This seems like a new phenomenon.

I have encountered a surprising number of young people who are trying to become “coaches”. I don’t mean in sports. They want to be a life coach of some kind. Why did this start?

It doesn’t seem to be in response to demand. I don’t see anyone knocking down their doors begging to be coached. It’s the other way around. They are all over social media, begging to coach. It usually takes the form of proclamations about professional decisions, peppered in with a lot of, “I tell my coaching clients”, or, “Clients ask me all the time”.

Are they really being asked these things? Do they really have clients?

I’m trying to understand what change has occurred in the world to make this such a common desire. I’m not talking about people who’ve had a long career and experience a late-stage desire to work with younger people. That’s always been around. I’m talking about early twentysomethings who seem to skip right over direct experience and just want to come out the gate coaching people.

Potential theories:

Social Media Mimesis – Many popular accounts are “coachy”. Perhaps young people see this, want the kind of likes and follows these people have, and try to mimic the style.

A Big Safety Net – This country at this time in history is absurdly wealthy. Young people are rarely in danger of losing material comforts. They’ve got little need for survival, so instead they play around with what looks to them like “higher” things.

Maslow’s All Filled Up – Expanding on the above. Perhaps the first several sections of Maslow’s hierarchy are covered, so young people start out immediately trying to wrestle with self-actualization.

If any of these have a grain of truth, I wonder what the outcome will be for these young aspiring coaches. I don’t think you can skip steps on the journey to create a meaningful life. If you haven’t learned how to earn a buck and survive at the basic level without attention or credit, no way you’ll have developed enough mental muscle to find true meaning, let alone coach others on how.

I want to guard against crotchety old man syndrome, but I suspect more independence (and not just upside independence, but the kind of independence that means you own the wins and the losses), less of a safety net, and higher real-world expectations (not academic expectations, which are all about envy, ranking, rules, and status) would be a good thing for most young people. It’d probably eliminate this drive to be (or more accurately I suspect, be seen as) a coach.

Or maybe I’m wrong and this isn’t silly at all. Maybe this is a wonderful development in human society, and some day we’ll all spend our time coaching each other on morning power routines and how to project confidence while software and robots do all the other stuff.

God, I hope not.