Episode 0029 · March 28, 2023

The podcast about what to do next.

Meta-advice on Advice

Paul Ford: [00:00:00] Hey Rich, how are you?

Rich Ziade: I’m doing well.

Paul Ford: What’s going on? You got a topic for us on Ziade Ford? I just got back from out of town. I’m-

Rich Ziade: I, you know, I feel like this podcast is, you know, elevates above topics, it floats above topics because the conversation is so rich and the personalities are so interesting.

Paul Ford: Just an ongoing conversation between two of America’s most interesting guys [chuckles].

Rich Ziade: Can, can I share something that could potentially sabotage the entire premise of this podcast?

Paul Ford: I mean pretty much every time we do this, we’re pretty, we’re close to the ledge.

Rich Ziade: I’m lousy at taking advice

Paul Ford: [laughter] Wow, yeah. Okay, no, no, no, absolutely not, absolutely. That’s, I don’t know, that’s a qualified statement. I, uh-

Rich Ziade: I know, I’m trying to be dramatic here, Paul.

Paul Ford: You [00:01:00] are, um, a person where if you are set in your, you tend to stick with a decision once made.

Rich Ziade: Yes.

Paul Ford: And you make decisions very quickly [chuckles].

Rich Ziade: I do.

Paul Ford: So that is a combination to have. I don’t know, it’s to be clear, I actually like everybody’s worst qualities are also their best qualities. That also turns you into a motive force who can get a startup launched or an agency built.

Rich Ziade: Yes.

Paul Ford: All right, like that’s, that’s fun to be around for me cause I tend to be like, I like to process and think it all through, so okay, all right, so you’ve said this statement, you’re bad at taking advice.

Rich Ziade: I wanna make a case except for this podcast, that you should be very wary of advice.

Paul Ford: Oh, fair enough.

Rich Ziade: And advice can, can really, it can do a few different things that are bad, there’s a few things that are good, but it can do a few things that are bad.

Paul Ford: This is, okay, this is a, a special subject for me, right? [00:02:00] Because people fantasize that there is a magic source of information and, and a set of advi, like a, a great example is hustle culture.

Rich Ziade: Yes.

Paul Ford: Where there, there’s a, here are the check boxes in order to become a millionaire.

Rich Ziade: Yeah. You see this in Twitter threads lately.

Paul Ford: Oh God.

Rich Ziade: Which is like I built a $2 million business in 12 months. Let me tell you how… THREAD.

Paul Ford: Yeah, they, people love this, they love to give advice. They love it.

Rich Ziade: Well, I, I think, I think, I, I wanna share a few things. I can bullet this out.

Paul Ford: All right, let’s go bullet one.

Rich Ziade: Bullet one, when someone gives you advice, you have by default, usually, usually if you are seeking advice, it is because you are in a position of cost or benefit. You’re in a dangerous place, and they are not.

Paul Ford: Correct.

Rich Ziade: They are observing you, they are effectively a bystander that’s been asked, [00:03:00] not bystander, you may know them very well, it doesn’t matter. It’s your skin in the game, not theirs.

Paul Ford: So should I quit my job and write a novel? And I go and I ask a famous novelist.

Rich Ziade: I’ve given the quit your job advice incorrectly for many years in my life because I thought people were like me.

Paul Ford: Mm-hm.

Rich Ziade: And it was bad advice because, I would tell them I’ve been disappointed with people because I view them as not seeing how good they are. I was like, you don’t even know how good you are.

Paul Ford: You are so valuable, why are you working at some giant company? You could be-

Rich Ziade: I have a friend who has been yelling, I’m, I’m successful, kind of by any measure, I’m gonna say I’m not billionaires successful, but I don’t keep score that way. I’ve, I’ve had freedom, I’ve made money, I’ve done well. I have a friend who has been yelling at me for the last 12 years that I do doing everything wrong. I’m not even kidding.

Paul Ford: This is true. I know this friend, he, every single time Rich talks to him, he’s like, [00:04:00] why would you do that? Why would you start an agency? Why would you create another startup? You could work? And he works in the most boring industry on the face of the earth, I’m not even gonna name it, just think about something really boring.

Rich Ziade: Yes.

Paul Ford: He’s very successful, and he’s like, why wouldn’t you come and do the incredibly boring thing.

