by Niall Doherty

Ask yourself if you’re qualified. Do you actually have any knowledge or experience in that area? Or are you just guessing?

You might have heard of my buddy Turner Barr and his website Around The World In 80 Jobs. Recently he discovered that his brand had been ripped off by a large corporation and after much deliberation about what to do, he wrote about the ordeal. The Internet rallied around him and the corporation was shamed into a public apology, a $50k payout to Turner, and a $50k donation to charity.

I was one of the people Turner asked for advice when he first learned about the corporation ripping him off. We talked about what he should do several times over the phone and in person. Eventually I told him that he should accept a shitty compensation offer from the corporation instead of going public with what had happened. I figured that was the best course of action, believing that a public shaming approach wouldn’t do much good.

It’s apparent now that my advice was bad — terrible, even — and I’m glad Turner didn’t take it. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only person he sought advice from. Another friend of his is very experienced with such situations and was able to advise Turner much better than I could.

So what’s the lesson here? What would I do differently if I could go back?

Before giving Turner my advice, I’d ask myself if I was the best person to be advising him. I’d ask myself if I had any relevant knowledge and experience, and I’d quickly realize that no, I don’t. And so I’d encourage Turner to do what he ended up doing anyway: seek out someone who actually knows what they’re talking about, someone with actual knowledge and experience in these matters, and ask for their advice.

Two takeaways:

  1. Everyone can give advice, but not everyone should. Next time someone asks you for advice, stop and consider if you’re qualified. If not, encourage them to reach out to someone who is.
  2. On the flip side, be careful who you seek advice from, because most people won’t realize when they’re qualified vs. when they’re not. Ask yourself: Who has real expertise in this area? How can I get in touch with them?

What’s the worst advice you’ve given and/or received? Let me know in the comments.