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Getting advice from others can be extremely helpful during major decisions such as deciding on a new job, planning to start a business, thinking of moving, and other such events. On the other hand, advice can also be hurtful if it’s the wrong advice. Determining helpful advice from hurtful advice often comes down to one thing: Who is giving it?

Most people tend to take advice from those senior to them, like a father or boss, or those that have achieved success in a certain field, like an owner of a company or a person with wealth. However, I believe it is time to start being more selective in who we listen to for advice.

I have one criteria for who I listen to for advice: Do I want to model myself after them in some form or fashion?

“If I look at their life and think, “I don’t want to be them” then I won’t take their advice.”

I don’t care if someone is senior to me and I don’t care if they have achieved success in a certain field, unless they are someone that I want to be in some way. If I look at their life and think, “I don’t want to be them” then I won’t take their advice. It doesn’t mean I don’t like them, it doesn’t even mean I don’t trust or respect them. It simply means I don’t want to be them so why would I listen to the same advice that got them to where they are in life, which is a place I don’t want to be?

Let me give you an example. When I was a young Investment Banker my bosses were quite “successful” people and pretty well off financially. They were respected in their field and all had giant houses, luxury vehicles, expensive watches, and took lavish vacations around the world. However, most of them were also jerks. They cared about money over everything, were usually divorced at least once, had kids they never saw, and were in terrible shape. Forget the money and cars, I did not want to be them when I grew up.

Despite this, they seemed to love dropping unsolicited advice on my fellow junior bankers and I. They would tell you what kind of girls to date, what kind of apartment to rent, what kind of career path you should set out on, etc. They were never short on advice regarding how to live your life.

But I have to admit that being a young, naïve man I also sought out their advice at times. These were very “successful” people so most 23 year olds would be chomping at the bit to hear their advice, especially on careers. So, when I was thinking of leaving the company and moving away from Investment Banking and into Sales I asked their advice about it. Their answer? They told me I was an idiot and making a huge mistake. Being young, my first reaction was “Maybe they’re right. They are pretty successful, they must know what they are talking about.”

But then it dawned on me, these people are giving me the exact same advice that got them to where they are in life which is not where I want to be. Why would I listen to them? Yes they were wealthy, experienced, and had great titles but so what? If I didn’t want to be an Investment Banker then why would I listen to advice about my career from an Investment Banker?

I heard them out, respected their thoughts, and then promptly ignored all of them. It felt great. I immediately knew I was on the right path because the very people that I didn’t want to be were telling me that my chosen path would make me less likely to become them. It was like a splash of cold water to the face, a wake-up call. If they didn’t want to be what I was striving to be then I must be on the right path!

Think about those that give you advice. Are they living the life that you want to live? Or are you simply listening to them because they are 20 years older than you and seem to have some money?

I will give you another example. I have a young friend that was working in the Finance industry but really wanted to move into healthcare because he has a passion for helping people. This created quite the predicament for him a few months back when he received a very good, high paying job offer from another Finance company. The offer was amazing, working for a very well-known company and earning big bucks.  At the same time as he received this offer, he was interviewing for a healthcare company that he really wanted to work with.

The issue was that he had to decide whether or not to take the Finance job before he would know if he won the Healthcare job. In other words he had to make a decision between safety/certainty and risk/uncertainty. But safety and certainty aside, healthcare was his dream, not Finance.

“Who are you taking advice from? Make sure to be careful who you listen to. If you listen too closely, you may end up just like them. You have to decide if you are OK with that or want something different.”

He sought out the advice of the senior people he worked with and to a man they said he would be nuts if he passed up the Finance job. “You can always go back and pursue your passion in healthcare later,” they argued. They told him to stick with Finance, build up his career, and then go chase his passions.

These were very smart, very successful people giving this advice so he was inclined to listen to them. However, it just didn’t feel right. Why were they telling him to defer his dream?

When he looked at it carefully he realized that they were telling him to do what they would do – play it safe, make your money, and then maybe one day you can do what you love. But he didn’t want to be them, he wanted to be a risk taker and work in a different field. If he were to follow their advice he would end up just like them, a man with a dream deferred because he convinced himself 20 years ago that he would make his money and then pursue his passions later. He didn’t want that life. So, he ignored their advice and followed his heart.

Who are you taking advice from? Make sure to be careful who you listen to. If you listen too closely, you may end up just like them. You have to decide if you are OK with that or want something different.