On Advice

I have always found "advice" to be an interesting subject.

In theory, advice can be super powerful. When directed and explained well, it has the power to "change lives." Bad advice, in contrast, can steer people in the wrong direction. It can cost people thousands of dollars, and more importantly, years of their life. 

The problem is that we are so often surrounded with people spewing out their own advice that it can be incredibly challenging, if not impossible, to filter the "applicable" to the useless/distracting advice. For example, I am writing this blog post. I write lots of them. And many of them are filled with life, career, tech, etc. advice. 

As a reader, do you value my opinion? Do you oppose it? Do you learn from it? 

In this case, I have a few objectives/goals with writing as it pertains to the value I deliver. First and foremost I want to make you think. You do not have to agree with me. In fact, contrasting viewpoints is a good thing. Secondly, I hope to leverage my unique perspectives to give you a "different" take on some sort of topic. Finally, I make an effort to provide actionable steps to people who can implement in their lives. 

Now that I have tried to defend myself, have at me. You're right...I still spew out a lot of "bullshit". So does everyone. The media. Companies. "Thought Leaders." Etc.

Everyone is selling you on their thoughts. They are competing for your attention, and once they manage to get it, they will try to imbue you with some state or perspective on something. 

The double-edged sword with today's world is that advice is so easily accessible, especially for people interested in building companies. Right? Google how to start a company and you'll find "infinite" articles, resources, thought leadership pieces, etc. on how to best do your work. You do not even have to turn to a computer - ask your friends - ask "mentors - etc. and EVERYONE feels qualified to give an opinion.

It is the nature of humans, no? To feel important enough to give our personal thoughts. 

I do that all the time. 

It is not necessarily a bad thing, you can value others opinion. BUT, think about who you are asking. The context is super important. I like the point about building companies, however, because this is a special case. 

The purpose of this critique is just to help you open up your eyes. What I am saying, you may completely disagree with. And that is fine (which you know). The point is merely thinking about it can help you defend or even bolster your viewpoint. 

1. Everyone pretends like they know what to do. When in reality, no one has any idea and they are making everything up. Why? Creating a company is super hard. And even if you are really successful, you definitely got lucky. How can your advice account for luck? Most people have never even built a hugely successful business, how can they tell you how to do it. The truth is they cannot. And if they pretend like they can, ask them why they have never done it themselves. That is not to say that you should not value mentors. Mentors are super valuable way to gain perspective and I am forever grateful for people that have mentored me along my journey. 

2. There is literally an entire business around selling bullshit advice. People make so much money from this! Yet it is impossible to guarantee results. Question everything. 

The TL;DR of all of this is simple. It is something I have learned over the years from talking to a number of different people. It is that 

a) most people want to help. That is awesome. Most people have your best interest in mind so be eternally grateful. Be nice. Say thank you. Etc. But hindsight bias often gets in the way. People know what they did, not "the way" to do things.

b) most advice won't change your life. 

c) this is the most important one - it is up to you to be the filter. In today's world, everyone is giving advice. I am doing it right now! It is really hard, and something I struggle with, but we have to figure out how to filter the signal from the noise. What aligns with our personal values? What aligns with our goals? What is a distraction?

At the end of the day...It is up to us to make the best of advice and really deliver on our results. 

Now the contrary to all of this, I often think about what "good advice" looks like. 

While not entirely representative in all of my articles, I have found this type of advice to best most helpful:

- actionable 

- unbiased

- empathetic

I do my best to mesh those 3 characteristics in the words I put out, but of course I am still working on it. I like helping people. Hopefully, in the future, I can help more people and avoid giving away shitty advice.