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Dangerous advice

Something that’s been floating around my mind of late is how easy it is to dispense with advice without thinking about the full range of effects it might have. This is linked to the well-documented pressures of social media – ‘advice’ doesn’t always come in the form of preaching, but also publicly ‘prooving’ how successful you are.

I was initially thinking about it very simply, in the context of time: it’s very easy for me to preach about the style of writing you should adopt, or how your website should be perfect in every way, but there are time and budget implications for that.

Then this series of tweets from yesterday took it further:

“Saying “just quit, just go for adventure, just do it do it do it” is not only privileged, it’s willfully, intentionally ignorant.”

A lot of advice is given – and taken – not with the view of genuinely making a change, but creating a warm, fuzzy feeling of pre-achievement. It makes you feel good about what you might do, which for most people is enough.

The self-help world thrives on this feeling, and it’s like a drug. Once exposed to it, people will take as much as you can give them – actually, as much as you can sell them.

It’s wonderful to live the life you want to live, and if the¬†existential dice have rolled you a double-six then absolutely embrace it. But that on its own doesn’t give you the right to preach to those who haven’t had the same luck. There’s very little empathy in self-help, rather there’s a lot of cod-psychology disguised as empathy.

James Dyson built 5,000 prototypes of his vacuum cleaner in a shed over five years … but with investments and loans that would never have been available to many other people. That’s not to take away from his obvious grit and determination, but when you put someone on a pedastal, remember they may well have had a significant step-up to get there in the first place.

For every Dyson who succeeds there are many who fail, who drag their family down with them, bankrupt themselves, leave unpaid suppliers to pick-up the bills, and cause untold problems to all around. And you tend not to hear about them, because nobody gives them an advance for their book (and that’s because you – and I – probably wouldn’t buy it).

Let’s not romanticise it.

What do you think? Comment below.

Best wishes



  • Entrepreneurship has been romanticised. By Government, The Media, Business.
    Do you have to be successful to be an Entrepreneur or is failure a more likely outcome for Entrepreneurs?

    • Tom Doggett says:

      I’m not sure I even like the word to be honest. It always feels a bit selfish, like they’re in it for themselves, that we’re celebrating the wrong thing about success. I know that’s a broad brush and not true, but we all have our little word associations. Hey ho!

  • James Stewart says:

    Nice one – some good ideas crystallised. I guess all we need choose a style opposite to what we normally do and maybe swap around from time to time. If life’s boring or you see a special opportunity ‘just do it’ if life’s overloaded maybe just put it on a list.
    I read about Ayn Rand, a philosophy I found abhorrent, but couldn’t exactly put a finger on what I disagreed with. Then I realised she was ignoring all the works of huge numbers of ‘ordinary’ people throughout history. Things we take for granted: rule of law, currency, water, electriciy, sanitation, roads, art, etc. etc. etc. A bewildering amount of ideas and practical things making our life good.
    Some people think they are ‘self made’. Surely it’s a team effort by all of humanity. We all have a place but need to always remember humility.

    • Tom Doggett says:

      I need to look into Ayn Rand, thank you. Yes, I agree that it’s a team effort. I remember someone high-up in US politics explaining that they knew exactly how tough life could be because shortly after they bought their first house they had to sell some of their share portfolio in order to meet the mortgage payment.

      A dream, and six million pounds