We talk by phone Wednesday afternoon.
Originally from New York City, Devlyn Steele lives in Santa Monica.
He’s relaunched his personal growth website ToolsToLife.com.
Luke: "Coach Steele, why did you become a life coach?"
Coach: "My entire life, I’ve been working on self-improvement. I started by teaching sales. In sales, you develop a lot of motivational techniques in helping people improve their attitude and keep their motivation up. And then through owning my own businesses and working with my own employees, learning how to manage them, then through lots of study of my own life and learning how to put Humpty Dumpty back together. I started getting very interested in how I could help other people. This is what I’ve been doing for 15-plus years."
Luke: "When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?"
Coach: "One of my aspirations was to be a pilot. I went to aviation school and became a commercial pilot. In my programs, I use a lot of my flight training as part of the self-development programs we use. I believe in check lists. I believe in translating what we learn into steps we can take. A lot of time in self-help, you intellectualize the information. You may agree with it, but how do you put it into action? Often the translation gets lost. In ToolsToLife, we translate everything into daily bite-size checklists that people can put into action and create changes in their life."
Luke: "In high school, what kind of clique were you in?"
Coach: "I was not in a clique. I was in every clique. I was the captain of the basketball team. I was also the captain of the chess team, the debate team, and hung out with the rock n’roll and cool kids. I have a personality that transfers to any group that you can think of."
Luke: "What did you study at college?"
Coach: "I got several degrees. I graduated at 19 with three degrees (Psychology, Business Administration, and Aeronautical Science)."
Luke: "What led you to become a life coach?"
Coach: "I never took classes to become a life coach. I’ve been working on coaching before the term became popular. I wrote my own program called Tools To Life. I took on the cognitive psychology role. That’s what I resonate towards — learning how to change the thinking patterns of the brain. When we’re born, we have over a billion brain cells but we have no synaptic connections. The synapses that develop are patterns of thought are what we learn through environmental exposure. We didn’t have a choice as to how that happened as a child, but as an adult you can go back in and take responsibility and start learning how to train the brain. In ToolsToLife, you apply cognitive psychology and learn about the brain, about thoughts and learn how to transfer those thoughts into successful patterns. You weren’t born with any good or bad habits. You learned them and you can learn new ones."
Luke: "What’s the difference between having a life coach and having a therapist?"
Coach: "In cognitive psychology, we’re looking at redeveloping patterns from today going forward. That’s the coaching premise that I work on. In therapy, what Freud looked at, was looking at your history and how events shaped those thoughts and hoping that through therapy and conversation about what episodes happened in your life, you can have an emotional correctional experience. In that way, those events won’t continue to surface and be the ruling factor in your behavior.
"There are two ways to approach that. Through therapy and going back and hoping to have an emotional correctional experience, but there’s no timeline. You don’t know if or when it will happen and when you’ll make correctional behavior. Life coaching is more pro-active. You’re looking at what you’re doing today and how can we change that behavior towards accomplishing what you want in life."
Luke: "How did the idea for ToolsToLife come to you?"
Coach: "When I was writing the program, I was offered infomercials and book deals and my take was that you can’t read a book over the weekend and wake up with new behavior. New behavior takes time. When you develop a long program like ToolsToLife, 90 days which takes a lot longer than 90 days to do, it’s difficult for a person to get a package in the mail and then sit down and have the discipline to do that on their own. In the 1990s, I saw the internet as a way to change how things are done and bring people online to have instant access and have a social environment around them for support. I brought my team together in 1999 and when we launched in 2002, the internet couldn’t really support what we were trying to do. It’s taken a long time to get to where we are, but with Facebook and all the social networks out there and with technology such as YouTube and the video streaming, the technology is there. It’s exciting to offer an educational platform at our depth and have the social networking wrapping around it."
Luke: "There’s so much here. It’s almost overwhelming. What happens when people come to the website?"
Coach: "People come from depressed states, from addicted states, from overweight states, from jobless states…from people who want improvement in their life. Top performers love coaching and love ways of sharpening their skills. Even the top athletes who you think are at the top of their game have coaches because someone else’s eyes can see something that they can’t see. Tiger Woods has a coach."
Luke: "I keep seeing ‘Free! Free! Free!’ all over the website. Why are you giving away all this stuff?"
