We love to give advice. I love giving advice. You love giving advice. We’re an opinionated people. It’s what we do.

  • “You shouldn’t date him, he’s wrong for you.”
  • “Don’t do that, you’ll end up failing.”
  • “Ehh, that’s not what I would do.”
  • “Well here’s how I would do it, but you do what you want.”

But how often do we take our own advice?

  • How many wantrepreneurs who teach entrepreneurship have never made money being entrepreneurs?
  • How many life coaches who sell their life coaching services don’t have their own lives together?
  • How many web designers have poorly designed web sites?
  • This list is endless.

“I don’t know.”

I don’t feel comfortable giving people advice I don’t follow myself. It’s OK to say, “I don’t know,” if somebody asks for your advice or an opinion.

It’s also OK to say, “Listen, if you really want my advice I’ll give it to you, but I’m not in a position to give you advice on this topic.”

What’s not OK is giving people advice via a blog, info-product, website, podcast, e-mail, telephone, or face-to-face and not following that advice ourselves. That is toxic, irresponsible, possibly dangerous, and weak. We see it regularly anyway.

If I had enough vitriol I’d link to the dozens of articles I see on a weekly basis that are founded in bullshit, but I’m currently vitriol-less.

If you’re not an expert, don’t claim that you are. It’s OK to show your flaws. It’s OK to not be an expert. You don’t need to fake it til you make it.

“Fake it til you make it” is the rallying cry of those far too interested in selling you something subpar instead of doing something that matters.

You’re better than that.

That’s my advice.

32 Responses to Advice

  1. What I find particularly unnerving about fake it till you make it advice is that it’s an affront to the practice creators claim to care about– all for the sake of attention. Most bloggers would rather get another follower than add to the practice or craft they claim to care about. Back where I come from, we call that lame-sauce.

    • “Most bloggers would rather get another follower than add to the practice or craft they claim to care about.” I wish every new (or veteran, for that matter) blogger could read that. Great point, thanks Dan.

    • I get your sentiment. And I question the legitimacy of this statement: “Most bloggers would rather get another follower than add to the practice or craft they claim to care about” – I think it’s just as dangerous to make generalities based on conjecture. Even saying something like “many bloggers I’ve come across…” would be more accurate.

      I make these same linguistic errors myself so my intention is not to judge or be right but rather to point to what gets glossed over and unconsciously accepted in the statement by the reader – what reality you may by inadvertently creating for others.

  2. I *love* this advice..thank you! And if you link to the “bull” articles, you give them power (or at least numbers), so I’m glad you don’t have ‘enough vitriol’.

    • That’s true Joy. I’m not interested in calling people out anyway. I probably should have even edited out that vitriol section.

  3. I’m not comfortable giving advice. Even for things I’m doing myself. Because for one, everybody is different and what works for me doesn’t necessary needs to work for others. Another thing is that the reason why I’m doing something may not necessary be valid for others.

    I learned to filter out this attitude when reading stuff online.

    • Very true Lukasz. But if somebody is asking for your advice, and you have expertise, I think it’s doing both of you a disservice not to offer it.

  4. It is so easy and clear to see the troubles of others and yet we are seemingly blind to our own!

  5. Another great example of your non-bullshit business model.

    Honesty is the way to go. :-)

  6. I’ve told other women scientist to fake it till you make it, but more in a sense of fake the confidence in your scientific abilities until you really have confidence. Impostor Syndrome runs rampant in that set and many will completely hide their expertise for fear of not being expert enough.

    Faking experience where there is none? Not cool at all. I don’t mind someone showing their process and learning alongside them, but that’s a whole different business model.

    • Thanks for sharing that Paula. I’m on board with faking confidence, especially when the expertise is there. If you know how to do X but you’re not confident in your abilities, it’s much different than not knowing how to do X, but pretending you do and teaching others.

  7. I’m a big fan of saying “I don’t know.” In some circumstances I’ll follow it with “Let me see what I can find out.” Other times it’s more “What do you think?” or something along those lines. I find that people who ask for advice frequently already know what the answer is and aren’t ready to face it. Or they want support rather than advice.

