Good Advice

One thing I hate is good advice.

Especially when it’s unsolicited. But even when it’s not. Good advice is a killer. And certainly not in the “excellent, outstanding, extreemely satisfying [sic!]” kind of way. Rather in the “Charles Manson is coming to your barbecue and he isn’t bringing booze” kind of way.

Anyway, good advice. Here’s my trouble with it: It sucks. No matter what. There are two specific ways how it can suck:

  1. It sucks because it’s just the same old bad advice gone cross-dressing. It’s simply wrong. As I’ve said before, the opposite of good is well-intentioned, and often, that’s what happens with good advice.
  2. It sucks because it’s right and forces us to either act on it,1 or leave everything as it is, and suffer the consequences – including snotty looks and evil laughter from the side of the advisor: “I told you that you shouldn’t connect your Macbook to that shaky Colombian power outlet!” – “We warned you that he would cheat on you!” – “I told you that you wouldn’t earn a living as a traveling leather jacket salesman!”

So, good advice sucks.

Now, what can we do about it?

Some people simply try to avoid it as good as they can. Unfortunately, this rarely works out. Not only do they miss all the helpful bits and pieces of the abundant advice that’s thrown at us – they also fail in the attempt to escape it in the first place. Unless they move under a rock. In the desert. On the moon.2

So, here’s my good advice concerning good advice: Don’t flee it – seek it!3

If you can’t avoid it anyway, seek good advice as much you can, and make the best of it. As it turns out, good advice (even from the “well-intentioned” category) sucks when you hear it, but it still may be quite helpful in the long run.

The Filter

So shall you take all the good advice you get for granted?
Of course not.

But all you’ll need in order to make the best of it is to behave consciously. As you will be permanently receiving advice and input from a myriad of people, books, and experiences, you have to install a filter. And your consciousness is precisely that: A filter.

When it comes to good advice, there is only one person who decides on what to make of it:

*Fanfares*

You!

To give an utterly boring example from my early life (*cough*): Many years ago, I went to seek career guidance4 and took a test with a company specialized in evaluating possible job perspectives for students.

The result?
They recommended to me to become either a language teacher, or a diplomat. They would have been tempted to recommend journalism or the arts, but the labor market looked too dim, according to their statistics.

So that was the advice I got. A career counselor’s vision for my future. The only useful realization of my talents, apparently, was translating labor contracts and manuals, or sort through visa applications in some office building in Brussels.

Rhetorical question for long-term readers: Did I do what I was told?
Nope.5

But: Did I still benefit from the advice I got?
You bet! By evaluating it on my own, I gained an interesting insight into my talents and how they compared to the general public.

As it turned out, my mix of computer knowledge, graphic design skills, creativity, and a knack for writing, traveling and languages wasn’t as common as I had expected. All I had to do was figure out how to combine them6 and to deepen them, i.e. in college studies and through self-education.

So here’s the trick to good advice:

  • Seek it.
  • Take it.
  • Filter it.
  • Draw your own conclusions.
  • Yay!

Your Turn!

Take a moment to think about some recurring good advice you are getting – especially if it totally sucks.
Now, figure out a way to go deeper, and seek more advice concerning the same issue. Ask different people, look at it from different perspectives, and consciously adopt the position of your advisors. Then, think about the truths and lies in their advice, and apply it to your situation in a way that makes sense to you.

Some examples for common well-intentioned advice:

  • “You should try to find a higher-paying position.”
  • “You should get married sooner better than later.”
  • “You should buy a faster computer so you can work more efficiently.”

I will share a very special piece of horribly good advice with you on Monday, and it’ll be concerning a topic I also mentioned before, in my post on time independence: Perfect conditions. So this could be another interesting topic to think about!

Please share your thoughts in the comments, by email, or via Twitter!

Wonderful photo CC-BY-NC-SA by akseez. The quote I added is from the Eels.

  1. And we don’t like to act on it, because homeostasis makes us feel so very comfortable with things just the way they are now, not matter how good or bad they actually might be! []
  2. And I bet that even there, some astronaut or alien or whatever will come along with some totally unsolicited good advice. []
  3. Wait! Hate it and seek it? Sounds contradictious. Umm, yeah. So what? []
  4. Not a joke! []
  5. At least, not yet. I would willingly accept an ambassador’s position almost anywhere in the Caribbean, even on short notice. []
  6. Like here on TFA! []

Comments 10

  1. Cristhyano June 9, 2011

    I was receiving some ‘good advices’ because i was approved for a public job (i don’t know how you call there, it’s a job that you’ll never lose, unless you quit) and i don’t want to finish my college anymore. They say that i have to do it because it’s a college, even if i’ll not use it in my new job and don’t pretend to work in that area anyway. But it’s just one more year left, i’ll try to finish it so my paycheck will raise 5% and i can save more money for my early retirement and my future job as a guitarist.
    The funny thing is that the people that say i have to finish, don’t tell me why. I just have to because it’s a college. Even if my job won’t use it ever, even if i am promoted.
    Nice text, man. Cheers.

    • Fabian June 9, 2011

      Wow, that sounds pretty senseless! Good to hear it’s only a year, though. I suppose you are doing the right thing, considering the 5% for the guitarist retirement fund! Over a couple of years, this will make quite a difference!

  2. Mirella June 9, 2011

    We must be on the same wave length! I just wrote a post about taking (or not taking) advice too!
    Wonderful to hear a different perspective and to hear your own personal story also.
    Thanks so much for sharing :)

    • Fabian June 9, 2011

      Haha, funny coincidence! Spreading advice on advice! :)

  3. Erick June 9, 2011

    I quit my corporate day job one month ago. People keep telling me that I should get back to the office, afterwards, suffering at the work environment is just part of the life! I’m moving to the beach next week and people again compliment me for my courage. In fact, I don’t really feel courageous about it. I think that one must be very courageous to postpone one’s life to be lived after retirement (60+). Stoicly speaking, we don’t even know if we’ll awake tomorrow morning!

    • Fabian June 10, 2011

      Hey Erick, sounds like a huge step you took! Did you manage to create some form of early retirement, or will you be working on your own from now on? Would be interesting to hear a bit more of your story, if you’d like to share!
      Also, I hope you’ll have a good time at the beach! :)

  4. Erick June 10, 2011

    Fabian, thanks for your reply. I’ll be working as a teacher with a flexible time scale. This will grant me the income I need to pay the rent (which is very low compared to São Paulo) and other expenses. My girlfriend is also coming along (she’d also quit her day job). I’m selling all possessions (apartment and car mainly) too. After 10 years working for the financial market and many health problems I decided that I had enough. Possessions, restaurants, clothing, status: they’re all ilusions that keep you attached to the wage slavery regardless of your wellness. Life is much simpler, isn’t it?

    • Fabian June 10, 2011

      Erick, it’s great to see your boldness! I cross my fingers for you and your girlfriend, and hope you’ll have a great move! Thanks a lot for sharing this story here on TFA!

  5. Maaike Quinn June 12, 2011

    Even though there is plenty of advice that I consider to be very sane and valuable, still I always want to try the opposite and see what happens for myself. I guess that’s just the way stubborn people learn ;). But hey, I decided not to mind anymore. What’s the worst that can happen? That I fall flat on my face for everyone to see? Well, I’m sure I’ll live :D

    • Fabian June 12, 2011

      Haha, Maaike, I certainly know that stubborn way of learning, too! :)

Comments are closed.