“Why trust the knowledge of a brickmaker about jewels? Would you go to the breadmaker to inquire about the stars?
No, by my tunic, you would go to the astronomer, if you had power to think. And next time if you would have advice about jewels, go to the jewel merchant. If you would know the truth about sheep, go to the herdsman.
Advice is one thing that is freely given away, but watch that you take only what is worth having. He who takes advice about his savings from one who is inexperienced in such matters, shall pay with his savings for proving the falsity of their opinions.”
-The Richest Man in Babylon
I stopped taking advice from almost everyone years ago.
It’s not because I’m better than anyone. In fact, I need all the wisdom and guidance (from the right sources) I can get.
I have so much to learn — in my marriage, relationships, my business, my emotions, my behaviors, everything. If I don’t receive quality instructions and guidance, I’ll never achieve the success I want.
But the advice I need for the specific results I want is rare and hard to come by. 99.9% of the advice out there won’t cut it for me.
Almost Nobody Knows How to Get Where You’re Going
“Advice is one thing that is freely given away, but watch that you take only what is worth having.” -The Richest Man in Babylon
The life I want is rare and very difficult to achieve. Almost no one knows how to get there.
I want an extraordinary life.
I want complete financial freedom. I want to directly help the lives of hundreds of thousands of people through my writing, every day. I want to work from home so I can spend time with my family, all the time.
I want to be the master of my fate, where I call the shots and enjoy the rewards for taking full responsibility of my life.
This life is rare. Most people have no idea how to get there.
How many people do you know with this life?
The only people who actually know how to achieve this life are like unicorns that only appear at midnight during a blue moon.
Most people’s marriages end in nasty divorce. (Most of the ones that don’t get divorced probably aren’t exactly beaming with happiness, either). Most people have foolish spending habits and so stagnate in crushing debt for decades. Most people don’t want (or even know how) to change their behaviors.
The common life is defined by average, unspectacular characteristics.
And to quote Seth Godin:
“Is there a difference between ‘average’ and ‘mediocre?’ Not so much.”
Why would I want to hear a broke man’s instructions on how to be rich?
Why would I ask the advice of someone whom I would not want to switch places?
Never Take Advice From These People
“Never ask advice of someone with whom you wouldn’t want to trade places.” -Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect
People love giving advice.
It’s one of the oldest truths about humanity. We love trying to solve other people’s problems, even if we have no idea what to do (or our own lives are in flames).
This is for a few reasons.
First: when people take your advice, you feel good.
It’s invigorating, flattering, and it strokes your ego. It doesn’t even matter if the advice helps them. “They came to me for help. They recognized my wisdom and experience,” you congratulate yourself smugly. Giving advice makes you feel like a master and a winner (even if you’re not).
People like having control and power over others.
Secondly: being an armchair quarterback is better than being a nobody, for most people.
Most people will never be successful. They’ll remain one of “those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat,” in the famous words of Teddy Roosevelt. They’ll forever yell and criticize the actual players as they watch as a spectator.
But most people are too prideful to ever utter the words “I don’t know.”
Admitting they don’t know the answer is infinitely more painful. So to avoid this pain, they just give advice and opinions on things they know nothing about.
To most people, saying the words “I don’t know” is like admitting you’re a complete failure. They’d rather save face and insist they know something instead of admitting they’re out of their league.
Never take advice from people who don’t know how to get where you want to go.
Never take advice from someone who you wouldn’t want to trade places with.
If you’re not sure about someone’s credibility, just look at their life.
Are they happy? Are they wealthy? Are they a healthy, confident, selfless individual?
Is their life extraordinary?
…Or are they just as unfulfilled, exhausted, bored, fat, broke, and lazy like everyone else?
Never take advice from these people.
You Can Tell When You’re Moving In the Right Direction
Aang: “Well, I met with this guru who was supposed to help me master [myself] and control this great power. But to do it, I had to let go of someone I love… and I just couldn’t.”
Uncle Iroh: “Protection and power are overrated. I think you are very wise to choose happiness and love.”
-Avatar: The Last Airbender
Everyone’s most inner, secret dreams and passions they’ve had since they were in 4th grade are still there.
They might be buried deep under pretense and appearances…but they’re still there.
Once you take full responsibility for your life, you begin to realize becoming a millionaire, amassing 100k Twitter followers, or making the New York Times Best Seller list actually aren’t what you really want.
You can begin moving towards what’s ultimately important to you.
You can tell, deep down in your gut, that you’re moving in the right direction — not just the direction towards “power” and “money” where most people encourage you to go.
In the words of James Altucher:
Everyone has their own agenda. Everyone has their own list of stories.
You can listen. You can file away the story. You can think about it.
Everyone has investment advice. Health advice (no “gluten!”). Money advice (“401ks!”), Education advice (“Harvard!”). Career advice (“Wall Street!”), etc.
They are only telling you their dreams.
When I am unsure if I am making a good decision, I tend to ask too many people, “am I making a good decision?”
And then I get frustrated with their answers.
It turns out I was only asking them because I wanted validation for what I knew deep down was the decision I wanted to make. I never really cared about their advice.
My own dreams are deep inside, my secret wishes since I was a little boy. I can tell when I am moving in the right direction.
I get a feeling in my upper chest. A warmth and excitement. No matter what the advice is, that warmth and excitement and playfulness is the thing I listen to.
You can tell if you’re moving in the right direction.
You’ll also realize most people won’t be able to guide you this way. Most people’s agendas, unfulfilled dreams, or simple foolishness leave them entirely incapable of telling you what you really need to know.
That’s why you shouldn’t take advice from almost anyone.
Find the precious few who can actually tell you how to get where you want to go.
These people are extremely hard to find. That’s OK — you’ll find them.
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” -Buddhist Proverb
Once you begin taking full responsibility for your life and decide you want to live an extraordinary life, you’ll begin only taking the most potent and true advice from the world’s most extraordinary people.
In the meantime, you should be wary of any and all advice until you’ve proven they can be an absolutely trusted resource.
The extraordinary life requires extraordinary guidance — and these sources of wisdom are hard to come by.
Find them. Secure them. Implement their teachings.
Ignore the other 99.9% of “advice” out there.