We might have started with nothing, but we do not consider ourselves “self-made men.” We’ve been blessed with incredible role models, mentors, and diverse sets of leaders. We’ve learned as much from the advice we took as much as the advice we passed on. In this episode, we talk about the advice that truly changed our lives and offer our thoughts on how to interpret and act on advice in your career.
Also in this episode:
- The advice you don’t take can be just as powerful as that which you heed
- Most advice is based on other people’s perception and their unique strengths (not yours)
- Advice is limited to the coach’s experience
- If you’re not getting good advice, change your inner circle
- Unintentional advice is often the best kind
- Who you should talk to before a major career transition
- How to tell the difference between good and bad advice
- No one can tell you your truth
- Consider the source when offered advice; where did it get the person offering the advice?
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Advice That Changed The Course Of Our Careers
Our topic is advice that changed our lives. We’re going to talk a bit about good advice, bad advice, advice that we took, advice that we ignored on both sides, but in general, how to process advice. It’s incredibly important in someone’s career who you get the advice from and what you listen to. What do you follow? What do you believe? When to ignore it? When to follow your gut? You and I have more than enough to share on this episode that people could take a lot away from it.
I’m excited about this episode because we’re going to break it into categories. The last category is how you and I have made our bones in life. What we’ll talk about entering this thing is you’ve got to know where you are in your stage in life. My son needs to take every bit of advice I tell him because he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s so young. He sticks his fingers in things he shouldn’t. When you’re at that stage in life, you need to listen to the guidance to keep yourself alive. When you get to be a little bit older, my wife will tell stories about her dad and her dad was wild. She remembers being eight and thinking, “That’s not good advice and that’s bad parenting.” My wife is smart so she didn’t say this to her dad. She told me this years later. You have to know where your stage is in life. Opinions are out there and everyone got them.
Frank, I’m going to stand up for one second before we kick this off. When you bring up an eight-year-old, my son is nine and I’ve been coaching him in baseball for several years. He’s getting to the point where he knows his baseball swing better than I do. He’s getting to a point where sometimes my advice sucks. There are times where I’ll say, “I’d be looking to jump on the first strike. You see this kid hasn’t thrown a lot of good pitches.” Afterward, he doesn’t, he gets a big hit. He comes around later and says, “Dad, I didn’t like that advice. I want to see one first.”
I’m like, “It worked. If you ever feel like any advice I give you is not good, you’re hitting 500 this year. I never hit 500 in the Little League. You should go with your gut. Tell me when you think I said something that doesn’t make any sense.” We’re getting to that place now where he’s not taking everything I say verbatim because he’s experienced enough. At least in that. If there are some things I tell him where he believes it, but at least in hitting, he’s done enough of it now. He’s not cocky about it, but there are times where I say things to him and he says, “I don’t think that would work for me. I’m not going to do that.”
I’m glad you used the word cocky. Being cocky can make problems in your life, but if you’re prudent, smart, you think things through, and you’re open-minded, but then you pick a good data set, that is not being cocky. We’re going to talk about the bad advice we ignored. That can come down as arrogance or being cocky, but it also can be self-assured if you do it the right way. Your nine-year-old is self-assured. He knows his swing, what’s working, and what makes him comfortable as a nine-year-old. You and I have had amnesia about what it feels like to be nine. He doesn’t, he’s in it, and he’s there. He’s the one that ultimately means to swing the bat. He made a great decision based upon what he felt but it’s not an arrogant decision. It’s a well thought through and process. That’s what a lot of this comes down to with advice is being mindful of implementing it in your life because it’s your life.
There’s something you said there, Frank, that I love. It’s staying on this with confidence. He is willing to accept the consequences of not taking my advice. He is at a point where he’s confident enough to say, “I’m not going to do what dad said and I’m willing to strike out, ground out, or get out doing it my way because I believe in what I’m doing. There’s better ceiling doing it my way.” A lot of the things we’re going to talk about are you and I were willing to risk someone saying “I told you so” because we believed in ourselves. We knew that people might say, “I told you so.” In almost every example, there could have been people saying “I told you so” when we ignored them, and we were confident enough to say we don’t care about their opinion.
The difference between a five and a nine-year-old is huge, the vocabulary and everything else, but your son has been playing baseball since he was a little kid. He’s five years into this. He has his own mind because he earned it. He put in the work. I know before COVID, you were in the batting cages before 6:00 in the morning and before school. He’s earned the ability because of practice and dedication to have his own opinion. What you’re going to notice here is most of the bad advice we took, you and I were younger. We didn’t have a body of work yet. Most of the bad advice we ignored is when we started to feel our own way and be like, “That’s maybe a good advice for you, but that is not the best advice for me.”When you're young, it only takes one person of authority to say something that sticks and burns into your mind of what you can do. Click To Tweet
We’re going to start with a story about bad advice. It’s a story that I wrote about and it touched a nerve with a lot of people. In the early ‘60s, my mom went to a guidance counselor. She’s a junior in high school. They owned a music business. My grandfather did private lessons. They owned a physical store, they sold records, they did lessons there, they sold guitars, pianos, anything you could think about. It’s an old-school record shop. It had everything. Their parents were entrepreneurs. My mom’s grandfather came over from Slovakia and started an industrial business. He sold directly to Henry Ford. A cool story of a guy learning English as he learned how to run a business in America.
