“A Nickel’s Worth Of Free Advice”

Cut Out of Old Person

“You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.” – John Steinbeck

A few weeks back I read someone’s Facebook rant about advice. Something about that rant has been sitting wrong with me ever since.

The rant’s author was irritated at some advice he had heard about how to best structure your mornings.

The premise of the complaint was that you should just do whatever you feel like doing and not to listen to anyone but yourself.

The actual rant was much longer than that, but I for the sake of brevity…

I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it bothered me until recently.

Then it clicked.

Advice is never about the person giving it, rather it’s always about the person receiving it.

With that in mind, let’s break this down a bit.

Advice comes at you in one of two ways. Either you asked for it (solicited), or you didn’t (unsolicited). One is perceived as positive, the other as negative. One is deemed helpful, the other as not helpful, and can even be annoying.

But all advice is simply someone else’s opinion.

We can either choose to listen to that opinion, or we can choose to discard it.

What really matters in the interaction is how you respond to the advice.

Here are a few starter questions to ponder.

If anyone offers up an opinion do you instantly discount it?

Do you tend to get angry right away when advice comes in?

Are you able to listen, even if you don’t “need” it?

Please don’t misunderstand me on this topic. I am not saying that all advice is good advice.

Far from it.

In fact, the main problem I see with advice is that no one else can possibly understand all of the nuance that is going on in your life. Because of this, all advice will always be incomplete, “bad,” or not applicable.

You have probably found this to be true.

Even good advice is just an attractive idea that you are able to push into the existing framework of your life.

The Facebook rant bothered me because the author was mad at the person giving the advice. He was upset that someone else could possibly have the audacity to offer up an opinion.

And that is where the problem dwells.

It doesn’t matter that someone else offers an opinion. We can never control that. We can’t control the incoming message, only our outgoing response.

You can control whether you select that opinion for use, or leave it on the table. It’s totally up to you.

So, why be upset?

My advice on receiving advice?

Listen to the other person’s opinion, decide whether you might use it or not. and move on.

It’s simple.

No need to rant. No need to be upset.

With all advice, you get to choose whether you take it or leave it.

Maybe it works for you, maybe not, but don’t spend a minute on a reaction to the giver of that advice.

Save your energy for the things you can control.

Next week we’ll talk about moving forward with your life despite the good advice you are receiving. Walking your own path sometimes means listening to advice, but not following it.

Question: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? Please share in the comments.