Jay Coughlan, co-author of Five Bold Choices
Jay Coughlan was a business professional with a bright career until one evening when he drove while under the influence of alcohol. The result of that decision was a car crash that killed his father and sent Coughlan to prison. Since he release, Coughlan launched TruBalanced, a corporate coaching consultancy.
Coughlan's new book Five Bold Choices details his struggle while offering strategies to business professionals trying to navigate the corporate environment.
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book? And how did you overcome this challenge?
Jay Coughlan: Well, I think the hardest part was turning what had been a story that I had been telling everywhere into a book that taught some practical lessons and takeaways for the reader. The story all by itself was a memoir, and I didn’t want to write a memoir. I coach people to be better at what they do, and I wanted this book to be a reflection of that. My co-writer, Larry Julian, was a huge help with this. He kept asking “Why”, and that helped us hone all of this down to a fine edge with practical tips that the reader can use right now.
As we went through the process, I would try it in my coaching business. I found that these five choices worked best and yielded great results.
Q: You built the foundation of TruBalanced on "Five Bold Choices": Clarity, Accountability, Adaptability, Confidence, & Balance. What do you see as the most elusive of these choices among aspiring business professionals, and what can be done to further strengthen that particularly elusive choice?
Jay Coughlan: Clarity is a problem. I’m amazed at how many people don’t know what they want to do, or how they want to accomplish it. You have to have clear goals if you ever plan to get somewhere in this world. I wrote down my goal at 27 to be a CEO by the time I was 40. It took me to age 41, but that was my fault. Writing that down forced me to prioritize. I realized I was running Jay Coughlan Inc. , and I had to figure out what I needed to be good at, what I needed to do more of, and what I needed to stop doing.
Note that this is not a skills gap, or an intelligence issue. It’s a clarity gap. You have to get quiet to get clear, and we live in a noisy world that constantly interrupts us if we let it. Finding clarity these days is difficult, but without it we are just going through the motions every day and not getting to where we want to be.
Q: There have been growing complaints among prison reform advocates that individuals released from prison are prevented from getting decent jobs because of their conviction history. What can be done to better integrate former prisoners into the wider economy?
Jay Coughlan: I actually have two answers here, one from the point of view of the convict and one from the business’ point of view.
First of all, the convict has to have the attitude that they are not going to let their worst moment define them and who they become. I can’t tell you how many people told me that I would never become a CEO because I was a convicted felon. I decided to ignore them and do it anyway. There was no rule that said it couldn’t be done, so why not? Let me be honest: it is a burden. It is a challenge. But you can’t let it be an excuse.
Now, the businesses who might hire this person take a different view. They need a certain skill set, period. If you have them, you’re a candidate under most circumstances, no matter your background. But, I’ll just say that when I was in prison I did not see a lot of people honing their skills to become better welders, or whatever. So, bottom line: are they coming out of the system with any kind of skills that lead to a job? If not, then don’t expect employers to hire you. It’s no different than anyone else in that aspect.
Secondly, the employer wants to be sure that their place is safe. If you are in for violent crimes that you committed, that will be a much bigger hurdle. But, the truth is, most prisoners are not in there for violent crimes.
Q: What is your view of the overall state of the U.S. economy and the state of entrepreneurship within the economy?
Jay Coughlan: I have two concerns: One, the number of public companies is getting smaller and I wonder how that is going to impact our economy down the road. And, two, technology is busy displacing a lot of jobs and it looks like that will keep happening. Driverless cars and trucks (no truck drivers necessary), computer driven manufacturing, online shopping. All of these are a result of technological change, and it’s that change that makes people less necessary in the process.
I heard the other day that eventually cars will be able to communicate so that if you are in an accident it will figure out the damage, alert the repair shop and the insurance company. In theory, you could have your check from the insurance company before they even tow your car away. That sounds great, but think about how many jobs you just eliminated. Not sure how to fix this one.