Have you noticed that nutritional advice seems to change and contradict itself all the time?  Drink coffee, it’s good for you.  Caffeine is terrible- avoid it at all costs.  Eat chocolate.  Don’t eat chocolate.  Drink wine, but only red wine.  Don’t drink alcohol at all.  It’s enough to make you run to the store to buy lettuce (almost). 

People love to give advice, and not just about what to eat.  Well-meaning co-workers, managers and friends rush to tell you what to do in any situation you encounter.  But how do you decide who to listen to?  Here are three ways to determine whether to follow the advice:

1.     Review the Source

Let’s say you’ve won a promotion and now it is time to renegotiate your salary.  The lady sitting in the next office gives you unsolicited tips on how to best negotiate with HR.  Take a look at the source.  Has she been promoted recently?  Did she tell you how well her negotiations went?  Did she previously work in HR?  Ensure that the person who is giving you advice has carried out the advice they are giving.  If they haven’t, or the results they obtained weren’t good, thank them for their time and promptly ignore it.

2.     Compare the Alternatives

When you to take one path, you forgo the other options.  For instance, if you’re planning on putting a majority of your budget into enhanced due diligence services, you won’t be able to increase your spending on new online training.  Before you take advice on spending, thoroughly consider the alternatives.  Visualize how each of the alternatives is likely to play out, then make your decision based on your analysis, taking into account others’ experiences as appropriate.

3.     Remember that One Size Does Not Fit All

What’s worked for one person in the past may not work so well now.  Maybe the advice they’re giving is outdated.  Perhaps the way they performed a task or prioritized their work is now out of fashion.  Consider the timing and environment in which the advice-giver performed, then decide if the situation is consistent with the ne you are facing. 

Everyone believes that their wisdom and experience should be valuable to you.  While almost no one gives advice that they believe to be unhelpful or counter-productive, you must evaluate for yourself whether it makes sense to take it on.  After all, the only person who will be living with the consequences of following the advice is you.  Pick the right path and pretty soon, you’ll be the one giving advice on how to succeed.