Why Even Smart Advice Is Wrong at Least Half the Time
There’s no shortage of people willing to tell you what to do. Log into any social media site and you can not only score free advice, it will be printed in elegant fonts on inspiring pictures. I read them often and share a few of them myself.
The ones that imply there is only one way to success make me cringe. The memes that tell me, “This is how you get what you want, and only this will get you where you want to go.”
Here’s a meme for you: “Any roadmap that doesn’t allow for detours is a shortcut to hell.”
I just made that up. See how easy it is to sound like an authority? But I think, as I reflect on it, it may be true. In fact, I think most of the memes, quotes, truisms, and platitudes with which we fill our minds and social media timeliness are true. For some people. Under some circumstances. But not for everyone under all circumstances.
You have to take action.
For instance, you know what they say about action. Yet, we all know that there is a time for thinking, planning, even resting. This meme, which has been around since the 1970’s or before, has gone through many editions, but this is the version that showed up on my Facebook wall yesterday:
“To be is to do”—Socrates.
“To do is to be”—Jean-Paul Sartre.
“Do be do be do”—Frank Sinatra.
Sometimes you have to “just be,” sometimes you have to take action, sometimes you have to surrender to nonsense and have a little fun.
You have to take massive action.
“The path to success is to take massive, determined action.” – Tony Robbins
I’ve also been told that it is impossible to cross a chasm one step at a time. Which is funny, since I’ve never jumped over a chasm, but I’ve driven over a lot of them. On bridges. Which, although I’m not an engineer, I’d bet were built one step at a time.
Is there a time for massive action? Sure. I’ve taken a lot of massive action. I’ve also taken a lot of baby steps, and plodding steps, mixed in with a few missteps. Some of those missteps were “massive action.” Big oops. You get the picture.
Sometimes you have to take the big leap. But sometimes you just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.
You have to dominate the competition.
“Champions dominate. Wannabes compete” – Unknown
If you have ever trained with a champion athlete, or even followed their career, you know their first priority is improving their own performance. They train to be their best before they study how to leverage their own advantages against their opponent’s disadvantages.
There is a time to study the competition and, for many businesses, there is a time to work toward gaining marketshare and “dominating” their niche. But if you focus there before doing the work to improve your game you won’t even be in the running.
You have to find work-life balance.
Balance isn’t something you “find” and maintain. If you’ve ever watched a tightrope performer you know that balance is an art of constant movement and compensation. So is the elusive “work-life” balance. But the key word, to me, is “happy.” What seems completely out of whack to me may make someone else deliriously happy, and they are perfectly balanced.
There is a time to focus on the professional aspect of your life and a time to focus on the personal aspect of your life. Only you can know where your focus needs to be at any time and to what extent to make you happy.
What do I really have to do?
I don’t know. I do know what I have to do. I have to be self-aware, I have to honor my individuality, I have to differentiate and use discretion. I have to challenge “traditional wisdom” and all forms of “authority” and measure it against my own judgement and instincts. Most of all, I have to take ownership, not just of my business, but of my life, of my power to control my choices and only my choices, and my responsibility to make the choices that I believe in rather than to point to a pretty picture with some words on it and say, “I did it because Facebook told me to.”