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Mountains, Molehills, and The Value of Good Advisors

How we define our circumstances can help us either solve problems or exacerbate them.

In January of 2002, Robert McNamara, who was the Secretary of Defense for John F. Kennedy, said that the decision to enter Vietnam was based on an incorrect appraisal.

Think about it. It’s estimated that over one million people lost their lives in the Vietnam Wa—all because of an “incorrect appraisal.”

I’m not making a statement about politics or peace here. That’s not what I do. I’m simply using this example to illustrate that we as human beings assess problems and potential problems, threats and potential threats, numerous times nearly every day of our lives. We then base decisions and actions on those assessments. As a result one of two things can happen: problems get solved and threats are averted; OR we create even bigger problems—problems that can cost millions of lives, millions of dollars, or millions of jobs. Or they just make us miserable.

The fact of the matter is that we all view the circumstances of our lives and our businesses through the prism of our personalities, predilections and personas. We can’t help but do so. We have the ability to make mountains of molehills and vice versa. Our challenge is that we can’t always tell when we’re doing this.

And here’s another twisted little aspect of this human dilemma. If we treat a molehill like a mountain, then it will be mountain-like to us. The world will most always line up to our definition of it. This is the way the human experience works. We usually require the insight of another—someone we respect and trust—to help us question what we see before we are able to begin to consider alternatives ways of looking at it.

The fact is that successful leadership isn’t just about quick thinking, it is about smart assessment and appropriate response. A good advisor can be critical in helping to separate real threats from perceived threats, and in a business setting, can help personality get out of the way of profit. A good advisor needs to have more qualifications than just being smart. They have to be able need to be objective about your problems and concerns (often difficult for family members) and they have to know how to tell you things you may not want to hear in a way that you will listen. This requires a mutual respect and great communication skills.

This year I urge you to evaluate your advisers. Yes, this includes your friends and family members—anyone who helps you shape and/or edify your thoughts and views. Consider if they truly help you define things in a manner that serves you by helping you make good decisions. If not, it may be time to seek new advisors who have the ability to help you re-think, re-evaluate and re-examine your personal patterns, circumstances or even your business.

May this year be your best yet!

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