I wrapped up 2019 with a reflection on advice, and unwittingly found myself again reflecting on the topic as 2020 thankfully comes to a close. There must be something about this time of year!
Anyway, here are a few more thoughts on advice from 2020:
1. If a person starts with his advisement and not by listening to you, run.
Run fast. He probably believes he is a great advisor or mentor because he knows so much and has so much to say. But, the great advisors and mentors are the best listeners and thinkers and question askers. It’s not what they know so much as how well they surface knowledge with you and within you. Advice should be arrived at collaboratively.
2. Listen to all advice in the context of that person’s experience.
Advice is rarely directly transferable. You have to peel some layers back to get to the nugget unless that person has experienced the exact problem in the exact industry with the exact people and the exact business model as you. Clearly, you don’t dismiss them because of this discrepancy, otherwise you’d never find yourself a good advisor or mentor. But, you need to know where they are coming from to understand what they are saying - and, of course, understand where you are to know what to do with it. Advice is an act of translation.
3. You have no idea what you are doing, but you know what you are doing.
This is a seemingly odd contradiction, but boils down to an obvious translation: you know some things, and you don’t know some things. Good advisors or mentors will never make you feel stupid for what you don’t know, nor will they ever let you feel like you have it all figured about because of what you do know. Their advice should uncover both, and leave you encouraged and humbled, motivated and uncertain. Advice should generate a sense of creative tension.
4. Gather all of the advice you can and throw away as much as you should.
Advice is for learning and improvement along your journey. You are not, and should not be, beholden to it - although, you should be accountable nonetheless. So, if you take advice, you should know and be able to communicate exactly why you took it. If you don’t take advice, you should know and be able to communicate exactly why you didn’t. If you can explain and communicate the result in this way then you can show that you’ve listened and learned and gotten clarity out of whatever advice you have received - accepted or denied. A good advisor doesn’t expect you to take them at their word, but they should expect you to demonstrate that you listened, translated, and acted accordingly. Advice is a prompt, not a directive.