Seeking Wise Counsel

Did you know the quality of your life closely reflects the people you keep as friends and the counsel you seek?

For example, some parents don’t want their children hanging around the wrong crowd because of the influence a bad element will have over them. Does this same idea hold true for people in their adult lives? Yes, definitely.

During a conversation I had with Mark Victor Hansen, creator/author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, he told me he can predict someone’s network based on their five closest friends. He asserts that your circle of influence and the counsel you engage determines your results in life in all areas—health, wealth, and more. I agree.

I find it amusing—pitiful, even—when someone seeks advice from an individual who has either failed or does not have any experience in the specific area of concern. Here are some examples:

-You are considering leaving your partner, so you seek advice from separated couples.
-You are having challenges with your children, so you get feedback from those without children or parents who are also floundering.
-You are thinking about investing and you ask friends and colleagues who have little or no experience in this area.
-You want to take a risk and switch careers, but you ask people who have never done so.
-You are wondering about starting you own business, but look for counsel from people who have never owned their own company.
-However, don’t think you can make major decisions all on your own, either. Assuming you don’t need wise counsel is a prideful, ineffective stand to take. In my experience, those who think they know it all actually know the least, and those who think they know very little, actually know the most.

I have been considering some major business decisions that will have a long-term impact on my business and life as a whole. In the middle of the process, I realized I did not have the experience or the right counsel around me to add wisdom to the decision-making process. So I proactively engaged counsel from individuals who had significantly more experience. One had put together several multi million-dollar developments. Because these individuals did not have a vested interest in the outcome, it became a discussion about facts, not my emotions.

True wisdom is insight based on experience. Most people around you will have an opinion to offer, but few will have wisdom. Although there are exceptions to this rule, rarely should you seek counsel from someone who has failed in the area in which you want to succeed or who has never done what you want to do. If someone failed in the area in which you are seeking counsel, but he/she managed to turn the situation around and to become successful, that person could add great insight on what it will take for you to move forward.

Be very careful when getting counsel. For example, don’t ask:

-your accountant for investing advice unless he/she is an investor;
-your banker for financial strategies unless he/she is using them;
-your realtor about real estate investing unless he/she is a real estate investor in the specific area of your interest;
-your friends on how to start a business unless they own their own company; or a consultant or coach for success strategies if he/she is not successful.
– You probably get the idea.

Wisdom is about knowledge, which is independent from a person’s age or the length of time working in a specific area of expertise. Be discerning when choosing the people with whom you will be working. Base your judgment on the results they have achieved, not just the time they have been in their field. I recall a teacher in high school who, after 20 years of teaching, was still incompetent.

The process of affiliation is powerful. Engage counsel from those who have gone before you at the highest level you can—within reason. This brings me to a very important point. (If you are paying an advisor, this does not apply.) If you are seeking counsel from others, don’t forget to ask how you can help them, too, so the process is not just about you. Honor the two-way relationship; e.g., buy coffee and lunch, send a gift certificate, etc. Be a giver, not a taker.

Make seeking wise counsel an intentional and regular part of your life. Here are some tips:

Push the envelope to approach individuals at new and higher levels.
Proactively seek wisdom before you need it.
Go beyond your current state of neediness and engage others you hold in high esteem—people who have perspectives beyond your current condition.
Learn how winning individuals think in order to achieve success and achieve results similar to theirs.
Wisdom is about context. If your life reflects the company you keep and your life is not where you want it to be, look around to see where you go for counsel. For many of you, that will require letting go of certain relationships, setting up boundaries, and moving on. It’s not that you are better than they are, but rather that you have your own path to follow. In the end, you must choose your own path, but it’s easier and more effective to learn from the wise.

“It is not white hair that engenders wisdom.”—Menander, Greek Comic Dramatist (342 BC–292 BC)

Action Steps

1. Consider whether seeking wise counsel from others is part of your life’s success strategies. Why or why not? Choose to make seeking wise counsel one of your intentional life success strategies.
2. Question whether your life is moving in the direction you want to go.
3. Jot down a few names of those from whom you are currently receiving advice. Are these individuals who have experience and wisdom, or people with simply an opinion?
4. Seek counsel from those who have a track record in the area you require. Just politely say “no” to feedback from well-meaning, ignorant friends who have no success in your area of need.
5. Don’t assume your paid advisors are wise counsel for areas outside their expertise, such as accountants for investing or bankers for financing options.
6. Think of the people in your life who might be holding you back, and what you might be willing to do about it. Your life, choices, and results will be highly influenced by the company you keep.
7. Select at least four individuals whom you admire and who are accessible to you. To understand how they think, ask them out for lunch in the next six months. 8. Ask questions, learn, and most of all, shut up and listen!
9. Honor your wise counselor. Ask what you can do for him/her; be a giver, too.
10. Treat wise counsel as a gift.

Until next time, keep Living On Purpose!

Ken Keis, Ph.D.
CRG Consulting Resource Group International, Inc.

Author Bio

Ken Keis, Ph.D., President of CRG, is a global expert on leadership, wellness, behavioral assessments, and life purpose. In 28 years, he has conducted over 3000 presentations and invested 10,000+ hours in consulting and coaching. Ken Keis is considered a foremost global authority on the way assessment strategies and processes increase and multiply success rates. He co-created CRG’s proprietary development models and has written over 4 million words of content for 40 business training programs and 400+ articles. His latest book, The Quest For Purpose: A Self-Discovery Process To Find It And Live It!,is available at

Posted in Wellness.