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The Approach to Taking Advice

No man or woman comes out of the womb ready to be the perfect version of themselves.

Mistakes will be made, bad choices picked over the good ones, the hard way will be walked as often as the easy one. It’s just the way it is.

We only have so much information available. We’re our own little universes composed of what crosses our path and nothing more. Sometimes that’s good enough but most of the time it isn’t. We need fresh elements in our universes to make us a more complete picture.

We need advice from others.

And we need to be better at taking it.

Let’s talk about giving good advice first. You have to be willing to step up and help people out.

A lot of people hold in some really choice gems of knowledge because they don’t feel qualified or because they feel like their advice isn’t wanted. Always offer up your advice. Leave it to the people you’re advising to decide how to use or not use what you have to say.

The second most important thing when giving advice is to check your motivation. We’re social creatures and that’s not always a good thing. The motivation behind the advice we want to give can sometimes not be coming from the best place. If you have any other motivation behind what you’re about to say other than to be helpful shut your mouth. The only reason to give genuine advice is to help someone in need. Not to denigrate them, make them feel inferior or to float your own self esteem.

(Also, don’t try to advise people on how to be better at something you yourself suck at. It makes them mad.)

And finally, be honest about your level of expertise. Your advice can be harmful if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Explain to people your level of competency if it’s not apparent to them already. Now is the time to be humble. It helps people attach a real value to the advice you’re giving them so they can decide to use it, discard it or modify it. If they don’t take your advice after it’s been given and you turn out to be right it so be it. Remember what I said earlier, sometimes people walk the hard path. Never rub it in. They’ll come to you next time if your still gracious and easy to talk to.

(Yes, this makes me look stupid. But I wanted to learn to use chop sticks and I trusted someone’s advice. Eat everything with them. And now thanks to that good advice i’m mildly good with chop sticks and great at looking insane) 

But taking advice is the real hard thing. At least for me sometimes. We get ourselves into a place from time to time where we believe that only we know best. That no one understands what’s going on inside us better than we do. That’s a bad place to be. You make mistakes, big ones that sometimes can’t be fixed. You jump to terrible conclusions that hurt you and hurt others. You carry around new regrets and foster self doubt in yourself where confidence should be.

Trust me I know. I did it recently.

The point is that you have to be open to hearing things from people. Advice sometimes comes in a form that you may not want to hear. People see things about you that you may never be able to see. The outside perspective is fresh, it lacks any emotional connection to the things we’re debating. You need to hear it. Hearing what people have to say won’t kill you. Worst case scenario you can just ignore it.

The real problem in taking advice comes when you see advice given as a condemnation or an indictment of what you are doing. Just like where the advice giver must be pure in their motivations to help, you have to believe that the advice given to you comes from a good place. Otherwise not only do you dismiss potentially good advice but you start to suspect the motives of people that might be trying to help. I have an important someone in my life that doesn’t talk to me anymore because they mistook advice for antagonism. Don’t sacrifice people because they saw a weakness in you and tried to help. Letting advice go is easy. Letting people go is never a smart thing.

Sometimes the way you’re doing things is wrong. Look, this is the real world. It’s not Kindergarten where ever snowflake is special and everyone’s way of doing things is equal. I mean, you’re allowed to go about things in your own way sure but presumable you have people who care about you and who will want to steer you onto a better path. You have to hear them out rather than reject them because you feel they’re trying to change you. At the end of the day the only person that can change you is you. Not them. They’re just trying to help and you may genuinely be in need of that help whether you recognize it or not. Either learn from their advice or just smile and nod then go back to doing whatever crazy thing you were doing cause “you like it.”

(“Look man, I was just trying to tell you that maybe it’s ok to dress like this in your creepy castle and I get that all the other mummies are dressing like this too, but just because successful mummies dress this way doesn’t make you a successful or accepted member of society and that… you know what, fuck you man you look great. Later”)

Seek advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. When you have an important decision to make and you believe you have everything you need at hand to make it, i promise you’re wrong. Take a minute, an hour, a day. Ask for advice. Especially with emotional decisions. You need the perspective of people outside the situation. Remember that people are sometimes afraid to give advice. Some decisions we make are one way paths and you’ll have to live with the outcome. Calling for a trusted friend’s advice is a lot easier than living with a bad call.

(I would literally let this man beat me senseless if he told me it would help in deciding what to have for dinner.) 

Be aware of where the advice is coming from though. Everyone makes the joke about obese people giving weight loss suggestions. But it’s true. When people are suffering from the same situation you are and haven’t made any headway in overcoming it you should scrutinize their advice closely. Doesn’t mean they may not have good advice to give, hear them out. It doesn’t hurt. But ask yourself why they haven’t succeeded by taking their own advice or why their advice hasn’t worked for them.

The crux of my entire site and all my articles is to give helpful advice. But I wanted to share with you how to take my advice (or how to not) and how to ask for it if you need it. This is an important article to me. Two years ago I decided to reinvent myself. I lost weight, change my wardrobe and reassessed my behaviors. I recreated my life from the ground up. I owe so much of that success to the many people that offered me advice and took an interest in my success. There are times I’ve ignored advice or not even sought it. Sometimes that turned out best but usually not.

The best parts of me are the ones tempered in the kindness of friends.

But that’s my approach to giving and taking advice. I would love to hear yours.