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Has anyone ever received good advice?

People are always offering advice.  Heck, I am always offering advice.  People are always asking for advice.  I have received lots of advice.  I think sometimes the asking for and receiving advice is more of an emotional exchange, i.e. not oriented around solving a problem so much as a reality check, a plea for empathy or just an opportunity to vent rage.

My question is, have any of you ever receieved good, problem solving advice.  You had a problem.  You asked someone for advice.  You applied the advice.  This application of the advice solved the problem.  It is also fair to answer with repeating advice.  This is advice that solved a problem for you and continues to work time after time.

name withheld out of cowardice
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

If it doesn't work;
1. Is it plugged in?
2. Is it turned on?
3. Has the circuit breaker tripped?
In this case the advice/problem solving tree was in regards to electrical equipment but it can be adapted to networking and debugging and I have done so regularly and caught low level problems that I and others were missing because we were busy looking for problems in code/dns etc.  Sometimes it really helps to ask and answer the "stupid" questions first before you start to figure out what went wrong. Certainly, if you are going round and round on something go back and make sure you know the answer to all of those questions. 

K
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftware/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=3724

In this thread, back when I was Mark W and not www.MarkTAW.com, I outlined in post 4121 a chapter from a book I read about how to clearly communicate goals. The book itself is on decision making and, as always, I highly recommend it to anyone. This chapter outlines a process developed for the US Army for issuing orders.

From then until now, this one chapter has saved me countless hours in "figuring out what they really want," or explaining to someone what I want.

I would say 2 years qualifies as "continues to work."

www.MarkTAW.com
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

My dad gave me this advice when I was a teenager. Like most teenagers, I didn't realize the value of it until I was in my 30's:

1) Assume nothing
2) Follow up and check

If you follow those, it will probably solve a majority of your problems before they happen.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

"You applied the advice."

I have given plenty of advices.  The problem is applying them.  I do not give easy advices.  I give them the RIGHT advices.

But then I feel they do not listen to my advices sufficiently to justify me wasting my time here giving advices.

So I got a new job giving advices for pay.

:)

T.J.
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

My advice to T.J. is to learn that the plural of advice is "advice".

Save Our Language
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Ah yes, the classic "insult disguised as advice"!

name withheld out of cowardice
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

"Wise men don't need advice, and fools don't heed it, so why give it?"

Attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but it seems too trivial for him so I'm not sure it should be. Any other suggestions?

David Roper
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Philo, you nailed it.

Advice is great because it allows you to evaluate another's experience while solving your problem.  However, you must realize that that experience came from another fallible human.  So ... caveat emptor (caveat advisee?).

Karl Perry
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I dunno.  "Assume nothing?"  Seems problematic if taken literally.  Besides which this kind of advice is vague and unpracticeable.  It's more of a platitude than advice. Well number one anyway.  Checking and following up is practiceable and probably good advice.

name withheld out of cowardice
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

"Well, I'm sure the demo machine will have a CD drive, so..."

"I'm sure there will be a power outlet in the room we give the demo in..."

"I'm sure there's another copy of Visual Studio at the office..."

I understand what you're saying - "can we assume there's oxygen in the demo room?" but let's not be silly - IMHO one thing that differentiates a professional from an amateur is their preparation, which stems from not assuming anything. An experienced professional will ask the questions to ensure he's properly prepared, and then will bring the things he needs to cover all the other eventualities.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I don't know if this is advice per se since it wasn't vocal, but it was a good lesson. In my first job out of college as an electrical engineer (before being swallowed in the software world), I had a crisis assignment to debug a batch of 20 new circuit boards on a Saturday. There was one very experienced technician there for the day also.

I plugged in the first board and set to work with scope and logic analyzer, getting very involved in the theory of how everything worked. An hour later, the technician takes the other 19 boards and says, "I'll just have a look at these OK?"

While I spent another hour on the first board, he ran about 12 boards through the self test, eyeballed obvious errors on several more and had it down to 2 or 3 that needed real work. I could tell from the look in his eye he intended to teach me a lesson, but he was too nice to say anything.

1. Look for obvious things first.
2. Experience counts, sometimes more than energy or smarts.
3. Look at the whole picture and prioritize.

sgf
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Two pieces of advice that I first ignored but learned to appreciate later:

1. Instead of always thinking "How shall I code up this functionality?", try thinking "How would I write a program to generate the code for this functionality?".

2. Never participate in online discussions.

Sven G. Ali
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

People never ask for advice unless they already know what they want to do.

Doug Withau
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

My advice is to ignore all advice.

Jussi (www.zeusedit.com)
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom s. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own.
-- Nelson Algren

The best advisers, helpers and friends, always are not those who tell us how to act in special cases, but who give us, out of themselves, the ardent spirit and desire to act right, and leave us then, even through many blunders, to find out what our own form of right action is.
-- Phillips Brooks

Tapiwa
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I don't think you need to get silly to see the problem with "assuming nothing".  I think more properly you must check your assumptions.  If you are entering a situation such as a presentation you want to figure out what your assumptions are and then question whether any of them might be wrong.  For example, you assume there will be power available in the room during your presentation.  Without power you cannot present.  Are there such things as power failures?  Yes there are.  Does this mean you should not assume that power will be available and maybe bring your own generator?  I would say no.  You check your assumption and see that even if it turns out to be wrong you will just have to reschedule.

I am not making a simply pedantic point here.  I believe a lot of advice is simplistic and offers a consistent aspect which is not really practical to implement.

name withheld out of cowardice
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Thank you for your free advice.  ;-)

T.J.
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Don't tug on Superman's cape, don't spit in the wind and always remember to wipe when you get off the pot.

Pepe Le'Pew
Thursday, March 04, 2004

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