Advice is Overrated

“I wish I was better at giving advice.”

My housemate was perched in her usual spot, the breakfast nook of our 38-person mansion, thinking out loud.

“Why?”, I asked.

“Because I’ve got nothing to offer when people open up to me. No great wisdom. No sage-like advice. Nothing!”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold up.

This actually shocked me. Sure, maybe she didn’t give advice like Dear Abby, but who cared?

There were SO many ways she’s imparted her wisdom onto others. But through BEING rather than TELLING.

For example, she had this way of fully, 100% owning whatever she was doing. No matter how ridiculous it was. Whether it was dancing to Motown jams in her underwear, freely burping or galloping around a room, or shamelessly taking the last piece of bacon (and laughing at herself throughout it all).

She gave everyone around her permission to be their full, weird, unabashed human selves.

Or the way she took on leadership roles. Whenever something needed to be handled or she was struck by inspiration – she would handle it ASAP!

She charged ahead, no hemming and hawing, no procrastination, no putting it on a list. She just took action without a huge song and dance, embodying the principles of a “do-ocracy” – inspiring many of us to DO rather than wait for permission.

I saw firsthand how the way she lived directly influenced and changed those around her – myself included.

She may not consider herself a great advice-giver, but to me, that’s only ONE of many possible ways to impact others. And often, it can be the weakest.

Advice is overrated in our culture.

We’re a culture obsessed with the quick fix. With the simple solution. That the right combination of words arranged in a sentence is all it takes to change someone’s life.

But that’s not how most change actually happens. That’s not how most DEEP, EVER-LASTING change happens.

That kind of change is harder to see because it’s under-the-surface. It’s influences are more nebulous and harder to spot. Harder to boil down to a simple talking point.

But it’s this kind of deeper, non-intellectual influence that goes all the way down. To the root.

And that’s where the real magic happens.

I find a similar thing happens with reading.

When I read a book, my mind is fixated on the details. Highlighting sentences that I want to hold onto. Trying to remember specific examples and data points.

But just days later, my mind will struggle to remember any of those conceptual bits of information.

If I can’t hold on to any specific lines from a book, does this mean reading it was a complete waste of my time?

No, not at all.

More important than remembering specific sentences is being immersed in the author’s mind for hours and hours. Having their unique perspective rub off on you.

(Which is why I prefer slow-reading over speed-reading – I want to marinate in the author’s world for as long as I can.)

This kind of influence is harder to spot but runs much deeper. Long after you’ve forgotten those highlighted sentences, that shift in perspective will stay with you. And will subtly color all your experiences from that moment on.

So whether it’s a piece of advice or a line from a book, these conceptual, surface-level ways of knowledge are just one of many.

The under-the-surface, harder-to-spot influences are often the more important ones. The ones that run deeper. Change you on a more fundamental level.

And leave the strongest impact on others.