Key #1 - Find your purpose
“I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find out that you’re
not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
—THE GREAT GATSBY – F SCOTT FITZGERALD
“What do you really want, Patrick?” said Jim during one of our first coach-
ing sessions, a series that would span nine months.
I listened to the faint hum on the telephone line while I thought about
my answer. It was summer, I’d finally turned off the heating, and it wasn’t
hot enough to warrant a/c. Just as well, given the fact that I was scraping
the bottom of the barrel. The last thing I needed was a higher electricity
I felt stumped. Coaching was hard. It was such a simple question, but
with such a complex answer.
“You’ve asked that already. I’ve answered it already.”
I had. I really had. We’d been at this coaching thing for a month and
I can’t tell you how many times Jim had asked, and I had answered, that
question. I didn’t want to be the victim, again, of yet another startup CEO’s
misguided preconceptions of what marketing was and what it wasn’t. I
didn’t want to go back to doing the same thing I’d been doing over and
2 PATRICK MORK WITH RICHARD BEYNON
over again for the past fifteen years. But, apparently, that wasn’t good
enough for Jim.
He wanted me to develop a series of positive answers that summarized
the central drivers of my life. What did I want, and why?
To me, the answer was simple: I didn’t want to go on working for
other people, pushing products I didn’t believe in, or reporting to some
20-something CEO, who knew fuck-all about marketing but insisted the
fi ve blog posts they’d read on Medium made them an expert on the subject.
After a few minutes, I blurted out: “I just want to have control over
my life. That’s it.”
“Well,” Jim said, “that’s a beginning. But what are you going to do
My answer was simple. Over the following weeks, I established my
own company – Mad Mork Enterprises. I briefed a designer on Upwork,
who came up with a great logo. I cobbled together my first website on Wix.
I reached out to my contacts in the Valley. I hadn’t spent ten years in San
Francisco for nothing, I told myself. I was filled with energy. I had a firm
grasp on the handlebars of my life. Now, all I had to do was develop some
momentum. I had no doubt that I had what it took to steer an independent
course through the tech jungle of Silicon Valley.
Within weeks, I was talking to venture capitalists and startups about
how I could help them devise winning marketing strategies.
Just the realization that I wasn’t prepared to work for anyone else again
– ever! – was liberating. It was also terrifying. So, of course, I was still
stressed. Redwood City, California, is one of the most expensive locations
in the world. I had two kids to support. I had alimony to pay. I had sav-
ings, of course – but, month by month, I watched them dwindle as I lashed
out on the inevitable expenses of getting my consultancy off the ground.
Managing my little savings became a maniacal obsession. I reached a point
where I was even buying milk, not based on the brand, but on which brand
was cheaper. Frankly, it was hard to believe it had gotten that bad.
One of my biggest investments was Jim. Top-notch coaches don’t
come cheap and, although we only communicated once every two weeks
for an intense session over the phone, the bill still made me feel sick to my
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stomach. But this was money I was happy to invest, I have to say, because
he was helping me – a 45-year-old marketing pro, whom some would say
was over the hill – make some profound changes in my life. Not easy. Not
simple, although at that stage, just a month or so after the Course Hero
fiasco, I needed a lifeline and these coaching sessions were it. They felt
Something else struck me during those strange months. As I said, I
paid strict attention to my network, meeting old buddies, colleagues and
acquaintances regularly at one of several of the Valley’s coffee shops –
Café Borrone in Menlo Park, or at the famous Coupa Café in Palo Alto.
At times, it began to feel like my new status as a one-time insider, now
floating on the margins of the tech universe, prompted some of them to
come clean about their own doubts on the direction their lives were tak-
ing. I remember having coffee with a friend, a hardened professional in
her mid-30s, the epitome of success, with an impeccable CV, and a stellar
career at Apple.
Over a macchiato, she confi ded that, one day, she’d woken up and re-
alized the cost of her success. “I have no kids, and no prospect of having
them. I hardly ever see my friends. You remember how much I loved surf-
ing?” I did. She’d been a fixture at some of the most challenging beaches
on the coast. “Well,” she said, eyes downcast, “I can’t remember the last
time I went surfing.” She sighed. “Tell me, Patrick, what’s the point of it
all? Is being a success at work the be-all and end-all? Why do I feel like I’ve
worked so hard, but still can’t see the end of the rainbow?”
I didn’t have an answer for her. Except: change. Do something. Stop.
Curiously, I went back to some of Jim’s toughest questions, and specifically
the single question that trumped all others. I looked right into her eyes
and asked: “What do you really want?” Little did I realize it, but I had just
taken my first step towards becoming a coach.
I’d been there. My experiences at GetJar and Course Hero had taught me
that, sometimes, you have to change – or you just wither and die. And if
4 PATRICK MORK WITH RICHARD BEYNON
that sounds melodramatic, think of my own narrow escape. I’d reached the
end of my rope. I had decided to go it alone, without the baggage of bosses
and quarterly reviews, without the burden of meeting other people’s ex-
pectations. It was nothing short of a revolution. Although I was scared, I
felt liberated of all the bullshit I’d lived through for the past 20-plus years
working for others. I felt free.
