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It looks like I ruffled a few feathers with an email I sent out about “no credentials, no problem”. And I want to set the record straight… there are definitely a few situations where you want someone with credentials (anything requiring surgery comes to mind). But there’s something even more important than credentials, and that’s what this week’s blog is about.

Video Transcript and Relevant Links

So let's talk about the credential controversy…

So, a few days ago I sent out an email, that I think the subject line was, “No credentials, no problem.”

And we heard back from a few people that got that email that weren't happy with it — and they were people who had a lot of credentials, a lot of fancy letters after their name. And I get it. You put a lot of work into achieving some type of certification and you feel invested, and that's fantastic. But I also know that my life has been completely changed by coaches who don't have any credentials — people who just learned and mostly learned from experience and then figured out how to pass that experience along.

Now, this isn't to say that going and getting training and being a coach or getting credentials, getting credentialed, going through certification, is bad or wrong. It's great to have those tools. It's great to have the coaching tools so that you can help people. But the reality is in the world that we're in now, people are paying for results. They're not paying for credentials. 

And there are absolutely areas where you want to have someone who has got all the credentials. If you're about to go into surgery, if you're seeing a therapist, if you need legal help, you want someone who's got all that formal credentialization.

But the reality is that again… well, look at me. I've coached literally thousands of people on how to launch and grow their businesses and I have no credentials whatsoever. It's just something that I've been doing for a very long time. I started my business and I became good at marketing after about eight years of trial and error and figuring things out. Then I started coaching people and it's worked out pretty well. Their results have become legend.

And so… the day of needing a bunch of letters after your name to be able to coach someone, those are long gone. The reality is people pay for results.  And coaching can be a great way into this business. If you call this business, whatever you want to call it, I like to call it the wisdom business or you can call it the experts business, the knowledge business — there are a lot of different names… But this idea of sharing your knowledge, whether it's being in a product, an online course, a membership site, a mastermind, a seminar, a workshop or one-on-one coaching…  One of the easiest ways, in my opinion, to get into this business is to start coaching. I mean, that's a well-trod path. First you coach individuals and hopefully you get a bunch of those under your belt.

My friend Eben Pagan… this whole controversy started when we sent that email to promote his virtual coach training. And I was just talking to him and he said, “Get ten one-on-one clients and coach them and get results for them, and once you get those 10, then you get so much better at doing it.” So that's a well-trod path to go from one-on-one coaching to small group coaching to creating a product, and then often it circles back to very high-end coaching. But that's going in a different direction. That's for another day.

But the reality is if you’ve put in the work and got some credentials, fantastic, that's awesome. But these days, people aren't paying for credentials—they're paying for results. 

So, I'm Jeff Walker. Wherever you're watching this, scroll down, leave a comment for me, and let's go get ‘em this week.

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51 Replies to “The Case for Credentials…”

  1. Robby johnson

    Reply

    Absolutely agree with you about credentials. I’ve been an international touring blue collar comedian for 27 years. No credentials had but I seem too sell out my shows at every stop. Also been on several television shows and movies with no acting classes or instruction, so I must be doing something right.
    Thanks, Cousin Robby

  2. I couldn’t agree more with you, Jeff! While of course credentials have their place, I’ve learned from many years of building successful teams that attitude (humble, hungry, smart)* is much more important then degrees or other credentials.

    “The Ideal Team Player” by Patrick Lencioni

  3. You said it Jeff…

    People don’t pay for credentials. They pay for results.

    Anyone who gets upset about this is banking on me being impressed by their degree or their certification.

    As Julie said…certification means you are certified not qualified.

    Of course I’d rather have a credentialed surgeon and even accountant but our accountant has saved us $100s of thousands of dollars in taxes in the last six years and I’ve never once checked his credentials. We pay him for results!

    So amen, brother!

  4. Katherine Fulkerson

    Reply

    As someone with many credentials & 37 years of experience coaching, I believe certifications are not the issue per se. The issue is accountability over the long term, including undesired outcomes & side-effects. Certifications frequently provide professional organizations, research about outcomes, and long-term accountability.

    • How is it within your professional organization in coaching?
      What “research about outcomes” are they putting out?
      How are they ensuring “long-term accountablity”?
      How does it show in real life?
      What are the results for the clients?

