Coach Interview Series: John James Santangelo PhD

by Brandon

John James Santangelo PhD

NLP Results 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 John James Santangelo. John is a communication skills expert, Certified NLP Trainer, Clinical Hypnotherapist, and Professional Results Coach based in Los Angeles.

If you’d like a free copy of John’s famous SETTING GOALS book on Amazon, go here to download yours;

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

John: The main objective for me is to help clients overcome the challenges that they are working on in their life. I work with relationships, career decisions. It could be something in their past, which is usually what holds most people back. Sometimes it could be as simple as goal settings which is why I wrote one of my first books to uncover the strategies of getting what you want. I believe success is really simple, it’s just not easy. It’s knowing what you want and learning to get out of your own way.

NCA: What initially got you interested in coaching?

John: It’s most likely like everyone else. It’s our individual challenges that we want to overcome and once we find a methodology or certain behaviors that work, we want to share it with the world. We want to say to others, “Hey, if I could do this, then you could do this as well.” And I think that it probably works well for most people that are getting into this business. They find something that helped them and want to become proficient in it.

It’s almost universal because that’s the human condition. It’s the brain. It’s where I specialize in. Not so much in human behavior — that’s the result of what I do with working with the brain and how the brain functions. What I’ve been trained in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is how the brain is operating. If you could figure out how to go inside your computer and manipulate your software and knew what you wanted it to do rather than what the manufacturer did, it’s a lot easier to get your results. It’s the same thing. If you know how your brain operates, you can go and tweak your rituals, tweak your habits and then produce the results you want. It’s pretty simple stuff. It’s not brain surgery.

The brain is the most malleable up until we’re about 8 years old when we start learning these habits and these rituals. Some of them help us, most of them hold us back and it’s not until we’re in our 20’s and 30’s, sometimes in our 40’s when we realize, “Oh geez, my life sucks. I’m going to do something about it. I’ve got to change the way that I do things.” And that’s when people start looking for answers. That’s the key.

When I’m working with individuals that have issues they’re going through, I can place myself — like any good plot in any story — in that character wheel and go, ”What would I do? What are they doing? How have they overcome the challenge?” You get to uncover that information. You’re uncovering life’s map.

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

John: It’s when you get that Aha! moment where your brain rewires. You learn something new and your brain goes “Oh yes! That’s amazing! That’s wonderful! I never knew that before.” Coming out of those challenges, overcoming something and it can be something as simple as one word or a simple story that somebody tells.

In class, we take them through metaphors, which is wonderful. We roleplay and things like that. We get to ask questions and uncover their challenges. For me, that’s the best part. I think that’s the best part of life — watching somebody transition from one place to another.

In fact, that’s why I wrote the book“>Setting Goals. It’s because it’s not just about the result. Because anybody can set a goal. It’s ridiculous how simple it is. Write it down and work towards it. But 95% of most people give up by the second week of January. It’s not what you want. It’s who you become to obtain that new goal. It’s implementing new behaviors and new habits and new personality traits or you would have already obtained that goal years ago if it was that simple.

The unfortunate thing is, we’re having so many tragedies: suicides, kids picking up guns and shooting each other. Depression is overwhelming, the opioid crisis. The thing that I find the most successful is teaching the younger generation — the kids — because that’s where world peace starts. I truly believe it starts with the family. You raise wonderful, loving children that uphold or set themselves in higher regard. They feel great about who they are and they go on to teach and repeat the same process to their kids.

I just went through a major tragedy where there was a shooting in my town and two of my friends got shot. I didn’t know the kid personally. I knew he came into the club but I heard his story about his parents and he came from a very distraught childhood. No father. The mother, I think, was mentally ill as well. It’s really unfortunate. There’s nothing that we can do about that. That’s in the past. But moving forward, we have to raise great, loving children. That’s truly the key.

The most challenging part of the human condition is that we don’t learn that information. Where do you learn this stuff? How do you install it in someone that’s coming to me to pay me a lot of money? That’s the challenge. How do I get them to uncover those ‘Aha! moments’? And once they figure it out, how do you create lasting change? That’s the key. Because you can give someone the answer but it doesn’t mean they’re going to follow it.

