Don’t Give Advice

Don’t give advice.  Just don’t do it.  I know you want to, but just stop it.

It took me a long time to figure this out.  Once I’d spent a great deal of time thinking about this, and deciding the best thing to do is to NOT give advice, I still found myself giving advice.

I find it difficult to NOT give advice.

After trying hard for 2 years now, I’m starting to NOT give advice.  But I’m still slipping up and offering advice.  This is a difficult habit to change.

Why You Should NOT Give Advice:

The main reason you should not give advice is because NO ONE ASKED YOU FOR ADVICE.

I found that it’s not just me that wants to give advice to everyone, even though no one asks for it, it’s almost everyone I know that has this same problem.  People are always giving advice to other people, even though they weren’t asked to give advice in the first place.

The problem starts with, most of the time the person who is talking (giving the advice), doesn’t realize what they are doing.  They don’t realize that they are giving advice.  They are just giving their opinion of what someone else should do.

It seems like a built in human thing to do.  It’s natural.  I think it’s a weakness.  Giving (unwanted and un-asked for) advice is a natural weakness.

You see, no one ever asks you for your advice.  No one is asking for your opinion.  But we feel compelled to give it anyway.  We think we’re helping the person that we are giving advice to, but we’re probably just feeding our need to feel good about ourselves.

It is so freaking hard to keep my mouth shut.  It’s so easy for me to tell someone what to do.

And our fellow humans don’t make this any easier on us to not give advice, because sometimes people do ask for your opinion.  Sometimes people do ask for advice.

It’s rare, but this does happen.

And here’s why this just makes the problem harder.

The vast majority of the times that someone is asking for advice, they are not really asking for advice.  They’re really just asking you to tell them everything is ok.  They’re really asking you to help justify that they made the right decision.  Especially if they just made a bad decision.

I’m sure if you think about this, you’ll recall many conversations in your life where you’ve experienced this.

The best example of this that I can think of is with MONEY.  Let me explain.  Some of my friends know that I have an interest in finance, saving, and investing money.  I’ve gotten decent at investing my own savings.

One of my friends asked me what they should do with some of their money.  So what did I do?  I fucked up and gave advice.

You see, my friend wasn’t really asking for advice on how to save or invest money.  My friend wanted me to produce magic.

My friend wanted me to say a few words and magically the money that he had saved would magically turn into a lot more money.  I think specifically the question was about which stock is a good stock to buy.  This is a black hole question and one to always avoid.  Why?  The reason is because there is no right answer, only wrong answers.

Investing money is intensely personal.  Everyone is different and everyone has to learn this skill on their own.  There are 186 ways to make money investing and over 1,000,000 ways to lose it.  Most “investors” lose money.

My friend didn’t really want to know what stock to buy, he wanted me to do magic.  How would I know what stock will go up or down?  And how would I know what stock would go up or down in a specific period of time?  A stock can be up one day and down the next.

Investing is intensely personal.  2 people can buy the same stock at the same time and 1 person can make money and the other loose money.  It all depends on psychology.  If you don’t know what your doing, if you don’t have a plan before you ever buy a stock, then you’re screwed.

Now, if my friend really wanted to learn how to make money investing in stocks, he would have asked me, “How do I learn to make good decisions?” or “How do I learn about emotions and psychology?” or “How can I learn how to get better at learning?”

I could have recommended books like “The Art of Learning” by Josh Waitzkin or “What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars” by Jim Paul, or any of Warren Buffett’s Annual Letter to Shareholders.  Best to just go ahead and read all of Buffett’s Annual Letters.

What my friend really said was, “Hey, can you magically fix my savings?”

This doesn’t just happen with money.  This happens almost every time you are asked for your opinion or to give advice.  Big red flags are if someone asks you about health, weightlifting/building strength, building a business, dating, politics, earning more money, writing, and basically anything related to performing better at a skill.

You’ll recognize these questions with experience.

Here’s how you’ll know they are not really asking for your advice: Now matter what you tell them, they are not going to do it.

They weren’t asking for your advice or opinion.  They were asking you to make them feel better or justify they decision they already made.

It’s crazy but this is reality.

Now, there are a few times in your life where someone will genuinely ask for your advice.  Here’s how to tell.  Their actions will back up their words.

Here’s an example.  I’m good at snow skiing.  If I meet someone that is a beginner at skiing and they are trying to get better, I’ll pay attention to them.  If I see that they are consistently out there trying to improve, I will notice.  If this beginner skier asks me how they can improve their turns or how they can fall down less or move better on steep terrain, then I’ll try to help them out.

Here’s the catch, you can’t give them advice unless they ask for it first.  Also, and this is just as important, you need to see that they take action on your advice.  They have to apply your advice.  Even if it doesn’t work for them, they have to try to do what you recommended.

Actions are important.  Watch what people do.  That will show you what they’re really thinking.  Words are just noise.

Now I just fucked up because I just gave you, dear reader, advice.