Have you noticed a trend lately that has people jumping on the “expert” wagon? While I think hiring a coach can be a great tool to shorten your learning curve, allowing you to advance to your goals quicker, there are some cautions.  

We’ve placed certain people on pedestals as “experts” who know more than we do. In the world of conventional success, you’re supposed to listen to these experts and do what they say, whether they are business school gurus or international economists. You’re supposed to take their data, swallow their interpretations, and treat their opinions about it (and you) as gospel.

But to achieve unconventional success, you must listen less to the experts and more to yourself and those around you who see the same vision. For example, as a boy, Thomas Edison was told by a teacher that he was stupid so he should go into a field that didn’t require intelligence. He ignored that advice and went on to hold over 1,000 patents. Early in his career, Walt Disney was fired by an editor because, “he lacked imagination and had no original ideas.” Disney ignored that assessment and went on to create a multi-billion dollar animation and entertainment empire. While studying at Yale University, Fred Smith got a failing grade when he presented a business idea to his business management class at Yale. Smith ignored the grade and used the same idea (a parcel service that could deliver packages overnight) to create FedEx.   

Sometimes these “experts” are wolves hiding in sheep’s clothing. They may advise you to do things that they deem necessary to succeed. But the ends don’t justify the means.                

If you pick up the news on any given day, you’ll find another scandal where someone stole from his company, cheated his clients, or scammed the system. This kind of behavior is not only ignored but actually condoned and encouraged in some industries. “Pulling one over” on a competitor or customer is seen as clever and necessary to “get the gold.” In some arenas, people who won’t “bend the rules” or “crush the competition” are even considered weak and not aggressive enough to succeed. Whether it’s fouling the environment or ruining someone else’s life, conventional thinkers seem to accept these consequences as necessary to success. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world,” they say, and the trick is to not be the one who gets eaten.             

Unconventional success recognizes that the pie is big enough for everyone. Our real competition is with ourselves to become better than whom we were or what we produced yesterday. It’s not about competing against or crushing someone else.

Seek out experts for advice that is beyond your limitations, but be wary of anyone that requires that you follow it blindly. Listen to your own intuition. You know what’s best for you.