What do Homer’s epic The Odyssey, Oprah Winfrey and coaching have in common? I thought you’d never ask!

From high school, do you remember that section of the Odyssey where Odysseus must sail past the island home of the Sirens. These Sirens sing with the most beautiful, beguiling voices imaginable. And Odysseus is familiar with ocean lore: how sailors routinely become mesmerized by the Sirens and, under a spell, head straight for shore, dashing themselves against the rocks.

So what does Odysseus do? Wanting to hear the singing but knowing that he and his crew will be helpless in the face of the Sirens’ song, he makes wax earplugs for his crew and lashes himself to the mast of the ship! And when the ship sails past the island, Odysseus hears such enchanting, exquisite singing that he knows he would have followed the Sirens to death and beyond, had he been able.

Fast forward about two thousand years to Oprah Winfrey who in her video Make the Connection at first seems to be talking about diet, but then when you get up close and personal you see that she’s talking about lifestyle changes. The question she asks over and over again is “What do you need to do to reach your goals?” And eventually it becomes clear that the answer to “What do you need to do?” is “Whatever it takes.” You need to do whatever it takes.

Odysseus needed to lash himself to the mast of a ship. Oprah Winfrey needed to get up at 4:30 am and work out with a trainer for one hour every day and radically change her diet. Everything she tried in the past had failed. This total lifestyle change was what it would take for her to succeed.

Now to the tricky part - relating this to coaching. Coaches assist clients in learning about strategies and interventions, and tools and techniques for change. They offer encouragement, try to unlock motivation puzzles, and hold the client accountable. But only the client can make the commitment to “doing whatever it takes” to create the life they want. The client must empower himself and his coach to fully understand issues like:

• clients' standard interpretation of the way the world (personal and/or business) works and their place in it
• strengths, weaknesses and learning styles
• "engineering" an environment for success
• why the concept of “a good fit” is important in the context of work, relationships, or the academic arena
• why structure, planning, and setting goals and objectives create forward movement

and then to act in accordance with the knowledge gained.

Change can require persistence and the relentless pursuit of truth. It can require the continuous asking of questions like “What do I need to know about myself in order to be who I want to be and do what I want to do?” or “Now that I know myself better, what do I need to do in order to reach my goals?” Reaching our goals can require the motivation, energy and determination of a baby.

We can all learn a powerful lesson by remembering what it takes for a baby to learn how to walk: Falls. Crying. Bumps. Stumbling. Going back to creeping or crawling for a while. Bruises. Tenuous steps. But with constant encouragement, the baby happily continues its hazardous journey toward independence. The baby’s learning is inherent in the process. If the baby decided at some point in the process that it was too frustrating or too dangerous to continue, he would not learn to walk.

The value of the coaching is also in the process. We learn more today. We do more with that knowledge tomorrow. Today we’re creeping. And tomorrow we may stumble. But as long as we remain committed to “doing whatever it takes” we’re in process. There’s no reason to think we won’t succeed if we can only maintain the enthusiasm of a baby.

Out on uncharted waters I sometimes hear the Sirens calling. And because I need to, I believe I have what it takes to lash myself to the mast. I look forward to seeing you on the open seas - please signal as our ships cross paths.