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Beware of advice Pt. 2

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?

Think Twice

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.


T.K. Coleman

Beware of advice

Do you like to ask people for advice?

What standards do you use when asking them?

Is there anyone from whom you would not take advice? Why?

I would be an even richer man (I never like to think of myself as anything less than already rich), if I had a nickel for every person who abandoned a dream, failed to follow-up on an interest, or closed the door on an opportunity because of advice they took from someone. I don’t want this to happen to you. As a fan of self-empowerment, I want you to get the best advice possible when it comes to the matters that really count in your life.

So today I’d like to give you a bit of advice on taking advice.

Find someone who’s doing or has done what you want to do.

Let’s say you currently make $35K a year and you want to make $100k within the next 5 years. Why not start by talking to or reading about some people who make over $100k? It seems obvious, right? But do you know what many people actually do? They talk to their friend who works at the same restaurant or retail store as they do. When that friend says “Oh, that’s just a pipe dream. You can’t make that amount of money without selling your soul”, they actually listen to this as if it were an irrefutable scientific fact. In reality, it’s just a friend’s hypothesis untested by direct experience. Good advice an untested hypothesis does not make. You must find someone who’s doing or has done what you want to do if you expect to find high quality advice.

If you want to be a pilot, for instance, then talk to an actual pilot. Your Uncle, who’s never flown a plane in his life before, may still be able to offer you some valuable advice on general things like persistence and punctuality, but you should never end your pursuit of wise counsel with people who lack direct experience with what you want to do.

Look for happy examples

It’s also important to make sure the person you talk to is happy with what they do. If you’re considering a move to Las Vegas, don’t just talk to someone who has lived in Vegas. In your search, be sure to find someone who was happy living there as well. Engaging in prolonged discussion with someone who hated their experience can give you a skewed outlook on the possibilities that await you. If you want to visit someplace, consult with the individual that’s found 101 different ways to enjoy the place you want to go.

If you want to have a good time, consult people who know how to have a good time. If you want your plans to work, go study the people who find a way to make plans work.  

Take dating as an example. There are single people who have all sorts of negative views about relationships. The guys do radio shows where they talk about how manipulative the women are. The women write books about how all men are dogs and the list goes on. Now, if you’re a single person and you want to have a thrilling relationship, is this really the group of people whose thinking you want to emulate? It’s one thing to respect people’s right to an opinion and it’s an entirely different thing to model your  lifestyle choices after those opinions. It’s okay to respectfully listen to what single people have to say, but if you want to be in a healthy, happy relationship, you’ll want to glean from the inspiration and wisdom of a few people who are currently experiencing the kind of situation you wish to manifest.

The other side

There will always be someone out there with a negative outlook who claims to have tried something similar to what you may be pursuing. They usually have very compelling words to say about how failure, unhappiness, and regret is inevitable. If I were you, I wouldn’t limit my understanding of anything to what these people have to say.

But shouldn’t we consult unhappy individuals or study the people who fail in order to learn what NOT to do?

That’s the million dollar question, my friends. In my next post, I’ll offer my two cents on the assumptions that question is based on. Then I’ll leave you with a few questions of my own. Until then, create a great day.


T.K. Coleman

Click here for Beware of advice Pt 2

Is it safe to play it safe?

“The cost of not pursuing a dream is greater than the cost of failure.” -Jeff Goins

Is there really such a phenomenon as playing it safe?

I suppose one could make an intelligent case that some activities are more risk free than others. Sitting on my couch watching television seems to be safer than bungee jumping. Investing money in penny stock seems  much riskier than hiding money under my bed. There’s clearly a common sense element to this notion we’d all benefit from understanding. However, the admonition to play it safe can also be a major dream killer if one doesn’t place it in a broader context.

In almost all cases where someone speaks of playing it safe, they’re thinking  in terms of what is 1) physically harmless  2) economically conservative or 3) NOT socially embarrassing.

But what happens to our concept of safe if we add the following two categories into the mix: what is 1) psychologically palatable and 2) spiritually satisfying?

Does it then become possible that every decision is risky and safe at the same time, but in a different sense?

Is it possible that by playing it safe in one sense, we are placing ourselves at great risk in another?

In relationship to what, exactly, are we playing it safe?

As you consider making plans and setting goals, are you focused solely on not losing money,  avoiding discomfort, or escaping the possibility of embarrassment?

Is your concept of playing it safe causing you to put your happiness at risk? By not taking any chances, are you playing Russian roulette with your spiritual legacy?

In light of the four categories of risk I’ve mentioned, what if there is no such thing as playing it safe at all?

If there is no such thing as playing it safe, what should the basis of your decisions be?

You tell me! I’d love to hear your thoughts.


T.K. Coleman

If you liked this post, check out:

1. Are you good enough to be bad?

2. Excuses are great, but they don’t create.

3. Beware of advice

4. The productivity of play

The productivity of play




An unproductive premise

I know of a woman who wanted to take up gymnastics at the age of 26, but the instructor she consulted told her she was too old. She gave up because the instructor convinced her it would be a waste of time since the typical professional gymnast begins training in their early pre-teens and peaks by the time they’re 26.

At the heart of this instructor’s advice was an oft-repeated but rarely questioned assumption:

In order for a creative interest to be justifiably pursued, one must have a reasonable expectation that they will be able to perform well and/or translate their passion into an income generating profession.

Here’s my two cents:

That advice is 100% rubbish! There is simply no rational basis for accepting that  assumption as true. It completely flies in the face of the very thing which makes us human; the capacity to become vehicles of expression for divine imagination through our willingness to engage life playfully.

