“Be a selective listener. Listen to the voices of value that have experience, ideas, reputation; something valuable to share” ~ Jim Rohn
I’ve come to use Jim Rohn’s great expression, “Voices of Value” a lot over the last 10 years after I heard him use it in one of his presentations.
Jim Rohn’s view was that some voices you hear, will offer valuable counsel. Their advice will positively influence you, and help keep you on track.
Other voices will offer advice that will get you in trouble. Lead you astray. Confuse you and keep you from your mission. Sink you outright.
Usually bad advice is obvious. Evident. You can immediately tell. What and who you are listening to and what that person is saying is just plain wrong.
When someone tells you to literally walk off the edge of a cliff, or to drive with your eyes closed, or drink a glass full of bleach, its not hard to see through that bad advice, and to reject or ignore it.
Its fairly easy to walk away from those types of situations and people.
Those are the hard shoves. Easy to see and feel. It’s a SHOVE. Hard push. You can feel it, and immediately decide to accept or reject it.
But many times the advice is subtle. It comes wrapped in a package, and it is difficult, if not impossible to determine that you are being influenced. You just can’t tell how dangerous it is.
The people giving this kind of advice are storytellers.
Now there are both good and bad storytellers. But let’s focus on the bad ones for now.
Stories entice and pull you in. The storytellers draw you in with a great story, and subtly convince you to follow. At face value, the even the bad storyteller seems credible. They appear to be successful. What they are saying and recommending seems to be great advice. The story seems plausible.
These stories are the subtle nudges. The storyteller nudges you ever so slightly with the story. An inch here, a half an inch there. Until one day, because the story was full of holes, and the advice bad, you wake up and find yourself way off course. In a ditch.
The hard shove immediately throws you off course. Easy to feel, simple to discern. The dangerous quality about a series of soft and subtle nudges is that over time they have the same effect as that hard shove. But you can’t tell what’s going one until it’s too late.
Both the shoves and the series of gentle nudges place you somewhere you don’t want to be. In danger. Right on to the edge of the cliff. It’s just that with the subtle nudges, you don’t see the edge of the cliff coming. Until you are in free fall.
So Jim Rohn advises to “tune In to the voices of value and tune the others out”. Personally, throughout my career, I’ve had plenty of people surrounding me all eager to give advice. As a CEO, my challenge was in sifting through the ones worth listening to, and ignoring the others.
How can you tell the difference between a good voice and a bad voice? That’s the question that needs answering. I’m going to give you my take. Based on some real world experience.
In general, we must listen to a wide range of perspectives from a diverse set of people. Then, take time to pay attention to the still small voice inside of you. With practice, the quieter you can become, and the longer you can listen, the better listener and discerner you will become, and the better you will be able to differentiate good voices from those that offer no value.
Here’s a straightforward way to determine if a voice has value.
Determining Voices of Value in 5 Steps
Determining if someone is highly principled and has something valuable to say is not necessarily easy. If it was easy, then we would forever do away with the hucksters, shysters, carnival barkers, and Ponzi schemers. There are some really good storytellers out there. Good storytelling. Bad advice.
This is a checklist I use to get to the heart of the matter.
- Vet the people whom you believe to be potential Voices of value — look at their profiles, resumes, bios, what others say about them, the comments they get. Ask others for input about the people you are interested in.
- Monitor what these people say and what they write for a reasonable period of time to ensure consistency, integrity, ethical constancy, and concordance with your own core values.
- Drop anyone from your list of potential voices that appear at all questionable.
- Follow the voices you find valuable cautiously at first. Do not just follow the advice blindly. Credibility should take time to be established.
- Continuously monitor and evaluate what your voices say and do. Don’t hesitate to stop listening if you discover any of these voices deviating from your ethical positions and values.
Finding the Voices
Where do you find people whose thoughts, opinions, and actions you can trust? Over time I’ve come up with a strategy for identifying credible and reliable sources of value. Places where you find valuable voices.
Discovering Sources of Value
Value has two meanings.
- The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
Synonyms: worth, usefulness, advantage, benefit, gain, profit, good, help, merit, helpfulness, avail
- A person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.
Synonyms: principles, ethics, moral code, morals, standards, code of behavior
Therefore when we look for people who bring value, we are meaning high regard, benefit and worth, as well as high standards of behavior, judgment, principles and ethics.
With that dual definition in mind, I use the following approach in seeking out and tuning in voices of value.
1. Look for Professional, Socially Renowned and Recognized Experts
These are people that most everyone you talk to, admire and respect. People like Warren Buffet, Tony Robbins, or Oprah Winfrey. Sound moral compasses, solid core values and unparalleled success without sacrificing their principles.
Chances are you may never personally meet or communicate with them, but you can read and hear what they say about a variety of topics.
2. Look For People In Your Field, or With Skills You Want to Acquire
People that have the breadth and depth, doing the things you do, or want to do, extraordinarily well.
It also matters if they do those things for a living. After all, one of the hallmarks of doing things right, and of success, is that people keep coming back to a person. To continue to do business with them, and to obtain their services. There are voices of value.
3. Look at Peers or Higher Ups in Your Present Company
People that perform similar roles, or supervise the same or similar areas as you, or things you aspire to. Look for people with more time on the job, and with more experience, especially if they have worked at other places.
Above all, look for people that others look up to and hold in high regard. Those are voices of value.
4. Join Groups With Similar Affinities
These would be groups that share your common interests. For example, if you are a Human Resources professional, a group of other HR Professionals. If you are in Finance, a group of CFOs, or Professional Accountants or Economists.
If you are a Technologist, a Tech related group. If you are looking to get and stay fit, a group that espouses diet, exercise and healthy living.
You get the idea. Once you become a member, watch, listen, observe what people have to say, and how it is received. Who do people listen to and engage with the most? Who do they gravitate to? Who commands the audience and has earned respect? These are voices of value.
5. Attend Conferences or Trade Shows Featuring Sessions and Speakers and Good Content
A good speaker doesn’t have to be world renown or famous. Once upon a time, none of the world renown speakers, presenters, authors were well known. Attend their sessions. Listen. See what the audience thinks. Observe how the presenter behaves, what they say, how they say it. you just might find a voice of value you can follow in your area of interest.
And if the speaker is just starting out, you may be lucky enough to engage with them early on, before they develop such a huge following, that you are now just part of the mass.
6. Go Back To School
Physically or Virtually. Perhaps you are still attending college. Or maybe its been a while since you set foot on campus. Either way, take a look at your current or former professors and teachers. If it’s been a while, go back to that school, virtually if you can’t go physically.
What do those people stand for? What are they lecturing on? What are they saying? Writing? Publishing? Does it resonate with you and your values? Do they have a following? Are they respected? These individuals are potential voices of value.
7. Take a Fresh Look at Family Members or Circle of Close Friends
I recently re-engaged with members of my family that I had not had meaningful conversations with in quite a while. I discovered some deep thinking, interesting discussions, broad perspectives, and sound advice.
You might just discover a voice of value, or two, or three among your family members.
Using a methodical approach, you can determine who to listen to and who has a voice you can value. And you can find these voices in places you will be quite familiar with and have easy access to.
Once you understand and begin to implement these practices, it will be easier to avoid the hard shoves of bad advice, and difficult for a good storyteller with bad to gently nudge you off course.
Even then, you might find yourself in the middle of a situation where you followed some bad advice. Remember, even things that turn out wrong have value. And so do useless people. The value lies in the lessons these people and their bad advice teach us.
In the end, we can all be best served when we can find voices of value and pay attention to those voices. And tune all the others out.
As Jim Rohn once said:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Choose who you “spend time with” wisely…
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