Meet Michael Serwa, one of the most sought-after and highest paid life coaches in London. He coaches the elite using his signature no-bullshit approach. Michael has coached a huge variety of extraordinary individuals from presidential candidates, CEOs of multi-billion pound corporations, millionaire entrepreneurs, artists, bankers, traders, doctors, lawyers, designers and everything in between. He’s the author of a very well-received book called ‘From Good To Amazing’ and will be taking part in ‘The Coaching Movie’, the world’s first full-length coaching documentary which is expected to be released in early 2017.
Getting to Know Michael
Would you describe yourself as rebellious?
Yes, put it this way: I didn’t become a life coach and then turn into a rebel, I was born a rebel who happened to do life coaching. My mother used to tell me how my kindergarten and school teachers distinctively remembered me as a leader, insisting that the other kids follow me. When I entered the workplace I was the same, meaning my bosses would either love or hate me. I was unafraid to speak my mind. I quit school at 17, which is unheard of in Poland because the whole system is about education; even if you want to be a manager at McDonald’s you have to have master’s degree. I wasn’t interested in any subjects so I couldn’t bring myself to study something I wasn’t engaged with. My passion at the time was playing the trumpet so I was attending Jazz school part-time and had decided I would become the best Jazz trumpet player in the world.
“I didn’t become a life coach and then turn into a rebel, I was born a rebel who happened to do life coaching.”
I remember the day I quit school, I had an inner voice telling me this is it, you’re going to wait for the bell, the bell will ring, you will leave this school and never go back. I felt it so strongly and it was the first big event in my life where I followed my heart. Do I regret doing it now? No. I regret doing it aged 17 instead of aged 16. It was a shock to my parents who always believed I would become a doctor or a lawyer, but this was my dream.
“I quit school at 17, which is unheard of in Poland because the whole system is about education”
Why did you quit playing the trumpet?
I was kicked out of Jazz school because my lip structure is not formed in the way that’s required to be able to hit the top notes. I was devastated; my dreams were shattered. I went to seek advice. I wanted to hear from the best player in the world whether I should truly quit or not. Miles Davis was the best trumpet player in the world but had died so I couldn’t go to him. Next in line was Tomasz Stanko who was the best trumpet player living and he happened to be Polish. I tried phoning him but could obviously never get through. I thought, ‘fuck it, I’m going to see him in person’. I tracked down his address, got on the bus and before I knew it was stood in his living room.
He told me to play for him. I picked up the trumpet and within playing one note he said “Michael, forget it”. That was the last time I played the trumpet. I felt partially sad and partially relieved. I refused to feel sorry for myself, to feel like a victim and Tomasz’s approach was similar. He told me quite simply: life isn’t fair.
For the next 5 years I worked lots of different jobs to make ends meet. I arrived in the UK aged 22 after Poland joined the EU. I had to buy a fake national insurance number which was illegal. I came over on the bus, which took 27 hours, because I didn’t have the money for a plane ticket, in fact I didn’t have any money at all. Fortunately, I had some friends here who kindly lent me some money. What kept me going was an inner belief that I was destined for greatness. I knew I would work my ass off and work harder than anyone else.
“What kept me going was an inner belief that I was destined for greatness. I knew I would work my ass off and work harder than anyone else.”
Why did you turn to coaching?
I discovered coaching aged 27, which was when I understood why becoming the world’s best trumpet player didn’t happen for me. I’ve been in England now for 10 years. I worked in fashion retail for the first 5 years, starting without a penny to my name. Within 9 months I went from Store Assistant to Manager at Zara. I was working on my own personal development the whole time: reading the right books and researching the right people from Jim Rohn to Tony Robins. Psychology was always a big interest of mine. The way I felt when I quit retail to pursue coaching was the exact same way I felt when I quit school to become a trumpet player. Everything seemed to fit together perfectly. I liked psychology, meeting new people, listening to others and giving advice… it made perfect sense. I couldn’t think of one thing that could stop me from making it happen.
What challenges do you face with potential clients?
Negativity. I have some people who approach me saying that they haven’t been able to find a job for a year. They then blame the economy for this. What do I say to these people? Get the fuck out of here. They insist it isn’t possible because of circumstance and I insist that if you think you’re unsuccessful because of the economy, I’d have to change the fucking economy to solve your problem. I work with high performers, people who have this ‘I can do it’ mindset. Trust me, if you look for an excuse you will always find one. Traditional coaching is non-threatening and non-invasive whereas my coaching is the opposite of that. Some people are not ready for my style of coaching which is fine, but I implement the biggest changes.
“They insist it isn’t possible because of circumstance and I insist that if you think you’re unsuccessful because of the economy, I’d have to change the fucking economy to solve your problem.”
How do you get people to believe in themselves?
I positively brainwash them. I don’t use sophisticated sales techniques to sell my coaching because I don’t want to manipulate people into working with me; I want to inspire people to work with me. I reel people in with the idea that they are better than they currently think they are. I genuinely believe in the potential of people and I inspire them through my own story by allowing them to think ‘how did someone who spent 27 hours on a bus get from being unable to afford a plane ticket to charging this amount of money?’
