Andrew Barber-Starkey is the the founder and creator of the ProCoach Success System, which is a coaching program for self-employed business owners who want to perform at a higher level. Check out his interview on finding his purpose & experiences working with others to find theirs…
Can you tell us who you are and what you do for work?
My name is Andrew Barber-Starkey and I’m the founder and creator of the ProCoach Success System, which is a coaching program for self-employed business owners who want to perform at a higher level.
What does the idea of “soul purpose” mean to you? How would you define that for you?
I think that, for me, when you talk about a soul purpose, it’s something that comes from the soul. So it speaks to you if you can slow down and long enough to listen to it. It guides you.
When you’re not in alignment with it, if you’re doing activities or spending your time in anything that’s not aligned with it, then you suffer. If you’re not paying attention, you’re paying a price for not following your soul’s purpose. If you are following your soul’s purpose, there’s an energy and a joy and a flow that tends to unfold. Not that life becomes perfect but it does flow.
Do you know what your purpose is?
I used to be in corporate sales for many years. In early 90s, I was laid off and I was looking for what I was going to do next. I was really struggling because I just didn’t want to go back into sales. It just didn’t feel like it nurtured me. I met a woman. She said, “Well, you need to know your purpose.” I said okay. So we sat down and she helped. We spent actually an entire day. She’s an art therapist. After we did this whole process, she had me paint it. It was really a phenomenal process.
I got crystal clear that my purpose is to empower people to reach more of their full potential.
Actually right over here, on the wall, do you see that painting? That is the painting I did with her. It says, “My purpose is to help people discover and empower themselves to reach more of their own potential.” I started living that. Life’s never been the same since. It’s amazing.
Q. Do you think everyone has a soul purpose?
I personally think that all that stuff is made-up. In other words, to say, “Do we have a soul purpose or don’t we?” Yes to both. I personally have found that I have been able to connect with something that feels like a soul purpose to me. I’ve guided many people through the process of identifying their soul purpose, maybe 50 to 100 people, on-on-one, and then larger in numbers, in groups. They all seem to be able to get a sense of “I have some soul purpose.”
But a person who isn’t finding a soul purpose for themselves, I don’t think there’s anything wrong. It’s just they’re not connecting with it at the moment. So it’s like language. We make up a word and then we say—for example, here we are on a property. We say, “Well, there are property boundaries.” We just made that up. Why do we do that? Because it works. It creates a structure that is effective. So for me, a soul purpose, do you have to have one? No. But I’ve personally found it a useful tool and I’ve been able to find that for myself.
Q. Can you elaborate on how you found your soul purpose?
As I just mentioned, I worked with this woman who was an art therapist and an MBA, which was an interesting combination in it’s own right. It was really about identifying my values, taking a look at that, looking at what inspires me. I think for me—
This is a tip for anybody who’s looking for their soul purpose. I came up with this little exercise that evolved from what she did.
It would be to say imagine you weren’t born. Just close your eyes. Pretend you’re out there in space floating around. This voice comes to you. You’re like nothing. You hear this voice and you know that this is the big voice, whatever the big voice is to you. The voice says, “So I hear you want to go to planet Earth. Why would I send you there? What will you do? What contribution will you make?” You go, “Hmm,” and it comes up inside and you go, “Here’s what I’m going to do.”
So that’s the process I’ve found most useful for getting clear.
“I’m going to come here to make a difference,” and a very specific kind of difference because everybody’s purpose is a little bit different. The purpose for me is empowering others. That’s what comes up when I do that exercise. For me, I know I’m living my purpose partly because I know what my purpose is and I can check in with it when I’ve got it written down on a piece of paper. It’s like, “Here is what my life purpose is,” and then I can feel, “Am I doing that or am I not?” So that’s one way. But I think there’s also just a—
I worked with a lot of small business owners. If there’s not a passion, if there’s not a deep sense of connection with the work that they’re doing and what they’re up to, then it’s really hard to be a successful business owner because owning a business is tough.
Running a business is tough. So to me, one of the reasons I know that I’m living my life purpose is I wake up every day with energy to spare and I can’t wait to get out and empower small business owners to have better, more successful businesses. So there’s an energy and a satisfaction, a fulfilment when I work with a client and then they create a breakthrough. That’s better than anything.
