December 15, 2012


the fork in the roadWe often get misled even if we pay for the advice. Whose fault is that?


Sometimes we can't tell if advice is bad until much later. If your advisor tells you to buy or sell an investment, you'll eventually know if that advice is sound … when you can’t do anything about it.

If the advice is more general, say to accept/reject a job offer. You’ll never know what was better because you can only take one path. Computers are powerful but can't accurately simulate the path not taken. This type of you-never-know-if-it's-right advice is easy to get (and give). If something goes wrong, you might get blamed for not following the advice properly.

There's also "obvious" advice. We often know what we're doing wrong. Perhaps we need to eat better, upgrade skills or exercise more. Knowing isn't doing. One more reminder may be just what we need to act.


“Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair.” — George Burns
It's easy to give black/white advice without understanding the nuances. If only the player or mayor did fill in the blank. It's easy to give advice to people who'll never hear or heed it.

You might be getting advice outside of the giver’s expertise or experience. The advice might still be right by coincidence.

The Intent

You may have difficulty figuring out the motivation behind the advice. Maybe you're getting a disguised sales pitch that brings your advisor a big gain while causing you (and others like you) a minor pain.

You may sense that you're getting bad advice but refuse to admit you chose the wrong advisor. We're great at fooling ourselves.

Conflicting Advice

Ask around and you're bound to get conflicting advice --- even from the same person at different times. Every decision has pros and cons. You benefit from differences in opinion even though consensus feels nicer. Blockbuster and Kodak had plans but became extinct. Not taking action can lead to the same outcome as taking the wrong action.

Ignoring advice simplifies your decisions but doesn't make them better.

Shooting The Messenger

Know to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly.
— Plutarch
Even if you get bad advice you develop your cognitive skills by wading through the murky options. You might find good excellent advice in the process.

You also get insights into the giver. Stephen King said there's a little of us in everyone. That means there's a little of everyone in us. Understand others a bit better and you understand yourself better too.
Neo: Morpheus. The Oracle, she told me I'm...
Morpheus: She told you exactly what you needed to hear, that's all.
— The Matrix
The advice may be just enough to get you moving on the right path, even if you don’t realize this at the time.

When you show you're open to advice, you'll get more advice. Better advice. Better advisors. There's little point helping people who don't change. Show you have the courage and you'll get more help. Thus ends my advice.


Podcast 199

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PS Do you take advice as well as you give it?

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