All of my mom’s influences as a child were around entrepreneurs. That’s all she was around. She was never around someone who had a 9:00 to 5:00 job working for someone else. She wanted to go that path. She was excited about that path and she went to a guidance counselor. It’s not exactly a woke culture in the early ‘60s, and this guy said, “Why would you go into business? You’re a woman. You’ll never make it. I’m telling you the truth. This might hurt but it’s better someone tells you now. You should think about being a teacher, a nurse or a nun.” There were no other options. Those are the three things that he offered my mom for her future.
At that time, she wasn’t the most confident person. She wasn’t the person she is now. My mom is a confident person, but she’s in high school and this is a person of authority telling her that that’s a bad idea to go into business. She didn’t want to be a nun or nurse. She said, “I’ll be a teacher.” She became one of the best teachers. She won multiple awards. She became a Principal and Administrator but it took her 40 years to retire to decide, “I still have that business itch.” For the past several years, my mom has been selling jewelry for Stella & Dot, and she’s one of their best. She’s like a brand ambassador. They use her in their marketing.
She gets invited to all of their President’s Club trips. She has a real knack for marketing, sales, and business. She spent 40 years doing something based on someone’s opinion. She ignored her own gut which said, “I have what it takes to be in business.” She listened to him, took that advice, and it changed her life. Now she did great things. She doesn’t have regret. She doesn’t mope around about it but what if that guy would have said, “Go for it, you could do it. Here are a few ideas.” Where did that direction come from? Was he coming from a good place? It could have been his values. I don’t know if he was trying to be sadistic or hurtful in any way. That was his opinion and she took it as gospel. She took it like that must be the facts and think about how that changed her life by taking one person’s opinion.
Our parents’ ages are similar. That was the era where that was how it was. How it was is this, your mom is a woman. She couldn’t have been a business owner based upon almost everyone’s thoughts back then. The other thing about it is I don’t know if this is socioeconomic, cultural time, or a combination of both. We used to put a lot of value as a society in people’s opinions who are in a guidance counselor’s office because they were guidance counselors. Let’s fast forward, if Madison goes in and someone tells her, “You can’t be a business owner.” Madison is going to come home, have a conversation with you, and you’re going to be like, “No, if that’s what you want to do, you’re going to do it.” I don’t know if we graduated to a place where our grandparents weren’t, which is part of it. We have slightly more sophisticated outlooks because of our education and our careers. The #BlackLivesMatter thing is huge. It’s going on everywhere. I’m going to use a weird analogy. I am not a soccer guy. I have a football body. I grew up playing football.
In 2006, the US is getting its ass kicked in the World Cup in soccer. There’s a kid that worked with us at that time, he was in sales, and he was a soccer guy. I’m like, “We suck at soccer.” This was when Reggie Bush was the most amazing player on Earth. He goes, “Can you imagine if someone stuck a soccer ball between Reggie Bush’s legs when he was three, and everybody in America had a soccer ball put in front of them, how great we would be nationally?” That’s the thing. The whole thing with the #BlackLivesMatter, your mom, and sexism, it’s real. If we could figure out how to give people the outlet and how to rally, if we cared about being good at soccer, we could. If that guidance counselor had a different mindset about, “I need to talk to Chris and tell her this. What’s best for you? Do you believe in it? It’s a hard road. You’ve got the skillset.”
If we had people who promoted that way, think about how much different our individuals would be as a society. We always have these people who were shitting on us. In many instances, they don’t even realize they’re doing it. That’s where the advice comes from in all instances. I’m successful and I don’t give a shit what most people tell me because they are less good at managing their time and doing a lot of the things that I’m good at, and I’ve got a system that works. As a seventeen-year-old kid, as a minority, you don’t have the confidence so you listen to this crap and it slows you down.
Frank, I don’t know this is just a ‘60s thing. I don’t think most people would say that a guidance counselor, whatever advice you get from them is the law. We put too much weight into professors, coaches, teachers, and parents. Think about all the influences you have. It only takes one person of authority when you’re young to say something that sticks and burns into your mind of what you can do. I love where you’re going with that take. For leaders out there, if you’re a leader in an organization, a coach of any kind, a teacher, or you’re in a position where your job is to have influence, you have to be incredibly careful not to give advice based on your insecurities, self-confidence, strengths and weaknesses.
You have to be careful not to blurt when someone tells you they have a dream or have something that they believe they can do. It’s incumbent on anyone who has that power and influence to talk through those things with them. You have to be a realist. You can’t tell them that it’s going to be easy, but if someone comes and tells me they want to be a professional soccer player and they’re young enough, I’m not going to say that’s impossible. I’m going to say, “How hard are you willing to work? How much are you willing to give up? What are you willing to sacrifice?” It’s incumbent on us not to pigeonhole people based on our insecurities which is usually where advice starts.
