Advice isn’t always helpful. And it sure as hell isn’t neutral. But dang, do people love giving it. While there’s plenty of thoughtful and salient points out there, there’s also plenty of overused nuggets that aren’t given much thought. The intention is there, but without context and consideration, it’s a lazy way to look at life’s general challenges.
What I know for sure is that if we ask more than we advise, our advising will be more powerful for the person receiving it. I know that more times than not someone knows their own answer, they simply need the right person to come along to point them to their own wisdom. So, before you go asking people for advice, or before you go spouting it, consider these tropes and the questions that can better guide us:
FOLLOW YOUR PASSIONS!
Where it falls short: When people don’t know what their passions are, this advice is useless. And also, most times if it was this easy, we’d be doing it already. When the expectation is to need to make money on those passions, this advice really goes awry, because so often that doesn’t need to be the case. And so often that’s not the reality for most.
What’s meant by it: Let the things you love drive you forward.
What to ask instead: What brings me/you good energy? And what’s one small thing I/you can do to follow that energy?
TAKE THE RISK! MAKE THE LEAP!
Where it falls short: We point to a lot of big risks and leaps out there when we give this advice. But what we don’t see is how the person that did so either was working towards that leap for years and years, OR they had a huge financial safety net that made this possible.
What’s meant by it: Expansion is uncomfortable, but bet on yourself. Which you should absolutely do, every time.
What to ask instead: What needs to happen to be pushed outside of my/your comfort zone?
FAKE IT ‘TIL YOU MAKE IT!
Where it falls short: This advice reinforces feelings of being a fraud or an impostor in our life and success. The reality is that you’re not faking anything. You’re you – in all your glory and brilliance. You’re ready for whatever is showing up.
What’s meant by it: What it takes to grow and expand is hard, but do it anyways. You’ll feel discomfort. Show up regardless, and act like you’re comfortable.
What to ask instead: What part of my/your past experience helps inform what to do here?
YOU’RE EXACTLY WHERE YOU NEED TO BE!
Where it falls short: No one really wants to be in the shit storm of where they’re at. It’s not comforting. It’s the kind of thing that’s only true with hindsight.
What’s meant by it: This will make sense later, hang in there.
What to ask instead: What am I/you learning right now from sitting in this shit?
WHAT’S THE WORST THAT CAN HAPPEN?
Where it falls short: Not all “worst case scenarios” are created equal. Not everyone has a back up plan. Many people have no safety net at all, so when we ask this as a means of advice…we’re completely missing the realities that many, many people face.
What’s meant by it: No matter what happens, you will always be able to figure it out.
What to ask instead: Is there a back up plan and am I/would you be willing to do it?
It’s important to be thoughtful with our advice. When in doubt, ask someone a question. It will lead them to their own wisdom far better and far faster than a quotable piece of advice ever could.