There is plenty of advice around and plenty of people willing to offer it! Every time I look on Twitter, Linkedin, at my RSS feeds or the Podcasts I’ve got saved for long journeys, I see loads of advice being offered and lots of case studies, best practices, motivational quotes, and ‘success secrets’! There is a lot of good material, but here are three reasons why we should be careful about looking to other people for the answers.
1 – Not all advice is created equal
“82% of all quotes attributed to me on Twitter aren’t things I said”. Albert Einstein
When I’ve got a long holiday, I’m planning to read Einstein’s works to see if he did say everything that he’s quoted as saying as I am very suspicious. I’ve sometimes seen multiple tweets on the same day with the same quote attributed to different people which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. The reality is that it is easy to publish a blog post and even easier to Tweet. Not all will be accurate and well-researched. Some will be rants, some will be opinion, some will be wrong, some will be sales pitches, and others will be brilliant. I love Twitter and I read a lot of blogs. My point is simply this; don’t necessarily believe everything you read.
2 – Advice needs context
Given a particular piece of advice, it is often easy to find a piece of advice that suggests exactly the opposite! It doesn’t matter whether it is business, entrepreneurship, fitness, dieting, social media, or productivity it easy to find contradictory advice. For example, my fitness has slipped somewhat over the last year and I’ve done a bit of searching round for a workout plan that will suit me and found loads of contradictory plans. I’m sure many of them are good but unless they’re suitable for where I’m at now and where I want to be, they either won’t help me as much as they should or could help me damage myself in the process. Whenever you see or hear advice, look for the context that it is set in so that you can get an idea of whether it might be suitable for your situation.
3 – Your own advice is better
There is an easy trap to fall into of looking to success stories and aiming to copy whatever made somebody else successful. Lauryn Ballesteros wrote a great blog post on this after working with Seth Godin: If Richard Branson can do it, then so can you. Steve Jobs obviously figured it out early on as he talks in this video about discovering that
“…everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it. You can influence it. You can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
If you can’t see the video embedded above, here is the original on YouTube.
Successful people like Branson and Jobs didn’t try copying others; they’ve been successful because they have been themselves. Nobody knows you or your challenges like you do. One of the most powerful aspects of coaching is that it helps people work out the answers for themselves; If you know what is holding you back, you won’t find the best answers from others. Instead, try coaching yourself, do some mutual coaching with friends (more on this in a future blog post), or get some professional coaching. That way, you’ll get advice you can trust, tailored to you, and you’ll learn and grow as a result.
Finally, if you want an illustration of what it is like to listen to and respond to advice from everybody, then watch the following video. I wouldn’t bother watching the whole thing as you’ll get the idea after less than a minute but I think it is a great metaphor for what it is like to ask for too much advice!
If you can’t see the video embedded above, here is the original on Vimeo.
But don’t just take my word for it; What do you think and how does this relate to your experiences?