The Advice Paradox

I find it extremely difficult to avoid listening to other people’s advice sometimes. 

When we are not solid on how we want to live our lives, we will live out other people’s ideas. 

Everyone loves giving advice. 

Look at me, sharing my ideas here, and you taking them in. 

But this is different. 

I’m not telling you what to do, I don’t know you, or what you’re doing. 

While you’re living, I know I have some ideas that might be able to help you. 

But beyond that, I got nothing. 

For a lot of my friends, quite insecure with themselves, they love to tell me what to do. 

They like to tell everyone what to do. 

“If I were you, I would…” 

To give advice in this way simply does not make sense. 

“If you were me…” You’re not me! You can’t ever be me. And also, I don’t think I asked you for your advice. You just gave it to me. 

That’s why I find it hard to navigate friends sometimes. 

The reality is that we are the only ones that know ourselves. Everyone else simply has just a representation of what our lives are like in their minds, but they don’t know what it truly is like to be us. 

They can’t. They’re not us. 

So, why do they try to advise us anyways? I don’t have dumb friends. They must be acting rationally in some way. 

They probably want the best for me… but I only know what’s best for me! Nevertheless, their motives are likely to help me live my best life. 

The problems don’t happen when they tell me what I think I should do. Even though I know what’s best for me, having other perspectives to the situation could help me make a better decision. 

We want to get the whole picture right? 

This is for some things. If we’re going to university, we probably want to talk to some friends we have at each university we are considering. Talk to our parents about what university is like, our teachers, more friends. 

But in a sense, this entire process is backwards; it doesn’t make sense. 

We are asking other people to help us make decisions for us, about us, that affect us, when we’re the only people that know us. 

Shouldn’t we just talk to ourselves? 

I think the key is in how we ask for advice. While we can ask people for information to help influence our decision, to help us get a better picture of the situation, we ultimately have to make the decision ourselves. 

Our friends can help us on the inputs to the decision, but we make the ultimate decision. 

I’m still not convinced, because we have a problem. 

If you’re faced with a set of options, say picking a banana or an orange to eat, you have to pick one. Growing up, your mom never had oranges around the house. Just bananas. 

Your dad always told you of the magical healing power of bananas. 

Your sister ate them all the time. 

So when you ask mom, “I’m hungry what should I eat?” and she tells you, “A banana, obviously.” 

You eat the banana. 

You eat the banana, because the information you consulted to make the decision led you in this direction. 

This is a problem. What you chose to influence you biased you towards a particular option, probably incorrectly. 

Ultimately, you made the decision yourself, but because you did a bad job of collecting data to help you make the decision, your decision wasn’t great. 

We have to be really careful about who we ask for advice. 

Anyone who tells us what to do, cannot be helpful, because they’re giving us biased information. They forgot one of life’s rules we figured out earlier, that we are the only ones who know what is truly right for us. 

Some people give us information. They inform us of what they know about the world, and give us this information as tools to make decisions. 

But everyone is biased, because no one has lived life where they have seen every part of the world. 

Everyone has just seen a small part of it. 

So, if we want to make better decisions, we need to gather as much information from as many sources as possible to ensure we can balance out any biases. 

Or, we could collect no information, and go with what feels right. 

Blindly following our gut doesn’t seem like a good idea all the time. 

Usually, if we are deciding whether or not to do something, it’s helpful to ask some people who have done the thing we are trying to do, so we can get different perspectives on it.

But sometimes, our gut is all we need. Because sometimes, in fact most of the time, making the wrong decision doesn’t matter. 

It’s an orange or a banana. Who cares. At least you’re feeding yourself. 

Which university to go to? That’s a bigger decision, maybe requiring more information. 

But maybe not. We run into another problem. 

When making decisions about where to go in the future all we can do is go off of information we hear from people who have done the thing, or worse, people who haven’t done the thing, but think they know all about it. 

The reality is, no matter what we do, we will never know what it’s like to do something until we try it. 

That’s why following our “gut” seems like such a great idea. How excited we feel about something is really the best indicator we can get about whether or not we will enjoy something. 

Then, it’s just a matter of trying it. 

But really, it doesn’t matter much, you can always change later. 

And, time and energy put into making a decision is time and energy you could instead put into actually doing things. 

Don’t spend all your time worrying about what university you’re going to go to. Instead, party with your friends, go to school, the gym, and play some sports. Or do whatever you do. 

In my experience, I have found I spend WAY TOO MUCH TIME and effort and worry making decisions that seem really important, but making the wrong decisions matters much less than I make it out to be.

But this is just me. 

Maybe you don’t put enough energy into making your decisions. Maybe you should spend some more time thinking about than you do. Ask some more people, do more research, become more informed on the topic. 

Or maybe you’re just right. 

Only you know, I don’t. I’m just here to share what has worked for me. 

I’m not giving advice, pretending I know what works for everyone, because I don’t. 

I just see myself and tons of my friends living out each others lives as opposed to our own, and it doesn’t seem right. 

But maybe it is. I don’t know.