Advice From the Unadvisable

Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one.  Hell, this asshole has a whole website full of opinions.   Most of the water in the ocean of others’ opinions doesn’t matter much; everyone has their biases and reasons for them.  Some people will always prefer Coke, some will always prefer Pepsi – although I do believe the latter are dealing with some sort of physical impairment regarding taste perception.

The time when the opinions of others seem to weigh on us the most, though, is when our self-assurance is at its lowest – when we are 51% sure about a decision we’ve made.  When we’re still fighting a battle in a search for truth in our own heads, the flippant observations of others affect us significantly more than when we’ve left any doubt behind.

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Additionally, it seems like there’s an inverse relationship between the magnitude of a decision and our intrinsic comfort with our choice.  When I’m in line at McDonald’s, for instance, I am sure that today – right now – I know I want a Filet-o-Fish.  I am truly, certainly, absolutely positive I want a Filet-o-fucking-Fish.  I order it, eat it, and never think of it again.  But when the decision to be made is more heady, i.e. ‘what should I do with my life?’, ‘should I get a divorce and move on?’, or ‘is this job worth what they’re paying me?’, there are too many variables and emotions to be so sure of yourself.  That uncertainty opens us to being more sensitive to the opinions of others.

Sooner or later in our lives, we will find ourselves in a perfect storm of doubt – where our dedication and faith in the decision we’re making is hanging on by the thinnest of threads, and every person around us – friends, family, and colleagues – doesn’t understand our decision, or flat out opines that it was the wrong decision to make.

In times like these, it’s all too easy to feel anxiety and doubt.  Perhaps, though, you should take a minute and consider the level of ‘expertise’ that each person offering their ‘expert’ opinion has.  If you were riding on the subway late one night, and the insane homeless man lying on the seats opposite you started screaming “If I had any money… I would use it to buy stock in JP Morgan!!!” immediately before urinating on himself, you probably wouldn’t be logging in to E*trade as soon as you got home to rebalance your entire retirement portfolio, would you?

While in all likelihood you won’t be receiving [or soliciting] advice from drifters with liberal interpretations of bathroom location, it is entirely possible that the people you are getting guidance from are just as unqualified to give it.

For someone to effectively guide you with their input, they need to have the experience to understand the situation, the familiarity to know what’s important to you and best for you, and the desire to give the time and energy to think about it from your perspective.

So when you tell someone “I’m going to go this way,” and their answer is “oh, you should have gone that way,” ask yourself if all three of those criteria apply.  Actually, do any of them apply?  If not, then why should you give a second thought to what their opinion is?  You may have known a person for years, but that fact alone doesn’t make their insight valuable.

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Thankfully, there is one person that always meets all three criteria to guide you when you have doubts and the world seems to be against you.  That person is you.  You know what’s best.  Even though you have doubts, and fears, and you’re not sure you’re heading in the right direction, there is no one more qualified to guide you than you.  You’re living it, you know all the variables, you’ve thought about the possible outcomes more than anyone else has or can.  You had the most facts at your disposal.  You had the most vested interest in the outcome.

Just because you’re not completely sure of your decisions doesn’t mean they’re not the right ones.  Stick to what you believe and never mind the doubters.  Their motivation can be as innocuous as ignorance or as devious as jealousy – but they will never know you better than you do.

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