7 min read

The problem with advice

People dish out advice on social media like it's going out of fashion. There's a problem with it - the people giving it live in a different reality to you and me.
The problem with advice

If you’re reading this, you’re in a part of the internet about self improvement. Improvement in your health, your money, your life.

In this part of the internet you get bombarded with memes, slogans and advice.

What is that advice about?

Work.

The advice is normally useless. Three reasons for this are:

  1. It’s given by someone living in another world (e.g. The Rock)
  2. It’s given by someone who pretends they’re in another world (e.g. scammers)
  3. It ignores the pressures of modern working life

Parallel worlds

If I say the word ‘work’ to you, what’s the first thing you think?

Opportunity, money, boring, tiring, purpose, stressful, fun, time consuming. The range of possible answers to this question is very wide.

‘Work’ means completely different things to different people. This is because ‘work’ literally is different for different people. One person may love their work, another may hate it, another may not consider what they do ‘work’ at all.

To an employee, a day of work presents a limited set of opportunities. The top and the bottom have been taken off of the day. Your days are compressed. Your days are consistent. Your salary is consistent. The highs aren’t that high and the lows aren’t that low. As long as you’re keeping your head down and delivering what’s expected of you, nothing can go catastrophically wrong…

Nothing can go life-changingly right either. You could secure an incredible deal, deliver a really valuable piece of work, or spot a mistake which saves the company thousands. Whatever you do, your conditions will stay, more or less, the same.

Let’s call the people living in this world civilians.

In a parallel world you have an employer. For an employer, each day is another money-making opportunity. There isn’t really a concept of a ‘working week’ or a ‘working day’. The employer happily works on Saturdays, and after 5pm. The line between ‘work’ and ‘not work’ is very blurry. Business is open 24/7, 365. Who knows what could happen this week to change the direction of things? Maybe a staff member will secure a lucrative deal, or spot an opportunity to save money in an area of the business… revenue could start to dry up, or competitors could get ahead. As the owner of the business you stand to gain massively if the company succeeds, lose if it fails, and you can’t really be fired.

Let’s call this person an owner.

The owner and the civilian use the word ‘work’ in completely different ways.

There are lots of words that have been used to make the distinction between these two parallel worlds: employer and employee, owner and worker, master and slave, NPC and player, noble and peasant.

Let’s look at some other words we can associate with two parallel worlds.

Civilians:

  • No equity
  • Little payoff
  • Downside risk with no upside (you can get fired, but you can’t become the owner)
  • Low level, constant stress
  • Consistency
  • Domesticated
  • And other stuff, see the diagram below

Owners:

  • Equity
  • Payoffs
  • Upside and downside
  • Eustress (the opposite of distress/stress, meaning ‘good stress’)
  • Volatility
  • Wild
  • And other stuff, see the diagram below

Visually, it might look something like this:


The Rock can’t help you

Social media is about having followers. The biggest accounts are run by owners, with an audience of civilians following them.

Owner’s advice won’t work for you. Advice from someone in the owner world usually doesn’t work for people in the civilian world.

Here are the top accounts on social media:

These accounts offer a lot of things. Entertainment mainly. Entertainment for civilians.

Can these accounts offer practical advice that will work in your life? Probably not.

These superstars have spent so long living in a parallel world that their memories of the 9 to 5 are distant.

It’s like they’re talking to you from the moon.

Let’s take a look at some of The Rock’s advice for you and me.

I appreciate the sentiment here from The Rock, really I do. But The Rock doesn’t experience ‘work’ like you or me.

The Rock can’t be fired. The Rock doesn’t have a 9am call tomorrow morning that he must go to otherwise he risks triggering a downward spiral of events which may cause him to lose his job, and leave him incapable of paying his bills.

The Rock isn’t regularly exhausted by the demands of being consistently ‘there’ at work, replying to emails, doing Zoom calls, responding to clients.

The Rock’s version of ‘work’ isn’t the same as yours or mine. So, while I enjoyed him in Moana, I’m going to take his work advice with a pinch of salt.

We live in different worlds.


The fake news social media

As well as the inapplicable advice we get from the superstars, there’s also the scammer section of the internet ecosystem.

Here, people take basic principles and sell those principles back to you in the form of lukewarm takes, fake debates and watered down information.

These people offer advice as if they’ve made it out of the civilian world and are now owners, but in reality they haven’t and they aren’t.

This is the section of the internet where exploitative influencers run the usual playbook: show you a cool lifestyle, and then sell you stuff which will never deliver it.


Two rules

Whenever you encounter what looks or sounds like ‘advice’ online, ask yourself two questions:

  1. Is this person an owner or a civilian? If they’re an owner, take it with a pinch of salt. A bit like how you do when your elderly relative tells you something about how to get ahead at work, despite them completely not understanding the context.
  2. Is this person pretending to be an owner? If they are, this is worse. Block these people.

Becoming owners

If you’re a civilian, you’re addicted to your salary.

Towards the end of the month a colleague will excitedly tell you: “we’ve been paid!”

You stop what you’re doing to frantically check your bank account… They’re right.

A rush of emotion comes over you - it’s something like relief and excitement.

The feeling wears off pretty quickly, and for 30 days you’re waiting for the next hit.

Then it happens again…

You’re quite like a pet. You act differently when your boss is in the room.

If you went to school and got a job, you’re conditioned behave like this.

The punch line is income isn’t guaranteed. You don’t own it. You rent it.

If you stop working, your income stops coming in.

We all know a ‘good employee’ who was mistreated by their employer. We all know people who’ve lost their jobs, industries which have struggled. 2020 has shown this.

Nothing is guaranteed.

If you’re a salaried worker, you’re renting your income.

You need to own it.

If you own your income, you control your income.


Modern working life is hard

But working in the modern world is hard.

Materially, we have more than we’ve ever had. Our grandparents had never even heard of pesto. We live in a time of abundance. It’s a double-edged sword.

The modern struggle is paying attention to something for more than 25 minutes.

In the modern world, the best minds and technology have been turned against civilians.

Social media apps use learnings from observing billions of civilians to keep our attention for as long as possible. The sound of a crisp being eaten is engineered to be as satisfying as possible for the person eating it. The news bombards us with stories we have to have an opinion on from every corner of the planet.

We’re also more alone than ever, left to fend for ourselves without the communal and familial ties our grandparents enjoyed. Everyone wants a dog now.

It’s a different type of struggle.

We work all day from 9 to 5. When we get home we’re exhausted. We have less holiday than medieval peasants.

It’s much easier to watch Netflix, order a Deliveroo, impulse buy some clothes, and have a drink. This is the civilian world.

If we want to stop this treadmill, we need advice from civilians who have stopped or are formulating a plan to stop.

Would you want advice on how to escape from prison from someone living in a $5 million mansion?


What is this newsletter going to be?

This newsletter wants to shine a light on civilians who are formulating a plan to escape. This newsletter wants to share their ideas with you.

Have you ever gone through a day, week, month, or year of work and thought:

“I bring in way more value than I’m being paid for”

What about:

“Why am I working all day on this person’s idea instead of my own?”

If you’ve thought those things or anything similar, this newsletter might be for you.

To loop back to the start of this post, you’re here because you want to improve. To improve, at least with money, I believe to some degree we all need to become an owner.

We need money coming in that we control, we need ways to make money that we are the boss of.

This newsletter wants to become a small part of the internet that provides good actionable insights for people on a similar mission.

Hope you enjoyed this opener.