Advice filters


This week, I want to remind you to filter the advice you hear/read.

Don’t give people free access to your brain.

Before you take any advice seriously, make sure you’ve passed it through some filters. I can’t say what filters you should use, but here are some I use:

Do we have similar goals?

I’d like to make between 3-6 million dollars before retiring. So someone who is content with $500k is unlikely to give me useful advice. Likewise someone who wants to earn 9-figures.

I don’t want kids. So if someone is making life decisions based on having a big family, I have to think carefully if their advice is useful for me.

I don’t want to run a public company. So I shouldn’t pay too much attention to management tips from a freshly-IPOed unicorn founder.

As you can see, goals come in many different shapes and sizes.

Is our starting point similar?

There’s a Richard Branson joke that goes, “the quickest way to become a millionaire is to begin with a billion then start an airline.”

Starting point matters. This can include age, experience, family circumstances. For example, a 22 year old founder has little experience but a lot of energy. They shouldn’t listen to advice from a 55 year old founder with a lot of experience but is constantly optimising for less work because they have less energy.

Also, the 45 year old, might gloss over a lot of management stuff (which the 22 year old founder desperately needs) because she might think management stuff is obvious, because she’s managed employees for over a decade at this point.

Here’s another example: a rich kid might have the stomach to take significantly bigger risks than someone who grew up in a financially insecure household.

Finally, geography and culture matters a lot too. Someone from a third world country reading Tim Ferriss’ 4 hour work week might find they are the reason someone like him can have a 4 hour work week. If you haven’t already read his book, you might appreciate knowing that Tim’s top tip for minimising work is outsourcing it to poorer countries. 🙄

Are they believable?

I learnt this from my friend, Cedric, who, in turn, learnt it from Ray Dalio’s Principles. I love this filter.

Basically, you want to know if the person who’s giving the advice is worth listening to. Have they successfully done the thing they’re giving advice on multiple times?

For example, my dad likes to give advice on government policy. And my mum likes to give advice on health. But he is not a policy-maker and she is not a doctor. So, despite the fact that they’re my parents, I shouldn’t listen to them on either topic.

This is tongue-in-cheek, of course. In real life, insidious fake proof is everywhere and it’s quite easy to be fooled if you’re not paying attention. For example, someone who has sold a million books on stock picking isn’t a good stock picker, they’re a good author for stock picking books.

So you should definitely listen to them if you’re also trying to write a stock picking book. But this isn’t sufficient proof they’re good at picking stocks. To be clear, they might be good at picking stocks. But the fact that they’ve sold millions of books isn’t proof of that.

There are lots of examples out there like this. I’m not saying you should go around accusing everyone of being a charlatan, neither should you default to distrust. Life would be pretty miserable if you do that.

All I’m saying is to remember the believability filter when listening to advice.

Apply your own filters

This stuff isn’t clear cut. Sometimes starting point doesn’t matter, but believability does. Other times, believability goes out the window, but similar goals are everything.

Don’t take anything I’ve said here at face value. Figure out your own filters. Just make sure you have some.

If not, you’ll be applying the strategies of a FIRE devotee one day, and the life hacks of a 22 year old billionaire founder the next; and you’ll never make progress on either.

Seeya next Monday,

Lesley

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