Selfish Advice

My mother and my aunt are the executors of my grandfather’s will, and got some spectacularly bad legal advice (in my not-so-humble opinion).

Their lawyer advised them not to distribute the assets to the heirs immediately, but to wait a few months in case someone else with a claim emerged. This comes under what I think of as “cover-your-ass” advice – the first of three categories of selfish advice (and I use advice and teaching interchangeably here). Here are the three.

Actually, wouldn’t you know it, I thought of two more when writing the three … the list is now five:

  1. Covering my ass
  2. Keeping myself entertained
  3. Showing off
  4. Riding my hobby horse
  5. Selling the wrong thing

The second type is when I aim the advice at a level that will keep me entertained rather than what the students need. I found myself guilty of this recently teaching an Aikido class. I had just learned a quite nuanced sword movement and wanted to practice that … so I demonstrated that. The class was mostly beginners who were completely lost. I was teaching for my own benefit, not for the students. As soon as I realised what I was doing I put down the sword and went back to a technique that would help the students rather than myself.

The third type is showing off. John Watson teaches the Friday morning Aikido class I go to. He’s a sixth dan black belt and has been training for over 40 years. But there is nothing showy about him. We study the basics week in and week out. No flashy throws, nothing impressive, just what works. Never any showing off.

As experts we can get bored with our old stuff. We fall in love with our latest thinking, our new hobby horse. So much so that that’s all we talk about, even if the old stuff is what will make the difference.

Finally – and the most insidious – is where I give you advice not because it’s in your best interest, but because it benefits me financially. The obvious example of this selling people into your programs when you know it’s not the best thing for them – selling the wrong thing. The internet marketing courses I wrote about here fit in here.

I reckon using your expertise to help others, through your teaching and advice, is a noble calling. People trust you to tell them what to do. Don’t breach that trust.

And recognise that we’re human, and we are all selfish to some degree. It’s worth thinking about which of the five we need to be on the lookout for.

Love to know your thoughts – where have you seen selfish advice being given? You can leave them below.