Rich Ziade: And you know what’s ironic there is he thinks the world of me. He thinks I’ve limited my potential. And when I tell people to quit their jobs, that’s me saying, why are you doing that? You’re great. And you know what they don’t want to hear? That they could do better. It’s a very, it’s, I thought, I was pumping ’em up and making ’em feel good. And it turns out what I was telling them, what I was shining a light on was the fact that, that they didn’t want to take that leap.

Paul Ford: I’m gonna tell you, I’m at a stage in my life, I’m a writer, I, I kind of in the, I am in the professional advice and counsel=

Rich Ziade: People seek your advice a lot.

Paul Ford: Mm-hmm, no one ever will listen to anything.

Rich Ziade: That’s a sentence for this podcast [laughter].

Paul Ford: No throw away all, throw all your bullet points. Let’s just [00:05:00] get straight to the marrow. We’re doing an advisory podcast, no one ever will listen to anything. I have never known anyone to listen to a single piece of advice.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: Um, I mean, sometimes sure people will be like, I, but they, they come to you for validation. We should just call this Ziade and Ford Validators.

Rich Ziade: This, this is where I was actually getting to, which is when you seek someone’s advice, you pretty much want them to validate what you want to do.

Paul Ford: That’s right.

Rich Ziade: That is just fact, that’s 90% of the time.

Paul Ford: Most of the advice I give starts with these words, you’re gonna do whatever you want to do.

Rich Ziade: Mmm, interesting.

Paul Ford: But I’ll tell you what I see.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Paul Ford: The only advice that I have that I think truly is universal is if you want the thing, you need to stand next to other people who have the thing.

Rich Ziade: That’s great advice.

Paul Ford: If you want to be rich, go stand next to people with money. You wanna be a famous writer, you better go stand next to –

Rich Ziade: And get to know and learn and be.

Paul Ford: Pitch articles to magazines.

Rich Ziade: Yeah. Um, [00:06:00] and so I think that’s right, right? And that advice may be good, and I think

Paul Ford: Humans are funny though, right? Because there is a vast, multi-zillion dollar here’s how to get it industry.

Rich Ziade: The consulting world?

Paul Ford: Yes.

Rich Ziade: Management – let’s talk, let’s tell people, not everyone knows what management consulting is, management consulting is literally the, the profession of telling people what they should go do, but then not doing it with them.

Paul Ford: So this is when you go to the airport, when you get off in like, let’s say Denver because

Rich Ziade: Yeah, you’ll see an Accenture logo.

Paul Ford: You wanna like ski and smoke weed and there’s this Accenture logo or PricewaterhouseCoopers or McKinsey or whoever, and it’s, if somebody is advertising in an airport that’s prob and you have no idea what they are, they’re very likely a consulting firm.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, and look, we’re oversimplifying cause Accenture has call centers all over the world and they do a lot of stuff, but why would you call a McKinsey? You’re calling McKinsey because your [00:07:00] margins are went from 18% to 16 to 14 and you want to know how to turn it around.

Paul Ford: Right, and your board has said you have to do something about this.

Rich Ziade: That’s right.

Paul Ford: And McKenzie’s promise is that because they are consultants, so it’s this sort of this fait accompli, right? Like because they look inside of all the companies, they know how to fix the problems.

Rich Ziade: Yes.

Paul Ford: Because they’ve seen it so many times and then they come and they inevitably fire about like 75% of your-

Rich Ziade: The easiest thing to do, it’s the easiest thing to do. The other option is investment, but going back to advice, I think the thing you can do, there’s, there’s a couple things you can do. First off, take advice. You should not, not take advice.

Paul Ford: Mm-hmm.

Rich Ziade: But synthesize it, you’ve already made up your mind, like we were saying before, and what you’re getting is perspectives. What the most dangerous you can do is get advice from one person that’s like the most, cause there’s, that’s one data point from one perspective, from one individual. And so a lot of listening, and [00:08:00] a lot of like varied opinions and varied perspectives is a wonderful thing.

Paul Ford: Yes. But let’s be real here, have you ever seen what, when doctors talk about compliance, what that’s like?

Rich Ziade: No.

Paul Ford: Oh my God, so no one takes their pills. You take your pills, I take my pills. No one takes their pills.

