How Cleaning Toilets Taught Me Coaching Mastery

When I first discovered personal development in the early 80’s, there was no such thing as a coaching certification or class. We learned through mentorship. 

Before I began coaching people myself, I spent five years in an intense mentorship where I cleaned toilets, picked up trash, ran errands, and did whatever was needed to be in service in the back of the workshops that my mentor was leading. 

It may sound strange that cleaning toilets taught me coaching mastery, but this mentorship is where I learned huge lessons about discipline, focus, and service that have made me into a master coach. 

Before I started assisting workshops, I had my attention on myself, my problems, and my opinions most of the time. 

I indulged in my moods. I dwelled on every little issue in my life, making them much more significant than they were. And honestly, I was a little self-absorbed. 

At one of the first workshops I assisted, the woman who was the “logistics,” or leader of the assisting team kept sending me out to clean toilets and run difficult errands. Each time she sensed I was in my head thinking, I was sent out on another task. 

After being sent out of the room many times, I started seeing how to stay out of my head and be present in the moment.

This workshop was my first experience of being part of a team that was truly in service. 

The team spent hours setting up the room to have a zen look and feel, where nothing distracted your attention when you walked in. When someone on the team had a mood or opinion and their attention on themselves, you could actually FEEL it “pull” the energy of the room. 

As I learned to be present and leave my own “stuff” at the door, I was able to go into service to the participants, the trainer, and the logistics. 

When the weekend was over, my mind was crystal clear and I had no worries in the world. 

All I could think about was, “how can I bottle this and take it home with me?” 

This was the beginning of my mentorship. 

In the first couple of years, I was mentored by a man named Paul. Paul was a very skilled chiropractor, a clinical kinesiologist and a masterful healer. He had a heightened state of awareness and he did not let me get away with anything. 

These were intense times because I was used to getting my way by being pretty and nice. 

Paul taught me discipline, focus, and service. I didn’t like him, but I learned precision from him. 

Part of my keen sense of being able to read people came from his keen sense of reading me and others.

If I had a mood, he sent me on a task to reflect that mood.
If I was in my head thinking all the time, I had to go on a scavenger hunt and find impossible things in stores.
If I was angry, I had to clean dirty bathrooms on the beaches of Maui! 

I learned to take all of my emotion and anger, channel it into my tasks, and make something beautiful out of it. 

I spent long hours learning to be in service. 

Eventually, I started to get free. I started to get out of my head and into my heart. My opinions melted away and I became fully present

In these moments, I felt the ocean breeze like I had never felt it before. I started seeing beauty in places where I was way too distracted to notice it before. 

With this intense training came a sense of deep presence. I learned awareness, discipline, focus, and service. I learned to recognize my moods and my impact. 

Little did I know at the time, I was learning the exact qualities I needed to develop coaching mastery. 

Today, after coaching for 35 years, I use the lessons I learned in my days of cleaning toilets to create a space where my clients feel they can talk to me about ANYTHING. Where they can open up completely. 

I have no opinions or attitudes about my client. When I coach, I drop everything at the door and I am in service. Everything my client says is completely right and my attention is 100% on them. 

In this space of presence and service, I experience a heightened sense of awareness. 

I’m able to observe and see deeply into my clients because I’m not distracted by the filter of my own opinions, thoughts, or feelings. 

This is the seat of a master coach. 

Developing coaching mastery means learning to be truly in service.

It means learning discipline and focus. And learning that when you are with a client, it is your job to get your attention OFF yourself and your life and onto the person you’re serving. 

Here are two ways to master this skill in your life and your coaching:

  1. Look for opportunities to be in service to someone you respect and admire in your life. If you want to go deep, this can take the form of a formal mentorship. But you can also begin to practice by simply being in service to the people around you, getting your attention off yourself, and being in the present moment.

  2. Apply for our Aliveness Mastery™ 9-month coaching certification. This is NOT a “study on your own and pass a test” kind of program. It’s an intensive LIVE online training where you are mentored in small groups of no more than 10 students… where you apply everything you’re learning to your own life first, so you are transformed and truly embody the Aliveness Method®… and where we take you beyond the skills & frameworks and into the art of coaching. This is a highly selective program for coaches & leaders who are ready to gain mastery.

As you practice these skills over time in your life, they will begin to ripple naturally into your work and the way you hold space for your clients. 

Toilet cleaning optional… ;-)


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