Well-intentioned advice can be disjointed from our authentic self, style and purpose. Only you can decide what you must do.
I was recently in the green room for an event I was speaking at, and there was a great conversation going on between newer speakers and people who have built a successful career as public speakers. One successful speaker was giving one of the newer ones a bunch of tips on how to make it.
They were all good pieces of advice, and definitely the top ones you would get in most articles about how to become a great speaker. Write a book. Get yourself out there and speak as much as you can, even for free. Save every dime you can along the way because you never know when you hit a rough spot and aren’t getting booked.
She went on to give some advice on how to get a book out, and then shared some great stories from her rich speaking career.
Well-Meaning, But Too Generic & Direct
While it was all good advice, when struck me was how generic and direct it was. That is, while it came from good intentions, the advice lacked any context for what the new speaker was about or trying to achieve. It also did not contemplate her working style.
For example, the advice about how to write a book was just to write one page a day. I know for me, that is definitely not a recipe for success as I write my best when I can sit down and complete an entire idea. That’s why my second book has been so far behind my original timeline – I have struggled to find enough consistent, long stretches of time to write meaningful content because my first book is still going strong and keeping me busy. Every time I sit down to work on book number two, I spent most of the time I have allotted to it just getting reacquainted with what I’ve written and getting back into my groove. Next thing I know, I’m out of time!
The point here isn’t to make excuses for why my next book is late, but to focus on the idea of what you have to do. Everyone has an opinion on what you must do. That does not make them right. And, ultimately, only one person gets to make that call – you.
People can share advice and ideas about what you could do, but I find myself amazed at how some people will be so insistent about what you have to do, especially when they don’t really know you or what really matters to you. Oddly enough, those people are usually the most insistent!
How Do You Use “Have To” Advice Well?
I generally try not to do this, and instead give one piece of “Have to Do” advice that I’ll share with you here.
The only thing you have to do is make choices that are authentic and true to yourself. Do that, and the success you seek will follow.
It make take longer or look different than you envisioned it, but that’s ok. If you look at it with this openness and appreciate the power of your own authenticity, you are more likely to value the journey and the lessons learned along the way rather than focusing on any delays, struggles or losses you may experience.
Now this does not mean all of the “Have to Do” advice you get is bad or wrong. It just means you need to take it in, run it through your values and goals, and see if it fits. If it doesn’t, then you can leave it alone as well-intentioned by perhaps misguided or misinformed advice. Perhaps there is a version of it that would fit your path better, so be open to evolving and adjusting the idea.
A Minor, But Useful Example
I will share a seemingly-minor or trivial example. When I was packing to leave for my second TEDx Talk, I showed my planned on-stage outfit to my wife and son. Neither of them liked it, and my wife went to my closet with me to pick out a couple of outfits she felt would look better. She also gave me some thoughts on why what I had chosen was not a good idea.
I tried on the outfits she picked out, and none of them felt like me. I decided it would not be good for me to be on stage feeling like the way I was dressed did not fit my thoughts or that I might feel uncomfortable in what I was wearing. Instead, I took the reasons she shared with me against what I had chosen and and for what she had chosen and altered my original choice accordingly.
I ended up with an outfit I really liked, and got to see the photos from the event and think it really fit me, the event and my message well. I didn’t just take the “You have to wear this,” guidance, yet I also didn’t ignore the ideas behind it. I combined them with my own thoughts to come to a better overall answer.