An Interview With Andrew Barber-Starkey
Conducted by Jeffrey Kearney
Can you tell us
a bit about your early life?
I grew up in Victoria, British Columbia. We lived
in a rural setting and when I was young my older brother Mike and
I spent a lot of time together fishing, swimming, bike riding and
being in the outdoors.
From grade 3 to grade 9 I went to a British private
school – not because we were well off but because my father
had gone there when he was young and enjoyed it. It was good for
me. The school was academically strong and had lots of emphasis
on sports. I lived to play soccer and cricket. The school did not
have a lot of money, and one thing I admired was the way they did
things professionally even when they did not have many resources.
I still value professionalism, and always strive to deliver a first
class product to my clients.
During my last 2 years of high school I discovered
both motorcycles and girls. I was studying sciences, and thanks
to my extracurricular activities my grades were – well, underwhelming.
I guess it might have helped if I had attended classes and done
After high school I really had no clue what I
wanted to do, but getting an education seemed important so I attended
British Columbia Institute of Technology for an intense two year
program in hotel management. Business principles came very naturally
to me and I discovered for the first time that I was intelligent.
In fact, I graduated with honors, which was really good for my self-confidence.
I spent my 20’s traveling, skiing and having
all sorts of adventures. When I was 25 I became passionate about
hang gliding, which was in its infancy at the time. I spent the
next 7 years flying every day in the summer and racked up close
to 700 hours of airtime, which is amazing. In the winters I worked
as a medic in the oil fields of northern Canada to earn money for
the next season of hang gliding. After a few years of doing that,
I started my own industrial ambulance company, which was small but
You did some incredible
things while you were hang gliding!
I’ve been to almost 19,000’ on a hang glider. You can
see the curve of the earth from that height, and it makes you feel
very insignificant. I flew in competitions all across North America
and at one point was the top ranked pilot in Canada. My specialty
was cross-country flying and in 1983 I became the first person ever
to fly across the Rocky Mountains on a hang glider. It was a daring
flight, and has only been done a few times since. It helped me that
I was always a keen learner. I studied air currents and aerodynamics,
and that gave me an edge in competitions. And in safety, too, I
guess since I never crashed and lots of my friends did. I started
a hang gliding school and totally loved giving people the opportunity
to experience the thrill of flight.
You like taking risks, don’t
Yes. I had very fast motorcycles when I was a
teenager and drove everywhere at 100 MPH. I had a death-defying
experience running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. I also tried
skeleton sledding and went down the Olympic bobsled track in Calgary
laying flat on my stomach on a ridiculously small sled. I loved
waterskiing and high-wind windsurfing, and when I heard about fire
walking I just had to do it. I was definitely an adrenalin junkie.
I still am, in a way. These days I get most of my thrills public
How did you get into coaching?
After being a hang gliding bum I decided it was
time to make some money, so I went into sales. I like to associate
with the best of the best, so I went to work for Xerox and later
sold computer systems. I was consistently a top performer in sales
and did well financially. But after about 8 years of selling I began
to feel empty and disillusioned. At that point I began searching
for meaning in my life, which I later realized was my mid-life crisis
In 1993 I worked with a consultant to discover
my life purpose. I realized that what I enjoyed most was helping
other people become more successful. I knew a lot of entrepreneurs
at the time, and I watched them struggle with sales, business operations
and motivation issues – things I was good at. I had done a
lot of personal growth work by this point, and I realized that success
was about much more than money and achievement – that relationships
and quality of life were key elements of the success experience.
So, I decided I wanted to help entrepreneurs become more successful
in their businesses and in their lives.
I started calling myself a business and personal
coach. I’d never heard of if before. At the time I thought
I’d invented the coaching profession. (Laugh). I didn’t
make much money for the first few years. For one thing, there were
no other coaches to model my business after and the Internet did
not exist to provide community and resources. Still, I totally loved
what I was doing, and my clients valued it too. They were getting
fantastic results and referring their friends to me. By the time
the coaching profession really took off I was already a veteran,
and in 1999 the International Coaching Federation certified me as
a Master Coach.
How did you get involved
As I mentioned, I was doing a lot of personal
growth work, and in 1999 I signed up for Harv Eker’s Enlightened
Wealth Training program. One of my areas of specialty as a coach
was life purpose work, and when Harv announced his first Life Directions
camp I volunteered to help. That is where I really got to know Harv
and shortly after that he hired me as his coach. Then he asked me
if I would help him create an ongoing coaching program to help people
from his camps and seminars get ongoing support. Of course, I jumped
at the opportunity and SuccessTracs was born. We formed a new company
– a partnership called Coach Designs – to own our joint
I’d been in an excellent coaching program
called the Strategic Coach for several years. It was aimed at high-level
entrepreneurs – at the time you had to earn $100K a year to
enroll in the program. I found it very powerful, and both my income
and my confidence had really grown. The content of the program was
not really applicable to the Peak Potentials audience, but the program
had a great structure that combined workbooks with quarterly lessons
and seminars. When I showed the model to Harv he immediately saw
the potential. He started saying that we could create a system that
would enable anyone who was in a performance-based income position
to double their income, double their time off and double their speed
to financial freedom. The promise terrified me, and since I was
doing most of the design I felt a lot of pressure. Although the
system appeared simple, it was extremely sophisticated. It contained
a lot of subtleties, especially in the workbooks. We progressively
refined and improved the system, but right from the beginning it
delivered on Harv’s promise for those who used it. And over
the last 4 years it has helped thousands of people to improve and
enrich their lives.
