I ended my last post promising to offer my two cents on what i referred to as “the million dollar question.” Be advised: you may find this assessment empowering.
The inevitable question
Shouldn’t we consult unhappy individuals or study the people who fail in order to learn what NOT to do?
Here’s my two cents:
If your goal is to figure out what NOT to do, then you should DEFINITELY study people who are not doing it. But it may help you to know the following;
Knowing what you should not do is different from knowing what you should do. The former is defensive. The latter is proactive.
Learning how to avoid the unwanted is not the same as learning how to create that which is wanted.
Becoming an expert at problem solving will never be a substitute for embracing possibilities and actually engaging life.
So I ask you: Is it your primary goal to figure out what NOT to do so you can avoid the unwanted?
Whatever floats your boat
Allow me to share with you a very insightful excerpt from a series of lectures delivered by Professor Thomas Troward at Edinburgh College in 1908:
“The law of floatation was not discovered by contemplating the sinking of things, but by contemplating the floating of things which floated naturally, and then intelligently asking why they did so.”
To put it plainly, sinking ships can’t teach you how to float. You have to focus on the result you want to achieve, in order to effectively arrive at that result. Even the lessons we learn from failure can only become meaningful within the context of a larger vision which points us in the direction of an intended goal.
So no matter how successful you become at analyzing failure, solving problems, and avoiding unwanted scenarios, you still have to eventually take the time to learn the principles behind the creative process.
Who’s advice do you think is more likely to lead you in that direction:
A) A sideline cynic with confidently stated reasons for why attempting to do the extraordinary is a bunch of BS?
B) An ordinary person like you who’s found a way to overcome adversity and make their ideas happen?
A few (more) questions
Here’s a 5 question checklist I suggest you use next time someone offers you their opinion. The implications you derive from the answers you get to these questions is up to your own judgement. My hope is that by asking these questions before you ask for advice, you’ll be in a much better position to discern what’s best for you.
1) Has this person ever been to the places I wish to go or attempted the activities I want to try?
2) Has this individual found success in the area(s) I wish to be successful in?
3) Does this person seem to have an attitude I would like to have?
4) Do they follow their own advice?
5) If so, does it make them happy?
In conclusion, is it possible that when you listen to unhappy people or individuals who fail to reach their goals, something good can result from it? Of course! But their perspective is only going to take you so far and, besides, something good can happen as a result of you doing just about anything. The question you really want to ask is “what is the best use of my time, given the goals I want to achieve?”
I recently saw the film “Answer Man” starring Lauren Graham from “Gilmore Girls.” There’s a scene where her character, Elizabeth, says the following words to her young daughter:
“Don’t take advice from someone you wouldn’t trade places with.”
Well, her character turns out quite happy in the end. In my opinion that’s a pretty good candidate for someone worth trading places with. So I hope you’ll take her advice.
Either way, do what works for YOU.