The Embarrassed Life Coach


With almost a decade of Life Coaching under my belt I have had my fair share of successes and like any coach, my fair share of failures.

I have also had my fair share, or maybe even more than that, of embarrassing situations.

So as I get all excited about the launch of the brand new A Daring Adventure in under a weeks time, I thought I’d keep my feet firmly on the ground by admitting to ten of my biggest screw ups, some of which left me very red faced indeed.

1. Are You Mad, Calling Me At This Time?

I get inquiries from all over the world and have worked with clients on every continent (except Antarctica – that’s a goal of mine).

As such I’m aware that a foreign country code requires some mental arithmetic to make sure I call at a suitable time.

A couple of years ago I got a very strong inquiry from a guy in Switzerland.

I’m aware that for the majority of the year Switzerland is six hours in front of the US.

I can only explain this by saying I must have had a brain fart because I decided to call the guy at 8pm EST thinking it was 2pm in the afternoon with him.

To say he was pissed at me waking him up at 2am would be an understatement.

A strong inquiry descended into somebody who quite obviously would have rather punched in the face me or stabbed me to death with his Swiss army knife.

Needless to say, he never became a client.

2. You Want Me To Do What?

I had been talking to a female client about the paleo or primal diet.

The approach sometimes calls for intermittent fasting (although it’s by no means a requirement) as that is how our ancestors often existed when food wasn’t readily available.

I honestly cannot remember what her question via e-mail was to prompt me to mention this, but instead of saying, “have you considered intermittent fasting

I politely inquired if she’s considered, ‘intermittent fisting’.

Not really the same thing at all, is it?

3. Give Me A Kiss

This is something I have done a few times.

When I e-mail or text my wife I always put a x at the bottom and have done this with at least 5 or 6 clients in both texts and e-mails.

Mostly it just creates a chuckle, but the first time it happened was with a guy and unnervingly he didn’t mention it.

I wasn’t sure if he’d not seen it, just presumed it was a mistake or thought I had the hots for him and decided not to encourage me.

So I kept quiet.

4. Great Speech Tim

A few years ago I was giving a speech to a group of women at the Ritz-Carlton.

I was talking about reframing and wanted an audience member to give me a negative event that I could reframe for her.

I pointed to a woman at the back and said, “what about you?

Alas she was fast asleep and the women next to her had to wake her up.

I did get the opportunity to reframe that event though and everybody thought it was hysterical.

5. And Another Great Speech

This time I was talking to a different group on the topic of thinking differently and the massive benefits it has to offer.

I had rehearsed my slides and knew exactly what was coming and when.

I hit the remote to segue into a slide with a picture of Seth Godin on it.

Who knows this guy? I asked.

Nobody responded, but that didn’t surprise me that much, as although Seth is well known in marketing circles, he’s not exactly a world-wide celebrity.

I carried on talking about the fact that his ‘Poke The Box’ book was being published that very day and it was all about thinking differently and refusing to conform to the norm.

By now I had the warning sign of a few titters interspersed with blank stares.

I turned around to see that rather than a picture of Seth Godin, there was a graphic of a cartoon cow up on the screen that was due to show up later.

6. And Your Name Is What Again?

I was at the Mall with my wife one time when an old client came up to me to say hello.

He warmly shook my hand and then turned to introduce me to his wife Angela.

He then looked expectantly at me to reciprocate with Helen.

Unfortunately, my brain had just gone on vacation and even though I’d remembered his wife’s name I couldn’t for the life of me remember his and didn’t know what to say.

My cool way of dealing with it was to pretend I needed the bathroom desperately and just said, “This is Helen, I’ll be right back” and left, leaving her to pick up the pieces.

Great husband, eh?

7. How Much Do You Earn?

In my 2nd year of full time coaching I was working with a teacher.

For some reason we got onto talking about income. I asked him how much he earned, but he refused to tell me.

I assured him it was 100% confidential and he responded that it wasn’t that, it was because it was so embarrassingly low.

A bit of cajoling and reassuring on my behalf and he said he only earned $50k the previous year.

Rather imprudently I laughed and said, “Well I only earned $30K!”

I’m not sure who was most mortified.

Him for saying that $50k was embarrassing only to be told my somebody he’d hired that I’d earned 60% of what he did.

Or me for laughing and then admitting I was barely earning above minimum wage.

8. Woo-Hoo I have A Publishing Deal!

I had a deal with my first published book ‘Don’t Ask Stupid Questions – There Are no Stupid Questions‘ that involved I arrange for the editing to be done.

In my usual cavalier fashion and after being quoted over $1,000 I thought, “How hard can it be, I’ll do it myself”

Apparently quite hard.

When the book published I was immediately mortified by how many errors I spotted.

Not as mortified as my publisher however, as I got a copy sent to me with every error highlighted throughout the book in bright red ink.

How many were there?

Let’s just say you couldn’t count them using all your digits, limbs and probably hairs on your head.

9. I’m A Celebrity Now

When How To Be Rich and Happy was first published I was always a bit reluctant to sign copies for people unless they specifically asked me to because I felt a bit self conscious.

However, when I gave a copy to clients, they almost always handing the book back to me and asked me to sign in it, so I got into the habit of doing so without asking.

One day I was sat with a client after just finishing what I thought was a great session and had told him I’d like to give him a copy of the book to help him embed a lot of the stuff we had worked on together.

I opened up the cover and was about to write a message and sign it when he leaned over and stopped me. “What are you doing?” he asked.

When I told him simply stared blankly at me and said “Why would I want it signed?”

That confirmed my worse fears, that I was coming across as a pretentious asshole!

10. I’m Buying A Cauliflower

I was in my local supermarket one time when I got a text on my phone. It simply read, “Are you testing me?

I thought it was a joke or somebody who had typed in the wrong number and replied. “No, I’m buying a cauliflower”

Sadly it was from a client who I was supposed to be talking to at that very time and for whom I had written in the appointment for the wrong day.

At the end of the day we (that is Life Coaches) are human. We all make mistakes and that’s ok, as long that is, we can laugh at ourselves (apologize where necessary), learn from them, and move on.

My challenge to you is to admit in the comments to some event that caused you considerable embarrassment as a Life Coach.

Go on, you know you want to 😉


  1. Great post! Thank you Tim. I loved reading them all and I’m going to start making my own list as you suggest…..then I’ll share some!

  2. Phil

    Tim, that is bloody funny, I was laughing out loud!!Particularly with the one about fisting!! As an aside, I have just purchased your Core Values (Life Coaches edition) and expect great things….Although, I trust that advice about fisting isn’t in there? 🙂

    • Tim Brownson

      Glad you liked it Phil and yes, that one definitely got filed under don’t try this at home!