The Short Version

Steve Hingle has been coaching for seven years.  He is a graduate of Tulane University and Coach U (a top-notch coach training institute), an Associate Certified Coach (from International Coach Federation), and a Certified Positive Psychology Coach (from Positive Acorn).   He has facilitated workshops, retreats, and other personal growth work, mostly involving the men’s movement and The Mankind Project (an international organization of personal growth and support for men).  He has attended numerous trainings in facilitating personal transformation, and has led many men through transformative processes.  He taught high school for two years, and as a CPA he has twenty years of experience in both public accounting and as a controller.  He runs a successful CPA firm for small nonprofit clients (HingleCPA.com).  He lives in Madison, WI with his wife, Rebecca, and their two young children, Charlie and Tess.

You might be thinking that I’m fairly young to be touting myself as a midlife coach: 43 as of March of 2013.  What makes me qualified to coach you?  To answer that, I’m going to tell you some things about my life and what I’ve learned.  If this story turns you off, then we’re not a good fit.  If you want a coach who has stood in the fire and is better for it, then read on.  If you want a coach who has a ton of tools in his toolbox for overcoming blocks and creating a positive foundation for a happy and satisfying lifeHingle2, then I’m your man. The gist of the story below is that my entire life has prepared me perfectly to coach men through their midlife transition.

I think of the midlife crisis, not as an event at a certain age, but as a time of questioning and transition.  We ask, “Who am I?  Why am I here?  What do I really want?  And who do I want to share this journey with?”  It’s an adventure – a time of introspection, trying new things, being vulnerable, and running towards both what you most love, and what you most fear.  As Joseph Campbell says, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”  So if this is what the midlife crisis is, then I’ve been doing that for over twenty years.

You can read a long account of my journey below, or if you’re ready to take the next step, you can sign up for the free course on the right, call me at 608-572-0084, e-mail me, or sign up for an appointment online.

My Midlife Journey

Even before I finished my accounting degree at Tulane in New Orleans, I was wondering if I shouldn’t do something with more meaning.  I had an interest in English literature and art, and I remember my dad telling me that I should “do something practical.”  He was a business executive.  (For some time I blamed him for “wounding” me, but I now take full responsibility for my life.  My father is a good man, and I wouldn’t change a thing about how I grew up.  It made me who I am.)  I wanted him to be proud of me, so I got my accounting degree and a job with a top CPA firm in 1992.  I was great at accounting and sought after for audit gigs, but as you might expect, accounting tends to eat at your soul.  Two years into my accounting career, I switched to part-time, and went back to college to study English literature and creative writing.  It was an important step in becoming my own man, but it was only the beginning.

While I was in the writing program, I was madly in love with a young woman and imagined us growing old together.  In hindsight, I had put her on a pedestal and had little idea who I was without her.  I remember one time not knowing what kind of shirt I should wear because she wasn’t going to be around that day.  She decided to end our relationship, and I felt like a car that had a giant hole where the engine was supposed to be.  For two years I was depressed and mostly alone, and I lost my desire to write or do much of anything.  I started reading self-help books and finally went to see a therapist.  I also went back to full time accounting.

A few years later my therapist gave me a book about men talking frankly with each other about being men, about the pain they felt, and their relationships with their fathers, their spouses, and their work.  I was moved to tears several times in reading it.  The book was In the Company of Men by Marvin Allen.  For a flavor of the book, check out this old article in the New York Times.  I went into my therapist’s office and asked if he had more like this, and he directed me to a men’s group, The New Orleans Men’s Center.  That was the fall of 1997 and I was 27.  Even though I’d read the book, I imagined that a men’s group would be a bunch of guys in funny hats drinking beer and talking about business.  What I found instead changed my life.

We sat in a circle and talked about our pain.  We listened without interruption or judgment.  We took long looks in each other’s eyes.  We cried, yelled, beat drums, told stories, and danced.  We honored our elder members.  Nearly all of the men were old enough to be my father.  I became a regular member, attending meetings and weekend retreats out in the woods, where we helped each other heal, and figured out together what it meant to be men and human.  In September 1999 I went on The New Warrior Training Adventure, a weekend initiation for men by an international men’s organization, and life continued to get better.  I overcame intense self-criticism and low self-esteem and learned to love myself.  I learned to facilitate other men in getting radical perspective, and doing their transformational work, and I was good at it.  I learned the importance of ritual in easing transitions, and learned to create them.  I learned the power of stories in creating shifts, and learned to tell them.

I stepped up to co-facilitate two retreats with the Men’s Center.  That was scary.  Did I mention that most of the men were as old as my father?  The first retreat was on “Facing Your Own Death.”  The grim reaper visited us.  We dug a shallow grave in the woods and took turns lying in it.  We had a death lottery: we put everyone’s name in a hat and drew a name.  That person was declared dead and the dead man talked about whatever came up for him.  Other men eulogized him.  The second retreat I co-facilitated was on “Hearing and Following the Call,” the call being what you are called to do in life.  We explored the story The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, which is about noticing and following the signs life sends to you.

Around this time I met Rebecca, the woman who would become my wife.  We were friends for a year, and then I fell in love with my best friend and we moved in together.  I was working for a Fortune 500 company at the time, doing really soul-killing work, and I decided to leave accounting to teach high school.  When I talked to my boss about leaving, he said he admired what I was doing and said, “I never thought I’d do this kind of work for twenty years.”

Teaching was fun and rewarding, and it kicked my ass.  In my English class, I told the freshmen ancient stories, taught about The Hero’s Journey, and taught them to write their own myths.  I had some of the men from my group come in and recite their own poems.  One time I was reciting a poem about a butterfly, and to the kids’ amazement, a butterfly fluttered into the classroom.  (Before I joined my men’s group, I didn’t believe in synchronicity.  After doing men’s work for a while, I began to take synchronicity for granted.)

