3 of the Worst Pieces of Advice You Can Give

‘Do what you love’ tops the list

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

We have all received bad advice at some point. I’m sure we have given out bad advice too. Often when someone offers advice, they do it with the best of intentions — with the aim to help the recipient through the situation they find themselves in. Despite best intentions though, people often give out some truly counter-productive advice, especially when it comes to life decisions. I’ve been on the receiving end of this, and I’ve watched others give out bad advice to those who really needed wise words. In this article, I want to highlight what I think is just terrible advice so you can learn to ignore it if offered, or even just avoid giving it out. Let’s start with what I think is the worst advice out there, do what you love.

Do what you love

Photo by Tachina Lee on Unsplash

One of the things that can make for bad advice is not appreciating the position of the person seeking it. Listening skills are so important when giving out good advice. What really bothers me about ‘do what you love’ is it is almost certainly useless to the recipient. When someone asks for advice on what they should do as a career in life, they are often not sure of what their passion is. These people tend to be young and believing that they have no calling to a particular career in life. You will rarely get a passionate young artist asking what they should do with their life as a career. That person will naturally gravitate to what they love doing. The person seeking advice on what to do with their life feels they have no obvious passions they can readily turn into a career. Telling them to do what they love is unhelpful and probably causes unnecessary anxiety. I think better advice for young people in this position is to look at what skills the world will need in the years to come and acquire those skills. Programming and data science is a great example. This is more practical advice that can allow a person to make a good living while contributing to society and potentially allow them to discover their true passion as they grow older.

Good things come to those who wait

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This advice has become more and more infuriating to me as I’ve started to build my own side projects. The advice of ‘good things come to those who wait’ is completely blind to the fact that we live in incredible times. Now more than ever, you do not need to wait for anyone’s permission to start your own thing. Take a look at YouTube. If you want to start a career as an entertainer, broadcaster, musician, gamer — you name it and YouTube gives you a completely free platform to do it. The barrier to entry is lower than ever too, the smartphone in your pocket is probably more than adequate to launch a career on YouTube. If you want to build a career as a writer, there are platforms like Medium and Vocal Media that will give you that opportunity for free. Again, the barrier to entry is virtually non-existent. All you need is determination, self-belief and a bit of hard work and you will be successful. You do not need to wait for anyone’s permission to get started.

You Only Live Once

I have never fully understood this saying, even though it was perpetuated by my generation — the millennials. For those unaware, it’s often said to someone as encouragement to do something irresponsible, reckless or dangerous — damn the consequences. Drake takes credit for popularising this saying in the 2011 track The Motto. Fortunately, the saying seems to have peaked in popularity back in 2012 but I still hear it said too often these days. This saying bothers me because the logic makes no sense — you only live once therefore do something that could shorten that one life you have? It should mean the complete opposite, look after yourself, be kind, live a good life. But I get it, that is a far tougher sentiment to sell in a rap song!

Photo by Wyron A on Unsplash

Conclusion

There’s a lot of bad advice out there. For someone asking what they should do with their life in terms of a career, one of the worst pieces of advice is ‘do what you love’. This advice lacks empathy for the one asking and is a tell-tale sign the person giving the advice has not fully understood what is being asked. Better advice would be to align your skills with what the world needs. Next, ‘good things come to those who wait’ is also outdated, bad advice. More people than ever have access to tools and resources to make things happen without anyone’s permission. Gatekeepers are no more. Finally, YOLO — it makes no sense in the way it’s used and should mean the complete opposite. Better yet, lets just retire this phrase — forever.

A computational biology & machine learning PhD researcher & a very curious person

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