(619) 594-ALUM (2586)

Joel Garfinkle '92


President, Garfinkle Executive Coaching, Inc.


Joel Garfinkle '92

Tell us the highlights of your professional career.  What are your proudest achievements?

  • When my book Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level was published in 2011. When I was in college, I always wanted to publish a leadership book. This came from one of my classes on Leadership and Development that I took within the Psychology program. When John Wiley & Sons approached me about doing a book, I was elated and my dream came true.

  • Working with a coaching client – a senior vice-president of a medium-sized company, created and executed a six-month plan that fast tracked him to the CEO position.

  • In 2002, I spoke to the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce in front of 1000 people and realized how much speaking and training proved to be a valuable medium to share my message and make a difference in the world.

What’s your favorite college memory?

  • As I got further into my Psychology degree in college, I realized I might want to get a Master’s degree and become a counselor. It also hit me that my purpose would be limited in this capacity. I would have all types of individuals in my counseling practice, and, by definition, not all of them would be healthy. For my last semester of college, I was studying abroad in England. One night about 2:30 a.m., I had an epiphany. I was walking through the streets of London and something said to me to not go further with Psychology. At the time I was still planning on getting a Master’s degree. That little voice caused me to have a lot of challenges for the next eight years that I wish on no one. In another way though, that insight was the first seed that put me through an eight year rigor resulting in the birth of my company.

  • The lesson from the little voice is that it’s important to listen to what your purpose is. In the process of searching to create myself I was able to create something that is helping many people today. While I didn’t realize I had clarified my purpose until I look back, oddly enough, I stayed true to the concept of working to help healthy people improve their lives as much as I could.

  • A purpose can be as simple as what do you enjoy, what do you like, what are the things that turn you on? If it’s just my ability to like talking to people and helping them make their lives better, that’s simple. There’s nothing simpler than that. Just hold on to something until you get what your true essence is. I think people put a lot of energy toward their purpose. But your purpose doesn’t have to be so perfect in its beginning phases.

Who was your favorite professor and/or what was your favorite class?

My favorite class was a leadership class in which we studied leaders. We learned how they became great and focused on the traits the best leaders leverage to help them excel at a high level. We each created a video showing the impact of leadership in the world. With clips of famous leaders, speeches and inspirational music. It took months to produce and in the end we created a vision of what makes the best leaders so great.

If you were to give current SDSU students some advice, what would you say?

You search for a way to express your gifts that come from within your heart, something that will have meaning to you. You search for work that lets you feel you’ve made a difference in the world. Gandhi needed to lead his country into freedom, Mother Theresa needed to heal the sick and comfort the dying, Picasso needed to paint and you need to…

Until you realize what you need to do, you will forever travel on your journey of self-discovery. Remember Abraham Maslow said, “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.”

The task is to recognize that you are uniquely special, have something to give, some talent no one else shares in quite the same way. This gift needs to blossom so we can appreciate and enjoy the benefits of it and acknowledge you for it. You owe this to yourself and to all of us to honor your gifts, for only when you share your unique joy with the world does the entire world benefit. Every advance mankind has known has come because of someone’s effort. Don’t let shyness rob you and the world of the power and the passion that lies within you. No one can be all that you will be except you yourself. Follow your passion.

What are you currently reading? What’s your favorite book?

My two favorite books are:

  • Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh. In my early 20’s, I read this book and realized that everything in my life is the exact opposite of what this book represents. I was always in a rush, moving quickly and not taking in my moments. This book taught me how to slow down and learn to be present with my experience. My life became more enriched due to this book and its impact.

  • Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr. This book provides the details of MLK, Jr. sermons and gets to the heart of his message, who he was as a person and a deeper understanding of his intelligence. I was inspired by this book and got to see an in-depth profile of a man who I deeply respect.

What is your passion?

I’m the most engaged and alive when providing guidance, direction and perspective to help others see situations clearly. When all the puzzle pieces come together, clients experience momentum changing insights and everyone gets excited (even when it’s potentially scary). Each session I have with a client feels like a penultimate moment of life’s most complete satisfaction.

What is your motto?

Be yourself. Be courageous in allowing who you are to show up and be known to others. You are a special light in this world and people only need to get to know YOU and not any other part of yourself that is false or hidden.

There is an old Hasidic tale about an eighteen-century man known as Reb Zusya:

Lying on his death bed, Reb Zusya was very upset and crying, tears streaming down his face. His students asked with great concern, “Reb Zusya, why are you upset? Why are you crying? Are you afraid when you die you will be asked why you were not more like Moses?”

Reb Zusya replied, “I am not afraid that the Holy One will ask me ‘Zusya, why were you not more like Moses?’ Rather, I fear that the Holy One will say, ‘Zusya, why were you not more like Zusya?’”

If you won the lottery, what would you do with your winnings?

Set-up a foundation that would providing financial support in helping people in need around:

  • Education – make sure people have the support to attend and complete college.

  • Personal Development – Participate in personal development workshops and programs to help with self-awareness. Gain insights and understanding of who you are, what limits you and how to gain more self-confidence in your ability.

Which trait do you value most in your friends and colleagues?

To be open, real and a good listener. I like friends who are real, honest and able to share about themselves and their lives. I like really knowing what is going on with them (struggles and successes). They care about others and want to help. They are warm and loving.

If you knew you could not fail, what would you attempt?

II would be a professional athlete with the game on the line. 100,000 people in the stadium watching me in that one moment where I have to perform. I would love to feel what this would be like, to be in my body and feel the experience of this one defining moment. How would I perform? What pressure would I feel? How present can I be so that I am not distracted by the surroundings?