The Importance of Listening
Do you consider yourself a good listener? Lately I’ve been trying to teach my son to listen more, and it’s reminded me about the importance of listening in life.
Our oldest son just turned 4 years old, and like other kids his age, he hasn’t really learned to listen yet. It’s been a big battle getting him to follow simple directions, but we’re working on it.
It really frustrates me when I ask him to put on his coat or wash his hands, and then I check on him a few minutes later and realize he hasn’t done a darn thing — He’s still sitting on the floor playing with his toys.
If I ask him “What are you supposed to be doing right now?” He’ll simply answer, “I don’t know.”
Aaargh! Clearly he wasn’t listening.
Are You Listening?
This little story reminded me how common this kind of behavior is — People don’t really listen anymore.
Partly because they’re already too busy talking.
Have you ever just stood in a public place and just listened to the people around you? I’d bet a good majority of the people were talking — either on the phone or with a companion.
And, if they were busy talking, they weren’t doing any listening.
The world is a complex, connected, and social place these days. Everyone is a mere cell phone call away. Now, we have Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and others — all platforms for talking to the world. But is anybody still listening?
Talk, talk, talk. After all that communicating, people must really begin to believe what they say is important.
In my opinion, the vast majority of it is inane blabber.
I’m a firm believer that when your mouth is closed, your brain suddenly turns-on.
Listening Can Make You Wealthy…Maybe
What if I told you someone has already given you every secret to building wealth you’ll ever need. Do you believe me? It’s probably true!
You’ve probably already heard all the “secrets” to build massive wealth. Were you listening? Are you wealthy yet?
Like most adults, you probably listened politely, and then promptly did nothing to change your life and your finances.
The problem is that everyone is being constantly bombarded by too much information these days — Good and bad advice alike.
The really good financial advice gets drowned out by all the rest of the mediocre blabber.
Listening isn’t just about paying attention to words anymore. Listening in our modern world really means knowing which advice to trust, and which “verbal diarrhea” to filter out.
Who are you going to trust?
Will you trust that financial advisor who isn’t a fiduciary? Will you trust that wealthy relative who probably just got lucky when markets were booming back in the day? Would you trust the financial advice of a friend at a cocktail party?
How about famous investors like Warren Buffett? What about investing gurus that offer “all the answers” … once you buy their book or attend a seminar?
Unfortunately, who to trust in this world isn’t always clear.
Listen To The Mistakes
Sometimes we need to make a lot of mistakes before the true answers become clear. I’ve made lots of mistakes in my life, and I’ve begun to realize that learning from mistakes is the important part.
Someone who goes through life with a “Midas Touch” isn’t going to be a good source of investing advice for the vast majority of humanity.
Most of the time, those ‘golden’ individuals aren’t smarter or wiser than the rest of us….they just got really damn lucky. A mere positive anecdote in a sea of statistical data. Essentially, a single data point that should probably be ignored.
Instead, look for advice from people who DON’T profess to have all the answers, but still managed some decent success in life.
Find advice-givers who admit to making big mistakes, and then learned from those mistakes. That’s the advice that’s truly golden … and it’s far more rare than you might imagine.
Show, Don’t Tell
In the personal finance blog-o-sphere, you have all sorts of writers out there — some good and some bad.
On the bad side, you’ll find individuals trying to hock investment advice (or investment products) to you. “Buy my book”, “invest with Betterment” or maybe “sign-up for Personal Capital”.
You’ve probably seen it before. These folks are shilling for a payday — and providing very generic investing advice.
But there are a few rare bloggers who do things a little differently. People I respect. I put them in the “Show, Don’t Tell” category.
Instead of selling investment advice or hawking investment products, they simply blog about their life. They focus on the “showing” how it’s done instead of “telling”.
The distinction may seem fuzzy, but I can guarantee it exists.
For anyone who’s willing to actually listening, all the investing and lifestyle advice you’ll ever need can be found by watching how a few good people live.
