Advice About Advice

A simple guiding principle

February 7th, 2024

The shortest piece of career advice I can give is about what not to do:

“Never listen to people who haven’t done what you’re trying to do.”

And you probably shouldn’t listen to them if they’re successful either.

Human beings are fantastic storytellers and terrible at determining actual causality. Or maybe they’re a product of their time and unique circumstances.

Whatever the reason, most advice isn’t nearly as directly applicable as you think. You can’t always shortcut the path to learning your own lessons.

None of this is a hard and fast law, and it’s not a case for solipsism. Don’t plug your ears, of course you should listen to other people. It’s just a guiding principle that can help you listen to your own internal compass if you ever find yourself getting distracted or demoralized.

Don’t spin your wheels because of external chatter. Not everything has catastrophic consequences. Go, do your thing. Then later, stop and reflect.

Learn by doing. You’re not going to climb a mountain just by reading about Everest.

The more nuanced version is to realize the underlying story of where people are coming from and look for more generalized patterns. I’m paraphrasing Paul Bucheit, the creator of Gmail, who said something along the lines of:

“Most people’s advice is just their own experiences.”

I interpret that to mean you should take a giant grain of salt and contextualize what people are saying, to see if it still applies to you and your challenges.

That’s what’s worked for me.

But that’s just me. If you’re really getting the message on a meta level… then you definitely don’t have to listen to me about any of this either 😉

This started out as a comment on a LinkedIn post - What’s the shortest career advice you can give? - and there’s a lot of other great answers there as well.