Would you take advice from a stranger?

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Antal Berkes: Budapest in winter
Antal Berkes: Budapest in winter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A woman who grew up in Hungry was showing us oil paintings for her home in South Africa and a small apartment in Budapest that was confiscated by the Communists and many years later given back to the family. I asked where and how she had learned to paint so well. She laughed. She said that she had learnt just by doing it.

This self-taught artist was saying something that is significant and permeates everything she does in life. With a happy, can-do-it attitude she goes into things and get things done without hours, weeks, months or years of excruciatingly painful learning. I think it’s the same attitude that led her to establish a chain of retail toy shops in Johannesburg many years ago.

In these times with the explosion of information and knowledge, many have jumped aboard to “institutionalise” knowledge from every practical subject under the sun. Other institutions have bought into the concept so much so that today unless you do a course, you’re not going to get that job you are after even if it’s a relatively humble notch on the totem pole.

But it’s not only institutions who have institutionalised knowledge but also a whole range of colleges, trainers, coaches, cosmetic consultants and business advisers. You have experts these days who will show you how to wash your face, comb your head and clip your toenails. Don’t laugh. They get pretty well paid.

What subjects, what things have you learnt in your life on your own? How did it feel? Sure, you made mistakes. How can you possibly not make mistakes the first time you do anything? Making mistakes is part of the learning process. Starting something from scratch, starting a new business from a product or service idea is something you have to do yourself, make your own mistakes and be aware that the first time you do anything, it’s probably not going to come out “perfect” but will probably be “good enough”.

If you plan to start something of your own, would you ask a stranger for advice?

I suppose it would depend on what you want to know and whether you trusted the stranger or not. We all are taught from a young age not to trust strangers.

But if someone came along with the right credentials, with experience in starting new enterprises, failing in them and trying to gain and succeeding, then it may be worth your while to take a look.

A basic primer on how to go about taking a promising idea from cradle to adulthood could be useful. If you’ve never come up with ideas of your own or need to begin to see opportunities around you and find out how to develop those opportunities, then tips, techniques and methods may help you get started.

You can get the advice you want or need but it’s up to you to make it happen. It’s up to you to just go and do it. It’s up to you to make mistakes. You, as a human being, have every right to make mistakes. To learn the way you want to learn in your own way. To learn from your experience. Know what to do and what not to do and to call the shots even when you think you need advice from a stranger.

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