Consumerism isn’t just about buying products. It’s also about buying ideas, notions, suggestions and advice. I know. Because I’m in what some call “the advice giving” business. But that’s not at all what I do.
Most of us are surrounded by people who should us. “You should,” is very often the beginning of the sentence we hear after sharing some challenge or opportunity with others. And before we can throw rocks at them, we have to be mindful that we do the exact same thing to them.
Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social interaction platforms are filled every minute with platitudes, advice and wisdom telling us how to behave, manage, lead, work and live. For those of us who read – my hand is in the air – massive volumes of words are published annually exhorting us to embrace a variety of ideas, concepts and strategies to achieve higher performance. I’ve contributed my fair share to the noise. Are podcasts your thing? Mine, too. Millions of hours of podcasts and video are produced cheerleading, coaching, teaching, exhorting and admonishing us to do this, avoid doing that and try this other thing. The noise that surrounds us is growing louder every day, adding to the collective wisdom of how we’re not doing what we should…and urging us to change.
Late last year I began to collaborate with Leo Bottary, co-author of the book THE POWER OF PEERS. We launched a new podcast, YEAR OF THE PEER, featuring Leo’s tagline, “Who you surround yourself with matters.” One of the guests some months ago was Scott Mordell, CEO of YPO, a peer advisory company that helps young entrepreneurs join forces to elevate their own performance, and help each other do the same. During that interview Scott commented that so many situations exist in our lives where people “should us.” They tell us what they think we ought to do. Under his leadership YPO has focused on avoiding that, instead choosing rather to concentrate on sharing experiences so members can learn from one another. It’s a dramatic, but perhaps subtle shift in thinking and learning. Some have called it documenting versus preaching or telling.
Years of coaching professionals – mostly with a focus on leadership – taught me that questions are vastly superior to the process. As opposed to directives, suggestions or any other variation of advice. Helping people think through the things they needed to think through always seemed to me to be the best form of service. Mostly because my clients aren’t me. And I’m not them. It always seemed inappropriate to impose myself on clients, or to inject myself in their situations. This is their life. Their career. Along with it, are their fears, concerns, worries and anxieties.
I’m a lifelong reader and learner. The fact that you’re here suggests you likely are, too. I enjoy hearing of the experiences and expertise of others. The stories are often compelling, sometimes moving. And I work to figure out what I’m able to use for my situation.
I know why things are as they are. Many people want to be told what they should do. They may lament, “I don’t want anybody telling me what to do” or “I’m tired of people telling me what to do.” But the fact that so many people are attempting to tell us what we should do likely speaks to the desire many people have to just be told. I think I know why. It feels easier. Simpler. It’s why we love those clickbait headlines, “10 Things You Can Do To Get The Job Of Your Dreams.” We want simple, easy – done for me – solutions.
Life is more complex. Our history littered with scars, hurt and pain. Our heads often filled with the racket of past failures and missed opportunities. Our lives are anything but quiet.
Then, we go adding to that. Inserting more noise into our lives. Listening to every guru who resonates with us, searching for somebody to help us make things easier. Simpler. More straight forward. We hop from pundit to pundit, reading their blog posts, listening to their podcasts, watching their videos and reading their books. Maybe we buy their courses. Adding to the cumulative noise in our heads and our lives. Like the serial dieter, always searching for the one key that will unlock the door to our highest potential. Frustrated that the last one didn’t work. Hopeful that the next one will.
We’re hamsters on a wheel. Running for all we’re worth. Going nowhere fast. Sold on a notion that somebody else out there has the answer we most seek. Believing we lack what others have. And if only we could find it, then our dreams would come true.
What if we’re wrong?
What if things aren’t at all as we think they are?
Last week I sat with somebody and reminded them of the Genesis record in the Bible. Yes, I believe God created the world. And I believe what the Bible says, that God created mankind “in His image.” This person sitting in front of me also believed that.
As we talked about a variety of issues in their life, I had to remind us both that God created us in His image. God was able to speak things into existence. We’re not God. We’re not nearly as important as we sometimes think we are. And often not nearly as powerful to overcome our challenges, but we are made in God’s image, which means we can think. And it means we can make up our mind.
My friend and I were discussing resolution. Moving beyond conflict. The question was, how do we go about that? The answer is simple, but difficult. We make up our mind. Just as God was able to make up His mind, we make up our mind. No, I don’t mean in some law of attraction or the “secret” kind of way where we simply think something and it suddenly is manifested in physical life. But I do mean that we can do an awful lot of powerful things first in our minds. We can forgive, repent and change. We can be glad, sad and worried. And we’re capable of any and all of these things in an instant, in our head. Sometimes we can hold many of these seemingly contrary thoughts at the same time. We have an amazing capacity when we stop to consider it.
One of the most powerful challenges I’ve ever encountered is one I continue to urge others to consider.
What if you’re wrong?
What if it’s not as you think it is? What if it isn’t as it appears?
What if your life isn’t enhanced with a choir of people telling you what you ought to be, and what you ought to do, and how you ought to do it?
What if your business or career aren’t improved by the latest, greatest, coolest advice of the day? You realize the so-called “best” advice of 2012 has been surpassed at least 5 times in the last 5 years, don’t you? And 2018 will bring yet more advice – different advice. The Bible itself talked about how such things would work.
Ecclesiastes 12:12 “And furthermore, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”
But it’s not just books. Or blog posts. Or podcasts. It’s human interaction. It’s our need and desire to want to tell others what they should do. In short, it’s judgment. It’s our judgment as we look at somebody else’s circumstance or situation. As one business owner client many years ago said to a man who was critical of how he was running things retorted. “You know the difference between you and me? I’m betting with my money that I’m right.” Nuff said.
Critics abound. Advice givers, too. Experts. Thought leaders. Authors. Pundits.
If you want to be one, just give yourself the label. Change your Linkedin profile to include whatever you’d like and presto! Now you are one.
Yet there is a truth to Einstein’s quote. “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” And here’s the real kicker. It doesn’t have to happen alone. In fact, it may be best served by surrounding yourself with others who are also seeking a quiet life where they can find higher achievement. A life not filled with advice givers, or experts, but with people who care enough to ask meaningful questions. A quiet life surrounded by friends who have our best interest and therefore refuse to impose on us what they might do if put in our place. Because they know they aren’t us. A life surrounded by people who respect the fact that they’re not us and we’re not them, but a quiet life where we all understand the value we can bring to each others’ lives because of our different experiences.
Famed humorist Erma Bombeck once said, ““It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.” She was absolutely right. And it also takes courage to help somebody achieve their dreams without imposing on them yours.
I’m not going to tell you what you should do because I honestly don’t know. I know that I’ve got questions. Questions about my own life and career and business. Questions about the things in the lives of my clients. And I also know that by sharing our experiences and what has happened – and is happening to us – with others, we can help them figure out some things for themselves. I know it doesn’t happen as organically as we’d like. We have to intentionally put ourselves in circumstances where we can experience solitude and quiet. Sometimes it means we’re alone. Quite often, it doesn’t. Solitude and quiet can often best happen when we’re surrounded in the comfort and security of trusted people who are unfailing in their desire to help us become our very best — and they respect us enough to let us decide for ourselves what that looks like.
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