There’s nothing more dangerous than bad advice from a good friend. This is because there is no way for that person, regardless of how well they know you, to understand exactly what you’ve been through, where you want to be, or the particulars that drive your thinking.
Bad advice is dangerous; but dangerous can be good. It reminds me of the book “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis. When the children first hear of a mighty lion named Aslan, they ask their new friend if Aslan is safe. Their friend replies, “Safe? No, he is a lion - but he is good”. Sometimes things are only dangerous because they are impactful. This danger can be harnessed and the risk mitigated so that the outcome is beneficial to your cause.
When you’re building a stock portfolio, you have a distribution of investments categorized by those with a high risk and those with low risk. As I’m sure you know, this is the definition of diversification. If all of your holdings are bonds, you don’t risk your life savings, but you also have no hope of a high return. Conversely, if you're only investing in startups hoping they become a proverbial rocket ship, you’re taking an incredible risk and you could lose it all- but there’s also a chance you’ll reap extremely high rewards. By diversifying your portfolio you gain the benefit of having some safety and stability built into your plan so that you can weather any storm and still make positive gains over the long term. Why not apply this same practice to your personal sounding board?
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. -Jim Rohn
If you’ve read my previous publishings, you know that I welcome friction in my life. I enjoy conflict and revel in conversation and the exchanging of ideas. I have been blessed with a life that has exposed me to many people from coast to coast and even around the globe. These people come from different walks of life, different childhoods, different socio-economic situations, and very different world views. This diversity in my group of friends and acquaintances has lead me to value their opinions in a broad spectrum of ways.
In the past 3 or so years I have decided to bring people on as advisors in my life. I see it in the same light as the President of the United States sees his own cabinet or a company’s board of advisors. I have a small group of individuals, that have become great friends, whom I have allowed into my life; into my professional endeavors, into my philosophies, and into my perceived purpose in life. While I may seem outgoing, I’m really quite private. Allowing people to see me, the good and the bad (and even the ugly), has been a challenge but has yielded great reward. I’ve been able to consider a wide array of input on various professional and personal decisions in my life. I’ll describe this in further detail but first I’d like to discuss how to chose the people that you allow in.
Choosing Your Cabinet
Like a bouncer at the local club, you are responsible for maintaining the proper occupancy limit of your inner circle. You simply cannot let too many people in. If you do, you will be lead astray by the white noise in your life that will only serve to fuel that inner critic which can appear like an annoying cartoon character on your shoulder. You have to safeguard the sacred place that is your decision making process.
To put this idea into perspective, consider that Jesus himself only had twelve disciples; twelve people that he allowed in. Of those twelve, Jesus allowed only three - Peter, James, and John, to be closest to him. If that was enough for Jesus, then perhaps it will be enough for you. I have between 5 and 7 myself, but there are many others that I enjoy accountability from on a multitude of levels. For our purposes here, however, I ask you to consider letting around 5 people into your process.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘How do I chose 5 people? Are these family members, friends that I’ve had since childhood or industry professionals who can offer additional insight?’ Like any good answer in business school, the answer is the much dreaded, “it depends”. Remember, there’s nothing more dangerous than bad advice from a friend.
I don’t know your particular situation, what your decisions will entail, or your constraints. What I will say is simply this… DIVERSIFY.
I would caution against using people who always agree with you. Keep the “yes-man” where he belongs: at the office. Instead, look for people who have conflicting views to your own. I challenge you to abandon the echo chamber of mediocrity for the dynamic environment of
accountability and conflict. Remember the proverb, “As Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”.
If a knife is left neglected it will become dull and useless. If you take that same knife and expose it to an uncomfortable friction, it will become sharp and have the ability to do what it was intended to do... Make a mark.
Once you’ve decided who you can trust to be completely honest with you, you’ll need to know how and when to best implement this process. When facing a big decision or when you are faced with an issue that’s left you feeling uneasy, it’s important that you spend some time in reflection. You need to understand the ins and outs of your situation before you can effectively communicate it to another. Figure out the best elevator pitch to a possible solution for your problem.
Next, write down all the elements to your problem that make you
apprehensive, as well as the possible fallout that could occur if you choose that solution. Be honest with yourself and spend some time in meditation, so you can work through the problem on your own. Remember, if you want clarity from your advisor, you will need to communicate with clarity yourself.
Once you feel that you can communicate effectively, begin to reach out. Meet them for lunch or, if they are at a distance, schedule a call so that you can have their undivided attention. Take the time to catch up on their family, professional endeavours and so forth. Be genuine and authentic with the people you trust. Don’t force it, but be sure to nurture your friendship.
Let it Out
It is important to remember that the more honest and vulnerable you are the more well rounded and applicable the advice will be. The value is not convincing this person that you are right, but rather to facilitate and open up a dialogue. Lay it on the table and expect them to do the same.
Feedback: Accept it!
These relationships take time to nurture. If you respond poorly, then they will no longer offer constructive criticism. You have to humble yourself, and it’s going to sting a bit… or at least it should. Don’t forget that these people are offering you a great service and should be treated with the utmost respect. There is indeed a fine line between confidence and arrogance. A good way to understand the difference is this: Confidence is knowing that you are up to any task, arrogance is thinking that you are above it. Be confident in your process and accept that you have specifically selected these people because they are at polar opposites of multiple spectrums. Simply receive, reflect, and maintain a thankful heart.
Wash, Rinse, Repeat
If your first advisor lives within the context of Wall Street wealth, then your next should be someone who has known you since grade school or was in your wedding party. Again, diversity is key. He or she may have a much different perspective which is exactly what you need. You will not agree with everyone and they would certainly not agree with each other. Just keep in mind that the truth ALWAYS exists in the balance.
Now It’s Just You
Your solution will start to become obvious as certain truths begin to resonate within you. Sometimes you may hear the same response multiple times. Other times, you’ll find yourself saying the same thing in every conversation. This is direct evidence that you’re starting to find your way. Either way, it’s your way, not theirs! You are ultimately responsible for your own actions and taking ownership of your decision is critical. Despite having the best cabinet in the world, you are ultimately responsible for achieving your goal. Move forward with the confidence of knowing that you have vetted your ideas through the correct channels, you have considered all possible actions and consequences and then...get busy.
Please comment and let me know how it goes.
“As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another”