What I didn’t realize, during those early sessions with Jim, and during
those endless conversations with burned-out marketing execs, was that it
I don’t know if you’re familiar with the South Bay coast, south of San
Francisco. It’s an endless series of bays and coves. Sometimes, the cliffs
rise high above the ocean and, in other places, they swoop down to meet
the beach. The variety of vistas and vegetation is amazing.
Both before and after my divorce, I’d taken our two children, Natasha
and her big brother Raphael – names we chose to help them fit in wherever in the world they found themselves – to various beaches. Our favorite
was, I think, Miramar Beach on Halfmoon Bay.
It was the very first beach I’d discovered when we settled in the Bay
area in 2008. I remember visiting the Miramar Beach Restaurant – it’s
right on the beach, with tables that look out over the ocean – and ordering a volcano chocolate cake. The cake is filled – yeah, you guessed
it – with molten chocolate and, when you slice into it, the chocolate
simply oozes out. It’s like an orgasm in your mouth and it’s delicious,
As the kids grew, our visits to the Miramar Beach Restaurant became
“So, what do you guys feel like eating?” I’d ask. Both Raphael and
Natasha knew where this was going and they’d fall in with my routine.
“Maybe a burger with fries?” Natasha said, innocent as the day she
“Uh huh. And you, Rafi ?”
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He’d think hard for about a millisecond, and then pop out with some-
thing like, “Hot dog?”
“You both happy with your choices? Burger and a hot dog?”
And both kids would nod, solemn as judges.
“No. We’re good.” More solemn nods of assurance.
“You quite sure?”
And then either Natasha or Raphael would get this sly grin and they’d
say, “Well, maybe just one other thing—”
“You name it, I’ll tell you whether I can afford it.”
And they’d both burst out together: “Volcano chocolate cake!”
Usually, we’d go to the restaurant after we’d walked the Half Moon
Bay Coastal Trail, or after a bike ride along the seafront. Both kids loved
a house we passed on these journeys. It was covered in the most intricate
shamanistic carvings and they’d imagine the wizard who lived there, cast-
ing his dark spells on anyone who disturbed his peace.
Miramar triggered a great many positive memories. But a particu-
larly bitter one as well. It was at Miramar that Laura and I took the kids
that fateful day, after we’d told them we were splitting up. We bought
ice-creams at the restaurant and walked up and down the beach, allowing
them to run around and climb a nearby tree, hoping, praying, that they
wouldn’t be crushed by the news. We told them our bad news as gently
as we could. “Daddy and Mommy are going to live in separate houses,”
Laura must have said, as a million mothers or fathers have said before her,
“but we both love you as much as ever and you’ll see Daddy every week.”
Natasha, five at the time, took the news pretty calmly. She probably
didn’t realize its significance. But Raphael burst into tears. He let us know
in no uncertain terms that he “didn’t like the arrangement” and crawled
into my lap as we sat on the floor of their playroom back at the house and
That was one of the hardest days in my life and one I’ll never forget.
That was also our last visit, as a family, to Miramar.
Ironically, our divorce was probably the best thing that could have
happened for my relationship with Natasha and Raphael. Of course, it
6 PATRICK MORK WITH RICHARD BEYNON
was sad, but the reality was that, while I was living with Laura and the
kids, I spent surprisingly little time with them. Or, perhaps that wasn’t so
It wasn’t that I didn’t care for them. But my mind was constantly fix-
ated on my job, deadlines, money issues and finding the next great unicorn
to be a part of. And, yes, the children were everything to me, but like so
many type As in the Valley, I left most of the child-rearing to my wife as I
obsessed over my career. As much as I was “there” on weekends, I really
wasn’t. I was never really mentally and emotionally there.
And then we separated and, in the blink of an eye, when the children
were with me, as they were every second weekend and for an annual holi-
day, I was the primary caregiver. It was up to me to feed and entertain
them and keep them busy. I had to figure out what interested them, what
bored them, what they enjoyed. I had to be present physically, mentally
So, the divorce was, in a way, a boon rather than a problem, certainly
when it came to me and the kids.
But there was also a dark side to this newfound relationship with the
kids. Whenever I dropped them off with Laura at the end of our week-
ends together, I’d feel torn apart, robbed of an essential part of my life.
The hours we spent together were awesome – but, in the days between,
there now was a large, gaping hole in my chest that sometimes felt like it
almost physically hurt. My small, two-bedroom apartment would go from
a bustling hive of laughter, yelling and activity to being as quiet as a tomb.
Just me, my plants and the television. I had never felt more alone in my life
than in those days after the kids had gone.
It wasn’t a long drive from Laura’s house in Menlo Park to my apart-
ment in Redwood City. It would take no more than fifteen minutes or so
in traffic, and less off-peak. But every time I drove back from dropping
off the kids, I’d consider the role they played in my life. Because, the fact
was that, no matter what was happening, no matter how tough things got
– and they got really tough in these first few months after Course Hero
– I felt I could endure anything if I was able to spend days with them in
the park or on the beach, on horseback or in an amusement park, racing
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down a roller coaster. Often, my best times were spent simply wandering
through woods with the two of them or playing basketball in the park
with Rafi . The time I spent with the kids was my lifeline to some sort of
normalcy. They became the oxygen and me the air-starved patient.
