I have a huge chip on my shoulder: I don’t like being told what to do or how to do it. Maybe there’s something wrong with me but I’ve always been that way. As a kid, forbidding me from doing something was tantamount to a challenge, like a great big neon sign flashing “I’ll show them” in my head.

As stubborn and insufferable as that makes me, seeing challenges where others see rules has figured prominently in my career – in a good way.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that’s the only way to be successful. There are countless ways to get there, but that’s been a big one for me. That and never being satisfied with my own accomplishments. My work is never done; there’s always room for improvement.

Whether that’s a blessing or a curse, I’m not entirely sure. Like so many success factors, it can cut both ways. But there are ways to keep it in check.

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That desperate need to prove myself was a bit unwieldy and got me into trouble at first, but it also got me to roll the dice when I could most afford the downside risk. As I gained maturity and confidence I learned to tone it down a bit. Guess a little yin crept into my yang when I wasn’t paying attention.

That’s the sort of balance I was talking about. It’s also why my career has morphed from tech mucky-muck to writing and strategy consulting. The former is very yang, the latter very yin.

The great irony, of course, is that my advice is probably lost on those who are most like me – who bristle at being told what to do and how to do it – even if my advice is to ignore all the prescriptive advice that’s so popular these days. More irony.

Yup, advice can be tricky stuff. I rationalize it by saying that experience is hands down the best teacher, but sometimes we get stuck in our own little echo chamber and need to gain some perspective. That’s when advice can be helpful.

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Of course, if you’re like me, you might just go for a run, meditate or whatever you do to seek answers from within. Sometimes that works. If not, you can always bounce it off a mentor, an advisor or someone you trust to give it to you straight. Whatever works to keep that blessing from turning into a curse.

Image credit Carl Carpenter via Flickr