The Story of How I Became “The Cloud Coach”
As most of you know from reading my about page, I have been the go-to guy for family and friends since a very young age.
Which means that it was nearly 10 years ago when my grandfather got a computer and became my first “guinea pig” (he probably wouldn’t want me calling him a guinea pig… but really the first time doing anything is so unpredictable). He was so amazed at my ability to troubleshoot his computer questions and fix what wasn’t working.
Even now I tell him, “I don’t know everything. I make mistakes and figure it out as I go along.”
But I digress…
How This Whole “Cloud Coach” Thing Started
I remember the EXACT moment I decided that I was going to follow my intuition on how to help another person understand and use technology.
It sounds so obvious now, but only someone who has struggled to learn technology would know what I mean by this. I was still going to read the help manual and search the web (in case I missed a golden nugget), but I would FILTER it as I see fit for my needs. I knew enough about technology to make good use of it and help others (or at least good enough since no one is perfect).I was smart enough, intuitive enough and savvy enough. I was good enough.
The Moment When It All Began
The moment it all began occurred late one weekday when my grandfather had just gotten his first computer.
He was trying to learn how to reconnect his email with Outlook Express (yes, I know this is painfully dated) and it was a big learning curve for both of us. I was frantically searching around for help online and trying to relay whatever advice I could find (there’s a longer story here but I’m trying to keep this short).
Anyway, I would have him describe what he saw on the screen and try to reproduce what he was seeing on my own screen. And it was slow and painful.
I Started to Get So Frustrated
That was my moment.. on the phone with my Grandfather, frustrated, with 20 websites open and no way to effectively communicate or show him how to do it right.
I moved forward with a new directive. Rather than telling him what to do, I would actually take control of his computer remotely and show him what to do. Better yet, do it for him while allowing him to watch and learn.
I know this is the norm now in the tech support world, but at the time this was unheard of. I was able to provide frustration-free support to my Grandfather (who I love very much), and he was even improving and learning new things! From watching me troubleshoot problems, he started learning how to troubleshoot for himself.
He was growing as a computer user and actually getting something out of the time he was putting in. I was blossoming in my role as Cloud Coach- becoming a better listener, teacher and mentor. Sure there were times where I would say “I’m going to run into a problem I can’t solve” or “I was just lucky that I was able to figure that out” and I would have my moments of doubt.
I remember my aunt telling me “That’s not luck Ethan, its you”. And I put that thought in my back pocket.
I started to help my family and then my friends with their computer troubles.
But somewhere in between helping PopPop and officially launching Cloud Coach years later, I discovered the tool that is central to what I teach people about leveraging technology: Gmail.
It was a revolutionary new take on email, but it was the original slogan that got me hooked: Never lose another email. Because Gmail was the first web-based email to give you essentially unlimited storage space, you never had to delete anything. Therefore, you never lost anything.
Along with this promise, came a whole toolbox of features that when combined with the unlimited storage space, allowed you to set your email up as a system that automatically organized itself.
After much experimentation and tinkering I added this “specialty” to my coaching.
I switched everyone I knew to Gmail, and taught them how to harness it to change the way they used email forever.
…we didn’t have facebook, twitter, or “cloud computing” as we know it now (I am dating this story, I know).
My point is, that at this time, Email was it. And the more inboxes I saw, a pattern became obvious: The way we were taught to use email is wrong, and sets us up for failure.
When the human brain is presented with something new, it looks for something it knows already to relate it to. Remove the E from Email and what do you have? Regular old “Mail”. So we approach Email the same way we approach paper. Think desks, filing cabinets, and rolodexes.
So, treating your inbox like you treat your regular mail is fine up to a point…
…if you get the same number of emails in a day that you do regular letters (5-10).
But as the volume of email increases (and it never stops), the system that has worked for your parents grandparents their whole lives is quickly overwhelmed as you descend into email overload.
The way that we manage our email is broken. The idea that you should manually sort and file email messages like mail in your physical mailbox is as antiquated as the postal service.
I started spreading the message that treating your Email like you treat your papers and regular mail simply doesn’t work.
I couldn’t find anyone who was in the trenches helping others with email.
There were no training programs…
…and technology consulting for individuals wasn’t considered a “field”. Sure, if you were a Fortune-500 you had consultants and trainers, but not for the individual. So I researched and read and talked to my friends and did more research and reading.
I taught myself, I built on my knowledge of email, organization, and learning theory, I honed my skills and defined my method.
