Beware of the advisor… or so the advice goes, which is kind of ironic since this whole post will contain advice about getting advice, but I think you’ll give me some latitude while I lay out my case.
Advice now is fast, cheap, easily disseminated and vastly under researched a lot of the time. The advent of the digital age has presented us with unprecedented access to information and sources. But the problem doesn’t come from people who are willing to not bend the truth or wilfully repeat outright untruths; the real problem comes when a point, view or belief is repeated in faith without reason, research or some tangible evidence to back that view up. You see this frequently in writers discussions about Independent publishing vs traditional publishing, whether print on demand companies are worth using for the sales and returns you receive, and in the ever blossoming volumes of discussions about whether in the age of the growing e-book market we will see the death of paper books.
People often present the evidence that supports the world as they see it. The problem is that the truth slips through the gaps when the uninformed are then presented with only partial information and base their opinion or view based on that skewed argument and of course once an opinion is formed, no matter how erroneous it is, it is very hard to change the person’s mind.
Some people are willing to cheat, lie and mislead you just to be seen as being ‘right’ . But for the majority of the time, what you find is that you are not being scammed, you must simply approach the advice or evidence being presented before you with caution. So to my mind Churchill was only partially right, because most people aren’t outright lying to you, just presenting you with a kaleidoscope view of the truth.
A lie gets Halfway around the world
before the truth has a chance to get
its pants on
So what do you do? How do you make an informed choice in the face of often conflicting views and partial figures or stats?
Firstly, view each opinion presented to you with scepticism. Look objectively at what the person is saying, how they present their view, how is it supported? Do they provide you with a secondary reference like a website, article or study that backs up what they say or do they simply tell you they are right and that you are an idiot if you disagree.
secondly, how do they react to criticism or counter arguments. This one is crucial to deciphering how deeply invested their opinions is, before the facts are washed over and the discussion dissolves into personal insults, side issues and counter points without actually addressing the questions put before them. Of course we’ve almost all of us lost it occasionally with obstinate opposition, so if you can know who it is you’re debating with, if they frequently fall into this type of straw man, ad hominem, or aggressive responses question why they need to be so aggressive in the laying out of their views. Is it simply passion, a rare ‘last nerve’ moment, baiting people for pleasure or habit.
Thirdly, do some of your own research, don’t simply trust what other people say, even if the majority are saying it. Having the same view as the majority doesn’t make it a correct view. Anyone can simply follow what everyone else is saying. So do some research and don’t be afraid to ask questions and challenge the status quo politely but firmly – don’t be bullied.
Fourthly, remember life is not a SAT test, there is not one right answer. What is right for one person might be entirely wrong for you. Different folk want different things in life, don’t be afraid if your needs or dreams are different from the crowds. Do what is best for you once you have all the information. The person giving you advice may have a very different dream, goal or attitude to you, it may be right for them, but not necessarily for you.
Fifthly, be aware of bias due to loyalties that may not be disclosed. Loyalty to a means that may have served a person well once, or to a company, model of working or person may be due to an allegiance that is not at first obvious. That doesn’t mean by any stretch of the imagination that there is a mass of corruption and deception going on – there is no conspiracy. But people are for a large part tribal (not all of us, but the majority are) and they need to belong, maintaining that sense of belonging may mean unwavering support of a person, group or cause.
Lastly, take everything you are told with a pinch of salt. Listen patiently to peoples views and advice when they give it. Be respectful, disagree by all means but do not take everything, everyone says as the gospel.
Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it.
~ Baz Luhrmann
I think in life you have to be willing to keep evolving your knowledge, views and beliefs in line with the ever changing world. What may have been true, a year or five years ago may be superseded by new events, findings and models. You have to be willing to change with the times and adapt. We are in a very fluid time, and now more than ever we can not afford to cling on to outdated ways of doing things. So next time when you hear some advice, beware that the advisor may be clinging to the past.
Keep your wits about you. Stay sharp and focused and don’t be afraid to question others. Don’t be too stubborn to question yourself and beware the advisor or so my advice goes.