Some Thoughts (and one Rule) on Giving Advice

Why is it that others think they can tell you how to live your life? Or how to run your business? Or how to really break your fast during Ramzaan? Or how the way I’m combing my hair is not the best way to go about it!?


It can – and does – get irritating, no?

Taking Advice

I know for a fact that I am nothing without good advice. I also know that the “loving souls” can over do it sometimes. But the fault lies in my attitude, and that is what can be corrected.

A slight shift of perspective really helped me. Instead of asking, “why are they always on my case!?” I looked at it from the perspective, “wow, so many people who care about me!“.

I know, thinking like that is actually a trap. You get sucked into an argument, and depending with whom you’re having it, the argument can get pretty sticky and tricky and downright ugly sometimes.

But this change in perspective does help; people give advice because they give a damn. Even if they’re not following their own advice (a smoker suggesting that you quit, for example), it doesn’t mean that they’re being a hypocrite. It may mean that they believe you’re stronger than they are!

But here’s what I figure: everyone is giving advice at all times, whether they know it or not.

A shopkeeper who cheats advises you to cheat in your shop. A businessman who is honest is giving his considered opinion – without saying it – that you should be honest in your business.

I say that because I’ve come to learn that advice is really never given, it can only be taken. (click here to tweet this line)

If you recall the article about “finding the best teachers“, you will see that in the end, you make a teacher out of doers. You take advice, regardless if the other is giving it. Or not.
This helps in handling all the “loving souls” out there bent upon giving you the best recipe to live your life.

Giving Advice

This blog has a lot of advice, how-to’s and what-not’s.

I believe the following rule of dishing out advice is a solid one (stolen verbatim from Nasim Taleb’s page #):

Golden rule: one is not ethically allowed to tells others what to do unless he is doing it himself, and can suffer harm in case it turns out to be a bad advice.

I suffer harm in the form of :

  1. a bad reputation (I consider that a somewhat-temporary if not a superficial harm though) and,
  2. a lost subscriber to the blog (a not-so-superficial harm).

This means that I try to do things before I write about them. And second, I write about things that I do.

I take the risk of giving bad advice, but – and this is important – I am giving that bad advice believing it to be absolutely the right advice.

Just like I will admonish my child if she does something bad and I ask her why and she says, “because Saba (her friend) told me to,” I expect the reader of this blog to accept the same sort of responsibility.

If you take my advice, you take it at your own risk. This is not just legal talk, this is straight-up ethics: I can’t blame others for giving me bad advice, I can only blame/admonish myself of taking and following that bad advice.

My advice for what its worth (not much) comes – like everything else in life – with no guarantees whatsoever.

These are, and will remain, dangerous grounds; I tread on them softly but tread on them I do.

And may God in His Grace, Guide us all.

Question: How do you TAKE advice? Especially the one coming from people you know care about you? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. 

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