“Listen to all, plucking a feather from every passing goose, but, follow no one absolutely.”
So, I read, watch and listen to a lot of what might very generally be called “advice”.
A lot of advice-givers, myself included, can seem to be telling you:
“What you’ve been doing SUCKS! You’re messing up! Do it THIS way!”
And this makes you feel like a schmuck, I mean, a jewelry, I mean…Anyway — so you get busy dutifully struggling to fit your square self into whatever new round hole your advice-giver has prepared.
OK…I’m not going to tell you what do, because the world is already full of that. I’m just going to tell you…I don’t think that that’s the point. I don’t think that it’s the intention of even the most energetic, enthusiastic advice-giver to make you feel like crap and get you frantically re-arranging your life in their image. Certainly it’s not my intention. Good advice is intended to make your life easier, not harder.
Here’s a simple two-step process you may or may not want to try.
- Read/listen to advice. Mine. Other people’s. Whoever’s.
- Do whatever the heck you want, whether or not it matches that advice.
- A lot of the point of good advice is the forest, not the trees. Much of the point of good advice is simply to be exposed to it, rather than to painfully turn yourself into a carbon copy of it.
- Now, it may well be that turning yourself into a carbon copy is the easiest, least painful, most effective path, or at least the path that hits the sweet spot — that gives you a maximum of both ease and effectiveness — and if that is the case, then go for it. Imitation is how we learn.
- But don’t freak out over minutiae. Minor deviations and improvements are normal and even desirable. The basic plan is: take the mold and change it to fit you, you needn’t fit yourself to it. When that Betty Crocker cookie recipe tells you to add two nanograms of rosemary and twirl around ten times while reciting the pledge of allegiance…tell Betty Crocker to get on her ice skates and go puck herself 1: focus on the flour, sugar and Crisco.
- (Wow, is that the taste of vomit in my mouth?)
OK, I’m over the Crisco now. Let me repeat myself: Of course, if it’s easier to just follow the advice, then do that. But chill.
Don’t be a harried, obedient zealot. Seriously — you’re going to die if you do that. Relax. Don’t be a whiny “if only I had the talent”/”maybe it’s possible for other people but not for me” person. Don’t be an emo-type “it’s all B.S.” person either…or do be these things…but do it quietly. Man who say it cannot be done needs to STFU, and other supposedly Chinese proverbs.
We often go to considerable lengths to protect children from this type of thing; we rarely even allow children to say these types of things. Well, adults are just children with bank accounts and large bodies. Negativity damages their fragile minds just as it does those of children. People who are going to freak out need to try to keep “the children” out of it — and that includes you freaking out at yourself.
By now, the dutiful part of you is all: “but…but…but…article 4, subsection (b), paragraph (iii) of AJATT says…”. Check this out: if you’ve read the advice then it will affect your decisions: you don’t need to worry about that. The point here is that you stop the breathless compliance and mental self-flagellation.
And I bet you’re getting frantic about this advice, too, aren’t you? You’re so earnest, the cuteness makes me giggle. The cyclical irony of giving you advice on how to take advice is not lost on me. “Lost” is lost on me…that show…I dunno, man…
Anyway, let’s review:
- Read/listen or otherwise expose yourself to advice.
- Do whatever the heck is most comfortable, workable, sustainable for you. “Obey”, “disobey”, remix — it doesn’t matter. Ultimately, your unique life, preferences and situation are going to call for some degree of very unique, perhaps even counter-intuitive, choice-making. You’re the DJ.
What we’re really talking about here is our making a practical, active distinction between “advice” and “orders”. Namely, that:
- With “advice”, no matter how strongly worded, no matter how handsome the giver (oh, stop!), you always have choice; you always retain the right to refuse and/or reinterpret.
- With “orders”, the presumption is that you have at some point put this right on hold: no veto right for you: it’s put up or shut up, hump or walk, fall in line or leave in utter disgrace. A lot of military, school and religious activity proceeds like this.
I give advice, not orders. I intend it to be taken as advice. So, do whatever you want. Refuse, accept and reinterpret at will. I would. I did.
- We’re still talking about ice hockey, right? ↩