In post #76 I questioned the ability of CEO’s to add as much value as they get credit for.
In post #77 I trashed Experts and their ability to add value.
So is anyone out there qualified to lead or offer great advice? Or maybe a better question is - how can you tell if someones guidance is worth listening to?
My favorite Nobel prize winning psychologist has an answer to that question.
DANIEL KAHNEMAN TO THE RESCUE
Kahneman claims that true expertise can only exist under these two conditions.
- An environment that is sufficiently regular to be predictable.
- An opportunity to learn these regularities through prolonged practice.
An “expert” must meet both of these conditions, or else they’re nothing more than a confident guesser.
For instance, gurus have forever suggested they can predict the movement of interest rates. But the interest rate environment is not “sufficiently regular to be predictable”. So no matter how much “prolonged practice” they have, they’re full of shit.
What about an experienced LEAN consultant offering to increase your efficiency? This environment is “sufficiently regular to be predictable”. AND this person has experience or “prolonged practice”. So yes, there’s a chance this person has expertise worth paying for. Check their references and have at it.
THE PRESENT CASE
What about a random blogger, like me, offering advice to improve your business and life? Let’s call it Success advice. Is this worth paying for?
Well, first of all, it’s free, so there’s no payment. But there is an investment of time spent reading the posts, so the question is valid.
And the answer isn't simple - there are 3 parts to it.
1) First you need to understand the overarching idea that the blogger is putting forward. In this case, how does he define Success?
2) Then you must decide whether this path is “sufficiently regular to be predictable”. In other words can this Success formula be taught, learned, and repeated or is he selling snake oil?
3) Lastly, you have to look at the qualifications of the individual. Has this blogger had enough relevant “prolonged practice” to know what he’s talking about?
Let’s start with the first challenge - understanding how I define Success.
Trying to define and measure Success is a bitch. Most definitions fall into one of two camps:
Potentially Misleading OR Hard to Define.
Here are some examples of Potentially Misleading Measures of Success:
Size of Business
Size of Hands
Number of Facebook Friends
Having the Most Toys
There’s nothing wrong with any of these, but they sure aren’t a guarantee of a good life. How many rich, famous, toy-laden people have you known or read about that seem to spend most of their time in rehab or divorce court. So these, on their own, seem pretty misleading as measures of Success.
How about the other group I mentioned - Hard To Define Measures of Success:
Touchy Feely Blah Blah Blah
These sound sweet and warm and wholesome, but I challenge you to define them. And I challenge you to know when you’ve arrived at these states. And if you figure that out, I challenge you to stay in these states for an extended period of time.
Happiness is the most obvious one here. Unfortunately, I’ve turned out to be a horrible judge of what makes me happy long term. I sold everything I owned to get an MBA and a job on Wall Street, but within days of arriving I was miserable. I had assumed that an ego stroking job and the promise of a big paycheck would guarantee happiness, but I was wrong.
Ego Stroking Job + $$ ≠ happiness ≠ Success
So is there anything that experts believe can lead to happiness? Let’s see what Daniel Kahneman has to say.
“The main source of emotional misery is loneliness and the main source of emotional happiness is spending time with people you love…”
Which sounds a helluva lot like a psychologist and author I’ve already quoted many times, Brené Brown. And she says...
“Connection is why we’re here. We’re hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering."
So if we’re into the equation thing it might look like this…
Success = happiness = Connection.
That’s a good start. But can you name a single person you’ve Connected with at work or at home or in your community that brings you ONLY happiness?
Connection does not guarantee that you’ll be happy all the time. And I’ve already stated that I’m terrible at predicting what outcomes will bring me happiness. So for those reasons I’m gonna kill happiness as part of my Success definition. It just doesn't work for me.
So all that's left is...
Success = Connection
And I've already mentioned several times that I'm not talking about random Connections. The Connections that lead to Success are with people that FIT who I am as an individual.
So this is good stuff…Connection = Success.
But it’s incomplete.
I can’t ignore all that we’ve learned from my other favorite psychologist, Frederick Herzberg. Recall that he was all about motivation at work. He said...
“a sense of personal growth and of self-actualization is the key to an understanding of positive feelings about the job”
And he pushed hard on the idea that we have a need to feel like we’re Growing. Moving forward. Progressing, sometimes painfully, toward things that matter to us.
And I’m convinced that Herzberg is dead on correct. While I can’t know what outcomes will be good for me long term, I still have a need to strive for Growth in areas that interest me. So my killer definition of Success is a combination of Growth in a direction that matters to me, and Connections with folks that FIT who I am as a person. In short…
SUCCESS = GROWTH + CONNECTION
Long term, this is an equation for a good life at work, home, and in the community. And this is the answer to the first question from above.
BACK TO THE THREE QUESTIONS
As a reminder, these are the 3 questions you should answer before investing time on this site.
1) How does this blogger define Success?
2) Can this success formula be taught, learned, and repeated or is he selling snake oil?
3) Has this blogger had enough relevant “prolonged practice” to know what he’s talking about?
You now have the answer to question #1, SUCCESS = GROWTH + CONNECTION.
As for questions two and three, I obviously believe the answers are yes and yes. But who cares what I think. Your opinion is the only one that matters when you’re trying to decide how to spend your precious time…
(This site is all about building a Map that will help me do work and life better. So at the end of each post I check in to see if any changes / insights come to mind.)
This post is about the entire reason this site and my Maps exist. Getting to know yourself so you can direct and maximize your Growth and Connection both personally and professionally.
And, secondarily, it’s about providing you some criteria for understanding who you should and shouldn’t accept as experts. Or, in Mapspeak, it’s a way to protect yourself from people that make a living selling Wrong Stories.
A SUMMER SERIES
Daniel Kahneman’s book - Thinking Fast and Slow - is my favorite Wrong Stories book. He does a great job of explaining how we come to wrong or biased conclusions. And that’s why I’m doing this series of posts covering the topics that Kahneman writes about. Here’s a list of the prior posts in the series.
# 73 - Being A Jerk Seems To Work
# 74 - A Well Timed Pizza Could Have Changed Old Red’s Life
# 75 - Does Thinking About Money Mess You Up
# 76 - Luck Can Take You To The Top But It Won't Keep You There
# 77 - Do Not Take Business Advice From Dart Throwing Monkeys
I hope you enjoy them.
***Note: This site works best when you read the posts in order. So please head to the ARCHIVE to get started.