Don’t Seek Advice, but do Listen to the Opinions of Others

Have you ever observed your state of mind immediately before you seek advice?

Often, you seek advice because you don’t want to “own” the outcomes which are apparent if you take actions within your logical means. So we, most human beings, tend to seek someone’s advice. May it be your elderly family member, spouse, teacher, boss, religious leader or alike. We often feel it is good to seek advice from others for the problem we are facing; it is not.

Agreed, it is human to seek advice. Though not effective all the times.

Here’s an interesting quote on advice from Bill Cosby, a known comedian and actor in the US: “A word to the wise ain’t necessary – it’s the stupid ones that need the advice.”

So, in the situations where we don’t know what to do, should we not seek advice from someone else who we feel might have the answers? No and Yes. No: You should not seek advice. Yes: You can request their point of view about how to deal with the problem situation.

Why not advice and why point of view? Consider the following definitions:

Advice (n.): guidance or recommendations offered with regard to prudent action.
Guidance (n.): Advice or information aimed at resolving a problem or difficulty, especially as given by someone in authority.

The problem lies with the keyword “authority”. When we seek advice, we tend to assume someone else’s authority over our problem. We semi-consciously believe that someone else is responsible if the things don’t work. We get peace with the problem believing if things don’t work, we have someone else to blame. When we have someone else to blame, we don’t commit to the actions unconditionally. The mountains are moved when we commit to the actions, unconditionally.

It’s better not to fall in the trap of seeking advice. Seek others’ point of view instead. When you seek other’s point of view and make decisions on your own, you assume the ownership of the outcomes your decisions will generate. Ownership makes all the difference. Ownership breeds leadership. Leadership causes creation. Creation causes solutions!

In fact, no one else can advise you on how you should solve the problem you’re in (though they can offer their experiences & opinions, which could be helpful, as outlined above). It is only YOU who have to solve them. You may seek help from others by asking, “If you were me, what would you have done to deal with this particular problem?”

OK, got it but what to do if I get so many advice requests?

You’re in the same boat as mine. I get many advice requests from friends, relatives and followers, and the crux of the requests go like this: “Here’s the problem I’m in; please advise/guide/teach me about what I should be doing.”

I do not give them any advice.

I share my experience or tell a story about something that has a logical relation with the problem they are facing. I also mention, if I were in their place, I would have done X, Y and Z along with the pros and cons.

Then I ask the difficult question: With the knowledge that I shared just now, assuming that you know it beforehand, how would you deal with your problem and why?

Thus, I connect them with their inner voice and they break the garbage of confusing thoughts and/or imagined fears that only they have created around the pure answer that lies within them.

I ensure that ownership of the outcomes lie with them. Easy to say; not always easy to practice.

So here’s my invitation: Don’t seek advice from others but listen to other points of views for sure. Own the outcomes of your actions. Go to the greater depth of what your actions might create. Take actions and own them. And, the world will be a better place!
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Utpal Vaishnav is a lifelong learner, entrepreneur and author. He is the founder of Self Help Zen where he shares pragmatic tips for effective living. Follow him on twitter @utpalvaishnav.