Tribe of Mentors. What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
“Tribe of Mentors” is a solid book filled with top performers wisdom. While reading the book, I marked the answers that turned out to be most useful at the time of reading. Since “Tribe of Mentors” is a big book, I list in this part answers for the specific question.
The worst advice I’ve ever been given was to not increase the fee I charged to give a keynote speech. I was told I would price myself out of the market, I didn’t have enough recent media coverage to compete against well-known speakers, blah, blah, blah. I decided to raise my price anyway — incrementally at first, then I doubled it. Now I have twice as many inquiries, and people even negotiate with me less. I wish I’d done it earlier. It’s given me much more freedom. As I write this, I’m spending a week on a yacht in Croatia and the rest of the summer traveling through Europe. Time is the only thing we can’t get back. Hopefully by the time you read this, I will be on my way to doubling it again.
I do not believe in work-life balance. I believe that if you view your work as a calling, it is a labor of love rather than laborious. When your work is a calling, you are not approaching the amount of hours you are working with a sense of dread or counting the minutes until the weekend. Your calling can become a life-affirming engagement that can provide its own balance and spiritual nourishment. Ironically, it takes hard work to achieve this.
“You’re too young.” Most of history was built by young people. They just got credit when they were older. The only way to truly learn something is by doing it. Yes, listen to guidance. But don’t wait.
I think people assume that you have to weigh all feedback on your product (whether it’s a podcast, an app, etc.) equally. Not all feedback is created equal, and not all ideas from your users are good ones! Taking too much stock in feedback can change the vision for your own product, and suddenly it won’t feel like yours anymore.
I think most recommendations are bad because they’re one-size-fits-all. “Take
more risks.” “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” “Work harder.” The problem is
that some people need to take more risks, while others need to take fewer
risks. Some people need to ease up on themselves, while others are already
too self-forgiving. Some people need to work harder, while others are already
skating on the edge of burnout. And so on.
So, I think the most useful kind of recommendations are about improving your general judgment — your ability to accurately perceive your situation (even if the truth isn’t flattering or convenient), your possible options, and the tradeoffs involved. Good judgment is what allows you to evaluate whether a recommendation is appropriate to your situation or not; without it, you can’t tell the difference between good and bad advice.
The books Superforecasting (by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner) and How to Measure Anything (by Douglas W. Hubbard) have some good advice on how to improve your ability to make accurate predictions. And Decisive (by Chip Heath and Dan Heath) explains four of the biggest judgment errors (like framing your decision too narrowly, or letting temporary emotions cloud your judgment) and gives tips for combating them.
“Good things come to those who wait.” If I’d listened to that, Spotify would never have become anything more than an idea. We had so many knock-backs in the early days. Bono once said to me, “Good things come to those who work their asses off and never give up.” That speaks to me much more.
When it comes to building an online audience, a big mistake people make is
trying to be everywhere at once. They’re scrambling to generate a ton of
mediocre content to fill up a seemingly endless number of social feeds and
online platforms, which leads to dismal results.
Trying to crush it on every platform, especially if you’re a one-person show, is not a wise or sustainable use of your time, talent, or energy. Even if you have a team, I still recommend choosing one platform to focus on at first. Before committing to another content channel or social platform, ask yourself, why exactly do you want to be on this platform? What are the specific business reasons you’re going to commit time, energy, and resources to regularly creating and engaging in that space? Does this really make sense given your other time commitments and big-picture goals?
One thing business owners don’t realize is that every social media platform you’re active on becomes an open channel for customer service. People will ask questions there and, yes, they’ll complain there, too. Think that through. Have a process in place for someone on your team to sweep social channelson a regular basis so you don’t create a customer service nightmare for yourself. Just because you can be active on a platform doesn’t mean you should.
“Industries are led by experts.”
While we idolize the experts in our industry, we often forget that industries are often transformed by neophytes. The boldest transformations, like Uber disrupting transportation or Airbnb disrupting hospitality, are led by outsiders. Perhaps the playbook to change an industry is to be naive enough at the start to question basic assumptions and then stay alive long enough to employ skills that are unique and advantageous in the space you seek to change. Perhaps naive excitement and pragmatic expertise are equally important traits at different times.
“Customers know best.”
The only focus group I ever ran at Behance was in the very beginning, in 2007, when we were debating a number of different approaches toward our mission “to organize the creative world.” We presented the focus group participants with five or six different ideas and then asked them to complete a survey. Universally, participants said the last thing they wanted was “yet another social network to connect with creative peers.” They figured Myspace was sufficient for this purpose. But when they were asked about their greatest struggles, participants talked about the expense and inefficiencies of maintaining an online portfolio and how difficult it was to get attribution for the creative work they had made.
We were faced with a classic example of “don’t ask customers what they want, figure out what they need.” We ultimately built a social network for creative professionals that is now the world’s leading creative professional community, with more than 12 million members, and was, six years later, acquired by Adobe.
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