Although many people are not aware, most workplaces are full of water, wind, and earth — fire, too, in many cases. So says Judy Goldstein, a Robbinsville-based life coach who guides workers and their bosses in recognizing the personality elements and their importance not only to career satisfaction but also to profitability.
“I’m a wind,” says Goldstein. “Give me a job and I’ll run with it.” But don’t ask her to sit in a cubicle double checking lines of figures. Even building a business is a challenge for someone with her personality. “I need someone to help me do a web page, book assignments, organize,” she says. “I can’t even ask for money.”
Goldstein speaks on “Earth, Wind, Fire, Water” on Thursday, May 9, at 4 p.m. at a MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce event at Stone Terrace, 2275 Kuser Road, Hamilton. Cost: $10. Call 609-689-9960.
While personality plays a big role in choosing and excelling at a career, chance has its place too. This is certainly true in the story of how Goldstein became a life coach. The career slammed down at her feet — quite literally.
After about 15 years teaching physical education and coaching, she landed a new job at a new high school, starting up its physical education department and several of its sports programs. Then, after three years, she was unexpectedly laid off.
“I was devastated,” she says. She suspects that the ouster may have come because she was getting older, past 50. But whatever the reason, the vivacious mother of three and busy volunteer was upset and clueless about her next move.
She called her sister, who took her off to the local Barnes and Noble for some distraction. As she was walking down a bargain book aisle a volume fell off the shelf. It was titled “The Path: Creating a Mission Statement for Work and Life.”
“It was $5, so I bought it,” Goldstein says. The book, by Laurie Beth Jones, contained information about becoming a life coach using the four elements personality approach. Goldstein sent off a coupon asking for more information and was surprised when Jones called her, asking if she was interested in coming to Arizona for training.
A true wind, ready to pick up and go on an adventure with little notice, Goldstein accepted the invitation and after a short course became a life coach. While the training may sound skimpy, Goldstein says that she has been a coach all of her life, that it was the career for which she was born. One of nine children, she was raised in the little Ocean County town of Beachwood, where her father worked for JCP&L and her mother stayed at home with the kids and then went to work in a library when the youngest went to school.
Goldstein credits her happy life as one of nine for fostering a nurturing nature. “We all coached each other,” she says. “There was always a baby.” As one of the four oldest, she did a fair amount of child care, and in turn received a great deal of support. “There was no focus on one child. We were a team,” she says. “Somebody always liked you. Somebody was always on your side. You were always somebody’s hero. All of us went into helping professions.”
Goldstein began her education at Ocean County Community College and earned her teaching degree from Trenton State College. She has taught and coached at Point Pleasant High School and at Robbinsville High School, and is now the field hockey coach at Hamilton High School West.
Her husband, Paul Goldstein, an earth, is retired after a career at JP Morgan Chase. She says that winds and earths don’t do well together as a rule and that she felt the strain a bit in their early years together. “I would wake up and say ‘let’s take the kids to the park,’ and he would say ‘where will we have lunch? what time will we come home?’”
Her unvarying answer, “who cares?”did not always go over well. Now, however, mutual respect and understanding have smoothed out life in their home, which they currently share with Ana and Joey, both high school students. The two even enjoy part-time jobs at the same place, the Hamilton Honda dealership. Even there, the pair’s elemental natures show through.
Paul responsibly pilots the dealership’s shuttle, while Judy works as its greeter. “It’s the perfect job,” she exclaims. “I make coffee and schmooze with customers. I’ve met so many interesting people!”
More on the elements in the workplace:
Earth. It’s easy to spot an earth. “You can tell just by looking at them,” says Goldstein. “They’re very put together, very comfortable, very businesslike. No gold chains.” The earths are always on time for work, consistent, very firm in what they want done. These are people an employer can count on for the same solid job year after year. They won’t be found at the water cooler and couldn’t care less about where their co-workers vacationed.
As steady and reliable as an earth will be, he generally can’t be counted on to build relationships or to be very flexible. Chances are that he will have no patience for the office winds. “Earths think winds are frivolous,” says Goldstein.
Wind. “If you want someone to answer a phone, hire a wind,” says Goldstein. These workers will excel at building client relationships and keeping customers happy. They genuinely like people, and will want to spend time catching up on everyone’s weekend happenings as soon as they arrive at the office on Monday morning.
The wind will run with a job, working well on his own and probably chaffing at too much supervision. He will embrace new projects, travel opportunities, and reorganizations of all kinds. The wind will have little patience for being cooped up in a windowless cubicle but will shine at networking events.
Water. Among this group will be the people the Wall Street Journal recently profiled as “office mothers.” They are the ones who arrange the birthday parties, comfort the grieving, and get everyone to dress in red and green for the office holiday photo. “These are the soft souls,” says Goldstein. Generally, she finds, they are not particularly ambitious, but they tend to be excellent team players, getting along well with everyone and working well toward common goals.
“They’re super supportive,” says Goldstein. What’s more, they will listen to co-workers’ gripes, but they won’t amplify them or pass them along. They never support office gossip.
Fire. These are the CEOs and, even more, the entrepreneurs. Full of ideas, many of them good, they have little time or patience for follow through. “They’re arrogant,” says Goldstein, “but in a good way.”
In other words, their high opinion of their abilities is generally justified. A company cannot have a lot of fires. And while they are the darlings of venture capitalists, they often tire of a concept or a company once it is launched. Their best path often involves moving on to the next project.
None of these personalities are either good or bad, Goldstein stresses. A strong company will have plenty of each and a wise boss will know how to best use them. Still, many people spend an entire career feeling guilty because they can’t buckle down and find happiness in an accounting cubicle or because the thought of spending another evening getting to know clients makes them want to flee the country. An understanding of elemental nature can help workers to find the type of work environment in which they will find fulfillment. It will also help them to accept their limitations.
“I’ll never get my business going until I hook up with an earth,” says Goldstein, who does workshops for adults and teens. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is confident that she shines as a speaker and workshop leader, but knows that the back end details of turning her passion into more workshop dates requires organization abilities that she just doesn’t have.
So it is in many businesses. A good mix of earth, wind, water, and fire could be the answer, providing a solid base, high-flying ideas, teamwork, and leadership.