I don’t like giving advice. In fact, I hate it. It’s not that I don’t like helping people, there are just too many variables involved in giving really helpful advice. That’s why I don’t write blog posts trying to teach anyone anything. It’s not that I don’t have some value to possibly add to how someone might do something, God knows I’ve done enough things in my life that I’ve learned a few tricks along the way, but rather it’s that I have never used any templates to get to where I am in life, and so I don’t think any advice I dole out would be very helpful for other people. Not in business. Not in life. Not in love.
I am a copywriter by trade. I’ve morphed that into something else over time, but my primary commercial function is (still) to get people to pay attention to things, and then act favorably. Basically, I tell people what to do. It’s kinda like advice, but not really. Frankly, what I do is mostly manipulation; I use words and pictures in ways that engage an audience on an emotional level so that they (have no choice but to) do what it is that I want them to do. And they don’t even know I’m there. It’s a dark art and powerful skill set. But I don’t want to a write book about it. And I certainly don’t want to give anyone advice on it. That would be irresponsible.
Most people seek advice as a shortcut to actual experience. If you had a weight problem and could read a book about how to lose 20-pounds in 2-weeks, of course you would. If you were lost in SEM and could attend a conference where a speaker tells you how to maximize your Adwords campaigns, of course you would. If you could spend lunch talking with someone who has done something you haven’t but you hope to eventually do, you’d pick up the tab. There’s nothing wrong with taking advice, it’s just that too many people today are too eager to dish it out. When someone wants to give me advice I’m not looking for, it sends a red flag up the pole in my head. Think about tweets you see with headlines like “12 Ways to Better Erections” and such. Even though I don’t dole out advice (I challenge you to find any post where I explicitly tell you how to do something), there are plenty of people out there in the blogging world who are glad to pick up my slack. They’re people who know better than you. They can help you with shortcuts.
Over the last six years I’ve seen people arrive in social media, become deeply infatuated with it as they fumble their way through in the early stages (like we all did), and then somehow figure out a way to get people to listen to them for advice on how to use the mediums. Many have even written books on how to manipulate the mediums for maximum profit. Some have even gone on to do speaking gigs. But I don’t. I’ve had some pretty good success in social media over the years, except I’ve learned everything I know by working the medium directly. By establishing my own reference points to build on. And that’s pretty much how I’ve learned everything in life. It starts with getting my hands dirty. Only, I’ve decided I don’t want to give advice. I have no desire to be labeled a guru. Not a social media guru. Not a writing guru. Not an advertising guru. Hell, it turns out I’m a pretty good parent too, but I don’t want to be labeled a guru at that either.
The only people I confidently give advice to are my children, and the people who pay me to give them advice. I know these scenarios intimately and so my advice in those cases has some teeth. Of course my daughters don’t think so yet, but they will one day. Maybe.
Here’s an example of the kind of advice I give. We were recently at the pool and one of my daughters left a cookie out on a table. I said to her, “You’d better cover that cookie or else a fly might vomit on it.” She stared at me blankly for a second, and then went over and covered the cookie. I don’t think she’ll ever leave food out again. But that’s the beauty of the dark art of copywriting – sometimes you go right for the heart of a thing to get a point across. Nobody wants fly vomit on their food.
Too many people seek advice, even bad advice, because it represents a shortcut to success. A way not to get their hands dirty. And advice is so easy to access these days because there are more flies than ever out there just waiting to vomit on your cookie.