This is going to lead to your story about growing up in Detroit. I’m going to tell my story. You and I are best friends and we don’t know all these little details about each other because we don’t talk about it. I’m a third-generation American born in my dad’s family. Money in my granddad’s house, my dad’s dad’s house, was tight. He’s a first-generation immigrant. He didn’t have a college education and high school education. He was an electrician. He held a second job as a police officer. He’s a hardworking man, six kids, families were bigger back then. I can remember conversations that started at that house and it was all the siblings, my aunts and uncles.
There were two paths to not having money troubles. It was being an attorney or be a doctor. Those were the two paths. I remember as a kid, I had an attorney an uncle and he was good at it. I was like, “I suck at chemistry but I’m going to ignore that. I’m not smart with this stuff but I could be a doctor because I like kids.” That’s what I look forward to be. I want to be a pediatrician. I don’t think we’ve ever talked about this, but I wasn’t qualified. It didn’t fit within my skillset. Organic chemistry weeded me out. This advice that I had heard for years, the talk track of people who I looked up to as a younger person, they’re like, “These are the paths.” They aren’t the only paths. I know you have a similar story.
Those paths are based on average salary. It was well-intentioned advice but in their mind, they knew that those people make the most money. They drive the nicest cars. They probably didn’t even have good data like we have now. They just knew that if you have those two jobs, you seem to be living in a nicer house than the rest of us.
It’s like a guidance counselor. The guidance counselor had to get that job. Your aunt or uncle is older than you and they’re spouting out from what they think, but they’re not educated. They don’t know who you are or what is best for you. Looking back as 10 or 15 years old, that’s ridiculous. As a 15 or 10-year-old kid, you’re looking up to people who are titans of your youth and you look up to them, and you think they walk on water, that negative talk and wrong guidance. Wrong thinking can set you up down the wrong path. One of the things that we’re going to talk about a lot in this is having a lot of inputs. You must have a lot of inputs, but you also need to have a filter and you need to have the self-confidence to pick and choose what it is that you think you need to do that’s best for you.
We’re starting off with advice to change their lives. I would put this a bit in the bad advice column for who I am as a person. When you grow up in Detroit, even the best-intentioned advice is based on folks that largely haven’t left Detroit for their whole life. My parents wanted me to do something better than be a steelworker. That’s good and well-intentioned. My mom has a degree and is an educator. Both of my parents wanted me to go to college. The time you’re five, there was never a doubt you’re going to college.The negative talk, wrong guidance, and wrong thinking can set you up down the wrong path. Click To Tweet
You’re going to go to college and get a degree that’s life-changing. In Detroit, even getting the degree, my parents struggled to think of all the different things you could do with the degree. It was, “Get a degree. We know that that’s going to pay better. It’s going to give you more stability. We don’t want to see you doing backbreaking shifts in a crappy steel mill like your dad and your grandpa did.” The path was, “You’re smart. You’re good at math so you’ll be an engineer.” It always ties back to the auto industry.
This wasn’t just my parents. This was everyone in my high school. When you grow up in Michigan, you’re going to go to college and get a degree that will get you a good job at Ford, GM, or Chrysler, or one of their big suppliers. Everything tied back to what people knew in the area. The only thing in Detroit in the ‘80s and ‘90s was auto. It’s changing a bit but that was a big downfall. If you were ambitious at school, worked hard, studied, and had decent grades, your option was to get a college degree so you could work in the auto industry and stay in Michigan.
If you were not and if you were mechanically inclined, took auto shop or woodshop. If you like to tinker, then your option was to go work for the union, get a trade, be an electrician, plumber, but somehow find a good, solid paying job with the union where you have good benefits. Nowhere in growing up was an option ever to leave Michigan because jobs have been dying for twenty years. That never got brought up.
It was either get a degree so you can keep doing the same things in Detroit or get a trade so you can keep doing the same things in Detroit. Out of all the kids that graduated in my senior class, only a handful even left Michigan to go to college. It was Michigan State or some of the smaller schools that were in Michigan. Me going to a school in Indiana was shocking that I was going to Purdue and leave the state. That was never part of it. There were more people that took German in my high school than Spanish. Not a lot of people took Spanish even though Spanish was much more prevalent in America, but because in Michigan, you took German because of BMW and Mercedes. That was the big other power centers in the world. They didn’t have Japanese or that would have been one that we were taking.
They even took German because people were already thinking ahead that as an engineer, you’d be making trips to Germany one day and this will help your career to work in the auto industry in Detroit. I don’t know that that was ever a direct advice. Some of that was an assumption of what you’re going to do because this is where you live. There was never, “Go start your business and move somewhere. You could live in New York, California, or Europe. You could get into sales or start a business.” There was none of that talk. I had no influences like that.
In many instances, bad advice isn’t bad advice that is willfully bad advice. It’s well-intentioned but it’s bad advice. I was born and grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts and it’s a dying town. It used to service the motorcycle, the tobacco, and all these industries that are going away. There are not a lot of things there. My dad moved to Florida when I was five. My whole family moved away because my dad saw more opportunity in Florida for himself and then ultimately for us. That’s part of it. What I’ve learned in life is the people who give you the most advice, they usually should give you the least. The people who talk the most are always the ones who have no fucking business talking. When you’re a kid you think, “My auntie or our family friend is so charismatic.” Those things don’t always go together.
