Some Unsolicited Advice From David Cain

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

David Cain wrote a thought provoking, practical, and inspiring blog post today on “67 short pieces of advice you didn’t ask for.”  Here are seven pieces of unsolicited advice that I took away, I have preserved his original numbering and added a few comments to particularize them for entrepreneurs.

Some Unsolicited Advice From David Cain

Crater LakeHe acknowledges it’s a smorgasbord of unsolicited advice where you can take what you like and leave the rest for others:

“There’s no way for such an avalanche of unsolicited advice to come off as anything but preachy. But there’s also something appealing about the scattergun approach. Trying on a few dozen ideas in a few minutes will almost always leave you with something you can take to the bank, if you don’t get hung up on what doesn’t resonate. Here are sixty-seven short pieces of advice I either follow, or probably should. Take from it whatever rings true to you, and don’t take the whole thing too seriously. ”
David Cain’s intro to  “67 short pieces of advice you didn’t ask for.

Learn How To Be a Good Host

2. When you’re a host, use that experience to learn how to be a better guest, and vice-versa.

This applies to a number of roles:

  • customer/client/patient vs. service provider,
  • reader vs. curator,
  • panelist vs moderator,
  • listener vs. presenter.

Learn Effective Shortcuts

What mistakes do you see others making that you make when you are in their role?

4. Learn keyboard shortcuts. If you don’t know what CTRL + Z does, your life is definitely harder than it has to be.

It took me a while to get good at typing and then using a text editor (I assure my sons that at I will be at the final re-union of Emacs users at a booth at Denny’s in San Jose in 2042 well after their children have transitioned from data gloves to neural implants). You have to practice them enough that they don’t take so much mental overhead that they break your primary train of thought). One application I would pay for would be something that captures all of my keystrokes for a day (or a week or month depending upon how different your days are) and then analyzes them to suggest the next keyboard shortcut to learn.

A Polite Question Can Be Unpacked As Effective Advice

18. Expect people to get offended sometimes when you try to tell them what to do. Even if you think it’s good advice :)

Asking questions first to make sure you understand their mental map of the situation can help to  minimize unintentionally offending someone with unsolicited advice. But they have to be real questions not “why don’t you…” or “did you ever consider that …”

Watch Experts Perform Their Chosen Art

24. Watch experts perform their chosen art whenever you get a chance. There’s something really grounding about it.

The amazing things is the number of problems they avoid, you have to pay attention to  what they are not dong and what sometimes seems like wasted effort until you realize it’s preventing serious problems much later. And sometimes they do it “the old man’s way” that seems harder until you realize that it always works and doesn’t cause more problems than it solves.

Meditation Gives You Tools

36. Experiment with meditation. It gives you tools to mitigate nearly every thing human beings complain about — fear, boredom, loss, envy, pain, sadness, confusion, and doubt — yet remains unpopular in the West.

There are many ways to practice meditation, find one that you can do daily or twice a day. I can tell when I have missed three or four sessions in a row. For me walking for 20 minutes also allows me to reset my mindfulness.

Never Hide From The Truth Of Your Finances

56. Never hide from truths about your financial position. If you’re afraid to know your bank balance, you have a problem bigger than money problems.

Obviously very important for bootstrappers: establish a set of regular reviews both for revenue and expenses. Weekly for sales and monthly for spend with a quarterly twice a year deeper dive is a good place to start. The key to expense control and revenue generation is having a plan with contingencies.

Seek To Learn Not To Defend Your Current Position

61. Whenever you’re being contradicted, try not to get caught up in being defensive. You’re either right, or you get to learn something new today.

I find this good advice but hard to execute. I try and reframe it as parallax: a different position offers another perspective on an object or situation and the ability to combine two perspectives gives you depth perception. It’s easier in the intellectual abstract to digest than the emotional particular–what do you mean I’m wrong!–but sometimes even I cannot reach the other fellow’s perspective I can stand beside myself and act as my own manager and come up with a better response. Your mileage may vary.

David Cain has 61 one more pieces of advice you didn’t ask for, I suspect you may find some nuggets of insight I overlooked.

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Crater Lake photo © Kevin Murphy, all rights reserved. Used with permission. I thought it was a good metaphor for the original “67 insights” article as a pool of insights you could sip from at your leisure.

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