Be the exception

Every time I think about bad advice, I can’t shake the lyric from The Lonely Island’s hilarious parody of cautionary wisdom, “YOLO”:

And here’s another piece of ad-vice
Stay away from kids cuz their hair is filled with mad lice

I re-watched it this week and the very next line is:

There’s no such thing as too much Purell


A big thank you for your responses to my previous post about bad PR advice. Reading the worst PR advice you’ve ever been given was both hilarious and disturbing. The most common response was: “Blast this out and get some quick hits.” One person was told to blast to 200, another to literally 2,000!

Another gem: “Don’t pitch podcasts, nobody listens to those.” Nobody except the 37 percent of Americans who have listened to one in the last month.

Maybe you’ve been told, like one woman was, “You have to bully your way to success.” False on its face. And reminiscent of what I’ve now decided is the worst advice I’ve ever been given, although it wasn’t as obvious when it arrived early in my career.

I was working an entry-level job here in Utah, we were starting our family, and I was committed to hustling up the corporate ladder. I heard that the VP of corp comm for a Fortune 500 was speaking in town, so I contacted the meeting organizers and asked if I could drive him to the airport after the speech.

We hit it off during the ride, and he generously offered to introduce me to someone he said was the top headhunter in the comms world. (This was not the bad advice, this VP was a cool guy.)

Fast-forward a couple weeks, and I’m sweating while I’m on the phone with this headhunter. He’s not interested in small talk, he’s drilling me about experience and skills and goals. And then: “Are you willing to come to New York?”

I responded that I was fine with relocating but that NYC wasn’t a good fit for us at that stage in our life.

And he threw a small-scale fit. “What? Are you serious? You think someone who is trying to make it in the movie business says, ‘Hollywood isn’t a good fit for us right now’? New York is the communications capital of the world. How do you expect to make it in this business without coming through here?” It may sound like I’m using hyperbole, but he really said all that – I remember like it was yesterday.

Caught off guard, I stammered something weak like, “Okay, hadn’t looked at it that way before, sure, New York is fine.” But he could tell my heart wasn’t in it, and that was the last I ever heard from him.

For a while I wondered if I had blown a big opportunity.

But now I’m typing this 20 years later, looking out the window at the mountains I was hiking yesterday, and things seem to have worked out fine.

The lesson isn’t that geography doesn’t matter (although that’s absolutely true, now more than ever). The lesson is that strangers don’t know what’s best for you and your family. Broad declarations about what it takes to succeed are almost always riddled with fallacies.

If you ever come up against conventional wisdom that doesn’t sit right with you, resolve to be the exception.

It feels great. 🙂

P.S. I’m working on a free webinar that I’ll deliver on Oct. 21 at 1 p.m. ET. Wanted to let you know so you can block that on your calendar if you’re interested – more details coming next week.

This article was originally published on October 7, 2020

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