Rich Ziade: No one known –

Paul Ford: Doctors say, oh yeah, they’re apps, there’s all sorts of systems to help you remember to take your pills. Um, no one doc, you know, there are, right now in New York City, 75 doctors are saying these words, I need you to exercise about 20 minutes a day.

Rich Ziade: True.

Paul Ford: And about one person will exercise.

Rich Ziade: I mean that’s the hardest ask, right?

Paul Ford: And there is a world of like, if you open the New York Times, like every two days there’s an article, 20 minutes of exercise a day will make your the, yeah –

Rich Ziade: The seven minute workout from the New York Times is legendary.

Paul Ford: Everything will be better for everyone if you just do this thing.

Rich Ziade: Take a walk, [00:09:00] that’s what they tell old people. If you walk, it turns out it’s really, really aerobic, like exercise and being in the sun is good for you. Wow, that’s a –

Paul Ford: People, people like, you know what people like? Shortcuts.

Rich Ziade: This is what it’s about, right.

Paul Ford: Watch, they like recommendations too. Like if you watch succession on TV, no one ever wants to hear the real advice, which is –

Rich Ziade: You got work to do.

Paul Ford: Yeah, and you know what? It’s gonna be really humiliating cause you’re not good at it.

Rich Ziade: Well, yeah, exactly [chuckles]. Don’t, don’t do that, don’t do that.

Paul Ford: Yeah.

Rich Ziade: Trust me on this one. Look, you’re good at other things, just don’t do this.

Paul Ford: Or, or accept that you’re gonna be humiliated and you’re about to have a really rough 18 months.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah. Um, so what are we getting at here? Take advice, listen to advice. You’ve probably already made your mind up, you’re seeking validation for the thing you’re going to do.

Paul Ford: Mm-hmm.

Rich Ziade: Synthesize advice, like meaning bake it in, get it from different places, don’t [00:10:00] talk to just one person. People love –

Paul Ford: You ever seen anyone who’s like about to have an affair and you’re like “Hey, don’t do that, that’s actually gonna wreck everything in your life”. And they’re like “oh yeah, you’re right. I gotta stop”.

Rich Ziade: I’ve literally been through that exact situation.

Paul Ford: [laughter].

Rich Ziade: I’ve tried to convince someone not to do it, and then they came in next day, all disheveled, and I’m like, what’d you do?

Paul Ford: And then they’re like, do you know a good divorce lawyer? It is just a catastrophe and maybe they need to get divorced, but it’s like, don’t do it that way.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: No, no, no, no, no.

Rich Ziade: It, look, I, I think, uh, I’m gonna speak for myself, but I’m, I think this, this, this relates to a lot of people when someone has, is coming to someone with a vision of a, or a direction they want to go, like with some ambition around it, and that other person starts to sort of punch holes in it. It’s actually bad, it’s good to hear about the risks and the challenges around some dream that you want to go chase, but they are not you. Like [00:11:00] you have to have an ounce of delusion to do anything big. And so even there, take in that advice so that you can sort of create defense mechanisms around the things they’re telling you are gonna hit you that hazards ahead. But don’t let it discourage you, and I’m not saying follow your dreams. What I’m saying is they, they’re not. They’re just not you.

Paul Ford: Let me give you two things, right? Like one, the narrative of just about every successful person includes the, and then they told me I couldn’t.

Rich Ziade: Right, everytime, I was just saw, yesterday I saw an interview with the, the founder of Airbnb, and it was like the 25th VC, gave him some money, like a little bit of money, and, and he’d been rejected, left and right, left and right, left and right, and credit to him for like a lot of people would just go home. They’re like, okay, let’s brush up, let’s dust off the resume. It’s time to go home.

Paul Ford: No, no, keep going.

Rich Ziade: He kept going and you know, that’s a, [00:12:00] that’s a belief and that that’s a little bit of delusion. You need a bit of it.

Paul Ford: Well, here’s, this is real. No, I don’t, and this isn’t just to succeed, we all need a little delusion just to get through life. Here’s the awkward thing about all of this, right? Stubbornness is the only thing that’s gonna get you through if you want to do something hard. And then it’s really tricky because you can be too stubborn and not give up at the right time. Sometimes you do need to give up and figure out what, what is gonna work.