It’s hard to be drawn to the charismatic person and you put a lot of stock in what they say. They don’t deserve to have that much room and space in your head. What you said about geography is important because where you are and who you’re surrounded by, especially as a younger person, you can’t control. If you’re smart, which I wasn’t but if you can test into a magnet school or something like that and get around smarter kids and you’re not in the right location, that could help. Who you surround yourself with matters because you’re going to hear things and chatter. Who you choose to put around you is huge. When you’re in an influenced period in your life while you’re developing, you don’t get a lot of choice with that. You have to know how to block things out.
What’s some bad advice that you took? I took this bad advice. For me, it was bad advice. I didn’t love engineering, but I went and got an engineering degree. I took German classes. I proceeded along. My internships were all based on me getting a job with one of the big three. I took automotive internships all through college. I was on that path until I broke it a bit. What are some bad advice you took early?
The biggest bad advice I took early was going to the University of Florida and thinking that I was going to be a doctor. It took me five years to graduate from college. I spent the first two years in the wrong major. I had to start over. My GPA sucks. I was working hard as hell, but I was not qualified to be in the classes I was in. It was very hard.
That advice was all based on money. It wasn’t based on what would Frank enjoy doing with his life.
I’m introspective and I think about things a lot. Ian is the same way. What happened with bad advice, for me, sitting down and writing down what was bad advice, it’s hard to come up with it because it got me here. You and I talked about what were the things you would do differently in the whole show. It built the shell that I have and this is where I’m at. I can’t spend a ton of time in the hypotheticals because it isn’t prudent to do. I have learned and built the skill to know, are you giving me advice that I should take an act on? First and foremost, who are you? What are your qualifications? I don’t mean to be a jerk but if you want to give me advice about things, I’d like to know why you think you’re qualified.
That’s the kind of thing that starts to happen. George Carlin had a funny skit that I love. He’s like, “This guy is full of shit.” You have to know if the person you’re talking to is just a fun person to have beers with or is this someone you need to hunker down and have advice with. I’ll close this out with this. You know some of my best friends and you’re one of them. You know the people I rely on business-wise, my family and my wife. That’s the place where I come for advice. I have a well-chosen group. You’ve seen friends of mine come and go, and I’ve seen friends of yours, acquaintances, or business people come and go. They had good advice for a while but it wasn’t good advice anymore. That’s part of it. It’s part of the evolution.
There’s bad advice that we took. You would agree that both of us were here because we got a lot more good advice than bad. We’re fortunate. There are a lot of people that grew up in circumstances where all they get is bad advice. They have no role models. They don’t have people to watch and listen to, to get it. I was blessed with amazing teachers, coaches, parents, family and friends. I had role models. In no way do I think I’m a self-made individual. I was surrounded by good advice. It’s funny, I led with bad advice.Who you surround yourself with matters because you're going to hear things and chatter. Click To Tweet
Some of the best advice my mom gave me was at one point in college, I was thinking about dropping out of engineering school. It was hard as hell. It was difficult. The classes were a pain in the ass. Part of it was an effort. I was having more fun in my fraternity than I was in engineering school. My mom was like, “What are you going to do?” I said, “I don’t know. I’d be a great teacher. You’ve been a good teacher.” It was the only time she ever gave me blunt advice where she’s like, “No.” She went into why, “It doesn’t pay. You’re going to live a hard grinding life like me. You’re going to get a whole bunch of degrees and no one is going to appreciate you. You have such a higher ceiling for what you can do to provide for your family.” She was strict and direct, “We’re not having a discussion and you’re not going to be a teacher.”
It’s interesting when I look back at it, I didn’t know the story about her guidance counselor. I didn’t know that until a few years ago. My mom told me all of that deep-seated stuff. Part of the advice she was giving to me at that moment was someone told her that’s all she could be. It was like, “I’ll be damned if you’re going to go down a path that I felt was my only path, when I know you could do anything you want in the world, and you’re going to pigeonhole yourself like I was.” It’s interesting looking back on that advice because at that time I was like, “Why is mom being such a hardass? She loves teaching. She’s good at it.” When I look at that advice, that was coming from a place that was deep inside of her of, “Don’t limit yourself like that.”
Every bit of advice from a person other than yourself comes from that other person’s perspective. It’s hard to completely understand everyone’s perspective if it’s one of your best friends, your mom or spouse. Everybody’s got their own perspective. You didn’t know the deep-seated reasons until much later. That was a damn good advice and she cared about you. She didn’t need to go into the explanation. I can’t go forward without saying this first. I have incredible parents. I grew up with people who loved me and cared about me that were involved and active in my life, not meddlesome but incredibly involved to make sure I had the support I needed. I know not everyone has that. That’s a huge start in the right direction. With that came tons of good advice like, “Show up and close on time, be reasonable and reliable, do what you say you’re going to do, be honest and ethical, have core values.” Those are things that are drilled into my brain as child.
The foundational pieces came from that and because I had that, I quickly started to be able to decipher what is and what is not good advice. Good advice can come in all kinds of packages. Someone could tap you on the shoulder and give you some advice, but someone else could accidentally stumble into what becomes good advice for you. I was no older than 30 and I was getting promoted to be a Vice President. I left Florida and moved to Virginia. Everybody thought I was an idiot but I did it anyways. I found a job that suited me that I knew I could stand out in, and I could distinguish myself in my career. I’m like, “This fits me well.”
