Advice: Limited Perspective On Infinite Possibilities

I love this quote from Will Smith on receiving advice, giving advice, and why it’s OK to be wrong no matter which side of the advice you’re on (and, it’s also inevitable you’ll be wrong, at times, on either side).

Quick background first: This quote, from his book Will, shows up when he’s explaining to his mom why he’s not going to college and pursuing music instead. From her perspective, college is the only next step (and she’s been preparing him for this for the past 17 years), so she’s intensely defending her position.

That’s the context. You’ll see in a minute why it applies so much more broadly (emphasis added, and also, my transcription of the audio/text):

The thing I’ve learned over the years about advice is that no one can accurately predict the future but we all think we can. So advice, at its best, is one person’s limited perspective of the infinite possibilities before you. People’s advice is based on their fears, their experiences, their prejudices. And at the end of the day, their advice is just that. It’s THEIRS, not YOURS. When people give you advice, they’re basing it on what they would do, what they can perceive, and what they think you can do. But the bottom line is, while yes – it is true that we’re all subject to a series of universal laws, patterns, tides, and currents, all of which are somewhat predictable, you are the first time you’ve ever happened. You, and now, are a unique occurrence, of which you are the most reliable measure of all the possibilities.

When you’re giving advice, remember where your basis is coming from.

When you’re receiving advice, appreciate the basis from where it’s being transmitted.

The truth is only in the future. And, no matter what happens, it’s right.

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