What Good is Good Advice?

An ETR reader wrote to say that she enjoys ETR “to the utter max!” Excuse me for what seems to be a self-congratulatory citation:

“It is my favorite e-mail of the day, as all your info and words of wisdom (obviously borne of experience) really hit the spot. I know you are busy, but I thought that perhaps you might enjoy knowing that you are really helping folks with what you do, right down to their core.”

I read that sentence wincing, waiting for the “but.” Instead, the lady who wrote it went on to say that although she had experienced some financial, physical, and emotional setbacks in the recent past, she was well on her way back to good health and wealth and was already displaying a very positive spirit, thanks — in part, she says — to ETR.

That made me feel good. More importantly, it reminded me that there is, indeed, an enormous value in good advice. By “good advice,” I mean information that helps you initiate goals, overcome obstacles, persist under difficult circumstances, and ultimately succeed. Good advice usually has three qualities:

1. It is specific.

2. It is pragmatic.

3. It is based on experience.

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, what you do, or how much you’ve accomplished — you can always benefit from good advice.

In fact, the better you are doing, the more value good advice has. I’m the perfect example. I’ve had a good business career and have accomplished enough to rest on my laurels, if that’s what I wanted to do. But I try to keep my mind open to new ideas — even when they are expressed as criticism or when they come from someone who knows much less about the subject than I do. And even when I’m sure the comment is dead wrong.

My reason for staying open is this: The idea can’t possibly hurt me, and there’s a chance it can help me. So why not listen?

There is always so much to learn. I was reading a draft of an article Jay Abraham had prepared for his weekly ETR column. In it, Jay was explaining his concentric-circle theory of backend development. This wasn’t new to me. Jay first explained it to me more than 20 years ago, and it’s had a profound influence on the way I’ve shaped the businesses I’ve built. But in reading about it again, I recognized how it applies to the business of ETR and how we develop, price, and market our products. It didn’t take me long to see the potential benefit of applying his concept to our annual budget — an application that could easily increase our income by a half-million dollars.

Are you open to new ideas? Do you encourage suggestions? Thank people for criticism? Do your employees, friends, and colleagues feel comfortable telling you exactly what they think about what you are doing?

Good ideas — ideas that can change your life — are all around you. The question is: Are you paying attention?

Most people go through their careers with blinkers on. There is only a very narrow channel of information they are willing to tune into. Everything else is tuned out. Sometimes, we shut our minds because we don’t want to think that what we are doing now could stand any improvement.

Sometimes, we close up because we are stressed or distracted. When I was speaking to the Wealth Club at this year’s annual Bootcamp in Delray Beach, I could see that most people were enthusiastically understanding what I was telling them, while some others were either lost in space or actively resistant. Usually, the most accomplished and most sophisticated people in the crowd are most appreciative of the advice given. Those that seem unhappy are almost always those who are unhappy with just about every aspect of their lives.

It’s an interesting irony — that those people who know so much are so appreciative of learning a little bit more, while those who know so little are most critical and unhappy with the new information and advice they get. And there’s a good reason for it: Successful people understand the power of knowledge (because they’ve used it before) and they can leverage new knowledge in ways that beginners can’t.

You can spend $150 on a pair of shoes, $1,500 on a new air-conditioning system, or $75,000 on a Mercedes — and that may improve the quality of your life for a little while. (Although it is highly unlikely that it will improve by as much as you paid.) A single good idea from an expert, however, can make you healthier, wealthier, and/or happier — and not just for a little while but for the rest of your life.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]