It fit me incredibly well. I picked the right job. There were a lot of naysayers and people thought I was crazy. I’m 30 years old. I’ve been there 6, 7 years that my path was incredibly fast. I’m having dinner with my boss, my boss’s boss, and dear friends of Ian and mine. We were at a bar and I was facing my boss’s boss. Behind my boss’s boss was the guy that owned the town I was in. This guy is a big deal. I don’t know if he’s a billionaire but he’s close. He was out and having fun. It was a lively environment. Here we are celebrating this huge accomplishment I got anointed into.
A man who has been living this path for 25 years says at this dinner to the gentleman behind him, “I could have had his life if I wasn’t so risk-averse.” I’m sitting there eating my food, my expensive dinner, and we’re having a celebratory night. I’m thinking this is the path I’m going about to get on for the next 25 years of my life. I’m going to work my ass off. I’m going to grind. I’m going to help this company grow, and 25 years from now, I’ll be sitting here telling some other young kids, “I wish I’d followed my passions because I wish I had that guy’s life.”
He wasn’t trying to give you advice, was he? He was just musing.
No, the guy behind him was having fun. He was young and he was with a hot chick. He owned the town. You could tell that there was a buzz around that table. We were three dudes having dinner. This guy is a big deal and there was a palpable buzz about it. It wasn’t advice. It was one of those things where I said nothing. I told him the story years later and I quit that job 36 months or less after that moment. It’s like, “What the hell am I doing here?” I made sure I made enough moves that I was ready to quit. I’m like, “I don’t want the next quarter-century of my life to look like this.”
Suddenly, you found out your role model had regrets. He wasn’t confident in the path he took and you were following the exact path that he is admitting to having regrets from, which could be powerful.
One of the things that we keep talking about is the influence of role models. Role models are your grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, and coaches. As you get into your career, role models become bosses, but they’re all flawed. Everyone had their own path and has regrets. What you start to learn is how do you pick these things out of the carcass, how do you make the right decisions for you, and what aren’t they telling you? In a moment of vulnerability, they might tell you something that gives you the keys. That was a huge gift and it was an unintentional gift.
Inadvertently, that changed your path. A lot of times in business, we get on an automatic track and sometimes you need those path interruptions that stop you. They’re jarring. It’s like a bucket of cold water that wakes you out of whatever slumber or sleepwalk that you’ve got. That’s one of those moments. You have to be intentional when you’re seeking advice out. When I was getting ready to leave GE and NVR, I didn’t talk to people who were there because they had a vested interest in me staying and they hadn’t left. I knew their advice was going to be, “Stay, be here with me.”
It’s like when you drop a bunch of crabs into a net and one starts to get out. They all start to pull the crabs back in that’s trying to get away because they want them there with them. It’s not even mean-spirited, it’s more what’s right for them must be right for someone else because they’ve made their choice to stay. There was no one at NVR that I was going to tell that I’m considering leaving, not even the most trusted person that I had at NVR was going to hear. When I left both those places, people were shocked like, “You seem you’re having a great time. You’re doing well and making money. What was going on?”
Who did I talk to? I talked to you and I talked to MacCauley. Two other people who left NVR. When I left GE, I talked to MacCauley and I talked to one other guy, another manager who had left GE because I wanted to know, “Are you still confident in the decision that you made? Tell me how you made the decision.” I didn’t want to talk to people who hadn’t made that decision. I know what it’s like to not make that decision. Why would I bother? I’ve been there for thirteen years and six years. Why would I need to talk to other people who hadn’t made the decision? I know why I hadn’t made a decision and all of the reasons to stay.
I’m going to talk to someone else who’s going to give me all the same reasons. Talking to you mattered. It could have made me pause if you said, “Think hard about this before you do it.” You didn’t give me advice that way. You asked a lot of questions but you weren’t like, “Are you nuts? How much money do you have in stock options?” You didn’t do any of that. You didn’t get into the money. You just asked a lot of questions. Between the two of you and multiple conversations, you didn’t give a lot of advice, but you made me feel comfortable that my worst fears were not about to happen if I went through with it. By the time I had talked to you and Mac, I made my decision. My gut was where it needed to be, but it did help me to have some people tell me my worst fears weren’t going to matriculate.Every bit of advice from a person other than yourself comes from that other person's perspective. Click To Tweet
You’re making a huge move. I don’t need to put your financials on display here, but we’re talking about 7, 8 figures you left on the table.
It was eight-figures.
For those of you that aren’t good at math, that’s more than $10 million. It’s not an insignificant amount of money. When a friend of yours called you up and said, “Let’s talk about me quitting.” Here’s the difference between good advice, bad advice, and great advice. I knew what was at stake. I knew that I was being asked to listen and weigh in. The way that bad advice happens is the person starts blabbing. Good advice typically comes from, “Tell me about it. What’s happening? What’s going on?” Everything we’ve talked about with bad advice and this entire episode has been about people who don’t understand you. Good advice usually comes from people who try to understand where is this person at?
