Episode 005 – The Best Advice
So, let’s talk about giving advice.
We all have that friend or family member. Their life is a bit of a mess. They’re constantly embroiled in some sort of drama and they come to you for advice. Do you give it?
This is a difficult position to be because you want to help but you’re reluctant to – you know – give advice.
Do people really want help or do they simply want to be heard?
Parker J. Palmer, an American author and educator suggested the latter in a piece called, My Misgivings About Advice. Palmer wrote, “The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed – to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is.”
If this is true, that people don’t really want to be healed or saved, how do you explain the fact that there are over 85,000 self-help books in publication today?
Let’s get into it!
If you like what you’re hearing, subscribe and share this show with your friends because it doesn’t go anywhere without you.
Until next time, be nice and do good stuff.
So let’s talk about giving advice.
We all have that friend or family member. Their life is a bit of a mess. They’re constantly embroiled in some sort of drama.
And they come to you for advice. Do you give it?
Now… this is a difficult position to be because you want to help but you’re reluctant to, you know, give advice.
Which is almost comical if you think about it because so often we don’t even have solutions to our own problems, yet we never seem to run out solutions for other people.
I would love to say that when this situation happens, I resist the temptation to interject but I’m a fixer. My knee-jerk reaction is to to help, but…
it’s not the best reaction.
Maybe the better tactic would be to just listen intently, let that person talk it out while saying nothing.
And maybe when we offer advice, it isn’t even about helping the other person as much as it is about making ourself feel better.
We’ve fed oursevels the false narrative that we actually have a clue about what’s going on?
And If there’s one thing I’ve come to realize at this age, it’s that I’m not sure I know what’s going on anymore. And any foundations I’ve built upon absolute certainty are shaky at best.
My philosophy these days can be best expressed in the words of the poet John Keats, I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the hearts affection and the truth of the imagination.
Yeah, I dropped some Keats on you.
But sometimes despite my best effort, I fail miserably at keeping my mouth shut and I offer my thoughts and suggestions. I
This recent scenario did two things; It re-taught me the lesson about giving advice and it led me to ask the question, do people really want help or they simply wanna be heard?
Parker J. Palmer, an American author and educator suggested the latter in a piece called, My Misgivings About Advice. Palmer wrote , “The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to witnessed – to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is.”
If this is true, that people don’t really want to be healed or saved, how do you explain the fact that there over 85,000 self-help books in publication? That’s almost three times the amount that were published in 2013.
These numbers don’t account for the amount of podcasts, YouTube channels and alternative educational sources like online courses and seminars.
Palmer’s assertion gets some backup from one of the biggest names in motivation and self-help industry, Tony Robbins. Robbins has stated that most people who buy self-help books rarely finish them. In fact, less than 10% ever read past the first chapter.
I’ve got several self-help books in my collection. A lot of them I bought back in 2001 when my life was unraveling.
I spent hours in Barnes & Noble –you remember Barnes & Noble? It was a big building with real book on the shelves – oh, man… I spent a lot of time perusing the self-help section.
And back then, self-help wasn’t as widely accepted as it is today. To be honest I was embarrassed. I felt like a failure… like I had to go buy a book to teach me how to manage my own life or discover who I was.
Things like The Power of Now, The Art of Happiness, The Prophet, Marcus Araelius’ Meditations. Anything that promised healing for my brokeness, I devoured. Read it from cover to cover.
Which is why it just strikes me as an amazing waste of time and energy if people are buying these books and never reading them.
I think just claiming that people want to be heard and not helped oversimplies the subject.
Personally, I think it’s both.
Dont’ get me wrong, I certainly believe there are a great many folks who love to complain and then make no effort to change their situation.
Let’s set those folks aside as the outliers.
Let’s focus on the folks purchasing one of those 85,000 books because if the market for self-help material is so vigorous but people aren’t reading past chapter one, maybe it’s not that they don’t want to be healed or saved, rather the delivery method is simply ineffective.
I don’t know, I’m not an expert on self-help.
I’m curious because after two years of a pandemic, I know several people desperate for a respite from the madness that’s over-taken our community. Mental clarity and greater meaning from their jobs, relationships and life in general.
I have these conversations on a daily basis. I’m searching too.
And while we may not know exactly what it looks like to each one of us, or how to find it just yet – we’re asking the questions and searching for different answers than the ones we’ve been given.
You know, work your entire life away until you reach an age where you’re too old to do anything?
Here’s the problem: A lot of people just don’t have the time or the energy to devote to such a process. The distractions surrounding us make it easy to put things off, not read chapter two.
Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist and professor at NYU calls it the exhausted majority; millions of people are simply exhausted from the discourse and uncertainty of the last five years.
The current hustle culture would chastise mental clarity and meaning as nonsense.
If you’re not familiar, Hustle Culture is a toxic niche within the self-help world. The rise and grind culture–as its known–fuels itself on the notion that no matter how hard you’re working, it’s just not hard enough. Idleness is the devil and billionaire CEO’s are the Gods.
It’s way over the top if you ask me but I’m not here to bash on people for working hard.
I applaud a strong work ethic and I’m sure that approach’ll work for some. But is it sustainable? And what kind of person are you becoming in the process?
What kind of community will we have when a bunch of sleep deprived grinders intent on chewing up the competition rage through suburbia in maxed out Teslas?
Ultimately it’s bound to lead to Burnout Culture. Substance Abuse Culture and Self-Obsessed Culture, which I believe are already in full bloom.
I feel the pull towards Hustle Culture. I’m constantly chiding myself to work more and play the game. It’s difficult to compete in content creation space if you’re not visible on every social media platform and posting regularly.
I don’t have the answer but maybe there’s is middle-ground. I know, that sounds simple and boring.
Sometimes the simplest explanation is often the correct answer. Yeah, I just dropped Occam’s Razor on you.
Establishing a middle ground might lead to establishing some balance. Reflect on why it is exactly that we’re burning ourselves down in the first place.
I’m not expert. And I haven’t read every self-help book ever written but I’ve read enough to know that no matter the approach, no matter the secrets they divulge or the tactics they give you to address whatever subject your seeking enlightenment on, there is a single theme that’s constant.
It doesn’t matter if your seeking motivation, help with nutrition or diet, help with finances, love, wisdom, or faith
If your seeking less-anxitey, more confidence, less fear, more hope, less sex, or more sex
The book could be a thousand pages or ten pages the theme is constant:
None of the ideas put forth will change anything without your action.
To quote Haidt again: Words of wisdom may wash over us every day but they can do little for us unless we savor them, engage with them, question them, improve them, and connect them to our lives.
If you reach as far back as 1936 and search the pages of one of the best-selling books of all time, How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnagie, everything you need to know is on one line on page 24.
It’s where Carnegie quotes British philosopher Herbert Spencer – Spencer was a biologist sociologist famous for his theories on Social Darwinism. No disrespect to Spencer but–who he was isn’t as important as what he said.
Spencer said… “The great aim of education is not knowledge. It’s action.”
My brain interprets that statement like this: The reason to educate ourselves is not so we can sit around a table and bloviate.
It’s so we can act on something. Build something. Fix something. Cure something. Create something. And thorugh all those actions, affect change, hopefully for the better. Be of service.
But taking action usually requires taking some chances.
I’m not talking about walking across a highway wearing a blindfold or eating almonds when you have a nut allergy.
I’m talking about calculated risk–with the intention of moving forward, attempting things that lie outside your comfort zone and more than likely, addressing some fears.
Changing the way you view things. Which, for some, may be more difficult than walking across a highway wearing a blindfold.
None of this is new information. You can find it in anyone of those 85,000 self-help books that just got published. But seeing as most never get past chapter one, there’s a disconnect somewhere.
Maybe this breakdown helps. If it didn’t, keep trying.
The great psychologists have given us their knowledge. Content creators and imaginative thinkers have laid out multiple pathways for us to discover our truth, fix what we perceive as broken within ourselves.
We’ve got countless ways to dissect our thinking and correct the incorrect perceptions we hold about ourselves.
It’s all there.
But Ultimately, the work has to be done by the us. The key component to self-help is the self part.
And whatever you choose will be hard at first. Most things outside our comfort zone will be uncomfortable.
I wrestle with fear on a daily basis.
But it’s not the fear of my youth. It’s not because I worry people aren’t going to like me or my voice or my art. My fear is that this time next year, I’ll be in the exact same place I am right now. A wasted year.
If my younger self came to my current self seeking advice, my first instinct would be to decline. Then, after some consideration I’d say this…
Take the calculated risks. Trust your instincts. Swing for the fences. Reach for the stars… and every other clichéd platitude you can think of that moves you forward but whatever you do – don’t stand still longer than you need to.
Once you lock onto something that works, no matter how small, take a step.
Hell, read a self-help book if you have too.
And remember…the best advice comes from people who don’t give advice.
Get on the email list →
Be the first to know when new episodes drop, new merch added, and other cool happenings.