Common (but foolish) wisdom says, “Find somebody who has already done what you want to do to help you.” It’s likely the result of a human trait we’ve all got. Laziness. We want a shortcut. To copycat somebody else so we don’t have to put in the work. Why machete our way through the jungle if we can walk right behind somebody else who is doing all the hard work? It sounds smart. And easy. Which is why it’s such an attractive thought.
Arrogance sets in. I see it pretty regularly in social media when somebody blasts somebody simply based on some perceived success level. It’s the same wisdom that gives greater credence to what a Bentley owner might say about something versus a Honda owner. The presupposition is the Bentley owner is smarter and has better answers. Maybe. Maybe not.
I’m a hockey fan. I’ve never played the game, but I’ve studied it fanatically for decades. Even done my share of amateur coaching, successfully. The Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999 behind a head coach who never played high-level hockey. Ken Hitchcock discovered he had a knack for motivating players when he was growing up playing hockey. That led to a 10-year stint coaching teenage boys in AAA midget hockey in his home country, Canada. He was successful. That led to an opportunity to coach a minor league professional team where his success continued. Then he jumped on board a professional NHL team, the Philadelphia Flyers, as an assistant coach, which led to him taking the helm of the Dallas Stars’ minor league affiliate team in Kalamazoo. That’s where he was when January 1996 rolled around and he was hired to be the head coach of the Dallas Stars. A man who never played in the NHL. He never played professionally. Playing wasn’t his skill, but coaching was.
In 1999 he and his Dallas Stars lifted Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first (and so far, only time). And the next year, he took them back to the Stanley Cup Finals where they lost to the New Jersey Devils. The Dallas Stars didn’t approach the problem of finding a new head coach by saying, “Let’s find somebody who has already done what we want to do.” Hitch had demonstrated he knew how to coach and get the best out of players and teams.
There’s a first for everything.
In order for you to experience your first is it necessary for you to have somebody alongside you who has already been there? Just think about all the terrific accomplishments, like the Dallas Stars experiencing a championship for the first time, that disprove that. In fact, guess who Ken Hitchcock replaced as head coach? A man named Bob Gainey, an NHL Hall of Famer who has 5 Stanley Cups as a player. Plus the one with Dallas when he was their General Manager. But he was never able to take them to a Championship victory. And unlike Hitchcock, Gainey is one of the top 100 NHL players of all time.
Do you remember when you first started your career…and when you ran into a problem…who you called?
Let me guess. Mom or dad? It’s likely.
Did you call them because they had seen this problem before and you instantly thought, “This won’t be new to them!” ??
Ridiculous. They likely had no clue what you were talking about unless you entered the same field they were in. You know why you called who you called?
Because you trusted them and knew they cared about you.
You called them because you knew they’d put their own interests behind yours. They just wanted to help you navigate the issue for your own success, not theirs. It’s what parents do. And trusted friends.
Too frequently we feel like we’re being completely rational when we set about to find a person to help us – a person who has already accomplished what we want to accomplish. But we give no consideration to the context of them versus us.
Question: Do you prefer chocolate or vanilla?
You can’t rationalize why you prefer one over the other. It just is what it is. It’s your preference. Is it emotional? Not entirely, it’s also involving your taste buds.
I live in Texas and cilantro is a big player in Mexican food. I love Mexican food, but I hate cilantro. And it’s more biological than emotional. A small percentage of people taste soap when they eat cilantro. I’m one of them. You could rationalize with me all day long, but I taste what I taste. Soap isn’t quite what I’m going for when I eat Mexican food. Sing to me the virtues of cilantro and I don’t care.
So it goes with trying to copy what somebody else has done. They’re them. You’re you. You have to figure out YOU. And you don’t have to be selective to lean solely on somebody who has already accomplished what you want to accomplish.
Yes, there are certain trainings and education that can’t be discounted. Learning math from somebody who doesn’t know it themselves isn’t going to work out very well. For either of you. But we’re usually not talking about specific sciences or facts. People want to make a million bucks so they think finding a millionaire is the path toward accomplishing that. But there are millions of paths toward making a million dollars. Lebron did it. So did David Letterman. They don’t belong in the same conversation so how it going to work out to seek out somebody who has done what you hope to do?
You are you. Unlike anybody else. Yes, with quite a lot in common with many others, but with enough uniqueness to completely throw off the equation of being able to copy somebody else.
My son is going through some big growth and trying to figure out how to navigate that growth. He’s got many options. A good problem to have. But at the heart of the issue is one question, “What does HE want to do?” It’s got nothing to do with reasoning or rational thinking. It’s got to do with emotions and preferences. We talk about it and I don’t impose on him what he “should” do because I’m not him. We’re uniquely different. And what he may want today…is sure to change over time. As a business owner, he has to decide how he wants to spend his days. What does he want to do?
I’m only nudging him to go all in on where he’s strongest. Soar with your strengths and all that. Because I know that’s his greatest competitive edge, and I also know what’s what he most loves to do. If he hated it, then that wouldn’t work – any more than me loving cilantro would work (unless I suddenly develop an affinity for the taste of soap).
Who can best help us?
People who care about our success without getting tangled up in their own success. People who understand us. People who are intent on serving us. People with intentions of never hurting us. That’s why when you started out you called mom or dad. It wasn’t likely because they had seen your problem before. That didn’t matter. What mattered is they were fully invested in you and you knew it.
It’s the power of others. The power and impact of surrounding ourselves with people who are anxious to help us. And don’t discount the poower of our ability to return the favor. Reciprocity is a big deal. Quite frequently we get more from helping others than they do. You’ve experienced that, too.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!