I wrote an article not long ago about how I learned to get a lot done without being busy. A lot of people liked it and shared stories and thoughts, almost all positive. I did get something I didn’t expect, however, from a small number of people. Some women Tweeted comments to the effect of, “Easy for you to say, you’re a man. I bet you foist all the work onto your wife.” I did not take offense and offered lighthearted responses, but it got me thinking. What does that kind of comment, or the mindset from which is springs, actually accomplish?
Examples of this are common. A wealthy investor might write an article with tips on how to make money in the market, and commenters will say something like, “Easy for you to say, you had millions already and all the expert tools and advice to take such gambles.” My friend told me about an article where a young guy claimed to be reading a book a day and described the huge benefits of massive book consumption. My friend admitted he had to check his first reaction, which was, “Yeah, I bet he doesn’t have a wife or a lot of financial obligations, so it’s easy for him to read that much!” He checked that reaction because he knew it was stupid and utterly useless. In fact, it’s worse than useless. It’s destructive.
No one has the same set of circumstances. An article with advice is either useful to you or it’s not. You either agree or disagree with the points and claims therein. What kind of life the person writing it leads is irrelevant to the value of the information for you. Until this sinks in, you’ll spend a lot of energy looking to play “gotcha” and pointing out when good advice isn’t universally applicable. So what. No advice is universally applicable. All that matters is whether it’s helpful to you. If it is, implement it. If not, move on and find some that is.
I got to thinking about the responses to my article about busyness. The comments seem to imply that it is impossible for me to be both productive and not busy without also forcing my wife to do a lot of things she doesn’t want to do and suffer for my freedom. Do they really believe there is no possible way to be productive and not busy without abusing a spouse in some way? If so, why read articles like mine anyway? If not, why make the comments? Even if my wife was stressed and bearing the brunt of our joint venture, that wouldn’t make my advice more or less useful to someone else. Again, it either works or it doesn’t.
I suspect people look at advice on how to be happy, financially successful, informed, artistic, healthy, or whatever, and if they feel guilty that they are not they want to find some reason to prove that it’s impossible to be. Saying, “A ha! This author is only (insert desired trait) because they have something I don’t!” is an easy way to excuse yourself. It’s also terrible for you. Who cares if it’s true? So what? So the author can invest more money than you can. Does it follow that you can’t improve on any margin? If you think that’s the case, stop reading how-to’s. If you have no chance of gaining from anyone’s advice because they might not have identical circumstances, why not just give up? Eat, drink, and be merry, for there is no possible way to learn ways to progress!
You gain nothing by attempting to prove that the bearer of some advice has some special advantage that makes implementing it easier for them. Take it or leave it, but for your own sake, don’t look for an excuse to believe you are incapable of improving your life.