Advice

Advice can be found everywhere these days. I am a member of a few veterinary groups in Facebook where opinions are procured from the “hivemind.” I think it’s good to comment on things when I have direct experience that relates to the question. I like to think my comments hold some weight because I have been practicing veterinary medicine for nearly 20 years. I have seen certain patterns in business over and over, so my confirmation bias is getting stronger as the years pass.

The thing about advice is that it is typically given in the context of “this worked for me.” But by nature of the phrase, what works for someone at any given moment in time, with their specific skill set, with their specific lifetime of experience, is pretty unique. We all have individualized connections to the decisions we make. The permutations of thought processes that result in a choice are infinite. The seeker of advice is typically looking for guidance in an area where she lacks experience. The giver of advice is relating the story of her personal experience with the subject, whether directly or indirectly obtained. Depending upon the nature of the advice, it is probably loaded with confirmation bias. We tend to seek out pieces of information that confirm our belief, and push away evidence to the contrary. So the weight of an individual’s advice may not have the weight of absolute truth, depending on the level of bias. Ultimately the seeker wants to increase certainty before jumping into the unknown. Our ancestors who survived to live another day didn’t want to walk into a cave without knowing something about it ahead of time. Seeking the advice of others that have some info about caves is great, but where will that lead them in the moment of decision when a new cave is found? What rules apply to this particular cave?

So advice is a great thing, but it is, by nature, an individual’s experience in his or her own life. Truth and advice are independent of one another, and should be treated as such. You may just find the contrary to a particular piece of advice advice is what you really need in your unique moment in time.

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