Stop Listening to the Smart People

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There’s no shortage of smart people telling you and me how to run our businesses. There’s no shortage of smart people telling us how to run our finances. There’s no shortage of smart people telling us how to run our lives. All we have to do is turn on the TV, turn on the radio, or start a conversation at the local bar. Smart people with ideas will fall out of the woodwork. So here’s my advice to you:

Stop listening to the smart people.

In 1964, William F. Buckley, Jr. gave his opinion on the Beatles. Here’s what he said:

“The Beatles are not merely awful. They are so unbelievably horrible, so appalllingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music.”

Now, whether or not you agree with Buckley’s conservative politics, you can’t deny that he was a smart guy—but when it comes to the Beatles, he couldn’t have been more wrong. And that’s my point.

Smart guys can be wrong.

Why else would we have a smart bunch of guys telling us the only way out of this economic mess is to cut taxes, and an equally smart bunch of guys telling us the only way out is to raise taxes? Now, I don’t know what the right answer is, but I know that some of the smart guys are going to be wrong.

So when a smart guy (and by the way, I don’t mean to be sexist; I’m using “guy” generically to mean a smart man or a smart woman) tells you that, to be successful, you have to price yourself below the competition, or you have to have a blog, or you have to Twitter, they’re not necessarily right! Anytime a smart person tells you you have to do something in order to be successful, I guarantee you that you can find somebody—very likely somebody in your own industry—who is achieving remarkable success by doing just the opposite.

Don’t get me wrong here—I’m not opposed to smart people! Some of my best friends are smart people, and I’ve gotten some of my best ideas by talking with and listening to smart people. But the bottom line is that, when push comes to shove, they’re my ideas. And, when I implement them, their success or failure rests on my shoulders.

So yes, talk to smart people. See what they have to say. Take their ideas into account. But ultimately, you are the final authority on how to run your business and your life. And the way you run your business and life has to be congruent with who you are, not who the smart expert is. If you fail in business—and you might—you’re not going to win your customers back by shouting, “But wait—a smart person told me to do it like this!” And if you succeed in business—and you might—it’ll be because whatever the smart person may have told you just happened to match your own natural skills, talents, and inclinations.

Above all, don’t let the smart people be the last word on whether or not your ideas will work. Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s best to ignore the smart people. I’m pretty sure the Beatles ignored William F. Buckley, Jr.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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