Most cliche advice falls into one of three categories:
- It’s a cliche because it’s true! i.e. “Always consider the source!”
- It’s a cliche because it tells us what we want to hear! i.e. “Follow your dreams!”
- It’s a cliche because it’s catchy! i.e. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way!”
The problem is that far too few people stop and consider the advice they’re offering or receiving. One of the reasons we offer bad cliche advice is that we know how we’ve applied certain advice, and things worked out well for us. However, what we don’t know is how other people are going to personalize or apply that same advice. While certain words may have encouraged wise action on your part, it may lead others to utter foolishness.
Here are three cliches which are TERRIBLE advice to give someone. They tell us what we want to hear, but not what we need to hear. Unfortunately my alternative suggestions aren’t as catchy.
Three Pieces of Terrible Advice
#1 | Trust Your Heart!
The heart is a very confusing thing. You can’t easily define it. We all tend to have many emotions pushing us in many directions. So, which impulse is your heart?
I know how inspirational it can be in a movie for someone to “have lots of heart,” and then, “follow their heart,” to great success. But, in the real world, “Following your heart” is really just mumbo jumbo for trusting your fleeting emotions.
Just stop and think about it:
- We all know highly passionate and highly emotional people who are prone towards impulsive decisions…they really shouldn’t follow their heart!
- We all know someone who is extremely greedy and immoral…they really shouldn’t follow their heart!
- All of us can become blinded by possibilities, or paralyzed by uncertainty…in those moments, we really shouldn’t follow our hearts!
On a spiritual note, trusting your heart is a really really bad idea, according to the Bible.
Who can understand it?– Jeremiah 17:9
Throughout scripture, it’s made clear that every single one of us are sinners. There’s a toxin in our system called sin, and it continually leads us astray. Blindly choosing to follow our hearts is fairly close to choosing to follow your sin nature.
BETTER ADVICE | Trust the advice of people that know you and care about you!
No one should live life alone. We need community, and we need the advice of people who can see our blind spots. When it comes to making HUGE life decisions, we often have huge blind spots. Run your options by someone you can trust, and let them filter through what your “heart” is leading you to do.
#2 | Do What You Love, and the Money Will Follow
Often times people will advise high school graduates to pursue a career doing something they would enjoy doing even if they weren’t paid. Maybe this would be good advice to give a responsible 30 year old, but it’s terrible advice for a teenager.
When I was 18, I liked playing video games, making music, creating movies, and writing. Nearly fifteen years later, I’ve made zero dollars playing video games, a few hundred dollars making music, a few hundred dollars on video work, and pretty close to no money writing. All in all, I’ve made about one month’s mortgage payment doing what I loved when I was 18.
Also when I was 18, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to be a teacher or public speaker. My sister was student teaching in her final semesters in college, and I just could not fathom why anyone would want to do that. Eight years later, I was in my final semester in college, student teaching. Six months after that, I was sending out resumes to schools in an effort to get a job as a teacher.
The moral of this story: I HAD NO IDEA WHAT I WOULD ENJOY DOING AS AN ADULT WHEN I WAS 18! Very few eighteen year olds have enough life experience to be able to reliably predict what they will love doing ten years in the future, and all the things which they do love doing are not reliable career paths.
Pursue a career path in a direction you are interested, where you can actually get a job!
Just because you love something, doesn’t mean there is money to be made there. Many of the areas where people have lots of passion are extraordinarily difficult to make money at. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t do things you love, but not all of our passions provide a living.
#3 | Follow Your Dreams
I’m all for working in the direction of your dreams, but dreams are called dreams for a reason. Unless you have very small dreams for your life, your dreams are very unlikely to come true. I’m not being a downer. I’m not trying to be super negative. But, by definition, dreams are extremely difficult to achieve.
I grew up attending a large high school and, by the time I graduated, my church had grown to be a mega-church. I’ve been plugged in at various churches throughout my life, and I attended a small Bible college. All this to say, I know a good number of people. Of all the people I’ve known, one went on to play Major League Baseball (Kelly Johnson), and another person went on to have national success in a band (he was an original member of the band Love and Theft). I’m not aware of anyone who has had any significant success in Hollywood.
- If you love sports….PLAY SPORTS!
- If you love music…MAKE MUSIC!
- If you love making movies…MAKE MOVIES!
There is value in exploring your dreams. I played in many bands in my early 20’s. I’ve spent countless hours writing and brainstorming plots for movies. But, as life progressed, and my dreams never found traction, those areas became my hobbies.
I still make music
I still make movies.
I still write (I’m writing right now).
But, I also have a job that pays the bills and feeds my family.
Explore your dreams, but don’t follow your dreams unless responsible people you respect advice you to
My friend who was in Love and Theft is one of the most talented singer/musicians I have known in my entire life. Back when he first announced he was moving to Nashville to pursue his dreams, I thought to myself, “That’s good idea.” It wasn’t just that he had a passion for music, it’s that everyone acknowledged that he had the potential to succeed. If you’re throwing responsibility out the window to chase a dream, you better be doing so because someone not emotionally invested in the decision also thinks you can make it. I’m all for risks, but I’m not for self-delusion.
Whenever we seek advice, it is vital that you ask people who love you enough to tell you something you don’t want to hear. Far too often our society encourages giving people false hope by promising success for everyone. Unfortunately we don’t all have the same talent or work ethic. We can’t all achieve dream level success. That isn’t to say that we need to settle for a mundane life, but it does mean that we probably shouldn’t define success based off of shallow standards like popularity, fame, and fortune.
What do you think is the worst advice people keep sharing?
Comment below and let me know!
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