5 Reasons You May Miss Your “Wisest” Opportunities

Photo from Unsplash by Erik Aquino

“Who do they think THEY are!”

This was a common question I’d ask after a failed first meeting or encounter with a person I just knew could help me reach my desired successes or destiny. I would hear amazing things about a particular person and attempt to reach out, only to get shot down time after time. Worse, they would usually discount me in some way.

Have you ever felt the same?

You meet (or attempt to meet) with someone you see as important or influential, do your best to appear smart and together, only to leave dejected when they pull you apart with their words or actions.

You know the phrase, it’s not you, it’s them?

Well, in this case, nine times out of ten… it’s you.

Sting a little bit? Sure, it would always do the same to me. Why do they think they are so high and mighty? I don’t need them! And yet, these people usually have other amazing friends we would want to know. Watching them interact with their other friends adds extra vinegar to the open wounds of rejection and disappointment.

It took me years to understand, but their dismissal, insult or disinterest, is most often a test. Wise people have developed a skill that works nearly every time. If you want to connect with wise and influential people, people that can truly change your life, you have to know how to play their game.

The first thing you need to understand is:

1. Wise people don’t have time for everyone.

Wise people have a lot to share with the world, but they often cordon their wisdom to a relatively small few, unless they are an author, speaker, life coach, etc. (and then it usually comes at a profound cost). There are only a fixed number of seconds in a day. The wise either use those seconds to pour into a select few, enjoy their daily lives, or be intellectually/emotionally/spiritually recharged by those wiser. They don’t have time for people that drain them or take away from their love of life, family, careers and friends. Most of us tolerate people that bring us down, or worse, they tolerate us bringing them down. The wise don’t.

And why should they?

They’ve usually worked life to its fullest, fought for every insight they’ve uncovered and observed practices that the majority of the rest of the world never dare spend the time to adopt.

Though some may simply be arrogant a-holes (those believing in their own status), most wise people are the exact opposite.

They actually want to pour into others.

Why? Because those moments of revelation with others actually help them develop additional wisdom and insights. Every one-on-one moment offers potential advancement and growth, both for the mentor and mentee. But only if the mentee is the right type of person. The wise are always searching out these people. Wise people like sharing their wisdom. Most of us like sharing our meals, vacations and bodies on social media. The wise enjoy sharing their life-altering discoveries, ideas and strategies. The wise see the right people as an investment. For a wise person to decide if you are worth the investment…

THEY WILL PROVOKE OR INSULT YOU… AND WAIT FOR YOUR REACTION.

Many that failed to read this far, probably stopped when I said, “nine times out of ten, it’s you.” It doesn’t feel good to be the one in the wrong side of the spotlight. That is precisely the point. It requires immense discipline to become the type of person that can take rebuke or correction with grace and dignity. Or, you can learn from this moment, and develop this skill as you associate with wiser people. This provocation/rebuke strategy appears unfair and unloving but here are three reasons why it is necessary.

2. Wise people look for humility.

Whether or not the wise see you as below them (which is rarely the case) they are looking for people that are humble. Humble people are malleable, inquisitive and nuanced. They are enjoyable people to the wise. Most of the world looks for people to entertain them. Or more succinctly, to see them as entertaining. Did you know the word entertainment, on dictionary.com, is: “an agreeable occupation for the mind?” What things occupy the minds of most? The wise and successful create business. They create ideas. They create culture. What they “agree with” has weight, value and transformative ability. They want to surround themselves with others that see their insights and history with that level of honor and commitment.

3. Wise people invest in people who value learning over being right.

Before I learned this strategy, I was in an ultra-high-level business course in California. The average income of the group was well over a quarter of million dollars. The average age of the group was forty plus. At the time, I was neither. However, for some reason, I understood many of the course concepts better than most. In a thirty-minute breakout session at a conference, I shared my “knowledge” for about half the length of the session. I was feeling great that I knew more than everyone else, until my mentor (they were paid) took me aside.

“You really shared a lot of ideas in that session, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I did!” I proudly retorted. Then she cut me through.

“But what did you learn?” she asked.

I had learned nothing. I had hopefully added to the knowledge of others, but I started and ended the conversation knowing exactly the same amount. I had wasted that half an hour, and these people were far more influential than me!

Thankfully, she was paid to help me, or that would have been the end of that relationship. But the wise don’t have time for that crap. They don’t need to be impressed. They want to know that you are willing to admit that you don’t know what you don’t know. They live in the same reality.