We have a track record. We know each other. Where are you at? Why are you here? What are you thinking? What are you going to do? You are going to leave this place where you’re important and that’s going to go away. Have you considered that? I had done it. I left the C-suite and have been everything from janitor to CEO. It’s a lonely place. We talked a bit about all of those things. It’s a nice place to get to if you can make the decision the way Ian did. The best advice I’ve ever got has always been not just one-off nuggets. It’s conversations and things that are a slow boil over time, where you have real confidence that you can go to.
It was important for me to talk to folks that had my best interest in mind and didn’t have an agenda. That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t talk to people with my company because they have an agenda. Whether I was talking to someone who reported to me or who was above me, I was either making the company money or keeping it stable, or someone on the home builder side, they trusted me. They had confidence in me, or someone who reported to me didn’t want a new boss. There was no one to talk to.
You have to talk to some people that you trust outside. You know they have your best interest in mind, and they’re going to try to keep their own lens out of it. People that have your best interest in mind give good advice. We ignore good advice sometimes from people that have our best interest in mind. Sometimes, you’ve got to learn hard lessons in life. You have to step out and get smashed. If that person does have your best interests in mind, they’re not going to be the “I told you so” person. They’re not going to do that. They’re not going to go rub it in and say, “I gave you different advice. You ignored it. You’re reaping what you sow.” They wanted the best for you in the first place. They don’t need to do that thing.
My dad is someone we both look up to and is awesome. This is one of the more important moments in the history of my life. I went to the University of Florida. My parents live four hours South, and I’m going from Gainesville, middle of the State of Florida to Virginia. I’m down seeing them. I go to my apartment and drive, pack my crap, and move to Virginia. My dad says two things, “Frank, I’m proud of you. It’s a big step. I hope you make it and everything works out the way that you want it to work out. If it doesn’t, there is no shame in coming back. We will welcome you with open arms.” That’s what I needed to hear. “If it isn’t what you think, you don’t have to gut it out, but we support you.” That’s incredible advice. It was compassionate from someone who didn’t show me a lot of that as a kid. It was topical and relevant. Everything was right about what it was that he said to me. It was that moment where I felt like I can do this and I can thrive, but I also have a rip cord if I need to pull it.
He’s giving you the freedom to go chase what you want to chase, to try and create the future you want to create. There will be no judgment. One way or another, he supports you, “Do what you feel is best and we’re here if it doesn’t work.” At that age, that’s what you need to hear. That’s what you want. You don’t want him to tell you what to do at that moment. Let’s wrap this up with bad advice that we ignored. Good advice is all around us and we’re fortunate if we have it, but how to ignore bad advice and go with what our gut says is critical. I can go through a bunch of these.
I go get an engineering degree from Purdue University. It’s a top-five engineering school. It’s expensive. I have an engineering degree. I learned through my four internships that I couldn’t stand engineering. A bit like you with the doctor. Four engineering internships and I’m like, “Forty years I’m going to sit in a cubicle and draft and engineer, maybe I’ll be a manager of engineers or a manager of managers of engineers.” The more I thought about it, I couldn’t stand it. I hated it. I was fascinated by the sales guys that came in and out of the office in these internships. I looked up to them. They were extroverts. They were more like me. I saw myself in them. They look to be having fun. When they told me about their job, it was endlessly interesting to me.
When I told other engineers and folks, “I’m thinking of getting a sales job.” The advice was, “What are you doing that for? You don’t need a college degree to get into sales.” That’s their lens. They’re picturing people with high school degrees that went and sold cars or widgets. That’s true. You don’t need a degree to sell, but in their mind, they immediately thought you wasted four years of your life. You got a tough degree, and you’re going to go into sales. Most advice I got was, “That’s nuts.” I was getting that advice from other people with degrees, other people in engineering, and folks that didn’t understand how you can make a career path out of sales.
I wasn’t taking any sales job. I was going to work at GE in the Technical Sales Leadership Program. At that time, that’s the number one sales program in the world under Jack Welch, and still people were like, “What are you doing that for?” I was like, “It’s like getting an MBA in sales.” No one quite understood that. I get to GE and people right away are already saying, “When are you getting your MBA?” These are higher up executives in GE. Everyone from general manager and above had their MBA from some Ivy League school. “GE will pay for it. Let me show you the program.” I had no interest in more college. I had done more college than I wanted to. I have no interest in ever taking another college course again. Since they had got an MBA and that was their path, they were pressing it on you.
Some of that was a little selfish because they knew that if I got an MBA and the company paid for it, I was less likely to leave. That worked for them because I owed the company money in some way, in some misbegotten loyalty. Everyone is pushing me to get an MBA. I’m like, “I don’t want to do that. What if I want to make a shitload of money without getting an MBA? I don’t want more college.” I’m on this technical sales program, and there were twenty of us that started on this program. I weaseled my way to get an offer in the Chicago office, which is where Jenny lived, my girlfriend at the time. I wanted to live in Chicago where all of my friends lived. If I didn’t go after this, I might not be available in a year.
