You Don't Always Have to Take the Advice of Others

Have you ever noticed how, at an engagement party, or baby shower or graduation party, people tend to give all kinds of advice?

“Start investing now—you won’t regret it.”

“A water birth really is the way to go.”

“Whatever you do, don’t go to bed angry!”

This is all well-meaning advice, of course, and some of it actually pretty wise. But I guess the reason this has been rubbing me the wrong way lately is because I’ve learned the hard way that giving someone advice is a lot different than actually doing it.

Telling someone your advice is much easier than living it out.

“Don’t go to bed angry” for example, sounds nice until you’re four months married and it’s four in the morning and you’re still awake because you can’t resolve a fight.

When I think back to the advice I’ve been given in my own life—about college, about career, about marriage—I’m grateful for some of it. But some of it I also think took me off track. When I was choosing a major in college, for example, I had several people tell me, “it’s nice that you want to be a writer, but choose a major that is going to get you a job.”

I took the advice. After all, it was practical and smart. But because of that advice I paid a lot of money for a degree I’m not using.

So was this good advice for me? Maybe not.

All is not lost. My skills and expertise have gotten me to where I am and I’m finding innovative ways to put my degree to work. But sometimes I wish someone would have just looked me in the eye when I was in college and said: forget what everyone else tells you should “should” do.

Do what you want to do.

Do what you think is right. Trust your instinct.

Do what works.

I used to read a lot of self-help books. I liked them. It felt comforting and nice to have someone tell me exactly how things were supposed to be done, to give me a list of all the steps. And, hey, when my life didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, I could blame the books. After all, I followed the formula. I worked the plan.

I didn’t have to blame myself.

But these days I’m realizing: while there is a lot to be learned from those who have gone before me, there are also many things I have to learn myself.

After all, life is not black-and-white and my life is totally unique from anyone else’s life and most of which way I go depends on who I am and what I want.

There really are not shortcuts. No amount of good advice can save me from the inevitable pain and obstacles of life.

There are many “right” answers to most problems and the best answer is usually this:

Do what works.

Be willing to try and fail and try again. Be humble and learn quickly from your mistakes. Pay attention and be agile and adjust quickly. Don’t let insecurity get in the way. Figure out what works for you and then do it.

Trust your instinct. Trust your gut.

So if you’re feeling lost in your marriage or your career or as a parent or just in life—or if you’ve just graduated or are about to have a baby or are newly married and you’re getting a bunch of advice—remember this: advice is much easier to give than it is to execute.

Don’t dismiss the advice. Give it a try. But if the advice isn’t working, try something else.

Don’t worry about finding the “right” answer or the best answer or the most impressive answer.

Just do what works.