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From Avocation To Vocation: “How I Turned My Hobby Into A Career” with Catherine Tingey

Try more; worry less. Intellectual, thoughtful people get so stuck in analysis. They can be the most difficult clients to coach because they think they know everything, and they probably do — in their head! I have been this person so I have a soft spot in my heart for clients like this. As a part of our […]


Try more; worry less. Intellectual, thoughtful people get so stuck in analysis. They can be the most difficult clients to coach because they think they know everything, and they probably do — in their head! I have been this person so I have a soft spot in my heart for clients like this.


As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Catherine Tingey. Catherine is a Yoga, Meditation and Life Coach in Los Angeles. Her clients include professional athletes, celebrities, designers and entertainers, as well as regular people who want to get unstuck. Previously she worked in the hedge fund industry.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up in a small town in upstate New York. Both of my parents are eccentric and kind of rugged individualists. Hence they’re not married anymore. My father was a professor at the university and my mother stayed at home but later became a chemist and then a nurse. It was a home environment that valued achievement and performance over pretty much everything else i.e. we rarely took vacations, didn’t have a TV, grew our own food and built our own furniture, I had to read scientific papers to my father — you know, the usual stuff, LOL. I’m grateful for my unique upbringing though — it’s helped me get to where I am today. I was also a very skinny weakling child and that gave me a drive to become more sturdy and robust, in every way I suppose.

What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?

The first time I taught a private yoga session I knew that I loved the intimacy of the format. Becoming a coach was more a gradual realization. When everyone you’re in a relationship with tells you the same thing — “stop telling ME what to do, go find people who WANT to change”— it got my attention, you know?

There is no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?

It’s all in the execution. I’ve always known I’m not Mensa-level smart, or the most visionary. But I have the strongest will and I cannot be broken. So my motto is try, fall down, innovate, get up, repeat.

What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?

This is a great question. Once I became the top yoga coach on the Westside, other people started coming to me to ask how I did it. The most common question was always — “‘”I love yoga but I don’t know if I can make a living doing it.”

My answer has always been, try it out. Start teaching nights and weekends, and pick up some privates. See if the work lights your soul on fire. Give yourself maximum flexibility and don’t quit your day job just yet.

Although I coach a lot of entrepreneurs, I don’t actually believe that everyone should quit their day job. Nor do I believe that all hobbies must or can be monetized. Successful entrepreneurship is largely an issue of temperament, drive and risk tolerance. I know when I was in my 20s I was not made for this.

It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?

Another great question that builds on my prior response. When you work with people every day as I do, the inherent uniqueness of each client keeps my interest piqued. I suppose any vocation can become a grind though, but I don’t have much personal experience with that as I’m truly doing what I love.

To ensure that there are always new ideas coursing through me though, I do lots of continuing education each year in the form of seminars and retreats. I’m also a huge consumer of podcasts and books of people whom I find inspiring.

What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?

The ultimate rush is the chance to build something, do purposeful work, and change lives. Downsides are pretty minimal in my opinion but can include working odd hours, some income volatility from month-to-month, and anything related to taxes. All of these things were more stressful in the first couple of years. I learned to ride out the slower months, embrace the hours and got a great accountant! I just looked at all the annoyances as an opportunity to grow parts of myself that were underdeveloped.

Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

I don’t think I truly understood the amount of time involved in business development. Marketing doesn’t come naturally to me and I really dislike spending long hours in front of a computer. These days I outsource when I can and delegate to people who have the expertise and bandwidth to do things I just can be bothered with.

Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?

Not exactly because once I got on this path of service I knew it was for me, and that this was my life’s work. However in the early days when I had a low month, I definitely thought about picking up a part-time job.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I don’t have a single story but recently an entrepreneur in Stockholm read an article I was quoted in, wrote to me to say that it resonated, and then became my client. You do these interviews and you never know you will read them.

I guess I’m flattered and honored when people are touched by anything I have to say!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This isn’t funny but it was humiliating for me.

I had just started working with a new yoga client and had taken his full health history. He didn’t mention any issues with his shoulder and so in a pose, I slightly adjusted the height of one shoulder. He yelped out loud and was visibly very angry. I felt awful and almost started crying out of humiliation, embarrassment and shame.

Any good yoga teacher knows you should never harm anyone. Ahimsa (Sanskrit for non-harm) is a central tenet of yoga philosophy and this is a vow you take if you are serious about your vocation. I believe the only way forward is through — especially in difficult situations like this.

So I stopped the session to apologize and offered to abort it and refund him. I probably also cracked a self-deprecating joke. (The) moral of the story is that being totally honest and upfront about your mistakes works. This man is still my client today.

Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?

I find the life, work and legacy of Louise Hay very inspiring. Any person who’s able to transmute tremendous personal suffering into service gets my respect.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

(In) 3 ways:

  • I mentor younger people who want to become yoga teachers and coaches.
  • I offer donation yoga to non-profit organizations like dog rescues and arts programs for kids in under-served communities.
  • I offer discounted coaching for women in need.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Try more; worry less. Intellectual, thoughtful people get so stuck in analysis. They can be the most difficult clients to coach because they think they know everything, and they probably do — in their head! I have been this person so I have a soft spot in my heart for clients like this.
  2. Be flexible. You may think your strength is in one area but the market may think otherwise. Staying nimble allows you to pivot.
  3. When you fall down, innovate, get up, repeat. .This describes my first year of business. I worked myself too hard, my back fell apart and I lost all my clients. I had to return to a corporate job and I felt like a failure. I decided to try again and re-built my business, this time with that motto.
  4. Success at the speed of balance No career is built in a day and no endeavor is worth losing your health over. Become aware of the most productive hours in your day and don’t give those away. Take naps when needed. Compare yourself only to earlier iterations of yourself.
  5. Ask, Believe, Receive. (The) Law of Attraction really works! We’re all great at asking; it’s the unwavering daily practice of faith and the deep belief that we’re worthy that most people need help with.
  6. Health is Wealth. Not much can be enjoyed in life when you’re in physical pain. Honor your body and its rhythms. Every business has cycles of growth and dormancy — just like nature. Respect these cycles!

What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I have a big fantasy of a connective app where people all over the world can do real time meditation together. I’m talking millions of people. But I wouldn’t call it meditation because that word is off putting to lots of people. It’s like a 5 minute tune in.

The potential to elevate global consciousness in this way gets me really fired up.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Love is the highest frequency.”

If you can find a way to inject love into everything you do, including your present state of mind, you’ll find yourself living in a state of grace, and all will come to you.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I’d love to break bread with Eckhart Tolle, Mooji, Tony Robbins, Jack Canfield, or Louise Hay (RIP).

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

— — — — — —

About the author:

Phil La Duke is a popular speaker & writer with more than 400 works in print. He has contributed to Entrepreneur, Monster, Thrust Global and is published on all inhabited continents. His most recent book is Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention listed as #16 on Pretty Progressive magazine’s list of 49 books that powerful women study in detail. Follow Phil on Twitter @philladuke or read his weekly blog www.philladuke.wordpress.com

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