I realise that I’ve been guilty from time-to-time on this blog of indulging in the intellectually vacant art of self-help advice as if I have something special to say. And I am sincerely sorry about that.
This thought came to me today while idly browsing twitter on my train journey home.
Because there’s no signal in the tunnels that criss-cross under London, I only get to browse the top 20 or so tweets before my phone attempts, and naturally fails, to deliver the next 20 or so, so i’m stuck with what I’ve got. And that means I tend to read them several times when I realise I’ve once again forgotten to grab a copy of the Evening Standard.
This evening, the top 20 included two by a globally heralded self-help expert who has sold millions of books and gives talks to sell-out crowds all over the globe. And yet, what he tweeted in that moment seemed utterly insincere.
There’s no doubt that this guy has some stuff to say, and that a lot of his advice is worthwhile. But I’ve often questioned over the years why it is that people flock to happy idea merchants such as him when their own answers for their own lives are probably better than the ones he can offer.
Author Erica Jong is widely quoted as saying that: [Advice is] what you ask for when you already know the answer but wish you didn’t.
What happy idea merchants do is tell you things that are generically true under ideal conditions and suggest that you can apply them to your own life. It’s hit-and-miss of course because some of it is utter nonsense when applied to your particular circumstances. But they don’t tell you that.
But you know who gives good advice you can follow? You do, just as Erica Jong suggested. Your best friends do. Your parents and your siblings. The people who know you. Nobody else can tell you anything for sure.
Which is why I’ve decided it’s time this blog became a no-smug advice zone. I’ll tell you what works for me. I’ll tell you what I observe works for other people. Whether you choose to try any of it out is entirely up to you because you’ve got a keener understanding of your own capabilities than anyone else has. And isn’t that after all the whole point of self-help?
Ultimately, sharing ideas and ditching the advice just seems so much more honest.