Rich Ziade: Well, yeah, I think, I think let’s do a final bit of advice. This is a very packed advice podcast.

Paul Ford: It’s a meta, it’s a meta-advice.

Rich Ziade: The best advice you’re gonna get.

Paul Ford: Mm-hmm.

Rich Ziade: Is when you’re moving forward on your journey and the world gives you feedback, whether it be users are signing up and not using it, or no users are signing up, or someone tweeted out that [00:13:00] it had this issue or that essentially, and I’m speaking in terms of software, but it’s really anything if you’re going down a certain journey, the unspoken like signals, are the real signals. They’re exactly right actually, because they are the world reacting and the biggest mistake you can make is to dig in, dig your heels and say, “well, the world’s wrong and I’m gonna keep going”.

Paul Ford: There are, if you are an artist, you can do that.

Rich Ziade: That’s a good point.

Paul Ford: You can do that, that is an artist who says, you know, the world is not gonna gimme a living, but I’m gonna continue to make my ceramics.

Rich Ziade: It is my expression,

Paul Ford: And then it’s important to me, and if the world catches up good for the world.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: That’s a specific personality.

Rich Ziade: That’s a specific personality.

Paul Ford: But that’s someone who can afford to do their stuff in kind of in a constrained, controlled way. If you’re making software, if you’re doing, if you have to feed your family, you gotta listen to the world. There’s no way around it, I can’t fix that for you.

Rich Ziade: If you open a restaurant, it turns out nobody wanted snail sandwiches, and you’re like, wait a minute, I can just go [00:14:00] get like, um, grilled cheese. I can, I’ll, I’ll pivot and call it a grilled cheese sandwich place, change. You have to be willing to change if you think your vision –

Paul Ford: This is the hardest thing as an advisor to be, when people come to me and ask essentially like, how do I reconstruct the world so that it appreciates me?

Rich Ziade: It’s not happening dude [laughter].

Paul Ford: And it’s just like, do you know how many years of abject humiliation I have experienced?

Rich Ziade: Exactly.

Paul Ford: Right, like –

Rich Ziade: And so what you have to do is be willing to change and be flexible, and that’s, you know, people call it in the startup world, the pivot or whatever, but it’s not even a full-blown, explicit pivot, it could just be a little tweaks here and there, it could be your messaging. Constantly, constantly move and bob and weave. Take that to the world.

Paul Ford: This implies something really important. I think this is like the last piece of advice here, which is, if it’s not out in the world, which means that you are going to risk criticism, feedback, all sorts of bad things, you can’t get that feedback and figure out what the next thing [00:15:00] to do is.

Rich Ziade: Right.

Paul Ford: So what happens, I see a lot of is humans hold stuff close to the vest, they want to get it just right before it goes out so that everybody can see how smart and good they are.

Rich Ziade: Get out and learn.

Paul Ford: It’s, I’ve been there, I’ve been there a million times.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: The longer you hold on, the less likely it is, you’ll be able to react quickly.

Rich Ziade: Yep.

Paul Ford: Get it out.

Rich Ziade: Get out and learn. And this is sounding like just advice, narrow advice for entrepreneurs, but it’s not, it could be, it could be a teacher who’s coming up with a curriculum and it could, it could be all kinds of things. Get that advice, synthesize it, don’t take it wholesale, keep a little bit of delusion.

Paul Ford: You know, in a future episode we should talk about my writing career and how it came to be.

Rich Ziade: That sounds great.

Paul Ford: Yeah, we should, I’ll, I’ll explain what happened.

Rich Ziade: That’s wonderful, and then I’ll talk about my egal career and how I quit four months after law school.

Paul Ford: You threw it in the garbage, yes.

Rich Ziade: Um, well this was an action packed, uh, Ziade and Ford Advisors episode.

Paul Ford: Oh, we’re about to have a, a big phone [00:16:00] call. We gotta get on this phone call.

Rich Ziade: Let’s get on the horn.. Let’s get on the horn.

Paul Ford: Let’s get on the horn.

Rich Ziade: All right, everyone have a lovely week.

Paul Ford: Bye.

Paul Ford: Oh, hello@ZiadeFord.com and @ZiadeFord on Twitter. And give us, I don’t know, whatever number of stars you want.

Rich Ziade: Five stars, six stars.

Paul Ford: Okay, bye.

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