      • Do you keep records of your failures & undesired side effects? Do you research outcomes (both positive and negatives) to look for trends and improve your interventions.

        Yes, we need results. We also need to be accountable for undesired outcomes from our interventions?

        I have both credentials & experience. Part of my experience includes research. Part of credentials taught me how to do that research. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and to get the highest quality results for the greatest number of clients.

        • Anna Hopkins-Arnold

          Reply

          Amen, “Kate says”! – It IS BOTH the getting credentials (which represent TRAINING and often supervised apprenticeship – when available for your field) and doing the PRACTICE to gain EXPERIENCE that make for a truly qualified coach. My current field includes both people who have self-educated and practiced, and people who have undertaken various training programs, and classes. Some of the self-educated people are extraordinary in their chosen niche, but they often have holes in their knowledge compared to those who have had the humility to admit they needed help (coaching, attending classes, courses, or even programs) to take their skills to the next level. Those who have earned certifications are those who sought out coaching and who have shown themselves to be COACHABLE. In my experience those people have the broader skill set and can share not only their OWN ideas, but ideas they have learned from their coaches and mentors.

  5. Shannon Thompson

    Reply

    Dave Ramsey filed for bankruptcy…. just saying. Not to be disrespectful but to bring attention to the fact that experience and knowledge comes from sources other than accrediting bodies. Yes, people want results and whether the coach has a PhD from Yale or the school of life is irrelevant. We all want results and to be the change we see in the world.

  6. Hi Jeff I have enjoyed watching you teach & share your launches however have not actually managed to get on one bless you from Mary Llewellyn EFT Founding Master

  7. I so agree…. Thank you for telling, sharing… It is thru in a lot of different field of work too.

  8. What you had to say about credentials versus experience was right on. I have learned that experience is what you want, not the credentials. Credentials can be misleading.

  9. Jeff,
    You are the most credentialed person I know in the definition of “credentialed” that I use. That is, having mastered the skills and expertise to be highly effective in your work. The reason the words “no credentials, no problem” are a red flag for me is they too often under-appreciate the personal attributes and skills and self confidence that are required to be successful in whatever is being offered. I appreciate marketers who explain in greater depth what it took for them to succeed and how you can too. For me, you are much better at this than you were five years ago. Along the way, I stopped feeling inadequate because I didn’t get it and focused instead on how to move forward step by step.

    Thanks for your weekly video and your generosity to the online community … like today’s follow-up video, for example, on a topic that you thought needed more in-depth discussion.

  10. Great points. Credentials can signal authority on a topic, but there are other ways to show authority. In some fields, credentials are required by law, and rightfully so. In other fields, like software engineering for example, you can get degrees and credentials, but most employers just want to know that you can provide results. They’ll look at your past work and portfolio, among other things, but your formal education and credentials are not nearly as important to them.

  11. Hey, would it be accurate to say that getting one-on-one coaching clients comes before seed launch?

      • Thanks for your response Jeff, and the price should be naturally higher for one-on-one right?

  12. I will probably make people mad saying this, but I would not worry about those responses on credentials. I have worked with and even had services provided by ‘credentialed’ people who should not be being what they do for a living for the mistakes and blatant disrespect and regard for the people they are suppose to be ‘working’ for and or ‘helping’.

    I have several “letters’, degrees, and certificates behind my name. I know why I took the ‘training’ to get the ‘basics’ I needed to do my jobs. In the end it takes training, practice, honing skills to be good at what a person does. It helps to have an open mind to learning, change, and adaptation to do the best job one can.

    One never does a good job or can do a good job if BS, politics, and inflated egos are involved.

  13. That’s right, people want results to fill their problem. just be really aware that you can bring something to them and also be really passionate about it. People will feel it and you will follow

  14. Jeff, your results and your good heart speak for themselves a thousand times over.

    There’s a reason why successful people like you are regarded with suspicion in some quarters. Those who profit from licensing and certification, now run amok, often enjoy the benefits of a monopoly, having been able, intentionally or not, to make an idol of licensing and certification and to instill a distrust of people able to make it on their own. You’re socialism’s worst friend even if you’re totally non-political. One day we’ll need to be licensed and certified to go for a walk lest we otherwise trip and hurt ourselves.

