Coach Interview Series: Alex Terranova

by Brandon

Alex Terranova

Business, Life, and Mindfulness Coach

Our main objective here at the National Coach Academy is to enable aspiring coaches to reach their full professional potential. One of the most effective ways to educate students about the world of coaching is by offering them a window into the world of real, practicing coaches and showing them all the different ways coaches make a difference in the lives of their clients.

We hope today’s interview adds another insightful glimpse into the dynamic world of coaching.

Today we are interviewing Alex Terranova. Alex is a Business, Life, and Mindfulness Coach based in San Diego, California. He is also an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) by the International Coach Federation, and a Graduate of Accomplishment Coaching’s Leadership and Life Coach training program.

NCA: Can you describe your coaching practice and the kinds of clients you typically work with?

Alex: My practice ranges from about 10 to 15 full-time clients. They are entrepreneurs, executives, and often C-suite level executives. Some of them are small business owners with teams of about 10 or so people and sometimes I will coach the president, the CEO, or the founder. I also work in individual or group style with the employees.

My practice has always been a balance between men and women. It’s never been exclusively men or exclusively women. I’d always seem to have about a 50-50 ratio of both.

Regardless of what their professions are or what they do, they’re ultimately high achievers who are looking to create and expand themselves beyond what society deems as success. Instead of writing one book, maybe they want to write ten. Instead of building a company of 10 to 20, they want to build a company of hundreds. They want to take it really beyond what is reasonable.

NCA: What about life coaching and wellness coaching? You do that as well, correct?

Alex: Yes. Most people come to me for their business, but what I find is that I don’t believe that we can compartmentalize our lives. I am an ontologically trained coach, so it really always comes back to who people are being and how they’re showing up in the world.

People might come to me for business but ultimately, we end up talking about their relationships in general — maybe their relationships to their spouses or partners, relationships to their kids, their relationships to things like time, money, and themselves. And then that brings us into mindfulness aspects and what’s actually going on in their head. Are they acting consciously or unconsciously? Are they acting automatically or are the things they are doing chosen? Are they empowering the things that they’re doing that are chosen?

I think that while people often come to me for business first, usually soon after, we realize that the things that are impacting their business are also impacting all the other areas of their life. I do have people that come to me for personal growth or personal challenges first but it is the minority, not the majority.

NCA: Thinking back on the start of your coaching career, what were some of the main factors that led you to choose this as your own career path?

Alex: I used to open and run hospitality groups and I was moving up the ladder very successfully for almost 20 years. I was very successful but I was unhappy. I was unfulfilled. I was unmotivated. I was unsatisfied. I was looking for what else I could do with my life. If you do something for 15 or 20 years that started when you’re a teenager, even if you go to college, it becomes all you know how to do, so I didn’t know what options I had.

I started going out in the world and looking and I met coaches through networking groups. At first, I didn’t understand it. I was very much like, “What is a life coach? Why would somebody be able to tell me about their life? What are these business coaches — are they just consultants?”

Ultimately, I did a session with a coach. And that session blew my mind because in that 60 to 90 minutes we spent together, I was really able to see that all the things that were happening in my life that weren’t where I wanted them to go were actually because of me. In that 60 to 90 minutes, for the first time in my life, I realized I was responsible for my life and no one else was.

In that moment, I had this like, “How did you do that? I want to be able to help people see that they are responsible and they can have it go different and they can change everything.” That was the moment. And then I put myself in what I believe is the most rigorous, advanced coach training program on the planet which is called Accomplishment Coaching. It’s a year-long coach training program, much of it in-person. That was the next step that really took it to the next level.

NCA: In working with your clients, what would you say is the most rewarding aspect of your career and on the flip side of that, what is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Alex: The most rewarding are the surprises. This just happened this weekend. I got a call from a client who was spending time with their family and they were practicing the things that we talked about on our calls. They opened up and were very authentic and honest with their mother about their relationship and problems and issues that they had and things that they just didn’t like and that weren’t working for them.

