The ones least qualified to give advice are usually the ones most willing to give it.
One evening while at a social gathering of friends and family I was walking past a young lady engaged in a conversation with an older gentleman. I knew them both reasonably well. I couldn’t help but overhear them and realized to my shock and horror that this young woman was receiving advice from him on her upcoming marriage. The gentleman was older, well educated, kind, successful and very caring. That’s all good and fine, but he was not nor had ever been married.
Later, when I asked the young lady what he said, she said he freely admitted that he had never been married, but was considering marriage himself and had read many books on the subject and wanted to pass on his knowledge to her. She was harboring some fears about marriage and thought perhaps he could help her. She had not considered that he was unmarried. I did the responsible thing and cautioned her about any advice he might give since he had never taken the marriage vows. She then realized her potential error and graciously thanked me. We talked for a while longer, and I attempted to ‘undo’ some of what he said, as I had been happily married for 20 years at that point. Whew! Possible disaster averted, especially on the subject of their discussion: expectations in marriage!
Four Tips On Seeking Advice
My blog is focused on entrepreneurs and small business owners, so what does this story have to do with them? Plenty. This story points out the following:
1. Seeking advice is critical. You should not attempt to do your business or life alone. Learn from those who have traveled the direction you are headed.
2. Seek advice from those qualified to give it. Not only should they be experts in the subject you are discussing, but they should have demonstrated success over the long term, both in good times and bad times. The advice of someone who has navigated both the triumphs and tribulations of business and life can be invaluable.
3. Seek advice from multiple sources to get a complete picture. If three people standing on a street corner all watched a car accident happen right in front of them, chances are the police officer who is taking down their eye-witness accounts of what they saw will get three different stories of what happened. None of them are lying, but they all will have seen something different. The police officer gets a complete picture by talking to all three, versus just asking one of the witnesses. It’s the same when seeking advice.
4. Finally, don’t just accept all advice as absolute truth. Advice from an expert does not relieve you of the responsibility for due diligence. Something that worked for the one advising you doesn’t mean it will work for you. Take the advice, think about it, and consider it concerning your situation. However, you must still develop your action plan for your situation. By all means, let the advice influence what you do, but be careful trying to replicate what worked for the one advising you exactly.
A Time-honored Truth
You would do well to remember a time-honored truth: the ones least qualified to give advice are usually the ones most willing to give it! Beware the overzealous advice-givers.