Giving advice from the bench

standard October 21, 2008 Leave a response

Today I gave advice to someone on something I’ve never done.

It was sound advice, not something I made up off the cuff. As I told him what I thought he should do I knew without a doubt that it was the right thing to do, despite the fact that I’ve never done it myself. It wasn’t the first time I’ve dispensed advice like this. I know a lot about stuff. I read a ton, I retain much of what I learn, and I love to share the knowledge.

I did wonder for a moment if not having actually followed the advice yet myself meant that I shouldn’t dispense it. And then I forged on, because I know I was right and that at the very least, following my proposed path wouldn’t be detrimental to this person’s plans.

Whenever I’m interested in launching a new venture or developing a new skill, before jumping into the deep end, much to M’s dismay, I always need to read everything I can get my hands on about the subject. I’m a firm believer that knowledge is power and that with enough information in hand almost anything is possible. Also, the more I read the less I actually have to do, which is very alluring to a die hard procrastinator and commitment-phobe like me. Along the way, in the many bookstore aisles that I’ll squat during my quest, I tend to learn a lot. And then I like to share what I learned. It’s my way of confirming that what I’ve learned makes sense.

The amount of time I’ve spent delving into the topic is what made me confident that the advice I dispensed was sound. Heck, it’s based on months of research and industrial quantities of reading. In fact, it’s such sound advice that I’m almost tempted to follow it myself. Almost. I might just need to read another book or three on the topic. You know, just to be sure that I’ve covered every avenue.

OK, OK. All joking aside, I know I have a problem. I know that learning is passive, safe. Reading other people’s masterpieces is easy and it doesn’t cost me anything more than the price of the book. There’s no risk of failure, no need to confront my own shortcomings. But I also know that at some point I’m going to need to jump in and do more than just read. You can absorb all the books about heart surgery in the world and become an expert in the subject, but one day you actually need to pick up a scalpel and make the first incision or you can never call yourself a surgeon. Likewise, I can read a million books about writing and publishing novels, but until I finish one and try to sell it I just can’t call myself a novelist.

So really the only solution is that for every book I read on the topic I better be finishing a few chapters. Then, maybe next time I’m dispensing writing advice to an aspiring writer I’ll feel more confident about what I’m preaching. Maybe.

One last day to enter the great Smashies Apple Sauce giveaway! Free apple sauce! Whoot!

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