I value a good insight as much as the next aspiring soul, and I too am drawn to stories about others having the kind of impact I strive to have. We all are. That's why we can be counted on to click the headlines that promise the 'one' thing or even the seven things that speak not just of a story but a promise. I'm certainly not immune - heck, I even write headlines that despite my best efforts to infuse them with the truth and not guarantees, make others do the same. It's a shared human frailty. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with it... except one thing.

When Jeff Bezos points to the thing, utters the sentence, or suggests the singular way to be successful, ultimately he's talking about and to just one person, and it isn't you. It's Jeff Bezos. On its face, whatever he or countless other successful people say is basically valueless. What gives any piece of advice - yes, even motherly, fatherly, friendly, or spousal advice value, comes down fit. And fit is ultimately concerns how well you know yourself and how attuned you are to the filters you use everyday to sort the information and insights tossed your way each day. There's a reason the Greeks etched in stone at the temple of the Oracle of Delphi, "Know Thyself."

How do you make this happen? In other words, how can you better 'know yourself' and more effectively filter out the helpful from the entertaining or the just plain irrelevant? It's just me talking, but consider trying these 3 things - they don't give you the answers, but they sure improve the odds you'll arrive at the ones that matter to the person who matters most of all: you.

Get Your Head Out Of The Cockpit.

News flash: we all get trapped within our own borders, and far more often than we recognize. It's a key driver for why we go seeking advice elsewhere. Try just going elsewhere, not looking for an answer, but just going, unencumbered from a deliverable. Maybe it's a walk in the park, perhaps a stroll through a novel. The point is to take that break from our own thoughts and our own four walls that's proven to be the genesis of fresh ideas and new ways. Sometimes we just plain need a break from our own thinking - and from other people's too.

Ask 5 Layers Of Why.

There are times when you need to get specific - very specific. And usually that's when you've gotten too comfortable, with your assumptions that is. Assumptions are a good thing, allowing us to run much of what we do on autopilot. We'd have a tough time functioning if we didn't make them. What we forget to do is update them.

There's a pretty reliable way to identify when the time has come to check your assumptions: that moment when you realize you're banging your head against the wall and making no progress - often the very same moment you turn to your news feed for distraction and maybe subconsciously the answer. The next time that happens try asking yourself why you've hit a road block... and then do it four more times. It's a technique credited to Toyota founder Sakichi Toyoda. The idea is simple: The first answer you give to a question is often even if unconsciously the default answer, the one you've programmed yourself to give. What Toyoda found was that if you reapply that question of why to your first answer, and then do it several more times, you tend to bring yourself below the surface answer and to the core of what really matters. Often that's precisely the place where you realize your assumptions need an update. It's also commonly the place where you'll find a way to get unstuck.

Finish The Phrase: I am __.

Getting your head out of the cockpit, asking 5 layers of why... these things are meant to be playful, not prescriptive. They freshly free you up to remind yourself what matters, most of all to you. Refreshed you're a better able to sort the advice the world happily pumps out to you each day. You're also in a far better positioned to answer the most vital question of all - how you complete this phrase: I am ___. Not to get too philosophical, but life human life is ultimately about filling in that blank. And if you don't do it, rest assured someone stands ready to do it for you.

Published on: Apr 5, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.