Why Expert Advice Doesn’t Work and What to Do Instead
Having a dream or desire to work on is a wonderful thing. It fuels our days with passion and purpose. It makes us feel alive.
One of my dreams was to write. I admit I wasn’t very clear on how I wanted to do it. So I dabbled with different blogs and journaling for at least 5 years.
In 2009, on a whim, I started this blog. And after a few articles, I came to the realization that I really enjoy writing and sharing my thoughts with readers. I decided to take writing more seriously. So I headed to the experts.
In the beginning I felt excited to meet new people and learn about some aspects of blogging I wasn’t familiar with. The information kept coming ceaselessly, course after course with an ever-expanding list of topics.
After a while I realized that I was spending more time reading and learning than writing and connecting with readers and other bloggers. In effect I trapped myself in expert advice.
Instead of moving forward I felt stuck and overwhelmed. Doubt crept in and paralyzed me even more.
It took me two years to come to the conclusion that I was done with expert advice.
Today, we have experts in every field under the sun. And to make things more complex, new fields are emerging and creating more experts.
The evolution of expert knowledge is not a bad thing. But the availability of such information, and clever marketing ploys, make it fairly easy for anyone to fall into the trap of consumption.
Gorging ourselves on advice will not speed up our success. It will cause mental and emotional indigestion.
If you feel stuck, overwhelmed, confused, or doubtful about your own abilities, please read on. I will share with you some insights into why expert advice doesn’t work and what to do instead.
Why and when expert advice doesn’t work
Before we delve into this, I want to emphasize that expert advice works for some people, but not all people.
In my blogging example, upon checking into members of the blogging group, I realized that most blogs die off within a year or two. I would venture to say no more than 5% remain active and the truly successful ones take the percentage down to 1-2% at best. So from 2000 participants I estimate only 100 will remain active with 20 or so making it.
Does this mean that the odds are stacked against success? Not necessarily. To me, it means that we can’t rely on others’ advice for success.
Let’s get into the reasons behind advice not working.
1. People are different and their approach differs as well
Experts will provide advice based on what worked for them. It’s their approach, based on their personality, aptitude, and experience.
If the stars are aligned and you share a lot of their traits, the advice will work for you. Otherwise, it won’t. But …
What about hard work and discipline?
Some people will say if you do what you’re told to do, you will succeed, no matter what. This might be true—only for a short period of time though.
If you work hard on things that are not congruent to your true nature, you will succeed, but only on the surface. It won’t mean that much to you. Over time, you’ll feel worn out because you’re only running on discipline and willpower—great but diminishing resources.
2. Experts will give contradictory advice
One expert, for example, will tell you to start an email list right away. Another will say it doesn’t matter at all. Both are correct—for their situation, but not yours.
Also experts are human and will see things differently. One expert told me I needed more experience writing, but other knowledgeable and professional writers told me that my writing was excellent. Because I’m only human, I focused more on the negative than positive. Instead of feeling confident, I felt doubtful about my abilities to write. The doubt faded over time, not because I got more advice, but because I continued to write and publish.
3. Experts may forget what it’s like in the beginning
We can leverage experts’ knowledge but only if we feel it’s okay for us to do it, not because they say so. They are giving advice after doing their own thing for an extensive period of time. And we’re only beginners and need to start from scratch.
For example, a blogging expert would tell you not to use social sharing buttons and not to put ads on your site. The advice though is after he built a large audience. In the beginning he used all these things. Would he have been as successful if he didn’t use these techniques? I’m not sure anyone could answer this question with 100% certainty.
4. Unspecific goals and unrealistic expectations
This is what happened to me when I decided to seek advice from blogging experts. I wanted to have a successful blog.
To want to have a successful blog is way too vague of a goal. What is success? And what aspects of having a blog do I need help with?
Because I didn’t have specifics, I started drowning in details of materials and courses.
The same applies to starting a new business. There are many aspects: turning an idea into a product/service, legal structure, accounting, hiring people and payroll, marketing and sales.
The more specific you are about what you need, the better the chances of getting the right advice and the easier it would be for you to implement it.
We need to define our own success and the end result we want to achieve. And because we get to define our own success, no one else can guarantee a successful blog/business/or anything else. This is something we can only do for ourselves.
5. More learning and less applying
This is a direct result of point 4 above. If we’re stuck reading and learning, we won’t get any results. And we won’t know if the advice works or not. We’re stuck researching.
For any advice to work (or not work), we need to allow enough time to act on it, make mistakes, change course and keep going until we fully learn it.
What to do instead
Whether you want to pursue a dream or develop a skill, these points can help in avoiding the trap of expert advice.
1. Trust and value yourself
An expert will provide knowledge on a specific topic, but they won’t know what’s the best way for you to absorb it or act on it.
No expert knows you more than you know yourself.
If you want to learn or achieve something, do it because you really want to, not because you feel doing this thing is going to make you a better person or complete what’s lacking in you.
Starting from a place of lack will trap you in constant seeking of information/advice without knowing when to stop.
When we feel we’re not good enough, nothing outside of ourselves is going to alleviate the feeling.
2. Know what you want and set realistic expectations
This starts with trusting that you will pick the right area. And trusting that if you make the wrong choice, you will be able to stop and pick something else.
As mentioned above, if we don’t know what we want, we won’t know if and when we get there.
Pick one area of your dream and learn it well by working with it before you move to the next one. Let everything else go … and trust.
3. Try something on your own first
There are certain things that we can’t do on our own. For example, you can’t become a surgeon by cutting into flesh on your own, or scuba diving without proper instruction and supervision.
But you can start writing, playing music, photography, exploring ways to turn your idea into a product and more.
When we do something on our own, we get to experience it first hand, without the filters of experts and opinions. By taking baby steps, we feel the fear, excitement, the thrill and joy … and even the disappointment of failure. All feedback is part of the process of learning and growing.
Sometimes the idea of doing something is more exciting than the actual doing. So when we try something out, we can determine if it’s something we really want or not. In the long haul this will save us time and money and a lot of grief.
After you do something for a while but feel you need more support and advice, you can go to an expert. At that point you’ve had some experience and you know what you need help with.
There is nothing wrong with taking in expert advice, but only after you decide on what you want and do your part.
I’d say the most important thing is to experience things by doing and learning from our mistakes. An expert can be of help in some areas. But we still have to choose what works for us and what’s in alignment with our truth and values.
And if you seek advice, have an exit strategy—know when to stop and just do your thing.