Young Upstarts

All about entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, ideas, innovation, and small business.

[INTERVIEW] Ryan Nivakoff, Life Coach

Today we’re interviewing Ryan Nivakoff, who shares how and why he started a professional life-coaching business and how this career enables him to travel the world.

Describe your professional background. How did you get here?

From a fairly young age, I knew that I wanted to be in a helping profession — not like healthcare or education, even though I have the utmost respect for nurses and teachers, but a line of work that allowed me to positively impact others’ lives every day while maintaining my own independent lifestyle. The more I learned about life coaching, the more it seemed like the perfect fit.

Like many sole proprietors, I started small and slow. Most of my first clients were first- or second-degree connections who heard of me directly or through word of mouth. I had to get comfortable tooting my own horn without seeming overbearing.

What does a life coach do, anyway?

I help my clients articulate strategic life and career goals, overcome deep-seated internal and external obstacles to achieving those goals, and make positive and lasting changes to their lives. It sounds cheesy, but I’m really in the business of helping people help themselves. Coaching is all about giving your team — in this case, my clients — the tools they need to succeed.

What’s the most common misconception about your line of work?

That life coaches solve problems. I give clients the tools to change their lives and careers for the better, but I can’t work miracles. Most prospective clients understand this; I mostly hear this misconception from people who haven’t given much thought to what we do.

You’re location-independent. What does that mean, and how has it affected your business?

Basically, I don’t have a true home base. I spend much of my time on the road — not staying in five-star hotels, of course, but remaining in new places long enough to meet folks and get a flavor for the area, then moving on. I wish I could say it affects how I run my business, but other than quote-unquote meeting clients by Skype rather than face-to-face, and not having a permanent office, it’s pretty ordinary.

If you could do anything else with your life, what would it be?

It’s a cop-out, since I travel so much, but I’d want to be a travel writer. The only thing better than running a business while traveling is actually getting paid to travel.

What’s your favorite place to visit? Why?

I have a top 10 list, but no top three, if that makes sense. There are so many amazing places in this world that it’s really difficult to choose a favorite.

I will say that I have a bias for off-the-beaten-path destinations that don’t attract many tourists. In such pleases, locals tend to be friendlier, in the genuinely-nice-to-see-you sense; in established tourist destinations, they have to be nice to you, because the local economy depends on it. So, even if I could pick out my favorite place in the world, I probably wouldn’t tell you.

Okay, no favorite place. But why haven’t you settled down yet somewhere?

I’m fortunate to have a successful business that I can take anywhere and good health to enjoy my travels. I’m not ready to stay in the same place for the rest of my life. I expect to get there eventually, but in the meantime, I’m loving the ride. If there’s one piece of advice I’d give fellow wanderers, it’s this: Don’t quit before you’re ready.

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Young Upstarts is a business and technology blog that champions new ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship. It focuses on highlighting young people and small businesses, celebrating their vision and role in changing the world with their ideas, products and services.

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