Bad Advice

I’ve met several people in my life who were very smart, but were somewhat unsuccessful in their careers and to some degree, in parts of their lives.  These people did not have any kind of disability that held them back.  They were smart people, who should have done very well but somehow, seemed to run into conflict and resistance often.  There was something else that seemed to be in the way.

When you ask these people if they have some insight into what is going wrong, these people are usually baffled.  They are under the impression that they are doing everything right, but somehow, others are succeeding where they are not.

If you are one of these people, you probably feel like the world is against you and perhaps even wonder if those successful people are part of some secret society that is organized to keep people like you down.  After all, you are doing everything right, and yet people haven’t voted you to be king yet. The people who seem to be successful are different from you (ergo, if you are right, then they must be wrong somehow).  It is so mysterious how the world is wired so backwards.  How could it be?

Well, the answer might surprise you.  Perhaps the thing that is holding you back is that your view of the world is based on some bad advice.  Maybe not just some bad advice.  I know it seems unlikely, but as Clarence Clemons once said, “it is easier to fool people than to convince them that they are fooled”.  Is it possible that you have been fooled.  Could you be convinced?

This may be a little hard to accept, so let me start by describing the symptoms before I talk about the cause.

What They are Doing

When you observe the behavior of people who succeed where you don’t, you might see some differences between their behavior and yours.  For instance those successful people seem to have these traits:

  • The opinion of others might hold a lot of weight (you might even think: too much)
  • Manners seem to be important for some reason
  • They don’t complain much
  • They seem nice to nearly everyone, both bad people and good people
  • They go along with everything and rarely (or never) act rebellious or abrasive

Some of these things may seem disingenuous to you.  Golly, you might even think some of these things are downright fake and are unabashed and outright brown-nosing.  Sometimes, that really gets under your skin.  In fact, some of those people only seem to have conflict with you.  You!  How or why could they find fault with you?!  What is wrong with those people?

Well, if any of that sounded like you, then I may have some news for you.  The problem might not be everybody else.

You may have been the recipient (and acceptor) of some bad advice.  Lets look at some commonly bad advice that tends to darken a person’s viewpoint on (maybe) everything.  Does any of this sound familiar?

  • 75% of all people are a*holes.  But what if they weren’t.  What if you have been treating 75% of people like they were a*holes but 9/10ths of them really were not.  What if those people were simply reacting to the way that you treated them?  Also, what if the actions and behavior of these people were not so bad, but you misjudged them because you were suspicious or cynical?
  • People are popular because they are butt-kissers.  This is a perception thing.  You don’t feel like being nice to people and expect others to be the same as you.  What if you tried being nice to others simply because it is courteous and you felt that you owed everyone a beginning-level of respect.  What if you insisted on treating people the way that you would like to be treated and would not relent on this, even if those people didn’t deserve it?  What if people who treat you badly are doing so because they have an actual problem (without going into detail) and you should cut them a little more slack without demeaning them?
  • #*@ them if they can’t take a joke.  Yes.  Some people can’t take a joke.  They get all bent out of shape at the littlest things.  And so, this is now their problem and you are in no-way obliged to accommodate them. Of course, if this was your mom or grandma or somebody that you respected and loved, then you would try a little harder to be understanding.  The ironic thing is that some cranky people are really just like you.  They may have received some bad advice and they are holding onto it with every fiber of their being.  When you are not exactly like them, they tend to clash with you.  The irony here is that you should recognize the rigid behavior and you should be able to relate to this person because you are the same way, but with different values.  If you can get past that and the other person can too, then you would probably be best friends because you would totally understand each other. Ironic eh?

And so it goes.  A little bad advice can go a long way.  Imagine a person who has received this bad advice and it turns into the dark glasses, by which they view the entire world.

My examples are rather strong ones, but think of other examples of pre-suppositions that you might hold, which color your opinion of people that you don’t really know.  Honestly, those things hold you back too.

If you really want to change your world, start by testing the waters.  Try letting go of some of your expectations.  Try being a better person and see if anyone notices.  They won’t, at first.  However, after a while, you might see the world from a viewpoint that you never knew existed.  Likewise, the world might see you from a different perspective too.  It could turn out better than you expect.

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About Tim Golisch

I'm a geek. I do geeky things.
This entry was posted in IT Psychology, Lessons Learned, Professionalism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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