A client last week re-minded me of a song that I played incessantly in my youth. As soon as I came off the call I opened Spotify and MY HEART SANK. I felt that my business would be doomed to fail if every 40-55 year old in my network heard this song. I considered shutting up shop that day even though my career transformation business was growing beyond my expectations.
I'd have zero clients if this song were to be re-released.
“No song can be that powerful” I hear you cry.
Well, this one could have been…if human beings were capable of taking advice, that is. Luckily (at least from a business perspective) I don’t believe we humans are actually capable of taking advice.
So...the song is called Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen) by Baz Luhrmann. You know the one. It starts “Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97, wear sunscreen!” and Baz proceeds in a monotone voice to prescribe the most succinct and mind-blowing advice ever aimed specifically at young adults.
Like most young adults in the 1990s (and probably today as well), my parents doled out advice to me on a daily basis but it totally washed over me. “In one ear and out the other” was a commonly heard refrain pointed in my direction in my home.
Yet, when I was bombing about the back roads of Co. Antrim in my parent’s light blue Citroen BX and this song came on the radio, I almost slumped into an open-eared trance. I couldn’t get enough of this advice. It made so much sense and was delivered in a cool, Californian, non-preachy way, supported by a funky beat. I fully believed that this advice was going to change my life.
Check out just a couple of inarguable pieces of advice from the lyrics (full lyrics in the link below)
- “Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old and when you do you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders...but trust me, in 20 years you'll look back at photos of yourself, and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked....
- You’re not as fat as you imagine…
- Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly…
- Don't worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble-gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday…”
Absolutely brilliant life advice - wouldn't you agree? Needless to say, it didn’t change my life.
Even though I really loved ALL of the advice and even though I listened with open-ears, my psychological make-up would not allow me to take in ANY advice wholeheartedly. My psychological make-up, as far as advice is concerned, is identical to yours. It’s the same psychological make-up as your children’s and the same as your parent’s. We are all the same in this aspect of life. We all find it nearly impossible to implement someone else’s advice into our own lives.
On the flip-side, it appears that most people really enjoy GIVING ADVICE, even if it is not requested. Let’s face it, giving advice to others makes us feel helpful, knowledgeable and go on, be honest, often a little better about ourselves. That’s just the problem. Advice-giving is all about the advice-giver, not the advice-receiver. And NOT giving advice is really, really difficult.
Don’t believe me?
TRY THIS and see how difficult it is for you:
1. When your partner/colleague/child comes to discuss a problem with you this week ZIP YOUR LIP.
2. Listen with both ears and brain – this bit sounds easy. BUT you are NOT going to offer ANY advice AT ALL.
3. Instead, feel free to ask questions, make understanding noises, move parts of your face (eyebrows work nicely) at appropriate moments to encourage them to keep speaking. When your partner/colleague/child have COMPLETELY FINISHED TALKING, continue to empathise with their tricky situation and wish them well in finding the (be as specific as you can here) strength/confidence/creativity/etc (delete as appropriate) to be able to figure out the next moves to progress that situation along.
4. STOP. Assess how hard that was for you.
HINT: You will know if you have been unsuccessful in avoiding advice-giving if you hear the words “Yes, but…” as a response to anything you say.
BEWARE: This has been known to have a very obvious transformational effect on children. Watch their body language change (if you can be very specific) after step 3.
A friend accused me of being too simplistic in recommending this technique. All I'll say is...try it. It is a simple technique and if all it does is highlight how different it feels for you NOT giving advice, it will have made an impact. Let me know what happens.
In my experience, it's also nearly impossible to take someone else’s career advice and point it at your own career.
If you'd like to transform your career you will need to find a way to step far enough out of your current situation to view both it and you objectively so that you can CREATE YOUR OWN CAREER ADVICE. Most people struggle seeing their own life from a different perspective. Sometimes a coach helps.
In my work, I don’t offer advice (although I am a human with failings and sometimes I catch myself mid-advice-offering.).
What I do offer are structured, tried and tested techniques combined with psychological insights which take the guess-work out of making a career change. Check out “The Decider” package on my website (https://www.midlifeunstuck.com/how-i-work) for more information on my style of advice-free coaching. While you’re there, why not sign up to my weekly newsletter for tips, resources, articles and real life stories of transformations? (ps that last bit was a suggestion, not a piece of advice!)