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The lesson

I’ve gotten some gems of advice from people about skiing over the years.

Once, I ended up on an otherwise deserted run with a ski instructor who told me my turns were well-timed, very predictable. I’m wasn’t sure, but that sounded like a compliment so I took it as one and then also took the opportunity to pick his brain for tips.

And I’ve gotten this advice - many times - from a snowboarder who’d never actually been on a pair of skis: keep your skis together. What a frustratingly unhelpful thing to say.

Especially because, during my recent, first-ever actual professional ski lesson, my instructor had nothing whatsoever to say about keeping my skis together.

She did tell me quite a bit about how I should turn the bottom half of my body as independently from my torso as possible as, ideally, the torso should mostly stay pointing down the mountain. She also told me that my weight needed to be in the correct position over my skis and I needed to alter the way I was shifting it during my turns. And she told me that my skis did most of the work if I let them, e.g. one would suppose “staying together”.

Or I guess maybe I could just get a snowboard.

Even more helpful though, what I took away from this is to stop taking advice from people who aren’t doing what you’re doing.

At least, stop putting so much stock in it.

I think in general, people just want to be helpful. They see someone struggling and they want to ease that struggle and if they can share a bit of their own possibly hard-won wisdom to make that happen, that’s what they’ll do. Also, some people are just advice-seekers themselves so giving it in turn, might feel like the natural order.

At its heart, in other words, it’s mostly just kindness.

And I think we, as the recipients of advice, want to benefit from this shared wisdom, especially when the person giving it is someone we care about. Someone whose opinions matter to us.

The problem is, when we take advice or when we put too much stock in advice from someone with no experience in what we’re trying to do, it can get us off track. Even if it is coming from a place of good intention it can lead us astray. I mean, would you hire a running coach who knew nothing of running or a music teacher who couldn’t play an instrument?

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not at all saying we can’t benefit from different points of view or fresh eyes on a problem or that wisdom can’t cross over into multiple disciplines. I’m not saying we should ignore what someone has to say just because they’ve never done a thing when they might very well be bringing relevant knowledge from somewhere else.

All I’m saying is maybe don’t take it as ultimate truth.

By all means, get lots of advice and different opinions and listen and keep an open mind. I love this approach; I’m with you! Because even within one thing, there can be multiple schools of thought. And of course, we can all be better about keeping an open mind.

But know that advice is only that and you get to choose what you take and what you don’t. In the end, trust your gut and go your own way if you need to because you know more than you think you do about what’s right for you.

Lastly, may I give a little advice to the advice-givers?

Be mindful that what you’re offering up is truly advice to pass on your wisdom and not to push your own agenda. Remember that everyone must find their own way and too much advice - especially unsolicited - can feel dismissive of what someone knows to be best for their own life.

And with that, go forth! Receive and give advice thoughtfully with a little more trust and a lot more listening.

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