There's no shortage of great advice on the pages of this website. But sometimes even the most well-intentioned counsel can do more damage than good. I know firsthand, because I've listened to some of this bad advice and suffered the consequences. When you're seeking the guidance of others, watch out for the following five things people like to say.
1. "You're so young, you've got all the time in the world." Actually, you don't. Yes, you should enjoy your 20s--this is the time you can make your mistakes without too many ramifications. If you want, you can try new adventures and test out your passions. But realize that the more you wander and experiment, the longer it will take to eventually get on track. You absolutely need some goals, because once you graduate, 25 is around the corner, and once you hit 25, you'll soon look to 30, which by then means you need to start establishing yourself financially and professionally. You should love and enjoy your youth, but don't let it be an excuse to procrastinate.
2. "Never let your emotions show at work." Any successful person knows this is false. There's a lot of emotion at work, because you're always dealing with people. People get angry, they yell, some cry--it's impossible to be in any office, big or small, and not see people get emotional. The key is knowing when to show your emotions. Yelling at your colleague in front of everyone in a meeting--not OK. Talking to your boss and telling her that you feel nervous about an upcoming project only makes you more human and relatable.
3. "Don't say no." Most people hate saying no, especially to their boss, but sometimes saying no is necessary. Establishing your boundaries and position commands far more respect than being the one who says yes to everything. It's OK at 23 to yes your way up the ladder, but by the time you're 33, you'll look weak if that's all you did. People who give this advice are just trying to tell you to always be the person people want to work with--which is easy to accomplish even if sometimes you have to tell them no.
4. "You have to work really hard to succeed." This may be true, but there's a corollary to this. You ought to have some fun, too. People misinterpret the above comment to mean that you have to work 24/7 and leave no room for any play or family in order to succeed. To the contrary, there are plenty of successful people who work really hard while also indulging in a favorite pastime, whether it's golfing, surfing, or racing cars (I know a very nice woman who became a successful financier while also racing vintage autos). Being a well-rounded person will make you far more successful than if you are a stick in the mud who is always in the office. As Jack Nicholson's character typed in The Shining, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Shudder.
5. "Think about your dream job and go after it." There's nothing wrong with having an ideal job in mind, but let's drop the word dream. The reality is that even if you're living the Warren Buffett dream, you still have good days and bad days. We often sell younger people the idea that once they obtain their dream job, everything will fall in place and life will be smooth as whipped cream. In fact, any job or career will have its highs and lows, frustrations and stresses; the key to nirvana is to be grateful for what you have, seek meaning in what you do, and strive to contribute more. If you can merge what you love with what you do, then you're better off than 95 percent of the populace out there. But don't get preoccupied with obtaining a dream job--sometimes getting a job is only the beginning of something much bigger.
Now that I've outlined some of the most common bad advice, tell me what wrong things you've been told.