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Anyone who knows me well knows I subscribe to Proverbs. One in particular that has helped me tremendously over the years is, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” I learned many years ago while running my own business that it’s good to surround yourself with people who are wiser than you and who have had more life experience than you. I learned it’s good to listen to their stories and the advice they share with you.

That said, I’ve also learned that there are times when it’s not a good idea to listen to people…

In 1919, Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star. According to his editor, he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Walt didn’t listen to his editor and we know how things turned out for him.

On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to listen to bus driver James F. Blake’s order that she give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger, after the white section was filled. Parks’ act of defiance and the Montgomery Bus Boycott became important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movement. She became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation and nine years later on July 2, 1964, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ending racial segregation.

Over the span of four decades Lee Iaccoca rose to the top of the Ford Motor Company, but ultimately clashed with Henry Ford Jr., the company’s CEO and chairman. After a string of unused ideas Iacocca was let go. Iacocca was soon courted by Chrysler, which was in danger of going out of business. He took out a huge loan from the government and used it to revive the company. He refused to listen to his naysayers and brought several of his ignored ideas from Ford over to Chrysler, like the Dodge Caravan and the Plymouth Voyager. He remained CEO of the company until 1992 and was credited with its rise from failure.

For you sports aficionados, as a sophomore in high school, Michael Jordan was cut from his school`s basketball team and was told that he wasn’t good enough. But he refused to listen to what people were telling him. He went on to lead the Chicago Bulls to 6 NBA titles while winning 6 MVPs at the same time.

I can relate to each of these people and their stories rather well. At the age of 16 I became very passionate about being in good health and as a result made the decision that I was going to own my own health club someday. For years people with good intentions, and not so good intentions, told me I would never be able to achieve my goal. I didn’t listen. Nine years later at the age of 25 I not only owned one, but went on to own two, which I owned and operated over the course of 12 years.

Later in life I discovered a talent and passion for writing. And so as I set out to write my first book, I was told I would never be a writer. I didn’t listen. Today, not only am I the author of my own book, but I’ve been published in regional and national trade and news publications across the country.

Now for clarity, it wasn’t that Iacocca didn’t listen to what people were saying about his ideas being bad before he took them to the competitor. It wasn’t that Jordan didn’t listen to people tell him he wasn’t good enough. In fact he recounts a story of the time he went home and closed his door so that no one would see or hear him cry. It’s not that I don’t listen to people when they tell me I can’t do something…it’s that we don’t subscribe to what they are saying. We don’t agree with what they are saying. We don’t share the same set of beliefs. We’re driven by our passion to be creative and make the world around us a better place.

So I just want to encourage anyone reading this right now who has a kindred spirit…endure the critiques. Crash through the obstacles that well meaning people may verdantly or inadvertently put in your way. Wear the label of someone who doesn’t listen. In fact, wear it like a badge. If what you are pursuing is for your good or the good of others and is based in virtue…then learn the art of not listening.

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