Coach? Bah! Hmmmm. Yah.


It’s Saturday morning. I’m flicking through Netflix and there it was – “Recommended for me: The Legend of Bagger Vance.” It was ten, maybe eleven years ago. The Executive Coach assigned to me recommended the book. An Executive Coach from Little Rock, Arkansas. Hired and paid for by the Firm. “Good for my career,” they said. (Good for my career? I didn’t need help with my career. My team’s results were exceptional. Employee Survey scores ranked my team’s morale #1, with no one remotely close.  Little Rock, Arkansas? Come on. You’ve got to be kidding.)

The first meeting was scheduled. Big Cat was tired, wary and his fur was up. (Last thing I need is some corporate shrink dishing out pablum that I wouldn’t eat and then reporting back to management that I was a head-case. What can he possibly teach me? “He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches.”)

He outlined the program. Clinical. To-the-point. No wasted words. No wasted movement. He explained that he wanted to conduct a 360-survey with my direct reports, colleagues and key partners. Get me the names, and we’ll get started. He was in and out.

Session 3, the survey feedback comes in. Big 4-inch ringed binder.  I’m flipping through the pages. I skip the strengths. I know what they are. Eyes scan the charts, and land on the categories hitting the low points. (Memory is hazy…but I remember thinking Holy Sh*t as a read through the color commentary: “Ambitious. Would roll me if I missed. Aggressive. Relentless. Tough. Standards unrealistically high. ‘Always on.’ Don’t really know him. An enigma, can be hard and soft, therefore difficult to read. And Trust.” I gently closed the binder to trap the words in – dropping my head and tasting the bitters of stomach acid.)

He had no choice but to come to terms with his demons. The only question in his mind was…which demon gave him the most aggravation.

I had come to look forward to my late afternoon sessions with the quiet man from Little Rock who would often open our talks with “What’s going on?” My pulse would slow.  I’d periodically glance out the window onto 5th Ave and see Yellow Cabs racing by. Hear Sirens wailing softly in the distance. Yet, there I sat with Coach. The thundering Big Apple held at bay outside my door. A respite from the crush of the day.

All we got to do is get ourselves out of its way…and let it choose us. Look at him, he in the field. You can’t see that flag as some dragon you got to slay. You’ve got to look with soft eyes. See the place where the tides, and the seasons…the turning of the earth…all come together. Where everything that is…becomes one. You’ve got to seek that place, with your soul Junuh…I can’t take you there…just hopes I can help you find a way.

His patient was black and white – couldn’t see gray – a crow flying the shortest distance between two points.  Coach would tease out frustrations. He would introduce optionality.  Psychological theories.  Leadership concepts. Reading suggestions.

What I’m talking about is a game…a game that can’t be won…only played. (- You don’t understand.) I don’t need to understand. Ain’t a soul who ain’t got a burden to carry he don’t understand. You ain’t alone in that. But you’ve been carrying this one long enough. Time to go on, lay it down. (I don’t know how.) You got a choice. You can stop…or you could start. (- Start? – Walking. – Where?) Back to where you’ve been and then stand there. Still. Real still, and remember. It was too long ago. (- No, sir, it was just a moment ago.) Time to come on out the shadows, Junuh. Time for you to choose. (- I can’t. -) You can. You ain’t alone. I’m right here with you. I’ve been here all along. Now play the game. Your game. The one that only you was meant to play. The one given to you when you was born. You ready? Come on, take your stance. Strike that ball, Junuh. Don’t hold nothing back. Now’s the time.

I. Barry Goldberg is his name.

A man who’s words I circle back to every day.

A man who’s left deep footprints in my sand.

Barry, I ain’t alone. I’m right here with you. I’ve been here with you all along.

Now’s the time.



  1. Reblogged this on THE STRATEGIC LEARNER.


  2. great post!


  3. Thank you David. I only wish every client I work with would engage as courageously and fully as you did. Funny thing about those deep footprints- I suspect you have left a lot of them for others as well- just as you did for me.


    • Ahhhh, look who showed up. My sage. Thank you for the kind words Barry. And for the everlasting impact you had on my career and my life. Hope you and the family are doing well.


  4. Love the post – the parallel between your road and the movie (which I think I was the only one in the universe who really enjoyed). You do walk your path Dave, and you play your game. Be proud.


  5. now’s the time, david. indeed.


  6. Keep playing, David, keep playing.


  7. Brilliant, David. Brilliant. Been in that chair. First skeptical, then accepting, later loving and finally missing my sessions. Now carrying the big scary binder. Green, yellow and red. Always hoping to see more green.


  8. Beautifully done, DK–your candor is laudable. It’s never easy to hear about one’s shortcomings and oftentimes even harder to rectify them. You lead by example, pal….


  9. I’m trying to grasp the idea of a Firm that cares that much about its people. Mind. Blown.


  10. Stephen says:

    Ah yes. A little head nodding on my end. Grey is a funny color though my friend. In high end printers it is used to expand and enhance the dynamic range, and I think your blogging journey is evidence indeed of a little more color bleeding through. Congratulations on venturing into the grey zone … hope you are enjoying it, even if it does feel a tad perilous at times.


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