We live in a world of loud opinions right at the moment (yep – says the bloke who runs a blog). But not all opinions are created equal. Some, in truth, can be completely ignored in the right situation.
So how do we tell which is which?
Advice from Counsel
Let’s say you’re a solicitor looking for advice from counsel. An opinion (as it turns out) about the prospects of success on your client’s application for review against a decision of the Commissioner of Taxation.
Because you’re a prudent (or paranoid) kind of lawyer, you decide you are going to get three opinions. One from Larry, one from Curly, and one from Moe.
Larry has been called to the bar for 10 minutes and has practised exclusively in personal injuries law until that point, and gives you an opinion that your client has no prospects of success.
Curly has been a barrister for 10 years, practices in a general commercial practice (including tax) and tells you that your client has a 50/50 prospect.
Moe QC, a barrister of 25 years standing, has focused on tax law for the last 15 years and tells your client they are likely to succeed.
Who will you go with?
Despite the fact that Moe is so obviously the candidate you’re going to pick, in our careers we’re regularly choosing to take opinions and advice from Larry and Curly.
Now it’s true – Larry might be all you can afford or all you have access to, but we need to be alive to the fact that the advice isn’t great. We need to heap a plentiful dose of salt on it before embracing it wholeheartedly and running with it.
Does it mean that those with less experience or expertise are necessarily wrong? No.
Does it mean that those with more experience or expertise are necessarily right? No.
What it means is that before deciding the career advice of someone who does not have a successful career is the best, you should probably pause to reflect on whether you have a sound basis for that decision.
Lots of people are being led down the garden path right now. So be careful.
Everyone is giving you advice.
So how are you weighing up this advice, these opinions, and determining how much weight you should place upon them?
Awards, popularity, accolades – these are irrelevant.
The only question is this: does the person giving you an opinion have a demonstrated path of success in the field they are talking about, or do they not?
If not – be wary.
If so – still be wary.
Of course you can’t always get a full personal history of everyone you speak with or read from. So sometimes we just need to make the best judgment call we can about how much weight to give an opinion – however that judgment call should be based on relevant factors and not our own visceral response to the content.
You’ve got Plenty of Career Decisions Ahead
I’m not saying you need to shut down every conversation with “you don’t know what you’re talking about”.
I’m saying that taking wealth creation advice from someone who has just declared bankruptcy isn’t smart.
I’m saying that taking weight loss advice from someone who is morbidly obese isn’t smart.
I’m saying that taking advice about your legal career from someone who hates their own or left the profession entirely isn’t smart.
And I’m saying that when we all have our own opinions about subjects (we’re lawyers, after all), we need to be careful not to automatically give our own views additional weight without a good justification to do so.
This way we can develop a path where we are learning from, listening to, and humbly reflecting on statements and advice from people who have experienced success in a given area (note to self – define success at some point), rather than just living in our own little bubble with a “you do you” mantra (bad) or taking every piece of advice to heart (worse).