I am super shy, so I was nervous about Damon coaching me with 30 people watching, but my relationship with Damon spans some years. We’re both social justice organizers and we really connect as fathers of sons who had some health challenges. My middle son passed away from brain cancer. We’ve had some profound conversations about our sons. As black men, we know our children are in danger. They are here today and can be gone tomorrow.
Already connected, we started the coaching session by jumping into a deep intimate issue around being a father, being a black man and what that means. I’m 6’1” tall, dark skinned, and grew up in Alabama. My mom drilled into me how to act, because anything perceived as a threat could cost me my life. She wanted to protect me and I felt the same about my sons.
Damon got me to talk about what was most important to me—the spiritual and mental health of my black sons who at any moment could be taken away. When my oldest son graduated from high school, I felt I hadn’t had the conversations I’d wanted to have before he went off to college. I had missed a lot because I’d spent 10 years mismanaging the balance of my personal and professional life in the social justice movement. Little things, little conversations that were not had. I wanted my relationship with my youngest son to be diff erent.
Damon said to me, “You say these things are important to you, I believe they are important to you, but what have you done to make time with your family, time with your son, time with yourself?” I was blown away because in social justice work we don’t do that enough. I couldn’t continue to lie to myself about my good intentions, because there was no action. I had to take a hard look in the mirror.
That coaching session was deep and transformative for me. He helped me re-focus on things that are important. Ever since my son transitioned, I’ve wanted to start a foundation, but hadn’t. I started the foundation for my son, because Damon said, “When are you going to get the paperwork done? Give me some dates. When will you have the conversations?” We set some deadlines and he asked me to check in with him, and when I did, a lot had changed.
I started looking at my health, losing weight and spending more time with my son. Because of coaching, my whole life changed. When my youngest son wants to talk to me, he gets my attention. I’m more involved in his life. I’ve made changes with my oldest son also. Our conversations are more focused… more present in the moment. The same is true with my wife and my friendships.
Amazing things were put in motion. Once I earnestly committed to the people and things that really mattered in my life, the universe got out of my way. Many things fell in place, because I let go of the grind and focused on my real desires. It’s a tough journey for black men in the United States. I care about my son’s safety. I can’t prepare him for this world if I’m not around. There is no part of my life that hasn’t improved. Later, I encouraged my wife to participate in an introductory coaching course and the afternoon that she finished, we had the most transformative conversation in 17½ years of marriage.
Written by Rob McGowan
Excerpt from Coaching for Transformation by Lasley, Kellogg, Michaels and Brown.
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