My parents spent their entire adult lives working at jobs they hated. They were miserable. It was painful to watch and even more painful to experience growing up. It truly sucked for everyone involved.
Naturally I decided early on not to do that. I figured that whatever I did for a living it would have to be right for me – fun and rewarding – or I’d find something else to do. That has always been my one nonnegotiable rule; staying true to it has served me well.
The career path I chose – every decision, every twisty turn, every step of the way – was always based on what was right for me. And the results far surpassed my expectations.
The question is, are you living your life in a way that’s best for you or following what others say you should do and how they say you should do it?
Are you living your life or someone else’s?
Every day you’re bombarded with unsolicited advice telling you how to live your life. How to succeed and how to fail. Which traits are good and which will come back to haunt you. Why you should be a morning person and take naps. How to behave, how to eat, how to sleep, how to be productive, how to be inspired, even how to be happy.
Since all that free advice can be overwhelming, I’m going to save you a lot of time, lift a giant weight off your shoulders and tell you exactly which of those pearls of popular wisdom you should listen to and which you shouldn’t. That way you never have to think about it and can go about your life knowing you’re on the right track.
Ready? OK, here goes. Ignore it. All of it. And yes, I do mean all of it.
Throughout your life, your own personal experience, gut instincts and common sense will inform every important decision you need to make. Granted, you will occasionally need advice from others who have more experience than you, but that’s not unsolicited advice. That’s advice you ask for, hopefully of those who’ve already been where you’re going.
Look, everyone who’s pushing prescriptive advice on you has a vested interest in you reading it, hearing it and acting on it. One way or another, they all have skin in the game. Their actions are driven by self-interest, not your interest. They do it to benefit themselves, not to benefit you. So you can’t trust it. And you can’t trust them.
What you can trust is yourself: your experience, your gut, your thoughts, your feelings and those you choose to ask for help. How your life turns out is entirely based on the choices you make. Those choices, those decisions, should always be in your hands. And that includes whom you choose to listen to when you need advice.
And get this: You actually have a built-in system for that sort of thing. It’s where epiphanies, critical insights and flashes of inspiration come from. It’s called your brain. And through a complex set of mechanisms, it’s always there to help you turn your own knowledge, experience and instincts into answers that are right for you.
Unfortunately, more and more people choose not to use that built-in system. It’s so much easier to search online for answers than to get out and experience things for yourself. It’s easier to blog, post, or message than to sit quietly and listen to your feelings. It’s easier to Google it or ask Alexa than to think for yourself.
That’s just nuts. Every decision you make that way is a bad decision.
Every day I see people make critical personal and business decisions based on what others tell them to do. Every day I see enormous amounts of content that contradicts what I’ve experienced, learned and determined to be true. And every day I feel sorry for every one of you who follows that nonsense instead of living your own life.
You don’t want to wake up one day, look in the mirror and see a stranger looking back at you.
Image credit Alba Sober via Flickr
A version of this originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.