The following interview is from a series I did as part of another project, GTHR.
From time to time we like to highlight gatherers. These individuals captivate us. They draw us out. They invite us into a fuller way of being. They are relentless seekers who are passionately creating spaces for people to discover and pursue their fullest selves.
Their lives tell stories that beg to be shared. And we’re excited to introduce them to you, in their own words.
This week we’d like to introduce you to David Gerber. David is a life and leadership coach who works with individuals, teams, and organizations to help them reach their full potential. David and his wife Sarah reside in Berkeley, California.
In one sentence, what is your purpose, or reason to be?
As a follower of Jesus, I would say my purpose is to share God’s love with the world and empower people to find their identity in Him and become who He has created them to be.
When someone asks you, “What do you do?” What do you tell them?
It’s challenging to tell people what I do because every conversation I have with my clients is different. Imagine asking Beethoven or Monet or Margaret Thatcher what they do. I’d much rather sit down and watch Beethoven play the music. So, as a life coach, every conversation is different and to a degree, experimental. We are finding ways to make the impossible happen. There is no formula for that.
What I can say is this: I have conversations with people and their lives change.
How did you come to be where you are right now?
I compare learning to coach with learning any craft. Learning to play the piano, becoming a great writer, poet, or speaker, or any other craft takes many hours of practice and dedication. And if you have a craft, you know that you don’t sit down at the piano the first time and play Bach effortlessly. Concert musicians practice thousands of hours, and make mistakes along the way. Progress comes from challenging yourself beyond your capacity, beyond your comfort zone. When stepping beyond your capacity, failure is certain because you haven’t been there before. You are charting a new path. You are figuring it out, step by step. I see coaching the same way. I got here by being committed to being the best coach on the planet, and I go after it every day.
What big decisions along the way have brought you to the here and now? The ones where courage conquered fear.
When I first began this career path, I didn’t exactly know what I was doing. To get started, the investment in the training was $9,000. I was newly married to my incredible wife, Sarah, and we didn’t have $9,000. We didn’t have very much discretionary income, let alone thousands of dollars. Most people probably would have decided not to do it at that point. But as Sarah and I prayed about it, we really felt that this was God’s leading. And Sarah was clear that if this was what we sensed God was saying, we must step out in faith. And we did. I worked out a payment plan with the organization and we worked hard and God provided $1,000 a month and we paid it off right on time. I still have no idea how we came up with that much extra money each month. All I can say is that commitment rocks the world.
Every year that Sarah and I have been married we have taken major financial risks in pursuit of making a difference in the world. And each year, we looked at each other and said, “If this doesn’t work out, we are going to have to get really creative.” Then we thought, “Totally worth it, let’s go for it.” And I think we like that mentality so much we will just keep trusting God to lead and provide.
When did you realize you were a coach? Any interesting moments as a child?
I wish I could say I was coaching kids on the playground, but that is not my story. I was kind of a wuss as a kid honestly. I didn’t have a super high self-esteem for some reason. I got picked on quite a bit and didn’t know how to stand up for myself, and so people walked on me, or however you would say that. I was never very popular growing up, and when I was for a year or two in high school because I was an athlete, I didn’t know what to do with it, because back then, I didn’t think much of myself. So even when I was popular, I played small. Coaching is what helped me stop hiding, helped me start living my unlived life, and helped me get who I am at my core and then give it to the world. I realized I was a coach when I saw what a difference I could make in conversations with people, how I could help people get what they want in life.
How has your faith shaped / influenced your work?
My faith is core to who I am. I believe God loves everyone and created everyone with a purpose. I love helping people find their purpose and live it out fully.
What’s your typical creative / coaching process these days?
Coaching is all about conversations and the ability to extract greatness out of others. Learning how to be a great coach and how to extract the genius out of someone is similar to many other crafts. It takes time to become a master at it. So, my focus is a number of processes:
- Being coached myself so that I am on top of my life and on top of my craft (read: an apprenticeship model).
- I read a lot. I am always learning more about this idea of being with a client in such a way that magic happens.
- I schedule my day around conversations where I help and serve people consistently.
- From there, I can talk with people about coaching options for working with me on a consistent basis.
And when you’re not doing any of the above, where can we find you?
I love spending time with my wife Sarah and any of my family. Sarah and I travel quite a bit for either her work or mine, and we typically vacation before or after a work trip. For both of us, travel and family are big priorities. Thus, when we are not working, we are typically doing one of those things.
Down time and work/life balance: How does this vibe with you? How do you make it all work?
I love my work, which makes it quite a bit easier to have a balance. I can work long days and still have lots of energy because I love what I do. And I still have a high value for rest. I get good sleep on an intentional and regular basis. I regularly schedule time to pray, reflect, meditate, and intentionally slow down my mind and body. And I eat well and exercise consistently. I believe these habits are essential to a great work/life balance.
Most difficult situation to date?
In the coaching profession, there is a low bar for entry, but a high bar for success. 95% of coaches won’t “make it” in terms of being full time in the industry. I believe the main reason for this is that most coaches aren’t willing to fail early and often as a coach. For example, one time, early on in my career, 30 minutes into a hour long session, I was so stuck and lost as a coach. Even though I was embarrassed to do so, I asked the client if I could take a 5 minute break and call him back. I thought I would never get to work with him again. After I asked him for a 5 minute break, he said, “that’s fine with me” and then we continued the session after that. I’ve had many “embarrassing moments” like that in my coaching. It’s comes with the territory. I don’t worry about it anymore.
Biggest triumph / accomplishment?
I would say creating a life and business where I can do this full time has been my biggest accomplishment. I never thought I’d be able to live a life like this — one where I make the money I want to make, while still having great flexibility. I’m extremely blessed and I have worked incredibly hard to get here.
What would you tell your five year-ago self?
Hire a great coach. Focus on serving others. Read Steve Chandler’s work. Read Nathaniel Branden’s work. Read as much as you can.
Who do you look to for inspiration? Or, who madly lights you up and makes you want to chase down your dreams?
Sarah (my wife). Steve Hardison. Steve Chandler. Brian Johnson. Jeff Cook (read Jeff’s GTHR interview here). Jim Burgen. Erwin McManus. Joseph Campbell.
Future plans? What dreams are in the pipeline?
I love one-on-one coaching. That is my craft and what I primarily focus on. Becoming the best coach in the world is my future. Along with that, I have an idea for a movement of connecting people together who have similar passions and dreams. I’m still working out how this will look.
What three pieces of practical advice would you share with someone who wants to create, shape, and inspire a community of their own?
- Hire a great coach (just as every great Olympic athlete, musician, and actor would).
- Create a personal “board of directors” or brain trust. People you can lean on. Meet with them regularly and talk about results.
- Stay focused on the vision/dream/passion/impact happening.
There is a tendency to focus on yourself and whether or not you are being successful. The moment you begin focusing on yourself you will disconnect from the vision. Be about the vision.
Any favorite methods, tools, or technology you’ve found to be essential?
- Brian Johnson’s Optimize podcast and Philosophers Notes website
- As far as exercise goes — sign up for races or fun competitions. They are really motivating.
A personal mantra?
“Just for today” — Focus on the day and the moment in front of you. John Wooden said “Make each day your masterpiece.”
“Only connect” — I believe life is about connection. So often we get distracted with so many other things. Keep it simple. Find a way to connect. Jesus said that His desire is that we become one as He and the Father are one. Connect.
Where can we find you and your endeavors online?