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Coaching Lessons from Modern Greats

written byErickson Coaching Internationalon 13/02/2013

Erickson Coaching International Partners

Guest Post: Rachel Kot  

While researching for an upcoming executive coaching session I found myself in awe of the passion and positivity of some of our modern day entrepreneurs, thought-leaders and philanthropists. I thought to myself, "Well, I'm not surprised they are passionate and positive after building multi-million dollar companies". However, it then struck me that there are probably people who have accomplished similar economic feats but are not as passionate and positive about their lives. So what does this special collection of enthusiastic people have that others don't? Below is a list of coaching lessons from modern greats that I have compiled for you. Check it out.

Steve Jobs - Founder of Apple  

“Live each day as if it was your last.”  

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like, “if you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”  It made an impression on me, and since then for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, “ if today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” and whenever the answer was “no” for too many days in a row, I knew I need to change something. - Stanford University, 2005  

Bill Gates - Founder of Microsoft  

“From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”

My mother, who was filled with pride the day I was admitted to Harvard, never stopped pressing me to do more for others. A few days before my wedding, she hosted a bridal event, at which she read aloud a letter about marriage that she had written to my fiancé Melinda. My mother was very ill with cancer at the time, but she saw one more opportunity to deliver her message, and at the close of the letter she said, “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.” - Harvard University, 2007    

Oprah Winfrey - Popular Culture Celebrity & Mass Media Entrepreneur  

“We all need makeovers from time to time “

People love makeovers because the physical results are always so astonishing, but I like doing them because of the possibility of transforming more than the way people look. I want to change the way people feel about themselves. We all need makeovers from time to time in our lives, and graduates, I know that if you can see the possibility of changing your life, seeing what you can become and not just what you are, you will be a huge success. - Duke University 2009    

Michael Dell - Founder of Dell Computers  

“Try never to be the smartest person in the room”

I learned very early to surround myself with talented people who challenge convention, offer new ideas and relentlessly drive for improvement. I learnt to let those people thrive. Try never to be the smartest person in the room; and if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people, or find a different room. In professional circles it’s called networking, in organizations it’s called team building, and in life it’s called family, friends, and community.    

Mark Zuckerberg - Founder of Facebook  

“Things will be much easier when you do the things you like.”

Suppose you get home for dinner and see a plate of disgusting vegetables, you can force yourself to eat it if you want to but you will not enjoy it.  Meanwhile, if you are playing a game, as long as you like it, you’ll do all you can to get through to the next level. If you are doing the things you like, it’ll be much easier and you’ll have much more determination.    

Steve Ballmer, CEO Microsoft  

“Not just passion, but irrepressibility that will determine your success”

Last but not least, be tenacious. I actually prefer the word irrepressible, but everybody I ran the speech by says it’s too hard for people to get. I think, irrepressible is kind of tenacious, but with optimism. You just have it in you. You keep going and going. You could ask, "Isn’t that the same as passion?". It’s not. Passion is the ability to get excited about something. Irrepressibly and tenacity is about the ability to stay with it. If you take a look at all of the companies that have been started in our line of business, most of them fail. Even the companies that have succeeded: Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, you name it, all of these companies have gone through times of hardship. That's how it is. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes there are obstacles, you get new ideas or new innovations, sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Ultimately it comes down to how tenacious, how irrepressible you are about what you are doing that will determine your success. - University of South California, 2011    

Eli Broad - founder of Sun America Inc. and KB Home  

“Sometimes the craziest ideas are the ones that yield the greatest payoffs.”

No one ever made a million bucks by being cautious or timid or reasonable. I was 22 years old and recently married when I had the crazy idea that I should give up my career as a certified public accountant and become a homebuilder. I didn't know anything about building houses. Sometimes the craziest ideas are the ones that yield the greatest payoffs. In 1953 I took the risk of building houses without basements, something that hadn't been done in the Midwest because the monthly mortgage payment would be less than what most people were paying for rent. - UCLA School of Arts and Architecture, 2006    

At the end of my research, I came to the conclusion that it was nothing physical, nothing exclusively attainable by the few, rather they shared a vision of life that poised them for success. All of the quotes above illustrate passion, boldness, self-appreciation, and humbleness. These individuals openly admit to never being the best and actively seek out inspiration from those better than themselves, to put it another way, they are not arrogant. They all also are advocates of giving back to the community; many have started their own charities and non-profit organizations with the aim of making the world a better place. They understand that for the world to truly progress, everyone has to excel, not just the fortunate few.  

As business, corporate, executive and even life coaches, we can learn a great deal from these passionate people. The way they approach business and find happiness in caring for the planet and its multitude of communities is inspirational. As global citizens, we can do the same by embracing and cultivating a positive attitude and a passion for what we can contribute to each other, our community and the world at large.  

In short: Do what you love, love what you do, and always give back.  

Which modern greats inspire you and why? Let us know in the comments below!