Lesson 001 – Why Is Giving Advice Easier Than Acting On Advice?

Why is giving advice easy but acting on advice hard?

Guru from Gang Starr

Image Source: NPR

It's often easier for one to give advice than it is for a person to run one's own life.

So, why is this lesson #1?

The entire premise of altEducate is to teach you things that you won’t encounter in school.

Therefore, most of the lessons I’ll share may seem like advice and so it’s only appropriate to discuss what you can do when given advice.

A PERSONAL STORY

A friend of mine was enthusiastically applying for a job he really wanted but unfortunately, he was not given an offer for that position.

When speaking with him, I could hear the disappointment in his voice and I was quick to shower him with platitudes that made me feel good.

“Don’t worry about this. You’ll find what you’re looking for.” Or, “You may come to realize that this is a really good thing in the future.”

It’s so incredibly easy to give advice and tell him not to worry, not taking into account his emotions.

Fast forward several months and I am applying for jobs.

It just so happens that I get rejected for a few roles that I was psyched about.

Emotionally, it was very hard for me to deal with some of these rejections. I felt like an impostor and that maybe I wasn’t as good as I thought I was, professionally. I felt that maybe people are finally figuring out who I am and that they had seen who I was all these other years.

I’ll leave impostor syndrome for another lesson but suffice it to say that giving the advice to my friend was easy and I moved on after the phone call.

Replaying the same advice I had given him but to myself, I couldn’t see how it was helpful at all (even though it’s likely accurate).

So again, why is giving advice so easy and acting on advice so hard?

ACTIONS TRUMP THOUGHTS (BUT IT’S HARD)

Everyone has advice to give you but most don’t implement it themselves.

Giving advice requires only thinking about what the best outcome may be or the path you should take. It’s more of a rational exercise rather than an emotional exercise.

Taking advice is hard because it requires action and acting is often where most people stumble.

They are afraid to act because then it’s more than a thought.

It costs nothing to say, eat healthier, go to bed early, find something you’re passionate about, work really hard, believe in yourself, never give up and many more empty axioms. It costs a lot to actually implement it, with the currency of action in most cases being willpower.

When acting on advice, you have put yourself out there and now you have a body of work that can be judged and contemplating that you could have made the wrong decision is terrifying, so many people simply don’t act.

On the Art of Charm site, Ella Banks writes “All advice has value. The question is whether you follow all of it, none of it, or part of it.”

When I was considering applying for TechStars, a startup incubator, I received some advice from Jason Seats, their director.

Jason said that the tough part for the entrepreneur in their incubator is that you have two mentors who are accomplished, or believable, giving you contradictory advice. It’s up to you to determine which advice you want to take (or neither one).

TRY YOUR BEST TO SEPARATE YOUR EMOTIONS FROM THE ADVICE AND THE ADVICE GIVER

Your mother and I used to get into some heated debates when she would give me advice about my startup.

I would get so defensive about it because it felt like she was questioning my character and my ability to make decisions.

But, routinely, her advice was accurate but it was so hard for me to ignore the feelings that would bubble up and thus not allow me to listen to her sound guidance.

It’s very easy for me to say, “don’t worry about this or that.”

In reality, when I give advice, there may be a logical component to get you through some challenge but I may not connect with the emotional challenges that you’re going through.

Because only you know your internal problems, there are too many emotions that may obscure your judgment of the merits of the advice.

This is possibly why giving advice is effortless because you are not as emotionally involved. When you give advice to someone else, you typically think through the problem rationally. When someone gives you advice, you feel that advice first and foremost.

Elizabeth Scott from verywellmind.com writes, “Take space from the situation so that you can respond from a nonreactive place. When you feel that you can do that, validate their advice in order to create an atmosphere of emotional security.”

So if you receive advice, ask yourself, is there something I can learn from it after I’ve stepped back and removed the emotions out of it?

WHO IS GIVING THE ADVICE MATTERS

If you are out looking for advice, I’m confident that you will find some.

Make sure that when you ask someone for advice, you find people that are “believable,” as Ray Dalio calls it in his book Principles. The more experience one has with a particular topic, the more believable they are.

You wouldn’t ask the barista for advice on how to launch your singing career unless of course you live in LA and that barista is an aspiring singer.

Similarly, you wouldn’t take relationship advice from your friend that is always fighting with her boyfriend.

Ray Dalio goes on to say, “If a number of different believable people say you are doing something wrong and you are the only one who doesn’t see it that way, assume that you are probably biased.”

So when receiving advice, make sure that you are speaking with believable people.

CONCLUSION

So what should you do when you get advice, and how do you best give advice?

That’s for you to decide but hopefully, this gives you an idea of the various packages advice comes in.

Remember to:

  1. Analyze the advice and determine if it’s actionable
  2. Try to separate your emotions from the advice and the advice giver
  3. Determine if the person giving you advice is believable

If you’re a parent watching/reading this, what are some of your comments around getting and giving advice? Leave it in the comments below.

Go make your dent!