Conflicting Advice

I received two contradictory pieces of advice in my email box today, both from sources I respect and admire.

Chris Brogan wrote this in his Sunday newsletter (which you should totally subscribe to — it rocks my world almost every week):

The Sharpest Saw

In another course, Cara was talking about how she got down the rabbit hole a bit (we all do) by checking out every little thing that came along. It was an echo of Alan, only differently.

I think we’re ALL doing this.

I think it’s the big problem. I think it’s what’s causing you not to be as successful as you want to be.

I said this to Cara: “The sharpest saw cuts no trees.”

Meaning, the more you prepare, the more you study, the more you research and learn and ponder, the less you DO, the less you experiment, the less you know what’s what and the less you SERVE OTHERS.

Do Something

In another weekly newsletter,  Farnam Street, I ran across this article entitled Do Something Syndrome:

We all have moments where we fall victim to the curse of Do Something Syndrome. In fact the modern organization is full of do something syndrome. The key is to try and realize when we are doing it and back away.

So next time you feel the urge to do something for the sake of doing something remember these words of wisdom from Bevelin:

The 19th Century American writer Henry David Thoreau said: ‘It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?’ Don’t confuse activity with results. There is no reason to do a good job with something you shouldn’t do in the first place.”

Charles Munger says, ‘We’ve got great flexibility and certain discipline in terms of not doing some foolish thing just to be active – discipline in avoiding just doing any damn thing just because you can’t stand inactivity.’

What do you want to accomplish? As Warren Buffett says, ‘There’s no use running if you’re on the wrong road.’

When you are faced  with conflicting advice

In business you will be exposed to a myriad of voices, all offering different advice. The internet is overcrowded with experts writing articles detailing the “best way to…” or “5 things you never….” The only true key to sorting through the advice is to listen to yourself, your team, and your belief system. Let’s look at those in reverse order.

The only true key to sorting through advice is to listen to yourself, your team, and your belief system. Click To Tweet

Your Belief System

No matter what you believe, it should influence how you view the world. A true belief system will create a lens that focuses all the daily activities you cram into your schedule.

For David and me, our belief system encompasses our core values and focuses our highest goal on this: we want to love God, serve people and create good things. So that’s where we start every day.

I can give you an example of how this core value influenced our business life not long ago. We were working for an addiction rehab facility creating a series of high-end videos for them to use in their marketing. Not only was the client difficult to work with, but we became aware that their view of rehab came down to “heads in beds” over and over again. In other words, they didn’t mind a high recidivism rate because their alumni formed a substantial market of repeat business. We completed our minimum obligation and politely declined further work, leaving a substantial amount of money on the table. We never regretted that decision, and indeed were rewarded for it when out of that dysfunctional team came two of our favorite clients ever.

Using your belief system as a true lens for business may result in a temporary loss of profit, but it will also help you sleep better at night.

Your Team

Presumably you are part of a team working toward a common goal. If you are the boss or the manager, you’ve taken the time to scour the job market and hire the best fit for your organization. If that is the case, you should learn to value their opinion. It might surprise you how often your team can accurately diagnose issues — and potentially the right solution — sooner than you can. I’ve been reading Multipliers this week. It’s a great book on this topic. Create an atmosphere of collaboration that allows you to tap into your team’s intellect and vision when you are faced with conflicting paths.


Ultimately, of course, you need to test and weigh the advice you receive on your own. Whether you are dealing with a personal issue or a departmental direction or a new vision for your company, you need to sit with the conflicting information and evaluate it for yourself. Read, talk to mentors, make lists, take a few walks, sleep on it: follow whatever process has worked for you in the past.

And then walk boldly in the direction you choose.

Honestly, there are very few decisions that end in complete disaster or can’t be reversed.

What are you thinking about today? Do you have big decisions in front of you? How will you sort through the choices in front of you?