No Piece of Advice Is Right for Everyone, at All Times

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain ability to function.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Ever been inspired by a quote or an article you read on a self-improvement site like Tiny Buddha?

I mean so inspired that you instantly and wholeheartedly started to apply the advice—no questions asked.

Not only that, but in your inspiration, you started to brag about your newfound wisdom to all your friends.

You just couldn’t shut up about this new piece of wisdom!

If a friend was going through a breakup, you now knew just what to say.

If a friend was complaining about an annoying person, again, you now knew just what to say.

The piece of wisdom seemed perfect not just for every situation, but also for everyone!

Well, at least you believed this to be true.

So you applied the advice for a few weeks and everything was great in the world. This is, of course, until it wasn’t.

As time went on, you began to have that dreadful feeling that something felt off.

Oh no!

In fact, a small, dreadful thought started to cross your mind—that the knot you felt in your guts was due to the advice you’d been wholeheartedly following.

“But it can’t be,” you told yourself.

You held on to the piece of advice for dear life. I mean, it became part of your identity!

And after all, you’d already raved about the advice to all of your friends.

You were then reminded of another piece of advice that spoke about discipline.

Ah, that’s what it was.

You felt a small sense of hope that it was just you and not the advice that was erred.

Phew. You just have to be more disciplined, that’s totally what it was.

So you ignored that feeling that something was missing for a bit longer.

Until one day, you came across another inspiring article on Tiny Buddha—one that seemingly conflicted with the advice you’d been such a big advocate of.

“How can this be?” you wondered.

Gulp.

Before you knew it, you knew something had to change.

But it couldn’t be tossing out that one piece of advice you’d been crazy about for the last few months.

But then it hit you like a Bruce Lee kick to the face.

You eventually started to realize, maybe the single piece of advice wasn’t the cure-all for that eternal feeling of fulfillment that you had hoped for.

So what did you do?

Conflicting Advice that Makes You Ignore One or the Other

I once got inspired by a piece of social advice that not only inspired me, but worked!

The advice talked about learning to genuinely become interested in all types of people because absolutely everyone has something interesting to share.

So true.

I talked to so many people and learned so many things!

Along the same time, I also got inspired by another piece of advice that I got from the improv community. The advice talked about a philosophy called “Yes and…” which essentially talks about always keeping an open mind and to start every sentence with agreement—hence “yes and…”

Those pieces of advice together worked beautifully. I started to see everyone as somebody worthy of learning from.

Life became more beautiful when I didn’t easily get annoyed at everyone and instead saw everyone as someone who could help me on this journey called life.

The advice seemed to be the best thing ever! At the time, I bragged to everyone about my new philosophy. I felt happy and didn’t think I’d ever stop practicing my newfound wisdom.

All was good and beautiful.

This is until it wasn’t.

At this point in my life, I was spending a lot of time socializing, which at first was all great. However, after a couple months I realized I hadn’t done anything worthy of being proud of toward my career goals. This is when I started to feel like something was off.

Now to add to it, around this time I came across an inspiring article on valuing my time and about the power of saying no.Super inspiring and made total sense. So what did I do?

After some reflection, I decided to completely ditch the other seemingly contradicting advice that no longer served me.

I started to find myself so much more productive. The advice was working. Once again, I was on cloud nine.

“Just the advice for me!” I thought.

I remember even hating that I’d spent so much time following the other piece of advice. At the time, I was staying at a hostel and remember I would secretly judge people who spent a lot of time socializing like I used to. I would say stupid things to myself like “These people are so not driven. How can they always be drinking?”

I was very content with my new ability to say no and stay productive. All was good once again.

Until, you guessed it… it wasn’t.

The newfound wisdom, mixed with the fact that I had already slowly started becoming less interested in people, made a beautiful recipe for becoming antisocial. Not only that, but I was excusing my antisocial behavior with “I’m just valuing my time.”

Then it hit me: Yeah, I was more productive, but I was feeling disconnected. I grew unhappy. Before I’d felt connected, but not productive. I’d grown unhappy then too.

I now realized, for myself at least, there’s no single piece of advice that is good on its own.

I had taken the social advice to the extreme and then taken the seemingly conflicting productivity advice to another extreme.

Both made me happy in the short term, but not in the long-term.

I now realize, both pieces of the conflicting advice are true and good, just not all the time.

Conflicting Advice Working in Beautiful Harmony

I came to learn that valuing my time was good. However, giving others my time is invaluable.

Learning to say yes and being open-minded to everything is good. However, learning to say no is invaluable.

Having great pride in myself is nice, but having extreme humility is very rewarding.

Learning that I’m important and should learn to put myself first was nice, but learning that others are also important and that it’s nice to put others first sometimes is also very rewarding.

Ironically, I think the single best piece of advice is that there is no single best piece of advice.

Embracing Each Other’s Unique Experiences

Just because following a piece of advice doesn’t exactly work for me anymore, doesn’t mean the advice was wrong or unrealistic.

This is what I allowed myself to believe.

One had to be right and the other had to be wrong.

