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  • Writer's pictureNikki Trotter, MS, M.A., SHRM-CP, ACC

Stop Going to the Hardware Store for Milk

Updated: Jul 13, 2022

Milk on the shelves of a hardware store
Are you shopping at the right store?

When I first heard this saying years ago, I wasn't quite sure what it meant. But now that I have had some life experiences behind me, I truly understand the importance and the relevance of it. Unfortunately, it was a hard lesson to learn because I was taught that it takes a village, and your village should be your most trusted source of information and inspiration in my time of need; personally and professionally. Although I respect and love those that I have in my circle; and those that support me I now know that this was one of the worse taught life lessons. And it is now one of the topics that come up often with my #coaching clients.

There are several interpretations of this statement, but for me, the saying "stop going to the hardware store for milk" simply means that too often we go to the wrong people and sources looking for the answers to our problems that they just don't have to offer. In fact, we often walk away feeling more lost than we did before; and in some instances, our situation is worsened because our village just didn't have the perfect recipe or the secret sauce (not even grandma) for our success. I can only speak for myself, but I am confident that you do not enjoy compounding your hurt and pain by continuing to take this approach and choosing this path. Let me ask you a few questions:

Would you go to a beauty salon to get your teeth fixed?

Would you go to an optometrist to have your clothes cleaned?

Would you hire an electrician to fix a leaking sink?

Absolutely not! So why do we continue to shop in places and spaces for professional, emotional, or psychological help when we know we will not get it? I believe I have an idea because I was once guilty of the same, but only you can answer that question. I think the more important factor is understanding the reasons we should immediately STOP going to the Lowes Home Improvement store, and Ace Hardware for the gallon of milk and START going to Krogers or Publix to purchase that milk for your breakfast cereal. And here are some reasons why:

Your family. They love you dearly; they are a part of you and you are a part of them. However, it will be almost impossible for them to give you an unbiased opinion on certain areas within your life that you want to excel in and propel forward. They are too up close and personal to remain objective.

Your friends. Sometimes they believe that their advice and support are helpful, but oftentimes, their feedback is based on a version of their life's experience or what they perceive to be best for you. But their perception is not your reality and your life is not their story.

Your co-workers. You spend more than half of your life with these individuals, but they aren't able to show up for you because unless they are your "best friend," they don't have (and don't need to have) all of the pieces of information about your life that is needed to help you solve your life's puzzle nor the challenges you are facing. They know and see you through the lens of work, so they cannot relate to or empathize with you on a personal level.

Your spouse. Even the one person that adores you more than anything in this world cannot lead you to the right decision or validate you. It is hard for a spouse to invalidate things that are near and dear to you. Therefore, they may see this as an insurmountable challenge and be afraid that doing so may create an expectation of them that they are not willing to risk or live up to.

So, what should you do about shopping at the wrong store, for the right product?

Let's acknowledge that we have been going to our family about our marital issues, our co-workers about family issues, and our friends about our career issues. And now we need to step back, self-assess, and realize that we have been doing it all wrong; and in doing so, we are not making progress or accomplishing our goals in life. And because of this, we may have missed out on some life-changing opportunities due to their lack of expertise, knowledge, or wisdom. And we must be determined to never make this same mistake again.

Now, don't misunderstand me, I am not saying that these important people don't have a significant role to play in your life, but what I am saying is that you need to start understanding what brand of milk you need to add to your shopping list and then know which grocery store you need to visit to purchase it. This means (1) identifying what you need, (2) why you need it, and (3) who is the most knowledgeable and skillful person you can reach out to that can meet you where you are and help you to get exactly where you want to go.

If you are shopping for milk, again that would be a grocery store. But if you need spiritual guidance; seek out a spiritual advisor, if you are struggling with a mental illness; consult a clinical psychologist, or if you're looking to design your future; hire a COACH.

We fail ourselves and we lose valuable time in our personal and professional lives when we waste time shopping in stores that don't sell the products we need. In contrast, we save our lives and increase our level of success when we can discern not only which stores we need to shop at for milk but also recognize when we don't need another gallon of milk but instead need to walk across the street to the hardware store for those nails.

Does this article resonate with you? What has been your experience in shopping for milk at the hardware store? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Nikki Trotter is the Founder and CEO of IO, LLC., a transformational coaching company. I specialize in coaching professional women in leadership from the front line to the C-Suite. I help my clients master the art of resilient leadership to take control of their careers with courage, clarity, and confidence.

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