Most people like giving advice, some even like getting it. A few will actively seek it out. A smaller number will actually take it and do something with it. The problem is – the advice we get is seldom the advice we want to hear.

It doesn’t really matter what the topic is – writing, politics, relationships – the best advice usually doesn’t start with: you should just keep doing what you are doing. You are exactly on the right path and as long as you stick to your guns, nothing can possible go wrong. That is the most popular advice to give and if you have nothing more helpful to say, I suppose you might as well make the person happy, even it ultimately leads to disaster.

Just as theatre is not therapy (a whole other story), good advice is not simply affirmation. You’re confusing that with being a “good” friend. Good friends don’t pile on; they offer emotional support if not practical help.

Good advice is never about the easy path. Almost all good advice contains somewhere in it the words ‘hard work’ and often words like ‘compromise’ and ‘patience.’

These are not always what people want to here. I’m certainly no different than most when it comes to hearing and accepting advice. Because advice almost always sounds like criticism and most of us have grown up being told that no-one has the right to criticise us (even though almost everybody does). Taking advice is a humbling experience because the first thing you have to admit is that you were wrong and the second is that you are not capable of solving your problem on your own. Self-esteem is seldom a useful tool when it comes to course corrections.

Still, the truth of the matter is that we are often wrong – and usually willfully blind to the nature of our error. Being wrong is not only common it is natural. The world is a complex place and we are – all of us, even the best and brightest of us – only human. Only capable of understanding so much. Anyone who tells you they were never wrong – or only admits to minor errors – is either a liar, a narcissist or in serious need of medication. The errors I’ve made would fill a book – in fact given that these blogs have now reached over 150,000 words, they have filled a book.

But I like to think I have learned to at least recognize when I’ve made a mistake. Maybe If I live long enough I learn to actually avoid them.

And as for capability, that’s something that comes and goes depending on the problem you’re facing (or have created for yourself). But you should at least be able to fake it – with hard work, compromise and patience.

And that’s ten minutes.


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