By the way, there are many ways I think I could do my life purpose, like I work with small business owners. I could be working at a school in Africa. I could even be working at a corporation but I can still empower people to reach more of their own potential. In doing that, I’ll experience the joy and the fulfilment of doing my life purpose. When I do it in the right environment that also nurtures me that meets my lifestyle preferences as well as gets to do my purpose, that’s when the real magic happens.
Q. What impact do you feel there is on one’s finances as it relates to living in your soul purpose?
I’m going to answer that question two different ways. In some ways, people living in their soul purpose can lead to financial disaster if they get attached to doing it a certain way.
I’ve been around coaching since 1993. When I announced that I was a coach, – I had never heard of it before – I thought I invented the whole profession. Since that time, so many coaches have come along and many of them are life coaches. They want to help people to be more successful and so on but they’re so committed to doing it a certain way that actually their income, their lifestyle suffer. That’s not a good thing or a bad thing but it can be financially disastrous if you’re committed to something.
I’m going to tell you a story. I’m not sure how long this interview is. But I teach life purpose and teach it to our clients. So one day, I was working on a workbook and developing a seminar for life purpose. I’m in my office working away and the doorbell rang. It’s the mailman and he’s got this package for me. I go down there and I see this guy in his mail outfit and I go, “What’s thing guy doing? He’s not doing his life purpose obviously, right?” So I said to him, “Why are you a mailman? What’s this about?” He goes, “Well, it’s because it keeps me fit and I get a pension and my income. It’s good.” I said, “But is that all? Isn’t there more to life than that?” He goes, “Well, it’s just if I really work hard in my mail run, I could finish by 1:30.” I’m like, “So?” He goes, “Then I get to play with my trains.”
It was crystal clear that he’d figured it out that he couldn’t make a living playing and designing. He made these steam engines, as many steam engines on a lathe and he had all these equipment. That was his passion. That was his purpose, to bring these things into the world. He couldn’t do it and make a living. So he had this job that allowed him to get a pension and an income and take care of all that said. It gave him enough flexibility to do what he loved to do and to really express himself fully.
So you don’t have to starve to death to do your life purpose. Simultaneously if you’re the right person and you can really step into and embrace and market your life purpose, you can find a market for it. You can make—I think the people that make the most money in the world, they’re doing what they’re passionate about and what their life purpose is, a Donald Trump or a Richard Branson or something.
So income and life purpose aren’t tied together but there you have to be strategically aware if earning money is important to you.
Q. What was an important past decision or action that go you on the path to living your soul purpose?
Well, the thing is, for me, it was almost by mistake. After I discovered what my life purpose was, to empower others to reach more of their potential, – it was just actually to awaken and empower others to reach more of their full potential – this woman said to me, “Okay, now you know what your purpose is. What are you going to do with it?” I just went into analysis paralysis. I didn’t know. She says, “Okay, you’ve got a week.” I was in hell. Really I couldn’t sleep. I felt always pressured to decide what I was going to do. I had no idea. Like I said, coaching didn’t exist. It wasn’t like I’d heard of it before.
I get to another story apparently. The phone rang. I think two days before I was going back to this woman to declare to her that I didn’t know what the heck I was going to do with it. Phone rang, it was a friend of mine and she’s a suicide counsellor. She goes, “Andrew, I’ve got a client here I’m talking to. She’s a realtor and she’s interested in taking some Brian Tracy courses. You know Brian Tracy stuff. You’ve worked for him, right?” I went, “Yeah.” She said, “Will you talk to her?” I said, “Sure.” This one was obviously suicidal. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be seeing my friend.
So anyway, we had this conversation in probably 15 minutes. She was crystal clear about what she’s up to, what her plan was, how she was going to move forward, and she was committed to action. I hang up the phone and I went, “Yes! That’s what I want to do.” By the time my friend phoned back and said, “What did you do with my client?” I had already written up this little business card that said, “Andrew Barber-Starkey, Business and Personal Coaching.” So my decision was I was going to do that. That’s the good news.
The bad news is – and I’d say this to anybody who’s thinking of starting a career in what they’re passionate about.
I would not recommend that you invent a new industry because I starved to death for six years. But the commitment—it wasn’t even a commitment. It’s like he said, it was a decision I made. It wasn’t a decision. I just had no choice.