Now I see it happen quite often and especially when I reflect on my own life:

Someone follows a piece of advice like “follow your heart” until they realize that following their heart has repeatedly gotten them into trouble. Then they start bitterly bashing that advice to friends and promoting decisions purely based on logic. The thing is, we have to learn when it’s appropriate to follow your heart and when it’s just plain dumb.

But it’s still good advice; it just depends on where you are in life and the experiences leading you to the moment.

Imagine a man known for boring people with endless rambles comes across an article on the importance of being able to lead a conversation. This advice is neither good nor bad, but in context, probably not the best piece of advice that this specific man should be listening to.

Make Mistakes and Let Others Do The Same

I’ve realized life is never black and white.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all piece of advice.

And this, in my opinion, makes life beautiful because it encourages us to let go of judgment.

In fact, I’d argue that what makes life beautiful is the lack of right and wrong. The courage to explore what you think will make you happy, even if others will judge you, is beautiful. Heck, even if you yourself will judge you!

I’m sure that in two years, I’ll have to learn to adjust again as I continue to grow. Maybe I’ll look back at this article and not agree with some of my own points.

It doesn’t mean any of my points are less true or more right.

The belief that there is rarely an exact right or wrong has also helped me become more understanding of others. In any given situation, someone’s idea of right might be my idea of wrong and vice versa—as should be, because we all hold different values and aspirations.

Looking back, I’m embarrassed at the way I would spend so much time judging others. I will go as far as admitting that many things I used to judge were actually things that I was subconsciously jealous of.

Today, I hold a lot of traits that the five-year-younger version of me would judge. In fact, some of these traits are now my favorite things about myself.

So, here’s a fun game to play with yourself:

The next time you feel the inclination to say something is either right or wrong, bite your tongue for just a few seconds.

I mean literally bite your tongue.

Is there even just a 1 percent chance that your judgment of what is right or wrong is only subjective?

About Kimberly Semiglia

Kimberly Semiglia is always changing—some will say for the better and some will say for the worse. She’s a big believer that we waste too much time judging others and not enough time focusing on ourselves. Some of her passions include writing, learning, and positively influencing others. Therefore, to combine the three, marketing has become her passion.

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If You Loathe Self Promotion, Here’s Something to Cheer on Your Shine…

If you’re the kind of entrepreneur/creative that loathes self-promotion… is it because:

1 …it makes you feel like you’re pushing something on someone?

New thought: Passion is a force—an essential force for your version of success. If you’re not passionate about your service or your product, maybe you shouldn’t be selling it in the first place. Worth considering.

But let’s assume you’re offering the world something that you WHOLEHEARTEDLY believe in—you’re anchored in purpose and meaning. Then let’s proceed…

Don’t burn energy trying to assume how people will perceive you.

What some people will read as enthusiasm and stamina, others may interpret as pushiness. It’s your job to show up as you, passion and all, and let the right customers make up their mind about you.

2 …you’re shy?

You have three choices here:

a) Pray that your good intentions + originality of your offering will attract prosperity. This tactic—on its own—never really works.
b) You could decide to just get over it—very possible. Nothing like the motivation to make rent, or achieve your dreams to help you overcome shyness. It happens all the time.
c) Let someone else do the selling for you—a writer, a rep, an agent, a virtual assistant.

3 …it’s not a “strength” of yours?

See #2.

4. Or… you’re afraid that people will think less of you? That you’ll be less of an artist, or a social change agent if you’re hustling your wares?

Well… thing is… so much of what you do translates into promotion. You are always radiating. From that personalized note that you tuck into your product shipment, to what you say at a party when someone asks what you do, to how you pitch the client to get the big account.

Here’s a formula to consider for your hustle:

RADIATE your passion + STATE THE FACTS of what that passion generates (the results it brings for you and your customers) = HAPPIER SELF PROMOTION

Cheering on your shine and your results,

danielle-signature1-copy

PS: Creatives & Career lovers! I’ve got an e-list called Hey! FireStarterPeople! I mail 1x a month to fan your entrepreneurial flames. Simple. Hopefully useful. Try it out HERE.

Danielle LaPorte is an invited member of Oprah’s SuperSoul 100, a group who, in Oprah Winfrey’s words, “is uniquely connecting the world together with a spiritual energy that matters.” She is author of White Hot Truth: Clarity for keeping it real on your spiritual path—from one seeker to another. The Fire Starter Sessions, and The Desire Map: A Guide To Creating Goals With Soul—the book that has been translated into 8 languages, evolved into a yearly day planner system, a top 10 iTunes app, and an international workshop program with licensed facilitators in 15 countries.

Named one of the “Top 100 Websites for Women” by Forbes, millions of visitors go to DanielleLaPorte.com every month for her daily #Truthbombs and what’s been called “the best place online for kickass spirituality.” A speaker, a poet, a painter, and a former business strategist and Washington-DC think tank exec, Entrepreneur Magazine calls Danielle, “equal parts poet and entrepreneurial badass…edgy, contrarian…loving and inspired.” Her charities of choice are Eve Ensler’s VDay: a global movement to end violence against women and girls, and charity: water, setting out to bring safe drinking water to everyone in the world. She lives in Vancouver, BC with her favourite philosopher, her son. You can find her @daniellelaporte and just about everywhere on social media.