    • “I find that people who ask for advice frequently already know what the answer is and aren’t ready to face it.” True, thanks for bringing that up. In which case, cool, give them a push!

  8. I have an advice: It would be so nice if your site had a “Print” buttończyk. That would spare me C+V all the stuff to Word and print it from there.

  9. Being fully honest in any situation, but maybe even more so in business, is the best policy. I don’t speak from experience on the business side, but from personal relationships, I have never regretted being fully honest. That includes saying I don’t know sometimes.

    Practice what you preach is a good philosophy for everybody.

    • Unfortunately, it’s a tight rope, a thin line, murky waters, if you will, in business. Which is why the “fake it til you make it” advice is espoused left and right.

  10. This is a great reminder about why I love being a coach. No advice giving! We operate on the basis that our clients (and every person) is creative and resourceful. If they’re looking for advice, it’s thrown back at them in the form of a question.

    Often, we think we want advice, and then we end up ignoring it and going with our gut. Asking my clients powerful questions and having them come up with answers that work for them is MUCH more effective then telling them what to do.

    This is why a coach who may have no experience working as a CEO can still coach CEOs, and why a corporate coach can still coach someone wanting to go live in a van down by the river. So long as coaches are working with their own coach, doing their own work to deepen their learning about themselves, they aren’t “faking it”

    Thanks for the reminder that authenticity and transparency are far more valuable than faked expertise.

    • I’m not saying a CEO can’t learn from a non-CEO or anything of that matter. That would be silly. Of course they can learn from others.

      The issue is, in this particular example, if a life coach doesn’t have their own life together should they be guiding the lives of others? The answer is no.

          • Heh, very true. And I’d also assert that there’s always something new to work on in life, and so long as you’re conscious of these areas and are doing the work (whatever that looks like) to always learn and grow, you qualify.

          • Nobody truly has their life together. Every single person on this planet has issues. Some are worse than others.

            But in my opinion, apart from ourselves, folks who have made heaps of mistakes living messy lives are the best “life coaches” to listen to and learn from, as long as they’re continually learning from their own life experiences.

            Better still, I think people are better off learning from their own experiences instead of looking for someone else to validate their lives by coaching them how to live life. That’s my take on it. :)

  11. […] reconditioning wasn’t easy. I didn’t have any real confidence. I feigned confidence. “Fake it til you make it” they call it. It’s mostly bad advice that far too many people follow nowadays, but I took it […]

  12. Today a client I’ve been working with, and have recently built a friendship with, asked me if I had any mentors whom I turned to advice on a regular basis.

    I turned to her, saying “outside of what I intentionally read and listen to from people I respect, nobody. I don’t want business advice from somebody who has a personal life in shambles or personal advice from somebody who has a personal life in shambles. It’s not worth the heart ache.”

    I don’t care if someone do something well – can they do it in a way that doesn’t break the other facets of their life? If not, shut up. It’s only painting half a picture.

    • That’s an interesting take Rob, but I disagree with the rationale. Based on this you really can’t take advice from anybody. Nobody’s going to have the perfect life in every respect since that’s so subjective. You’re doing yourself a disservice by not taking advice from people who are experts in only certain matters.

  13. This is very true. I started blogging a couple of weeks back writing a mix of advice/personal/goals is my goal at the moment. after writing like 8-12 posts I realized I need to write more personal, progress oriented goals so that not only can readers see that I am on my game, but also so that I can see myself how much I have improved or how much better I’ve gotten at applying the very advice I’m giving out. At the moment I’m just starting, so I’m still trying to find my “voice” and all that good stuff, but I never want to think of my blog as a sort of cheap tool to deceive others, but rather a true, transparent way of expressing myself and the tips/advice I use that has worked for me

  14. “I don’t know” can be one of the most difficult, and dare I say ballsy things to say – especially in a business setting. How many times have you seen projects stumble because people in a meeting were too afraid to utter those words? I still feel afraid to admit it at times, but I almost always force myself to overcome that fear because it’s so much better in the long run.

    • It’s definitely ballsy in a business setting or otherwise. In a way, when we say “I don’t know” it almost feels like a failure. Hence the fear. But like you stated, it’s so much better in the long run.

      Thanks Dan!