“The ultimate question of any advice, rules, or traditions is, What do you ignore and why? No one can ever follow all the good advice they hear. This is the advice paradox: no matter how much advice you have, you must still decide intuitively what to use and what to avoid.”
Books and experts often promise step by step ways to achieve a goal. The goal might be weight loss, becoming wealthy or living a happier life. But a promise is one thing: achieving the result is another. Looking at how most people who read these books and don’t achieve the results they desire reveals a problem. We often have more faith in advice from strangers than we do in ourselves.
Advice that sells the best makes the grandest promises, even if they’re false. We know, rationally, that there aren’t just 7 steps to true success and that even if there were, it would take more than 21 Days to Master it. We know growing rich requires more than following 13 steps.
Book titles never say what would be more honest: “This might work for you sometimes”, “You’ll have to take some risks to even try to get what you want” or “You’ll get just a handful of useful tips even if you read the whole book.” Honesty like this doesn’t benefit whoever is giving the advice, so the most popular advice givers rarely say these things.
Even if they did, our brains love the fantasy that there’s just a few easy tricks to learn to solve our biggest problems. We love it so much that when advice we pay for fails to deliver the impossible, we blame the advice, not the fantasy that magical advice exists elsewhere. Soon we’re on the hunt again for killer secrets and magic recipes.
The lure of advice is it’s a narrative: it feels good while you get it. But once the advice is over we return to the uncertainty of our lives, which feels, by comparison, confusing and scary. Advice is knowledge that we choose to use, or not. No one can make that choice for us, and it’s this that creates the paradox.
- Simple advice can be hard to follow.
- We can’t follow all the good advice we get.
- Advice that feels good to hear can be bad advice.
- Advice that feels painful to hear can be good advice.
- It’s possible to follow good advice diligently and still fail.
- Giving and receiving advice is far easier than making real life choices.
- You’re in the paradox now – even this post is a kind of advice.
- What now? I can’t advise you. But I wish you well.