How often does advice fail to pan out? Did you ever ask yourself why? Is it because we get it from the wrong people, misjudge the quality of the advice, or because we follow it blindly?
The problem is that we seek advice from the wrong people — some of whom don’t have a clue about the subject; we follow the crowd even though we don’t know many of them; we treat celebrity endorsements as gospel, even though they’re getting paid to read a script. And still others seek advice for the wrong reasons — to dodge responsibility or to avoid the time-consuming task of figuring out an answer by themselves. Does that make any sense to you?
A Free Bit of Advice
Know what you know and what you don’t know. Just because you’re an expert in one thing, that doesn’t make you an expert in everything. Seek input when variables lie outside your comfort zone. Following are some guidelines worthy of your consideration.
Before seeking advice, know exactly what you need and identify the most qualified person to ask. I know that seems obvious, but some folks seek advice without forethought, while others seek advice from people based on convenience or proximity or ask the same people again and again — because it’s easy.
Step 1. Know what you want. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll never find it. Are you looking for:
Information. Are you fact gathering?
Counsel. Are you looking for an opinion?
Guidance. Are you looking for direction or help identifying available options?
Support. Are you looking for a sounding board?
Assistance. Are you looking for someone to lend a hand?
Recommendation. Are you looking for a reference?
Blessing. Are you looking for a reality check?
Instruction. Are you looking for how-to help?
Suggestions. Are you looking for ideas?
Step 2. Determine the key qualifications of an advisor.
My goal isn’t to provide you with an exhaustive list of qualifications, but rather to demonstrate how an advisor’s qualifications can impact the advice they give. Here are several qualifications for you to consider:
Subject-matter expert. Possesses in-depth knowledge of a specific area.
Trusted friend. Enjoys an intimate knowledge of you and your preferences.
Like-minded person. Shares similar beliefs and values.
Strong moral character. Possesses a strong need to do what’s right.
Extensive experience. Knows the challenges and obstacles that you may face.
Objectivity. Views all sides of an issue in an unbiased manner.
Successful or unsuccessful track record. Knows what works, what doesn’t.
Sound judgment. Offers keen insight and age-old wisdom.
Perspective. Plays devil’s advocate. Possesses a viewpoint different from yours.
Similar demographic. Understands your situation firsthand.
Vested interest. Has skin in the game.
A Word to the Wise
If you ask several people with different traits for advice, each one will offer guidance based on their unique perspective. For example, if you ask someone with subject-matter expertise, someone with knowledge of your preferences, and someone who is an objective third party, you’ll receive advice from three vantage points. That’ll give you three different ways to view your situation.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is treating advice as gospel and following it blindly. Before acting on any recommendation, know the rationale. If it’s sound, their advice may be sound. If not, it may be time to get a second opinion. It’s also important that advice not be taken as all or nothing — feel free to cherry-pick good points.
Last, but not least, listen only to those you know and trust. There are many people who profess to be gurus or who are out to sell you a bill of goods. Take their advice with a grain of salt. In the end, it’s never wise to seek advice merely to avoid making decisions yourself. It’s your life to live. Own it! Make good choices. Remain true to your values. And accept responsibility for your behavior. Consider the advice of others, but trust yourself in the end.
If You Could Give Your “Younger Self” One Piece of Advice What Would It Be?
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