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Kill Your Idols

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I read a lot. Currently, Google tells me that I am subscribed to almost 500 feeds. Then there are the email newsletters. The majority of these subscriptions are for current events and what I deem to be “techy stuff,” from hardcore programming developments to fluffy social media gossip.

I read for advice, for interesting news, for insight, for expertise. The things I find useful, I pass on through Twitter. The stuff I find really useful, I “save for later” to refer to at a later date. The problem? I almost never do.

When I have a problem, especially a tech one, the first place I go to is my talkboard of choice, NotTheTalk (brought to life by the Guardian’s cruel decision to shut it’s own boards). If not, I do a spot of targeted Googling. What I don’t do is wade through all of the links to very good advice I’ve collected over the years.

And this got me thinking: despite my best intentions of reading all of this brilliant advice and implementing it on my own projects in the future, I never do. And given the amount of time I spend reading and tweeting, I probably never will. So are the gurus and experts I so slavishly read really so necessary?

Despite the fact that I have a library of links, ebooks and dead-tree books telling me how to run a business or blog or design a website, I have struck out on my own, only coming to the experts in times of crisis. And it hasn’t really hurt me. The gurus are obviously good at what they do, and are willing to share their expertise, but I can’t raise my hand honestly and say that I have followed their advice to the letter.

It can be tempting, when you see a person who is infinitely more successful and who is offering a template to the same level of wealth and success, to take their word as gospel. But while you are busy reading all of their advice and signing up to their webinars, what are you actually doing?

Being wedded to the doctrines of various experts might be good for forming a philosophy about how you want to conduct you business, but it doesn’t actually do anything for your business. If you find yourself consulting books and blogs more often than you actually put those teachings into practice, you have the same problem that I did. Stop it. Stop it right now.

Expert advice is obviously useful and has it’s place, but adhering to it slavishly can hinder and hamstring your own operations. Rather than following the instructions of the yaysayers, find out what works for you, and do that instead. Remember, if everyone is following the guru’s advice, that just means you have no competitive advantage.

[Image by mj*laflaca]


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