The Gift of Being a Beginner

The Gift of Being a Beginner

In the interest of being a beginner I’m going to share a story about roofing with you. Why roofing? Read on!

When my mother-in-law first mentioned that she wanted to replace the roof of the wishing well that has graced her front lawn for over 50 years I was excited. I like working with my hands and it seemed like it would be a fun project. How hard could it be?  I arrived one morning, bright and early, with my hammer and hat and got to work tearing off the old roof.  Likewise, when I first decided to sign up for life coach training I was excited and enthusiastic. How hard could it be?

I was a little unsteady on the step ladder and really had to reach for the top row of cedar shingles. My father-in-law came out and offered some of his tools, including a couple of crowbars and some nail pullers. By the end of the first day I had filled two large garbage cans with deteriorated shingles and was feeling a great sense of accomplishment. I took pictures as I demolished the roof so that I would know how to put it all back together. After my first couple of life coach classes I was feeling pretty good about it. There was a lot of material to learn but I knew I could do it.

That night I fell asleep, tired and happy. I woke a few hours later in a panic. What the hell had I done? I didn’t know how to build a roof! I didn’t know what materials I would need or how I was going to get huge sheets of plywood up on the roof or really anything about roofing! I had jokingly told my father-in-law that I would look it up on YouTube but now I realized that I might have bitten off way more than I could chew.  I finally fell back asleep and the next day started doing some research. Home Depot looked like a good place to start. After a few sessions of watching videos and listening to the Master Life Coaches we were invited to start practicing with one another. I panicked. The first time I tried to speak on a group call my heart was pounding so hard I thought I might pass out. What the hell had I done? I had no idea how to be a life coach!

I found a couple of useful articles and printed them out. I was able to calculate approximately how many shingles I would need to replace the ones I’d torn off. I spent some time on hold with the wonderful folks at Home Depot and both times I was ready to place an order for shingles and plywood for delivery I managed to hang up the phone with my chin. Instead of spending more time on hold I decided to wait. We weren’t ready for the materials yet anyhow. We were assigned to small groups of four people to practice together. The other three women in my group were bright, funny, empathetic and willing to make mistakes and learn from one another. I began to feel like maybe I could do this after all.

When I went back to work the following week my father-in-law came out to look at the plywood that was under the tar paper and realized that a lot of it could be re-used. That was a relief! We spent some time cutting a piece of plywood that he’d been saving since my husband was a young boy and they had dismantled his bunk bed.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! And don’t tear something apart that doesn’t need to be torn apart! My one attempt at using a circular saw while standing on a step ladder could be seen either as a failure (the saw kicked back out of the plywood) or a success (I still have all ten fingers and both arms).  All this practice was beginning to have an effect! I gained some confidence as I listened to the other coach trainees (or cadets as we are fondly called). We had a wonderful Master Coach, Bev Barnes, who led our first practicum and she encouraged us to use the tools we were learning and gently helped us through the rough bits. I coached in front of the other 12 or so cadets on the line and emerged with all my fingers intact.

The next stage of the project involved finding out why the roof was slanted at an odd angle on one end of the wishing well.  After emptying the base of the wishing well, we realized that the bottoms of the 4 x 4 beams that were holding up the roof had been destroyed by termites. Instead of tearing them out completely we were able to shore them up using 2 x 4s and some ingenuity on the part of my father-in-law. More tools were brought out, jacks to prop everything up, a level to make sure that each side was the height, a drill for screwing in the 2 x 4s. I was feeling more comfortable with the tools by now and had also remembered how much I used to enjoy working with my own father when I was young.  I was able to choose the right tool for the job, including chisels, wire cutters for pulling nails, and found out the best way to remove wet tar from skin is with WD-40! By the end of the second practicum we had learned more life coaching methods and it felt more natural to apply them. I was spending less time worrying about “doing it right” and more time helping the people I was coaching.

Once everything was level we placed more tar paper (also known as roofing felt) over the plywood and nailed it down. I started out with my heavy wooden handled hammer then switched to a lighter weight hammer. I got into the rhythm, eventually getting to the point where I could get a nail flush with the roof with 7 bangs.  It felt pretty good although later that night my right hand hurt so much I skipped my yoga class! At the end of the second practicum we were told we could start practicing with “civilians”, people who weren’t in the coach training with us. I reached out to a couple of people I knew and  they agreed to be my guinea pigs. I practiced the tools that we had learned and it gradually got easier.

Before the next working day I went to pick up the new shingles at Home Depot.  While I was there I also bought some sky blue paint for my front porch ceiling and had a nice chat with a gentleman who was visiting from Ohio and doing volunteer repairs at a church in Miami. He was encouraging about my roofing project. I was feeling confident that I could do it. In December I started telling others about what I was doing, just chatting and offering to help. I wasn’t so self-conscious about it as I had been when I first started out. I was gaining some confidence but still felt shy about telling people I was a life coach.

After a false start where I had to tear off the top of a double row of shingles that had been matched up instead of staggered, I got into the rhythm of nailing on the new shingles.  They were all different sizes and some had knots or holes in them and weren’t able to be used. We stopped at 3:00 so I could pick up my son from school, just before completing the top row.  I continued to coach friends, relatives, acquaintances, and other coaches. Some people I only coached once. It’s not always a good match.  I’ve coached others weekly and we’ve made real progress. I love the feeling of being “in flow” that comes sometimes when I’m coaching and I feel energized and happy when I finish a session.

On Saturday I got a call from my father-in-law that he was going to finish putting on the metal cap and the last row of shingles. My mother-in-law was due back from Chicago on Sunday and he wanted to have the project finished. While at first I felt disappointed that I wasn’t there to see it completed I realized that I’d done what I needed to do and could let it go. As my clients learn how to apply the tools to their own lives they don’t need me to be there for them, they can complete the work themselves. And I can offer my services to someone else who needs some help getting started.

We had a great group coaching session today with Master Coach Jackie Gartman. She invited us to give ourselves the gift of being a beginner. What this means for me is that instead of feeling the need to be a “perfect coach” (whatever that means!), that we instead allow ourselves to be beginners and to enjoy it. If you’re interested in being a beginner with me, please contact me about coaching (or roofing!) I’d love to tell you more!




Bravo Pat! Way to put this out into the world. I love the creativity and connections you made between building your roof and becoming a life coach. Much love to you!

Thanks for reading and commenting, Alissa! I felt a little vulnerable putting it out there but remembered our meet and greet in California and decided to go for it!

Nicely done! Great analogy on beginning any new venture whether it be a new practical skill like roofing, learning to be a life coach, or for those trying something new in engaging you as a life coach! All so wonderful and exciting! Much love and success! Hugs, Deb

Thanks for your feedback, Deb! The coaching process has been such a wonderful learning experience for me and I love working with all of the tools I’ve learned! Especially metaphor, dream analysis and Ideal Day… I may have to come up with analogies for those tools as well!


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