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Savvy Chimpanzees and a Failure of Imagination

In, What is Enlightenment?, Immanuel Kant wrote, “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance.” Put another way, thoughts and behaviors that are simply reactions to our past and our environment, tether us to a static present that constrains our potential.

This isn’t to say that all of our actions, beliefs, and thoughts should emerge from a vacuum. That would not be possible, nor desirable.

Nearly every living organism is in the business of influencing and motivating the actions of other organisms. When a rattlesnake rears up and its tail whips out a rattle call, it’s letting on-comers know to stop, telling them, “if you screw with me, things will go badly for you.” Gazelles do a funky jump called a pronk when threatened in order to alert the herd to oncoming danger while demonstrating their fitness to predators. The pronking is signaling the herd to run and telling the predator to stop if they’d like to avoid a swift quick to the face.

Chimpanzees take their influencing abilities a step further, demonstrating a complex degree of intent absent from rattlesnakes and gazelles. When seeking alpha status, they elicit support by influencing their group members in a manner that would make any political animal proud. In his incredibly enjoyable book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari writes about how becoming the alpha takes more than physical strength. In fact, it isn’t necessarily the biggest and strongest who get the chance to lead. Chimpanzees achieve alpha status in the hierarchy by establishing coalitions through social activities like “hugging, touching, kissing and grooming” as well as engaging in reciprocity.

As socially sophisticated as chimpanzees are, however, nothing has nor will ever change in the manner in which they coexist and live. They will not create better ways to structure their group to ensure survival, nor will they ever enact a codified system of laws to protect the underrepresented or expand economic opportunity. There will not be a Caesar-like figure from the Planet of the Apes movies who communicates a vision of a better future. Quite simply, barring environmental factors that drive change, the apes’ way of life will remain in the future as it is today.

Because of this, apes and other non-human animals are imprisoned in the present where they can only react to environmental events that reward or punish their attempts to eat, procreate and avoid threats to survival. To do otherwise would require them to act outside of their capacity by imagining and fantasizing about a possible future that does not yet exist. According to Harari, it is this capacity for imagination that separates humans from all other animals on planet earth, making us distinct and unique. Kant would likely consider this a key factor on the road to a state of maturity and, eventually, enlightenment.

If you have ever considered starting a business, being a better parent or partner, getting healthier or learning a new skill, you are engaging in an act of creation by fantasizing about an imagined future state. Unlike non-human animals who spend their lives reacting to base life drives, the ability to envision a future that differs from the present frees human beings to take proactive action to better themselves, others and their communities at large. This is something that does not happen outside of the human experience.

This is also the reason that human beings can exceed base life drives and needs through both simple and extraordinary acts of creation. If you live life like an ape in a constant reactionary state, you will never create the surplus amount of time, energy and effort requisite to accomplishing great things and achieve the potential all human beings possess. You will change, to be sure. But, your environment will define what that change looks like, with you providing very little self-direction. It will define you. Your job, your finances, your boss and your family, as well as your perceived limitations, will determine your future potential.

You will likely do just enough to avoid the pain of not meeting those base expectations and needs, living a reactionary life caught in a time loop that keeps curving back in on itself.

Put more bluntly, through this failure of imagination and a lack of understanding that you are what you work towards becoming, you are allowing your potential to be that of a chimpanzee.

The same goes for anyone trying to influence others, whether it be in the household, social group, government, not-for-profit or corporation. If your primary method to influence the behaviors of those around you is to control them through active or passive means, tell them what to do, make them follow the rules or engage in a transactional relationship that only you can initiate, you are training them to be reactionary apes who live in a world of reacting to past events as opposed to working towards future visions. The result will be to do just enough to avoid unpleasantness. This is where human potential and progress go to die.

If, however, you desire to maximize both your and other people’s potential beyond that of an ape, create and communicate a vision of what is possible as well as an understanding of its value and how it will be achieved.

Here’s the thing, I know without question that each and every person reading this has the ability to expand their world of possibilities and potential into realms only now imagined. Know why? Simple, you’re human. This fact embodies you with something that is the most unique and valuable resource in existence: imagination.

Don’t waste it.

What is your vision for the future? Share your response in the comment section.

Note: No animals were harmed in the writing of this article.

Matt Nelson is the owner of Performance Ownership Edge (POE), the result of his obsession with answering the question, “How do you best engage people in a way that helps them change their behavior, accomplish great things and transform their lives?”. The mission of POE is to help leaders drive innovation by creating Empowered Engagement cultures that maximize the potential of their greatest resource: their people. Matt has extensive experience leading organizational change, coaching leaders and managing and developing regional and national teams. He holds the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, and Certified Professional in Learning and Performance designations in addition to an MBA where he studied finance. You can connect with him on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Jay Lee.

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