As many of you know, I never dreamed of becoming a, um, “self-help expert.”
When I began this work back in 2000, sitting at Goldman Sachs dreaming of the life I truly wanted, I had no idea where reading a bunch of self-help books would lead me.
Hat down, glasses on, the day I sheepishly crept into the self-help section of the bookstore hoping not to be seen, thinking, “who the fuck needs this stuff?” I was pretty desperate.
My head down work hard approach had gotten me a long way, but now asking myself the question that had come to dominate my life—What Do I Want?—I’d shown up here with the other losers looking for answers…
Hidden amongst the trillions of tons of earth on this planet we have uncovered only enough gold to fill two Olympic sized swimming pools.
To find the gold you must throw out a lot of ore, and life advice is the same. Here are 9 of the most common misinterpretations of legitimate life advice.
1. Don’t Listen To Other People, Do What You Feel Is Right
What This Advice Is Trying To Say: Don’t let other people’s criticism dash your ambitions.
How People Take It: You are always correct.
One number: 40.
That’s around the age many of us realize that it’s OK to admit to yourself how little you know.
A problem with reading self-help books is that YOU are reading them… Given that we mostly like to take on board advice that we already agree with, we often fail to get the advice we need.
For many years I used self-help books to keep developing, but it wasn’t until I found real teachers, legitimate masters, that I really began transforming.
Sometimes it’s not strong and independent and self-reliant to help yourself; but to seek out help.
2. Just Keep Truckin’
What This Advice Is Trying To Say: Don’t let failure stop you, keep pushing forward.
How People Take It: Don’t self-reflect or make changes, just push on.
Most often we fail because we’re not good enough. We sugar coat this type of advice in our society, but the first step to winning is to correct how you’re losing.
When you get knocked down, you decide whether you’re the type of person who picks yourself up like a stupid Rocky and runs back into the fight to get beaten down again… Or whether you’re the smart Rocky who becomes more badass before you next step in the ring.
Many people think it’s strong to carry on in the face of adversity, when instead of plowing forward into a blitzkrieg, you want the self-awareness to find a better way around.
3. It’s All About Work-Life Balance
What This Advice Is Trying To Say:You can’t sacrifice your health and relationships for work.
How People Take It: You need to choose between ambition and fulfillment.
I write about this a lot because work-life balance is nonsense. It implies that there’s such a thing as your life that excludes the majority of hours that have been labeled “work.” It also implies that thing detracts from “life.”
The life you truly want includes the work you truly want. Then words like work and balance and sacrifice get replaced with words like play and choice and alignment.
How do you create work for yourself that involves your personal relationships, that benefits from you being healthy, that doesn’t just allow for but requires living the life you truly want?
4. You’ll Know When You’re Ready
What This Advice Is Trying To Say: Don’t rush into a situation you don’t actually want to be in.
How People Take It: If you have any doubts at all, don’t move forward.
Like so many things in personal development, Napoleon Hill might have said this best—
“Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.”
Remember, if you’re certain you can achieve your goal, then it isn’t a goal. Whatever it is you want to do, but don’t think you’re ready for, take one action on it this week.
5. Work Smarter, Not Harder
What This Advice Is Trying To Say: Don’t exert yourself needlessly.
How People Take It: Working hard is for suckers.
From the old to the new, on this one, perhaps Gary Vaynerchuk said it best. To paraphrase him—You go ahead and work smarter. I’ll work smarter, and harder, and we’ll see who comes out ahead.
See what I mean? When I say there is no substitute for hard work, I don’t mean there is no sense in doing anything other than working hard. I mean that no matter how much more efficiently you work, extra effort will always bring extra results.
6. You’re Not Here To Impress Anyone
What This Advice Is Trying To Say: Don’t feel judged by irrelevant critics.
How People Take It: You are perfect.
James Altucher nails it in his book Choose Yourself. He’s not spewing the trite advice, “Just be yourself.” He’s compelling us to love ourselves for who we are, and boldly choose to be ourselves in the world.
None of us are here to impress anyone more than our own selves, yet if you want a promotion. Or a partner. Or for someone to give you literally anything.
Then, well, that person’s opinion of you matters, and your ability to impress them and ask for what you want plays a major role.
7. If You Can’t Handle Me At My Worst, You Don’t Deserve Me At My Best
What This Advice Is Trying To Say: Relationships are about compassion.
How People Take It: It’s okay to throw tantrums.
Why should we accept the worst versions of ourselves? Are your flaws so deeply ingrained in you that you are incapable of improving them?
I sometimes throw childish tantrums and I’m not shaming anyone for having moments of weakness or for losing control. I’m suggesting that those moments are learning opportunities we can better ourselves through, not unavoidable catastrophes everyone close to us must accept.
8. It’s All About The Side Hustle
What This Advice Is Trying To Say: Figure out a way to get more out of your time.
How People Take It: Your time is only measurable in money.
People who are working multiple jobs to feed their families are heroes. That’s not even debatable if you have any sort of soul.
However, people who work a job they hate and drive Uber at night because they only think of their time in monetary value are wasting their days and nights.
Live a life of meaning. If your side hustle is something you’re passionate about or a way to financially support an endeavor you’re passionate about, great. If you think you need to be making money every second of every day to be happy, which days do you enjoy it?
9. Escape The 9-5
What This Advice Is Trying To Say: Find a way to do what you want in life.
How People Take It: An easy life is the best life.
If you dream to escape the mundanity of the 9-5 and create the life you truly want, then you’ve got my ear. However, if you hate where you are now and are impulsively considering dropping out of life entirely to go live on a beach, I’ll wait for you to start asking, “Now What?”
Tim Ferriss is his own perfect example. Tim does what he wants. That’s not hanging out on the beach working on his laptop 4 hours a week, but massively serving his community, sharing the things he obsessively loves spending his own time on.
The Best Advice I Have
Don’t take my advice for it.
Roll around in it for yourself. Pick up books, read your way through them. Write up a bunch of notes for yourself… but be wary not to go too deep into other people’s advice.
Instead, take the best ideas you are learning and develop for yourself your own best advice that you every day follow, by developing a laser-like focus on these three things:
- Be clear on your grandest vision for your life and how today you’re creating it.
- Cultivate your mind, and train yourself to feel more amazing every day.
- Each day love taking powerful actions being the person you dream to be.
Simple, right? It is this simple.
Like ore on our planet and planets in the universe, there are trillions of pieces of advice you can seek out, yet focusing here you’re mining the gold in every day.