COACHING THE COACHES
by Jon Rappoport
Copyright © 2011 by Jon Rappoport
Bringing imagination back into a life largely devoid of it is a fascinating and profound process.
I had a client who was a business coach. He worked with entrepreneurs, educators, CEOs, and marketing executives. He was interested in my work on imagination, and asked to receive a few sessions.
I gave him an assignment. He was to write at least a page on each of the following prompts:
“At a traffic light, you look out your window and see a large goldfish at the wheel of a Porsche.”
“The chief astronomer at the Palomar Observatory announces that the moon is a cantaloupe.”
“The inhabitants of South Africa wake up one morning and discover they are floating on an iceberg in the Antarctic.”
When this coach looked at the assignment, he said, “That’s completely absurd.”
“Exactly,” I said. “That’s why I want you to write at least three pages.”
He went away with a stunned look on his face.
The next week, he came back with many pages of notes explaining why it was impossible to do the assignment. Among the notes were a few diagrams outlining a theory of what he called “incremental progress.” Basically, the theory claimed that causes and effects, going back to the beginning of time, were linked in tight chains, and “anything new” was merely the next logical outcome of all that had come before.
I asked him what his theory had to do with the writing assignment.
He said, “It’s impossible to take off from a premise like a goldfish driving a car, because nothing in the entire of history of the world would lead up to that absurd occurrence.”
“In other words,” I said, “you have to start with a real fact, and then you can write pages.”
“Yes,” he said.
I wasn’t sure why he had expounded a theory to explain this, but of course I went along with it.
“All right,” I said. “Let’s pretend I’m a store owner, and I’ve just sold you a toy for your daughter. You, being a careful man, open the box before you leave the store, and you discover it’s empty. What do you tell the store owner?”
“I tell him he’s made a mistake. I say, ‘I didn’t come in here to buy an empty box.’”
“But,” I said, “I’m not a store owner. And you didn’t just pay for a toy for your daughter. These aren’t facts. So how can you tell me what you would say to a non-existent shopkeeper?”
He started to object, then stopped.
“I think it’s about the degree of absurdity,” he finally said. “If it goes too far, as it does with the goldfish, I don’t want to deal with it.”
“You don’t want to imagine it.”
“It makes me feel foolish,” he said.
“Because it’s something for children to do. I’m a grown-up.”
“All right,” I said, “I understand that. But suppose it’s our secret. I won’t tell anybody, and you won’t tell anybody. You’ll go home and pretend you’re a child, and you’ll do the assignment. Will that work?”
He thought about it. He nodded. “I think so.”
As he walked out of my studio, he was already beginning to see the light.
The next week, he came back with 30 pages. He looked like a man who had just been let out of prison.
Years later, he would tell me it was his “lesson in freedom.”
Now, understand, I wouldn’t have given that assignment to just anyone. The work has to fit the client. The degree of difficulty, as they say in diving competitions, has to be adjusted for the person you’re working with.
But this is an example of how imagination can be brought back in out of the cold.
This client of mine went on, in his life, to make all sorts of positive changes. He felt free enough to imagine his future in new and, to him, unexpected ways. He married, he moved, he built a house, he went full-time into educational consulting for almost a decade, he earned a degree in architecture, he designed buildings and homes, he funded the development of new building materials.
Does that sound like child’s play? Does that sound like absurdity?Does that sound like the inconsequential use of a technique for liberating imagination?
A former candidate for a US Congressional seat in California, Jon has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years. He has written articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. The author of The Ownership of All Life, Jon has maintained a consulting practice for the past 15 years. He has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, and creativity to audiences around the world.