Are you a group person?

I never was.  

Until recently.

At first, my individualism bias was by chance more than choice.

I was an only child for the first eight years of my life, and truth be told, I liked it. I didn’t have to compete with anyone for attention and had a default for solitude even at that early age.

Life changed abruptly when I was 11 during a summer holiday in the United States when I was unceremoniously informed that we were not going back home to Iran.

My story of “not belonging” is no different than that of most immigrants. Of course, I didn’t belong to the Californians, all golden hair and bronzed skin, but I didn’t belong to my own culture and religion either.

Being raised in a Muslim country but now free to be a Jew, I did not relate to the sudden religiousity that became part of my every day family life. And being a teenager, I naturally rebelled against the Iranian culture and customs.

Fun times!!

In hindsight, I realize that at some point I decided I simply didn’t belong anywhere or to any group. Why pine for that elusive feeling of belonging when every group out there requires me to shapeshift in order to fit in? 

There is a positive angle to this practice and personality I developed. I am, for better or worse, uncommonly good at being alone. I love my own company and never feel lonely. This has led to a very satisfying athletic life as a trail runner which, by its nature, requires one to be alone for hours at a time.

But on the negative side, I have deeply missed that ancient and cellular feeling of belonging to a tribe of humans.  

In the past, our effort to belong had more to do with survival than joy. But today, most of us can be okay without being in a group.

Last week, I found out how much more rich and satisfying life can be when you do find a group, community, or tribe that holds dear the same life values and general mission as your own.

4PC, created by world-class professional coach Rich Litvin, is such a community.

He calls 4PC “a community of extraordinary leaders.” . Word on the street is that the name stands for four percent, as in only the top four percent of professional coaches are accepted to the group. Membership is expensive and the commitment is for a minimum of three years.

You’ll forgive me if forty years in brand positioning and marketing led me to disbelieve the legend of how difficult it was to be accepted into 4PC. Part of me thought the whole thing was a marketing ploy.

Still, having followed Rich and his work for so many years, I was curious. I thought, I’ll apply and if I get in, cool. And if I don’t, no worries. After all, I’ve never been in a group, and not being accepted into another one will fit neatly in my comfort zone.

But things didn’t go as I expected.

In our first conversation (read: audition), Rich listened deeply and then suggested I enroll  in one of his shorter upcoming programs instead.

Wait, what just happened, I thought to myself?

I was willing to pay five times the cost of the smaller program he was referring me to. But I wasn’t going to argue with him, so I signed up for the five-day program and received so much value that it felt like I bought a Birkin bag at a tenth of the price (you can take the girl out of fashion, but…jokes!)

Naturally, I asked again. A bit more Oliver Twist like this time, “Please sir, I want some more.”

This time, I was in.

But as soon as I was accepted, my Inner Critic that lives with me 24/7 went into hyper-mode, this time borrowing from Groucho Marx.

I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.

Then I received a welcome email introducing the new members, as well as revealing the existing members. I understood immediately that the group was as intimate, bespoke, and exclusive as promised. I also could not believe how accomplished each member was.

This time my Inner Critic called in the troops for support as she prepared to bring on the Battle of the Imposter!

What the hell am I doing in this group? Doesn’t he know that I’m not extraordinary like these other people? See what happens when you want to join a group, Carolyn?  You just can’t pick ‘em!

But it was too late.

I just had to show up and make the best of it.

I had a plan.  

I’ll lay low. I’ll just listen and learn from everyone and go back home. Nobody will know that I don’t belong.

Yet again, things didn’t work out the way I planned.

Here’s the thing about extraordinary leaders and coaches. They’re brave, committed, and on a mission. They live to create more growth, prosperity, and love for everyone, not just themselves.  They have no freakin’ interest in leaving you in a quiet corner to observe. They push you to step out into the light, your light, and shine. They don’t suffer fake humility and they create a safe space for power and vulnerability to show up simultaneously.  

On the last day of our Coaching Intensive I was being coached by Master Coaches Mandy Lehto and Varian Brandon. The Imposter in me was heavily sedated, but still breathing. In response to a question I no longer remember, I said, “Well, I know I have a long way to go to be as great of a coach and as extraordinary a leader as you guys, but…”

Mandy didn’t let me finish that sentence!

“Drop that hot stone!” she said.

“Drop that hot stone now! Don’t make the rookie mistake so many of us have made.”

My life changed! I kid you not.

I had the realization that although I tell extraordinary people all day long to drop their hot stones, it’s so easy to hold onto the one that’s burning my own skin. 

I bet you’re the same.

I bet you constantly help others drop their hot stones, and yet you’re holding on to one yourself.

I want to know — what’s the hot stone that you’re holding on to?

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  • Carolyn Mahboubi

    Master Certified Life and Leadership Coach

    Carolyn Mahboubi is a Master Certified Life and Leadership Coach. She has helped countless individuals, from high-achieving CEOs to world-renowned entrepreneurs, take the next step to achieve their goals. Explore their unique stories. Carolyn is also the creator of The Life Vault, a self-paced online course to creating a life with purpose and intention. Connect with Carolyn: LinkedIn | Instagram