With each inbox, I grew and learned and modified.
I wasn’t sure how to structure my business or how to get more clients.
I knew that I wanted individual people to be happy and comfortable, and to be empowered and most of all to know that they had choices when it came using email. That it wasn’t just “make lots of folders” or do nothing.
My passion (and flat-out obsession at times) for the topic and for helping is what kept me going.
In The End, And After Some Work…All My Passion and Drive Has Worked..And in a BIG Way.
Back when I started doing this (on the phone as a teenager with my grandfather) I never would have dreamed that…
- My writing would be featured on ProBlogger, Illuminated Mind, and Write To Done
- That I would create a free course for offline business owners on how to leverage email marketing to grow their business
- That I would be planning to quit my job to become a technology coach full-time
- That I would be gearing up to bicycle down the west coast while helping out business owners with technology along the way
But In Addition To Being Humbled By The Impact I’ve Had, I’ve Also Been Blessed to Have A Very Gratifying Experience
For example, I get to work from home with clients who live all over the world, and know that I’m making real and meaningful connections with people (and that those connections and my advice can create dramatic changes for the better).
I never would have dreamed that I’d get to work from anywhere (so I can be more available for my clients).
And I never would have imagined that I would get to work with individual people to make a difference in their lives. Sure you can be a technology consultant at any big company, but at the end of the day, do you really feel like you’re helping anybody?
So Here’s What I’m Coming To… Here’s What’s Being Demanded Of Me.. And Here’s What I Feel Compelled To Do…
Here’s the deal.
The demand for help handling the staggering load of email we all get far outweighs the supply of coaches (like a thousand times over).
And with each passing day, I’m finding over and over again that the need for thoughtful and positive coaching is so much bigger than I could ever fill in my lifetime.
Consider These Numbers
- The number of worldwide email accounts is projected to increase from over 2.9 billion in 2010, to over 3.8 billion by 2014.
- The average person spends 41% of the work day managing email
- In 2010, the typical corporate user sends and receives about 110 messages daily. Roughly 18% of emails received is spam, comprising both actual spam and “graymail” (i.e. unwanted newsletters, alerts, etc.)
- 66% of people read email seven days a week and expect to receive a response the same day.
- 56% have anxiety if they can't access email.
Email overload has become an epidemic that is consuming people’s time, adding stress, and reducing productivity.
So I feel compelled that it is time to step up to the plate. As one commenter in the last blog post wrote, “I would love to see the magic that you do”.
The time has come for a formal training program.
It’s time for more people to learn these powerful techniques…
…and I’m on a mission to empower people and give them the tools to take control of their email.
In my heart, I want this training to be readily available for all email users, everywhere. I’ve wanted this for a long time, and this is way overdue.
But the huge task of reaching thousands of people CAN NOT be done alone.
There are too many overflowing inboxes and tired workers all over the world. There is email overload everywhere and not enough coaches who actually teach not just theory.
But down-in-the-trenches proven (over and over again) PRACTICAL techniques that actually work.
I’m Thinking About Making A Free Resource Kit For You, IF You’re Interested In Taking Control of Your Inbox
I was really pleased by the response to my last blog post. There has been A LOT of interest in the inbox zero training program that I’m POTENTIALLY developing.
But to test the waters… I’m thinking about making a value packed, 100% free “Email Ninja Kit”.
Here is what the free “Email Ninja Kit” will include:
- A set of worksheets that you can use today to reduce your email load by at least 20%.
- A recorded tour around my inbox so you can see how I keep it organized by filtering and labeling, and what options I’ve enabled to make that happen.
- My top 5 favorite Gmail Labs (Don’t worry if you don’t know what these are yet) and how to use them.
But Here’s The Catch
Because I’m a helpless perfectionist and will inevitably blog this thing way out of proportion and make it into a much bigger package than it needs to be (or you even want)…
..I want to get a list of everyone who is interested in getting to inbox zero and having this free “Email Ninja Kit”.
So Here’s What I Want You To Do
I’m making a list of everyone potentially interested in getting my free resource kit AND getting in at the start of all of this.
Anyway, if you’re interested, then: (1) enter your email address below, and if I end up making it I’ll send it to you at the email address you list below. (2) Leaving a comment with any suggestions on what you’d like to get from the kit would also help.
If enough people get on this “interest list” (I’m thinking 50 or more) then I’ll make this free thing and send it to EVERYONE on the interest list.
If no one wants the free “Email Ninja Kit” then no worries.
Yours in Learning,