You Should Know… Gideon Culman

Photo by Vandana Sareen
Photo by Vandana Sareen

Coaching is often associated with sports, but certified professional coach Gideon Culman, 36, helps his clients realize their full potential in the game of life. Culman started Gideon Culman Coaching in 2012 after working in international development for several years.

The Los Angeles native moved to Cologne, Germany, at the age of 9 and grew up there. He lived in China and Japan before moving to Washington in 2006 to take an internship with the Ecological Society of America.

Culman earned a BA in human ecology from the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, and MA degrees in liberal arts and eastern classics from St. John’s College in Santa Fe.

In addition to professional coaching, Culman has been a host on Legacy Talk Radio for the past year, discussing leadership.

He was married in March of last year to Anna Shpak and in February of this year they welcomed a baby, named Isaac.

We recently talked with Culman about his most effective coaching technique, his love of learning different languages and running a newspaper for hard rock band L.A. Guns.

Is there a connection between coaching sports and coaching lives?

Athletes have coaches because while they’re playing their game they’re in the middle of it and they can’t see their body, their performance, the impact they’re having from outside themselves. And a really good life coach is trained to do just that. A really good life coach is someone who can zero in on what people are doing, where they are getting stopped and reflect that without the level of attachment that a friend has or a family member has. So it’s providing outside perspective, it’s reflecting what I see to my clients and asking them provocative questions that prompt them to come up with their own way forward.

Do Washingtonians need more coaching?

Successful people get stalled on the road to fulfillment. We have a lot of people here in Washington who get involved in their careers and surround themselves with all the trappings of success, but they wake up asking, “What the hell am I doing here? How did I get here? This is not the life that I signed up for.” People who experience that are looking for a real abiding and deep-rooted experience of fulfillment.

Is there a coaching technique that is most effective?

It’s recognizing that the less I know the more effective I’m going to be. So I practice meeting people where they are, and I also practice throwing out any preconceived notions I have about who they are, who they should be, where they should be going. I get so curious about them that they can’t help but be curious about themselves and that provides a forward momentum for people who think they’re stuck.

What languages do you speak and why so many languages?

The only languages I speak really well are English and German. I’m not a ridiculous polyglot who is fluent in 18,000 languages. But I’ve always been fascinated by languages and the way that each one contains its own system of logic. Right now I’m learning Russian because my wife is a native Russian speaker and that’s what she’s speaking with my son.

What was it like in high school running a newspaper for L.A. Guns?

You have to imagine your favorite band in high school or college. Most of us never have any contact with that band and I found myself suddenly in this band’s inner circle, so it was thrilling and it was terrifying all at the same time.

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