The Best Advice I Ever Received

by | Nov 13, 2012 | Career Design | 12 comments

W hen you’re trying to solve a really tough problem, your natural inclination is to ask as many people for advice as possible.

You hit up your spouse, your co-workers, your carpool partner, maybe even your mom.

If you’re lucky, they’re full of great and conflicting ideas. (If you’re not lucky, they’re full of lousy and conflicting ideas.)

In your effort to get a diversity of opinion, however, you often forget to consult your best advisor: yourself.

It’s a mistake I recently made myself.

As I often tell my clients, designing a career you love isn’t a linear process with an identifiable start and end.  You still have to have a system for evaluating whether new job opportunities are a good fit. This is, in fact, the number one way that overachievers get off course in their careers.

Unfortunately, being sensitive to the problem doesn’t always make me better at solving it when it comes to my own career. I’m juggling a successful and growing business, a part-time job writing articles about the science of human performance, a part-time job as an Air Force Reservist, and a tantalizing new job offer I’m not sure I should accept.

So I made the rounds, asking friends, mentors, and my stalwart spouse for their opinions on my situation. And while everyone gave me good advice, I still struggled to make any headway on a decision.

While writing last week’s post, I was searching through my archives for a specific link. I never found it, but I did discover that I had a lot of really good advice that I’d actually forgotten I’d written.

It sounds impossible, doesn’t it?  Some of these posts aren’t even that old!

And yet, as I skipped from post to post, I found the exact words I needed to hear, the perspective that helped me wrap my mind around my problem and start to develop a solution.

I don’t tell you this to brag, but to remind you that you really are your own best advisor–you probably just don’t have a mechanism in place to review your own ideas.

Because the truth is, the problem you’re struggling with probably isn’t a new one. My decision isn’t “Should I take this new job?” but “What are my real goals and priorities, and how do I ensure my over-achiever nature doesn’t get the better of me?”

Maybe it’s no surprise, but your best solutions usually come out when you’re helping someone else. It’s only when it’s your problem that you’re stumped.

There are a couple of ways of getting around that:

  1. Tackle your problem as if it belonged to someone else. You can talk to yourself in the shower or  get your spouse or a friend to role play with you. Make sure to arm them with your big objections and doubts so the conversation is realistic, but also empower them to find resolution and make a decision. You might be surprised how fast that happens.
  2. Every time you give someone else advice, make a note of one big takeaway. I picked one so that it isn’t overwhelming to do, but if you really came up with five dynamite ideas, write them all down. You can use a special notebook that you carry around with you (I love mine) or you can use a free program like Evernote (this is a great long term solution, since it’s easily searchable). Or, of course, you can start a blog (not for the faint of heart).

The great thing about this approach is that it reminds you that you are fully capable of solving the problem yourself.

Which is good news, because in reality, you are also the only person capable of solving your problem. Everyone else is just cheering you on the best that they can.

P.S. If you’re curious about which Everyday Bright posts I found helpful, here you go. I can’t guarantee they’ll solve your problem, but they helped lower my anxiety as I struggle with mine.

  1. How I Tamed My To-Do List, Stopped Looking Like a Flake, and Regained My Sanity
  2. Why Is Happiness So Hard? An Interview with Gretchen Rubin
  3. How to Stay Motivated When You Feel Like Giving Up
  4. Are You Trying Too Hard?
  5. Rejoice! The Top 10 Benefits of Being a Nobody
  6. What If 2012 Were the Last Year of Your Life?