Intuition: When Should You Trust Your Own Counsel?

This tweet started a twitter firestorm. It's awfully difficult to communicate complex thoughts in 140 characters so this blog post attempts to sort it out with a few more words. 532 to be exact.

There's a delicate balance in the listening to others vs. listening to yourself equation. I suspect that people who are ardently on either side of the equation are probably there because of an extreme experience. Perhaps they blindly followed someone else's advice to disastrous results. On the other side is the guy who didn't listen to anyone else's advice and failed. The problem with both sides is a lack of openness. It's a tricky thing to be open and yet follow the guidance your heart to make the decision that is most compelling for you.

The Role of Others' Opinions

When I was in my twenties and wanted to do something different with my life my dad would always advise me to run it by my siblings--particularly my older brother. Sadly it led me to make some poor decisions because the advice was taken cart blanche. The thing is--my brother is very wise--as is my dad--but they can only make decisions that are right for them. Other people see through a completely different set of eyes than the ones in your own skull. It would be folly not to recognize that. Gaining the perspective of others can help you see things that otherwise might have evaded your own gaze. The rub is that you have to take their context into account. This context may mesh well with yours but it may not. Perhaps you can take a nugget or two from them to mix in with your own dreams, hopes, fears and goals to find something that makes your heart say '"Yes!"

Don't Ignore Your Gut

Looking back I don't think my dad wanted me to take the advice without running it through my own counsel. If we could time travel back I'm certain he would say something like...Run it past someone who thinks differently than you to see if there are any ways to improve upon your idea or things you haven't thought about. Then listen to your gut. The context I ignored in my twenties was that my dad, while an engineer, is also an incredibly intuitive man who truly trusts his instincts. This was a guy who built incredibly innovative concept cars by using both his analytical and more instinctive sides of his brain.  He lived his life according to his own set of inner rules. I see now that he never would have advocated abdicating responsibility for your life and decisions to others.

It's Not An Either Or Game

These days I love to surround myself with people who are much more linear and analytical (accountants, lawyers and generally practical people) than myself because they always give me a different perspective. Their opinions show me new ways of thinking about a situation and often I end up listening mostly to my original idea tweaked a bit by their thoughts.  Be open and listening to yourself aren't mutually exclusive. 

You just need to keep the opinions of others in context while you grow your intuition.