Last weekend, a friend of mine turned 30. To celebrate the milestone, his wife invited a large number of us to brunch at their place. It was a very nice time. Good food – very good food actually, good conversations, and a good time to catch up on one another’s lives.
Towards the end, he made a strange request. He had us sit together in a circle and then proceeded to ask those of us who were 30 years and older to give him advice on what to do in his thirties. I found it strange because that was my first time hearing anyone ask for such on their birthday. Usually, you just have people go round in circles saying what they love about you, dishing out platitudes to make you feel good on your special day. But at the same time, I thought it was a very good idea, and I thought him very wise for making that request.
Right after he made the request, someone objected. “So it’s only those 30 and older you want to hear from, what about the rest of us?” At that point I thought he was going to rescind his request and just ask for everyone in the room to give him a word of advice each. But to my surprise, he doubled down! “Look, you have to know who you’re taking advice from!”
That statement got me thinking throughout the week, to the point of writing this article. I’ve been thinking about things to watch out for when seeking advice. There are sometimes when you don’t even go out to seek them yourself; people just spew out unsolicited advice to you.
So I came up with some tips or things to note, before taking advice of any kind.
People Can Only Tell You What They Know
Just like my friend figured out, only those who have turned 30 would know what it’s like to be 30. So also, we are to look for those with experience in the area in which we are seeking advice.
Now, this experience could sometimes be theoretical, sometimes practical, and sometimes a combination of both. In academics for example, we seek advice or help in our studies from teachers with sufficient theoretical knowledge of the subject. In business, we need those with practical experience in making money or profit to give us advice on how to do the same. There’s no point sitting under a man who has only read a bunch of business books and allow him teach and advise you on how to build a business empire, when he hasn’t done the same. That’s why MBA programs should have a mixture of theoretical knowledge and practical experience within their faculty.
It is also important to note here that we should never expect people to know everything to the point of taking their every word as gold, just like we did with our parents growing up. My girlfriend and I like listening to Ben Shapiro because he is very factual and also sharp and articulate, but I appreciated the day she told me that we should remember that he’s not perfect –nobody is – and so we shouldn’t just blindly accept his every word.
We stand the risk of following people blindly or taking just any advice they give us when we venerate people instead of venerating their ideas. Ideas can be evaluated individually and bad ones rejected. But when we put people on a pedestal, we stand the risk of following them blindly.
Be a Fruit Inspector
People may know a lot of things about a particular subject area, or they could be one of those who are knowledgeable about many things, and so it becomes natural for you to go to them for advice. But before you go, you should ask yourself, “Have they applied those things they know to their own lives? And how’s that working for them?”
Wisdom is the successful application of well understood knowledge. So while it’s good to take advice from those who are very knowledgeable – because people can only tell you what they know – it is even better to take advice from the wise – those who have applied such knowledge to their lives and have good fruits of evidence to show for it.
It would probably be detrimental to seek marriage counseling from a multiple divorcee. They may have lots of degree certificates hanging on their office walls, but they sure aren’t successfully practicing what they preach. They aren’t operating in wisdom.
Sometimes you may want do something new like start a business and then you have that friend or family member, who has never tried anything outside their comfort zone, tell you how it’s never going to work because they’ve read this book and seen that study by ‘experts’. They give you what they call ‘constructive’ criticism. But it’s at times like this that you should remember not to take ‘constructive’ criticism from those who haven’t ‘constructed’ anything.
Beware of Ungodly Counsel
Not every advice is good advice. I like the passage in the Bible that says, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly”. It means there’s a blessing that comes with ignoring ungodly counsel. Ungodly counsel here just means wicked advice.
I remember a well respected friend of our family was once advising me to marry a Nigerian instead of a foreigner because, when they misbehave, I would be able to give them a slap or two with no consequences. An ill I wouldn’t be able to escape with Western women. I branded that advice as very ungodly and have done my best to flee from it – and even her – since then.
Again, when we don’t put people on a pedestal, it would be clearer for us to know when the advice they give us is bad and ungodly, and we would be able to respond appropriately by not following it. And guess what? There’s a blessing that comes with that!
Beware of Emotional Vested Interests
Usually, those who end up giving you bad advice are those who have emotional vested interests in you. They are clouded by their emotions for you. Maybe you just started work and have to go by public transportation every day. Your mum may advise you to take out a car loan and get a car. She’s more concerned about your comfort at the time than what it will do to your finances down the road.
Financial vested interests are even most times better than emotional vested interests. Imagine if there was a family business in the picture, then the advice on buying a car, house, taking out loans, and even marrying; would change to things that are neither harmful to you nor to the company.
Some friends may advise you not to start a business or go to school or take a job out of town, for example, mainly because they know it will take away from the time you spend with them. They love to hang out with you. They are emotionally vested in you.
Emotionally vested people are not necessarily bad people. They just generally don’t give the best advice because they are currently blinded by how they feel towards you.
You Don’t Have to Take it All
You should know that even when you’re not seeking anyone’s advice or opinion sometimes; it will be thrown at you unsolicited. You don’t have to take it all. If you do take any of it, then chew the meat and spit out the bones. Take it with a grain of salt.
Don’t feel obligated to yield to the advice of say elders or those socially higher than you. Always evaluate it first. Be a free thinker and evaluate everything you hear carefully and thoroughly before you digest any of it.
You will notice that news channels of nowadays –especially the foreign ones – do less reporting and more panels. Instead of just showing and reporting the news as is, and letting you do the thinking and evaluating for yourself, they now host panels of 3 or 4 people analyzing what Kanye West said in the White House and telling you what to think of him.
Be careful not to be sucked into surrendering your analytical mind. Don’t acquiesce into allowing just about anybody tell you what to think or do, just like my friend refused to be cajoled into allowing everyone, whether above 30 or below, to give him advice on how to run his life. He was selective, he knew what he wanted and he went for it without allowing anyone, who was probably emotionally hurt, to advise him otherwise.
Before you take anyone’s advice on any subject be sure to check their level of experience, knowledge, their ‘fruit on the tree’, godliness and emotional vested interests in you. And, finally, if you don’t want it and they still want to give it to you anyway, just put on a kind smile and say to them, “Please don’t give me your advice, thank you.”