How to Decide WHO to Learn From

There are so many great resources out there for entrepreneurs it’s like the all-you-can-eat buffet of choices at a new restaurant where you have no idea what to begin with.

Should you avoid the chicken salad (and possible food poisoning)?  Should you go for the sizzle and get the steak?  Or should you just skip straight to the desserts?

One of the challenges we face in our entrepreneurial ventures is that most of us don’t have degrees in entrepreneurship.  No one gave us a syllabus showing which courses we have to begin with, which are required to graduate, and which are electives we can choose to add.  It’s up to us to figure out what we need to learn and when.

How to Decide Who to Learn From

These are the filters I use to decide who to learn from and when:

1.  It’s the Next Logical Step

Starting with dessert always sounds good to me, but skipping the main course consistently is likely to cause a range of issues from a stomach ache to weight gain and nutritional deficiencies… same goes for your business.

Consider what’s next instead of what’s new.  Don’t look for the sizzle.  Look for what’s going to work for you and move you forward.  If you need to get clear on who you help, or even what services you offer, start there because taking a class about video marketing when you don’t know what you’re marketing or who you’re marketing to isn’t going to get you results.

Identify the correct next step towards your goals.  For bloggers, do you need to learn how to setup your blog, how to create content, or how to market your blog?  Those are three very different goals and you’ll probably want different resources for each.

There’s a place for growth and stretching.  Know where it is for you.  Yes, you want to up-level, but not without thinking it through.

2.  They Can Credibly Teach What I Want to Learn

I’m not going to learn blogging by following the advice of someone who has no idea what they’re blogging about.  If you haven’t done it successfully or helped others do it (whatever “it” is), and you’re not ahead of where I’m at, then I’m not going to be able to leap ahead by learning from you.

If you haven’t successfully blogged consistently, you probably can’t teach me to do it.  If you have 100 followers on Twitter, don’t try to get me to pay you to tell me how to get thousands overnight.  Be credible and teach what you know and what you can do.

Being new to something doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t teach others though!  If you’re ahead of where I’m at, then you can help me — even if you’re not at the “top” or “end” of the journey.  If you haven’t done something for yourself but you’ve done it for dozens of clients over the last couple of years, let people know that.  Or if you’ve gone through certifications, learned from others and are implementing strategies with success, seeing that it works, then you can share that confidently.

Credibility matters.  We need to know why we should learn from you.  In other words, don’t just tell me what you can teach me, prove it!

3.  I Can Learn From Their Style

No matter how hard we try, we don’t “mesh” well with everyone.  There are some teachers (no, I won’t tell you who) that annoy the heck out of me.  Not because they’re not smart.  Just because my learning style doesn’t work with their teaching style or their personality.

I watch blogs, articles, books, teleseminars, and other information provided by a teacher to find out if I learn well from them before I invest in their products or classes.

4.  I Trust their Competence and Ethics

Competence is usually (but not always) obvious.  If they’re doing what I want to do, and I’ve already seen the style and quality of their teaching, I can make a judgment call.

Ethics on the other hand can be sticky.  I’ve been disappointed by some teachers recommending what I’d call “gray” area strategies.  If there’s a chance it could get you in trouble legally, or if it’s intended to deceive your customers, then I’m not interested in the strategy or the teacher sharing it.

What filters do you use to decide who to learn from and when you’re ready to learn something new?

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  1. Hi, Michelle!

    Great post as usual. Believe it or not, the same idea has been revolting my brains lately. Your question is highly relevant now that we have huge amounts of information everywhere.

    Regarding your question, I definitively prioritize your fourth point. Not by chance trust is the hardest thing to build and, usually, always involves time.
    Gustavo recently posted… What is LIO Lifestyle Information OverloadMy Profile

    1. There is so much information out there, and so many teachers… the internet puts amazing things at our fingertips but leaves it to us to filter and decide what to use.

      Trust is difficult to build. I also find myself taking my time in choosing mentors and teachers to follow.