I was only one year into a two-year program. Everyone on GE was like, “You can’t get off the program. If you get off the program, there’s no guarantee that you’re protected. You won’t have the certificate you get for the Technical Sales Program. You’ll be coming off. Your career path will slow.” Who was giving me that advice? The leader of the technical sales program, the other eighteen kids that were on the technical sales program, managers who had graduated from the technical sales program. People that were risk-averse are like, “If you don’t sell, you’ll be out. You’ll be like anyone else in this company.” I was like, “Screw you, I’m ready. I don’t need another year. I’m confident. I believe in myself. I’m the best salesperson out of all twenty of us on this program. I’m coming off the program and if it doesn’t work, I’m good. I’ll find a job somewhere else.”
When I look at all of the bad advice that I got from people, it was all based on their insecurities, their lens, experiences, decisions they wouldn’t make, their risk tolerance, not mine, their ambition, which was lower than mine. The vast majority of the time, people giving me bad advice have significantly lower ambition than me. My ambition was burning way higher and that meant I was willing to take risks they were not. I was willing to leave everybody in the Midwest and go to DC to work in an industry I’d never been in. It might not work but I believe that I could do it. Who were the people giving me that advice? They were the people that couldn’t see themselves taking the same risks.Sometimes getting pushed or putting yourself in the position to get pushed is going to get you further. Click To Tweet
It’s funny because you and I have not talked about a lot of this stuff, but I have the exact same story about leaving the University of Florida. We’re going to work for Ryan. It wasn’t real construction. It was mass-produced houses. On a normal construction site, you’re using 5,000, 6,000 PSI concrete and you’re using number eleven bar. Ryan used concrete that was essential like the Sakrete, which is not concrete. The rebar was number three. It was like a toothpick, but I didn’t give a shit about building huge monuments.
What I wanted to do is I wanted a career where I could grow, I had a path and a way to get into management. I wanted to be a leader inside of an organization. I didn’t want to build structures. I had professors laugh at me. It didn’t stop them from asking me for money before I graduated, “Don’t forget to give us money.” I had people threaten me like, “I’ll fail you out of this class because you’re missing too much time for your job interviews, but write us a check.” In all seriousness, I looked at it and I learned this from my parents and the stuff I had learned. This is my life and this is my moment. I already took the wrong major and I sucked at it. I’m not doing that for my career.
I’m going to pick the career where I can distinguish myself. I want to go there. This place talked about a work-life balance, hiring English and business majors to build houses. This place said, “We’ll cross-train you in sales.” I knew I was going to work my ass off. I’d rather work my ass off where everybody else has a work-life balance. I’m going to stand out. I already know construction. I’m going to fly up the ranks. I won in every sales contest I’ve been in since I was five. I want to go there, work and learn how to sell in a corporate structure, and see if I’m as good as I think. That was the stuff that I knew.
This all comes back to the people who are giving you this crap. Some of it isn’t advice, it’s just noise. You’ve got to learn how to tune out that noise. You’ve got to learn to be like, “My moral compass and my belief is here.” You had it. I didn’t even realize you left a management track to go sales. I knew that you move. It’s almost like you’re downgrading, but you’re downgrading because you’re like, “Fuck it. If I go over there when the rails are off, I can push.” Sometimes getting pushed or putting yourself in the position to get pushed is going to get you further. That’s the stuff guys like us want. We want a challenge and say, “I’m going to prove to you I’m not going to fail.”
Four years later after I made that decision, all of the trainees that had been on that program that stayed at GE reported to me. They reported to me a couple of layers below because what they learned quick is you can’t be a sales manager if you can’t sell. I went and sold, kicked ass at it, made a name for myself, and got promoted to manage other salespeople. That fear they had was so unfounded. It came down to the fact that they were more risk-averse than me. They wanted protection and I didn’t give a damn about that. I just wanted to kick ass. Wrapping this up, there are four big points of this that we’ve talked about. One is to be careful who you take advice from, even if it’s well-intentioned. Pick people that have gone places that you want to go. Pick people that have this similar ambition and risk tolerance, but be careful who you take advice from.
Don’t let one person overly influence you. I don’t care if it’s your dad or a guidance counselor, don’t let the opinion of one person influence decisions that you make that will impact the rest of your life. Seek out lots of opinions from different minded people that have had different experiences in life, so that you can make a decision that works for you because one person should never have that influence and control over you.
Let’s talk about this quickly, what I had in my notes on the wrap is get lots of inputs. Let’s say you’re a high school kid or college kid. Where can you get lots of inputs? You have friends, fraternity brothers, or sorority sisters, people in your major. I had a part-time job starting in tenth grade. I had a boss there. He respected me. I was low on the totem pole because I was a young kid. He would pull me aside and we can talk about things. I had a football coach. I had aunts and uncles who were successful. Instead of saying, “Be a doctor, do this.”
I would ask more pointed questions as I got older like, “What do you think about this? I’m considering this, what are your thoughts?” You start to take over the narrative. It goes from being noise, and as you get older and a bit more mature, you control what advice you’re getting. You’re asking the questions and you’re picking the people. To Ian’s point, don’t be self-isolating. If you could have inputs from different walks of life, that is critical because you’re going to get different pieces of advice that you hadn’t considered.
