Why you should never listen to me (or anyone else)

2 days ago, I said that you should find your own path:

The problem with copying is that you don’t understand why you’ve done what you’ve done. You’ve applied the solution without understanding the problem.

Yesterday, I contradicted myself by arguing that you should steal your ideas:

Copying is one of the oldest ways of learning how to do something. When you copy someone, you get an insight into their process. It opens your eyes to new possibilities, new techniques, and a new way of seeing.

There’s always two sides to an argument. Yet, the types of things we like to read and listen to are often one-sided. A one-sided argument is powerful, confident, and convincing. When someone argues both sides, there’s no point of view. There’s no clarity in what they’re trying to convey. It loses impact.

Imagine the post above said, “Steal sometimes. But not all the time. It’s up to you, really.” Boring, heh?

Advice is often a one-sided argument. It’s a point of view, not the point of view.

When someone gives advice, they’re just explaining what worked for them in the past. Advice comes from knowledge and experience. But both knowledge and experience come from building solutions to old problems and situations. It’s out of date.

What worked for me might not work for you. And what didn’t work for me might work for you. The factors of what did or didn’t work for me were based on my situation and my environment. Yours are probably different. Same goes for anyone else giving advice.

So, is all advice bad?

No.

One approach is to get as much advice as possible from different people in different contexts, and use that to coordinate your own ideas. Derek Sivers put it well:

Ideally, asking advice should be like echolocation. Bounce ideas off of all of your surroundings, and listen to all the echoes, to get the whole picture.

Another way to is to find people that enable you, encourage you, and give you permission. Sometimes that’s all you need. Sometimes the best advice is “You’re on the right track. Keep going.”

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This entry is part of the 30 Day Writing Challenge, where I'm trying to write and publish every day during April. All my posts in this challenge can be found here.

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