When good advice goes bad or does advice have a shelf life? by Roz Usheroff

You know what they say about opinions?  Well, like opinions everyone has advice to offer when asked.  Some of it good, some of it not so good.  Fortunately, you can usually tell the difference between the good and the bad fairly quickly.  What is a little more challenging is taking good advice that ultimately turns bad.

I am of course talking about good intentioned advice that you take simply because you trust the individual or individual’s expertise more than you do your own instincts.

For example, I can still recall as if it happened yesterday how a close friend told another friend of mine not to invest in a high tech newcomer by the name of Microsoft.  The reason offered by this individual was that personal computers were never going to become a serious business tool given that we had mainframes.  Why would anyone ever need an operating system?!  The fact that the person offering the advice was a well respected business person with years of experience and an equally impressive history for accurately identifying emerging trends, was no doubt an influencing factor.

Looking back on this now, it speaks directly to the point of today’s topic . . . what happens when good advice goes bad.  My friend who did not make the investment can’t go back in time and unring the bell.  But what spoke volumes to me more than anything is not that he initially took the advice, but that he took it and then moved on.  For me I could never understand why this was the end of the discussion.

Where is it written that once advice on something is asked for, and then received, it is the end of the road meaning that the subject can no longer be discussed or the advice reevaluated?  After all, Microsoft was not an overnight sensation or the proverbial once in a lifetime opportunity that once passed on at that particular moment in time could never again be pursued.

For those of you who know me well, I obviously had to find out the answer to this question.  So I asked my friend why did he not over the years following the advice invest in Microsoft when it became clear that they were going to become well . . . Microsoft.  His answer was interesting.

To start, he said that there were so many different things going on in his life with career advancement, moves to new cities and raising a family that he kind of just lost track of it.  Then, when he saw that Microsoft was going to be at the front of the next technology wave, he did not think that the return on his investment would be as good because the price per share went up so significantly.  It was as he put it a vicious cycle of life’s distractions coupled with Microsoft’s continuing success.

From my standpoint it was as if a kind of decision paralysis set in where instead of challenging past thinking, you just stay the course.

This led me to wonder, was the advice that was originally offered at the time actually bad or was it just followed for too long of a period?  Or to put it another way, does advice whether good or bad have a shelf life.

If someone suggests that you take an umbrella with you to work because there is a forecast for rain that day, does this mean you have to carry the umbrella every day from that point on?  The obvious answer is no.

So why do we have the tendency to take advice once and not revisit it again or, better yet, take advice with a plan to review its applicability say for example every six months.

Having a check-back system means that both good and bad advice is not wasted.  This is not just applicable to investments in stocks.

What advice have you been given over your lifetime that came from from good – even well informed – intentions but is no longer current?  Perhaps you have been given career direction that is no longer tapping into your passions or is applicable to the changing landscape?

Re-examining advice and testing the validity for where you are in the present is critical, so embrace feedback from people you trust but put a timeline on blind or unchallenged acceptance.  Remember that in the end you are your own best judge of what is or is not right for you. Trust your instincts and listen to your heart.


Roz Shelf Life1 



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