title: “Advice.” date: 2012-06-03T14:37:09-04:00 type: post categories:

- Damaged Bits

Advice is useful. Advice is guidance on future actions usually given by someone that is considered knowledgable. However, over a global and impersonal network in a one-way communication channel (as the Internet tends to be despite social networks), advice suffers from the consultant’s dilema.

The consultant’s dilema is that any advice based on a given situation will not apply cleanly because of the propensity for change due to situation fluidity. Businesses are dynamic, market conditions are always changing, laws and regulations are changing, etc. The advice consultants give is “point in time” advice around which recipients too often form an intransigent mindset. At OmniTI, we always find ourselves and our clients more successful when we form long, lasting business relationships. We get to see the changes: intramural changes as well as those of the marketplace and that of competition. With that information, advice can fluidly respond and remain effective. This should “just make sense.”

The problem I see is with advice given to individuals: how to be a better coder, how to run a company, how to be a better entrepreneur, how to do just about anything from the strategic to the tactical. All this advice (in the one-too-many forum of the Internet) is given based on a highly complex set of circumstances that are rarely disclosed well and often positioned as “the best choice for many situations.” I call bullshit.

Your job as a reader is to understand what the advice is and play through that scenario which is yours. Don’t be blinded by the shine or the glimmer or the success of the advisor.

All that said, I’m thinking of sharing a lot more advice going forward. I’m a technologist and entrepreneur and I have been building successful companies for 15 years (both lifestyle and not). I’ve learned a lot over these years about running companies, managing people, building products, building software, selling software, dealing with VCs, etc. Don’t you dare confuse “learning” and “being good at” something; I have no illusions of being good at many of these things. One thing I find is that most of the advice I read online is short-sighted, naive, poorly-qualified or just plain bullshit.

So now, here is my first bit of advice:

Advice is evil. As you receive advice on a daily basis from sources everywhere, think critically. About once a week, choose at least one piece of advice you like and you dislike and spend at least 60 minutes completely focused on developing a rebuttal. Do the research that the advisor failed to disclose. Redo the research that they did disclose. Find the counter research. Ask peers (always include peers from other places who have different ideas from you). Take input from your boss and/or direct reports in your research. Do it hard. Don’t lie to yourself. Don’t be popular with it. Be complete.

Now, throw it away.

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. This is a scale. The best pianists in the world spend countless hours doing scales that no one ever hears. Fingerwork, fingerwork, fingerwork. Do your scales.

In a few months, you will find yourself a much more capable critical thinker. You will be able to see through the layers of glitter and bullshit coating other people’s advice. Most importantly, you might even be able to see through your own glitter and bullshit.

Good luck,

– Theo

– Do your scales.