Their family and their mother were so receptive and so open and it created a whole new level of relationship. I got a phone call really late at night after it happened because they wanted to share it with me. They wanted to share all the new possibilities that they felt with their family, with their mom — things that up until that conversation happened they thought were impossible.

I have things like that that happen all the time, especially with families or in relationships. A husband or a wife will call me and they’ll tell me this thing happened in their marriage and it’s because of the thing that we have been working on or talking about and it now shifts. It’s almost like the future now can be totally different because of this one action that they took or this one conversation that they had that they didn’t know how to have or they weren’t willing to have before that because they didn’t believe it was possible.

[My first coaching session] blew my mind because in that 60 to 90 minutes we spent together, I was really able to see that all the things that were happening in my life that weren’t where I wanted them to go were actually because of me. In that 60 to 90 minutes, for the first time in my life, I realized I was responsible for my life and no one else was.

The biggest challenge is two things. There’s a lot of coaches. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think the more coaches there are means people are working on themselves and that’s great. But I think there’s a lot of people that are calling themselves coaches and they’re not coaches. They’re business consultants. They’re advisors. They’re mentors. I think there’s a cloudiness in the space where if you’re not fully aware of what’s going on, it’s hard to tell who’s doing what. That often is a challenge.

I’ll walk into a room and people don’t fully understand because they’ve heard so many different people talk about being coaches. Even people in multi-level marketing often call themselves coaches.

The challenge is really defining yourself like “I’m a performance coach” or “I’m an ontological coach”, so people really understand what that is and how that sets you apart. That makes a really big difference.

The other challenge that I run up against is that people don’t believe in themselves. And while that’s one of the reasons why we do this work — to help people get out of their own way, unleash themselves, believe in themselves — the same thing that will have people not believing in themselves is the thing that will have them not invest with themselves because they think they’re going to let somebody down or they’re not going to be able to get the full value. That’s heartbreaking — to have somebody see everything they want that’s available and to not choose it because they’re afraid.

NCA: Can you think of a mentor or a coach in your own personal life who was the most vital to your success and in what ways did this mentor help you thrive in your career?

Alex: I have a bunch. I am abundant with mentors in my coaching journey and community, too. To pick one is really tough, but I would go with my own coach. I’m a big believer that if you’re a coach, you’ve got to have a coach. I tell people all the time if you need a coach and they don’t have a coach, run.

I’ve been with my coach for about 3 years. I had met with him through the training that I went through. When I met him, he had this aura of integrity and commitment and vulnerability. He walked into a room, and even though he wasn’t very large in stature, it was like he filled the whole space. It didn’t matter how big the space was or who else was in the room, he filled it. I remember thinking, “Man, I want to show up like that. I know it’s possible for me to show up like that, not just in filling the space of the room but filling it with integrity, vulnerability, and commitment.”

Working with him for 3 years, I think the biggest thing is I’ve fallen more in love with myself than anything else. By falling in love with myself, everything becomes possible. Because if you actually love yourself, then you can try and you could fail and it doesn’t matter. You can take risks, you can gamble, you can go after things that seem impossible and none of it matters because at the end of the day, you’ll still love yourself.

NCA: What is one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who is just starting out in their coaching career?

Alex: Number one: If you don’t have a coach, you should have a coach. How can you get other people to say yes to something that you’re not wanting to say yes to yourself?

The second thing would be ongoing training because I think with ongoing training, you can just continue to get better. Not necessarily just with books or attending leadership conferences or completing more coach training, but actually having a community around you that you’d get actual training all the time from other coaches.

That is the biggest difference in my business — being surrounded by other great coaches and having phone calls with them, reviewing client calls with them and having them listen and give feedback, having masterminds with just coaches where we get to share the things that we’re dealing with. To me, that training takes you vastly further than book training or going to another seminar.

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