Who needs a life coach? What even is a ‘life coach’? These are the two questions I want Michael Serwa, one of this golden breed, to answer as soon as I arrive at his Savile Row apartment office for my first ‘session’.
As he describes, having a life coach is not therapy: it is about taking already “highly functional” people and encouraging them to step things up another gear. “It’s about helping people find fulfilment and happiness in different areas of their life,” says Serwa. No one ‘needs’ a life coach – a life coach is something you should want.
Serwa quit school in Poland when he was 17 and moved to London when he was 22. He has been a life coach for six years, now specialising in working with high-net-worth individuals, chief executives and everyone inbetween, from dancers to entrepreneurs.
“I believe our ultimate purpose in life is happiness”
Yet he doesn’t take just anyone on. An initial meeting might end in rejection... from him. “I only work with people who I would be happy to spend time with even if I wasn’t going to get paid for it,” he says. “People who are resourceful, fun and inspiring, with a hunger to be or have more.”
Serwa’s style is not for the faint-hearted, as I soon learn – it deserves a no-holds-barred 18+ rating; casual swearing is part and parcel. He is a fan of WhatsApp voice notes, which come thick, fast and very often funny (a good sense of humour is a must). Serwa is positive, but admits even he is not always happy. Plus, he has a life coach himself. “Every coach needs a coach,” he grins.
His book, From Good to Amazing, reads more as common sense than self-help. It opens with “I believe our ultimate purpose in life is happiness”, and the chapters are brief: from ‘Stop Making Excuses’, ‘Learn To Be Ambitious and Content’ to ‘Recognise You Always Have A Choice’.
Having passed the compatibility test, I receive a few questions to answer by email: what I want to get out of coaching, when I have failed, what have been my most fulfilling accomplishments so far, and how my attitudes towards others have changed over the years.
A couple of weeks later, I find myself once again sat opposite Serwa on a sofa with a view of Mayfair’s skyline, targeting the areas we will ‘work on’. He asks me to rate my happiness across 25 aspects of my life, a gruelling exercise that takes no prisoners. Romance, friendships, work, sleep and self-confidence are all under the microscope.
From there, we get down to what my aims are, and boosting any low scores. Sessions can be arranged to suit your own schedule, but Serwa likes to keep them spaced out enough to allow time to actually complete any goals. A three-month run is a minimum (with fees from £10,000 up to £35,000), going up to a year or even longer – as long as you still have goals waiting to be achieved.
Many of my own are simple. Why haven’t I taken Irish dancing lessons, if that’s what would make me happy? Book yourself in by next time, Serwa says. Others might be more drastic. If a client needs to break off a relationship, he tells them to do it. If they need to quit their job in order to improve their overall happiness – and are in a position to – then that’s the plan of action.
“I only work with people who I would be happy to spend time with even if I wasn’t going to get paid for it”
Nothing is too large or too small, as long as it contributes to your joie de vivre. If it is something Serwa doesn’t feel expert enough to advise on, he refers clients to his wide-ranging network of contacts – from nutritionists to style advisers. One of his greatest professional challenges has been helping a man override a ten-year cocaine addiction, taking him from two to eight on the happiness scale in three months.
“I can make an impact on people using my personality,” Serwa describes. “I don’t need sophisticated techniques. I just talk some sense to them, and that’s often all that’s needed.” Another highlight was attending the wedding of a client who met her husband as a result of his coaching, which had been entirely over Skype. “She introduced me to her mother by saying ‘this man is the reason we are here today’.”
The answers are now clearer. Not everyone will want a life coach. This is not like school – Serwa’s suggestions are there to take or leave, and there is no point lying or beating around the bush if you disagree or haven’t worked towards the goals you mutually agreed on. But for those who want to gain some perspective and raise their ‘life game’, with someone 100 per cent on side while doing it, Serwa might be just the ticket.