Advice on advice

Talking to a friend recently about hiring, I did what I have a habit of doing: try and give advice. Heck, this blog started off as a way of documenting my journey to getting accepted into a top-flight MBA program but quickly turned into talking about how tough finance is and giving advice. Lots of it. I seem to have ‘ask me advice / street directions’ written on my forehead.

It’s easy to give advice. To tell people what worked and what didn’t. And a lot of the time advice can be very helpful. And it’s addictive to read advice (‘Top 10 things I wish I’d known before I started writing this blogpost’). But recently, husband came home with what is probably the best piece of advice I’ve heard in a while and that made me rethink giving and taking advice: ‘Never trust advice from people with only 1 child, since they attribute everything they’ve done or not done to how that child is turning out. Not until you have a second one do you understand that sometimes this is how it works and sometimes it totally doesn’t.’

And the more I think about that specific advice, and about advice in general, the more I think it’s true. It’s good to share experiences, and some advice is genuinely helpful. But a lot of it is what you personally went through and what worked and hasn’t worked for you at that particular time. But since no one else will be in exactly the same situation with exactly the same mindset and background, most advice won’t be applicable. Becoming a mama has really brought that home to me: there is almost no situation in life as conducive for people seeking advice and people desperately wanting to give / sell it to you at a time where you are probably at your neediest when it comes to wanting to desperately figure things out. And some of the advice helps. But most of it doesn’t and sometimes makes things worse (‘if this sleep method is so great, then why isn’t it working on my little one?’). It’s so tempting to believe that this doctrine, that guru or this book will be the be-all-and-end-all. And of course it never is. I don’t know what took me so long to get to that point but I’m here now.

So: less advice, more judgement when giving and taking it. Lesson learned. As you were.

Modern Love

One of the lovely little guilty pleasures in my life are reading the Modern Love columns in the New York Times. Anyone can submit an essay, as long as its about the topic of love. Though the many different writers mean that not every column appeals to me (though the standard tends to be consistently high), there are little gems in there a lot of the time.¬†They’ve been around for at least a decade and the editor wrote a nice write-up of his experience recently. I’m soppy and an incurable romantic and love these little gems in my weekly reading.

My favourite quote from this week’s column by Heidi Bysarab:

“In a prescient moment at my kitchen table, right after I hung up the phone, I saw that I would love him, and that loving him would mean saying yes to the self I would become by loving him, and no to the other selves I would never become by not loving him.”

About LA

I recently spent a little time in Orange County and LA and this puts into words very eloquently what the place felt like to me:

“Plenty of other cities in the United States and abroad are, of course, interesting and beautiful, but I moved to LA due to its singular pre-apocalyptic strangeness. It seems equally baffled and baffling, with urban and suburban and wilderness existing in fantastic chaos just inches away from one another. There’s no center to L.A, and in many ways it’s kind of a fantastically confused Petri dish of an anti-city. If you’re in New York, Brussels, London or Milan, you’re surrounded by a world that has been subdued and overseen by humans for centuries, sometimes for millennia. They’re stable cities; and when you’re in an older city you feel a sense of safety, as if you’re in a city that’s been, and being, well looked after. You feel like most well-established and conventional cities know what they’re doing. LA, on the other hand, is constantly changing and always seemingly an inch away from some sort of benign collapse.

(source: Moby on moving from NYC to LA)