Author and entrepreneur Derek Sivers writes on his blog
that you shouldn’t take any one person’s advice too seriously.
Imagine that you’re facing a big question like, Should I quit my job and start my own company?
You then ask the advice of a few successful people you know, whose opinions you respect and trust: one says “Yes” and the other says “No.”
As Sivers points out, because they can’t know everything about you and your particular situation, their advice is really just a reflection of their biases and their own current situation.
There are three such biases that you should be aware of when asking others for advice:
1. Success bias
Sivers writes that when successful people give advice, what he hears is: “Here are the lottery numbers I played: 14, 29, 71, 33, 8. They worked for me!”
Success is the result of many factors, some are based on luck and others aren’t, and it’s hard to know which are which.
2. Underdog bias
When most people give you advice, they don’t want to simply repeat what seems like conventional wisdom.
But what’s conventional and popular to them is based on their surroundings, not yours. If everyone around them is quitting, their advice may be for you to keep your job. It’s an under-represented opinion in their environment at that point in time.
3. Creativity bias
You ask, “Should I do option A or B?”
They reply, “Zebra!”
In this scenario, they’re treating advice like a brainstorm – giving a wild suggestion to help open up more options. As Sivers notes, this suggestion “was meant to be mostly entertaining, somewhat useful, and probably not correct.”
So if you shouldn’t take any one person’s advice too seriously, what should you do instead?
For Sivers, asking advice should ideally be like echolocation
: “Bounce ideas off of all of your surroundings, and listen to all the echoes to get the whole picture.”
In the end, only you know what to do, based on all the feedback you’ve received, and an understanding of your personal nuances that no one else knows.