Sorry, I’m Not Going to Tell You What You Want to Hear

Have you ever had an encounter that looks a little something like this?

  • Someone asks you for advice
  • You give them advice
  • Upon receiving advice they say “Oh this is great, this is exactly what I needed to hear.”
  • They swear they will act on advice immediately
  • They do nothing even remotely close to the advice given – and often do the exact opposite.

Of course it’s happened to you, it’s happened to us all!

That in and of itself, not such a big deal.  After all, I’m the first to admit that not all the advice I give is good, especially if it’s on a subject I dont know a whole lot about.

It’s often nice to simply get feedback from friends or acquaintances so that you can then make the decision that’s best for you.

However, what if we add a little kink to the story?

What if this person paid you for said advice?  Would that change anything?

Let’s take it a step further, what if they paid you for it, didn’t act on it, and then asked for their money back because you didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear?

Recently I received an email from a reader that wanted to do a consulting session with me.  I almost never do lifestyle consulting unless you’ve already joined Location Rebel, and shown a desire to follow through on the goals you’ve set for yourself – because I don’t want it to be a waste of either of our time or your money.

However there was something about this instance that I made an exception for.

This person wanted to successfully create a lifestyle business.  They seemed motivated, hungry, and more than willing to do what it took to make it happen.

So I made an exception.

We talked for an hour.  They seemed fully engaged with everything we talked about, and promised to follow up with me with their progress on the actionable goals we set.

A week went by, nothing.

I even followed up because I was legitimately invested in their success – I really thought there was potential.


Then a week later, I received an email saying nothing but “this information wasn’t what I thought it would be, I’d like a refund of all my money”.

I’ll preface this by saying I immediately gave them their money back, no questions asked, and never heard anything from them after that.

But I thought this was a good illustration of how many people are afraid to put in the work to be successful with a lifestyle business.

This person, in bold, told me this before we got on the call: I need someone to tell me what I need to hear, rather than what I want to hear.

Fair enough.

From the beginning I knew their end goal was to create an information product.  That’s great I thought.  They had a good idea that had potential, but there are already a few people out there who have larger audiences, and more experience that were doing versions of this pretty successfully.

So my suggestion was that they not start there if their primary goal is to build a lifestyle business.

The Model that Works

I’ve found a system that’s worked great for me, as well as dozens of other people I’ve helped mentor in Location Rebel.

It’s simple.  It’s a lot of work, but it isn’t difficult to grasp.  Here it is:

  • Step 1: Get Relevant Skills.  I sum up the best skills to learn for having success online in this blog post.  That’s the basis, without  understanding these you’re going to be hard-pressed to have any real success online
  • Step 2: Offer a Service.  I believe freelancing is the best way to get started on the internet.  It doesn’t have to be your end game, but if you specialize in one thing, and do it well, getting clients isn’t all that difficult.
  • Step 3: Create a Personal Venture.  Only after building credibility, skills, and your online income to a base level should you build your own product, start an ecommerce store, or jump into affiliate marketing.

Yes, you can see success in any of those things while skipping step #2, but if you follow these steps in order you’ll have less stress, more big wins, and be fully location independent in less time.

On the call, I laid out a detailed plan for how to achieve their goals by following this plan. I even offered to help with some of the accountability after the fact.

However, because it wasn’t what they wanted to hear, they weren’t happy with the result.

Important lesson: Most people who say “Tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear” don’t mean it.  Most people want you to tell them what they want to hear. Period.

There’s a reason you asked me for advice on this particular topic in the first place.  I’ve proven I know how to be successful with it.  I have dozens of testimonials from people who I’ve helped. You can see the path through the last three years of blog posts.

So, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you what you wanted to hear.  I told you what works based on my experiences.

If you were unhappy with the information, you should have said something after I asked you three separate times “What else do you want to talk about? Does this all make sense? Does this seem like a path that will fit for you?”

If you have the balls to ask for your money back after spending an hour on the phone with me, then you should have the balls to tell me at the time you’re not getting the information you were looking for!

Something to Ask Yourself

Are you telling your friends what they want to hear because it’s easier and it makes everybody smile and feel good about themselves?

Stop it.

If their plan sucks, tell them.

If their idea is no good, they need to hear about it.

You’ll be saving them a lot of heartache, stress and potentially money by being upfront with them from the beginning.



Derek Johanson October 4, 2012 at 10:00 am

I think Tom Cruise & Jack Nicholson argued about this once…

It’s human psychology. Most times we hear what we want to hear. We want things to align with our vision of how the world works. This person couldn’t handle it because they weren’t actually receptive to a different line of thinking…

And… they’re probably just broke. Oh well. It’s all just one reason why we offer money back guarantees.

Good post,


Sean October 4, 2012 at 10:02 am

haha true story. And I agree, most people we try and hear what they want to hear, but often times its such a radical departure that we cant get our mind on board with it, and we collapse.


Benny October 4, 2012 at 10:45 am

I wrote a post about it cause I got tired of people asking me for advice and either doing nothing about it or not even saying thanks. I figured they just didn’t like how much work was involved, wanted a magic solution , or wanted to hear something else.

It does suck people waste our time when we are trying to help.

Glad you wrote about this too.


Financial Samurai October 4, 2012 at 10:53 am

Maybe the strategy is to tell people what they want to hear in consulting then?


