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Finding You: Advice vs. Guidance

Updated: Jun 21

At the age of 28 I (Charlie) was in the midst of a major life redirection. I’d been home from business school (which I’d bombed out of) for a few months, had been working with a therapist, and found myself in search of mentorship. I needed new voices in my life to talk with me about the paths I was considering.

One of the voices I’d chosen was a preacher. A guy I respected. A guy I hoped to learn from.

One afternoon he walked into a meeting with me incredibly agitated. Rather than deal with how his frustration was impacting him, he just dumped it all onto me. He exploded into asking me pressing questions about what I was going to do with my life and when I was going to get myself together and make a decision. He advised me to stop whatever growth process I was going through and just do something.

It was a painful, completely unhelpful conversation. Why? Because he’d confused guidance with advice.

Advice looks like telling others what they “should” do, "Go to grad school", "Break up with him", "Stick it out even though you hate your job". These things are advice and, honestly, are generally pretty unhelpful. Why? Because they are all about the advice-giver's beliefs or opinions, rather than the desires and hopes of the person who is asking for help.

Guidance, in contrast, is all about the other person. It’s about asking questions like, “what do you want?”, “what would make you happy?”, “what makes your heart come alive?”. A guide puts their opinions and desires on the back burner and lets the other person own their lives and their choices.

I honestly believe honest guidance and mentorship is one of the most valuable commodities in the world. Great stories aren’t lived by those who are being told what to do. Great stories are lived by those who have searched the depths of their soul for what makes them come alive and gone out in search of it.

Great coaches mentors help you find you.

I never met with the preacher again. Instead, I eventually I found what I was looking for and ran off to Seattle to get a Masters degree.

In the years leading up to that choice the best advice I ever received was from an old family friend, who said, “you have greatness within you, what do you want to do with it?”

And so I say to all those reading, you have greatness within you, what do you want to do with it? Because that is a story worth telling.

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