Everyone comes to a point in their lives when they must make a difficult decision. For instance, choosing a major in college can prove to be very confusing for some. How does a person make that decision? In Advice is for Winners: How to Get Advice for Better Decisions in Life and Work, Raul Valdes-Perez suggests that seeking advice from others could be the way to clarify the answer.
Valdes-Perez is an entrepreneur with a background in business. He also holds a Ph.D. in computer science. “Advice is for Winners” is his attempt to impart wisdom on the act of advice seeking. He explains the typical reasons for avoiding the process of seeking advice, the history of advice and self-help books, and proven methods for getting opinions from others. He uses scientific research, personal experience, and the experiences of others to illustrate his points and support his theories. Some aspects of his endeavor are successful, while others have little use.
The first third of the book focuses on the purpose of seeking advice. The author takes ample time deconstructing each of 28 reasons why people tend to not seek advice, which reasons, he says, fall into four main categories: intellectual, social, emotional, and biological. Those who don’t tend to, Valdes-Perez writes, may, for instance, be unsure how to go about it (an intellectual reason), believe that doing so would show weakness (an emotional reason), or not want to take up other people’s time (a social reason).
After analyzing each of the reasons given in detail, the next three chapters focus on wisdom from advice books, scientific research, and proverbs. Valdes-Perez states that these chapters are to “review” previous studies of advice seeking. However, they seemed little more than filler. Had they come toward the end of the book, this wouldn’t have been such an issue. But because of their placement toward the beginning, the real “meat” of the book does not begin until 80 pages in.
After this section, Valdes-Perez does provide a clear map of advice-seeking strategies. He outlines methods for determining if a decision requires advice seeking, and, if so, how to pick an appropriate advisor. He also provides a 22-question, true-false survey to determine if a scenario requires outside help. The true-false statements include:
- There is enough time to get advice before I take action.
- It matters a lot if I do the wrong thing.
- Other people before me have often faced a similar problem.
Using the true-false statements, a reader can judge whether or not the decision they are facing warrants asking someone for input. This section is probably one of the best aspects of this book. It is clear, concise, and quick to use. It also can keep an overzealous person from seeking advice on every situation that presents itself. Valdes-Perez supplies a table that assists the reader in matching the advisor’s qualities with the needs of the advisee. The table allows for rules to be made in the form of “If you need A, seek someone who’s B.”
Valdes-Perez provides another outline for readers to use in order to prepare for speaking with their advisor. It is a step-by-step approach; however, the author does point out that this is simplified and is not for every scenario.
The last third of the book addresses various aspects that can influence advice seeking. For instance, Valdes-Perez spends a chapter discussing the role of internet searches. He states:
“If the Web or social media can enable confident, convincing explanations, and you don’t need personalized legitimation or ongoing support from advisors, and if you don’t see this as an opportunity for constructive social engagement, or you are socially handicapped, then the Web and social media may be good enough for your needs and no personalized advice is needed.”
He goes on to share that if this is not the case, the Web is better utilized as a complement to seeking input from a person.
Valdes-Perez makes an excellent point about “closing the loop”: that the advisee should make the effort to let the advisor know how a scenario turned out. Was the advice taken? What decision was ultimately made? Especially in scenarios when the advisor points the advisee to a third party, it is important to reach out to the original advisor, he tells us. If the encounter did not go well, the introducer’s reputation could be at risk and following up with them can clarify any misunderstandings or misconceptions that took place.
Overall, this is a satisfactory text on seeking out advice. There are some great points and insights. However, in addition to the pointless filler chapters, which take away from the book, Valdes-Perez’s writing is more flowery than necessary. For instance, the last sentence of the first chapter reads: “Having arrived at our destination, we’ll notice new productive and fulfilling paths to follow that would have stayed unseen if we had jetted to the destination, unaware of the rich terrain below, instead of hiking and taking it all in.”
I understand the desire to create an image to be carried throughout the book (he kept up with the journey and destination analogy), but is it really necessary to be so descriptive? This is a self-help book, not a travel guidebook to draw the reader’s imagination to the picturesque landscape.
Still, I would recommend this book to those who are struggling with seeking advice. (Some free advice right there!) Valdes-Perez lays out tips very clearly — and he provides the pep talk that some may need to take the first step.
Advice is for Winners: How to Get Advice for Better Decisions in Life and Work
Ganador Press, October, 2012
Paperback, 182 Pages