On Taking Your Own Advice

When you are in the teaching/mentoring business, you tailor the advice that you give to each individual because each individual has his/her own wants and needs and desires and goals. What will work for one won’t work for another. But then you lead a workshop or write a blog and suddenly you’re giving advice that by the nature of the delivery has to be general.

Sooner or later, you look at what you have said in that general forum and wonder why you have never taken your own advice—well, all of it. Obviously you believe it if you passed it along to others. Why aren’t you doing it? The answer, of course, it that you didn’t think to. This is advice for others. That’s where your focus is. It’s the same as the old story about the plumber who never fixes his own faucet—he’s too busy fixing others people’s faucets.

So you decide maybe you should try to take your own advice. If it’s the path you advise others to follow, perhaps you should attempt it yourself. And what you discover is a number of thing:

  • Some of your suggestions don’t work. You find that the ideas you have been giving others just don’t accomplish what you thought they did. The only honest response is to drop this line of advice. But had you not tried it, you never would have known.
  • Some of your advice needs tweaking. Your practice might not exactly match your advice for a variety of reasons. This means that what you are saying might require a little tweaking to bring it into alignment with what you are doing, or what you are doing might require a little tweaking to bring it into alignment with what you are teaching. Either way, it’s an easy fix.
  • Some of what you are advocating needs adjustment. When you try to implement it, it doesn’t work quite the way you had thought that it might. And it turns out that what you are advising needs more than tweaking; it needs revising if it is to have any application in the real world.
  • Some of what you are suggesting to others is just difficult. Perhaps you did not know just how difficult it was until you tried it. And that means that you have to temper your advice with warnings about the complications the student is likely to encounter. For example, I have long advised actors, indeed, all artists to live in the moment, but unless you are in the midst of flow, this is a very difficult thing to do. When I tried to do what I had advised, I found it to be one of the most challenging things I had ever attempted; it’s a goal that one has to work on for perhaps years and still may not be able to master all the time and in all instances. But it is certainly worth the attempt. So now this topic always includes difficulty warnings.
  • Sometimes you find that the advice that you are dispensing is solid. It works, and it makes you work or your life better. Once you find out how well this particular piece of advice works, you wonder why you hadn’t tried it before.

Taking your own advice is not easy. For some reason we have a blind spot when it comes to applying our own counsel. But once we have seen it, applied it, understood the outcomes, we can learn from it. And because we learn, we can become better not only as teacher/mentors, but perhaps as an artists as well.

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Date: Monday, 9. September 2013 0:00
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Creativity, Productivity

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1 Comment

  1. 1

    Richard Bausch has on his website 10 commandments for novelists. Number 10: “Be wary of all general advice.”

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