Never ask these people for their opinion (unless your goal is to feel utterly demoralised)

Never ask these people for advice

Why do we do it to ourselves?

We have an idea for a book we want to write; a business we want to set up; or a product we want to create…and we feel an urge to ask someone what they think.

So who do we turn to?

Someone who has actually written a book, set up a business, or created a new product?

Nope. We ask Joe Bloggs down the road, or a friend or family member (preferably one not exactly brimming with creativity or entrepreneurial spirit).

Then we act surprised and feel crap when we reveal our grand idea and they look at us like we have two heads.

Worse, they squish our idea (and enthusiasm) using one of three cunning methods:

  1. They roll their eyes and tell us our idea is rubbish and “it will never work”.
  2. They look at us blankly and are so disinterested they can’t actually be arsed to open their mouth to make any sort of comment.
  3. They quickly change the subject and before you know it, you’re discussing the merits of fly fishing, or something equally enthralling, for the next five hours.

This kind of thing happens to me all the time.

Amazingly, I never learn. I keep doing the same thing, hoping for a different response. (It never happens.)

Recently it has occurred to me that perhaps, just maybe, I am speaking to the wrong people.

Possibly I should keep my big mouth shut and be more selective about whose opinion I seek. As author Geoff Thompson says;

“If you want to be a champion swimmer, it’s better to speak to a champion swimmer than some guy who does a few lengths at the local pool at the weekend. If you want to be a millionaire then hang around millionaires.”

Makes sense, right? I also like this quote about critics and negativity:

“It is not the critic who counts. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood… who, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Note to self: Only approach people for advice IF they are in the arena OR have won the battle and got the hell out of there.

Do NOT, I repeat NOT, ever approach someone who is watching from the sidelines (especially if they have the hint of a sneer on their face).

27 thoughts on “Never ask these people for their opinion (unless your goal is to feel utterly demoralised)”

  1. I think the idea nowadays is to have a ‘mentor’ – someone you can bounce ideas off and who takes a supportive role with regards your creative work – failing that perhaps a small writing group and hopefully the tutor will be experienced and supportive. Trouble is Joe Bloggs is always easier to find and ask……


      1. I know learning is great – however better done when one is under the age of 30. And lets face it, does anyone really learn by their own mistakes? Nah!


        1. Ah sorry chaps! Just returned to re-read this post and realise my comment in May was short and mis-leading. Didn’t mean to worry those who are starting out in a new direction – I am the wrong side of 50 and treading a new path so you have all my support and sympathy! Perhaps I should have said “learning from your mistakes and then rectifying them under the age of 30 is better”. I am appalled to find that I am repeating the same mistakes time and time again – like ‘Sparky’s’ comment above regarding falling into the trap of asking advice from Jo Bloggs. Now I have ‘escaped’ from a ‘proper job’ I realise that perhaps my thinking has not ‘escaped’ and many bad habits and attitudes have remained with me; these negative emotions will get me back into doing ‘ a proper job’ if I don’t change. As much as I want to learn to move forward (and I need to) I do find it difficult now I am older and so annoyingly set in my ways.


          1. Ah, no problem, KnitNell! There are many of us over 50 still making mistakes and hopefully learning from them! This is a lifelong thing called “being human.” And, the longer one has been in a traditional job, the more ingrained the “employee” thinking. But, change is always possible! We can heal our old thinking and rid ourselves of old, tired beliefs that serve us no longer.


  2. I’ve gotta meet this Joe Bloggs guy (who is hopefully not me) and try him out on the questions I already have answered, so as to not risk taking him too seriously.

    Seriously, I think good feedback can come from anywhere, but, obviously, the more credible reliable feedback comes from those who’ve already achieved something like your goal. Ignoramuses (Ignorami?) can, on occasion, be extremely wise, if you can afford to risk the more common times when they’re not. Actually, I prefer advice from people who know how to specifically advise me without getting my hackles up. That means I’ll get lower quality advice I can actually take in, rather than high quality advice I’ll reject.


  3. I don’t know why we do it to ourselves but I agree it’s a good idea to stop asking advice from those on the sidelines. And I have to disagree with KnitNell about learning being better done when you’re under 30 — everyone’s journey is different (I need that to be true or I’m in big trouble). Oh and I LOVE the Gapingvoid cartoon. It’s perfect : )


    1. Anna, I completely agree with you regarding KnitNell’s comment about learning being better for those who have not yet reached 30…I am a 55-year-old burgeoning entrepreneur just coming out of my shell and emerging from 30 years of soul-sucking office life, ready to learn all I can about creating a life I love! Yes, everyone’s journey is as unique as their personality, and I don’t feel that all of my “learning cells” have become saturated yet! ;)


      1. Love the way you put that – “I don’t think all of my learning cells have become saturated yet”! Also love the fact that you have left your soul-sucking office life behind and are emerging as an entrepreneur. Respect!!


  4. I guess maybe we tend not to ask those experienced people because it’s scarier talking to experts in one’s own field of endeavour? I get feeling all inferior around people who are really good at what I wish I were good at, and would find it hard asking stuff. Is that just me?


  5. Two things presented to me over the years that made a profound difference,
    “Why do you look for approval in the very places that historically, you know you won’t get it?”

    and what two businessmen said to a friend, who went to apply for the job of website developer for a start-up green transportation company,
    “You’re the 36th person we’ve interviewed. We don’t care whether you think our idea will work or not. We’re willing to pay you to build our website – so if all you can think of is to tell us why our business won’t work, then there’s the door….”

    She took the job on the spot…


    1. Wow, I like the straight-talking businessmen! And it’s so true – why do we seek approval from people we know won’t give it? It’s like some kind of addiction. It’s also the definition of madness – doing the same thing and expecting a different result! It has taken me a long time to finally get this.


  6. So true – it’s all about sharing your ideas with people who will encourage you, and sadly the people closest to you are the ones who will be scared by you changing and having exciting new ideas. So if you’ve got a group of like-minded people who are also at an exploring stage of the process, then you’ve got a good group of people to share with :)


  7. Know what you mean about asking the right people. Family and friends are great, but they don’t always ‘get it’. They probably don’t understand the entrepreneurial world you’re in. Also, they care about you because they’ve known you for years and they just want you to be safe, i.e. not take risks. Other people who are out there living their dream, or at least on the path to get there, firstly understand what you’re going through and the world of entrepreneurs, and secondly they just want to push you forwards to success – they have no preconceived notions about who you are or were.

    Awesome blog Sparky. Late starter maybe, but you seem to be catching up pretty fast!


    1. Thanks Richard (it always makes me laugh when you call me Sparky!). Completely agree – some people just don’t ‘get it’. The ones that do are the ones I need to be talking to (whether they’ve ‘made it’ or are still finding their way).


  8. Nice post. Person that do down rate other ones attitudes like that are just asking for attitudes that acquiesce with their own. The important thing to recall is that your opinions aren’t rated on a issue scale.


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