Asking for advice

I have found it critical to ask for advice. Without it I wouldn’t have progressed.

Through experience few things have stood out as fundamental when giving or asking for advice.

Asking for and receiving advice

When asking for advice we ask for the adviser to expose the weakest point in our idea and if possible to give us an outline of a plan of action. In that sense it is asking for constructive criticism.

When asking for advice I try to distance myself from the thing I ask advice for. That way the advice won’t be taken personally and rejected with an emotional response. One of the things I remember most vividly from my art teacher in university is when he said:

Don’t be afraid of the white page. Leave your mark on it and be ready to throw it away as soon as you draw it. Don’t become precious with the work you have done and be ready to do it over and over again. That is the only way to improve.

The same applies when asking for advice – don’t be afraid to change your idea or direction. After all that’s why you are asking for advice in the first place. Instead seek for a way to change and improve the idea.

Pointing out the weakest point helps us to put our energy in the problem that would yield the greatest improvement for the least effort.

Look for specific actions from the advice, something that you can go and do as soon as possible. The question you ask needs to be specific. A specific question helps the one giving the advice to understand the situation you are in and to give the most useful comment.

For example, if you are working on an essay, asking “How can I write a better essay?” is a very general question and can take a long time to answer fully. It also shows that you haven’t done enough research or are not deep into the subject. It will also waste the time of the one you ask.

If on the other hand the question is “How can I improve the argument in this paragraph?” you will receive a very accurate feedback.

Apart from receiving constructive criticism we also ask for advice to find reaffirmation of a something we believe, but are not completely sure about or don’t have the guts to do. In that case the advice will simply repeat what we believe, given from someone we see as more experienced and with a greater authority, which will give us the necessary confidence. Paying for consultations is one way of doing it.

Look for advice as much as you can, surround yourself with people that you can ask for feedback often, that you know want to see you improving and that you can learn from. The more you ask for advice and feedback, the faster you will see your mistakes and improve them. This is very important and something I personally struggle with at times when I see events or my work very personally and become protective of them.

To summarize, when asking for advice:

  • look for constructive criticism
  • be prepared to receive criticism and apply it
  • look to expose the weakest element
  • when lacking in confidence look for an external confirmation in order to gain it
  • be specific with your questions and research more if you don’t think you know enough to be specific
  • surround yourself with people that you trust and can learn from. Ask for advice as soon as you are in a block or want to insure the quality of your work and to refine your ideas

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