In that same course I learned a new phrase: “altruistically selfish.” The wise give out (altruism), knowing if they share with the right person, they will receive back ten-fold through that person’s new potential insights (selfishness). Truly wise people don’t treat their wisdom as a commodity (although authors often do this) but recognize that wisdom is a living breathing organism. They embrace it lovingly and cautiously. They want to pour into others that can do the same.

4. Wise people know that wisdom isn’t universal, but neither is it proprietary.

Wise people recognize that not everyone is willing to invest in the practices necessary to grow in wisdom, but they also recognize that others can advance beyond their personal level of insight quickly. The student becomes the master. Luke Skywalker supplants Obi Wan. Wisdom is illusive. Neither is it a respecter of persons. I have seen many that were wise come crashing down once they start to believe their own hype and status. They release books that only give away enough insights for you to sign up for their $10,000 consulting package. They make it impossible to reach them via anything but twitter. They pass you by at the conference, callously speaking on their phones or engaging in a conversation with someone of their “status.”

These people usually don’t stay in the spotlight for long. Or, worse, others write exposes on their hypocrisy. They commoditized their insights and success. They held in their wisdom.

The truly wise are always searching, always looking, always learning, and always waiting to be rebuked or corrected.

Yes, I just said that. They will do the same thing to you that they hungrily seek out themselves.

5. Wise people love correction, so they want you to love the same.

The wise realize their greatest successes usually come out of their worst failures. Abraham Lincoln stated that if you want to test the measure of a man, don’t give him riches, give him praise. Praise and success puffs us up; it makes us seem like we’ve already got it. It keeps us content.

Failures cause us to grow. Like working a muscle to failure, only to repair thicker and stronger, the wise take all rebukes- processing them first and then learning second. Only then do they decide if the rebuke was worth their time. They recognize there are things they don’t know; that they can make mistakes. Failure is a springboard. Or better yet, failure isn’t failure at all. Thomas Edison, after inventing the light bulb, said, “I never failed, I just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.”

If you are willing to recognize this strategy and understand the reason, the possibilities are limitless. There is a passage in the Bible of a woman who wanted Jesus’ help. Her daughter was sick and so she asked Jesus for help. Jesus didn’t help, instead he said something rather horrible: “It’s not good to to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Oh man! That is one of the most troubling insults in all of scripture. And this came out of the mouth of that loving, kind Jesus. She had every right to be offended. But she was wiser than anyone could know, “Yes, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table,” she responded. Jesus was floored. Bottom line, she made the Book! She is forever immortalized in the most purchased religious text in the history of mankind.

Okay, so how do we respond when a wise person corrects/tests/insults us? Here are four responsive strategies.

1. Force eye contact.

Eye contact says you are confident; that you are worth their time. Don’t let the moment go until they see the look in your eyes.

2. Process for 3–5 seconds.

The wise are looking for people that don’t react immediately. Instead, wait and contemplate what has been spoken.

3. Say, “thank you for that assessment” or something similar.

Take their correction and accept it verbally. Let them know that you’re willing to accept their comments without emotional recoil.

4. Ensure a future connection.

Leave them with a future opportunity. Press beyond the blow-off or correction and make yourself memorable. Ask to take them to coffee. Request a zoom call. Pay for the initial session/meeting if necessary. But don’t leave the moment without a future ask.

I learned this strategy and these responses by trial and error. I am always searching for wise people, so eventually I was going to get this, but it took me far longer than I hope it will take you.

I now have at least twenty mentors in my life, some started with this correction strategy, others became relationships when those men and women introduced to their friends on a peer to peer level. Many of these men and women now seek my advice when it comes to culture, faith, business and yes, wisdom. I often sit silent in meetings taking notes for highly influential people, only to be the first person they turn to when the meeting is over, and their important client or friend has left the room. (Think Jonah Hill’s character from Moneyball). I meet regularly with multi-millionaires and have made millions myself. I’ve learned from — and applied – the wisdom of others. Because of this, I have people consistently and repeatedly tell me, “what you said to me changed my life.” There is nothing greater.

Bottom line, you can be content to be “right,” or you can be well on your way to influencing and changing the world through the wisdom bestowed on you by others. The question to ask yourself is, which do you prefer? There are wise people all around you waiting for your answer.

Live inspired.

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