We can only act as skillfully as our knowledge allows to realize our ultimate ambitions. Our capacity for thinking and acting is produced, shaped and constrained by our knowledge. Each of us embodies sets of distinctions and methodologies for thinking and acting. We have networks of people who embody different sets of distinctions and methodologies. The more robust our total inventory of embodied distinctions and methodologies, which includes ours and those we can utilize from individuals we trust, the more power we have for producing a sequence of actions that causes outcomes that move us toward our ultimate ambition.
New possibilities for thinking and acting exist only after they are spoken by someone–us to ourselves, us to another or another to us. I observe that many people in my network of professional help–those I'm committed to helping and those I request help from–demonstrate weakness in accepting the help available to them. When I see someone decline to act with thinking and advice that doesn't fit their own intuition, I hear "the deafening sound of closing possibilities".
Each of us must be responsible for prudent investment of our finite time, energy, money and spaces of possibilities. We can't blindly trust another when the potential negative consequences to us are large. The greater the potential negative consequences, the more well-grounded our trust must be–our assessment of the competence, sincerity and reliability of the other(s). The phenomenon I'm highlighting is weakness in making well-grounded assessments of knowledge and capabilities–ours and others. Frequently I see automatic reactions, which can only come from intuition or feeling. Notice that anything outside our embodied sets of distinctions and methodologies will not feel right. What feels right to us is what we're familiar with, what we've done in the past. Doing what we've done in the past is only useful if we're getting the results we're committed to.
A Personal Story
When I first found myself in business, I became aware of how little I knew. Interestingly, after 38 years of continuous learning in business, I'm still awed by how much I don't know. Having seen that I needed help, I began seeking a mentor. I was extremely fortunate to establish a relationship with my first mentor, Randy. Randy was running his 2nd company and was a very capable businessman. I would visit him regularly, accompany him on local travels and we spoke by phone almost daily. I remember one day asking why he spent the time with me that he did. I couldn't see how he could possibly get a return. His response–"Others helped me, and you will help others. That's the way the world works". I can now see that my holding the ethic to reciprocate as best I could, and making offers when I saw an opportunity, contributed to the relationship I had with Randy.
I am fortunate in that I'm afraid of failing to achieve my personal ambitions. I am deeply aware that alone I'm insufficient to accomplish what I intend. Early in my career I developed a strategy of seeking to build relationships with accomplished actors to whom I could offer some help and who could help me. Often I assess my help is less valuable than the help I'm receiving, yet I always do my best to think about the other's concerns and situations, offering help valuable to them where I can. Often the best help I can offer is an introduction to another powerful person from my network.
My strategy includes doing my best to act with the recommendations and requests of the powerful people in my network. I have pushed through my psychological discomfort to be able to dialogue until I think I understand enough to take some action. I act as best I can, coming back to dialogue with the recommender to improve and learn as the situation progresses. Of course I'm not always successful, but I do see this approach has brought great benefit in the velocity and magnitude of the learning I have accomplished so far in my life.
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Act Prudently and Powerfully
We cannot accept all advice, and we increase our likelihood of success when we can act with as much good advice as possible. Much of what sounds like advice is merely opinion, offered without a commitment to results or by a speaker with insufficient competence as demonstrated by accomplishment. A checklist:
- Be aware when you are open to an offer of help or are requesting help; don't waste your time or that of your network's with uncommitted conversations.
- Make assessments of the knowledge of individuals in your network. What are their accomplishments? What true expertise do the accomplishments provide evidence for?
- Take time to think rigorously about what authority you will grant to whom. Know ahead of conversations what domains you will listen with authority to each of your network.
- Avoid "poll taking"–asking everyone what you should do about some situation or concern. Another version of this is getting advice from someone competent, finding you're not "comfortable" acting, and getting many other opinions on the advice. This is a situation to remember that only accomplishment is evidence of expertise.
- Learn to be an observer of your reactions to advice that doesn't fit your common sense. The best advice won't be what you think because you don't know what you don't know, which is why accomplished others are so valuable and essential for fulfilling top 1% personal ambitions and business missions.
- Move with velocity. Begin acting as you can, incurring costs you can afford, to bring new possibilities into existence. The dominant strategy for competing successfully is to move first and keep moving.
- Continue dialogue with the source(s) of the advice, sharing with them what you notice and observe, and your interpretations. Hold your interpretations as tentative in domains where you are a novice. When you act trusting the advice of someone committed to you, you produce their obligation to continue helping.
- Act responsibly–ultimately each of us is personally responsible for our lives.
When you receive advice or requests from someone you can trust, for both their commitment to you winning and their competence in the domain, and you do not act well, you produce costs for the advisor. You close possibilities, both the possibilities you could produce with acting on the advice and, perhaps more importantly, the willingness of the advisor to help in the future. I've found that the more competent and powerful an individual is, the more attentive they are to costs and producing returns on their costs.
Start noticing how others around you move with trustworthy, competent advice. It's very American to do things our way. Pay attention and notice where you hear the deafening sound of closing possibilities.
He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help. Abraham Lincoln
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