Is it possible to gainfully learn something from someone whom you see as unsuccessful? Be it a neighbor, a friend, a co-worker, or member of the family. In life, I have spent the greater part of my adult life listening to people who had great ideas and who inspired me to do better. Yet I viewed many as people who rarely seemed to emanate success in their own lives. For example, I have heard the myriad of “how to have a great relationship” from neighbors who later filed for divorce. Or in business, I have been told that “this is how to market yourself to be successful” from business consultants who were finding it difficult to run their own businesses. So, I ask myself, do I turn a deaf ear when someone offers advice on a subject I know they know little about?
In the past, I have struggled with the notion that I knew more than my neighbor, my friends, and god help me my parents. And yet, in recent years I have come to the standing realization that I have so much to learn from the very same people who I thought otherwise had much to offer. What I thought “I knew” was not at all what I know now.
I am bitterly aware that listening was one of my shortcomings. I didn’t listen close enough to what they were saying because if I did I would have been smart enough to utilize some of those thoughts and ideas into accelerating my personal and professional growth. I would have attended more events, more networking meetings. Been involved in more projects. I would have (albeit reluctantly) taken opportunities that were made available because someone thought it would be good for me.
As a business owner, today I look for and listen attentively to those who can offer any advice no matter how small. I attend after hours networking events even when I’d rather be at home or finishing a project at work. Why? Because that’s where people share their ideas, their opinions, and their triumphs and tribulations. I may learn something valuable that would immediately help my business grow and then I may learn of what not to do because it would hinder the growth of my business. Or I may learn about an idea that may not help me in any way but may help someone I know. What’s ironic is that at times I may even learn something about myself.
A continual goal of mine is to “listen”, even when I feel someone isn’t (at that moment) making any sense. As a kid, I remember sitting around a dinner table with my parents and their friends (always against my better judgment) hearing “the” adults talking business and life. I would think to myself and often times to my dismay out loud that I would be different, I would make my own rules, I’ll do it my way. And as I would vocalize my thoughts, I would hear “it may not mean anything to you now but wait until you’re my age, you’ll see.” All I’d like to say to them is that I remember and I thank you. I am not only hearing you but also listening.
Business is tough and life is tougher. It is up to me to make every opportunity count and to learn something because it may be of value sometime in the future if not now.