All Advice is Autobiographical, and Why That Matters

All Advice Autobiographical Why That Matters

We are each the sum of our experiences and decisions. We’re more than that, too, of course. We’re living, breathing beings with unique personalities. But our opinions, beliefs, desires, etc. are generally based around our experiences. What we experience is according to our decisions, and the decisions of those around us, over time.

Perhaps you are appalled by baked spaghetti because it was once your last meal before catching a stomach virus. If you go to a restaurant, you’ll recommend some other entrée, because your experience has affected your opinion of that dish.

It’s possible that you and your mother used to take long walks together to talk through life, share laughs, and generally de-stress. For you, taking walks is one of the best ways to relax and rejuvenate, and so you recommend that others take long walks to feel better as well.

Let’s say you’ve gone through a significant business negotiation, only to find out later that your partner screwed you over, and left you hung out to dry. You’ll likely steer others away from going through a similar business negotiation, because you wouldn’t want anyone else to get burned like you did.

We could keep going through case after case till the cows come home, but let’s suffice it to say that any advice you or I or anyone else gives is based on our own experiences in that area, along with anything else we might have heard or learned about it. That is to say, all advice is inherently autobiographical. It’s one person sharing their own opinion based on their own life.

We want to learn from others. We want to be better off, avoid mistakes, and set ourselves up for great things. We need to learn from others to do this, because if we never learned from anyone else, we would only learn from our own decisions, which would prove disastrous.

But in learning from others, heeding their advice, and following their examples, we have to be careful. We have to keep in mind that their advice is based on what happened in their life, and might not apply as well to our own.

Because advice is autobiographical, one person’s bad experience can also lead to bad advice. For instance, one person could have had a bad marriage experience. They might tell you not to get married based on that bad experience. But their experience has nothing to do with your life and what’s right for you.

One person could have invested early in a company that went on to explode. That doesn’t mean you should throw all your money into the next company with similar characteristics.

All advice is autobiographical. The advice or expertise offered by any given person will be based on what they’ve learned and gone through. This is great, because it gives us each opportunities to learn from others’ mistakes as well as their successes. But there’s a downside, too, in that advice and expertise. Because it’s intrinsically subjective, it isn’t always right or the best choice for us in our situation.

You have to be able to think for yourself, to do your own research, and weigh your own preferences and opinions. You can’t go through life with an attitude of “I heard this from so-and-so, therefore I’m going to do that.”

At the end of the day, we are each responsible for every decision (or indecision) we make. It’s important to learn from others where we can, but we also have to use our own measures before making decisions or following advice that will directly affect our lives, and the lives of those around us.


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