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Life and Work Blog

The Coach who Saved Metallica

May 7, 2018 12:10:59 PM / by Bret Mavrich

The coach who saved Metallica. You read that right.

James_Hetfield_MediumThe famous Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, thrash-metal band that has released album after album to critical acclaim. But at one point, they almost didn't make it.

In 2003, while the band was working on its eighth album called St. Anger, the members were at each other's throats. They had lost focus and perspective. They had been under pressure from the press as well as their fans. And they hadn't produced new music in years.

Something was stopping them from reaching their potential. They started from zero, wondering what is a coach, or what does a coach even do. 

But by the end, they said they had found their angel: performance coach Phil Towle. 

But is a coach really like an angel? To understand why they would say that, you've got to hear their story. 

Coaching the Monster

Metallica's struggle is captured in a documentary, Some Kind of Monster. In an early scene, founding members Lars Ulrich (the drummer) and James Hetfield (front man and guitarist) have a heated disagreement in the studio. After trying to record a song that isn't coming together, they try to talk about it, but from the start the conversation seems doomed to fail.

Hetfield asks Ulrich why he was playing a drum beat that seemed to clash with the song. He answers with measured words. But it's no use. Before long, they're in a full argument, and finally Hetfield storms out of the room. Things were not looking good.

Fortunately, coaches are trained to help people — even metal bands like Metallica — navigate these entrenched impasses in life.

Moving past fear

In another scene from the documentary, Ulrich and Hatfield are in a meeting with performance coach Phil Towle. They're talking about the insecurities that are blocking their potential. Ulrich says, 

It's like I'm racing against time with a weird fear, like I gotta come up with something before someone else comes up with something for me. And then if I don't like it, I'm just being selfish.

His coach replies,

Well that's a fear response. When we're up against a fear, that's the time to move into it, forward. Because there's going to be some kind of genius there, or some kind of breakthrough.

By the end of the film, Metallica had learned to push past the fear and into the genius. That's exactly what a coach is supposed to do: move you beyond your limitations.

At one point, Hetfield confides in a private interview, "[My coach] has been like an angel for me. He's been sent to help me."

What is a coach

Everyone who has ever asked themselves that very question, or wondered what a coach could do for them can learn something from Metallica. It doesn't matter where you are in your career, or relationships, or success. If you are hitting walls, a coach helps you find your way forward.

A coach is different than a therapist, different than a guru, or even what you might imagine a sports professional to be like. Coaches — the good ones — help you find your own answers, your deepest motivations, and the best version of yourself.

Find A Coach


Image Credit: Title: Metallica performing in San Antonio, Texas (2017-06-14); Artist: Ralph Arveson; Image Link, License Link.

Topics: Coaching

Bret Mavrich

Written by Bret Mavrich

Bret is a marketing professional who helps clients clarify their messages and achieve their goals.