Got Advice for Someone? Write It Down. Then Follow It Yourself.

The more you worry about what someone else is doing wrong, the less you see your own shortcomings

David Kadavy
Mar 5, 2018 · 3 min read

here’s always something outside of you that can be fixed. Your cell network drops calls sometimes, or your coworker doesn’t start meetings on-time.

When you look outside of yourself for things to fix, it starts a vicious cycle. The more you worry about what someone else is doing wrong, the less you see what you’re doing wrong.

There’s a great book by Cy Wakeman called No Ego. It’s a leadership book, but it is full of lessons that can help anyone be happier and more effective.

Cy is the creator of the concept of “Reality-Based Leadership.” Lots of leadership advice focuses on driving “engagement” amongst employees. Supposedly, you should let your employees vent their frustrations, then work to fix them.

But, Cy says, the more you invite people to find what’s wrong outside of them, the less they see what they can do to make their situations better. If you encourage them to deal with reality, they become more accountable, and happier.

Here’s one great lesson from the book:

Take Your Own Advice. Do you have advice for others? Write down exactly what you think they should or should not be doing, and enact that advice in your own life.

–Cy Wakeman, No Ego

How often do you find yourself thinking about what others should do? This is a protection-mechanism of the ego. If we think about what others should do, we forget about what we can do.

“Take Your Own Advice” (TYOA) is just one Ego-bypass tool in No Ego. Ego-bypass tools remind you (or your employee) to be accountable. You are responsible for the outcomes you produce. Yes, there are always challenging factors, but this Reality is the set of circumstances in which you must succeed.

Without accountability, the ego inflames. All you see is problems, and the problems you see don’t lead to solutions — they lead to more problems.

I use TYOA in my own writing. When I try to give “advice” to others in my writing, it leads to bad writing. It comes off as arrogant and domineering. When I try instead to write the advice that I myself wish to follow, my writing is better. It comes off as more compassionate and gets me to use my own experiences — which makes me a more credible writer, and leads to more useful and effective writing.

When I wrote The Heart to Start, I did so with TYOA in mind: What is the advice that I want to follow myself? What advice have I not yet integrated into my own daily life?

I figured that in the worst case, writing my own book would help me. The nice side-effect is that it made my writing more useful to others.

How do I use TYOA in my own daily life? Here are some examples:

  • My cell network drops calls. How well do I run my own business? Is everything I create error-free? Is it reasonable to expect everything I create to be error-free?
  • A friend habitually shows up late. Do I ever show up late? Did I make it clear that this was a function where punctuality was important? How can I be sure others don’t feel the way I feel when someone is late?
  • Writing about what I think others should do. Do I apply this in my own life? What’s the advice that I wish I could follow myself?

Your complaints and advice are probably valid. There’s always some little thing that can be improved. The point of TYOA is not to find out you’re wrong—it’s to focus your energy on the things you yourself can control, without wasting your energy on a cycle of criticism.

Next time you see something wrong, try it: Write down what advice you would give, then follow it for yourself. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go Take [My] Own Advice.

David Kadavy

Written by

"'The Heart to Start' is solid advice from David Kadavy. It's not too late." -Seth Godin. 4x your creative productivity: