One of them is a guy I’ve known for 20 years. Let’s call him Phil. Hell of a nice bloke. But every time I see him, he tries to teach me something, like the newest and fastest way to make money, or how and where I should be investing. But his creditors aren’t getting paid, his business is struggling, and his investments are lottery tickets and horse races.
The trouble is, experts like Phil are everywhere, now. The Internet has made it possible for anyone to hang up a shingle and claim they’re an expert. Especially on Facebook and Instagram. Right now, I’m the only one in the world who doesn’t have a free webinar on something with “limited spaces available”.
Influencers are the new go-to people for product endorsements and brand tie-ins. My 14-year-old daughter has over 150,000 followers on social and she receives collaboration offers every day. Many of them have nothing to do with her area of expertise yet still they seek an ‘expert endorsement’ from her. I’m glad my daughter won’t sully her reputation for a quick buck. She’s a real pro.
Sadly, few people share her moral code and don’t mind faking it till they make it. They’re like those people who screw everyone for years just to make a fortune, then become philanthropists later in life.
Having witnessed this fakery for years, I recently decided I’d allowed as much random ‘expertise’ into my life as I could handle, such that today, I’m super picky about whose advice I’ll take. I’m just too old, too jaded and frankly, my brain is going to collapse under the weight of all this data.
Nowadays, when someone tries to share their brand of wisdom, I usually click away or I jam my fingers in my ears, close my eyes and scream “la la la la!”. This might sound hypocritical, but there’s a big difference between walking the walk and talking sh*t.
I’ve finally realised (I’m a slow learner) that people who are doing great things, often don’t talk about it. They’re too busy doing.
Occasionally, though, someone comes along who wants to share. Perhaps for free, perhaps not. Either way, it doesn’t matter. But their message is on point and they reek of authenticity. So I check out their work, I try their ideas, and usually, there’s real value there.
If you have a compelling offer but I don’t know you, I’ll probably type your name into Google with the word ‘scam’ after it. If it lights up the search results, I’ll bail.
But If you’ve consistently succeeded with what you’re preaching and you can prove it, I’ll listen. If other people I respect and admire endorse your work then I’m all in.
But if I don’t need what you’re offering right now, I’ll still pass. I’ve already filled my brain with gigabytes of just-in-case information – 95 percent of which I’ll never use. This FOMO approach to knowledge is bad. It only makes you anxious and confused. From here on, it’s just-in-time stuff only.
Some of the most authentic experts you’ll ever find are the guys at Fizzle, Seth Godin, Marie Forleo, Nathan Barry, Laura Belgray, Steven Pressfield, Michael Yardney, Jonathan Mead and James Altucher. I could easily name a dozen more, but these guys are top of mind for me at the moment. I draw on their knowledge and expertise almost every week.
Real-life mentors are hard to find because, as I mentioned, they’re usually too busy to teach you anything. So how do you get close to these people and benefit from their experience? As far as I can tell, you have three choices.
- Ask them to mentor you.
- Work for them and observe what they do. Do it for free if you have to.
- Pay them for their counsel.
I’ve done all three. Whichever route you take, it’s very important you become skilled at asking good questions. Equally important is having them set challenges for you and always acting on their advice. This kind of relationship can be enormously rewarding for both parties, but only if you give them valuable feedback. They’ll want to know that you’re listening and that they’re making a difference in your journey. Nothing is for nothing.
I’ve been privileged to have the counsel of a few great men, and those relationships have informed my decision-making processes and broadened my perspective on many things.
I know I’ll become the average of the five people I spend the most time with, so I need to be very cautious about who I get my cues from. It also follows that if I want to excel in a particular field, I need to know what I don’t know, and stretch myself and look at things in new ways. More than likely, I must abandon a few old beliefs and develop some new ones.
Sometimes I can’t get what I need from face-to-face mentoring, but I don’t feel shortchanged with the ‘virtual’ mentors I’ve assembled over the years, either. I’ve been fortunate to receive valuable guidance from some of the best thinkers and doers around, and they’ve each had a demonstrable impact on my work and my life.
I’ve enjoyed lots of free advice (podcasts, videos and social media interactions), but I’ve often paid for it too, via training courses, email series and books. Some of these were priceless, and others led to ongoing relationships with the creators – also priceless.
James Altucher says we all need a collection of ‘plus-minus-equals’ around us. A ‘plus’ is someone who is where we want to be. They’ve achieved the success we’re shooting for. The ‘minus’ is someone who seeks counsel from us – a person we can mentor. And an ‘equal’ is someone who’s currently playing at our level.
All of these people have a role to play. And as time goes on, we will outgrow some of them, and some will outgrow us. That’s fine. That’s how it should be.
Our job is to find our people. Share what we know. Lift others up, and learn from those who’ve cleared the path ahead. But we must choose wisely because each one of them has a demonstrable effect on the trajectory our life takes.
Be ruthless about who you let into your life and the information they feed you. If you choose well, your life will move ahead in leaps and bounds, and be enriched beyond expectations.
And whenever someone starts preaching at you, remember how critical it is to guard your mind and deflect anything you can’t use. When the alarm bells start going off, my advice is to walk away.
If that doesn’t work (I’ve had people follow me when I do this), just close your eyes, place your fingers in your ears and sing that scene from the movie, “Babe”. You might have to Google that.
This article originally appeared on Midlife Tribe
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