A friend asked me for advice:
“Hey, Derek. I’m launching my first online course. But I can’t decide on a name. What should I call it?”
The answer was clear in my mind. So I told him.
“Don’t obsess over it. Choose a name that describes the outcome of the course for your students. Oh, and make sure the URL is available. Pick a name that checks off those two items and run with it.”
This is solid advice. But then…
Shortly after I gave it, I was facing the same problem myself. I was about to launch a new Flagship Course. And I needed a name.
Oh boy. If only I took my own advice!
Because here’s what happened:
I had to choose a name. I knew what makes a good name. My team even collected lots of ideas to choose from…
…but for about a WEEK, I could not decide on [email protected]%# name!
I obsessed over the name. Even though I KNEW the smart thing to do. Somehow, I wasn’t able to just TAKE MY OWN ADVICE.
Has this ever happened to you?
When I realized this, I wanted to dig deeper…
WHY it’s so hard to take our own advice? And how can we get better at it?
The good news is:
Thanks to the scientific research I found, I came up with a simple trick that you can start using today… and finally, start taking your own advice.
But first, let’s get real for a second. Let’s ALL admit:
Most of us are GREAT at GIVING advice but we’re HORRIBLE at TAKING advice!
Don’t believe it?
Well, I’ve got some science to prove it to you…
In a study by Dan Ariely, professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, he asked people to imagine the following scenario:
Your doctor gives you a serious diagnosis. Would you ask for a referral to get a second opinion?
As it turned out, most people said NO.
But when the study asked whether the participants would tell SOMEONE ELSE to go for a second opinion, most people said YES!
Apparently, even when it comes to serious decisions like our own health, we’re good at giving advice, but we don’t follow our own advice.
There are SO many more examples of this…
Think about the friend who’s falling for a no good partner – again. And will probably end up heartbroken – again.
Or the colleague who’s working on too many projects at once – and not getting ANYTHING done on time.
You KNOW what these people SHOULD do. And probably, you’ve actually got some good advice for them…
But then, when you find yourself in those SAME situations, you make the SAME mistakes as they do.
To give you another example:
Writing used to be hard for me. Until I figured out a simple and effective method for writing better and faster – so I made a video about it. It’s a great method and it WORKS. That is if I actually FOLLOW my own advice…
If you think that I don’t sit in front of a blank screen sometimes – think again! Luckily, eventually, I’ll remember my own advice and use the technique I share in the video.
But the point is:
It’s just one more example that shows how much easier it is to give advice than it is to follow it yourself.
There’s actually a name for this phenomenon (and the name hints at the solution)…
Igor Grossmann, assistant professor of psychology at University of Waterloo, calls it Solomon’s Paradox:
You see, the Biblical King Solomon was known for his wisdom in guiding others. But he failed to use that same wisdom in his own life… and his kingdom quickly collapsed.
Similarly, We’re able to think about other people’s problems wisely, but we fail to do so for ourselves.
As it turns out, the problem with taking your own advice is a problem of “too much information.” It’s the curse of knowledge: We know too much about our own situation. We’re too close. This makes it difficult to be objective.
So instead of looking at the situation objectively…
You find a reason why for YOU, this advice doesn’t apply. Why YOUR situation is special. Why you’re DIFFERENT. You tell yourself you’re a special snowflake.
You dismiss your own, good advice.
“Congrats, you played yourself.”
So what’s the solution?
We already figured out the issue: We’re too close to our own problems.
What you need is a way to DISTANCE yourself from your own problems. A way to analyze them as an outsider.
Well, Igor Grossmann, together with Ethan Kross from the University of Michigan, did an experiment to find out. Their findings inspired the “Best Friend Method” I want to share with you in a minute.
But first, let me share the experiment with you:
In Grossmann’s study, the participants were split into two random groups. One group was asked to imagine their own partner cheating on them. The other group was asked to imagine their best friend’s partner cheating on their friend.
Then, the researchers asked the participants questions to find out how they would deal with the situation.
The questions were a bit more specific, but for example, questions like:
- “Would you try to get more information about what happened?”
- “Are you considering your or your friend’s partner’s perspective?”
- “What are the different ways the situation might unfold?”
Now, I’m the LAST person you should ask for relationship advice! But objectively, these are all pretty reasonable things to think about, right?
Well, easier said than done… Especially, if you’re being cheated on!
This is exactly what the researchers found:
When people talked about their best friend, they were 22% more willing seek out more information. And they were 31% more likely to look at the situation from multiple perspectives. They were also 15% more likely to consider a compromise.
But here’s where it gets interesting…
In a second experiment, the participants were split into the same 2 groups: One group was asked to imagine their own partner cheating on them. The other group was asked to imagine their best friend’s partner cheating on their friend.
However, here’s what was different:
The researchers instructed people to use either first-person pronouns – like “I” and “me” – or third-person pronouns – like “he”, “she”, “him”, and “her” – when answering the questions.
When people used third-person pronouns instead of using “I”, they were 35% more likely to offer themselves the same good advice that they gave to others in the first study.
This is amazing.
Just by switching from “I” to “he” or “she” people were able to step away from themselves.
Which brings us straight to the “Best Friend Method” YOU can use to take your own, best advice:
Let’s say you’re facing a tough decision:
Maybe you want to ask for a raise, but don’t know how. Maybe you’re not sure how to break some bad news to your customers. Maybe you just can’t decide on a name for your online course!
Whatever the case may be…
Instead of asking yourself “What should I do?”, do this:
Pretend you’re giving advice to your best friend.
What would you tell him or her?
But then comes the important part…
When you think about the advice you’d give, say:
“He or she should do XYZ…”
It’s amazingly simple. But, as you saw in the study, this little trick actually helps you step outside yourself… and take your own advice.
Now, this still leaves us with one problem:
Knowing something and actually doing it are two very different things. That’s why there’s a SECOND STEP to the “Best Friend Method”.
Just freaking do it!
Because if you do NOTHING, you’ll achieve NOTHING.
Yeah, we’re all afraid to make mistakes. No one wants to look stupid. So we procrastinate. Instead of reaching out and finding your next customer… you do something silly. Like, print business cards. But is that what you’d tell your best friend to do?
So, use the Best Friend Method to figure out your own best advice. And then… Just DO it!
Speaking of doing, here’s what I want you to do right now:
What’s the #1 challenge you’re facing at the moment?
Write it in the comments. And then use the Best Friend Method and write your best advice as if you were giving it to your best friend.
Do it now.