Matt Maxwell: Connecting a Path Between a Career in Law to Coaching Life
Updated: Jul 17, 2021
According to Matt, there is something beautiful about the pursuit of not knowing everything, and how it can really help you enjoy the present moment. Life doesn't always turn out as planned and we don't have to have all the answers figured out. It is ok to just be happy and comfortable with where you are now. Matt spent his young adult life as a Mormon Missionary, was married by the age of 21 and later went to law school. What he didn't expect was to get divorced after attending law school and find his life purpose years later. He is now an actor and life coach who's mission is still to help people, but it somehow has more meaning to him. My human connection with Matt is simple—manifesting the life you want to live.
If you step out of predicting how the career goes, listen more to what is calling you now…and if your heart doesn't know, just stay open. Life is going to do what it does, take action and follow the light.
You have been teaching LSAT prep for many years. What is your teaching philosophy?
I give students the knowledge and the advice I took away from a very challenging time in my life. I challenge them to develop new habits of thinking and not just sit there gaining new knowledge. My goal is that not only do they score well, but knowing that when they walk out of that room after taking the test, they know they gave it their all. I invite my students to consider that it doesn't matter, and that the test has nothing to do with them or their capability and what amazing and perfect people they are. There is nothing they need to prove, and there is no connection between those two things.
You are an actor. Tell me about what you are currently performing in.
I'm performing in a play called Southern Gothic, the first of its kind in the world. When I initially started in the cast it was pure fun, where I said to myself each performance that I can't believe I get to do this. I love being with my cast and feeling the exhilaration of the performance. Now, after being on my 130th performance, it's gotten less fun and things that were challenging before are now even more challenging.
Has acting affected the way you teach?
Yes but not all in great ways. What was 90% of my teaching was actually acting and engaging them, but I wasn’t checking in to see if they were capturing the concepts. I realized I don't need to be an entertainer, yet rather I need to make sure they are getting it and using logical reasoning concepts. Performing was like my comfort zone, but I needed to get away from that and only turn it on when I needed to get their attention. I also knew that since I had been through this path before as a law student it really helped me connect better with them and what they are going through. I understand what it takes and how it correlates with law school, and if you hate this you probably shouldn't go to law school.
Would you ever go back into law?
No I will never go back into law unless I’m starving. But I do want to work with law firms to help them with organizational coaching. However I do think I would be a happier lawyer now because I wouldn’t take certain things so serious, such as the stuff that made me unhappy. I know now the belief of what it is that is making me hate those things and how to control it.
You are ending the show soon. What will you work on next?
I will still continue doing one on one coaching, but I am excited to launch my business that is coming out in the next couple months. It will be dedicated to supporting leaders of organizations make their business a place where they, and their employees want to work in. A type of coaching that is holistic where we look at not just careers, but personal development and all areas of life.
Why life coaching?
What I love about this type of work is that there is a lot of exploration, because I am never teaching as the expert, rather I have ideas to share and sometimes my clients will know more than I do. There is a real openness that happens in my workshops, with exploration and discovery that is really empowering. So directly aligned with my life purpose like the things that matter most to me. I find satisfaction in helping someone go to law school if that is their dream. Coaching is more of a fundamentally transformational experience to life as much as anyone desires to make it. A little bit of knowledge, but actually changing how we are being. For me, participating in that is a really exciting place to be in.
What has being a life coach done for you as a human?
I learn things all the time, sometimes things come out of my mouth that I have never heard before, and I don't even think I have ever thought it before. It’s this mutual aha moment that just happens, which is almost like an experience of talking to God, even though I don’t know who God is. To me that is so powerful and cool. Almost like, my client might have not needed to hear that, but I definitely needed to hear that. As a Zen Buddhist, I spent a month in a monastery. While there, I spent 90 minutes a day sweeping porches. What I took from this small task was that you get to notice how you are in other things in life. I got to see that because I want to make sure that others around me think I am doing a good job, I get really stressed about it, which carries over in other areas of my life. I noticed that in this boring task, there was something bigger that was causing me to suffer, meaning I just have to get through this very boring thing. What got me through it was that I never knew what new task was coming, so there was anticipation. I just had to suffer through this task, hunker down and endure. I did stop to notice however that I was in a beautiful location and the miracle that my body is able to do anything I want—almost like I’m lucky and I could decide if I want to keep being miserable or not.
I feel as though all you just said could relate to a career in some way. What advice could you give on someone changing a career or who might be bored in their current job?
Get curious and try new things. If you want more connection with what you do, then maybe have more conversations with coworkers. Look at what your experience is like in the job and bring your attention not to the task, but notice what it's really like to be there. Ask yourself questions like what is boredom and what thought process is telling you why you are happy or not.
There are different types of knowing, and we think we can predict how things will go, but we can’t. You are always striving to know the future which will only cause frustration. This pressure to know, but you really don’t know what will happen in 5 years. Just go with your gut and you will know there is a light in that direction. You know long term that you have a vision and that is good. I typically feel it in my heart when something is good and it is a direction I know I need to explore. We spend all this time figuring it out, but it doesn't matter how well you throw the ball, if there isn’t a basket you won't make the shot. We don't have to have it all figured out.
Matt Maxwell is a professional coach who works with individuals and organizations to be their "highest and best" and create joyful, empowered relationships. He works with clients who sense their potential to positively transform themselves, their relationships, and the world around them, supporting them to clarify their vision and design pathways for achieving it. He founded a coaching and consulting company called Hearthstone, and is the author of How To Hold a Cockroach: A book for those who are free and don't know it.