  15. All I can say is that I was “snapping” my fingers the entire time listening/watching this. I have high school diploma, college degree, Master’s degree, PhD (207 graduate credits when I only needed 120), was first one selected out of over 1000 applicants for 7 positions in clinical psych residency at an Ivy League school. I am uber credentialed. …wanna know something? MY CLIENTS NEVER ask about any of that… they come back and refer family and friends to me… it’s about RESULTS. Nothing else. RESULTS. Help people get results. That is ALL that matters. NOTHING else matters. Thanks, Jeff.

  16. Ha! Love this discussion and Jeff’s point. I didn’t get accepted to Harvard Business school for an MBA but then in the next 15 years lectured to every MBA class in Southern California. I started 3 business newspapers that got RESULTS. And yes that is what people want.
    I was a religion major in college and never took a business course. Ended up building a leading consulting firm in leadership for 20 years in LA. Again —results. I did some ‘credential-acquiring along the way but nothing touched the reality of hard won lessons in leading organizations, making payroll, managing people etc. thanks for saying this so clearly Jeff. It is what we DO in life that makes all the difference , not what we claim we know.

  17. Maria Ratiu

    Reply

    There are trades that need to be practiced after you go to school. There are trades you learn by doing. I read the book “Launching” and I can say that, this book does as a faculty.
    By the way I am engineer. I finished Politehnic Institut and I didn’t know anything practical. I learned by doing.
    I know there is trades you need to know, first the theory.
    But business and leadership, if you do not practice, if you do not work effectively with you, you have no way to get results.
    You can read an entire library and not know how to apply anything.
    But you can read only one book and apply, you get everything you want. This is also the case of PLF.

  18. MEL MARTINEZ

    Reply

    Please note that, by law, and to protect the public, certain activities require a license to be in business to serve the public, e.g. virtually all professions: doctor, dentist, attorney, electrician, plumber, real estate agent, driver, pilot, etc.
    You say you have no credentials and that your first on-line business was the stock market. How were you able to offer investment advice if you weren’t licensed with a Series 7 or Series 63 investment license?
    Also, you say experience validates a person to offer advice to others even though the person has no credentials. How were you able to convince so many people to follow your investment advice in the stock market when, by your own explanation you were a “Mr. Mom” barely able to make ends meet and having virtually no investment success in the stock market? Thanks for your response!

      • Massi Learn

        Reply

        I’d second that. I suggest that Mr. Martinez should re-read the book ‘Launch’ and then decide for himself. I sold accounting solutions for years, No I was not a CPA. Although I have an MBA and had been an accounting expert, there were times where Attorneys would try to get under my skin by posing the question if I was licensed to give legal advise!
        I presume if Jeff advises his audience to join his ‘Launch Club Membership’ program at some point one could argue that joining his ‘Launch Club’ could cause legal ramifications for the prospective member. Someone could always argue that Jeff is giving legal advise and he is not licensed to do so!
        I’d say when you are ready the teacher will present himself. There is an opportunity to learn from Jeff, if you take it you are ahead regardless of him being licensed or not. In reading his life story he never claimed that he was acting in the capacity of a licensed stock broker.
        Yes! One can have an opinion and publish his opinion about a subject matter. I know this lady that defends death-row inmates, she does conferences where thousands of licensed Attorneys attend from all over U.S. just to hear her talk about the subject matter. In fact and truth be revealed, she has only a high-school diploma, Needless to say she is an expert in her filed. Her accolades are the thousands of Attorneys who pay her top-gun money just to hear her speak! Wow!

        I enjoy this community and wrote this response with the outmost respect for Mr. Martinez point of view. Thank you Jeff for your hard work and going the extra Mile.

        God Bless.

  19. Vusumuzi Ntuli

    Reply

    Thank you mr Jeff I totally agree with you.To me you have all what it takes,everything.
    What you have just said it has taught me a lot that is not about qualifications or credentials only but also experience.You have opened my eyes as i use to tell myself that being a business man i have to be highly educated,have a degree(s).

    I will be very happy if you can help me teaching thoroughly about online courses
    Thank you Sir.

  20. what you described makes perfect sense, Jeff. I also do coaching and training. I have a degree in education and took a one week course in training for soft skills but do not have coaching credential. However, I also get results as I have been doing this sort of work now for over 25 years. Glad you brought this up.