Of course, when it came to money, I’d set myself up for failure. I’d been
booted out of an extremely well-paid job at a flourishing startup and, in-
stead of looking for a job, I had decided to set up my stall as an indepen-
dent marketing consultant. Fortunately, I had an impeccable reputation in
the industry as a marketer – regardless of the fact that I’d been fired twice
in eighteen months – but I knew it was going to be tough landing the cli-
ents I needed to pay the bills.
So, when Andrew Lee, a former Googler who had sought me out
for mentoring back during my Google days, called while I was having
a coffee at a Starbucks in Redwood City, and suggested we meet to talk
about a problem he was trying to solve at his company, I instantly agreed.
Problems meant consulting, consulting meant fees.
Andrew was the chief marketing officer at a tech startup called
Weedmaps. It was a tech company serving the cannabis industry, estab-
lished years before weed was legalized for recreational use in California.
Then, when the floodgates opened in 2016, Weedmaps found itself surf-
ing the crest of a wave. They were like the Google Maps of weed and
helped consumers find legal dispensaries where they could shop in can-
Andrew and I had worked together and struck up a friendship during
my days at Google in 2012 and ’13. We met to discuss his problem. “We
have a founder who’s a super-smart guy,” he told me. “He’s really good at
business and an excellent strategist—”
“But—?”Andrew grinned. “But he really doesn’t get marketing.”
It’s a problem throughout the tech industry. Startups build astonish-
ing products. They imagine, then, that the world will beat a path to their
app or website. They see marketing as the ugly step-child, a poor cousin:
8 PATRICK MORK WITH RICHARD BEYNON
tolerated, fed the odd scrap but, in the bigger scheme of things, not really
important. This view grew out of Google’s experience because, as we all
know, the world did beat a path to its door.
But that isn’t true for most tech companies. Most have to blow their
own trumpets as loudly as possible to attract customers and get noticed.
They need passing trade. Creating that, effectively, takes good marketing.
When Andrew said he’d like to hire me as a consultant for three months
at a monthly fee of $25 000, I blinked and said yes. The money would get
me out of the hole I was slowly sinking into. It would give me breathing
space while I built my practice. It would give me a fighting chance to suc-
ceed in the crazy endeavor I’d committed myself to.
Jim was noncommittal when I reported Andrew’s windfall offer to
him. “What exactly does he expect you to do?”
“Well, to start with, I’ll be helping them build a brand book to figure
out the positioning of their brands. It’s the sort of thing I can do with my
“And, secondly, and maybe this is even more important to Andrew, he
wants me to help him convince the CEO of the importance of marketing.”
“Think you can do that?”
“I’ll give it my best shot.”
To begin with, the thought of the paycheck, awaiting me at the end
of my first month, was a great motivator. I worked on the marketing plan
with Andrew, and I helped present our ideas to Justin Hartfield, founder
of the company. I was earning a lot of money, sure, but I reckon I gave
back as much in value, if not more.
But, by the time the third month rolled around, I was feeling a little
frustrated. To my surprise, working out the nuts and bolts of the market-
ing plan had felt ... boring. Been there. Done that, I thought. Hadn’t I
been here, done all this before? Not once, but repeatedly. Wash, rinse and
repeat. That was basically what I’d been doing for the past fifteen years.
Despite the money, to my chagrin I just could not summon the passion
or the enthusiasm that had once been my stock in trade. The spark had
died. Yes, I was working as a free agent, and that did make a difference.
STEP BACK AND LEAP 9
But not enough to have me wake up each morning buzzing with ideas to
transmit to Andrew.
Slowly, but surely, I started to ask myself a single, nagging question:
had I come to the end of the line as a marketer? That realization started
to slowly creep up on me, like a snake slithering up on its dinner. Worse, it
scared the shit out of me because, if the answer to this question was “yes”,
then the next question was worse: “What the hell do I do now?”
But, during those three months with Weedmaps, I learned a second
lesson that was even more important. It determined what I was going to
do with the rest of my professional life.
I found that, what I really enjoyed wasn’t the marketing consulting.
What I really enjoyed was mentoring and coaching Andrew. I spent a lot
of time with him, both in his office, and over lunches and coffees. I saw
him as a kind of younger version of myself, and I was determined to help
him avoid the pitfalls and mistakes I’d made in my own career. I set out to
transmit as much of the wisdom I’d gleaned in the fast tech lane as I could.
These discoveries both exhilarated and scared the hell out of me.
“Why does it scare you?” Jim asked, on one of our calls.
“Because I’m known as a marketing guy, Jim. Marketing’s been the
basis of my career for 20 years. Mention my name in Silicon Valley and,
if they’ve heard of me, people will associate me with marketing. It’s the
essence of who I am.” Even the title on my business card at Google, to the
horror or humor of many, read “the Marketing Guy”.
“There’s money in marketing,” Jim said.
I was pacing furiously up and down my tiny apartment now, earbuds
threatening to pop out, waving my arms about.
“Fuck, it’s not about the goddamn money.”
“You liked what Weedmaps was paying you. I remember you saying—”
“I know what I said. But something’s changed. Think about the blogs
I’ve been writing.”
