Fuzzy Advice

Do What Works

I came across this quote from someone I follow on Twitter:

Success is the progressive realization of worthwhile goals and dreams.”

OK? I’m not exactly sure what it means or what I should do with it.

And these words of wisdom (from a different person):

“When you dream big people will call you impractical. But you can’t think like everyone else if you want to see different results from them.

Do anything for ya? No? I think the quotes have more impact when impeccably typeset over a photo of a trendy Williamsburg coffee shop.

I’ve noticed a growing trend of fuzzy business advice and I’ve come to the conclusion that a.) it’s easy to give non-specific advice and b.) people eat up inspirational stuff.

I think people love inspiration because it’s not actionable. I fall into this counter-intuitive trap from time to time. Motivation feels amazing, but we still have to rely on ourselves to turn motivation into action.

The prevailing wisdom is to try and bottle up a motivational feeling, which has nothing to do with taking action. Manipulating feelings is a fool’s game.

As Amy Hoy would say:

“You know perfectly well how to achieve without motivation or grit. Your kids or pets don’t starve when you’re having a bad day.”

I’m currently working on a hefty course called Mastering HubSpot. It’s a very technical product. There’s not a ton of subjectivity to it. I can’t make simple statements like “you need to audit yourself” or “it’s all about the climb.” My job is to teach you how to use a particular set of tools as efficiently as possible and that requires an abundance of specificity.

It’s painful AF. It was similarly painful when I wrote a programming book.

So who has the right of it? People like me and Annie Cushing with our crispy 10,000 word tutorials that take 15 hours to write (hah! suckers!), or the fuzzy advice people minting money with their oft-repackaged and over-generalized hacks?

I think there’s room for both. Advice doesn’t have to epic to be useful, but it does have to make an actual point instead of just hand-waving.

Simple ideas can be just as valuable as 600 page technical books. Just look to Seth Godin, Derek Sivers, or Jason Fried for evidence of this.

But what Seth, Derek, and Jason do that fuzzy advice people don’t is they let their ideas marinate before unleashing them. They inspect their ideas, however simple, for originality and substance. Simple is beautiful, fuzzy is lazy.

If inspirational stuff makes you feel great, soak it up! But beware of the people who are selling you emotions masquerading as actionable advice (very common in the “grow your audience” and “build your personal brand” crowds). It’s the easiest way to make a quick buck.