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How to Deal With Conflicting Advice

How to Deal With Conflicting Advice


You will never, ever run out of people who want to tell you how to run your business.

Consultants, conferences, YouTube videos, the business section at your local bookstore—they’re all brimming with advice on starting, growing and managing a business. No single human being can consume the limitless amount of information out there.

So how do you find the good stuff? And here’s an even tougher question: What do you do when all these trusted experts give you conflicting advice? Who do you trust?

Believe it or not, conflicting advice is a good problem to have. It’s a sign that you’re paying attention and absorbing the data around you. It shows that you’re surrounding yourself with mentors, reading great content and remaining a perpetual student of entrepreneurship. If you’re not getting conflicting advice, you’re not putting yourself in enough learning environments.

Commander’s Intent

There’s a famous proverb that states “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.” In other words, when dealing with uncertain environments, a plan is borderline useless.

No environment is more uncertain than war or entrepreneurship. Yet without any planning, soldiers and startups would be put in dangerous situations without the knowledge they need to survive. So do we plan, or not plan?

The answer lies somewhere in the middle. Most entrepreneurs either fly by the seat of their pants, or on the other end of the spectrum, they paralyze themselves with incessant secondary research. Instead, we must plan just enough.

Good planning was best described by one of my mentors, Russ McGuire, as “a framework for making decisions.” Neither a soldier, nor a startup, should have a line-by-line answer for what to do next. Instead, they need to know their mission, and the vision guiding that mission.

With that definitive set of goals, the entrepreneur or soldier can make micro decisions that tend to pop up in most uncertain environments. In the military, they call this “commander’s intent,” meaning commanders want their battalions to understand the end goal while still providing the individual soldier enough flexibility to make minute-by-minute decisions.

Advice Should Massage Your Instinct

In entrepreneurship, you’re the commander. Which means the burden of determining the “commander’s intent” is on your shoulders. Once you’ve identified your true vision and mission, you will be better able to sort through conflicting advice. If a piece of advice will steer you away from your vision, ignore it. If it will bring you one step closer to your desired outcome, digest it.

The problem with this advice is it’s ambiguous—as is most business advice and philosophy. We tell entrepreneurs to first look at every bit of advice through the lens of intent, and then let that advice “massage their instincts.” In other words, pay attention to what you read and hear, but don’t automatically follow it simply based on the reputation or credibility of the source.

Instead, be a perpetual student. Take on as much data as possible. Your subconscious will file it all away, and when you’re in the heat of battle, your instinct will tell you exactly what to do.

Weston Bergmann

Written by

Weston Bergmann is a startup investor and one of the leaders of BetaBlox, an early-stage, for-equity business incubator in Kansas City. His platform has earned him equity in about 100 startups. www.betablox.com


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