In the course six startup companies, I have been given a lot of advice from a lot of people. Some excellent, some awful, and all points in between. I have narrowed my filter down just to three criteria that tells me if I should listen or just smile and move on:
- You respect their achievements
- They share their mistakes openly
- They are in a place you aspire to be in the next 2-3 years.
The detail behind my criteria:
You respect their achievements – Actors and athletes often become spokespeople for products they have never used and have no knowledge of how they work. Transference of fame seems to work or they wouldn’t keep doing it. That being said I wouldn’t have Mike Tyson give me marital advice. Have their achievements relate to the area you are looking to improve.
They share mistakes openly – It not only gives them an air of humility, but it may allow you to sidestep some landmines. If you have a friend who “never loses in Vegas,” you know who I’m talking about. It’s been my experience that the people who can’t/won’t share their mistakes either don’t have enough experience or are liars.
They are in a place you aspire to be in the next 2-3 years – Any fewer and you likely know more than they do. Any more and they may skip an important step because they have done it a thousand times.
Trust is built by continuous repetition of the truth over time.