Amazing advice

Yesterday I continued drawing my professional Net-Map (an ongoing project) around the question “Who will influence that I get there?” (there being a complex mix of goals, from “more work in the US” to “exciting, inspiring, learning oriented interactions”).

It was rather easy to come up with a list of current clients, potential future clients, Net-Map practitioners and other who are part of the game. But what really took a lot of pondering was to come up with relevant links. It would seem obvious that “flow of money” would be one, but it also is a bit repetitive and boring, the fact that I identified clients by the color of their actor card meant that I had all this information on the map already.

So what kinds of connections really have an impact on my strategic direction? I have realized in the past that the advice I get from others is crucial for what I do and how I do it, but drawing a link that is just plain “giving advice” would not help me think strategically about my network. Because I would link everyone who gave me amazing, mediocre or even bad advice and end up with a messy spaghetti diagram. So I called the link “amazing advice”. Now think about it. Think about all the people you interact with on a daily basis or just every once in a while: Who has given you amazing advice? Who has given you advice that made you feel like they get you and they understand something about the world that wasn’t clear to you? Who has given you clear words and concepts for things that you just intuitively felt but weren’t sure about? Who can you go to, when you don’t even quite know what the problem is? Who can show you a new perspective on a problem you have been struggling with for ages, where you think you have looked at it from every angle and there is just nothing you can do about it? Who will challenge your beliefs and assumptions in a way that is encouraging and helps you grow instead of putting you down or making you feel stupid?

Instead of drawing a general advice link, I used this much stricter definition, I am only really interested in thinking about: Who gives me amazing advice? Because the normal kind of advice I can either cook up myself or it doesn’t really matter much who I go to (let’s say I have a tax question, I can go to about any tax guy). In my current network and with the current question, I drew four “amazing advice” links, and one or two dotted lines, that’s it. I feel blessed to have so many amazing advisers in my network. Then I wrote down in detail what advice it was that amazed me, what I had done about it, why I found it amazing, how I could learn from their ability to become better in giving advice myself and what I want to do to keep these links alive.

I realized a number of things about amazing advice and some of them might be different for different people. But here is what I found:

  • You don’t have to interact with and get advice from this person all the time. All four of my top advisers are people I only talk to once in a while and that might be why they can give me a different perspective and see my development from a birds eye view.
  • While I admire these people to no end, I need to talk with them as two professionals who speak from the same level. If someone wants to teach me with the attitude of: I know more than you and you need some teaching, you will see me run.
  • All of them make me feel more clever and more capable. Not by telling me: You are so clever and capable. But by talking and listening and treating me as if I was. And by expanding and building on what I know already instead of giving me the feeling of “you got it all wrong”.
  • One crucial prerequisite for advice, which makes a difference to me, is connection. I remember these few and precious moments when it was like there was electricity in the air and I felt like: This person sees something in me that I didn’t know how to give words to. Or: This person sees the next steps of my road so clearly that finally the fog lifts. I think the issue of connection is also related to the fact that I wouldn’t be open to advice from someone if I didn’t like them – even if my brain told me it was reasonable advice.

And once you have found out who the amazing advisers are, what do you do? Treat them like gold! Ask there advice when you really need it (not when you are to lazy to think or look it up). Listen well, do what they say (if it makes sense to you), and tell them of the great things that happened because of it. Thank them, acknowledge them and see what you can give back (chocolate, ideas, contacts, whatever you have that they would like). Maybe ask one of them to be your mentor (I once had a “one hour a month” arrangement with someone I admired that was helpful for me and engaging and little effort for him…). And every once in a while just go and have coffee together and see what you will talk about.

Have you gotten some amazing advice lately? What did it look like? What do you need so that you feel this was amazing instead of just pretty solid ordinary advice? How do you maintain your advice relationships?

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