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.
Maybe you shouldn’t start a podcast, hop on the latest killer app or other stupid bandwagons because some “influencer” says everybody should. Do these things if you’re genuinely curious. Otherwise, maybe you shouldn’t.
If somebody says everybody should do something, examine their motivations. I could say everybody should write a book, but if I’m selling a course on how to do it, it’s what
Douglas Vigliotti calls the private interest problem. We are all driven by some level of self-interest. I’m not sharing this just because I want to publish a status update or article on medium. . It’s a section of the book I’m writing. When it’s done, I will ask you to buy it. But that doesn’t mean you should.
Don’t follow examples that have been set. Set an example that inspires people not to follow your path but carve their own.
Always think positive
In her book, Rethinking positive thinking, Gabrielle Oetinger shares a story about how Michael Phelps used negative visualization while preparing for the Olympics.
He didn’t visualize himself standing on the podium. Instead, he visualized his googles getting full of water. By anticipating this scenario, he came up with a plan for how to deal with it.
The delusional optimists of the world will tell you that this is a cynical view of life. But the rational ones will be the first to tell you you’re going to have a much better life when you can recognize bad advice that sounds good.
Bad advice that sounds good lets you off the hook. You can blame the person who wrote the book, the speaker who gave the talk, or the instructor who teaches the course. But they’re not responsible for your outcomes.
So you can either keep following bad advice that sounds good and keep wondering why it doesn’t work. Or you can question the validity of the advice in the context of your life and dig deeper into the lives of the people who give you this advice.
Just because somethings sounds or makes you feel good, it doesn’t mean that it’s good advice. Bad advice that sounds good is only one of the many hidden dangers of self-improvement. And it probably won’t do much to improve your life.
Before you Go
This is an excerpt from my upcoming book. If you want to be notified when it’s available click on this link.