The Four Things People Need Most When They’re Lost

I find that there are four things most of the people need most when they’re lost and stuck. I’ll use entrepreneurs as an example since that’s the majority of who I work with.

First is Empathy: Hell, being an entrepreneur can be hard. We can work so hard and take failure or rejection so personally. We can work so hard for so little money. The first thing I find people need to hear is, ‘You’re not crazy. You’re not alone.’

Second is Context: They need a map to help them understand where they are. They need to understand where they’re strong and weak. They need a clear diagnosis that helps make sense of their symptoms. All they know is that some things just aren’t working. But they don’t know why. They’re lost and they don’t know where they are. They need someone to help them understand where they are and why.

Third is Options: Once they feel heard and understand where they are – they need to understand the various options for getting to where they want to be. This is where more information, reading books, listening to audios can be helpful. It’s a general level of solutions. From this they can begin to pick and choose what feels relevant. This level is about learning the language in a certain arena. They start learning the general principles of marketing, some of the core strategies and tactics and maybe even hear a lot of examples.

You can start to feel really powerful, like you now know how to navigate the terrain. You walk a bit taller. But at a certain point it becomes clear that the more you learn, the more you know you don’t know. You become increasingly aware of where you’re still ignorant. And you start to suspect that you need more than just options and information.

Fourth is Guidance: In many ways, this fourth level is what they were really after when they were looking for options. At the end of the day, they can get too many options. So many that they feel overwhelmed and immobilized. “Overwhelmed by insurmountable opportunity” as Pogo said. I find that most people are silently begging to be led. They’re craving for someone to take their hand and walk them from where they are to where they want to be.

They don’t always want this guide to make the decisions for them (though often they do), but they do want someone who can not only explain the options but also give them their best advice and opinions on what would be best. And guidance can only be done one on one – in a personal relationship.

You just can’t get guidance by reading a book or listening to some audio or watching a video. That just becomes more information. And more overwhelm. In fact, all of these levels are more powerful when it’s person to person. You can get a general level, a surface level, of all of these through books and online – but working with a coach or mentor will be, obviously, far more powerful.

It’s one of the reasons I have issues with people selling their ebooks and information products for so much money. The idea that ‘information’ will save you. That if you ‘just buy this DVD series all of your problems will be solved.’ But it rarely works. How many unread books and course binders are sitting on your shelves and tables at home? How many have gone unread? I rest my case.

After they’ve absorbed enough information (and for some people it’s more than others) a question begins to surface: “How does this apply to me?” They understand that it works – and why – but they are still struggling to make that principle fit into their business.

But you need to go through these four stages in order. You’ve probably experienced this where someone tried to give you guidance without any real empathy or diagnosis and it felt awful.

If you try to give people guidance before they have any context they will resist it because they don’t understand why you’re suggesting it. It will feel like they’re doing what you told them to do. But if they understand the context then they’re more likely to share your opinion and do it because ‘it just makes sense.’

If all you do is get empathy – you’re still stuck.

If you get empathy and context but no new information – all you know is what’s wrong but you feel lost about how to solve it. A lot of flailing about can happen here.


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