Some Advice on Advice.

Turn to any prominent blog online today and you’re likely to get lots of encapsulated nuggets of knowledge. Top 10 lists of what you “ought” to be doing. Lazily cast off quotes about how the “right way” to do things.

Good writers persuade, they use turns of phrase. Better writers build cases for their arguments, and discredit the opposition. In the face of smart, savvy, educated writing, the people who are adrift and looking for answers are prone to grab onto the life raft thrown them by the grounded, benevolent writers. But lets consider:

“Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.” Steven Covey -author, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery -author, The Little Prince.

Hmm. Which one is right? Which one is more persuasive to you? They’re almost directly contradictory- but they both make sense in certain situations. In your life you’ll probably run into both.

It might seem simple, it might seem obvious- but the next time you run into a persuasive argument on a persuasive blog think about a few things:

  • Does the author have any skin in the game? Have they lived it?
  • Is the alternative true?
  • Is there grey area that you ought to be considering?
  • Can you think of examples where the sweeping generalization doesn’t apply?
  • Can you follow the logical conclusion of the advice? Does it ring true?

Advice can be just as harmful as it is useful. Regardless of who is saying it.


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