I felt completely called to it. I had about 150,000 of these. By the time I started making money, I was down to about 30,000 and it was almost all gone. I’ve gone, “This is getting dangerous.” But I couldn’t stop. Then it just started to slowly turn around and now I make a really great income but it was a long journey. So the decision was—because it wasn’t even a decision. There’s no choice. I have to do this. Then it was about how to make that work and put in the effort and the strategy necessary to make a living from it.
Q. Did you feel encouraged or discouraged by your community after finding your soul purpose?
One thing about inventing a new profession is that most people don’t have a clue what you’re doing. So they didn’t understand it. I’ve always been surrounded by people who are very supportive of me and my authenticity and very much involved in that personal development industry and so on.
So I certainly never had anybody get down on me. Maybe if they had seen my financial situation, they might have had some more questions but they didn’t. I was single at that time so I kind of got away with doing what I want, when I want, the way I wanted. There wasn’t negative feedback. People thought it was great what I did and a lot of people came and had sessions with me and never became clients and took advantage of what I had to offer and my skills.
But really I wasn’t affected by my external environment negatively for sure. On the other hand, if I was married as I am now at that time, I would have probably never been able to do what I did.
Q. What are some of the challenges you faced along the way?
Well, I think one of the hardest parts is to balance the idealism of doing what you’re passionate about and what your life purpose is with the pragmatic element of living in a city like Vancouver, where it takes a lot of work to generate enough money to live in a city like this and own a home and so on.
So sometimes compromises have to be made. If one’s too idealistic, – I find many people that get smitten with the life purpose thing – they’re not as willing to compromise in any way.
In my experience, if you hold on to your life purpose and commit to bringing it to fruition, then just follow the path that takes you there and don’t insist on getting it all right away. It’s kind of childish to jump up and down and go, “I want to have this. I want to have this.” A big price can get paid financially in lifestyle and relationships and everything if you’re too insistent on getting it right away. So be patient and allow your course to just flow along towards living your life purposefully rather than on insisting on having it from day one. That will probably lead to a smoother journey even if you have to suck it all up a little than do the things you don’t want.
When I was struggling and not earning an income for—I earned nothing for a couple of years and I burned up all my savings. Then I had to start earning income. I ended up teaching corporate training for Telus. I didn’t ever like the corporate environment but it was very lucrative. I was asked if I wanted to design a sales training course for a company because I had been successful in sales. It wasn’t my life purpose but I managed to fit my life purpose into the sales training and make a lot of money out of it at the same time too.
Q. What helped you get through these obstacles?
I’m just a kind of person that doesn’t quit, which is a mixed blessing. Being true to any ideology, whether it be your life purpose, religious or anything, it always brings a lot of challenges.
There is always somebody trying to pull you off the path or ostracize you for not being the way they want. They don’t like it or whatever. So I think for me I just never allowed that stuff to stop me.
I was committed to creating what I created. Quite frankly, there was nothing else I could do. I didn’t see another job that could, in anyway, satisfy or that I could even succeed at. So I just really worked hard. There were downtimes for sure. That’s where friends and support really does come in, and patience, really trusting that you’re on the right path.
The biggest thing, as you created something, a new realm, you have to face your fears over and over again. The thing I’ll say about fear, it’s the only thing in the world that gets smaller when you move towards it. Fear is actually completely in your mind. When you go and do something, there’s no time for fear. You’re just dealing with doing it.
To be successful in life—there’s a reason that only a small percentage of people are highly successful. It takes a certain kind of person. What I’ve learned along my way is that it’s a journey. It’s a transformational journey. I never in a million years would have guessed that I would be where I am now, doing what I have and what I do, earning the money I earn, living in the home I live with, having a family I have, and making such a difference in so many people’s lives.
If you would have asked me 30 years ago, it would have seemed like that would be like flying on my own that far out of the realm.
Q. What’s different about who you are now compared to who you were before you started living your soul purpose?
Well, I think probably the biggest thing for me is that when I worked in the corporate world, I just never liked corporate politics.
I worked for Xerox. I sold photocopiers. With due apologies to Xerox, nobody needs a new photocopier, very, very rare. We were selling copiers because they’re least expired and we had some fancy new gadget, not because they needed it. It wasn’t satisfying. The politics, when you have a job instead of a passion or a purpose, it’s just a lot harder to deal with the crap. There seems to be a lot more of it.
