Take Advice – But Only To A Point

There’s a lot of advice out there on the internet – for everything. Even in places that aren’t primarily designed to deal out advice. This blog, for example, is very often an advice blog, but that’s not its core functionality. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by advice, especially when it’s contradictory and confusing, and especially in this age of there being a lot of rubbish on the internet.

So sometimes, you shouldn’t take the advice.

If you want to read a much swearier take on this point, read basically anything by Chuck Wendig, but especially this post on common writing advice and this blog on the ‘kill your darlings’ idea.

As he says elsewhere, nothing written is original – much like this blog post, which is inspired by the above articles. What I want to do today is condense this meta advice down into three simple steps. So with all that said, how do you access advice well?

1. Take the advice (if it’s not ridiculous).

So let’s assume that your advice isn’t for something like, I don’t know, eating laundry tablets (2017 called, Rebecca, they want their news references back). It’s something that sounds like it might work. It’s well explained, and justified, and is along the lines of what you’re looking for help with.

Try it.

Depending on what it is, try it for a reasonable amount of time – don’t just try it once and discard it if it’s the sort of advice that’s meant to have longevity. Obviously if you’re taking advice on how to hammer in a nail, that’s a bit different. But I’m thinking more about advice for writers or self-improvement.

2. Then get some other advice that’s totally different.

Think of it like researching an essay. You need a counterpoint to the suggestions you’ve taken so that you’ve tried something for contrast. Ideally, see if you can’t get a full spectrum of ideas so that you can test the breadth of the options. Try those just as stringently as you did the ideas you found originally.

Hopefully, at some point, you’ll happen upon something that clicks. Something that works. If you’re looking for self-improvement help, maybe it’s morning pages or bullet journalling or using Todoist or something else entirely. Maybe it’s a combination of several methods. For me, using Evernote and a bullet journal is the best way to organise my life. It took me a lot of trial and error to get to that point – a lot of ideas taken and thrown out.

Which brings me to the third point.

3. Discard what doesn’t work for you, and keep trying.

I don’t care if your advice came from the Dalai Lama. If it doesn’t work for you, and you’ve genuinely tried it for a reasonable amount of time, and you’ve genuinely put the effort in – toss it out. We’re all different and the advice we need is unique to each of us.

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that just because some advice is given by everyone in your industry/community/etc that it absolutely must work for you and you’re terrible for failing to make use of it. Or that you have to keep trying to do things that way even though it sucks. You’re unique. Some things will help you and others won’t. That’s okay.

Once you’ve chucked out the rubbish, find some more ideas. Even if you’ve got some that’re working for you. You don’t need to do it immediately – you can give it a while. But I’ve found my best help and ideas by looking for them not only when I desperately need them, but when I just want to bolster what I’m doing.

Because actually, the best source of advice? Is yourself. You are the only person who knows, really, whether something is working for you. But to know that, you’ve got to try things.

So try things, and keep trying things, even when you think you’re set.

Because you don’t know everything that’s out there, and the only way to find out is by repeating this three-step plan ad-nauseum. Sound exhausting? Yeah, sometimes it is. But it also really – in my experience, at least – helps move you forward.

If you found this blog post helpful, I’ve got plenty more ideas for you to try and throw out – in over a year of blog archives! Have a niffler through them and enjoy.