Sometimes the best advice is right under our nose. We just heard it five minutes ago.
But we can’t hear it. Why not?
Because we aren’t ready.
We may think we are. We hound friends, family, peers, complete strangers for advice. “Tell me what to do!” we beg.
But if we aren’t truly ready, if our hearts aren’t open, if we haven’t made room for it, we cannot hear it.
Not all advice is advice we should act on. People have their own agendas, and they don’t always have your best interests at heart. Sometimes you just need to nod your head and murmur, “hmmmm….yes….” and leave it at that.
But sometimes, we are so caught up in our own stuff, we can’t hear the best advice in the world.
Here are two recent examples.
This weekend I did a small local craft show, my first in over ten years. It was a nice little show, artist-friendly, well-managed, decent quality work being sold, in a beautiful setting.
I overheard someone talking to a jewelry person near me. I’d seen her at several other shows recently and was familiar with her work. It’s straight bead stringing, nothing exciting, but competent, pretty work.
The person was asking her if she’d tried displaying her work outside of her small covered case so people could see it. She defended her decision, saying she tried that once, and it didn’t work. She said that some of her work was already out and touchable, but honestly, she couldn’t see people buying more of the pieces that were out.
Now, I’d looked at this woman’s jewelry at two different shows. As I said, it’s pretty. And lord, was it cheap. Ridiculously cheap. So I kept thinking I’d buy a few pieces as gifts.
But I couldn’t.
For one thing, although she didn’t have a ton of stuff, what she had was crammed together in her display. No one piece stood out.
Her display was so crowded, I couldn’t touch the pieces that were out. Everything was arranged nice and straight. But there were so many items they were almost piled on top of each other. I was subconsciously afraid of making a mess if I tried to pick up one piece.
It also wasn’t clear it was okay to pick up piece to look at it more closely.
Last, her personality was….large. She had a big voice. She knew everyone at the show, and talked constantly. That can be a good thing, if you know when to to talk and when to get quiet so people can shop. Sometimes I’m in the mood for “big”. But if I’m not, I walk away.
I ended up walking away again without buying anything.
I think the advice she got was good. I think she would have more sales if the pieces had more “breathing space” around them, if it were easier to touch and actually pick up the pieces.
But she couldn’t hear it.
She probably tells herself after every show that people are simply cheap and won’t buy nice jewelry at any price.
But she’s wrong. I was steadily selling jewelry at three times her prices. I think she could have sold out, at her price points, if she’d made it easier on her customers to actually buy.
(Caveat: As always, this is IMHO. Maybe she didn’t care, or maybe she was perfectly happy with her sales.)
Here’s my second example:
A few months ago, I was ready to test for placement in my new Tae Kwon Do class. I had tons of issues–feeling out of place because the curriculum has changed so much; my age; my injuries and physical condition.
The head teacher encouraged me to test at the level I’d left at twelve years before (green belt.) He said I had at least that skill level, maybe even higher. He knew I could do it. It would be a challenge. But it was something I needed to do for myself.
The closer I got to my test date, however, the more I panicked. I felt my limitations strongly. I was terrified of failing.
I asked to be tested for a belt below that, yellow belt. I was pretty sure I could pass yellow belt with no issue.
He argued that I was selling myself short. Yes, there were physical limitations. But my training was sound, and my techniques were consistent. I would make it, if I worked at it. (A good school only recommends you for a level they feel you are ready for.) Most of all, he kept saying, “You need to do it for ‘Luann’”.
But I couldn’t hear him.
All I could feel was the fear and self-doubt. I felt if I got a belt–any belt–I could settle in and move on.
Although the final decision was theirs, in the end they tested me for yellow belt. I passed with no problem.
But they were right. I should have gone for green belt.
It’s odd, but once the stress of anticipating the test was over, I relaxed. I “fell in” with the class more easily. And it became crystal clear to me what I’d done.
I told my teacher soon after, “I could hear your words. But I couldn’t hear what you were saying. My fear and self-doubt got in the way. I know that now. I’m sorry I couldn’t hear you.”
Now, maybe I needed to take that easy step to just get to that next level.
But next time, I may just take that leap of faith instead.