Updated: Apr 18
Asking for advice…It seemed like a good idea at the time, right? But are you getting too much advice?
You had a problem, an issue, a confusion, and you said, "You know what? I'll get some advice. I bet Jane can help."
And so you asked Jane.
But while you were playing phone tag with Jane, you also reached out to John.
And John got back to you too.
Except while you were reaching out to John, Joe and Jack and Jill also returned your emails.
You patted yourself on the back for gathering so much wisdom around you and thought, "Wow, perfect, look at how much advice I'll get! I've got a direct line to so very many amazing gurus. This is going to be great!"
And that's when the trouble started.
You got a tsunami of advice. Jane and John and Joe and Jack and Jill each told you their opinion—and they were all good opinions—circling somewhere around your truth, but each in their own way focused through the lens of their own life experience, taking your problem in their direction.
You came for X, and you got XYZ and also ABC.
You ended up exhausted, confused, and in worse shape than before you began.
You got Over-Guru'ed.
Here's what I know to be true: Sometimes, more is not more. Sometimes, it's too much. Sometimes, it's okay to set boundaries.
Everyone is going to have an opinion about you, but more often than not, that opinion is shaped by their own hopes, desires, expectations, and needs; they aren’t exactly focused on you. Worse, most of us are surrounded by people all too willing to offer unwanted opinions and advice—including, unfortunately, plenty of Naysaying Nates and Judgmental Judys. It's not coming from a bad place, it's just coming from their place. They aren’t bad people—most of them, anyway. They just maybe aren’t your people. Interpret accordingly.
Trust me, I've been there. I'm there right now. I'm away for a few days with some of the smartest women I know, doing a mastermind retreat where we focus on our businesses, or BHAGs, or nagging little problems. And last night, I saw the "Overguru'ed Foxhole" and rather than craft boundaries and set intentions, I picked up speed and ran at it with all my might, only to find myself at the bottom of it asking, "How did I get here, and what the hell do I do now?"
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Jane and John and Joe and Jack and Jill are all brilliant. I want their advice. I need their advice.
But I needed to get their advice in ways that worked for me.
Think about the last time you told someone about your newest big, hairy, audacious goal. You were expecting enthusiasm, excitement, or even just a tiny, tacit head-nod of approval. Instead, you got a wet blanket. Or several wet blankets. Or any number of indifferent, derailing, or even damaging responses.
How do you know you've been over-gurued? You lose your own voice and start talking in a voice that feels more confident coming out of someone else's mouth. You drop the goals that excited you in favor of goals about which someone else seemed more excited. You lose the joy in the pursuit because the end goal isn't actually your own. And, as you well know, you can't be insatiably hungry for someone else's goals.
So, let's stop doing that, yes?
Today I'd like to tell you have to receive the world's best advice.
Gather your “framily” and unpack your goals.
Never heard of your framily? It’s the combination of your actual family and the friends who act like family, those Ride-or-Die types who tell you what you need to hear in the ways that you need to hear it. The beloved members of your framily, whoever they may be, are the best mirror to reflect whether the work you are doing matters.
Like the big goal you’ve just set, your Ride-or-Die(s) should terrify you a bit, in all the best ways. Knowing this ass-kicker is there, waiting to see what you can do, should make you want to deliver something worthy of that person’s time and attention. And, if the thought of that person giving you honest, perhaps even painful feedback isn’t pushing you to be better than you think possible—you need a new Ride-or-Die.
Tell them your passions. Tell them your worries. Tell them about your income goals and your career growth goals. Tell them what is holding you back. Tell them about the values you want to live into through the work that you do. And then ask them to help ensure that the work you are doing comports with your goals as you have laid them out.
The beauty of choosing a Ride-or-Die is that, in the process of striving to do work worthy of that person (or group of people), you set a new high bar for work that is worthy of yourself too. My coaching clients tell me all the time that just knowing I’d be reading their journals, tracking their progress, and seeing their work made them take that extra time, complete that extra step, add that extra flourish.
This isn’t your typical “personal board of advisors'' advice. Those folks—the mentors, the champions, and even the naysayers—are there to help you navigate the career you wish to build. What you share with your framily is more personal, more vulnerable than that. But beware and be ready. When you talk to a fifteen-year-old about what is important to you and what is stopping you, it’s going to get real—and real, real quick.
So, you also need to set some boundaries, expectations, and rules of engagement for what works for you. Here's how:
Know what you need, and be honest with yourself and your fragile ego. If you want praise—for the love of Pete—stop asking for feedback! We get these confused all the time! #AskMeHowIKnow
If you have pieces of the presentation that are sacred to you, call those out and let your guru know. If that piece sucks, at least they'll know to slow the bulldozer down while they plow over your dreams.
Set the rules of engagement. If you can handle the popcorn, free-for-all mayhem of an interactive, interrupted presentation, go for it! Me? I need to say my piece, present my plan, show you the whole of the waterfront, and then together we decide where to dive in.
Do it when you are fresh. It might take longer to get on your guru's time at a time of day where you are at your best and can listen (and really hear) and absorb what they say. Wait for this time, move mountains if you have to, but make sure that you are present when you can really be present.
Don't jam it into an overly busy week. Your guru is going to give you a lot of feedback, if you are lucky. Take time, reflect, write notes, make changes. Don't just run to the next meeting.
And, last, and most importantly: choose wisely, and edit, edit, edit your list. Not all gurus are the same, not all advice is equal, and not all moments in time are alike. They're all good, but are they all good for you ? Right now? For this particular problem? Probably not.
So, with that, I'm off to get some (much better) advice all day today. And, I can't wait.
This blog contains excerpts from Wonderhell: Why Success Doesn't Feel Like It Should . . . and What to Do About It by Laura Gassner Otting.