Sean October 4, 2012 at 10:55 am

It might make them feel good in the short term, but then when they dont get the results their looking for, no one is happy.


Janelle October 4, 2012 at 11:48 am

Thanks for writing this, Sean. I just encountered this in a Mastermind group. We had a new member who said he was ready but took no action whatsoever. At the end of the day, I realized that he just wanted to stay in his comfort zone. I’ve dealt with this with friends and family countless times and my personal observation is that people do what they want to do, period.

I just interviewed Sahil Lavingia with Gumroad in which he says the same thing. His last quote is a note he wrote to people who kept asking him “how to be an entrepreneur.” For most people, the idea of change is attractive, but the work involved is not.


Harrison October 4, 2012 at 11:51 am

I’m a pretty straight-forward brash guy … so there is no hell in way i’ll beat around the bush and fluff things up. I mean, that was pretty much why i left Minnesota cause passive-aggressiveness was super annoying.

Communication and transparency is definitely important. Like you said, if the other person knows everything upfront, then either they will accept the new information they get or not, but at least I’ll know where they stand with what I say.


zack October 4, 2012 at 11:57 am

Noble post. I feel like too often the people who seek counsel from a professional are in a moment of excited ambition. They get a big rousing idea in mind but don’t consider the work needed to follow through, and once they’ve put resources into it (eg consulting), the sparkle fades and reality sets in and suddenly “the men are separated from the boys” so to speak. Sounds like this guy or gal just lost his wind once reality set in.

Unfortunately, when you work in a world where “extremely ambitious entrepreneurial adventurer” is the baseline skillset just to *consider* the field, finding someone who will take your advice and run with it seems like it could be rare.


Laila Atallah October 7, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Love it: “a moment of excited ambition”


Expatana October 4, 2012 at 12:10 pm

What I wouldn’t give for the privilege of consulting or counseling about my business goals and steps to take to achieve them. But I’m not currently in a position, so I envy that client. And I too feel frustrated by his lack of follow-through. Not to worry, Sean. I’m sure you’ve seen countless other clients taking the steps to see a beautiful dream unfold.


Peter Hemmingsen October 4, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I want someone to come over and kick my ass for a few weeks just so I can get into the habit of doing some real work. Do you think that once a hustle mentality has been ingrained it becomes easier to get work done?


Laila Atallah October 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Too funny, Peter. Love your honesty. Recently, I’ve actually been sitting down with my career counseling clients and *doing the work WITH them*, because they seem to need the same thing. And, that’s only after hitting them with a literal frying pan repeatedly, after weeks of inaction.


Laila Atallah October 7, 2012 at 5:17 pm

oops. guess I meant “figurative” frying pan … or something like that. if not, I guess I’d be a *different* kind of career counselor. 🙂 Not there’s probably not a market for that somewhere.

Mat N October 7, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Peter, the day you stop sitting around hoping for someone to kick your ass and realize that it’s 100% down to you.. is the day you take the first step towards freedom.


Robert Redus October 4, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Good morning Sean,
I’m believe you to be absolutely correct about advice, even paid advice. I admire your willingness to return the client’s money, (says a great deal about you).

I’m certain people are either, “in” or they are, “out” and many who are out, feel and believe that the entrepreneurial mentality is a small shift in gears. Yet once in the midst of the game, they realize their 9-5 job was what they were designed to do and are probably better suited for that lifestyle.

Truth is a critique and not designed for a great deal of emotional BS. Absolute truth when it comes to advice might not make you a whole bunch of friends, but it will get you the truth from those you told the truth to……when YOU are asking for advice.


Carrie Smith October 4, 2012 at 12:20 pm

I came to this realization last month actually. Instead of trying to give people what they wanted to hear, then coming away feeling guilty or frustrated, I’ve started telling them what I really think. Although I won’t volunteer my advice, unless they come out and ask for it.

They may not like it or get upset at me, but at least I can sleep good at night knowing I told them the right thing. What they do (or don’t do) with it, is no longer my problem! 🙂


Turner October 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm

When I was in turmoil, and just wanted to hear something, I guess I could relate to how your client reacted. Guess that is the reason to set up a gauntlet of proven action/commitment to get to you (location rebel). I just had a friend email me the other day about her boss’s son – he is Europe but wants to stay but needs advice on how to find work overseas. I simply told her to give him my web address and if wanted help, he could follow the breadcrumbs rather than just handover my email or for me to reach out to him. Not as big a barrier as yours potentially is (sign up for location rebel), but as you said, you gotta make people show commitment and not just want some ear candy.



Expatana October 4, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I’m curious, Sean: What are the specific things the client had to do but didn’t want to do?


Terry October 4, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die!


Joe Cassandra October 5, 2012 at 9:10 am

It’s the path of least resistance (as Mark Cuban says). If you tell someone they’re doing something wrong, it means they must change something instead of continuing to do with what they are sure is correct (and easy).

That’s why entrepreneurship is scary, because you have to fail and adjust all the time.

Good work Sean!


Chas October 7, 2012 at 8:22 am

I think you should stick with the safety valve of Location Rebel~ if a person isn’t at the very least willing to commit to joining Location Rebel, chances are that a private consultation will be falling on deaf ears. I haven’t joined Location Rebel because I am not ready, but, neither do I expect a private lifestyle consultation from you. As you say,(if I’m not ready to join Location Rebel), it would be a waste of time for the both of us. I still benefit from your postings on Location 180.


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