  21. I totally agree. Although I’m currently studying for my health coach certification, I know that what will ultimately make me successful will be my own personal take on coaching, and the results that my clients achieve. My qualifications will be there to reassure people that I know what I’m talking about, (in a sea of people claiming to offer health advice!), but I’m hoping it’s my genuine passion for health and for helping people that will win through. And failing that, I’ll have to fly over for one of your events to find out what I’m doing wrong!

  22. Thank you soooooo much for this post Jeff. I am a change/project management professional with the associated industry-standard qualifications and almost 25 years experience. I recently decided I would really like to coach newly qualified project managers who don’t have the practical experience that it takes years to accumulate to really be effective in leading and achieving successful and sustainable results. However… despite my experience and numerous client testimonials verifying my ability to get results, I’ve been paralysed by the fact that I am seeing so many other peers with more ‘credentials’ than me, and it’s making me question giving myself permission to coach others.

    I know that there are people out there who have more credentials than me but can’t get the results I’ve been able to achieve, so it’s irrational for me to be feeling imposter syndrome, but nonetheless, that’s what I’ve been feeling.

    Hearing your words and those who have posted on this page have given me the boost I needed to keep going.

    I have got something valuable to teach, I just need to learn, as you say, how to market to and attract those people who need what I’m here to teach👍🏽

  23. I have a small serving of alphabet soup after my name, but it’s unimportant compared to the RESULTS I deliver. And an interesting thing, all my higher education resulting in that alphabet soup had very little to do with the results I get because most of those results were from on-the-job
    training with people, in the trenches. Just my experience…

  24. Darlene Atkinson

    Reply

    Jeff, I love how committed you are helping people, I really enjoy the book I bought from the
    company you own, I am like most people who left comments, All people want is somebody that show they care and are willing to help out

  25. Credentials open the door. Experience produces the results. Training and self checking produce the best results.

  26. Jeff you are right on and the world is at a tipping point today. People are starting to see that so many of the successful companies are being run by folks with little or no credentials. What I find interesting is that most of the people that require coaching are the ones that have an MBA from a top their university after their name. I have literally worked with hundreds of MBA’s in Silicon Valley that have earned an MBA or even a Phd from schools like Harvard, MIT, Stanford, USC etc etc. and they are for the most passionate, have some sense in the field they started in but then they start a company and become the CEO and 90%+ fail miserably. The reality is an MBA program gives you some more arrows in your quiver and a good network but it does not teach one people skills, street smarts. how to build a sustainable business, how to apply a strategy that forces issues, how to find, get, and keep customers just to name a few. MBA does not equate to 15 years of business experience – sorry. I see mostly the generation of arrogance and very fine micro management skills that drive the good people away. Now I will step off my soapbox and say I have had the privilege of working beside some very good ones that have MBA’s – most of them failed in their startups one or two times and then got it right the next time. So do they all need a coach/mentor – I ask you this – if you were planning a safari in Africa would you hire a guide or just out and walk through the countryside looking for a photo op? If I have made some of you angry – life happens and I am only one man with one opinion – you will live through it and eventually get over it. Have an awesome day.

    • Perhaps it is precisely their education that allows those educated people to ask for help from those they recognize have something to offer.

      My thirst for knowledge and a better way did not stop when I graduated nor prevent me from respecting and learning from those with experiences I did not have.

      I’m here, surely that says something about my willingness to relentlessly seek to improve what I offer. My education has taught me how to evaluate what is offered to me and to be accountable for my results.

  27. Massi Learn

    Reply

    Hey Jeff,
    I think when you say ‘Credentials’ you have meant if one holds a traditional college education in the a particular field. In fact there are millions of people out there that have never taken a course in Computer Sciences (it does not get more technical and harder than that?!) and are masters in the field. Not once have I witnessed a situation when they were asked for certificates or degrees! The only question was always, when can you do this, which meant if you can do it you are our Man!
    When I read your book, not once did I asked myself if you have a degree in Marketing. As a matter of fact I have a dual Master degrees in Marketing and MBA. I know I have been in total amazement in your marketing abilities! Kick Ass and then some!
    So Master, you have all the Credentials. Actually I want to sell my Master Degrees, any bidders I will give you my diplomas, both of them, Five Dollars a piece!