If those voices are overly negative, or if those voices are coming from people that have not reached a level of success that your ambition wants to take you to, put them out, mute them, and find new voices. I agree with you in all the areas where you can go find someone. Frank, the other thing is we’re more connected than ever. Someone on LinkedIn told me they were going for their third round of interviews and they were nervous. This is a random person who happens to follow my writing and asked me a few questions. I said, “Why don’t we jump on a call?” I spent twenty minutes on the phone with her saying, “Here’s what I’d be thinking if I was interviewing you.” She reached out. That’s all it takes. Most people will help.
Not only this show, but there are many things at your fingertips now that we didn’t have as kids that are there. You can educate yourself, get a book, reach out to different people, and go online. I didn’t even think about that. That’s a great point.
If you’re not as lucky as us to have had a lot of good influences around, go find them. Don’t be a victim. You can either complain about the rest of your life and say, “I wasn’t lucky,” or you can seek them out and find them. The third is don’t dismiss advice from experienced people that you respect. Just as you didn’t immediately give me advice, you also shared some things with me that at first made me stop and think. They were a little different than what I was thinking, but I didn’t dismiss them outright right then. I promised myself that I would sleep on them. Some of the things I came back to, I had more questions for you. I’m thinking of changing my mind and making a big decision. At first, some of your thoughts didn’t jive with the way I was thinking. They were different from what I had been living that I couldn’t get my head around it, but I respected you. I needed different inputs and I knew it. Be careful not to have your confirmation bias on. Seek out opinions that you know will differ from what other people are saying, and don’t dismiss them outright if initially, they sound a little shocking with that advice.
From a clarity standpoint, this is what that looks like. Ian had asked me because we worked at the same company. We both had high-level jobs. When you quit, what were some of the struggles? Some of the struggles are not the things that you would think about. We talked about those things and I’m like, “I don’t know if you’ll go through this, but I did.” I was honest about it because it was how I did it. This is the difference between good advice and bad advice. Bad advice is, “Go do this.” Good advice is, “Ian, I’m not sure if this is how you’re going to experience this, but this is how it affected me. This was my path. Yours might be different, but these were the things I struggled with being in a similar position to you.” I shut up and Ian would ask, “What did you do?” We would talk about that. That, to me, is crafted advice which is a lot better than bad.
No one can tell you your truth. All you can do is share your truth, “Let me tell you how I felt in a similar circumstance. Let me tell you about a decision that worked for me in that circumstance. Let me tell you about what I struggled with.” It’s not, “Let me tell you what you’re going to struggle with. Let me tell you how you’re going to feel.” That’s bullshit. You don’t know that. They’re not you. They’re a different person. We’re all different. The best advice sometimes is to share what was going on inside your head when you were in a similar circumstance. To be honest, it might be totally different for you. You and I happen to think a lot alike, so a lot of the things are comparable, but there are a lot of things you and I are different on. You never told me, “Here’s exactly what’s going to happen to you,” because some things were different for me.
You did what we said. You got a lot of inputs and you’re going to talk about next, being true to yourself, and having self-confidence, the two points we were going to wrap up with. That’s what it takes. You get a lot of inputs and you decide. You usually do the wrap, but being true to what you want and having the self-confidence to believe in it. It’s like getting married. For me, it feels that way. It’s a leap of faith. You think you’re making the right choice. I made a great choice. It was true to what I wanted but I didn’t ask for confirmation from others. I had the self-confidence that I was making a good choice based on a lot of other things. Business-wise, it’s the same way. One of the things we didn’t talk about was a banker told me not to buy something, and I went and did it. I knew deep down that I was right. You can’t be arrogant. We talked about that. It’s critical. At some point, you’ve got to cut the rip cord and go.
The marriage example is a good one. Even when you start to date someone and you start sharing with people like, “This might be the one.” A lot of people are going to go along with it. Some people are going to be like, “Are you sure? I don’t see you guys in the long-term.” You’re like, “What the hell is that?” The only thing that matters is your gut. Whoever is giving you that advice is not going to live with that person for the next 50 years of their life, but you are. No one is you. You have to go into any advice you get from no matter how much you respect the person. At the end of the day, no one will live with your decisions but you. You’re the only person who lives with every decision of your life, in your career and your personal life. You have to trust yourself at some point. You have to trust your gut and be careful not to be overly influenced by all the voices of people trying to help you. Whether it’s a good intention or not, you have to trust yourself. No one is you and no one can give you perfect advice. They can’t give you perfect advice because they can’t know how you’re feeling.
This is probably a different episode. The last thing I’m going to contribute to note is this. There’s a quote attributed to George Washington. It goes something along these lines, “The only bad decision is no decision.” What we’re telling you with advice is to seek advice, listen, filter, make a decision. If you made bad advice, I was in the wrong major. Ian was in the wrong program. That’s when you recalibrate and you go through the process again. You seek advice then you make another decision. That’s what life is. Life is a series of decisions stacked on top of themselves. The beautiful thing about where we live and what we get to do is we get to control a lot of that stuff when others don’t. That’s great. Even for people who think they have to figure it out, it always feels like a work in progress because that’s what it is. There is a constant process here. This is not something that you do once and it ends.
That’s a good wrap. We jumped the shark. We’ve hammered it home. This has been a fantastic episode. Frankie, it’s good to see you.
We had a lot of fun. Thank you.