Bad Advice that Sounds Good in Self-Help Books, TEDtalks, Podcasts, and Motivational Seminars

Srinivas Rao
4 min readFeb 1, 2021

There’s a lot of bad advice that sounds good in most of the media we consume.

It sounds good because the job of the people who create this kind of content is to inspire people who consume it. If you package and promote anything this way, it’s easy to convince people that it’s good advice.

1. Follow Your Passion

Follow your passion is probably the worst advice that sounds good. If you’re passionate about something nobody will pay you for, you won’t make a living from it.

As Ashley Stahl says in her book, “We’ve heard it all before: “Do what love and the money will follow,” or my least favorite from the self-you help movement, “Follow your passion.” These expressions are often a fast track to nowhere.”

And worse, they are often a fast track to poverty.

For any person who made a fortune by following their passion, you can probably find a dozen who made a mess out of their lives.

2. You can be, do or have anything.

This is not positive thinking. It’s delusional optimism. There are plenty of things you can’t be, do, or have — people who think this set unrealistic goals and chase pipe dreams that never come true.

3. Everybody Should…

If you ever come across with words “everybody should,” assume what follows is probably bullshit. There’s nothing that everybody should do. You’re a human, not a sheep. If everybody decided to jump off a bridge, would you?

What works for them may not work for you. Just because somethings sounds or makes you feel good, it doesn’t mean that it’s good advice.

As I’ve said before, sample size matters.

It’s easy to sell bad advice that sounds good because it elicits a positive emotional response, gives you a formula or map, and rarely leads to the outcomes you think it will.

People make a lot of money selling this advice. But that doesn’t mean you should buy it.

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Srinivas Rao

Candidate Conversations with Insanely Interesting People: Listen to the @Unmistakable Creative podcast in iTunes http://apple.co/1GfkvkP