  28. Bit of a sticky wicket this one Jeff and one you can’t really win. For what it’s worth, I agree with you. I’d prefer to be coached by somebody who has been there and done that rather than somebody who has only learned how to teach. Best of all worlds: an experienced person who has been trained to coach.

  29. Totally agree, Jeff! A case in point: I’m a dog trainer, and years ago I took a course given by a well-known dog trainer. I wanted to learn everything I could, and I also wanted some letters after my name. I completed the course and got those letters, and in the 13 years since then, NOT ONE SINGLE CLIENT has asked me what those letters stand for. I’m still glad I took the course, but when up and coming dog trainer ask me if I think they need to have those visible credentials, I give them a resounding NO!!!

  30. Blessing Oluwabukola

    Reply

    Yes Jeff, you are right. Everyone is after the result first. I can do beyond my credentials.

  31. Char Farber

    Reply

    I feel like there is credential-bashing that happens a lot these days — there is a problem with the black-and-white approach to formal creds vs not because it creates a divide and people start excluding viewpoints, and well, other people.

    The way I interpret what Jeff says is that informal credentials are extremely valuable and not to be overlooked. So let’s not make this an “us versus them” situation where we have to designate one group as better than the other. Getting formal credentials usually means that person wants that particular training to move forward… it doesn’t mean they are inherently snobby.

    But with or without formal credentials the key is actually getting started and “doing” — and we are in cool times where we can jump in fearlessly while learning from each other. Together we are creating a whole body of education that people will learn from in the future. And, funny enough, this might eventually turn into credentialing!

  32. Is there a class that teaches common sense? Through bad results, even failure, common sense develops. From the get-go, the school of life is a great teacher, if only we would pay attention. I say, “Application for satisfaction!” Was in Houston in October for a book signing, “Taming the Wild Horses”. My website: tamingthewildhorses.com The horses being the temptations one faces in life. Making better choices with fewer consequences. There is a follow-up book: “Self Discovery” by taming the wild horses.

  33. Gabriela Humailo

    Reply

    Hi Jeff,
    I totally agree with your opinion.
    In these days people are more interested in how can you help them, if you really show care for their needs and problems, with or without credentials. They pay for their results, not for your credentials.
    As John Maxwell said: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
    My 26 years of life experience being only an entrepreneur and changing people’s life made me more to write these words, even if I have credentials.

  34. I must say, I agree with you, Jeff!

    I am a Soul Coach, helping people to eliminate emotional pain and developing inner peace for mental freedom. This is an “age ole” decision so hopefully I can add my two cents worth.

    Having 5 professional degrees and working on another PhD, I still have not been able to do what is needed to get my course up and running. I have many years of experience that none of my degrees ever taught me. I have seen great results in my 1 on 1 and group sessions that my credentials could not support. Make no mistake about it – having these credentials are a great honor, yet they are not my saving grace! Stick to your guns. I’m a witness to the fact that credentials don’t always solve the problem.

  35. This is a huge issue in the dog world, with two vehemently opposed sides, and much of it is traditionalists (and age) versus every one else. And every once in a while the fire gets stoked by people taking advantage of the ease of simply adding Certified to any title. Susan Garrett is a perfect example of someone who has one “basic” certification, a truckload of experience and the staggering results with her own dogs and her students and rarely does anyone EVER ask what right she has to teach and share what she does. Absolutely love the reiteration of “People pay for results not certifications”

  36. Sonia de Thierry

    Reply

    Thank you – so timely to hear this. I am about to launch into the health coaching field, as a healthy lifestyle coach – I believe in a big part, the future of health lies in lifestyle health. I am a registered nurse and with my day job, in a busy gen surg ward; I can see, hear, smell, and feel, good health and bad. I don’t need credentials to be a great health coach – maybe just need to work on the confidence!
    Love your work – first time commenter

  37. If you want to see a good movie on this topic, watch “The King’s Speech” (which I believe is now on Netflix). Queen Elizabeth’s father had to take over when his brother abdicated the throne for Wallis Simpson. Problem was, he had a terrible stuttering problem—-so he sought the help of a coach. Who was uncredentialed, by the way. This is a big part of the plot line so I don’t want to give any more away. Watch this movie, it’s terrific.

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