Life Coaching for Youth Culture

A former pageant queen, model, and budding philanthropist, Michelle Marie King’s teen years looked dazzling on paper. But as the daughter of a military family she felt like a chronic “new girl,” unrooted and out of place as she moved around the country. On the low, she was battling an eating disorder and anxiety and depression (“…I had to sit there in my brokenness, and that’s just what life was like then.”). Now, she’s helping younger generations eradicate insignificance with Positive Presence Global (PPG), one of the largest mentor-coaching programs in the country. Its in-house experts are skilled and emotionally fluent in over 500 different scenarios for young adults, from goal-setting and sexual orientation to confidence building and time management. 

When she was coming of age in the 90s, mental health wasn’t exactly entrenched in our cultural vernacular. Pressure in the form of social norms at school and in pop culture’s ideal body image made young people particularly susceptible to feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness. (Which has, of course, exacerbated in today’s digital age.) King didn’t want her daughter to follow in her footsteps and, by extension, the younger generations of today. Ahead, she talks about the rise of PPG, its marketplace differentiators, and why life coaching should be viewed as a necessity and not a luxury. 

What was it like growing up without community ties and relationships? 

Positive Presence Global (PPG) was built on a foundation of community that I lacked so much growing up. I share with my students and coaches that because my late father was in the military, we moved around my entire childhood. He retired when I was 10 and at that time, we were living in a small town in Wisconsin. I had already developed a defense mechanism to protect myself [from getting too close to others]—it was too late to restructure my mental ability to create friendships and be a part of community. I think I kept that defense mechanism all throughout my childhood, and even now I struggle with it at times. But in reflection, [putting myself out there] helped me build my corporate, leadership, and coaching teams for PPG. Every single construct in PPG is part of an ecosystem of community that we pride ourselves on. 

How has life coaching changed or evolved in recent years? 

The thing we’re trying to combat industry wide, especially for teens and young adults, is that life coaching is viewed as a luxury and not a necessity. Back in the day, it was this very expensive endeavor—you flew out to New York for personal development training for $50K. Or you go to a Tony Robbins seminar and get certified in being good at “life.” Unfortunately, that viewpoint trickled down to our generations [Gen X and Millennials]. I struggled with an eating disorder and anxiety and depression, and I didn’t feel good about myself. I didn’t know how to verbalize it; I felt ashamed that I was broken, so I had to sit there in my brokenness and that’s just what life was like then. We’re helping parents recognize that just like getting car insurance for your teen’s car, you don’t question needing it, you put it on to protect your teen. Life coaching for teens needs to be a new rite of passage so they don’t have to go through the darkness, or have to be lost in order to be found. When we’re proactive, we can provide them with lessons of soft skills and emotional awareness, leading them down a path of least resistance for the rest of their lives. 

What didn’t exist in the coaching industry that you’re trying to fill or meet with PPG?

Therapy is, with all due respect, very valid for a lot of people—but I view it as a reactive support. Something that has happened in the past that is currently impacting the present. You’re being seen for something that’s trauma-based that you can’t just suddenly heal from, and that you very well need to in order to move on. On the other hand, counseling is very proactive. Counselors recognize the anxiety that comes with future goal setting. Our goal in the moment is to recognize what it is [that’s triggering anxieties], and take you from struggle to strategy so you can be present and focus on being the best version of yourself. 

Our coaches are certified through our mentor-coaching program I created, and that’s embedded in positive psychology and executive functioning. This core curriculum is important to establish, build, and create life skills and soft skills. We manage the coaches from coast to coast, and have about 40 from across the country who are certified with PPG. They also have layered accolades—some are health and fitness experts, some are wellness coaches, others are former teachers, and we even have former models and actresses. They all have a relatable story to tell, and have struggled with darkness and coming out on the other side of it.

You’ve said that it’s your mission to eradicate insignificance. What exactly does that mean? 

We work with thousands of families across the country and see some teens that seem sufficient on the outside—they have great friends, a loving family, perfect grades. But they come to us still feeling lost. There’s something that’s broken internally, even if they can’t see it on the outside. The commonality with every teen—no matter their socioeconomic background, age, community—is that they feel insignificant at some point in their life. The goal is to help them realize that every person has something to contribute. When we can help them find that, the negativity and darkness starts to fade away. We need so much more light and all have the potential of finding it ourselves. 

We’ve been investing in programs and products with the message of eradicating insignificance. We want to make personal development palatable for everyone—something that everyone has access to. 

What’s your underlying hope for the next generation? 

I have a 7-year-old and no matter how brilliant I may be as her mother, she will forever see me as inadequate. I need people in this world who my daughter can look up to and who she can trust … The “look up to” part is the hardest, and that’s why I created a mentor-coaching program. [Editor’s note: the term “mentor-coach” was coined and trademarked by King.] I want it to be more than life coaching; we are people impacting people. Saving lives and changing lives. We recognize that we need both in order to impact the next generation. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

November 23, 2022

2:30 PM

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