Not long ago, I ran into a fellow I knew casually. He told me his life had taken a couple of turns, and he had switched careers. He used to be a businessman.
“I am now a life coach,” he said.
I thought of blue tennis shoes. When I was growing up in Chicago, tennis shoes were white. Gym shoes, which were high-topped tennis shoes, came in two colors — black and white. My friends and I favored black high-tops.
One day a kid from California moved into the neighborhood. He wore blue tennis shoes. I felt sorry for him. He was hopelessly unhip. No way would he be able to keep up with the kids in my neighborhood.
Within a year, we were all wearing blue tennis shoes. That is what happens in our society. Things start on the coasts and work their way toward the center.
I remember the first time I heard the term “life coach.” I was interviewing a young man who had grown up in St. Louis. He had moved to Los Angeles to make it in the movies. He finally had. That is, he had co-written a screenplay that became a movie. It was not a big hit, and there were no distribution plans, but at least it had been made. That’s a big accomplishment.
The plan was to show it at film festivals. Maybe that would lead to something. The St. Louis Film Festival was one of those festivals. I interviewed him.
He told me his wife had tried to make it as an actress, but had given up.
“What does your wife do now?” I asked.
“She’s a life coach,” he said.
They all are, I thought.
The problem is many of them can only coach part time. They’ve got other jobs, other responsibilities. Where’s the sense in that? Think of the way athletes are treated. Sam Bradford is the quarterback of the St. Louis Rams. He is paid tens of millions of dollars. One would imagine he knows what he’s doing. But he has a quarterback coach. That is a full-time job. Bradford can also consult with a head coach and an offensive coordinator. He probably has a personal trainer and an agent.
Most of us make do with a part-time life coach.
Perhaps that was sufficient in the past. Back when tennis shoes were white, telephones were black. And stationary. They came from the phone company. Think of those three words — the phone company. There were three or four television stations. Bread was white or rye. People paid cash for things. Life might not have been easy, but it was simple.
Now there are multiple choices for everything.
What kind of phone should you get? What company should you use for your phone service? What company should you use for your television service? What kind of Internet service should you get? Should you bundle these services?
My part-time life coach does not concern herself with these things. Consequently, it is entirely possible that I have the wrong everything. For instance, I get multiple telephone bills — regular service, long distance, mobile. Now and then I get a solicitation to change my long-distance service. Sometimes it comes with a small check. “By cashing this check you change your service to Company X.” I cash the check.
But I do so with no confidence. I feel as if I am the only person on the airplane who paid full fare.
I have cable television, but many of the channels are unavailable to me. I have no idea why.
Forget about calling a company to ask. It’s difficult to reach a living person, especially a person living in this country. Sometimes the recorded messages suggest using the Internet. That usually requires a password.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my problems with passwords. A reader suggested I use “incorrect” as my password. “That way, you just hit the keyboard a couple of times and the screen will remind you, ‘Your password is incorrect.’”
That’s brilliant. It reminds me of the softball team that called itself Bye-Week, and won most of its games by forfeit.
But even with my password problems solved, difficulties abound.
Finances used to be simple. A credit card was a credit card. Now they come with rewards. That has to be sinister. And which rewards are best — miles or dollars? In the days before retirement accounts, there were pensions. Now we are expected to make our own choices. It’s not enough to have an IRA. Maybe you should have a Roth IRA.
What about long-term care insurance? For that matter, what kind of health insurance do you want? High deductible or low deductible?
A part-time life coach can take care of some of these things, but it’s unrealistic to think she can take care of it all.
In other words, that former businessman might be on to something.