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Advice about the Giving and Receiving of Advice

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People will tell you to do what’s conventional, but they’ll give their respect to the ones who push the boundaries.

When people give advice, it’s usually a reflection of what they think is possible for *you* and how much they believe they’re going to be on the hook for giving you that advice.

When people give admiration, it’s a reflection of what they truly believe is impressive.

This isn’t an irrational or arbitrary phenomenon.

Although pushing the boundaries may have a higher upside, people are far more likely to receive harsh criticism if they advise you to “swing for the fences” and you embarrass yourself in the process. And although doing what’s conventional may have a lower upside, you can’t go wrong if you tell people “do the things that can’t go wrong.”

Most of us simply aren’t incentivized to say stuff like “Go do the kind of crazy things that J.K. Rowling did, or that Sidney Poiter did, or that Steve Jobs did.”

For starters, most people aren’t willing to gamble on the possibility that *you* can do those things. Secondly, most people aren’t interested in having people say “I did what you advised me to do, I’m unhappy with my life, and it’s all your fault.”

So here’s a little advice about giving and receiving advice:

If you want to give advice to others, don’t settle for telling them what to do. Instead, help them clarify the results they want to create. Help them understand the costs and benefits involved in their options. Then challenge them to only make the kinds of choices they’re willing to fully own.

If you want to receive good advice from others, don’t just listen to what people advise. Pay attention to what people admire. This gives a fuller picture of how they see success. Recognize that there are always “secrets” to success that people will never share because they aren’t interested in being liable for your life.

No matter what kind of advice you receive from others, there are at least a few key insights you’ll have to discover or develop on your own. Wisdom can’t be acquired just by having a bunch of mentors. It has to be fought for through radical self-ownership. Until you’re willing to take responsibility for your dreams, there will be tips, tools, and techniques that will remain hidden from you.

The Answers Are in the Questions

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When people ask me questions like “How do I deal with fear?” or “How do I get along with an annoying co-worker?” or “How do I cope with feeling unmotivated?” I typically ask questions like “What’s a good example of how this problem shows up in your experience?” or “What have you tried so far?” or “What’s the outcome you’re trying to create?”

Their answers usually amount to 75% of what’s needed to answer their original question. By the time I get around to sharing my thoughts, their efforts to clarify and illustrate their own question has already done most of the heavy lifting.

A lot of questions about professional development aren’t that difficult to answer. They’re difficult to ask. We lack clear and precise insights because we suffer from vague and imprecise inquiries.

The best kind of coaching isn’t the kind that sends people away with answers. It’s the kind that sends them away with better questions.

On Keeping it 100

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Here’s a quote from my book Freedom Without Permission: How to Live Free in a World That Isn’t:

“Keeping it real” isn’t just a matter of facing up to harsh facts. It also includes opening up to the plethora of possibilities that offer us ways of impacting the world in spite of adversity.”

Refusing to pretend that everything is okay is a noble practice, but it’s not a substitute for doing something about the problems we choose to be honest about.

Fewer things are more self-defeating than the practice of equating authenticity solely with the ability to be honest about the things we dislike.

The act of saying “I don’t like X” is no more authentic than the ability to say “I am responsible for how I respond to X.”

Being the kind of person who refuses to put on a smile when unhappy is overrated. How candid we are about what we hate says nothing about how committed we are to what we love. A child can keep it real, but it takes an adult to face those realities and transform them.

Authenticity isn’t just about the ability to express anger and agitation. It’s also about the willingness to accept agency and accountability.

When we only do the former, we’re not keeping it 100%. We’re mailing it in at 50%.

The Essential Mile

You can’t go the extra mile until you go the essential mile.

In your quest to aim for the stars, don’t forget the fundamentals of just knowing how to aim.

 

I’m Thankful for People (There Would Be No Books Without Them)

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Today I’m thankful for many things, but especially for the power and pleasures of the written word

Today I express my gratitude for all the authors, editors, illustrators, publishers, readers, librarians, storytellers, teachers, and entrepreneurs who make this wonderful world of books possible.

And most importantly, I thank my parents for filling our home with books, creating an environment where reading was fun, and protecting me from that fatal belief that I should read out of moral duty rather than sheer loyalty to my own curiosities.

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