Once I’d established my website, I’d started developing more and more
content for it. This took the form of long-form blog posts, for which I
drew on my experience of working in the Valley. I was writing one or two
of these pieces every week. Not only did I post them on my own website,
10 PATRICK MORK WITH RICHARD BEYNON
but I syndicated them on other websites like Business Insider, Medium
and LinkedIn. I even managed to have half a dozen or so published in the
knowledge blog of my alma mater, INSEAD – the French-based business
school whose MBA program is acknowledged as one of the best in the
“You invest a lot of time in writing those posts,” Jim remarked. “Do
you know why?”
Well, obviously, they formed part of my personal marketing plan, get-
ting my name out there, associating it with stimulating and provocative
Jim had a knack of cutting through the BS and zoning in on the es-
sentials. “I sense there’s more to it than that,” he said. “Why do you really
“I like ... helping people,” I said slowly, coming to a halt at my win-
dow. “I do. That’s why I’ve enjoyed mentoring Andrew.”
“So, let’s sum up where you’ve got to, Patrick.”
“The lessons I’ve learned?”
I thought about it for a minute, but then the words rushed out.
“Well, to begin with, I do think I’ve made some progress with you, Jim.
I know that I want to work for myself and not for some startup or other.
“I know that I want to ... help others. People like Andrew. I mean,
if I can’t help others, like me, avoid the career mistakes I’ve made, then
what’s the point of anything, right? I want to make a difference in the lives
“That sounds suspiciously like you’ve made your mind up to switch
lanes,” Jim interrupted me. “Can you be more specific? Put it into words.”
Suddenly it was obvious to me. “I want to be a coach,” I said slowly,
feeling as if I stood on the cliff-edge of possibility.
“Good. So, describe to me, then, what that would feel like.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant and said so.
“Imagine a moment at some point in the future. You’ve got the train-
ing you need, you’ve enlisted a few clients, you’re on your way as a profes-
sional coach. How would doing that work, make you feel?”
STEP BACK AND LEAP 11
I thought about it. I really tried to inhabit that future me, who had
successfully switched tracks and was now speeding towards a destination
of his choice.
I began slowly. “I think I’d be happy.” I felt my heart pick up speed.
It had been a long time since I’d been truly happy. “I’d be filled with pur-
pose. I’d feel good about the work I was doing.” I was going like Usain
Bolt now. “I’d be helping others and that would make me happiest of all.”
There was a pause on the line. I knew what Jim was about to say, be-
fore he said it, because he and I both knew that, while insights were great,
and daydreams could be motivating, it took action to make them mean
“What are you going to do about it, Patrick?” I stopped. As one of my
idols, Tony Robbins, had once said: “There can be no result without mas-
The coaching with Jim had given me an understanding of some of the tools
required to operate in the field but, to acquire the skills I really needed, I’d
have to enroll in a course.
I spent a few days researching what was available – California is a
coaching hotspot – and eventually settled on an outfit called the Coach
Training Institute (CTI), based in San Rafael, north of San Francisco. I
knew little or nothing about them apart from what Jim had told me and
what I read on their website. They were the largest coaching training insti-
tution in the world, run by a couple of people who pioneered the concept
and practice of co-active coaching, Karen and Henry Kimsey-House.
Now, let’s think for a second about what I was considering doing. I
was about to ditch a career at which I had excelled. (Despite the trauma it
can cause, getting fired in Silicon Valley is common and is actually seen as
a badge of honor by many.) I was known, as I’ve said, as a serious, expe-
rienced, chief marketing officer who’d helped launch Google Play, who’d
(briefly) put GetJar on the map, and who was sought-after by startups to
help them cut through the noise and get noticed.
12 PATRICK MORK WITH RICHARD BEYNON
In place of that, I was proposing to reinvent myself as a coach, in a
territory where coaches were a dime a dozen.
I had just turned 46, had limited savings and inescapable obligations
to an ex-wife and two children whom I loved and wanted the very best for.
At Google, my handle had been email@example.com. The ques-
tion I had to ask myself now was: “Am I really crazy or just plain fucking
stupid?” There was only one way to find out...
The CTI course took place over seven consecutive weekends from late
April to early June. Every Saturday during this period, I made the hour-
and-a-half drive from Redwood City up through the San Francisco area,
over the Golden Gate Bridge through Mill Valley, to San Rafael.
On my first trip up, I was fired-up by a mixture of fear and a sense
of freedom. That’s often the case when you’ve made a decision to upend
your life. I was tearing down the highway in my Mini Cooper S, electronic
music blaring, thinking of the possibilities.
On my left, the city, on my right, the gleaming waters of the bay. I
considered what the cost of signing up with CTI represented. The cost
was not insignificant for someone who was counting every outgoing cent.
Any rational assessment of my situation would conclude that I couldn’t re-
ally afford either the cost or the risks involved.
Think about it. I was starting from scratch. My 20+ years in tech and
INSEAD MBA were interesting features of my CV, but they told potential
clients nothing about my worth as a coach. I had no idea whether I was
going to succeed. This decision could mark the start of a downward spiral
from which I might never recover.
And yet, as I made my way up US101, I had this sense, deep inside, that
I was doing the right thing, that this was going to work, that coaching and
helping others was my future.
