By March 17, 2013 Read More →

Advice is for Winners (Book Review)

advice is for winners

You can try to go it alone in the world,  but the reality is you can be more effective if you leverage advice from people around the world — if you know how to seek advice with skill. To put it simply, life’s better with the right advice.

The best book on advice I’ve been reading is Advice is for Winners: How to Get Advice for Better Decisions in Life and Work, by Raul Valdes-Perez.

I’m an avid advice seeker.  Long ago, I realize that no matter how good I was at something, there’s always somebody better that I can learn from.  I’ve learned to use advice for everything from changing jobs, to making better decisions, to separating facts from fiction.  My favorite advice is learning expert techniques and methods for advanced skills.

If you know who to ask, and how to ask, you can find extreme shortcuts as well as avoid some potential pitfalls.  You can also benefit from other’s experience to find out what to expect, especially when venturing out into the unknown.  For example, I remember years ago when I finally thought to ask my accountant, how are people making money online and what’s actually working.  After all, accountants get the balcony view, and they have actual data versus speculation.  I remember when I finally realized that one of my best ways to find better service people, whether it’s hair cutters, doctors, lawyers, yard work, or you name it … is to ask the people I know that get good results.

I’ve also learned to seek advice from multiple sources, especially at work, and to cross-check “expert advice.”  After all, experts are people, too, and we all make mistakes.

What I like about Raul’s book, Advice is for Winners, is that it’s a well-researched and well-written guide to giving and getting better advice.  While it focuses on how to get advice, you learn more about how to give more effective advice while you’re at it.

Chapters at a Glance

  • Chapter 1 People Don’t Often Seek Advice, but Should
  • Chapter 2 What Advice Does for You
  • Chapter 3 Twenty-Eight Reasons for Not Seeking Advice
  • Chapter 4 What Advice Books Say
  • Chapter 5 What Research Says
  • Chapter 6 What Proverbs Say
  • Chapter 7 When You Should Seek Advice
  • Chapter 8 Who is a Good Advisor?
  • Chapter 9 How To Get an Advisor?
  • Chapter 10 How to Setup an Advice Process
  • Chapter 11 Dealing with Contradictory Advice
  • Chapter 12 The Role of Web and Social Media
  • Chapter 13 Advice as a Rule, Not an Exception
  • Chapter 14 A Peek at an Advice-Centric Environment
  • Chapter 15 Advice Seeking in Different Cultures
  • Chapter 16 What Major Should I Study?
  • Chapter 17 Should I Change Jobs?
  • Chapter 18 Should I Hire This Person?
  • Chapter 19 Get Advice and Prosper

What’s In It for You

Here is a sampling of some of the challenges that Advice is for Winners helps you with:

  • Learn how to create a more effective process for getting advice
  • Learn how to recognize situations that need advice
  • Learn how to identify, approach, and meet with good advisors
  • Learn how to skip a bunch of preliminary questions when asking for advice
  • Learn how to evaluate advice
  • Learn how to deal with contradictory advice
  • Learn how to choose the best courses of action with more confidence

Features

Here are some of the key features of Advice is for Winners:

