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.

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