  2. I resonate with what you wrote very much. I tend to only buy from experts who walk their talk. I also don’t buy from anyone who promises the overnight type of results. Hyperbole is so present in sales copy especially on-line. I also only buy from people with a money back guarantee, as cheesy as that sounds. I also look at their testimonials from clients.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post.
    Lisa recently posted… How to Get Spiritual Messages from MusicMy Profile

    1. It really is. Hyperbole drives me crazy. False scarcity annoys me more though. I don’t mind smart marketing but a lot of people cross the line into sneaky NLP and psychological triggers that I just don’t like. I want people to work with me or purchase items from me because I can help them. Not because I’ve played tricks in their brains to get them to do it and then won’t refund their money.

      Testimonials and past client results are a great filter, Lisa. Thanks for mentioning it!

  3. Hi Michelle,
    First timer at your blog via Melanie Kissell tweet.
    Hey, good topic. I would go with identifying the expert first. Somebody who’s done something I want to do. Claims are not enough. Actions speak louder. Show me the money, then, maybe, I will learn from you.

    1. Derek, I’m so happy you came by to check out Michelle’s blog.

      Fair warning …

      Michelle’s blog is addictive! You’ll be hooked for life. :)
      Melanie Kissell recently posted… 5 Monster Size Marketing MistakesMy Profile

      1. I have an addictive personality anyway. The trick is to choose your addictions wisely:)
        Greetings Mel
        Derek Potocki recently posted… The wallMy Profile

        1. Ditto, Derek! And we’ve made a great choice here. :)
          Melanie Kissell recently posted… 5 Monster Size Marketing MistakesMy Profile

    2. Thanks for stopping by, Derek. It’s great to “meet” you. :) Melanie’s awesome.

      And exactly! I want to SEE that the teacher can do what they’re offering to teach me.

  4. These are all great points. I only want a teacher who is already doing what I’m wanting to do and has produced results. Once I get the benefit of that teacher and feel they have nothing left to show me, I move on. I think that’s another key that is overlooked. Don’t stay with the same teacher after you’ve learned what they teach! There are so many so-called “coaches” out there that don’t have a track record at all. We’ve all seen it. They usually talk in the “abstract.” Telling you how to increase your biz but not showing you any numbers. That doesn’t cut it with me. I’ve also noticed a trend of folks blogging about all their “clients” when it’s questionable whether they could even have one because it’s so obvious they aren’t ready to teach! If you want to find a good coach, find some of their students and ask them to show you their results. Works every time.
    Martha Giffen recently posted… Get Rid Of That Ego and Your Biz Just Might Thrive!My Profile

    1. I’ve wondered that myself a time or two, Martha, when I see people blog about clients or coaching… student results are a great indicator of a successful teacher. :)

      That’s a very good tip. As we grow we will continue moving on to work with other coaches and mentors.

  5. Great post, Michelle! I couldn’t agree with you more about the importance of having the right teacher. I know that there have been times where people have tried to teach me something, and it just grated for some reason, but then someone else told me almost exactly the same thing, and it really clicked. If you find someone who works for you, hold on and he/she will take you far. If you haven’t, don’t worry, there are enough teachers out there that the right one will come in time.
    Steve Nicholas recently posted… Think and Grow Rich “The Brain”My Profile

    1. It’s so interesting how that works, isn’t it Steve? The right teacher really makes a difference.

      Great reminder in there — the right teacher will show up if we keep our eyes open.

  6. […] great advice, making a difference, and running profitable blogs.  So see who’s around you.  Run them through your own filters and you’ll find lots of places to learn.  Being able to reach out for a helping hand from someone who’s fought through whatever […]

  7. I enjoy your thought-provoking posts, Michelle. I agree with Martha on many fronts. I look to someone who has the same values, someone who is making great strides, but not so far ahead that I feel they can’t relate to meeting me where I am. And of course…I have to like and trust them. Thanks, Michelle.
    Julie Henderson recently posted… IT IS NOT TOO LATEMy Profile

    1. That’s an important point – finding someone far enough to stretch us and help us grow but not so far ahead and they’ve forgotten what it’s like to be where we are (or haven’t been there). Thanks, Julie!

