What’s the Difference Between a Coach and a Guru?

What’s the Difference Between a Coach and a Guru?

3 min read
karen rittenhouse Read More

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There are some pretty strong opinions here on BiggerPockets about whether or not to follow a coach, whether or not to buy guru products, etc. So, I thought I’d stick my neck way out and bring up some discussion about, “What’s the Difference Between a Coach and a Guru?”

Are they the same?

Does it matter?

Do you want to use either one?

In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, I am a real estate investing coach. Therefore, you may go ahead and assume (and you would be correct) that I believe strongly in the value of coaching. The stronger reason for my belief, however, is not that I am a coach, but that I’ve always used coaching for my business and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. (And where I am in my business is a pretty awesome place to be.)

So, what’s the difference between a coach and a guru? Being my article, naturally these are my definitions/opinions. Please add yours at the bottom of this post!


Online definitions: to give tuition or instruction; to mentor; a person who trains; to give advice; instruct.

A coach is someone who leads and/or guides another. Someone who’s been there before and can help you through the good and the bad. Someone who’s personally aware of you and what you’re doing.

Who needs a coach? Anyone who wants to be better. At anything. This is the point where many say, “Even Tiger Woods has a coach” and, “Michael Jordan always had a coach.” And, “you can read a lot of books about flying a plane, but you probably want a coach with you the first time you go up.”

If you want to be better, you need outside instruction – another point of view – someone looking at what you’re doing from a different perspective, preferably one of experience.

Yes, you can learn everything on your own. However, having a coach to guide and instruct you (when they’re good) will save you both time and money. We have spent a lot of money on coaching, and still do. Coaching has made us exponentially more than it has cost us and saved us years of trial and error.

Related: BP Radio Podcast 002: Starting Out with Karen Rittenhouse – Subject To, Direct Mail, and Investing from a Woman’s Perspective


Online definitions: any person who counsels or advises; mentor; a leading authority in a particular field; teacher; imparter of knowledge

Wikipedia adds: “In the United States, the meaning of “guru” has been used to cover anyone who acquires followers, especially by exploiting their naiveté…”

Interestingly, by most definitions, there is not much difference. In the real estate investing arena, however, people have a much better opinion of “coach” than “guru”.

In my mind, guru defines someone who travels through town, teaching from a stage, selling their idea and product, taking money for the product, then leaving town again. The buyer leaves the event enthused but, ultimately, overwhelmed and clearly confused with how to implement the purchase they’ve just made.

Gurus are hard to speak with directly. Even those first 30 buyers who run to the back of the room to claim the limited 90 days of free coaching often find the “free” coach knows not much more about the product than they do. It’s certainly not one-on-one training by the guru.

A coach, on the other hand, is accessible. They are someone to work with or meet with in person from time to time. They have a direct interest in you and your success. They are closely involved with the functions of your business so that they can guide and assess your progress.

A guru doesn’t really know that you exist, and certainly doesn’t know anything about your business.

Related: The Real Estate Guru Trap – How It Works & 4 Ways to Avoid It

Should you purchase a guru product? Some of it is good. I recommend, however, that before you buy, you speak with others who have purchased the product and are successful implementing what they bought.

Should you have coaching? I think so but it’s ultimately up to you, your goals, and your timeline. I have big dreams, big goals, and I want to get to my goals as quickly and easily as possible.  Surveys have found that most who use coaching have an intense desire to learn and to grow. I, personally, would rather walk through a mine field in the footsteps of someone who’s been through before.

If you do decide on coaching, find someone you respect who is far more successful than you doing exactly what you want to be doing. And, ask for references.

Now it’s your turn. Thoughts?

Photo: Paul Couture