The right way to solicit advice
The fastest way to get to where you want to go is to pick the brain of someone who’s already been there.
That’s the simple way to put it. Truth is, there’s much more to the formula.
Unless you do it the right way, brain-picking is nothing but obnoxious freeloading, inexcusable leeching, a particularly irritating manifestation of bad form.
Successful people are intensely focused, productive, and mission-driven. They value time far more than unsuccessful people do. The easiest way to get on their bad side is to waste their precious time.
Here’s how to solicit advice the right way:
1. Don’t hesitate to ask
The first mistake people make when seeking advice is simply being afraid to ask. They see potential mentors as unapproachable.
You’d be amazed by how willing successful people are to help you — provided you approach them in the right way.
They have invaluable knowledge, experience, and insights, which they love to share. Who doesn’t love to talk about their successes?
2. Offer value in exchange for their time & knowledge
Never contact someone for advice and ask them to spend time responding without offering any value in return.
Offer to pay them a specific amount of money for a specific amount of time. Offer to take them to lunch. Get creative in identifying your assets and leverage them to create value.
This is less because they expect and want value from you, but more to prove that you’re acting in good form. This is not about them; it’s about you.
Freeloaders are time and energy vampires from whom successful people run very fast, very far.
Successful people earned their knowledge and insights through years of back-breaking, heart-wrenching labor. Don’t offend them and cheat yourself by trying to use them to get quick and easy shortcuts.
3. Follow their advice without hesitation or deviation
DO NOT EVER ASK ADVICE of a trusted mentor unless you’re 100 percent willing to do exactly what they advise — even and especially if you disagree.
If you’re offended by advice you solicited, that’s a sure sign your heart wasn’t right when you asked. If you’re not willing to hear it and follow it, don’t ask for it.
If you’re lucky enough to get a mentor to engage with you, don’t blow it by ignoring the advice.
Be certain you’re asking the right person, one whom you trust will steer you in the right direction–a legitimate mentor.
In other words, don’t pester your friends with your problems. That’s not productive advice-seeking; it’s pointless whining.
The plain truth is that most people don’t want workable advice from certified mentors who will propel them to the next level. They want commiseration, comfort, understanding, justification for why they’re stuck.
What many people really want when they solicit advice is not advice at all, but rather validation that they’re right.
We say we need help getting outside of our box. But what we really want is for people to crawl into our box, relate to us, and share our pain.
The only people qualified and able to get you out of your box are those who refuse to crawl inside with you. Friends will cozy up with you inside your box. True mentors won’t.
And if you disagree with your mentor, follow his instructions anyway. In most cases, you’ll learn through execution that he was right, and why.
And if he’s wrong, you have to earn the right to break the rules by first learning and following the rules. Follow his instructions and learn the lessons first before taking your own path.
4. Discern between pessimistic dream-killers & realistic mentors
Common phenomenon: People will solicit advice. They won’t like what they hear because it clashes with their preconceived notions. So they’ll justify not following it by labeling it “negative.”
Anyone who tells them their plan won’t work they call a “dream-killer.”
And so they stay stuck inside their box, smiling with a positive attitude yet suffering from delusional thinking.
To be sure, dream-killers do exist. But unlike mentors, they are people who haven’t traveled the path you want to tread. They offer no solutions, but only worn-out cynicism.
These are typically people who have failed themselves and try to justify their own failures by giving you every reason why you can’t succeed.
(Here’s a little secret about dream-killers: they’re usually your family and friends who are stuck inside a similar box at the same level as you.)
In almost every case, legitimate mentors will also tell you things you don’t want to hear. It will feel like they’re insensitive to your pain while they tear your dream apart.
But all they’re doing is revealing the same pitfalls they fell into along your same path.
Within minutes, the right mentor can analyze your situation and tell you exactly what you’re doing wrong and how to fix it. They’re not being negative or insensitive; they’re being realistic from hard-earned experience.
You can either be hurt or relieved. Your choice. Just know that the sting you feel from their advice is far less than the agony you’ll feel if you don’t follow it.
So listen: You can either sing Kumbaya with your friends and cry a river inside your box, or you can get the right mentor to demolish your box and propel you to new levels of success.
But when choosing and engaging with your mentor, don’t be a brain-picking scavenger. Be a value-creating, eager student with impeccable follow-through.