Coach: "My mission has been to have a great effect on the world. That’s why we’re doing it that way. We are going to be launching niche programs that will be paid model programs, but the life program, my 90-day program, the green program, optimizing your health, those are all free. We’re going to be developing free programs and adding to it constantly. We’re developing a program to help people visualize and strengthen their mind during cancer. We’re writing a program for abused women. We’re doing a lot of things to improve the human condition around the world. Then we have programs like Get-A-Job tools, which is free now but it will be launched as a pay-model program. That right now is our stimulus package for the economy. Right now there are five job seekers for every job open."
Luke: "You were a life coach before life coaches were hip. What’s it been like for you to suddenly see life coaches becoming chic?"
Coach: "Interesting. I’m moving away from the title ‘Life Coach’ because of that… When you have an industry that has no regulation, anybody can call themselves a coach, it provides for a wide range of skills. The industry does have to change. It has to be more regulated. People do have to get some type of certification and that process has to be evaluated also. Right now there are lots of certification processes and they decide they are the ones to certify people. Well, what makes them qualified to certify people?"
"I write articles on how to find a good life coach and how to evaluate them. I tell people to ask for referrals, ask for their philosophies, for their background, for how long they have been doing it."
Luke: "How has your choice of profession affected your life?"
Coach: "In the beginning, it meant financial sacrifice. I was a top earner in business. I took quite a financial hit moving into this industry. As the years went on, my earning power came back. It’s affected my life in an emotional and spiritual way. It’s very satisfying. It’s been an honor to work with so many people and be a participant in their journey to creating a better life."
Luke: "Which parts of your job do you love and which parts of your job do you hate?"
Coach: "I don’t use the word ‘hate.’ That’s a bad word. That gives too much energy to something. There’s nothing not to love in my career. Some things are harder than others. When somebody is going through a medical crisis, a financial catastrophe, a death, a loss in the family, a divorce, things that are heartfelt and devastating to an individual, it’s hard on you when you work with those clients, and you have one right another, it’s hard, but that’s my job and you don’t hate it, but there are days when you have clients who are using the sessions to change their careers and are signing million-dollar deals and they’re on top of the world and of course the energy to that is a lot easier and different but it’s all good."
Luke: "Do you find yourself taking on the energy of people you’re coaching?"
Coach: "I don’t take on the energy. It’s draining. It’s work. In this profession, whether it is psychiatrist or doctor, anybody who’s working with people, you have to realize that all you can do is be the best you can in the moment. You have no control of the outcome. You can’t attach yourself to the outcome. Things happen in life. You’re not God. You’re not helping people prevent the catastrophes in life, you’re helping them cope with them. You help the best you can… If you took it on, you’d be a wreck."
Luke: "Is there a different attitude towards coaching in Los Angeles than say the Northeast?"
Coach: "I moved out to Los Angeles from the Northeast because the attitude was more open here. Santa Monica, California is an environment that fosters new ways of looking at life and improving life. I believe now that it is a widely accepted way of viewing life, even in the Northeast. I have clients all over the United States."
Luke: "Are the problems people have and the goals people have significantly different between Los Angeles and New York?"
Coach: "At the end of the day, people have the same needs and wants."
Luke: "How is the process of coaching men and women?"
Coach: "I don’t like to make generalities based on gender. It’s about the individual. Some people are more emotional and you have to deal more on an emotional level. Some people are more practical and logical and you can deal with facts and real action steps without fighting the emotions. I’ve had men who were extremely sensitive and I’ve women who weren’t so sensitive. I wouldn’t want anyone who wants to become a coach adapt a way of thinking that says, ‘A woman is walking in my door. I have to work like this.’"
Luke: "Do you think the body affects the mind more than the mind affects the body?"
Coach: "No. You can overcome how your body is feeling with your mind. Your mind is going to effect everything in your life."
Luke: "Has your work changed your view of human nature?"
Coach: "It’s made me understand human nature a lot more and it’s made me a lot tougher on people, on trying to get to become honest with themselves… I always ask people, ‘Do you want to make improvements in your life?’ Everyone always answers yes. Everyone always has things that they want to improve. What I’ve learned is that while people will say they want improvement, they really don’t. I always challenge people and tell them that they don’t. When you really want something, you’re willing to do what it takes to get it. Most people think about the things they want but don’t want to put the effort in. They want things delivered to them without doing the work."