  8. Filter confession time … :)

    Michelle, I really enjoyed this post — every point you’ve mentioned is excellent advice. Looking back on when I first started online, I probably did a lot of learning in “reverse”.

    I signed up for e-courses, teleseminars, webinars, and home study programs out of sync. I was trying to learn it ALL (if you know what I mean) and learn it in a HURRY and ended up wasting a lot of time focusing on things I wasn’t nearly ready for and didn’t need at the time.

    I’ve got to be honest about the filters I use in choosing a teacher/mentor/coach …

    My #1 filter is seeking out a “mompreneur”. And my #2 filter has everything to do with “personality” and “teaching style”.

    It’s not that I can’t learn from people other than mompreneurs, I can! I just prefer to learn from someone who’s been in the same trenches as me and someone who’s personality and style meshes with my own.

    Worth noting: I’ve been an instructor in the offline world for three decades. So I’m keenly aware of different teaching and learning styles. It’s not so easy to pull the wool over my eyes and I’ll confess I’m pretty persnickety when it comes to choosing who I’m willing to learn from! :)

    Terrific info here!!
    Melanie Kissell recently posted… 5 Monster Size Marketing MistakesMy Profile

    1. I like your filters, Melanie. I tend to look for similar. Both of the coaches I’m working with right now on an on-going basis are work at home moms and they get me – they understand and have creative ideas for the challenges I need help with because they’ve been through it.

      For marketing I tend to gravitate towards a different type of coach and have different filters, but it’s because I zero in on exactly what I want from each class/teacher.

      As a homeschooling mom, the learning styles thing comes up a lot around here. :) I’ve got two kinetic learners and a visual learner. I’m an auditory/visual learner (I *love* reading textbooks and listening to lectures). It was a big revelation for me when I realized I had to learn how to teach differently for the boys if they were going to “get” what I was sharing.

      Sometimes as adults we don’t stop and think about those things — we haven’t identified our own learning styles. I think this is why there are some FANTASTIC teachers out there who get occasional bad reviews. It’s not their material or skills. There was just a disconnect in the way the student needed to learn or what level they were ready for. By taking responsibility myself for knowing my style and what I like/don’t like and how I learn, I can not only choose the right teachers but also chose mentors for whom I’ll be an ideal client (flip side of this coin) and can have a great relationship with. :)

      1. Really appreciate your reply, Michelle, and I’ve embraced everything you’ve said.

        I “get” that your children learn differently — believe me, I get it. I encounter all the different learning styles in my childbirth classroom and it poses a challenge for me. I’m fully aware I’m not always tuning in to all my students’ learning styles at each class session. But I try my best to incorporate different ones as much as possible. “Mixing it up” is the only option when you have 24 – 30 people you’re trying to help.

        Glad to know you gravitate toward WAHM’s, as well. It just makes good sense. Other moms who own small businesses don’t have to be told what you’re faced with every day — they already know. :)

        And I understand completely what you’re saying about some online coaches/consultants, etc., getting bad reviews. I agree 100% that it may very well be a case of “disconnect” — not their materials or skill level.

        You Rock!
        Melanie Kissell recently posted… 5 Monster Size Marketing MistakesMy Profile

        1. One of the cooler teleseminars I’ve been on, the teacher was talking about learning styles and how to cater to more of them at once, like you mentioned — just incorporating elements of different styles. Such a great approach.

  9. This is a really good post. When I first entered the social media space, I was able to learn from just about everyone! Now that I have refined my niche, it is definitely harder to find appropriate mentors. Style, ethics and credibility are very important to me so your filter system definitely resonates!
    Lauren Huston recently posted… What is a Social Media LifestylistMy Profile

    1. I think the more we know, the more we get clear on what else we need to know and we’re able to focus in on that better. :)

  10. I keep thinking who is right and wrong, who to learn from! Like, somedays back Melanie and I were having a discussion about how many bloggers tell that they make loads of money and how many do. One should be listening to bloggers who tell you something and provide credibility for it.
    Hajra recently posted… Reasons I am Breaking Up With Your Blog!My Profile

    1. That does happen. I’ve heard more stories than I wish I had of people claiming to make big money online who weren’t – and who were teaching others how to do it when they hadn’t themselves. Pictures of speed cars and boats don’t really build credibility in my mind. Sounds like you two ladies had an interesting discussion!

