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How Listening Can Be Your Greatest Failure (And Most Valuable Lesson)

10/26/2015 12:05 EDT | Updated 10/26/2016 05:12 EDT
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Blond haired businesswoman sitting at a desk opposite young woman and talking.

Can listening to others be your greatest failure?

It was mine.

When I first set out to start my own business, I hired a top business coach who specialized in teaching entrepreneurs how to "sell". This coach had clients all around the world and had several successful companies. She was making millions. She came with amazing recommendations. I truly felt honoured that she would take me on as a coachee.

I had years of experience working in sales, marketing and business development for a range of companies, from large multinationals to small startups. I knew my stuff. But I had never run my own business. And I had certainly never sold myself the way entrepreneurs need to do.

So I listened to everything she said. I followed every bit of advice she gave me, to the letter.

She provided me with templates for how I should write my marketing content, how I should conduct my webinars and how I should sell my coaching packages. She gave me her "formulas."

The techniques and strategies she taught me were the very same ones that had helped her achieve success.

Yet they felt wrong for me.

When I followed her marketing advice, the content I produced lacked authenticity. It wasn't my voice and it definitely wasn't an expression of my true self. On top of that, I wasn't getting results. When I told my coach this, she counseled me to be consistent and eventually, the results would come.

They didn't.

That was my first red flag. Yet, seeing as how she was who she was, I chose to continue to follow her advice, even though I felt terrible and my inner voice was screaming at me to STOP.

In addition to marketing, I also followed her advice on selling coaching packages. Her process involved bringing people's fears forward and insisting they pay for a package on the spot. That meant, on her first conversation with a potential client, she would ask for their credit card information. And it wasn't for a small amount. It was for thousands of dollars. Her rationale was that people came to coaches for help, so it was our obligation as coaches to do what we believed was best for them, and to pressure them into a sale before they changed their mind.

Her technique wasn't necessarily wrong... for her... but it felt wrong to me.

Another red flag.

But once again, I listened, even though my gut was telling me not to. And it didn't work. I didn't sell a single package that way.

I then chose to stop listening to what felt wrong.

I chose to start listening to what felt right.

I chose to be brave; to listen to my own instincts and forge my own path. I must admit, it was difficult and scary. But I could no longer ignore the loud voice inside of me.

I started developing marketing and sales strategies that aligned with my core values.

Let me give you an example: When it came to selling, instead of asking for credit card information on the first conversation, I started giving people time between our conversations to think about my packages and services, and decide if working with me felt right for them.

That's when I started selling.

My thinking was, if someone was meant to work with me, they would work with me. I didn't want my clients to make decisions based on fear. That's not how I coach people in making decisions, so I certainly didn't want that to be the start of our coaching relationship. I want clients to make decisions from their heart.

The result?

People started signing up and came into the program ready to make changes in their lives and excited about the commitment they had just made.

By listening to someone else's "formulas", by doubting myself and not listening to my inner voice, I had made a terrible mistake. A mistake that had set me back in my progress and had caused me considerable discouragement.

I consider it my greatest failure as an entrepreneur... but also my greatest lesson.

That failure taught me that just because a technique or strategy worked so successfully and resulted in millions of dollars for one person, it didn't mean that it was right for me.

It taught me that the voice I needed to listen to first and foremost was the voice inside me. I needed to give that voice the megaphone.

That inner voice, whatever you want to call it -- instinct, gut feeling, intuition -- it knows your inner truth and passion. It knows your life's purpose; it knows what you have to do, even if you haven't figured it out yet.

Now I coach others in finding their own voice, understanding their core values, their life's purpose, and creating strategies to align that with their life and business. I help people bring meaning to everything that they do, in all aspects of their life. It's what I truly feel I was meant to do, and the joy I feel from living and working with authenticity is like no other.

Listen to your gut -- your inner voice -- it knows you best. And it, more than anyone, has your best interests at heart.