  • 4 ways to use the Web and Social media for advice – Raul shares some simple ways to use Social media to get advice more effectively.  Raul also points out the limitations and caveats of using the Web and Social media as sources of advice.
  • 6 Benefits of getting advice – Raul shares six benefits or getting advice, based on both scholarly research and his synthesis.  To show these benefits in action, Raul walks through each benefit using the story of “Daisy”, a recent college graduate who majored in liberal arts,  who is seeking advice on how to find a job.
  • 22 questions for scoring a scenario – Raul provides a set of questions to score whether seeking advice is worth it.  To make this real, he provides some simple examples, such as health issues, getting ice cream, and asking somebody where to eat when you’re in a new town.   The point of the exercise is less about getting to a specific number, and more about learning about how your choices to get advice impact you and others.
  • 28 reasons why people resist advice – There are lots of reasons why people resist advice.  You’ll likely find some of the reasons you’ve resisted advice among the set.  The author identifies 28 specific reasons why people tend to resist advice, and organizes the list into four categories: intellectual, emotional, social, and biological.
  • Conversational writing – Raul writes in a conversational way, which helps keep the book’s material personal and easy to relate to.
  • Dense information – The book is jam packed with insight and action.   If you want a book that makes you think, and helps you act, it’s a big plus.   It’s a lot of information in a compact book, which can be a downside, if you prefer lighter reading.
  • Lists – Raul is very good at breaking information down into lists and organizing information into more meaningful buckets.
  • Method for choosing advisors – The book provides a simple framework and approach for identifying qualified advisors, and matching them to your advice seeking needs.
  • Method for getting advice – The real beauty of Advice is for Winners is that it’s more than a book – it’s an approach.   It’s an approach you can use for seeking advisors and for getting better advice with skill.  It will keep paying you back over a lifetime.
  • Principles – Rather than a laundry list of random tips, the book is a consolidate set of principles you can use to guide your way through the process of getting advice.
  • Research – Raul reviewed scholarly research literature on advice seeking and advice taking to combine his informal observations, personal habits, and business experiences with the insights from academic specialists.
  • Stories – Raul shares several stories the put giving and getting advice into perspective, and show how if you don’t get advice for some major life choices, you can easily make some large-scale mistakes.  He provides several examples that show “what you don’t know, can hurt you.”

Here is a sampling of some of my favorite nuggets from the book …

The Author’s Message

The author has a clear and simple message and the title says it all: Advice is for winners.  Raul writes:

“In brief, my message is that winners make better decisions by seeking out advice, advice is not for pipsqueaks and losers, and everyone — including this author — can get better at seeking advice.  With this book, I hope to encourage a cultural shift in which expertise in seeking advice is itself sought and celebrated.”

The Book’s Goal

The goal of the book is to simplify the process for getting advice and help you build skill.  In effect, the goal is to make advice seeking more like a habit, and less like a chore.  Raul writes:

“The book’s goal is to make advice seeking frequent, routine, and fruitful.  By thinking through what is involved from beginning to end, finding patterns in numerous examples both successful and failed, and combining these with insights from folks wisdom and earlier writings, we should be able to make the process more cook bookish and less reliant on creativity, which otherwise would be needed if every case were one-of-a-kind.”

6 Benefits of Advice

Based on research, as well as his own synthesis, the author distills the benefits of advice into six key categories:

  1. Solutions
  2. Pointers
  3. Framing
  4. Validation
  5. Legitimation
  6. Engagement

Solutions include information used to generate solutions to problems, such as how-to information.  Pointers are pointers to individuals, locations and documents that have relevant expertise.  Framing is where an advisor helps you “frame” the problem in terms of how you look at it, and the criteria that a solution should meet.  Validation helps you build confidence that an approach is a good one.  Legitimation is where a trusted advisor is a source of credibility and helps you move towards a solution.  Engagement is your interaction experience, and it can provide memorable moments and help you build social capital.

28 Reasons Why People Resist Advice

Here is a sampling of some of the reasons why people resist advice:

  1. It just doesn’t occur to them to seek advice.
  2. They’re unsure how to go about it.
  3. They think a subject or circumstance is so unprecedented that no advice seems worthwhile.
  4. The tremendous amount of opinion on the Web, as well as the rise of social media, leaders people to think that those are good enough sources of guidance.
  5. A low level of knowledge — whether general or specific to the problem — causes people to “not know what they don’t know” and fail to recognize that they have a knowledge or experience gap.
  6. They believe that seeking advice shows weakness.
  7. They just want the freedom to make their own mistakes.
  8. Their minds are already made up, so they avoid asking for advice for fear that others would contradict their decision.
  9. Their school training led them to attempt homework problems by themselves before seeking help, so they carry over that learned behavior to real-life problems, which unlike homework are not done as practice for a test!
  10. Cultural factors, particularly for those in the United States who came from other countries may discourage advice seeking for various reasons.

