Today I had an interview with a client about how to start her own business.
She had some fantastically creative ideas for various ways to put her strengths to good use. She spoke of using her journey overcoming body-image issues and eating disorders to create a confidence-building programme for women.
But she hadn’t started doing anything about it yet. Why? Because her husband kept telling her that her ideas could not work as a business.
Even though I already guessed the answer, I asked her: “How much experience does he have starting up businesses?”
Can you guess? Of course you can. The answer is NONE AT ALL. So what the hell was he doing crapping on her dreams from a place of complete ignorance?
Well, actually, he’s no different from most other people. Nearly everyone you meet will feel compelled to give you advice if you ask for it. This means whether they are qualified to or not. People find it almost impossible to say “Don’t ask me, I don’t know enough about it”.
My latest coach Jacob Sokol once told me “You are a combination of the 5 people you spend the most time with”, which is a commonly accepted truism. Essentially, we humans are easily influenced by each other. Our brains are socially wired, which includes the constant battle to lead and follow.
You cannot help but be heavily influenced by those you spend your time with. Which means if you are trying new things and attempting to better yourself, you will be held back by people if they don’t support you.
To be successful, you need to people to either support you… or to just get the hell out of your way.
My job as a coach is often about undoing the damage caused by unsupportive people. This is not to say that people are deliberately trying to sabotage you. Sadly, they are attempting the opposite! People give you unqualified, unhelpful and unmotivating advice because they are trying to help you. They think they are keeping you safe.
In reality, they are just projecting their fears onto you, or overcompensating for feeling inadequate.
If you want to succeed, you’re going to have to make some tough choices about who you keep in your life, and who to listen to. To help you with this, I’ve devised these rules to follow when creating a supportive social environment.
1) HAVE A RUNNING BUDDY
Every week or so I get on a Skype call with Izzy Arkin, a coach based out of Japan. He and I have been motivating each other and sharing ideas for months now. We’re on roughly the same level in terms of business, and have very similar goals for how we want to impact the world.
He challenges me, I challenge him, and together we become better. We both have positive outlooks, believe that anything is possible, and accept that hard work is required.
Having a running buddy is about finding one or two people who can walk the journey with you. People who are on the same level and will increase the value in your life, as much as you increase the value in theirs. This will do wonders for your motivation and together you can learn things that neither of you knew before.
2) QUESTION EVERYTHING
Develop a habit of questioning the wisdom you receive from those who do not have credentials.
When the person who’s been an employee their whole life tells you that your business idea sucks, ask them to justify their answer. Ask them about their experience starting businesses; their research into your target market; their understanding of the profitability margins etc etc etc.
You’ll quickly find that most people can only back up what they say with complete bullshit. That is to say, their reasons do not come from a reasonable source. They’ll say “I read it somewhere…” or “My Grandad tried that and it didn’t work”. These flaky sources of evidence are NOT PROOF.
Be more assertive. When someone tries to hold you back, make sure you let them know that they are being unhelpful. Say something like “From now on, if you’re going to give me advice, make sure you’ve researched the subject thoroughly using scientific method”, or words to that effect.
You’ll actually be helping them overcome their own limiting beliefs.
3) CHOOSE YOUR TOP 5
Right now there are at least five good sources of feedback, advice and support somewhere in your network. You may not know them well yet, maybe not even at all, but they are out there somewhere.
Look for people who are DOING it, not those who just talk about it, or those who don’t do anything. Find people you admire who seem to have made the impossible happen. It doesn’t have to be in the same topic you’re interested in, just as long as they have the right motivation.
Invite them out for lunch or coffee, let them know that you admire them, and offer to help them in whatever way you can. Start the relationship by bringing more value into their life. People like that will repay you in ways you can’t even imagine.
I wrote to one of my favourite authors to give him a testimonial, letting him know that his book changed my life. Eight months later, after much email correspondence, I signed a publishing deal with his brand new publishing business. Now we serve each other.
Click to get your FREE sample of The Legendary Life by Dan Munro and learn how to integrate better people into your life this year!
4) GET A COACH OR MENTOR
Simply put, no one will be as objective in giving you advice as someone you’ve paid to give you objective advice. Since I started getting coaching for myself I’ve never looked back. There is something amazing about someone giving it to you straight, where their only agenda is YOUR SUCCESS.
Even if they are not paid to help you, having someone as an objective observer in your top 5 is more powerful than anything else in this list. Coaches, mentors and teachers will have your best interests at heart most of the time, provided you choose the right person.
For more on how to find a coach, check out this post here.
Coaches and mentors help you make massive leaps forward in progress. You can short-cut pointless mistakes and get out of your own way. The most likely person to sabotage your success is YOU. A coach will do their best to ensure that YOU don’t interfere with what is best for you.
5) IGNORE ALL UNSOLICITED ADVICE
Once you have your top 5, you can pretty much ignore everyone else. If you have 5 reliable, useful and motivational sources of feedback, what’s the point in listening to people who give advice without being asked?
When people shove advice and feedback down your throat without an invitation to do so, it’s from one motive only: FEAR. They are afraid of something, and giving advice/feedback is their coping mechanism. They fear not being noticed, feeling unintelligent, losing control of people around them, and all sorts of other toxic motives.
I used to give unheeded advice all the time because I wanted to impress people. Since building my confidence and authenticity I now ask for permission before helping someone.
If someone was not invited to give you advice, then just ignore them. They’re not trying to help you; they are trying to avoid their own pain. It’s got nothing to do with you.
6) ASK FOR FEEDBACK ON SPECIFICS, NOT GENERALITIES
You need to guide people in how they give you feedback. If you just ask “What do you think?” there’s too much room for interpretation. Most people will answer broadly to a broad question. This means they give you overall summaries that are not helpful.
I wanted advice on a dance routine I was choreographing, and the first time I did this I said “What do you think?” and the response was “It needs a lot of work”. What am I supposed to do with that feedback? But it’s my fault the feedback was so vague.
So I went back again and this time I asked: “What part needs the most work, and what would you do differently there?”
7) SOCIALISE WITH PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE
Aside from your top 5, the people you socialise with will have a huge impact on your productivity. Are you regularly having insightful and motivational conversations? Or are you just getting drunk and talking about sports?
There’s nothing wrong with light or superficial conversation. It’s a welcome part of social life. Just be aware that there is a difference between occasional chatter and pointless conversation.
If you want socialising to be something that brings you up instead of being just neutral relaxation, then you need to choose your social buddies wisely.
Getting into hobbies that surround you with like-minded ambitious people is a great starting place. Another good option is meetup.com.