I believe success is really simple, it’s just not easy. It’s knowing what you want and learning to get out of your own way.

If there was literally a class that everyone had to take before you had kids and it was entitled “How to become a great parent”, we wouldn’t have problems in our society as we do now. Because most of the problems that we’ve incurred personally were passed down genealogically from our parents. From their grandparents. From their great grandparents. The beliefs and attitudes are passed down through history and we model those behaviors as children. They say 85% of your personality is ingrained into your neurology by the time you’re 8 years old. 85% of who you are. 95% by the time you’re 18. People don’t change. Rarely, after 18 years old.

I love this quote. I’ve put it in my book. It says, “People don’t change unless the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of the change.” It means that most people don’t change until they hit rock bottom and that pain becomes so bad. One of the things we say in class is “You get sick and tired of being sick and tired.” That’s when you finally pull yourself up by your bootstraps and go, “Okay, I’m no longer willing to accept these standards I’ve set for my life.” That’s when the personality and the brain work together looking for the puzzle pieces. That’s when people start to go, “Okay, I’ve got to find a better way.”

Hopefully, they come to find a great coach. And I’d say a great coach because what I found, unfortunately, is you can go on to the website Udemy and get certified as a life coach for $9. The unfortunate thing is that they have no life experience themselves to help enough other people and second, they don’t really know what the process and the methods of change are.

I truly believe success is really this simple. It’s only two things out of everything I’ve studied in the last 25 years in school. It comes down to simply this: One, knowing what you want. Clarity is power. The first thing I say to my clients, “Pretend I’m your travel agent. What’s the first question I’m going to ask you? Where are we going? You need to know that.”

Second, what’s holding you back? And it’s learning to get out of your own way. That’s the secret. Clarity is power and learning to get out of your own way. Without those two — I don’t care how much motivation and determination and all of these other aspects of what people think goal setting is — it’s relevant. That’s what most people do. It’s unfortunate that what most coaching programs do is they don’t really uncover the getting out of your own way part. You can ask questions all day long about “What do you want to do, where do you want to go, how does that feel? Let’s write it down, let’s check in every week.”

One of the things I teach in my courses is “Master your emotions, master your life.” Every decision you make is based upon the emotional state of mind you’re in when you’re making that decision. If you can change how you perceive that decision which is your emotional state, you’ll make better decisions. Better decisions shape your destiny. They shape your future. It sounds so simple, yet it’s so hard because we’re emotional creatures. We operate through how we feel about things.

NCA: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone just starting their coaching career?

John: The human condition is about modeling. We model the people that are around us. Napoleon Hill said in Think and Grow Rich, “If you want to become rich, you don’t hang out at a junkyard.” It’s surrounding yourself with people that support you. That’s number one.

The second piece of that puzzle is if that’s your life path, it’s really learning who you are. As the great philosopher Frederick Nietzsche said, “The two questions we ask of ourselves are who am I and why am I here.” When you start and begin to uncover who you are, everything comes a lot easier. Because that’s the number one question we’re constantly challenged with when we’re moving towards something. We question whether or not we’re worthy of that goal, “Oh I can’t afford that car.” “Oh, I’ll never have a great relationship.” “I don’t have the tools or skills to do that.” If we’re working with coaching certifications, “I don’t think I’m good enough. I don’t follow through on things.” All that negative self-talk is based upon the negative self-esteem we have.

I believe if you’re going to choose this line of work, do the work yourself first. Find out who you are and what you’re capable of doing. Research a lot of different programs and find the one that best fits your personality. There are so many different certification courses out there and all of them teach the process is a little bit different.

My instructor when I first started learning NLP said years ago, “You’re going to get clients that are fit towards your personality and you are going to attract those kinds of clients.” And it’s so true. You have a coach that’s more demure and soft-spoken but strong-willed, those are the kind of people you’re going to attract. I’m very loud and brash and I’m right to the point.

I tell my clients, “Are you ready for the truth? Because if you’re not, I’m not taking your money. I will fire myself. This is not personal. This is the truth.” And some people will have a hard time dealing with that. A great coach knows how to overcome that because like a great psychologist or a great psychiatrist, you need to hear the truth.

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