Learning From People You Dislike

I belong to a lot of Amazon-related Facebook groups.  In my totally unbiased opinion, I think FBAMaster is the best, but it would be silly to think that I couldn’t learn from other groups.  One of the other groups I frequent has a particular distaste for some ‘gurus’.  In the interest of anonymity, let’s call this guru Ceegee.  I’m pretty sure the raison d’etre for this group is to hate Ceegee.  Not being content to simply dislike someone, I’ve seen some go to such extremes that they will actively harm themselves in order to try to make sure that Ceegee could not benefit in any way.  Consider a slightly modified version of a real life comment:
I’d really like to go to XYZ conference.  Some of the workshops look great; it would be a great opportunity to network with other sellers.  But, I hear Ceegee is one of dozens of speakers there, and I wouldn’t want him to get any of my money.  

Some others chime in with ‘helpful’ advice:

You can go to XYZ conference, but just ditch Ceegee’s presentation.  Sure, you’ve already paid for it, but you definitely don’t want to learn anything because it’s possible he might also sell something, so you can just skip it.

cut_off_noseI’m editorializing slightly, but this is an honest-to-goodness representation of a legitimate conversation.


There’s a proverb that deals with this exact issue: “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.”


Before I go further, it’s important to realize that I’m quite opinionated and critical.  There are plenty ideas I think are stupid and plenty of people I’m not fond of.  Although I try not to be, it’s not a particularly rare day that I’m accused of being arrogant or prideful.

That said, I am not so prideful as to think I can’t learn and/or benefit from people whom I disagree with or dislike.  And, it’s my opinion that failing to learn from people simply because you dislike them is a huge mistake.  As I think back to being a student, it seems clear to me that some of the people I benefited most from were teachers and professors I wasn’t fond of.  It wasn’t merely that they were tough.  Sometimes it was a personality clash; other times it was a teaching style I didn’t enjoy.  I shudder to think of the consequences of dropping those classes, zoning out, etc.

Brendon Buchard, best selling author of The Millionaire Messenger and founder of Expert Academy and High Performance Academy, summarizes it like this:

I’ve seen that phenomenally successful people believe they can learn something from everybody. I call them ‘mavericks with mentors.’ Richard Branson, for instance, is a total maverick but he surrounds himself with incredibly successful, smart people and he listens to them.

When you start thinking that you cannot learn from people you dislike, you needlessly limit your potential for growth, especially if that person happens to be successful.   There are at least a few reasons for this:

  1. We tend to be attracted to people who think like us, value what we value, approach situations from a similar perspective.  It’s classic Us versus Them type thinking.  The corollary to this is that we tend to dislike people who think differently, have different values, and come from a different perspective.  However, if you want to expand your thinking, these are EXACTLY the kind of people you hear from.  People rarely grow from amen-choirs or echo chambers.  You might find incremental growth from encouragement of like-minded people, but it’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll have a paradigm altering shift in perspective.
  2. We all suffer from confirmation bias.  This is a fancy way of saying that humans have a natural tendency to seek out information/data/sources that agree with our preconceptions.  In political terms, it’s the equivalent of conservatives only watching Fox News and reading Wall Street Journal and only interacting with liberal sources to try to find holes.  Or, it’s the equivalent of a liberal only watching Bill Maher or reading MoveOn and only interacting with conservatives to poke holes.  This might be okay if you think you already have everything figured out, but I’d suggest that everybody has room to improve their business savvy and it would be a shame to miss out on hearing the one thing you needed to hear this year simply because you didn’t like someone.
  3. Even if you disagree, the process of thinking through why you disagree and articulating it is helpful.  It’s very easy to ignore someone you disagree with.  It’s much harder to hear them out, try as hard as you can to understand where they’re coming from, and articulate (at least to yourself) where they are wrong.  Maybe you come from a school of thought that says, “I want to keep this information secret, that way nobody else will find it and I can profit the most from it.”  Maybe your least favorite guru comes from a school of thought that says information wants to be free, and widely circulates information and tells you that you should succeed because you outperform your competitors, not because you have a secret.  Maybe you’re right.  Maybe he’s right? Maybe neither of you are right?  But, one thing I know is that when there are smart, successful people who think very differently than you, you owe yourself the favor of hearing them out and, at least, thinking through their points in the most charitable way possible.


internetargumentsLet me give you a more relevant example.  A few years ago, there weren’t nearly the number of Amazon-related Facebook groups and they weren’t as large as they are now.  One of the places to get information was Amazon Seller Forums.  It was a horrible, soul-sucking place that often amounted to experienced sellers telling newer sellers how stupid they were.  It’s close to impossible to overstate how much I disliked those forums.  Nevertheless, as I started growing my business, I made a decision to visit the forums every single day for 20-30 minutes AND to participate in at least one discussion a day.  I probably got called an idiot 500 times, but I pressed on because I cared more about my burgeoning business than I did about my pride.  People would ask questions and I’d have no idea what the answer was, but I’d go find out.  I’d quote Amazon TOS chapter and verse.  On opinion based questions, I’d give my rookie opinion and then have it torn to shreds by more experienced sellers.  Again, I hated that place.  But, a lot of good game from it.  Nowadays, people tease me because I know the TOS so well.  There are some people who probably think that I read Amazon help guides before I fall asleep at night.  Not so.  It comes from months and months of daily interaction on those forums.  I might have hated those forums, but I became a better seller as a result of it.


So, here’s my plea: Is there someone in a facebook group that bothers you?  So what? Get over it.  Is there a guru who you don’t really like?  So what? Figure out how to learn from them.  I’m not saying you have to start loving everyone — I sure don’t.  But, don’t sacrifice the success of your business on the altar of your pride or feelings.

2 thoughts on “Learning From People You Dislike

  • April 1, 2016 at 8:39 am

    An excellent article on a subject that is often overlooked. Everyone has a part to play, we are all participants making our own contribution. This kind of effort requires cooperation and a mutual understanding about those around us.
    I was fortunate when I was working in industry, to be put in a position of having to liasion with a few who could be very offish or simply difficult to work with in order to get my job done.
    I was a young engineer and some of these folks had been around for a decade or two. One in particular looked forward to my coming by so I could take a message to another engineer he needed to coordinate with. He wanted to avoid dealing with any kind of social graces required to sit down and work out problems with his counterpart face to face.
    Fortunately, these folks were in the minority, but even they contributed greatly to the success of our program. These were not dummies by any means. but simply misfits in the scheme of things many of us take for granted.
    Had I not learned to work with them my job and future would have been affected. I could have run and found a different job and avoid all that hassle, but also miss out on some wonderful rewards and feeling of accomplishment the project afforded us in the coming years.

  • April 7, 2016 at 12:20 am

    I was banned from the FBA Master group for no reason that I am aware of.. I messaged you but never heard back.


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