truly universal advice

I enjoy mentoring as a stress-relieving hobby. I don’t mind stress, I consider it a byproduct of pursuing my goals, and I’m still willing to suffer if required to achieve my goals. I’ll probably need to let go of that at some point. But I’m still trying to do my best, at my advanced age, to do something new & interesting in the startup world, for however long I can still have fun doing it. So I experience a normal amount of stress, and it’s fine because I have more than one way to relieve it – but my favorite way to relieve that stress is in mentoring. 

It helps me to try to give people advice, because it reminds me to continually relearn the same lessons I still need today, to keep doing the very same things that people want advice about. The process of giving advice is never one way: I always learn and relearn lessons in the conversation from the other person.

Startups are great because every one is a new experience no matter how much experience you have. I can help someone else just by reminiscing about what I’ve already done, and at the same time, help myself to charge up those very same hills that I see in their experiences. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done it, we’re still both at the bottom of the hill today.

I’m always worried though, that anyone might remember the words that I’m saying, rather than the fact of what we did together during the mentoring. See, the value of the mentoring isn’t in any words that were said. Instead, the value was created because two human beings tried to learn meaningful lessons from each other based on their own direct experiences in life. There is no small set of words that will capture all of the things of value that truly occurred in this human interaction. I might even go so far as to argue that trying to remember any small set of words puts you at risk at forgetting the whole value of the interaction. Human interaction is irreducibly complex, and incommensurately valuable.

Now, you probably think I’m making a point about artificial intelligence. And sure, but I think that point is obvious, so I’m not going to say it.

Instead the point I’m trying to make here is about advice. There are almost no words of advice that are brief enough to easily remember, while also being universally applicable. These are my favorite:

There’s more than one way to say these words. My friend and I were discussing this video while on vacation, and he made this T-shirt about it.

As far as I know, this advice is truly universal to all people, and is applicable in all situations that might cause worry. Of course, the key is in applying the central question: “Can you do anything about it?

For example, unless there is something more directly useful to talk about in my mentoring sessions, I often just walk through that question:


What is possible in the world that you see?


Who are you? What are you capable of? What do you want?


What would be the best outcome? What is the best way for you to serve that outcome?


What exactly are you going to do, and when are you going to do it?


Oops remind me: Exactly what is the problem we are trying to address here?

And don’t worry, because there’s nothing to worry about now.

Yeah so anyway, I bought a couple hundred of those T-shirts. If you see me in person and want one, just let me know your size and you can have it if there are any left. I think it’s truly universal advice, and I like to be helpful – I’m fairly certain that if you wear this shirt, someone will benefit from it.

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