It was a fine spring day, the first time I weaved my way up the pen-
insula. The drive wasn’t long, it wasn’t arduous. And yet, like a hero on a
legendary journey, I was leaving one world, the world of technology, the
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world of startups, lines of code represented by Silicon Valley, and enter-
ing another, the world in which the values were people-centered and not
monetary, in which the human spirit was more important than algorithms
and coding. A world in which empathy, asking questions and soft skills
mattered and made a huge difference.
The hills I passed through were green and verdant, the skies bright
blue, the water of the bay silver and gold.
I felt as if I were casting off the shadow of the past and entering a
brave new world of promise and possibility.
The first thing that struck me about the other members of my class – 40
or so of them – was their commitment to people, to making a difference,
to improving the lives of others. I don’t mean they were do-gooders, wan-
nabe missionaries or Sixties-style hippies hoping to build a utopian society.
No, many were hard-headed business people. Some performed HR
functions in their companies and wanted to add another string to their
bows to help them do their jobs more effectively. Others were former tech
executives from companies with household names: Facebook, Microsoft,
Uber. A former female Uber executive, with a flaming red head of hair,
was one of the most striking of them all.
There was no doubting their commitment. One woman, whom I got
on well with, had flown from the UK for the seven weeks of the course.
Think about that. She had to pay, not only for her course, but for seven
weeks of board and lodging, car hire and all the other incidental expenses
of a long trip.
And another was an inspiration all on her own. April Holmes, origi-
nally from New Jersey, had specialized in track and field events at Norfolk
State University. She’d been building her career, establishing herself in the
telecommunications industry, when she was involved in a train accident,
which resulted in her left leg being amputated just below the knee.
Fitted with a prosthetic leg, she allowed the tragedy to rekindle her
enthusiasm for athletics and, within a year, she was competing on the
14 PATRICK MORK WITH RICHARD BEYNON
field. In the 2004 Paralympics, April won a bronze medal in the long jump;
in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, she finally snagged the gold in the
100-meters sprint. And in London in 2012, bronze, again in the 100-me-
ters. I’ll never forget the day she brought her gold medal to class. I still
recall the feel of it and the glint of pride in her eyes as she shared it with us.
And now, April was in San Rafael, working to equip herself with the
skills she reckoned she needed to make her foundation an agent of change,
diversity and hope.
I felt honored to work alongside her. She’s an amazing person.
“I feel like I’m wrapped in a cloud of warmth,” Brian said.
“A moment ago, you said you were feeling a little nervous about being
coached in front of all these people.”
“Oh,” he said, “that’s gone. I feel a lot more stable now. I don’t feel
rushed. I’m also aware that I’m actually taking time for myself in this mo-
ment and I probably haven’t been doing that like, in truth, for really ...
months or years.”
Brian, I’d learned, was working for the HR department of a startup in
Silicon Valley. I could understand that he’d lost touch with himself in the
rush everyone in the field experienced. I feel for you, buddy, I thought, but
didn’t say. Instead, I referred to my notes.
“What is happening inside your body right now?” I asked.
“Right now, I’m feeling pretty clear, although there is a bit of tightness
in my shoulders and my chest... But that’s easing even as I talk. I could do
with a lot more clarity in my life, I can tell you.”
Co-active coaching involves, among other things, really listening. I’d
sensed the intensity with which Jim listened to me. Now I was learning the
skill of that kind of focused listening myself.
Every Saturday, we’d have sessions in which co-active theory was ex-
plained to us. And then we’d practice coaching ourselves, one-on-one,
with our fellow wannabe coaches. Brian and I were exploring what it really
meant to become aware of the moment. At no point does the coach impose
STEP BACK AND LEAP 15
his interpretation on his client. He learns to ask simple, powerful ques-
tions and then simply to listen to – and, just as importantly – respect the
innate wisdom of his client.
What we learned was that we needed, as coaches, to encourage and
support our clients’ belief in themselves, in their ability to find solutions,
in their own resourcefulness, creativity and resilience. They have the wis-
dom and the answers within themselves. It’s our job as coaches to help
turn the key to these resources, to be, if you like, the locksmiths of their
better selves. “You can lead a horse to water”, was one common phrase.
“But you can’t make it drink.”
It’s not a matter of looking for solutions, for quick fixes; it’s much
more important to develop a relationship based on trust, which encour-
ages the client to seek clarity and find the solution for themselves.
Now, one of the remarkable consequences of this approach is that
every coaching session helps the coach develop a deeper understanding of
their own processes and motivations. In helping others, you help yourself.
We grow along with our clients. That’s got to be a big plus, right? In fact,
it seemed a much bigger paycheck than any I’d received in 20 years in
marketing, that unexpected cash injection from Weedmaps included.
Part of our homework, over the seven weeks of the course, was to recruit
clients between Saturday sessions – guinea pigs, on which we could prac-
tice our developing coaching skills.
I turned to people I knew and was friends with in the tech industry.
“Hey,” I’d say, “I’m doing a coaching program and I’m learning these
new tools. Would you like to have a free coaching session? I’d like to try
these tools and see how they might help you.”
