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Broadening the On-ramp for Women-run Companies

Fighting the Urge to Ask for and Give Advice

One of my friends is a successful entrepreneur who is often asked for advice. Over thousands of coffee meetings with entrepreneurs, she realized that most of them already knew the answers they were seeking, yet they failed to trust their gut. She refers to this phenomenon as the “Magic Genie Fallacy,” in which people start to believe that they need someone else’s magic to propel themselves forward. While seeking advice is often beneficial, buying into the power of a “magic genie lamp” not only can deflate the self-confidence of the lamp seeker but be counterproductive for the lamp possessor as well.

I recently found myself on both sides of this coin.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am currently living in a state of discomfort and have committed to staying in this state for at least six weeks to achieve growth. I have had several urges to “call my mommy”, but the more I resist that urge, the more I learn and the more my creative juices keep flowing. I recently found myself in a state of pure creative bliss fueled by a particularly rough stretch of discomfort. Just as my writing started to pour out of me, I received this text message from my mom: “I fell skiing and have a minor concussion. I’ve talked to my doctor. He says it is minor. I’m OK, but call me.”

Implicit in this text was permission to call when I felt the space to do so, which, as I wrote about in my last post, I was grateful for. Still, I felt compelled to call her right away for two reasons:

First, my mom always drops everything to call me when I “need” her. I subconsciously hold the belief that I also “need” to drop everything to be there for her.

Second, I like to believe that I am a lamp possessor, that only I possess the magic that my mom and others need to solve their problems.

Both beliefs are counterproductive for me and for my mom. 

I am grateful for all the times my mother has dropped everything to be there for me. The 42 years of small and big sacrifices my mother has made for me have fueled my desire to care for others and undoubtedly made me a better person. However, learning to stand on my own two feet has had an equally beneficial impact.

Rushing to call each other every time we are in distress and believing that only we hold the “magic” to help each other keeps us in a vicious cycle that, over time, erodes the confidence both of us have in ourselves.

In this case, my mom was not in need of medical attention. She was surrounded by family and friends. I wanted to be needed. I wanted to fuel my ego by believing that I was the only person who could help her, but I was not. I decided that the best way that I could help her and help myself was simply to respond with this:

“You are stronger than you think. I am confident that you already know what advice to give yourself. If I was in this situation and asked you for advice, what would you tell me?”

When I found myself in a state of non-emergency distress three days later, she replied with the same text.

This response was the most helpful thing we could have offered each other. More than anything, we needed to regain our confidence. Rushing to each other’s rescue would have had the opposite effect.


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