If SuccessTracs was working so well, why did you leave?
There are certain experiences I seek in life and
my quest to create them ultimately led me to go on my own. You know
that I have taken a lot of risks in my life. That’s because
I love to be at my edge – constantly challenging myself to
grow and rise to the next level of performance. Obviously I am getting
a lot of that by starting a new venture. I also thrive on freedom
and independence. I have very strong ideas about what it takes to
succeed, and I wanted the flexibility to create the program my way.
I also crave personal connection. As SuccessTracs got bigger, I
lost my connection with most of the members. That is when I decided
I wanted to create a program small enough that I could work with
each member individually. If you have the right coach, individual
coaching is incredibly effective at helping people break past their
obstacles. I felt that combining my coaching with the system would
make it possible for people to increase their momentum and reach
their goals faster.
What is one thing you wish
you had learned a lot sooner?
I learned many things from the Pursuit of Excellence
program I took in 1988 – the biggest was that I HAD THE POWER OF CHOICE!
I could get a different result simply by choosing to do things differently.
I suddenly realized that other people were not limiting me. The
real limitation was me, who I was being and the way I was looking
at the world. This was the most empowering insight I have ever had.
The lesson was so powerful for me that I wanted everyone to get
it. Some people were more open to it than others, and they became
my friends and clients. Self-empowerment is still a key element
in all my work. My passion for empowering people is really the reason
why the ProCoach Success System exists.
What have you learned
the hard way that you are sharing now?
Every mistake in the book. (Laugh). One thing
is that I used to have extremely high expectations of myself. I
set a lot of goals, had high standards and beat myself mercilessly
when I didn’t achieve the impossible. I was a total perfectionist.
Slowly I learned that my self-critical voice was doing more harm
than good. The entire ProCoach Success System is designed around
the philosophy of acknowledging yourself for what you have accomplished
instead of beating yourself up for being less than perfect. I remember
my sales manager say to me one time, “Andrew you must learn
to balance high ideals with reasonable expectation.” My high
expectations made me terrible at managing others, and they held
me back personally for a long time, too. Not that you need to lower
your standards in order to succeed. You just need to focus on the
positive and minimize the self-critical voice within.
You have a unique skill
of being able to take a theory and turn it into a practical lesson.
How do you do that?
I was blessed with a very logical mind. I seem
to be able to reflect on a concept and see ways I can create games
or exercises or processes that opens people’s eyes to the
dynamic of what’s going on. That’s most of the time
…sometimes my processes flop, which has created some awkward
moments! I think I’m good at stepping into other people’s
shoes and knowing what will work for them and what won’t.
I’m very sensitive to other people’s energy. I suspect
this comes from my dysfunction of wanting to keep everyone happy
all the time, but it serves me well in program design.
I have seen your bookcase
– you are a very dedicated student!
I just love to learn and grow. In fact I believe
it is the biggest key to becoming successful. I have been taking
courses and reading personal growth material for over 20 years.
I am virtually obsessed with understanding people and learning psychological
principles and systems. Some people collect antique cars or stamps…..I
collect books. On my vacation I like to go into used book stores
wherever I am and buy up all the personal growth books I don’t
have. I have a huge library of books, tapes and videos. Before I
became a program designer I just collected them for fun. Now I constantly
use them as resource.
Would you mind sharing
a couple of your “big dreams” with us?
I think it’s important to fulfill your small
dreams as well as your big ones. I could put all my attention into
launching my company and forget that I always wanted to spend a
week at a water-ski camp or go to India or own a kayak. Then one
day I’d wake up and realize I’d missed my chance. So
I pay attention to my small dreams too!
Having said that, my biggest dream right now
is around my success system. I want to create a system so powerful
and so effective that people who use it are guaranteed to achieve
their goals. And I want it to be used by thousands, tens of thousands,
even millions of people. Once I have as many people in the program
as I can coach personally, probably about 200, I want to license
the ProCoach Success System to other coaches. Not only will it help
their clients get better results, but it will make it easier for
the coaches to sell their services. So instead of creating one big
company, I want to create a product or tool that will be used by
a lot of smaller companies.
On the personal side the big goal for me right
now is to become a father. I didn’t get married until I was
48. I always said I wanted to find the right relationship first
and then I would think about having a family. Now that I have a
fantastic relationship with my wife Marianna it is time to become
What is your vision for
Creating the ultimate success system is definitely
my life’s work. I am totally passionate about the ProCoach
Success System, and I can’t see myself ever losing interest
in it. I am so blessed. Every day I get to do the things I love
most – help people succeed and deepen my understanding of
what it takes to become successful. And I get paid for it. What
more could I ask?