Seek helpful advice

I have come across some research that showed that people with mentors are more successful in life and career, and I totally buy that. The world is a large and complex place. None of us know all the possibilities or how to navigate them well. But we can know a lot more by tapping into the experiences and wisdom of other people. 

1. Seek advice 

If you are doing something new or trying to make a difficult decision, in your personal or professional life, reach out to a few wise people who have walked the path before. It's also helpful to simply chat with wiser people about their lives and your life, without any specific topic in mind. 

There are many good strategies on how to develop these relationships. I'd call out these three - 

  • Be genuine - seek advice on topics or questions that you truly care about and can't figure out elsewhere (say, by just googling online). Don't do it to just "develop your network" or get something else from the other person. 
  • Make it easy - Ask specific questions that they can respond to by email or text, rather than for a "30 min chat to learn". Do and show your homework, to both signal seriousness and to go beyond basics. 
  • Become a person that people want to talk to - Be wise, interesting, fun, and successful in your own way. Be respectful, curious, and kind. Follow up and thank them. 
Most people actually enjoy sharing advice, especially with people who respect and act on it. It makes them feel useful and important, and relive and retell their life experiences. 

The Internet is also your friend and mentor. Books, podcasts, and blogs are abundant and easier to access alternatives. 

2. Advice from the right people and contexts 

Not all advice is good, but all of them have the power to influence you. We were recently figuring out how to buy a house and realized that advice from parents was a bit outdated for the current market situations, compared to advice from friends who had recently purchased houses. As a product manager, you may be getting product ideas from a team that barely understands the users or market. 

So seek advice from the right people - those who have the right expertise on the specific topic, those who you can trust, and those who are willing. Understand the context in which they are giving the advice, as your context may be very different. 

As with most things, there is a point of diminishing returns with advice too. You can't ask too many people either, as you can get stuck in analysis paralysis. 

3. Make your own decision 

At the end of the day, it's your life - you are responsible and you live with the consequences. Unless you are very young or incapacitated, it's usually not a good idea to ask others to make your decisions. You gather all the advice and information that's needed, then weigh and filter them appropriately to develop a predictive mental model of the system, and then, make a decision or act based on that.