order to be successful. And depending on your ability to be coached will determine your level and longevity of your success. Great post.

  29. I agree with you by thinking we need to be coachable in order to be successful. Most of the time our mind is limited by what we know and sometimes we don´t want to get out of our comfort zone because of our fears and limiting thoughts. Being coachable means that we are open to change and evolve for better. Means that we are willing to rethink our acting and our thinking for better.

    A coach is so valuable when it is someone with experience in the field you want to be successful, because it means they have gone through the paths you want to venture in and can guide you properly. I also loved the video because it shows how an experienced coach can identify your potential and guide you to break your fears and succeed, as long as you be able to walk on faith by her guidance.

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