Life coaching is a rising (read: lucrative) career path simply due to the fact that it gives clients the opportunity to see issues and challenges from a different perspective. If you’re having the passion to be successful by helping others succeed, read through our Q&A with a successful life coach, Ryan Nivakoff.

Photo of life coach Ryan Nivakoff

Ivan Widjaya (Q): How did you get into the life coaching business?

Ryan Nivakoff (A): It’s funny, as a kid, I dreamed of becoming a lawyer. Most kids want to be astronauts or veterinarians, but I was the boring one. By the time I was in high school and thinking seriously about what to do next, I’d grown out of my lawyer phase. I knew even then that deeply felt personal experience and genuine human connection were more powerful than statutes and legal precedent.

Q: Who or what has had the greatest influence on your professional development?

A: I’ve had multiple mentors over the years, but no one I’d single out as an overwhelming guiding force for my career. More important have been the people I’ve met in my travels to different parts of the world. Speaking to people with totally different perspectives and life experiences and cultural backgrounds, this deep humility takes root within you. That’s my guiding light — I think I’m good at what I do, but I’m smart enough to know that I don’t have all the answers. No one can.

Q: Can anyone benefit from life coaching, or do you prefer clients of a certain type?

A: Yes, anyone can benefit from life coaching. My clients are as diverse as the people I meet on the road. In fact, I’ve met a number of longtime clients in my travels.

Q: What do you like most about your work?

A: I love what I do for the same reason I love to travel. Every day is a new adventure. Preparing for meetings with new clients, learning where they’ve been and what drives them — that’s a true thrill. Even when meeting with longtime clients for the first time in weeks or months, I know that so much will have changed.

Q: Describe your process by pretending I’m a new life coaching client. Where do we start?

A: I ask new clients to fill out a fairly detailed onboarding survey that asks about their life circumstances, careers, strengths, weaknesses, challenges, hopes, dreams. We then set up an initial session where we go over the information they’ve provided and talk out what’s really important. Often, what feels important to clients when they seek out a life coach is not what ultimately matters. By the end of that first session, we’ll usually have the client’s high-level goals and priorities lined out in a road map for the next few meetings. From there, it’s all about execution.

Q: You’re quite the traveler. Do you have any plans to settle down? Where?

A: Not right now. These days, people in my line of work and plenty of others can easily do the location-independent thing; I rarely meet clients in person, because there’s no need to. Sitting here, I can’t even think of my favorite place to visit. But, please, ask me again in three years.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking to follow in your footsteps, what would it be?

A: Care about your clients. Bask in their victories; wallow in their setbacks, even as you help them get back on their feet. They’re the ones you’re working for.