As High-Performing Entrepreneur Owner-Managers, Should We Listen to Expert Advice?

September 5, 2019

2 minute read

La Jolla, CA

Or as Entrepreneur Owner-Managers (EOMs)…should we reject most expert advice?

All of the best high-performing EOMs I know read voraciously and constantly, and listen to as many informed opinions they can find, and then… they ignore what mostly everyone else says, and make up their own mind. They aren't content being content simply receiving advice. They listen and read enough of other people’s experience and advice, compare that with their own scar tissue and intuition, and then know what to apply and what to reject. They hear input and ask, “Is that true? Is that true for me? Is that true in my context? Am I going to put it into action?"

Receiving advice is complex. If you survey or listen to enough people, statistically all the different counsel and suggestions cancel to zero. If you ask a specific person for advice, especially a successful person, many times they are just reiterating back to you what worked for them which may or may not be applicable or work for you. Naval Ravikant wittily says, “Don’t bother asking successful people how they did it, because they are just reading you the winning numbers off their lottery ticket."

The best question we might ask ourselves to uncover the validity in listening to expert advice is: does the person who gave me advice have skin in the game with me? Or is this just their opinion? If it’s just opinion without skin in the game, have they been in the arena and do they have the experience and scar tissue to have earned the right to an opinion?

Last, let’s consider that all advice given to high performing EOMs has built in iatrogenic risks (the risk of the healer killing the patient). Why?

Because in owner-managed private companies, where the leaders are Principals (have skin in the game), the range of expected outcomes is not merely positive to neutral, it is positive to really heartbreaking. Not only have expert advisors as a group been unable to prove that their models consistently work, but no one has proved that the result of following their model that does not work is neutral. That it does not accumulate hidden (but very real) risks.

In popular culture, we worship celebrity and revere pleasing the crowd. Yet, with the benefit of hindsight, history proves the masses are generally wrong. As high performing EOMs, it turns out our own personal experience —both successes and failures— has always been more useful and instructive—more learning— for us than following other peoples' advice and examples.

Sleepy Therapist

What I am Reading / Listening to

The Targeter by Nada Bakos with David Coburn
Contributed by Denise C. Burke

It is always eye opening to read a true story that provides additional color around actual events. In The Targeter: My Life in the CIA, Hunting Terrorists and Challenging the White House, Nada Bakos provides an overview of her life in the CIA from an Analyst to a Targeting Officer during the turmoil before, during and after 9/11.  She provides the reader with a glimpse of how difficult it was to obtain intelligence data and then provide detailed assessments of the gathered intelligence to the White House and National Security.  Additionally, through her narrative you could feel her frustration surrounding how the White House would use the CIA’s intelligence briefings to spin the narrative for their benefit.

During Bakos’ tenure with the CIA, she spent many years “targeting” Abu Musab al-Zarqawi , the suspected founder of Al- Qaeda in Iraq, who was previously known for his activities with ISIS.  Her novel includes details around her time stationed in Iraq interviewing prisoners, continuing to collect intelligence, and experiencing the Iraqi reaction to the U.S. presence and involvement in the region.  This was a fascinating read, particularly from a female perspective (of which she was in the minority, specifically oversees).

The detailed account of what transpired within Iraq and the CIA was a fascinating read.  However, after finishing her book, I was most impressed by her dedication to the CIA and her mission, how she handled such incredible demands, the stress she endured and her personal sacrifices along the way.

The Targeter by Nada Bakos

Entrepreneur Owner-Manager Quote

“Ask yourself, what has to be true for me to be happy the day after the sale?”

- Jay Jacobs, Founder of Rapid Manufacturing and Founder of Paperless Parts

 

 

Energy Creation

Contributed by Stephen R. McGee

On a hot summer weekend in August, 7 of my running friends and I headed to West Windsor, VT to participate in the Ragnar Trail Relay. The 120 mile relay took place on Mt. Ascutney, an old-school New England ski hill.

The relay involves each of the 8 runners taking turns running one of three loops that go progressively up the mountain.  The “easy” loop is 3.1 miles, the “moderate” loop is 4.7 miles, and the “hard” loop is 7.2 miles.  You run around the clock and by the end of it each runner should have logged 15 miles.  162 teams started the race, 149 teams finished all 24 loops.

Of course the highlight of the weekend was the comradery and endless banter that took place at the campsite in between runs.  The running was just the excuse that got 8 friends together for some fun. But this was no gentle jog—running in the middle of the night with only a headlamp to see, on steep mountainous trails, uncertain footing, spiced by the occasional thunder and lightning storm—this was challenging—maybe even more than expected at times. More than once I asked myself, “What the hell am I doing out here? I could be home sleeping in my bed, and instead I am running on trails in the middle of the night?”.  Frankly, considering the elevation gain, even the so-called easy loop was pretty damn hard in my opinion.

It was an uplifting experience. I’m happy to say our team finished a respectable 102nd completing all 24 loops to qualify as an official finisher.  I say respectable as our team was not exactly exclusively young bucks!  We had a couple of experienced athletes in their 70s, three in their late 50s, and the balance in their late 40s, competing against high-school teams, college teams, and generally people who looked like they could have been our kids!

Couldn’t be more proud or candidly—more inspired—by our septuagenarians Pete (79) and Brian (70).  I set the runner order so they would at least get to do their hard loop in daylight but the pair of them had to do their moderate 4.7 mile loop in the middle of the night…and they crushed it.  I hope I am still running when I am in my 70s, even better if I am running like Pete and Brian.  Inspirational and energy creating…

Team Picture
Mt. Ascutney