Why Taking Advice Could Be Hurting You

adviceAs entrepreneurs, we thrive on one-liners. Inspirational quotes and shareable advice flood our social media feeds, allowing us to share our wisdom with the world.

And the majority of it is rubbish. Not because the advice itself is good or bad but because what is one hundred percent true to one person may be one hundred percent false to another.

Wake up early; sleeping in is better. Logos don’t matter; your logo is everything. Facebook is the best ad platform; if you’re not using Instagram, you’re missing the boat.
Eggs are good for you. Scratch that, hold the eggs.

Who’s right? They both are. Because when we give advice, we give it through the filter of our own experiences. We share it because it’s true…for us.

You are born with a unique set of circumstances, DNA, upbringing, environment, health and financial assets, core values, personality strengths, etc. Naturally, what may work wonders for you might well be the wrong advice for someone else.

“There’s truth and there’s advice. One of the most valuable skills you can learn as an entrepreneur is to differentiate between the two.”

So, what do you do with conflicting advice and how do you know what’s relevant to you?
In my younger, more impressionable years, I gravitated to every whim of inspirational persuasion. If it sounded good on a coffee mug or calendar, it must be true. What I learned is that’s the formula for stagnancy. Akin to the fear of missing out, obsessing over every bit of advice given paralyzes you from making decisions, moving forward and learning from the best “coffee mug” in the world: your own life’s experiences.

There’s truth and there’s advice. One of the most valuable skills you can learn as an entrepreneur is to differentiate between the two. Most of what we pass around as inspirational (and meant to help others) may actually be harmful as you apply the principle and it doesn’t work.

If you’re feeling the confusion of today’s noisy self-help world, it’s a good thing because it means you’re paying attention. The best advice I ever heard was this: don’t take anyone’s advice. Instead, consider a few suggestions to help you sift through the mountain of motivation:

Listen first and foremost to your gut. The one trait successful entrepreneurs and business leaders have in common is they have a strong inner voice and they listen to it. Taking advice at face value without questioning it stifles your inner voice because you become dependent on others’ voices. Like a muscle, your voice can be developed. Start small and follow an impression. See where it leads you.

Look for patterns. Well-written one-off’s are everywhere. If you happen across one, don’t apply it right away. Learn to pause and become curious. Write it in your journal and make it a point to research more about it. Discover what others are saying about it. If the majority swear by it, check it against your gut before implementing.

Challenge it. If you received advice from someone, fire back. By offering it, they have opened the door for discussions. What circumstances surrounded their experience? Why was it good or bad? What is different about your circumstances and does it directly apply to you?

Value yourself. If you find yourself constantly seeking and following advice from others, it may be that you lack confidence in your ability to make your own decisions. Take inventory of your wins by writing out the good decisions you’ve made in your life. Look for evidence that you are a competent decision maker.

Stop second guessing your decisions. Often, a decision can be made to be right by the commitment to it after the fact. Successful entrepreneurs don’t always have all the right answers. Nobody does. Make the best decision with the best information you have at the time, step out in faith and stop wondering if you should have done something else. The best way to choose the fastest line at the grocery store is to pick one and then not look at the others.

Does this mean we should avoid learning from other people’s words of wisdom? Absolutely not. Instead, take them with a grain of salt. Trying too hard to learn from everyone else’s mistakes–although well-intentioned–can keep you from the most powerful learning experiences of all: your own. You cannot tiptoe along your journey to success.

Matthew Wilson
Matthew Wilson is a marketing consultant for organizations and executive teams. He teaches teams about the power of developing an “Everyone’s in Marketing” mindset. He is also an award-winning creative director, productivity geek, father of five and partner at a Phoenix-based advertising agency. Learn more at www.MatthewWilsonSpeaks.com.

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