Friday, December 17, 2010

I'm Not an Expert, but I Play One in Real Life

A very important part of accomplishing our goals and achieving our dreams is realizing that our way may work for us, but might not work for everyone else. This realization will stop us from believing that our way is the only way that will work. And this realization will keep us humble and open to new ways of doing the things we think we know how to do.

Think about this for a moment. Absorb it. Then walk into a bookstore or go online and you'll see a lot of people have made money selling their way of doing things as "the way." Sure, it worked for them. And maybe it will work for you. But don't believe that every "expert opinion" is the answer and final solution to how you need to accomplish your goals.

In my writing life I have been to many conferences, workshops and chapter meetings that cover the craft of writing. I've also read a lot of books about how to approach my writing and how to craft "the book." As a new writer, I eagerly followed the first bits of advice to the letter. I figured if I could master the other person's way of writing a book then I could be successful, too. But the truth is, I had to develop my own approach. And I've learned that every book and every idea requires a different approach.

That's my way. I have to dig into the writing in my own way while utilizing the bits and pieces of information that I've gathered throughout the years as tools to building my stories.

The same is true for any person pursuing any goal. It's true for parents, too. Oh, as a parent I could go on and on about the expert advice I have received from other parents who had it all figured out for themselves. Oh, they were all too eager to make sure I understood their methods were "the methods" for raising my darling daughter.

I'm sure their judgement... oops, did I mean to say that? To some extent, I did. Because there is a fine line between giving information if asked versus someone coming in and saying "you should do it this way because I know it works the best." There is a veiled judgment implied in that the person is actually looking at what you're doing and they disagree with your methods so they feel compelled to tell you how to do it "right."

There is no one "right way" to raise a child, process a move, clean a house, workout, diet, or write a book. Trust me. If there was just one "right way" to do anything, life would be pretty boring. We'd all be the same. And I don't think we want to be cookie cutter people. I know I don't want to be a cookie cutter person. Do you?

So the next time someone offers you unsolicited advice, even me, ask yourself what you can realistically use and toss the rest. And the next time you get ready to tell someone how well you know how to do something, ask yourself if you are actually judging that person's methods.

Question your motives. This will take you a long way. And remember to be compassionate in your views of how others approach life. This will take you even further than you can possibly imagine. Be receptive, be understanding, and act like an apprentice instead of an expert. You'll be amazed at how much you learn as a result.


Anne Gallagher said...

Now that I'm older and wiser, it has come to my attention that even if we ARE better at something, we should always just SUGGEST. That way, the recipient CAN use them or not and not necessarily resent us for the advice in the first place. I like suggestions.

I always use that word in my crits. It is a suggestion.
Thanks Christine.

Christine said...

Oh, that is very good Anne. I love the word "suggestion." I often say as a judge, "this is your story--ultimately anything I've said is yours to use or not."

I've found that the older I get, if I have traveled through some waters before others and survived, then I'm more than happy to say here's how I got through it. It might work for you. Might.

Excellent word "suggestion." :-)

Pam said...

Great post, Christine. Sometimes I feel like I'm barely in control of my own life, much less qualified to give someone else advice about how to live hers! It is upsetting, though, when someone is struggling with an issue and comes to you for suggestions, but has a list of reasons why none of them will work. I think there is a happy medium between staying stuck and following good counsel. And I pay attention to even unsolicited advice; sometimes there are pearls of wisdom mixed in with the smelly garbage. You nailed it when you recommended using what you can and tossing the rest. Great food for thought!

Christine said...

Hi Pam: I agree with you about people asking for advice and then not acting on it. Usually they don't really want advice. They want affirmation that they are right about their approach. I tend to cut ineffective people out of my life in general. I prefer to surround myself with people who want to grow and who are willing to challenge themselves to go into the next level.

Ann said...

I used to be an expert when I was young. But the older I get the less I know. Funny that!

Christine said...

Ann: I almost wrote your comment in my post. It is amazing how much less I know now than I thought I did know 10, 15 and even 20 years ago. I think it's the fact that the passing time has humbled me with real life roadblocks, bumps, and bypasses.

B. A. Binns said...

I am so good at handing out advice to others...and then thinking back and praying they didn't take it. I don't know why I keep doing it, major old habit. The truth is some things work and some things don't and my advice is no better (hopefully no worse) than anyone elses.

Now if I can just learn to take some of my OWN advice I might be more successful.

Christine said...

Hi Barbara: The spirit in which your advice is given is in a spirit of love. And that's a good thing. It is human nature to try to help and to share what "worked" for us. Or what didn't work. Sometimes it is in our failures that we have the most to offer.