Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Are you frustrated with information overload? I was too, for a time — one that reminds me of The Simpsons episode in which Mr. Burns offers his trademark, “Excellent!”, but when asked what he meant by that, flatly responds, “the opposite of whatever it was before.”
That’s how I feel about most business gurus today, and am heartily sick of the amount of crap I had to ignore and overcome just so I could find a tiny glint of gold in a pile of dirt.
A few discoveries I made on the way to that realization:
1. Just Because Someone Is Successful Doesn’t Mean They Can Teach Others to Be
I’m not saying that all business gurus are bad. Some of them are smart and know what they’re talking about, but far too many simply repeat what others have said without understanding the concepts themselves.
Here’s an example: A lot of people will tell you that you need to hire a coach to help you succeed in business. I’ve even seen coaches who say this themselves, but let’s think about this for a second: If you want to learn to swim, would it make sense for me — someone who knows nothing about swimming — to teach you? Of course not!
This is exactly why so many business owners hire coaches who have never been in their shoes before, only to be disappointed when they don’t know what they’re doing. So, listening to Tony Robbins or other more lifestyle-leaning experts when the specific need is for advice on how to build a business might not always be the best idea.
2. Success Rarely Comes From Following the Playbook of Others
I know this is not what most people want to hear — we all want to find out what’s worked for others and then copy it. It’s tempting to think that you’ll get the same results if you do, but here’s the problem with this approach: it doesn’t work.
We’ve all heard stories of success in tweaking someone else’s formula until it worked for them, but in truth these situations are so rare that — while they might make for great anecdotes — are poor business advice. If you’re looking to be an entrepreneur or start your own business, there are better ways to get started than simply emulating what worked for someone else, particularly if that someone is in a different industry or market.
Related: Take the Path Less Traveled to Unlock Your Full Potential
3. The “One Hit Wonder” Guru Trap
I’m sure you’ve seen headlines like, “How I Made $100,000 by Age 27” or “How I Fired My Boss and Started My Own Business.” These articles are all over the place, but are very often accounts from people who are not actually successful and/or written by those who want to be in the spotlight for a brief moment before fading into obscurity. They want their 15 minutes of fame, but don’t have any real advice to offer.
It’ll likely not surprise you, but most of these gurus are also marketers who sell courses or books that instruct on how to make money. In short, they have no interest in helping you succeed as long as they can sell you something.
The truth is, most people aren’t cut out to run their own businesses — especially if they’re just starting out and don’t have the right skills or experience yet. The result is that you could easily spend thousands of dollars on a course only to find that it doesn’t work for you at all.
4. Podcast Mirages
I am a huge fan of podcasts, and favorites include The Tim Ferriss Show and The James Altucher Show, but there is one type of podcast I don’t listen to, and I’m far from alone in that preference. In a Top Rank Marketing roundup and analysis of recent surveys, one statistic jumped out at me particularly: Only 4% of respondents indicated that they listen to business podcasts.
Why? Because most of them are boring… long, drawn out and full of pointless chatter about the minutiae of running a company. There’s nothing wrong with being passionate about your work, but resulting accounts tend to be unexciting for anyone except the entrepreneurs themselves.
Of course, there are exceptions: Noah Kagan Presents is entertaining because Kagan talks about his personal experiences as an entrepreneur — tells stories rather than giving advice.
Related: The Perfect Work-Life Balance Starts With Saying No
5. What Happens Without the Noise
I used to be a sponge for the wisdom of the world’s top entrepreneurs and business leaders — would consume every word in their books, blogs, podcasts and videos. I listened to their interviews as I cooked dinner and jogged around the block — heard them even as I slept! But over time, all that listening made me feel like something was missing. It became noise and not signal — noise from people who were trying to sell me something or who had a wildly different perspective than mine. So, one day, I decided to stop listening to business gurus entirely, and here’s what happened:
• I started thinking more clearly about my own goals
• My productivity went through the roof
• My creativity flourished
6. Gurus Likely Don’t Know Squat About Your Industry
We’ve all been there: You’re at a conference and are forced to listen to someone talk about how they’ve made millions of dollars by selling their product or service. You can’t help but think, “Wow, if I just had that idea, I’d be rich.”
The problem is that he or she probably doesn’t know anything about your industry, but instead has a one-size-fits-all answer for everything, and that’s because these types are often generalists — they don’t specialize in anything. So why would you listen to them? The answer is that you probably shouldn’t.
And you know what? If it works for them, great, but it likely won’t work for you because you’re different from them (and everyone else). You have unique challenges and opportunities that require a unique approach that only you can create.
Cut Your Own Path
After years of chasing pundits’ advice and trying to emulate their success, I decided that there was a better way to achieve it. By creating your own model, you are focusing on the only things that really matter — finding your voice, telling your story and making sure that your customers know you exist. Focus on these three things, and the rest will take care of itself.
Related: How to Forge Your Own Path in Business