Advice Is Always Context Dependent

I was in the middle of being coached on cold calling. There were scripts, checklists, and reminders of “its just a numbers game.” I knew some people were succeeding, or at least they claimed to be, and I knew I wasn’t one of them. I also knew I was miserable doing this. Something wasn’t working. I was missing context. I knew why “they” wanted me to do this, but I was missing why “I” wanted me to do this.

“Just follow these steps and you’ll be successful.” In other words, “Here are the numbers I used to win the lottery.” They can’t give us the result, but they can offer us a path. We’ll still need to walk it. We’ll just have to figure out how to win in our own way.

Scott Belsky says the problem with best practices is that they’re context-dependent. It’s ok to seek out and give advice, but not all advice needs to be followed so much as it needs to be contextualized. When we get frustrated with guidance, we have to refocus on context.

It’s really tempting to have concrete steps to follow. It’s really frustrating to stumble while feeling like a kid in his dad’s suit pretending to “work.” It’s really hard to find our own stride on the path. Some measurement of success still looms over the horizon, but it’s our walk that gets us there. And this is a good thing.

Belsky reminds us that the only times’ anything works out is when we are informed by the past but not bound to it. When we do it our way, we do it differently. We can still take in all of the advice, lessons, and insights from others, but we need to accept it’s our turn to make our own mistakes.
We’ve found context when we realize we have our own numbers to play and our own future to stride towards.

It didn’t happen at the time. I got through what I needed to do for the coaches and the program, but it wasn’t until later that I realized the context. There was a mismatch in the stats we wanted, but there was an actual fit in the overall results. It was on me to redesign the approach to walking the path, not them (although they did give it an honest try). They had good insights, some great ones really, I just needed to take and apply them in my own way. Easy to say, hard to do. Especially when your confidence feels like a punching bag.

Looking for context means finding the rules, knowing which ones to break, and which new ones we want to write. Be informed by the past, not bound to it. There are insights everywhere. Give them context. Put them into alignment. Get to walking.

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