Find Your Own Way

In today’s information age, there is advice every freaking where.  Heck, sometimes it seems like you can’t walk across a room without tripping over advice.  Bullet points of the “correct” way to do things.  Top 10 lists.  YouTubers and bloggers and Instagrammers.

There are times when advice isn’t such a bad thing.  When you’re starting out, it helps to see the signposts others have followed.  Watching what other people are doing can help when you need some kind of direction.  Or if you’re tackling a new task you haven’t encountered before, it can be great to get a little insight or guidance.

But it seems to me that all too often the overwhelming volume of advice and techniques and tips and tricks and lists and whatever available now can become an obstacle.  Yes, it might help to get you started, but you also have to learn to make the path your own.  Yes, you might need guidance to learn how to handle a new task, but not all guidance is correct in your particular situation. And quite a bit of the advice or guidance out there is contradictory.  It’s easy to waste most of your time being confused.

In the end, you have to find your own way.  You have to use the advice but not be restricted by it.  If you don’t, you could find yourself walking down a path that’s not actually yours.  You might insist something has to be done in a certain way when it simply won’t work for you.

No matter what it is we’re trying to do, we all, ultimately, have to figure out what fits us.  We are unique and so are our dreams and abilities.  There’s nobody else exactly like us.  Nobody else has our quirks and foibles and history and darkness and experiences and goals and dreams and objectives.  Nobody else needs to take exactly the same steps to reach our destination.  You, my friend, are a unique combination of cells and experiences.  That means that what works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you.

It’s hard.  It’s a lot easier to follow a step by step blueprint than it is to actually look at what you’re doing and decide whether or not it’s working.  It’s a lot easier to follow everyone else than it is to strike out on your own.  And it’s hard to remember that just because a certain technique or approach seems to have worked for everyone else in the world, it might not work for you.  And that’s okay.

I see this a lot when it comes to writing.  There is no other group of people on the planet who can give advice like writers.  In many ways, that’s fine.  You need to know stuff.  You need to know the craft.  You need to be able to navigate the ever-changing publishing landscape, especially these days—just ask some of the big legacy publishers.  You have to keep training and learning and growing.

But the risk is that you—the writer YOU are—the PERSON you are—can get buried under it all.

From what I can see, this is true in all different kinds of pursuits, from how to use social media to find a job, to the best way to lose weight, to the way you should run a business.  From every direction, on every platform, in every breath.  Advice, advice, advice.

I get caught in this cycle sometimes.  Whether it’s my writing or my eating or my exercising or my decisions regarding…well, anything.  I can get pulled down the rabbit hole of advice because I assume that the people giving it know more than I do.  And a lot of times they do.  But it’s also true that they are not me.  And sometimes I get so caught up in what I’m told I SHOULD do that I don’t focus on what’s best for me in my situation with my goals and my challenges.

So what’s my advice?  Well, I think we DO need to keep learning.  We need to improve our grasp of our craft, our business, our life.  We can’t stop and be complacent, and that means we do sometimes need advice and guidance and whatever.  But, on the other hand, we can’t let it trap us.

I guess the only thing we can do is keep testing our processes and our decisions and our joy in our lives.  And if things don’t seem to be heading where we want to go, or if we have a gut-deep dissatisfaction with the process, then no matter how valid the path seems to be we must be brave enough to acknowledge it’s not for us.  We have to be brave enough to follow our own drummer.  Then we have to be wise enough to listen to advice if our drummer is taking us off a cliff.

It might not be easy, but I hope you go forth and conquer!

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

― Pablo Picasso

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