Whose Advice?

Matt | Decision Making | Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Often at key times in my life I have been offered advice from people who meant well, who tried to help, but gave bad advice.

When people give advice, listen and thank them for caring enough to give you advice, but make sure that you decide for yourself if it is useful.  I believe most people who give advice should not.  Most of the advice they give is not only not helpful, but actually harmful. Many times it is our loved ones, family members or close friends, who give us advice on topics they have no idea about, yet that does not stop them from spouting their thoughts.

For example, before my wife and I started our Permanent Residency process, we felt lost and confused. While gathering information about the process we told our loved ones what was happening.  And they gave us their advice.  Although, they had never gone through this process, they still confidently threw out their words of wisdom, “pay for a lawyer and they’ll do it for you.”  My colleagues at work, who also had no experience in the process, gave the same advice in the same confident tone.  Then, I actually spoke to someone who had gone through the PR process, who was a lawyer, and he said, “do it yourself. You’ll save money and do a better job of it.”

Another time I got advice about helping me decide where to teach English.  Before I went to China, but after I had already signed a contract, another friend offered help.  “Why China? Why not Japan or Korea?”  Although he had never been to China and had never lived abroad, he gave this advice.  “Why don’t you walk around China Town in Toronto for a while before you decide if you want to live there for a year?”  I thought to myself that this was probably good advice, although I had already committed to my contract, so I walked around China Town.  It terrified me.  The smells and the sights during that hot summer were overwhelming.  The rotten vegetables outside the grocery store were overpowering.  The smell of garbage was too much.  Had I made a horrible decision?  Could I go through with it?  Then I went.  I got on the plane and landed in Beijing, China.  I travelled around China.  I learned that it is much different from the Toronto China Town.  Fortunately for me.  While my friend’s advice was in a good place, trying to protect me, it wasn’t sound because he had never been to where I wanted to go.

The best advice I can give is to go ask someone who has done what you want to do.  There is (almost) always someone who has done what you want to do and they are most likely willing to talk about how they did it.  Ask them for advice.  Listen.  Take notes.

For all others who give advice, but have not done what you want to do, keep in mind that they likely do not know what they are talking about. But remember that their intentions are in the right place. Listen.  Thank them.  But think and decide for yourself.

Best of luck.

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