A surprising number of people agreed instantly. Well, however much
you’re earning, I guess the offer of free coaching is irresistible.
One of my test subjects was a close personal friend, Gopi Rangan,
a venture capitalist in the Valley. We’d both been to INSEAD (different
classes) and Gopi had also been the president of the Bay Area Alumni
16 PATRICK MORK WITH RICHARD BEYNON
Association. He’d been a close friend for years and was someone I really
respected and admired.
He was blown away by the experience. I won’t take the credit for his
enthusiasm; well, not altogether. I think he was responding to the tools
I’d learned, as much as he was to my fumbling use of them. “Wow,” I re-
member him exclaiming. “This is powerful stuff. I really uncovered some
insights that feel incredibly useful.”
In fact, before I’d even concluded the course in San Rafael, I was al-
ready actively seeking paying clients. My first was also a fellow INSEAD
graduate, a young head of marketing for a tech startup that sold wine
One client doesn’t make a summer, of course, but recruiting Mark
Alexander opened a door on the possibilities that lay ahead. The more I
coached, the more my confidence grew and, more importantly, the more I
got to see the impact of my work on people’s lives first-hand. The satisfac-
tion and reward for helping people, not just to find solutions to mundane,
work-related issues, but also to support them in making life-changing,
career- or relationship-related decisions, was like nothing I had even remotely come close to feeling in the 20+ years I’d been working. It was an
For the first time, I felt like I was doing something many tech people
and INSEAD grads had often complained they didn’t have in their lives:
I was making an impact and, even if it was limited, it was deep and it was
The thing that stops most people from getting what they want, or making
significant changes in their lives, basically boils down to one thing: taking
consistent and constant action towards their goals. (As Tony Robbins says:
This isn’t rocket science. Even in the Valley, this is not a secret. It’s
been the subject of a hundred self-help books, which have pointed out the
importance of developing daily habits that promote your ambitions: they
STEP BACK AND LEAP 17
range from Steven R Covey’s blockbuster, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective
People, to James Clear’s explosive Atomic Habits.
Habits are behaviors we incorporate into our daily lives. It’s a fact that
good habits are as easily adopted as bad habits, so it’s a no-brainer deciding
which sort we should embrace.
But good habits can only help us achieve our goals if we know what
those goals are.
So, at the heart of CTI’s co-active coaching program, was a focus on
establishing what our purpose was.
Notice that I said “purpose” and not “goals” in that last sentence.
“Purpose” is subtly different from “goals”. My goal is the object of my
ambition, something I’ve set my mind on, something I might devote my
life to achieving. Something I can measure and that I strive for.
But “purpose” is bigger. It feels like something you seek rather than
select. It’s a calling rather than the object of a desire or an ambition. It’s
something that drives you and gets you up in the morning. Even on those
days, particularly for startup founders, when you really feel flat-out tired.
At least, that’s the way I see it.
Of course, goals are important. One of my goals might be to have the
means to give my children the best start in life possible. That’s crucial,
both for them and for me. But it’s not my purpose. My purpose is what
I’m here to do. It is what gives my life meaning. It’s what makes me, me.
Now, with all due respect to Weedmaps and all the other startups I’ve
worked for, my goals might have been to promote their sales and their prof-
its, but I can’t honestly argue that that was my purpose. I guess that’s par-
tially why, one day, my tank just ran out of gas. I looked around and was,
like, “Really? This is it? I’m just here peddling mobile games, app stores or
somebody’s next gen mobile ad network?” The answer was obvious.
I could see, during the initial sessions at CTI, that my purpose was to
help others through coaching, helping them avoid the career mistakes I’d
made; to find their purpose and, therefore, fulfilment and, yes, happiness.
But my purpose needed to be refined, it needed to be stripped down
to a single sentence, and it needed to feel powerful, inspiring and, more
18 PATRICK MORK WITH RICHARD BEYNON
The coaching class wasn’t just a series of lectures and group exercises
that taught us the theory and practice of co-active coaching. It was also
a series of introspective exercises that challenged us to explore and share
who we were and what we wanted to become.
Throughout this process, we had to develop and share, as a group, our
visions for the future. At the end of the journey, we had to declare, to all
our fellow students, the purpose we’d sought and found, and that would
drive us for the rest of our lives.
I remember the day well. It was 10 June 2018, a good sunny day in
northern California, and the final day of our CTI experience. On the road
up that morning, I’d honed my purpose in my mind until I had it pitch
Now I stood in the center of the circle of 40 of my fellow aspirant
coaches, and shouted, as loudly as I was able, my challenge to myself and
“I am the magnetic energy that inspires people to live careers of mean-
ing and impact.”
I was finally free and I knew, at last, what I had to do.
And everything changed.
I was a certified coach with the skills and, I hoped, the sensitivities, to help
others navigate the trickiest path through their professional lives, deepen
their engagement with their most authentic selves and become more pro-
ductive in the process.
I felt on top of the world. Yes, my savings were still under siege. I’d recently been told by my landlord he was increasing my rent by ten per cent.
But I had the means, now, to establish myself in my new career and, hope-
fully, earn the sort of money I needed to live a reasonably comfortable life,
and to create the sort of environment in which Raphael and Natasha could flourish.
