Business leaders typically establish themselves in the last business cycle. Their success is usually based on winning strategies that eventually morph into conventional wisdom.
Everyone is inclined to follow the leader, but the problem with looking backward for guidance is that it’s dangerous.
I was reminded of that while listening to the podcast Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History about World War I. The defeated generals confidently executed battle plans that were state-of-the-art in the 19th century. The problem: It was the early 20th century. A bayonet charge is no match for a machine gun or heavy mortar.
The point is that those who are mesmerized by the successful strategies of well-known leaders often fail if they can’t adapt these ideas to their own circumstances.
Wealth management is thankfully not a life or death proposition. But, we do need to be cautious that we don’t get overly enamored with the best ideas from the last cycle.
It’s easy to fall into that trap.
Take, for example, the proliferation of how-to lists. How To Be An Effective Leader. How To Raise Money For Your Start-up. How To Make A Gazillion Dollars By Working One Hour A Day. How To Lose Weight By Working Out Less. How To Double Your Business Using Social Media. And so on.
It’s easy to be seduced by it all. The authors are usually smart, rich, or famous, because they did something in the not-too-distant past that worked well. We tend to want to believe them and to think that if it worked for them, it will work for me.
But you have to examine their advice carefully. Is it well-suited to you and your particular situation? It is relevant today? Or is it perfect for another time?
The same dangers await those committed to being better parents. Everyone wants to do right by their kids. Gleaning the best thinking from others can be helpful in trying to raise responsible offspring.
The danger is that there is no how-to manual to raise kids. Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Every kid and parent brings something new to the party. You can’t do it by the book. You have to largely write the book yourself.
Perhaps the real benefit of all this information intake is that it can lead to serious introspection – something we’re prone to avoiding in the modern world because it just takes too damn much time.
The challenge is distinguishing between the newest, best thinking and how to apply it. That task is more manageable, however, if we evaluate ideas through our foundational beliefs. If we have a clear understanding of our beliefs, our behavior will tend to be consistent, even as we are synthesizing new information.
At the end of the day, people like being around people who are guided by a defined North Star. It makes it easier to dispense with the ephemeral. It also makes them more successful, both personally and professionally.