An Important Thing No One Will Tell You
I talked with someone who was in the process of calling fifteen people to get their opinions on a project.
Why was any one of our opinions worth so much effort? I’m not sure, but someone had told her she should seek out as many opinions as possible before deciding what to do.
The standard line is: Listen to what other people have done and avoid making the same mistakes.
But maybe instead of just hearing about them, you need to make these mistakes yourself. Or maybe you won’t actually make the mistakes in the first place—just because someone else screwed up doesn’t mean you will.
Other people think because they are older than you, or because they paid a lot of money for a piece of paper you don’t have, you are then obligated to listen to them. Guess what? You’re not obligated.
Thankfully, there’s an alternative. The alternative is: instead of going out and asking people, skip that whole process and just do what feels best to you.
I like Derek’s hell-yeah test for deciding between competing opportunities. The basic idea is that when you think about the idea, if it’s not a “hell yeah,” don’t do it. I’ve modified this a bit in my own life to be: if it’s a “hell yeah,” why not go for it?
Hell yeah, why wouldn’t we invite everyone to Portland for a big adventure? Hell yeah, why not go to every country in the world? Nate is walking across America by himself—hell yeah!
When seeking advice, the first question you should ask yourself is: How is this person qualified to advise me?
For example: is this “business coach” someone who has never owned a real business, besides telling other people how to run theirs? (There are a surprising number of “business coaches” who operate in this realm.)
Does this “life coach” really have it all figured out for themselves, or is the whole thing a circular operation, built on creating more life coaches for imaginary clients?
Whoever it is, what is this person’s bias? Do they want you to make a certain decision that benefits them? Are they concerned about being right or looking good?
The answers to these questions matter—which is why you can skip the whole thing by not asking in the first place.
There are very few times I have ever asked for advice on a big change or transition. Almost none.
I often ask about the details of the change: “How should I do this?” But I never ask about the vision: “Where am I going?” I already know where I’m going. It’s my life; it’s my plan.
I know that some people will think this is arrogant. But forget about me and just step back to look at your own life. You know yourself better than anyone else ever will. Who else could possibly be qualified to advise you on the business of you? It’s your life and your plan.
So go ahead, get advice on the specifics. But leave the big picture to yourself. You are never obligated to solicit or receive feedback from anyone.