It took me a long time to realize that experts can be wrong. They can be dead wrong. But it’s so hard to hear past all of those voices. I thought I’d share a couple of stories about what happens when we reject conventional wisdom.

If you’ve read my posts, you probably know I’m always reading: newsletters, magazines, books (business), books (inspirational), books (biographies), books (good fiction), and books (mental floss fiction). Conservatively speaking, I’d say I read at least 70 books a year and who knows how many articles. Maybe that’s great; maybe that’s a whole lot of noise in my head.

Conventional Wisdom: Success looks like this

In my reading for work, there’s a constant refrain: building a business on one-on-one coaching will not work. These articles stop just short of saying you’re stupid if you want to build a one-on-one service business. Their absolute conviction that the only way to make a living coaching is to create an online business and avoid face-to-face, one-on-one transactions has been almost impossible to overcome.

Yet every time I talked to someone who said I needed to produce a consumable course, mini-book, whatever, or read another article about reaching thousands of potential clients, I cringed. It didn’t feel right to me.

What I didn’t realize for a long time was that it didn’t feel right for me. Have you ever been there? Realized that the common wisdom being peddled to you didn’t feel right for you.

What’s right for you?

I believe that’s the secret to success – realizing what’s right for each of us, not as a homogenous group (coaches, job seekers, moms, dads, college grads) but as individuals. It’s too easy to forget that while we are all human beings, we are also individuals with our own unique experiences and approaches to life and work. Yes, it’s the same as trusting your gut.

So, how has that played out for me? I finally said to my first business coach that I did not want an online business, instead I wanted a face-to-face, one-on-one or one-on-several (as opposed to many) coaching practice. I’m not in coaching to make a million dollars. I’m in coaching to make a good living by helping people figure out how to reach their potential at work (and in life – because you can’t separate the two) – one person at a time.

Here’s the thing, I crave and thrive on face-to-face contact. I constantly pursue opportunities to be face-to-face with people. Heck, I even love networking (you already knew that I’m weird). Bring on that room of strangers! The key to my success as a unique human is to work face-to-face. So that’s what I’m doing, working one-on-one with clients and creating small, intimate group settings for coaching.

Another story

My son, Ken, looked for his first post-college IT (tech) job for some time without much success. He’d make it through several levels of interviews and not get the position. Finally, he gets a temp to possible permanent job doing a special project for a national manufacturer. An agency hired him for the job, sight unseen, and he took the job, never having visited the company.

His first day was horrid. They weren’t ready for him, he discovered that the IT department was doing some questionable things, and he walked out. Conventional wisdom says that was a huge mistake (so did Mom’s knee jerk, non-coach reaction). No one walks out on a $25 an hour job. Well, he did.


Several weeks later, Ken is driving a delivery truck for an auto supply company and delivers some parts to a custom car shop. He’s helping the guys troubleshoot some work they’re doing on a custom truck when he notices a couple of Humvees (military vehicles) sitting in the back of their parking lot. He asks the guys about the vehicles and learns that the shop is supposed to restore and customize them for the guy that owns the truck, but they don’t know anything about military vehicles.

Well, Ken does. He’s been restoring military vehicles since he was 14. So they work out a deal for Ken to subcontract with them to do the restoration. Lucrative side gig for Ken, right? It sure was. As the weeks go by, Ken orders parts for the Humvees, liaises with the shop and the owner of the Humvees and starts working on the vehicles.

His work includes taking the owner of the Humvees to the DMV to register the vehicles which require a specialty registration. Ken shows up at the owner’s shop with all the applicable Georgia code printed out, they go to the DMV where the people working there have never done a registration like this before, and they are in and out in 45 minutes.

Ken for the Win

A week or so later, Ken goes to the guy’s business to pick up a check for parts. The controller of the company tells Ken the guy wants to see him. Ken told me his heart just fell. Was the guy going to back out of the restoration? Nope. To the contrary, he offered Ken a job as a project manager and estimator at his commercial construction company. He was impressed with the quality of Ken’s project management of the restoration and his attention to detail. Ken takes the job.

Ken’s win happened because he defied conventional wisdom when he realized that said you stay at the job you have no matter how bad it is. Ken realized that tech job wasn’t right for him. Because he walked out, he left himself open to finding a job that was a 100% match to his interests and preferred skills, plus he acquired a side gig doing one of his favorite things – restoring military vehicles.

Your wisdom beats conventional wisdom

You know, maybe witnessing Ken’s story made it easier for me to finally recognize that I didn’t have to go along with conventional wisdom. You don’t have to accept conventional wisdom either. If you want to try something new, different, or daring, go for it. Maybe you don’t walk out on your job, but there’s nothing stopping you from working on something on the side so you can eventually leave your job.

When we listen deeply to the voices inside of us that say “wait” or “you don’t want to do that” or “you don’t have to put up with that,” we tap into our own innate wisdom. We have to trust that hard-earned wisdom to guide us to another way to accomplish our goals. Our own wisdom can guide us to success that defies conventional wisdom.

Be ferocious,