Coaching the game of life


NEW LIFE: After a series of ultimately unfulfilling jobs, Max Leone eventually discovered a career that inspires him – and helps to motivate others

FORTY-YEAR-OLD Italian life coach Max Leone says that learning to speak, read and generally communicate through English has been one of the most liberating experiences of his life.

Growing up the second child – and only son – of a bank official, Leone spent much of his youth living in various Italian cities. He studied economics and business at the University of Bari and took the opportunity to work for an oil company at the age of 26.

“It wasn’t really what I wanted to do. Basically, I was following my father’s path. I was responsible for 52 petrol stations. I had a permanent job and a car. I went to restaurants a lot, but after six months I couldn’t do the work any longer.”

Leone says that from about the age of 17, he had started to read books about psychology and motivation, and after leaving this job he realised that he was more attracted to working in a multicultural environment.

“I got a job working for an Italian tourism company which involved looking after people at various resorts in Corfu, San Tropez and later Cancun in Mexico. I earned one-third of the salary I had at the oil company, but I loved working with people of different nationalities and also I started to learn English,” he explains.

Reflecting back now, he says that his journey to becoming a life coach began then. “I knew I wanted to work with people and touch other people’s lives, but not just entertain them as this job required,” he explains.

In Italy, many young people continue to study and live at home throughout their 20s. Although hugely supportive, this closeness to family can also be a major influence on the future careers of the adult children.

“My family saw a permanent job as the way forward and they were fearful of anything else. I realised it was time to leave the family home, so I moved to live in Rome and got a job in sales,” explains Leone.

Over the next few years, he sold everything from computers to paintings before settling into a job for five years, selling accounting software to large not-for-profit organisations. “My job was teaching the employees of these organisations about the software. I realised that this wasn’t the perfect job, but I wasn’t suffering.”

During this time, he continued to immerse himself in audio books by English-speaking motivational speakers. “I soon realised that after exposing myself to all that stuff, I had to change my life,” he explains.

So he trained as a neuro- linguistic programmer with American life coach, Richard Bandler. Then, in June 2006, his long-time friend moved to a new job in Rome, and Leone took the bold step of sub-letting his apartment to him and moving to Dublin.

“I knew I wanted to move to an English-speaking city and London just seemed too big. In a few hours, you can know the basic structure of the city centre in Dublin, so it seemed easier to move here,” he explains.

The ease of renting an apartment also amazed him as he managed to secure one in a matter of days, rather than the months it would have taken in Rome.

“I also realised I could get a job easily,” says Leone, who even moved to Cork to work for Apple computers for a few months before realising that he had in fact wanted to be in Dublin.

Soon after he returned to the capital he was off again, this time to Australia and New Zealand for a few months, and to Italy en route back to Dublin.

“I needed to get inspired, so I just travelled and read. I realised that I couldn’t start work as a life coach if I was disappointed by my own experience,” says Leone.

And although he contemplated working in Italy, he says that when he went back there, “I felt like a foreigner. I realised that home is a place that allows you to unfold your life – not necessarily the place you are born in.”

And so back in Dublin, he decided he would start from scratch.

“I began to organise meetings in my apartment which later became the ‘meet- ups’ which now take place in the Temple Bar Hotel in Dublin,” he explains.

By following his own life coaching techniques, Leone began to get clients. “My philosophy is, ‘Do whatever you can from where you are standing to get where you want to in your life’,” he says.

“What I like about Dublin is that people are open to things. These meetings have created a community of people and from there I have got clients who want to have one-to-one life coaching sessions with me,” explains Leone.

Leone also has an interesting take on the recession. “When- ever you do something with passion, there is no space for recession. You have to ask yourself what you can offer people that has value and that people need. During the boom, it was easy to get jobs that only expressed about 20 per cent of who people were,” he says.

“Now, people have to ask themselves what they would like to do that would be more a reflection of themselves.”

And, like the true salesman that he is, he adds: “It’s always the right time to be more who you are because who you are is all you’ve got.”