WW#013: Listen to Your Own Advice

Have you ever heard the saying ‘The cobbler always wears the worst shoes’? There are a few variations of it, sometimes it’s the cobbler’s wife or children with the dodgy footwear, but the meaning is always the same: often, those closest to someone don’t benefit from that person’s expertise.

They say the advice you give, is the advice you need to hear.

I once found myself on a Discovery Call, listening to someone tell me that they were struggling with their time management. It’s a story I often hear: a founder/entrepreneur is so busy working in their business, that they don’t have time to work on it.

I talked them through some of the ways I could help, and as I hung up from the call took a quick look at my calendar to schedule a follow-up mail to them. Eventually I found a half-hour gap two weeks later.

OK, that might be something of an exaggeration, but the point is: it can happen to the best of us. We can all be the Cobbler with the hole in our shoe. In my case I was so entrenched in doing those jobs needed to keep the company going, that I wasn’t doing the ones that would help the business grow, such as following up on leads, potentially letting good new business walk out the door.

So what’s the solution?

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ fix, not in reality, but that important first step is to stop, take a moment and admit the fact that your boots are letting in water. Are you the business coach not taking their own advice about expansion and growth? Perhaps you’re the software developer who hasn’t backed up the system properly in weeks. (Don’t feel too bad about that, Pixar nearly lost Toy Story 2 for that very reason).

In my case, I was being the busy fool, even when I advise others to reflect and notice as the empathetic witness in their own actions. Sometimes it takes another to highlight our blind spots, or to reflect on the advice we give others and consider what it would be like if the boot was on the other foot!

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James Potten


On a mission to democratise entrepreneurship by providing access to best practice, helping startups sustainably scale up.