Unfortunately, I was also given economics and accounting to teach, along with seniors who just wanted to sleep in my class.  I was a poor disciplinarian, and some of these classes got out of control.  After two years, I couldn’t take the stress any more, and went back to what I knew best.  It seemed like accounting would just keep sucking me back in.

A good friend of mine, Mari Guas, was just getting his coach training, and he offered to coach me for free.  I thought coaching was wonderful, and saw that it was similar to the facilitation I was already doing well in my men’s work.  So I signed up for my own coach training with Coach U, and began coaching some friends pro-bono.

Rebecca and I attended a couples weekend around this time, and joined a couples group, where we worked on our stuff together and facilitated other couples in their work.  I’m not going to go into too many details about my relationship, out of respect for my wife.  Some of my own work revolved around speaking my truth despite my fear that she wouldn’t love me anymore.

In 2004 Rebecca and I married and in the spring of 2005 we moved to Madison, WI, her home town, deciding together that it was a better place to raise kids.  Leaving New Orleans and the men I loved was one of the hardest things I ever did, and just a few months later I watched from a distance as Katrina wrecked my beloved city.  Thankfully, I had joined a New Warrior men’s group in Madison, and they supported me through this time.

We moved to Madison without job prospects, and I decided that I wanted a part-time job with an accounting firm, working with nonprofits.  Several people told me that no accounting firm would hire me under those conditions, but they were wrong.  I was working at my ideal accounting job in just a few months, and spent the rest of my time developing my coaching skills.

In June of 2006 my son, Charlie, was born.  It was one of the happiest moments of my life, and everything changed forever, again.  I loved singing my son back to sleep at 3am, and I wanted my old life back.  How naive I had been before, thinking that I had been busy.  I learned about sacrifice, and also about taking care of myself so that I’d have the energy and peace to take care of my family.

My accounting job was good, but not perfect.  I had a boss who wasn’t very good at giving praise even after I specifically asked for it, telling her that it would motivate me more.  One time I put in my goals that I wanted to be a leader in the local nonprofit community; my boss crossed that out and wrote in a different goal for me.  They wanted me to do taxes during tax season, and I did that at first, but then I asked not to do taxes anymore, and I don’t think that sat well with the boss since everyone else was working long hours.  In the fall of 2008, right before Thanksgiving, my boss decided that I wasn’t productive enough and fired me.

I felt pretty crappy for about a day.  And then I decided to start my own firm, focused exclusively on small, do-good charitable organizations, providing monthly bookkeeping and financial statement presentations.  I wouldn’t do any taxes or take on clients outside of my niche.  Today my business is prosperous.  I employ three part time staff, and pay them for time off.  I don’t work many hours, and this gives me time to focus on my coaching business.

Backup a couple of years.  I got my coaching certificate, and was doing some wonderful work with people, but my coaching business never took off.  Part of the problem was my refusal to niche my business.  There weren’t specific people or topics that grabbed me.  I liked variety and didn’t want to exclude anyone.  But without the niche I didn’t stand out from the crowd.  (My accounting business grew partly because it was clearly niched.)  Another problem with my coaching then was that I focused too much on client problems.  I wanted them to dig deep and get into the juicy dark places like I did with my men’s group.  But too much of that is a drag, and people got tired of it.

And in fact, I was getting tired of “doing soul work.”  I was getting sick of focusing on myself and tired of hearing about other people’s woundedness.  I just wanted to have some fun and get on with life.  In the spring of 2010 I read Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman and was blown away.  Seligman is a psychologist and the father of positive psychology, the science of happiness and well-being.  Psychologists were discovering what actually makes people happy, not just what some guru thought we should do to be happy.  Here were statistics and peer-reviewed research that won my accountant’s heart.  According to the research, happiness didn’t seem to require going into the fire to be reborn.  Happiness was more about small daily practices, like recording three good things about each day.  I decided that my approach to coaching needed to be totally revamped.  I put my coaching business on hiatus, and started reading everything I could find on positive psychology.  (Around this time, my daughter Tess was born, and I continued to grow as a father.)

I tested out the research on myself. I began keeping track of my positive practices and my mood every day in a Google spreadsheet. I paid a friend to check my progress every three days and send me e-mails with helpful comments. After several months, I analyzed the data and drew conclusions about what increased my happiness the most. I also studied the research on how best to form new habits and achieve goals. I enrolled in a coaching course with Robert Biswas-Deiner, a leader in the positive psychology movement, and I became a Certified Positive Psychology Coach.  I discovered that positive psychology was not a cure-all.  I found that while the positive practices did great things for me overall, I still got stuck at times, and no positive psychology tool could get me through those moments.  For that, I returned to my old bag of tricks from my years facilitating men.

I spent a bunch of time working on niching my coaching, and figuring out my ideal client. (For niching a business, check out Tad Hargrave’s Marketing for Hippies site.) I considered bringing the science of happiness to businesses, and might still do that. But then in June of 2013, I hit on Midlife Crisis Coaching, and it was like, “Duh!” Just about everything that’s ever happened to me, everything I’ve learned, and every skill and tool I’ve acquired along the way, has prepared me to do this work. And if you’re still reading, then you know it’s prepared me to do this work with you.  Want me to join you on your midlife adventure?  Sign up for the free course at the top right (learn more), call me at 608-572-0084, e-mail me, or sign up for an appointment online.  Contact me.  I’d love to hear your story.

Peace, Steve

SteveHingle

One Comment

  1. Steve Davis
    Jul 25, 2013 @ 12:27:00

    Thanks for this beautifully authentic look into your life Steve! I definitely enjoy working with you!

    Reply

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