As I wrote in a recent Rockstar Finance post, I believe transparency matters when it comes to personal finance blogging. There’s just so much fake news, and fake advice out there, it’s hard to know what’s “real”, or what to believe anymore.
I believe in trying to be as transparent as possible — I post our monthly dividend income and expense reports , and our net worth for anyone who cares to look.
While I’m not a perfect example (sometimes I write investing pieces about compounding and ROIC), most of the time I simply try to show you how we live. We invest, garden, build things, cook, and even travel.
To me, that’s far more valuable than trying to pass off some random advice as the right way to reach financial independence.
I am a single statistical data point. What worked for me, won’t work for everyone — It would be ridiculous to presume so.
The Unspoken Words
So don’t just take my word for it — read dozens of personal finance blogs. Head to over to the Rockstar Finance Directory and search for ‘early retirement’ personal finance blogs. (The individuals who, like me, actually made it).
Then, start reading. Don’t take any advice at face value.
Listen to the unspoken words in every blog. Try to find the mistakes, successes, and similarities that tie all our different experiences together. That’s the advice you should listen for.
It’s going to be far more valuable to you than finding that next personal finance “guru”.
14 thoughts on “The Importance of Listening”
Interesting read. Listening is definitely important when we’re trying to learn something new. But asking questions and discussing is also crucial. I tend to zone out after an hour of just listening. I need some interaction to keep the conversation alive.
I tend to be in a binary mode when it comes to listening. When I’m interested in what the other person is saying, I laser in and give him/her my undivided attention. Some people say it’s kind of scary how focused I get haha.
But when I’m not interested, my mind just completely zones out.
Troy @ Market History recently posted…How long should you wait before buying the S&P 500?
This is a neat reminder. 🙂 I’ve always believed that mistakes are the best way to learn. Of course, if you’re actively listening, you learn from the mistakes of others, and hopefully don’t make them yourself. 😉
That’s ideal, right? If you’re anything like me, you still need to make a few yourself before you really “get it”. 😉
Thank you for this reminder. I have found that listening also helps greatly in settling disagreements and calming down arguments. So often when we are in conversations we are busy thinking about what our response will be that we don’t truly listen to what the other person is saying. Seeking first to understand is a powerful tool in life, and conscious listening is a huge part of that.
Well said Matt! Listening is a skill that can be applied to all walks of life!
It is amazing the wisdom you can gain by simply listening and taking a healthy devil’s advocate approach to everything you hear. If you can get a handful of smart people to share differing views, a little critical thinking can make you (even if you’re starting in ignorance) more informed than any of them.
Good luck with the listening ears. I’ve found age 8-9 to be the nadir (to date). With a four y.o., I found a carrot often worked well. “You want to hear a funny joke?” “YES!” “Go wash your hands and I’ll tell you.” The good news is that no matter how bad your kid’s listening ears seem, there are many far, far worse!
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This is one of my favourite posts from you. 🙂
Listening is definitely more important than speaking. Though it is easier said than done. There’s so much information we get bombarded with it’s hard to filter out what we should listen to and what we shouldn’t.
Good for you for being transparent and teaching your readers through example. It really is through the mistakes we make that we learn. If you go back and erase your mistakes, you erase yourself.
Thank you for the wonderful compliment FireCracker! I’m really glad you liked the post!
Good post, Mr.Takoe. People are more concentrate on self than on others. But you gotta listen, even if you disagree with a person, or an opinion. You gotta listen and analyze, ask yourself couple of questions about what you’ve listened. The whole world is about opportunities, you just need to zip your mouth and start listening.
Very good read. Thanks for sharing. I agree with everything you said about listening nowadays and the volumes in which people receive information. The internet age has its pros and cons. There are so many good resources available…if you can find them and they aren’t drowned out by the noise.
Love your advice to leading by example. That’s what we try to do on our blog and hopefully the message is received by others.
Thanks for taking the time to write this.
I agree! Finding the good resources is hard!
This is why I read you and not so many of the folks out there. You are letting me see your thought processes and not trying to sucker me in to buying some magic pill.