I’ll tell you why for free.
“The younger you are the more you know.”
This is what I tell my high school seniors who are on the cusp of graduation. They’ve chosen a career path and a college, they’ve identified their passions and interests. They’ve solidified their GPAs and finally grown out of half a decade of acne.
They are sure of themselves and their worldviews and it is awesome. Sometimes, I bask in their confidence, trying to remember what it was like to feel so sure of myself. They’re all hovering around their 18th birthday, which makes them adults of the most amazing and terrifying variety.
I’d be a fool to try to give them any real advice. Instead, I listen.
And what I hear is that they know how the world works. They understand psychology and what makes people tick. They know why the earth turns and what they’ll do to make their first million. With less than two decades under their belts, they know about politics, religion, power, and social media. They are experts at everything.
They don’t know what it feels like to question their beliefs or feel the landscape of everything they think is true start to shift.
On the flip side, I have a few friends who remember where they were when Kennedy was shot and when Nixon resigned. They are neighbors, penpals, and coworkers I’ve kept in touch with over the years. They are friends who’ve stuck by my side as I’ve transitioned from a wayward drunken sailor to a parent, wife, and teacher. They are people who have voted in more than a dozen presidential elections and people who have experienced gut-wrenching personal gains and losses.
I’m direct, so I think of these people (respectfully) as my Old Friends. They are Old Friends because I’ve known them for a long time and they are Old Friends because they also are really old.
What I love about these people is that they share their perspectives about the world freely and without embarrassment or shame. They openly admit to being clueless about what makes people tick or how to become a millionaire. They’d never say it out loud, but they’ve become experts at “Live, Laugh, Love” without ever having to print it on a faux-barn board or a coffee mug.
My Old Friends are the people who encourage me and question me. They are the people who make me feel like I’m worth the space I take up on the planet, even if sometimes I feed my kids Nutella and hot dogs for dinner.
Anything I don’t get from my high schoolers or my Old Friends, I can get from my regular old coworkers and friends. They might not give advice in the page-a-day calendar format I can order up from Amazon, but they’re pretty good at letting me know whether I’m headed in a good direction.
Here’s my point. As humans, our big fat brains are our greatest asset and our fiercest enemy. We’ve evolved to care about what other people think.
Unfortunately, this makes us both vulnerable and opportunistic. We’re vulnerable because we see successful people and we want them to tell us why they’re successful. We’re opportunistic because once we’ve realized an ounce of success, we want to want to capitalize on the vulnerable people who want to know how we did it.
The result is a plethora of coaches and courses, peddling half-witted ideas about success. Thanks to slick marketing, it’s easy to get sucked in and think that if you buy someone else’s ideas, they will become your ideas. Then you can be opportunistic too and sell your ideas (their ideas)to a new subset of vulnerable people.
But creativity and success don’t come from a four-week online course. They aren’t the result of a 45-minute Zoom call with some guru.
The real geniuses and game-changers aren’t followers or collectors. They don’t copy, subscribe, or like their way to fame and fortune. They care about ideas that are bigger than a $99 workshop or a Facebook group.
So before you shell out any cash to buy someone else's ideas, look around in your own social circle. Buy someone a coffee or pick up the phone. Reach out to interesting people from your past. Mine your friends and family for feedback and advice. Talk to young people. Talk to old people. When you do, make sure you listen to what they have to say. Draw your own conclusions and make your own plan.
Pay attention to the world around you. Read books, listen to podcasts. Ask questions. Find mentors, sit alone outside, watch the news. Advice is everywhere, you just have to be open to finding it.
Success might not come overnight. It might not reach epic proportions. But at least you won’t be somebody else's sucker. And you’ll have more cash in your pocket.
For more, sign up for my course…
…Just kidding. I don’t know anything.