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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Archive: A Critical Eye On Advice – from the Career Opportunities Podcast

Archive: A Critical Eye On Advice – from the Career Opportunities Podcast

May 11th, 2013

Career Opportuntiies Logo 2012

There is a wealth of career advice and information available today via books, television and the Internet. Most is given in the sincere hope of improving the lives of others. It is important to draw on this advice to improve your life and career whenever possible. I am constantly reading reams of material every week, looking for ideas to keep my career on track. Despite all that, there can be a dark side to career advice if you don’t think deeply and clearly about the advice you decide to implement.

The truth is, when faced with an expert, a guru, a respected member of our industry, we run the danger of accepting every thought, every rule, every idea as fact. Self-growth isn’t about accepting every idea unconditionally, though. It is much more important to find ideas that hold a resonance for us, personally. Even with the most knowledgeable experts, not every concept will be a gem. It is up to you to sort the wheat from the chaff, whether expert advice comes from a renowned speaker, a book or the Internet.


Books by Douglas E. Welch
  

The Rules

Of all the advice given by experts, including yours truly, I first turn my critical eye to any hard, unbreakable rules. Advice that uses words like “must” and “never” is suspect to me and deserves special attention. It is a rare piece of advice that remains true forever. Rules, if they are useful at all, are fleeting. Work, business and your career change in substantial ways every day. Rules that might have been applicable today, could be obsolete tomorrow. While experts seek to find the universal truths in their areas of expertise, the world does not stand still. Any attempt to assign unbreakable rules will eventually fail. The world has a way of rendering much obsolete, even when created by some of our best thinkers. Who would have thought 30 years ago that CEOs would regularly dress in turtlenecks and polo shirts to give some of the biggest speeches of their lives?
From the gut

There is another phenomenon which is especially disheartening. Sometimes, when taking advice, we will start to ignore our own best instincts, our own “gut level” reactions. Regardless of how we receive advice, or from whom, if that advice goes against our own basic instincts, we will fail to implement that advice properly. It is impossible to whole-heartedly follow a plan of action if we don’t believe in that action to our very core. We may try to fool ourselves into believing, but our instincts will always win out in the end.

The most likely reason we don’t believe is that our instincts are telling us the advice is flawed, even if we can’t consciously put our finger on the reason why. I am sure you have felt it before; that creeping sense of uncertainty; that gnawing sense of doubt. These are warning signs and should be observed as such. There is some missing piece that needs to be discovered and analyzed. Maybe the advice isn’t a good fit for your company. Maybe it goes against some personal ethical belief. Maybe it has simply become obsolete in today’s work world. Whatever the reason, when you have doubts, you must explore them and quiet them before you ever try to implement new advice. If not, you will end up sabotaging your own efforts in the most subtle of ways.

The Trap

There is one final trap when taking advice from friends, managers or experts. If you are not careful, they can end up running, and possibly ruining, your career. When we begin to accept advice unconditionally, we give up control. We let others take over the direction and speed of our career. This often means that someone else is leading you to a destination they desire more than you do. Without thinking critically about advice, there is a danger that your decisions can become a series of automatic responses that serves no one well.

You might sense yourself on this track if too much of your life is taken up with defending a particular expert, concept or way of life. If you invest your own success too deeply in an external source, you can feel threatened when those around you, or even life experience itself, doesn’t agree. Instead of using the advice to help you build a better life, you spend your days trying to protect it in the face of mounting contradictions and attacks. There must be a balance or you will find yourself trapped in a downward spiral built by your failure to think critically about ideas.

Be very careful about the advice you accept and implement. Think critically about each and every piece and never (oh my, there’s that word) accept it unconditionally. While advice can certainly help you build your career, it can also take you down the wrong path, if you let it. We have a brain in order to allow us to think, not simply parrot one idea or another. Thinking critically about your work and your life is just one way to build your career.

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