Following your own advice — asking more questions — and mentorship
We are advice giving creatures. We do this by default. We even seek advice by default. The power of Social Proof states that when we don’t know what to do, we look to others for cues. We are quick to offer up the advice, but we are often not quick to accept it as right for us. There is a disconnect. It becomes, “this is good for you. Never mind what I do.” Let’s examine this.
We’re all guilty of providing advice on subjects in which we are not experts. What if, instead of being quick to provide advice, we instead provided guidance in the form of questions? This is a form of coaching that enables the answer seeker to draw their own conclusion. This transforms, “Have you thought of…” to “Where are you at right now?” It transforms, “This might be what you’re looking for…” to “What’s the key struggle here for you?” It changes, “What about…” to “What else might there be?”
If you’re a person of influence, you will likely encounter people coming up to you for life advice: what career should I pursue? Whom should I marry? Should I pack up my things or sell everything and move to a different city and start over there? (We can have some out there ideas when we’re 22 and not tied down.) When we’re young, we have lots of options and no real good way to weigh them aside from asking around. (i.e. social proof — what have other people done given this situation?) People who are often asked these questions ask questions of the questioner because it is the best way to help lead them to their own answers. You don’t want to be on the hook for someone’s career decision (e.g. But you told me to do this and I hate it!). Someone else’s career is not your responsibility, nor is someone’s big decision to pack up and move to another city. People need to decide these things for themselves, not punt the decision.
Many of us seek advice on food. We are constantly seeking the “best” diet. What are the best foods to eat? When? Again, when we don’t know what to do, we look to others for cues. Eating right mystifies us. It is almost as if we are not built for it. It isn’t that we don’t know what to eat. We just have trouble cutting out (and keeping out) those foods that are not on the diet plan. Since we have trouble with this, we default to seeking advice on foods over and over again: “What should I…?” “What do you think I…?” “Avocados: yes or no?” “What’s your default breakfast?” “Desserts: yes or no?” “How about a cheat food day? I love a cheat food day!” These questions become dodges for what we know we need to do. Most diet practitioners state that if you have to ask about a food and its compliance, it is off limits. But we still ask. There may be a chance. This is why the “best” diet is the one that you can stick to, which is usually the simplest one. Sticking to them can be extraordinarily difficult, especially when you’re surrounded by food temptations.
The Gym can be difficult to navigate, particularly when you’re starting out. So, we seek advice in the gym. We may hire a trainer for a few sessions just to find our footing and to keep us accountable at least for a few weeks in January. (Knowing that someone is waiting on you / expecting you to show up to the gym at a certain time is a good incentive to actually show up.) We look around and see that the gym is full of all different types of people on Monday at 6 PM. From the gym rat meatheads to the novices who could barely find the door, they are all there. And most of them will dish out any sort of work-out advice they can muster. The only thing we seem to provide more unsolicited advice on other than fitness is food. I’ve seen people tell ex-Navy SEALs what they should be doing in the gym! (Yes, really. I think the SEAL Teams have got this discipline / work-out thing figured out.) We’re never short on advice giving when it comes to the gym and working-out. How do we dispel all the gym gossip? Find someone who has the results you seek and do as they do. And then, like the aforementioned diet plan, stick to the work-out regimen.
We strangely and ironically seek relationship advice. It is strange and ironic because we usually do not seek or desire disconfirming advice. We won’t be receptive to it. Especially if the relationship is new. We want to hear what a great thing we’ve got and that we should hold onto it tightly. This is true whether the advice is sought from a professional therapist or coach or a close friend. Again, the best strategy is to question the questioner. Have them arrive at their own conclusion. How many of us “speak now” when the wedding officiant states, “Speak now or forever hold your peace?” The social awkwardness notwithstanding, would your speaking then make a difference in these two peoples’ lives? Only in the memory that you stood up and publicly disconfirmed the union of these two souls. Within the book of unexpected events, that one sticks out. Tough as it may be to realize with those closest to us, others’ choices in intimate relationships are also not our responsibility. Yes, even if they seek out our advice. We’re adults. Adults choose for themselves.
Food. Fitness. Relationships. We’ve got plenty of advice for these essential topics. If we’ve learned anything from Tim Ferriss — and we’ve learned a lot — it is to only seek advice from people who have the results you desire. Some of us are so overcome by inertia in our decision-making that we’ll seek the advice of just about anyone with a pulse. Why? Find someone who already is where you wish to be and hang around them as much as you can. Help them if you can. Solve a problem for them if you can. Pay them to mentor you if you can. Such people can often act as your short-cut to your desired results.
Medium Mogul and Top Writer, Benjamin Hardy, tells the wonderful story of him paying multiple times bestselling author Ryan Holiday $3,000 to help guide and mentor him on a book proposal submitting to major publishers. Bestselling author Holiday knows the book business like the back of his hand. He has friends, connections, and tight relationships in the business that Hardy did not have access to. The $3,000 investment not only bought Hardy several hours’ worth of Ryan Holiday’s time, it also bought expertise and network access to the inside of an industry along with the proper proposal angle. Further, since it was written for them (not for the author) and watched over by an expert, it was accepted. Hardy got an agent and a book deal worth multiples and multiples of the $3,000 investment in the mentorship. He also got someone else with skin in the game in his success. Good mentors want their mentees to be successful and enjoy the spoils of their toils.
This story sticks out because so few would think to do this. If you’re willing to invest in yourself through time and money, it often is the best investment you can make. An investment in yourself for fitness through a coach can be totally worthwhile if you stick to the plan. An investment in yourself for nutrition and diet is 100% worth it if you are disciplined. Investments in your relationships are said to be among the keys to lifelong happiness for nothing helps us through our struggles and progress like meaningful relationships.