Luke: "Do you have any thoughts on the pick-up artist movement?"
Coach: "If I don’t have anything positive to say, I generally don’t say anything. I don’t want to comment on other people’s work. It doesn’t add to my work… My mission in life is to talk about what Tools is about and to spread information about the ways you can make improvements in your life."
Luke: "Why do you hate the word ‘hate’?"
Coach: "It’s not a matter of hating it. I don’t use the word ‘hate.’ It’s all about perspective and experience.
"One of the things I do with my clients is that I have them move from chair to chair to chair in a circle around my office. When they get back to the original chair, I ask them, ‘In every chair you sat in, the room looked different, yes?’ They say yes. ‘But nothing physically changed, did it?’ They say no. ‘The same is true in your life. Life is all about perception. Nothing in your life has to change for you to enjoy it more and to find ways to improve it other than the seat you sit in. You can look at your life from your have-nots, from your problems, and that’s what’s you’re going to experience. That limits your view. You can’t see your opportunities when you’re looking at your problems. You can’t see things to love when you are focusing on things you hate.’
"I say get up and move to another chair and look at the chair from, ‘What are my opportunities here?’ What am I grateful for here? What am I appreciative of here? What can I do moving forward? When you get into hate, it’s a limited perspective that doesn’t give you the openness to see the bigger picture.
"I stay away from limiting myself. It’s not that I hate the word hate, I don’t limit myself to that perspective."
Luke: "When people ask you — ‘How are you?’ — what do you say?"
Coach: "How am I? I’m great!"
Luke: "Do you always say, ‘I’m great!’?"
Coach: "I don’t believe in positive thinking. Life is good and bad. In the natural course of life, we should experience the death of our parents. That is not a good day. You don’t have to run around with a happy smile and be all — ‘Life is great!’ — every moment of the day. Sometimes life sucks. However, I do believe in a positive outlook. I believe that whatever is going on in your life, you have an opportunity to make it better. If you’re a million dollars in debt, that sucks, but you have the opportunity to earn a dollar and make it better. Overweight? You have an opportunity to lose weight. Whatever is going on in your life, there’s an opportunity to improve it. I focus on — where are my opportunities to make my life better every day?
"When I say my life is great, it’s not because everything in my life is always great, what is great about my life is that I know that every day I can work on improving it. As long as I am in the game of life that makes everything really great."
Luke: "Is it OK for people to say they’re angry or depressed or jealous or overcome with shame or do you encourage people not to speak in such a way?"
Coach: "No. I encourage people to be very real with their emotions. Your emotions are real and I don’t believe in pretending. It’s not good for you…
"How you feel is how you feel but how you behave is up to you. Your feelings do not rule your behavior. And that’s where I draw the line. Just because you are going through a divorce and you’re sad and unhappy doesn’t mean you have to drink or do drugs or sleep all day or not go to work or not eat or not do the things that you need to do in your life. Regardless of the emotional life, we still are in control of our behavior. I concentrate on that. I also believe that as we take control of our behavior and stay in control of our behavior, we work ourselves out of the negative emotional states. But when we let go of our behavior, then the negative emotional states take over further and further and draw us into a hole."
Luke: "What do you find interesting and boring about being interviewed?"
Coach: "If you want to help people by giving information, you’re going to be in the position to give that information over and over again. It’s not boring as long as you are passionate about it. As long as you love what you are doing. I love what I’m doing so I don’t find anything boring. I’m not that interested though in talking about life coaches and what is life coaching and what are other life coaches doing and things of that nature because that’s getting into an evaluation conversation and it’s not about who I am. I am not here to be critical or judgmental or evaluate what other people are doing. I want to keep my conversation on what we are doing with ToolsToLife and how we can help people."
Luke: "How will ToolsToLife be changing in the months ahead?"
Coach: "We just secured some serious financing to really grow the website out and draw more traffic and attention. We’ll be building out mobile applications so you can access everything on your phone. We are in production of dozens of new programs from stress tools to quit smoking tools. Our goal in the next 24 months is to have over 100 programs online."