Before I could call Laura to tell her the good news, she called me.
Let me give you a little insight into my relationship with Laura at this
STEP BACK AND LEAP 19
stage. We had been one of the happiest married couples we knew. People
remarked on the fact that we got on so well. So, why had Laura asked me,
back in 2015, for a break?
Well, it was obvious to me, in hindsight, at least.
In the early days of our marriage, Laura and I celebrated Miercoles
Feliz, Happy Wednesdays, every week. We’d cook something delicious to-
gether and share an intimate dinner by candlelight. At the time, we were
young and often poor. But, whether we were living in Madrid or, later, in
Leamington Spa in the UK, Wednesdays were sacred – and, over the stove
or the dinner table, we’d talk about what we were up to, what our plans
were, what our dreams were.
It was a wise way of nurturing our relationship.
Later, when we moved to the US, the tempo of life increased, the
demands on my time rocketed, the children were born ... and our Happy
Wednesdays fell by the wayside. By the time I woke up to the reality, our
marriage had withered and died.
There was no massive crisis. No infidelity. No throwing of plates. Like
many couples, we just drifted apart, stopped investing in the relationship
and, one day, woke up to the realization that the only thing holding us
together was the kids. Rather than wait for the inevitable squabbles or
boredom to tear us apart, we just made the call to take a break. That break
ended up becoming permanent.
But, we were still friends and we were, after all, the parents of children
we both loved.
Although we were human and squabbled about trivial things from
time to time and had little shake-ups over the children, on the whole, our
relationship in separation was better than it had been during the last few
years of our marriage.
When we met at the beginning and end of my weekends with the
children, or over coffee or the odd meal, we did so as friends. We were
interested in each other’s lives. I had high hopes that the business she’d
established some years earlier would thrive. And she hoped that my dream
of becoming a coach would be achieved.
This might explain why, when Laura phoned and asked for a meeting,
20 PATRICK MORK WITH RICHARD BEYNON
it struck me as no big deal. Something to do with the children, I thought.
Or perhaps she wanted my thoughts on her business.
But, after we’d made the arrangements and ended the call, something
niggled. Something in her tone. An edge of anxiety, perhaps, a touch of
defiance? I wasn’t sure what it was, but I knew that, whatever she had to
say to me, would not come as a pleasant surprise.
“This letter arrived for me on Tuesday.” Laura laid a sheet of paper on the
table between us.
Bearing in mind my slight disquiet, I’d suggested coffee in Starbucks.
It was full of people. Animated conversations were happening all around
us, bursts of laughter punctuating the morning.
I picked it up. I recognized the letterhead. It was Laura’s landlord. Oh,
great, I thought. She’d been hit by an increase, too.
“Me, too,” I said. “My owner increased my rent ten per cent, can you
believe it? It’s bad, but we’ll just have to find a way of managing it.”
“You haven’t read it all,” she said, levelly.
I dropped my eyes to the lines of type. And realized it wasn’t an announcement of a rent increase. Her owner, who’d bought the house – not
a big one, just 1 200 sq ft with a small yard – two years before for $1.5
million, was putting it on the market for $2.4 million.
And was giving Laura 60 days to vacate the premises – unless she was
willing to make an offer to buy the house.
The Silicon Valley housing market, that had been booming ever since
the recovery after 2008, continued to waterboard renters.
“Well, I suppose we can’t blame him,” I said, laying the letter down.
“He’s cashing in while the going’s good. But it’ll be difficult to find some-
thing else for what you’re paying.”
“I don’t want to look for something else, Patrick,” Laura said.
“I can understand that. But I can help. We’ll find a way, I promise
STEP BACK AND LEAP 21
“I don’t want to look for something else,” she repeated, “because I
want to go back to Chile.” She paused, her eyes fixed on mine. “With the
Focus on Five
There’s a famous story told about Warren Buffett’s advice to his personal
pilot. “Write down 25 goals,” he is said to have counseled. “Decide which
five of the 25 are the most important. Then focus on those, and cross out
The article in which this story was told went viral and has cropped up
in blogs all over the web, and is used by coaches on every continent.
The only trouble with the story is that ... it’s not true. When quizzed
about it at one of Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meetings,
Buffett said he’d never heard of it and that he’d “never made a list in his
And yet, decoupled from the Sage of Omaha, the advice is still excel-
lent. It works.
It might seem difficult to identify 25 goals but, believe me, it’s possible.
List all of the projects you’re currently working on, both at home and at
work. List all of the things you want to do but feel like there’s no time. List
at least 25. More is better.
Next, review that list. Which goals are most appealing? Which cause
you to feel that flutter of enthusiasm, that could even be said to be “a call-
ing”? Do some soul-searching, it doesn’t matter how, and narrow the list
to the five highest-priority objectives. Just five. Circle them (or copy them
to another piece of paper). If you find it difficult to identify the key goals,
then rate each on a scale of 1 to 10 based, first on how interesting it is, and,
then, on how important it is. Then multiply these two numbers together.
For instance, if one of your goals has an interest rating of 9 (very interest-
ing) and an importance rating of 3 (not that important), its score would be
27. Compare the scores. Higher is better.
Finally, commit yourself to pursuing the five surviving goals, and set
22 PATRICK MORK WITH RICHARD BEYNON
aside all the others. They consume energy, they consume time – and they don’t get you anywhere near achieving the really important things in your life.
