I don’t know whether you’ve realised this yet – or whether you’re still learning this life truth: you can’t figure life out on your own.
I think I’ve always known this to some degree but I didn’t always know how to seek the help I needed in healthy ways. I unfortunately developed a bad habit of listening to the wrong voices when I was younger (with disastrous consequences) so it’s taken me a while to understand how to identify the right kind of people to ask for help.
As an avid reader and knowledge seeker, if I have questions around a particular topic, I go into immediate research mode. Google searches help to some degree, but then I always find myself looking for videos on the topic instead. There is something about hearing a voice speak about a topic that I’m interested in, that serves as a warming illumination that melts away clouds of confusion.
We want to hear someone who has been through what we’re going through, who had the same questions we have and somehow found answers that took them forward. We want connection. I’ve discovered that the secret to personal progress is: finding the right voices, at the right time, will help you go in the right direction.
You can of course talk to the wrong people at the right time (right time meaning that you are at a crossroads of decision) and end up going down the wrong path. Getting lost because of bad advice often leads to frustration and resentment. It might make you feel like giving up because you feel like things are so far gone that they can’t be salvaged.
But that is not true. There is always a new opportunity to start again. So if that is where you are today (hopeless and despondent) – let my voice be the one that encourages you to get up from here and find your way back to your path of purpose.
A book of wisdom says: “Without advice plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed.”
Finding the right voices
You don’t have to learn from your own mistakes. You can learn from the experiences and mistakes of others. The experiences of others are able to serve as building blocks in your own understanding. Identifying the right voices doesn’t have to be an impossible quest. Here’s the guidelines I use when asking for advice:
1. They have a level of success in a particular area that you wish to attain.
The best advisers are people that are currently doing the thing that you want to do. Or have experience in the field you want information about. It doesn’t have to be specifically related to your field, but if they are applying the skills that you need to apply, and doing so successfully, then that is something you can learn from. Recently, I was consulting with someone who has a retail company, as their social media presence on Instagram was better than mine. Even though the product differed, the marketing principles remained the same.
Talking to him helped me to connect the dots and suddenly I could see what my focus area has been for many years. There were many other factors that contributed to this moment of clarity but our conversations helped me refine my offering quicker than I could have done on my own.
2. They have your best interests at heart.
Do the people you’re talking to have your best interests at heart? If you know that there is someone in your personal network or friendship circles that might be harbouring a “what’s in this for me” expectation, chances are they the advice they offer is going to be tainted with self-interest. Unfortunately, not everyone has pure intentions and the golden rule here is to trust your instinct. If you feel uncomfortable around the person, or unsure of their motives in helping you, then rather look for an alternate source of wisdom.
3. They are happy to see you succeed.
Good counsellors (another word for wise people) are those who are not jealous of you, neither do they see you as a threat. They genuinely believe in you and want to see you succeed. A friend of mine has developed a possible business solution in the form of big data. He is super intelligent and has a good character – he just doesn’t have all the practical business experience yet because he is still completing his masters degree. I set up a meeting with a business owner who operates in the IT field and after a brief discussion, my friend realised where he needed to focus his development efforts.
He could have wasted a lot of time, energy, effort and money developing something that went bust. Because He was open to learning, it didn’t matter that he didn’t even know the person that helped to steer him in the right direction until I introduced them. So the lesson here is that if you know that there is a group of people who believe you, don’t be afraid to ask for help because they could connect you to the right person that will direct you along the right path. I found this great post on LinkedIn that will help you understand the power of “indirect networking: http://bit.ly/2sJAg1e
4. They are willing to assist where they can.
When you’re asking someone for help, you will need to fit into their schedule. When is the most convenient time for them to squeeze in a coffee with you?
Be grateful for the time someone gives you. If you can afford it, pay for their coffee or lunch. They will feel honoured that you value their time and their input (John Maxwell has made this a staple of his personal development).
You don’t want to come across as naggy or needy. Ask once, remind them again but if they are too busy and haven’t been able to make time to see you, then it might be better to move on to someone else who has more time. There might be an opportunity at a later stage to hone in on their wisdom.
5. They are making progress in their own endeavours.
Remember that while people aren’t perfect, there is a lot than you can learn from them. Asking for advise from someone doesn’t mean that they have it all together – but you are gleaning from their expertise and progress in a particular aspect of their lives. Someone might be a fitness freak – but they aren’t great at building successful relationships. Just because you’ve received positive input from them in one area of personal growth, doesn’t mean that you should follow everything that they do.
The golden rule with personal development is that you are ultimately responsible for your own life choices. Asking for advise is valuable. The way that you apply the knowledge that you’ve received is what leads to wisdom manifested in your own life. So keep moving forward, keep the hunger alive and seek out the right advice to help you go in the right direction.