I walked out onto the pier this morning. A man in tattered clothes told me good morning. “Likewise,” my reply. I pulled out my camera.
“That’s the most beautiful view in the low country,” he said in between bites of soup. I snapped a few pictures. “You ever get paid for them pictures?”
I said sometimes. “Do you enjoy taking them?” He stole my attention. “I love doing it when I do it for me,” I explained.
“Take it from an old man. You wanna retire from work? Find something you love and you’ll forget you’re working.”
Maybe he understood life. Maybe he wanted money for drugs or a can of soup. I don’t know. I gave him all the cash I had. Two dollars. And I smiled. A former me would’ve told him and his advice to get lost. But today’s me didn’t.
I used to hate unsolicited advice. I still do sometimes. But I found a remedy that helps me cope. I enjoy life better when I practice it.
I hated advice for a long time. I thought no one knew my life well enough to write prescriptions. But dismissing it all proved a bad idea. Some advice holds merit. Absorbing good advice harms no one. Ignoring it costs double. Some advice blows. Dismissing it serves me. Internalizing it does not. So how do I differentiate?
My remedy won’t work for you. It requires self-knowledge. I know myself. I don’t know you. Get to know yourself, or don’t. I practice what works for me. Ignore it if you must.
I follow a simple mental model. This method enhances my quality of life. It allows me to glean value in unexpected ways. It made my morning better today.
Give emotion a quick breather. Count to four. Exhale. Go about life. I used to wear a bracelet to remind me. I handle advice this way:
- Write it off as neutral.
- Weigh its usefulness.
- Judge its relation to my values.
- Determine its worth.
No emotions in this table. Everything is neutral. Good? Bad? Wrong questions. I now ask: “Can I use it? How?” It forces me to think first. My attitude follows.
I won’t break down the four types of advice here. It works for me. Try it if you want. If it works, great! Let me know in the comments. If it doesn’t, I warned you.
I wrote this for me. I enjoyed doing it. The guy on the pier spoke truth. It didn’t feel like work. Maybe unsolicited advice doesn’t have to suck so much.
Mitchell Earl is a self-taught philosopher, lifelong learner, photographer, and business development professional passionate about the pursuit of meaningful existence. He is also a co-author of the recently-published book, Don’t Do Stuff You Hate. Join the private Facebook group build upon the topics of the book and this post to share your own stories about escaping things you hate.
Originally published at mitchellearl.com on August 17, 2016.