Overly prescriptive advice

Yesterday, Paul Jarvis published an article about how most advice is too prescriptive.

And he’s fucking right.

Kayleigh shows me dangerously generalist posts about health, usually from personal trainer’s, on her LinkedIn or Instagram feed. Often, these sweeping fabrications are told without even the simplest backing of science. They are at best misleading. And at worst destructive.

Which got me thinking about how (and more importantly why) I write. Often I’m just writing to myself, but in public. I see something I find interesting, I think about whether other people might also find it interesting and then I write it. That’s it.

I’m not trying to sell anything. I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinion. I’m just writing because I believe that writing is the greatest form of thinking. And writing something in public is scary, so I better really think about the subject before I do it.

But that doesn’t mean what I say is right, or that you should do what I say. You most probably shouldn’t. But I do hope that it starts off a train of thought in your head so that you go away and think deeply about the point I’m making.

And I hope that you also go away and do your own deep research. Which is the main issue isn’t it.

We live in a world of endless, free information. Most of which is completely wrong. But because we have become used to getting that information instantly and then moving onto the next thing, and we no longer have to travel to the library to get it, we take the headlines as gospel and don’t dig deeply into the subject.

Actually, wait a minute. I don’t do that. I am obsessed with stuff that I’m interested in. So I immediately get cynical about anything I read and I go off to do my own digging on the subject. And doing this means I realise how often the information we read online is just plain wrong.

Which leads us back to Paul’s point – most advice is too prescriptive. Not only because what works for me most probably won’t work for you. But also because the information – about diet, health, science – is most likely wrong.

The next time you’re reading something online it pays dividends to question the information and go and find your own answer. You’ll be surprised what you find. And hey, it’s that type of inquisitiveness that drives most of us to start blogging.

Here is a bloody great book about how quacks and alternative therapists can use fake and bad science to fool us into buying their stuff – Bad Science, by Ben Goldacre.

Joseph Pack

I’m an indie maker with a CMO day job. Being blessed (occasionally cursed) with Asperger’s and ADHD means I view the world a little differently. If you found this article useful, subscribe to my weekly newsletter about creativity, persuasion, emotional intelligence and other essential soft skills.