How To Skip Past a Bunch of Preliminary Questions When You Ask for Advice

Have you ever tried to seek out some advice but got questioned to death, or never got past the preliminary questions?  Preliminary questions have their place, but sometimes you need to jump past them to explore what’s possible, especially when you don’t know, what you don’t know.  Raul shares a story:

“One of my daughters tells me of visiting the career services office at her college during her freshman year in search of a summer internship.  The career services counselor began by asking many questions: ‘What do you want to major in?  Where do you want to live?  What do you want to do after you graduate?’  Discouraged by not knowing the answers and maybe even looking foolish, she lost interest in seeking help from the office and found a summer job by other means – someone told her about a specific concrete opportunity and confirmed her interest in applying.  My daughter says that it would have been more effective had the interviewer shown her some examples and said: ‘A number of other students with your background and interests worked at these jobs and enjoyed them; do you any of them appeal to you?’”

Raul then shares how his daughter could have used her advisor more effectively:

“Rather than saying, ‘I’m looking for a summer internship’ and then responding to the questions of the counselor, she could have started with or replied that she was ‘interested in a summer internship, don’t have fixed ideas, have broad interests, and am looking for something that has been interesting for freshman like me in the past.’  “

Qualities of Good Advisors

What are the qualities that distinguish good advisors?   A good advisor actually listens to understand you and your situation, rather than providing one-size-fits-all advice.  Raul identifies the following characteristics of good advisors:

  1. Experienced
  2. Discreet
  3. Listens
  4. Serene
  5. Teaches
  6. Humble
  7. Cares
  8. Social

Raul explains that by social, he means, “Social, in the sense of being able to connect to people, ideas, and sources outside of themselves.  Such people either have a wide network of friends, acquaintances, and social-media contacts that they can make matches with, or they are well read so they can supply links to the world of written advice and knowledge.”

6 Sources of Contradictory Advice

If you understand why you get contradictory advice from qualified experts, it can help you respond more effectively.  According to Raul, six major sources of contradiction are:

  1. An advisor has experience with one course of action, but not with others, either by accident or because of his own circumstances.
  2. Advisors have different values.
  3. An advisor may have issues related to his or her own self-interest in the outcome.
  4. An advisor’s mistaken  perception of your circumstances or goals can lead to advice that conflicts with other advice you’ve received.
  5. An advisor might understand your circumstances and goals but misjudge the chances that  a course of action will succeed or fail.
  6. Advisors may need to make assumptions about future events or trends, but disagree about the probabilities of these events and trends.

Forge an Informed Course of Action

Your goal with advice seeking is to forge an informed course of action.   It’s important to remember that, especially when you face conflicting advice.  Raul writes:

“My point is that nobody should be surprised, much less dismayed, by receiving contradictory advice, since information folks wisdom at one extreme and leading-edge science at the other extreme, are filled with conflicting ideas.  In short: Even experts disagree.  The necessary task is to deal with contradictions – don’t get unnerved but instead understand the reasons behind the conflicting advice, take the best ideas, and forge an informed course of action.”

Get the Book

The Advice is for Winners: How to Get Advice for Better Decisions in Life and Work, by Raul Valdes-Perez is available on Amazon:

If you want to win in work and life, learn how to ask advice with skill, and “stand on the shoulders of giants.”

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3 Comments on "Advice is for Winners (Book Review)"

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  1. JD, Reading this, it’s easy to see how advice relates to agility. The more points of view, information, wisdom, and analytics we have, the better we can make decisions. Plus a culture of advice just sounds like a rich place to live.
    Thanks for another great review.

  2. Alik Levin says:

    Wow, the whole book on getting advise. Curious what was the one single biggest a-ha for you from the book. Was it “4 ways to use the Web and Social media for advice”?

  3. JD says:

    @ Aaron — I like your point on agility.

    You can think of building your advice network as expanding your capability in a variety of ways. I like to use my advice counsel for everything from a jump start in a new domain, to avoiding dead-ends, as well as for deeper feedback for personal growth and development, and as a sounding board for key life decisions.

    Environments that encourage people to share what they know are breeding grounds for great advice networks. I’ve been in environments where people try to protect what they know, and that breeds a scarcity mentality.

    @ Alik — The single biggest ah-ha for me is that I take it for granted that everybody knows how to build and leverage a network for advice. The more I read through the book, the more I realized how lucky I was to be groomed to get expert advice from around the world, and that there are very key skills involved.