What to do With Good Advice

"I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite."

– G.K. Chesterton, English-born Gabonese critic,
essayist, novelist, and poet, 1874-1936

Last year before I left for Ecuador for a month, I checked with the experts. I looked at the U.S. State Department's website for possible warnings. I bought guidebooks from Frommer's and Lonely Planet. I also talked to an Ecuadorian friend who moved away 15 years ago.

The government site told me to avoid the Old Town area of Quito because of crime. They also said, "Avoid political demonstrations at all costs. They can turn violent at a moment's notice, and in some cases, U.S. citizens have been injured and even killed."

The guidebooks told me not to eat street vendor food or take unlicensed cabs.

My friend?

"Don't go out at night alone. Don't stay in Old Town; it's very dangerous," she told me. "And be careful of gangs." (Gangs seem to be the universal threat to our security!)

She also said, "Don't worry if your Spanish isn't perfect. Everyone nowadays speaks at least a little English."

I'm not very good at listening.

We stayed in the Old Town neighborhood. I ate street vendor food and took unlicensed cabs every day. I walked around at night by myself and never felt unsafe.

I even watched a political demonstration right outside our apartment and took pictures of it. And thankfully, I brushed up on my Spanish because hardly anyone we met spoke English.

My experience taught me one thing. Stop listening to good advice.

This goes for copywriting and marketing, too.

This week, we've been talking about challenges, slumps, and how to get out of them and move forward.

I bring up today's point about good advice because I've seen it paralyze copywriters into inaction.

If you're anything like me, you subscribe to quite a few online copywriting and marketing newsletters. I realized recently when I did some cleaning out that I was following about 20 different experts.

It was all great material, but there were a couple of problems.

I didn't have time to read all the books, blogs, newsletters, and articles. They were really starting to pile up.

And some of it was conflicting advice, so I was getting confused. I was hesitant to put any of it into action because the next day another guru might tell me the opposite.

Thankfully, a top-level copywriter I highly respect gave me a tip. Here's what I did and what I'd recommend for you:

  1. Go deep instead of wide. Study a handful of experts and pattern yourself after them. Instead of getting scattered ideas from lots of people, master the ideas of a few.
  2. Find three that really resonate with you. You'll know because their writing will resonate with you, they'll "get" you, and it will be a style and attitude you'll feel comfortable modeling. Trust your instincts.
  3. Look for a confidante. In addition to narrowing your expert advice list to three to five sources, find someone you really trust. Someone at your level or above in the business who understands what you do. Someone you can completely open up to and someone you can get some real, unbiased advice and encouragement from.

What's the next step?

Find out in my article "Leadership Is Assumed, Not Assigned. Why You Shouldn't Wait for Validation of Your Good Ideas."

Keep moving forward.

What good advice did you listen to? What advice are you glad you ignored? Anything you'd offer to someone brand new in this freelance writing world? I'd love to get your take on things. Please leave a quick note below.

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Published: October 4, 2012

6 Responses to “What to do With Good Advice”

  1. Thank you for contributing this article, Steve, you are a darn fine writer and your articles always resonate with me.

    In fact, I believe we have a lot in common and are kindred spirits: maybe one of these days we will meet in person.

    However, with due respect, I beg to differ with you.

    Listening is important and taking suggestions from experts can go a long way in your career.

    It is upto the individual, however, to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    For example, there are bad, inner-city neighborhoods you really want to avoid in the middle of the night.

    If you are ever in India, eating your first meal from a road-side vendor can quickly land you in the hospital.

    Archan Mehta

  2. Studying the copywriting material at AWAI has made me feel good to write, and I am ready. I have found some good sound advice from many different people. I am not limited by many advisors my plans succeed. Ready to carry on my writing career is a pleasant prospect for me. Thank you for your advice, though. At least, I noticed something in your article I can use in my own writings. I write good things, then go away being negative. Then that doesn't have to set me back. Some people even heed their own advice, huh, after receiving the advice of others. Thank you for your letter.

    Guest (Deborah Jo Woodward)

  3. Great article! As someone just starting out, the amount of information can be overwhelming and lead to exactly what you mentioned, paralysis. I recently connected with a well-known copywriter who told me to delve deep into the masters and to go back to them multiple times. So, I think that's valid and very useful advice. The corner gourmet grocer vs. the superstore! Better quality and quicker in and out.

    Guest (Julie)

  4. Steve, you have proposed a great conundrum. Based on your South American experience and thoughts, I should ignore your excellent advice!! And how can you listen to a 'top-level copywriter without violating 'My experience taught me one thing. Stop listening to good advice.'

    You are an expert- I do listen to you. Thanks for contributing even though you recommend I ignore you...

    Guess it all revolves around the meaning of 'expert.'

    Have a super day, Steve.

    Guest (Mark Mehling)

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