I’m in a great position now where I choose my clients; I only work with people who I have good chemistry with, who are committed, fun and inspire me. If I can’t be myself around clients it won’t work. It doesn’t matter if they’re the president or in their first job, the main prerequisite is that they are aiming incredibly high. You need a killer mindset and a killer attitude to be successful at anything. Obviously with my high rates I do get extremely successful clients but I also get clients such as the 25 year old recruiter who wanted to be shit hot at recruitment. He has ambition, therefore he did the right thing when he came to me. There is only so much a coach can do; at the end of the day I have to believe the client has the commitment it takes to actually do something with the guidance I provide.
“if you look for an excuse you will always find one.”
How do you compete with other life coaches?
According to the International Coaching Federation (ICF), if you conduct life coaching by the book, it’s about asking lots of questions and leading clients towards the answer. The ICF would never give me accreditation because I break all the rules. I tend to give clients the answers, or more so work on the answers together. That’s why I can help my clients achieve so much in my shortest coaching programmes which last for 3 months. I help them to identify and achieve both personal and professional goals.
What’s your approach to making money?
The money is the byproduct of what I do. If someone offered me ten times more money to do a job different to life coaching, I would say no before even asking what it is. I don’t want to be the wealthiest life coach because it’s not about the money; I want to be the best life coach in London because it’s about mastering a field, becoming an expert and an influencer. I decide my own value and the rate to charge customers based on this. I don’t have to convince my clients to pay what I charge because they are happy to pay it. You can’t put a price on someone changing your life and helping you achieve your goals.
“Forget about the 4 hour work week. When you start you don’t fucking work 4 hours.”
What can people ask themselves to find out what they truly want?
Good question. This is what I ask my clients and prospective clients. I ask them: if you were to wake up tomorrow and do something for 8 hours that could be a career, knowing that you cannot fail and knowing that the money is not an issue, what would that be? Very often people will have an answer but with that comes the doubt that they will make a fool out of themselves or the doubt that they will fail to make any money. I promise, if you focus on doing something you love and do it and do it and do it, you will make it. Forget about the 4 hour work week. When you start you don’t fucking work 4 hours. I love Tim Ferris but you have to understand what he meant; it is something you transition to later.
“When I started coaching I was working 7 days a week, no holidays, no dates, no parties and no complaints for two and a half years.”
When I started coaching I was working 7 days a week, no holidays, no dates, no parties and no complaints for two and a half years. They were the best two and a half years of my life; no disruptions and no hangovers. I was actually £5,000 in debt on credit cards when I started out and couldn’t even afford to get a simple website built. So, I didn’t want to spend money on fucking alcohol, I wanted to put it into my business. Why? Because I’m f***ing serious about it. No education, no coaching qualification, no second language, yet here I am now.
Whatever it is you’re doubting, stop in now. You don’t need to be Einstein. If I talk to my lawyer client sometimes I think ‘fuck, I have no idea what he’s on about’, but that doesn’t matter because I have more emotional quotient (EQ) than intelligence quotient (IQ). Look at all the great entrepreneurs like Sir Alan Sugar and Sir Richard Branson; they don’t have the highest IQ but they certainly have good EQ. Find your strengths and focus on them instead of paying attention to what you don’t have. If you’re telling people that your background, skin colour, height or education is what’s stopping you, I’m telling you that your story is what’s killing your potential.
“If you’re telling people that your background, skin colour, height or education is what’s stopping you, I’m telling you that your story is what’s killing your potential.”
Rebel Wrap Up
What mind set have you adopted to contribute to your success?
Love everyone and don’t take shit from anyone. That’s actually the name of my book which will be coming out shortly. I live my life through the motto that if I want something, I’m going to go and fucking get it. I apply this to all aspects of my life, even to my love life at times. There was a girl I was recently dating and it took me a year and a half to get a first date with her. I told someone about this and he said “oh no, I wouldn’t chase someone for a year and a half” and I replied “that’s why I’m successful and you’re not; you hear the first ‘no’ and you run a mile”. People give up way too easily and take things too personally. I didn’t take it personally that this girl hadn’t agreed to a first date with me yet… she didn’t even know me! I then tried to win her over for the next three months. It didn’t work out in the end, but I would do the same thing all over again with the next girl I like.
“I didn’t want to spend money on fucking alcohol, I wanted to put it into my business. Why? Because I’m fucking serious about it.”
How do you know when to move on from something that’s not working?
You need to know when to quit certain things. I may have ‘quit’ certain things in my life such as the trumpet when I wanted to be the world’s best jazz player, or the girl who I chased for one and a half years, but the important part is that I don’t see this as quitting. I see it as being fucking rational and intelligent. It’s about understanding that some of the choices we make are not right for us.
If you could go back to any point in your life, what moment would it be and what would you tell yourself?
I would go back to when I first came to London, before I started my business and tell the part of me that was scared : ‘you’re going to be just fine’. We always figure the way out if we stick to something. There is always a solution to a problem.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
A few years ago when I was still charging per hour, my business coach’s father, Andrew Priestley, told me to start charging per program, per result. So, I started charging up front. This was a great piece of advice to receive at a very crucial moment of my career. It helped me go from doing OK, to doing very well.
What is the one generally agreed upon rule or conventional piece of wisdom, that you disagree with?
Education. It’s a waste of fucking time for a lot of people. It shouldn’t be ingrained into our heads from a young age that it’s a necessity to have a degree.
What advice would you give to anyone listening to this who wants to become successful?
Find something that you’re passionate about. Stop being lazy. Work on your hustle muscle.