How To Get Where You Want and Who To Listen To

By Koby Fleck

An old bromide in the professional development industry goes like this: Replicate the success that you see in others, and you will be successful. Do what successful people do. This is true, but ONLY in a specific context. Here is what you may have never heard….

1. Experts are usually experts in only one area.

The problem with listening to professionals and experts is that they are usually very accomplished in just one area. It is common for an expert to think that their expertise in one area substantiates their expert opinion in ALL areas. Beware of the expert who gives advice outside his or her area of expertise – nothing could be more unproductive for someone seeking advice.

2. Is advice worth about what you pay for it?

For years, I was under the impression that the advice I got was worth what I paid for it, so I spent hundreds of dollars on garnering advice from people who had reached “the top.” It was only after reading Jim Stovall’s article that I understood how to gain the advice that can help one accomplish their personal and professional objectives – with or without having to spend a fortune.

3. The single most powerful idea to generate good advice.

In this months’ article, Jim Stovall writes: “A great deal of our success in life ‘either personally or professionally’ is determined by whether or not we can differentiate between good advice and bad advice. One of the fastest ways to separate the two is to never take advice from anyone who doesn’t have what you want.” Read that again. I didn’t get it the first time. I hope you are smarter than I am.

4. Making advice work for you!

Marcus Buckingham, author of First, Break All The Rules, concluded in an enormous personal performance study that the most effective way of improving personal performance is to build on and play to your personal strengths. Based on his findings, he advises that we should ignore our weaknesses and instead, build on our natural talents, strengths, abilities, and competencies. That is where you can realize true growth and performance improvement.

Since the people you seek advice from have their own set of strengths and weaknesses, they will give you advice in terms of what has worked for them. If you can successfully conceptualize their strategies and integrate them into your own strengths, that is where you will see the greatest impact personally.

Take the ideas that work from people who have what you want, integrate their strategies to play to your strengths and the results will be significant.

5. Seek advice outside of your direct social network.

A study conducted by the sociologist, Frank Granovette, tracked how professionals in Boston obtained their jobs. What I discovered as useful in that study was that people are exposed to more valuable and more profitable information when they seek advice and information from people outside their direct social network. In comment on the same study, Malcolm Gladwell wrote, “Your friends, after all, occupy the same world that you do. How much then would they know that you wouldn’t know? Your acquaintances, on the other hand, by definition occupy a very different world than you. They are much more likely to know something that you don’t.”

When seeking advice, perhaps, we should keep this a priority: to seek advice from people who have access to different information networks than we do, people outside of our specific social networks. Additionally, psychologists have noted for years that people in the same social networks tend to act, behave, think (or mis-think) in very similar manners. Charlie Munger notes: “People are enormously influenced to mis-think because they see other people mis-thinking in the same way….”

6. Seeking advice during miserable circumstances.

At times when we seek advice, we are not in a particular life stage where we are focused on reaching a particular objective; instead, we are seeking advice to cope with or overcome our own set of circumstances. Now what?

Harvey Mackay writes in this month’s article what to do when faced with an aggregation of miserable circumstances (his advice is given in terms of Michael Jordan’s decision to quit the NBA when faced with a host of horrible situations) “You don’t quit doing what you do best, you do not abandon the wellspring of your identity, because you have been blindsided by life. You cannot regain control over the bad parts of your life by giving up your control over the good parts.”

Why does our default function seem to be to run away or quit?

7. The Solution: Find opportunities in miserable circumstances.

Don’t let life’s miserable circumstances derail you. Instead, look to Harvey Mackay’s latest and brilliant work: We Got Fired! Some of our most tremendous opportunities become available specifically because of our own devastating and unexpected circumstances. Look for opportunities in your next miserable circumstance.

Where do you have skill, training, and competencies that have created personal or professional momentum? Stay focused, play to your strengths and gain advice from people who have what you want. No one can ever take away your natural skills, talent, education or earning abilities – no matter how miserable your circumstances. Use them, learn from life’s trauma, help others and let others help you.

Copyright 2005 Koby Fleck. All rights reserved.

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