An interest doesn’t need to be able to pay your bills in order for it to be meaningful.

There is no reason for anyone to delay or deny themselves the opportunity to explore a passion simply because they don’t have an idea for how to turn that passion into a job, an award, or 15 minutes of fame.

In fact, people who actually do end up turning their passions into professions are usually the ones who had the courage to simply fool around with an activity that captured their sense of wonder without any indication of a forthcoming reward.

We’re so afraid of wasting our time on our “silly” interests, that we fail to do the very things that are designed to show us how interesting and creative we truly are.

One of the most practical things we can do is nurture those aspects of ourselves which don’t derive their value from practical concerns.

We had it right when we were children

Jesus once said “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The kingdom of heaven isn’t just about living forever in paradise when we die. The kingdom of heaven is about experiencing an eternal quality of life while we’re still breathing here on Earth. It is a mode of being in which we experience ourselves as conduits of creative energy flowing  through us from a higher state.

But we must be like children if we wish to enter this state.

Of all the things which seem to frighten children, the one they never cower away from is the invitation to play. Children are willing to use their imaginations without concern for the lack of practicality characterizing their games.

By the time the average child is a teenager, however, it becomes a matter of course to prepare himself beforehand with carefully laid out reasons for why every decision he makes is logical, practical, or at least cool. In a world where so many people feel the need to justify themselves constantly, it is easy to see how so many adults gradually become alienated from their child-like sense of wonder. 

The productivity of play

Play takes us into a space where our reasons and justifications simply don’t matter. It has no respect or regard for our compulsive need to impress one another. It forces us to own up to our hearts by doing something simply because we find it thrilling to do. Play activates our faith by requiring us to step in a direction that carries no guarantees.

When we play, we’re able to unearth our soul’s treasures and discover portions of ourselves that are never called upon by our professional lives and daily routines.

All productivity begins with the willingness to be “unproductive”. In order for one to succeed, he must be sufficiently inspired to act. In order for one to be sufficiently inspired to act, he must be fueled by a vision which energizes him. In order to have an energizing vision, he must first take the time to playfully imagine.

Work hard, but play harder. Your productivity depends on it.

T.K. Coleman

You’re not too old

There’s no age limit on bliss

You may be too old to audition for American Idol, but you’re not too old to sing.

You may be too old to old to become a 16-year old olympic figure skater, but you’re not to old to love figure skating.

You may be too old to become a child prodigy pianist, but you’re not too old to learn piano.

You may be too old to get on the “Dumbo the elephant” ride at Disneyland, but you’re not too old to have fun.

You may be too old to relive your childhood, but you’re not too old to recapture your sense of wonder.

You’re not too old. You’re not too old to learn how to read. You’re not to old to write a book. You’re not too old to find your soul mate. You’re not too old to become a parent. You’re not too old to begin living an inspired life. You’re not too old. Period!

Too old to be impressive?

Part of the fear of being too old to try something new is really the fear of being so old that nobody will find it impressive when you actually get around to doing it.

When dealing with children, it’s common courtesy to praise every effort they make to be creative. If a child shows us a bunch of crappy looking crayon scribbles on a half-torn page, we gasp and say “Picasso!” It’s our way of  building their confidence and self-esteem. But by the time you’re an adult, we lose time for such patronage. When you’re an adult, it’s time to put up or shut up. If someone tells you that you have a lot of potential when you’re 30, that’s an insult.

If you’re 8 years old and you can play classical piano, we’re doing the best we can to get you on a televised talent show. If you’re 16, it’s still pretty interesting. If you’re 32, then you SHOULD be good. If you’re 50 or older, there are probably people half your age who are twice as good.

Depressing? Well, only if you use depressing standards like this to determine the value of your pursuits in life.

Being impressive isn’t the same as making an impression

Are you doing what you do, because there’s someone you’re trying to impress?

If so, let me save you some valuable time. There is a high likelihood that the people closest to you will be the ones who are least impressed by what you do. NBA Hall of famer, Michael Jordan, said his children’s favorite basketball player was B.J. Armstrong. A close friend of mine, Jazz musician Shawn “Thunder” Wallace, frequently says “an expert is someone who lives 500 miles away.” Jesus said “a prophet is rarely accepted in his home town.”

 It is frequently reported by successful people that the individuals who love their work the most are people who emerge from unexpected places. If your prime motivation is to impress someone you know, you may be setting yourself up for an uphill climb.

Fortunately, the options don’t stop there.

Happiness never gets old

What if we stopped evaluating the value of our lives, accomplishments, and interests by how impressed someone else is?

What about good old fashioned joy?

Are you too old to be happy?

At what age does feeling good cease to matter?

What if you made joy your motivating factor in the interests you pursue?

I believe the fear of being too old falls away when we center our priorities around personal satisfaction and spiritual fulfillment.

If the thought of learning a new language, traveling abroad, making a career change, taking voice lessons, or anything else feels exciting to you, then there’s nothing to lose and your entire soul to gain. Nobody needs to be impressed with you in order for you to follow your highest excitement. But here’s the paradoxical aspect of it all: When you dare to pursue your bliss even when the world says you’re too old, you will always make an impression on others. 

There’s never been a happy, enthusiastic, and inspired older person who struck the world as boring. The boring ones, young and old, are always to be found in the same area: sitting on the sidelines with their excuses as they yearningly watch those adventurous souls who dare to do what their hearts demand of them.

At least that’s my two cents,

T.K. Coleman

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