  11. Hi Michelle,

    I would head for the dessert section too :) On a serious note, sometimes I really wish we had a course outline which makes it easier for us to decide what’s the next step. With all the resources out there it really is a lot of work to determine which ones are right for you.

    I know that you are credible and you are someone I look up too!
    Diana Simon recently posted… My Blogging Community Features Hajra KhatoonMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Diana, I appreciate that. :)

      Yes, figuring out the next best step can be tricky. But I’ve found as long as I just keep moving forward, things work.

  12. Michelle, thanks for this useful article. The key is to learn from people who have walked the path.

    1. That’s who I look for, too, Savio. They know the pitfalls and bumps along the way and can help us avoid them.

  13. Michelle, I really like this post and the lessons you are teaching here. One thing that I always look out for is to block the buzz around the popularity of specific products created by well known authors and look inside to be sure that their teaching style fits my learning style.

    Before I started my business online, I was made to buy a very popular book highly recommended as the best for learning to take a business online. That product and marketer has too much buzz and praise from even top marketers, some of who have read and applied it to launch successful businesses online.

    I bought it but discovered that it was not simple for me to understand and I discovered some businesses making money from teaching a simplified version of the same book. So I stopped and bought a simpler eBook I could work with.
    Stella recently posted… Promote Yourself and Share What You Do!My Profile

    1. That’s an excellent tip. Some people are better at creating buzz than delivering on it, or are just at a different level than we’re ready for.

  14. Hi Michelle!

    Thanks for inviting me to your Blog…from The Blogging
    Mastermind Comment Tribe’s page. :)

    Excellent factors you bring up front here for sure. When
    all is said & done, if it feels right in our hearts…then it’s
    more than likely the correct path to follow.

    Boy, you’ve got it goin’ on here…*HIGH5*!!

    Have a highly inspired day…your tribal friend Steven Suchar
    Steven Suchar recently posted… How To Tweet Really Sweet!!My Profile

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Steven. That should probably be #5 on the list (or maybe #1) — follow what your heart tells you. That little voice can keep us out of so much trouble if we just listen to it. :)

  15. This is such an awesome list. I remember when I first started out, I was so stinkin’ overwhelmed!! I literally wanted to try everything from everyone and see what stuck.

    I wish I would have had something like this to refer to! This guide is such a specific direction kind of thing. You get to the point and appeal to many different ways.

    This article rocks!! Definitely sharing and tweeting :)
    Organic Marketing recently posted… Top 10 Must Have WordPress PluginsMy Profile

    1. It can be so overwhelming when we’re getting started. Thanks for sharing this post, Brandy.

  16. Another great post Michelle!

    There is so much information on the web these days and coming to my inbox, it can be overwhelming and confusing. I have to keep focused and learn from on the ones I trust, the ones with the information I need, and the ones that are easy to understand.
    Rhonda Neely recently posted… Listening Strategies – How to be a More Effective ListenerMy Profile

  17. You are so right! We have access to a gold mine of information, but not all of it is valuable. We have to sift through it until we find the treasure that will help us the most. Asking questions to the right people is very important in our learning process.
    K. L. Stewart recently posted… Blue AngelsMy Profile

  18. Hi Michelle,
    It is a very nice and informative post.Thanks for sharing your knowlege on how to decide who to learn from.It is really helpul post.
    waterpearls recently posted… HostPapa CouponMy Profile

  19. Thank you for this very useful tips. I think you are right when you said that you should Look for what’s going to work for you and move you forward. We have to choose where we are good at and focus on that. I also appreciate the tips you have given for the bloggers. This will indeed be very helpful for beginners in blogging like me. I want to be a successful blogger someday and so i would take this as a tip and suggestion. Thank you very much for sharing your insight and knowledge regarding this matter. Your opinion is very much appreciated. Very nice article…
    hazel recently posted… Don’t Be a QuitterMy Profile

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