Please… Don’t Follow My Advice!
There are times when I want people to follow my advice, but not often. Most of the time I want people to listen to what I’m saying with an open mind, and then do whatever they think best.
When cryptocurrencies were at the height of their popularity several years ago, I had the following conversation with a brilliant young man that had worked with me in the investment advisory field:
DT: I’m thinking of going back to work. I could use some extra savings.
Me: “What? But surely you are rich now. Weren’t you an early buyer of Bitcoin? Didn’t you have a significant stake?”
DT: “Yes. But I sold it. I made a few hundred thousand. But I could have had millions.”
Me: “What the hell happened?”
DT (looking at me quizzically): “Huh? You don’t remember?”
Me. “Remember what?”
DT: “About a year after I bought it, I asked you what you thought about cryptos. You said you didn’t believe they would ever replace the dollar.”
Me: “Yes. I still feel that way.”
DT: “You said you thought their value would ebb. That they might even become worthless one day.”
DT: “And so I sold them.”
Me: “You what?”
DT: “I sold them.”
Me: “Why did you do that?”
DT: “What do you mean? You practically urged me to sell them?”
Me: “I did no such thing. But even if I had, why would you make a decision based on my opinion? You are a market analyst. One of the best I ever worked with. I’m just a businessman with a bunch of ideas. I’m hardly an expert in cryptocurrencies.”
DT: “Yeah, but you made a convincing case.”
Me (shrugging): “That’s what a writer does. But sometimes I’m wrong. There’s a big difference between making a good case for something and being right about it.”
DT: “Well, I wish you had said that before you gave me your advice on Bitcoin.”
As a writer, I write about lots of things. When I write about wealth building or personal productivity, my ideas are based on my experience – what I’ve done and what I’ve observed firsthand. When I write about investing, my ideas are based only partly on what I’ve done. They are also based on what I’ve read – the most convincing ideas that I’ve found from writers whose work I find credible.
As a consumer of writing, I make decisions based on what I’ve learned from experience and also on the credible advice I’ve read. But I never make decisions based on a single argument – especially when those decisions are big and important.
So here’s my advice on taking my advice:
If you work for a business I own and I give you advice, I expect you to listen to me as if your job depended on it. Because it does. You can choose to do something other than that which I recommend – but if you do so, I expect you’ll let me know in advance and give me a fair explanation.
Otherwise, I expect my advice to be treated like… well, like advice: one person’s idea of what to do in one particular situation. I definitely don’t expect it to be the final word.
I know people that get angry when the advice they give is not heeded. “Why do I bother?” they say. “You don’t listen to me!”
That’s not the way I feel. As I said in the beginning, yes, I want you to listen to my advice. But I want you to then compare it to other advice and (most importantly) to your own gut feeling that comes from your experience. And then make up your own mind.
If I thought that everyone that listened to me would always do exactly what I recommend, slavishly, I’d give no advice at all!