When you committed to something, when you’ve got a purpose, it’s like—okay, so let’s say you’ve got a kid and they’re lost out in the woods. It’s dark and it’s raining. Do you give a crap about that? No, you’re going to find your kid. The rain doesn’t, nothing bothers you. You’re just going for it because you have a commitment to it. The same is true with a life purpose.
When you’re committed to your life purpose, the stuff that would really stop you and annoy you and upset you and hold you back in a job, you just move through that if and when you’re connected with your purpose. That’s the cool thing about a purpose. It calls you forth to be a whole different kind of person than you would be if you were just wandering along, doing your own thing.
Q. How has your impact on the world changed since you started living your soul purpose?
Well, now that I’m not selling photocopiers, there are a lot of people that could have had really good photocopiers that don’t have them. So that is an unfortunate blow to the economy.
But I’ve coached one-on-one way over 5,000 people. The results that they’ve achieved in their lives—one client comes to mind. I have hundreds and hundreds. One client comes to mind. He was a draftsman. He was overweight. He got this idea he wanted to be into fitness.
Actually the doctors would tell me he’s going to have operation. They have to do an operation because he’s overweight and all that stuff. So he started getting into fitness. He came to me as a coach and said, “I want to get into the fitness business.” I said, “Do you know anything about it?” He goes, “No, not really. It’s just that I want to own a gym.”
Anyway, fast forward from that which was in 2000 to today—because he had this purpose and passion for his business, what he went through to get from where he was to here is unbelievable. But he now has a gym. He basically borrowed all the money from friends and family to build this thing, built a gym that cost almost a million dollars to build, opened the thing. He’s got 900 members. He was the Citizen of the Year in Sylvan Lake, Alberta where he lives. The gym’s now worth $3.5 million. He still doesn’t make a lot of income running a little gym, but in terms of the growth of his net worth and so on, he’s doing really well.
Now he got totally into fitness. He started doing triathlons. Now he’s been on the Canadian Triathlon Team. He does Ultraman which is a double triathlon. He’s having a great life. He’s got his wife and they have a kid. It’s like everything’s fantastic. He’s just one example of hundreds.
I have made such a difference between my one-on-one coaching and our members using the program, our coaching system. It’s just I’m grateful every day for the opportunity and the gifts I’ve had that can help these people. There are thousands of them. It’s fantastic.
Q. Any ingredients for success or advice you would give to someone who is exploring their soul purpose?
One thing about the soul purpose, from my point of view, is I don’t think you force it. It’s not a decision that you make. It’s not something you look through a book and decide. It calls to you.
So the first thing is I’d say listen. If it’s not coming to you, then one of two things: either you’re not listening hard enough. So you need to slow down, you need to get more time in nature, meditate, work out, even get yourself into you physique or body, get out of your head a little bit, and really nurture yourself so that it will start to come forth.
Because when we’re in survival, it’s not talking to us very much. It’s surviving. So that’s one side of it. The other side is just to be patient, that there’s a time. When the time is right for you to know your life purpose, it will come to you.
I probably spent two or three years wandering around aimlessly, wondering what the heck I was going to do. It was painful as hell. But there was no way I would have found my life purpose if I wouldn’t have even met with that woman at that timeframe. I just needed to get a new place of being before I was ready to listen and hear what my purpose was.
Q. If you were to say one thing to someone struggling to find their purpose, what would that be?
Lighten up on yourself. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
I’ve been involved with personal growth for 25 years. Every course and now of course, really that’s what I do for our clients. Through their businesses, they grow with people. The single thing that is most—that we’re all striving for if you want to have a fulfilling, rich experience of life is you need to love yourself and accept yourself.
So if you’re looking for your life purpose and not finding it and you’re getting down on yourself, you’re actually doing more harm than good.
So just trust. Have faith that your life is going to unfold as it’s meant to. Follow your own inner guidance and it will unfold perfectly.
Try to force something to happen before its time, you get what you may think is your life purpose and then it sounds good, looks good. It may not nurture you and fulfil you that it could if you really listen carefully.
You can find out more about Andrew Barber-Starkey at www.procoachsystem.com