Get Advice From A Stranger

The best way to find creative solutions to your problems is to get advice from someone that is distant from you. This is advice I am going to find hard to follow.

A set of studies by Evan Polman and Kyle J. Emich shows that people are more creative when working on a problem for someone else and the bigger the psychological distance, the better they are at solving the problem. In other words, the less they care about you and your problems, the more likely they are to come up with a good solution.

This makes getting advice from strangers on the internet a good choice. Who would’ve thought? Looking for a new take on things? Post a question in forum.
Obviously this doesn’t mean blindly following all the advice.

I am used to talking out some of my problems with my friends. I am not so sure I can always do this. My biggest problems are personal and it is difficult to talk about them, period.

Good Advice Reviewed

My mother gave me lots of great life advice.

I have decided that I disagree with her advice on how to choose a career.

I was fourteen when she gave me this advice. A friend of a friend, a professor at the University of British Columbia, invited us to a cocktail party he was hosting to celebrate something. We were introduced to one of his colleagues, a math genius.

The genius entertained us for a few minutes with some math related trivia. We moved on and my mother gave me her advice on choosing a career.  “Do not make a career of your biggest passion. You will end up with no difference between your professional interests and your personal interests. All your conversations will be about the same subject. Look at that professor, he spends his day working with math and, when he socializes, he only speaks about math. What a boring person.”

There was wisdom in her advice. It stuck.

I have since met many people that only talk about their work. I do not enjoy sitting with them at lunch. I like evenings with them even less. I try hard to change the subject. I once spent ten minutes talking about boxer shorts and one of my friends told me of a great brand. As soon as the underwear subject reached its end, the party-poopers were at it again.

I have met a few people that make their living doing what they love most. Most hate it when everyone only wants to talk to them about their profession. They are always trying to change the subject.

The professor was an exception. He really did love what he did. He was just socially awkward. He was comfortable using his practised routines about something he knew better than everyone else present. He should have left his comfort zone and learn to talk about his other interests.

The others bitch, plot, and celebrate political victories. They are consumed by their work and barely have the time for their passions.

Obsessive love is never healthy. You can make a career of what you love, just leave room for other interests. Most of all, please learn to talk about something other than your work.

Teaching The Lessons Learned

“All advice is autobiographical. It’s one of my theories that when people give you advice, they’re really just talking to themselves in the past. This list is me talking to a previous version of myself. Your mileage may vary.” — Austin Kleon, How To Steal Like An Artist (And 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me)

I would add that they are also talking to themselves in the present and for the future. Speaking about the lessons learned serves as a reminder of mistakes not to repeat and of opportunities not to miss.