Angela Duckworth, who’s written a book on tenacity, called Grit, adds
one further step to this process. She advises you to ask to what extent your
five goals serve a common purpose. The more closely aligned your top five
goals are, the better you’ll be able to focus on what she calls your passion,
and I call your purpose.
Here’s another exercise that’s common in self-help manuals and I use
this with every client who coaches with me personally. You’re going to
contemplate and describe the personal legacy you’d like to leave in this
Imagine it’s your seventieth birthday. After an illustrious career, you’ve
invited a whole bunch of your friends, family and colleagues around to
help you celebrate reaching this milestone. The dinner’s been great – a
true thanksgiving occasion, in every respect. The mood is mellow and
forgiving. At the head of the table, you’re filled with the joy of having the
people who’ve always meant the most to you gathered in one place.
Guests are invited to raise a glass in your honor, and say a few words.
Imagine that the first person to stand and toast you is someone who
represents your family – a grown-up child, a spouse, a life partner or a sib-
ling. Now, imagine what that person might celebrate about your personal
life. Write it down: just a paragraph or two that notes your accomplish-
ments in this area of your life.
Once the applause has died down, and the glasses recharged with
fine champagne, a second speaker rises. This one’s a close friend,
someone you’ve known for years, and has a deep idea of your personal
strengths – and vulnerabilities. He or she now toasts that aspect of
who you are and what you mean to him or her. Write their little speech
STEP BACK AND LEAP 23
Thirdly, someone you’ve worked with stands up and tells the gathering
about your contribution in your professional life. They’ll remark on your
most significant accomplishments in this area, on the accolades you’ve
been granted, on the skills you’ve acquired, on your judgment and your
effectiveness. Write down the highlights of this speech.
And, fi nally, someone who knows you from the work you’ve done in
service to the community – in your church, perhaps, or any community
organization dedicated to the upliftment of people, generally, and the less
fortunate, in particular. They will talk about the values that drove you
to make your contribution in this area of your life, and the life of your
The speeches you imagine these people would make will give you in-
sight into what you believe your purpose in life is. They will also reflect
the values that underpin and inform that purpose. But, don’t worry, your
values are the subject of the next chapter of this book.
You might have heard of the third exercise I’m going to recommend to you
as a way to identify your purpose. It was originally developed in Japan and,
like so many great ideas, has spread across the world and been developed
and adapted to suit a whole range of applications.
Ikigai is a Japanese word meaning a reason to live or, to bring it down
to Earth with a bump, it’s a reason to get up in the morning.
The fi rst exercise in this chapter identifi ed the four characteristic are-
nas in which we live our lives: family, friends, work, and, if you like, duty.
Ikigai also assumes there are four areas in which we operate, but it
defines them slightly differently.
● You have those things that you love doing.
● You have the ability to offer the world what it needs.
● You have the skills that others are willing to pay for
● You have your passion
24 PATRICK MORK WITH RICHARD BEYNON
Let’s illustrate these ideas graphically:
Your ikigai, your reason for getting up in the morning, the meaning
of your life, is contained in the area in which all four circles overlap with
each other. This is the magic spot, where your talents, your training, your
vocation and the real world in which you have to make a living, converge.
So you begin, again, with a list. This time it’s a list of all the things you
do that give you pleasure. Think only of the satisfaction these activities
give you, the joy you take in doing them.
Then, make a list of all the things you believe the world – call it the
market, if you like – needs most.
STEP BACK AND LEAP 25
Third, make a list of your marketable skills: the things you can do that
you might be paid to do.
And, fi nally, identify the things you are really good at.
Naturally, there will already be overlaps in these four lists. After all,
we naturally derive pleasure from doing the things we’re good at. Our
skill-set is the product of what was probably a long educational journey,
and it is therefore likely to be in demand somewhere.
Your analysis will reveal which items on these four lists converge.
Take my own case, as an example:
I might decide that, at the top of the list of activities that give me most
satisfaction, is helping others realize their potential. I love to help people
grow. This is not entirely altruistic: helping others feeds my ego and, in
some cases, it’s also great for my business. I enjoy being the center of at-
tention. I enjoy earning the gratitude of others.
Then, I might identify the fact that the world needs more soft skills.
There’s a lack of empathy in society and the world of business and tech.
People seem not to be able to give positive feedback to their subordinates.
They’re impatient, lack understanding of the needs of others, don’t realize
the importance of communication – and the key role that active listening
Which of my skills are people and businesses willing to pay for? Well,
I could be paid as a writer or as an entrepreneur.
And I’m good at writing, at public speaking, and at motivating others.
I’m good at leading teams. I’m good at inspiring others.
You can see at once where this analysis is going. Maybe I should go
into coaching. Oh, wait...
This exercise is especially useful at a time in which change threatens
to upend your world, or when you’re faced with important decisions about
your future: when you’ve graduated from college, say, and are about to
choose a career. Or when you’ve been fired (as you’ve seen, I can talk from
experience about that). Or when you’re deciding to expand your skill-set at graduate school.