On Giving & Getting Advice

Today marks 17 years that I've been married to Melissa Lema – an incredible woman. In fact, friends of mine – upon meeting her – quietly let both of us know that were we to separate, they'd all (100%) choose her. This is not surprising once you meet her. She truly is amazing. So today I thought I would share a couple of quick insights on how to partner well (in life and in business). But that took me straight into another favorite topic – how to handle giving and getting advice.

So let's do this. First, I'll share a few insights on picking and being a great partner. Then I'll highlight a couple of lessons on how to give and how to benefit from advice.

Sound good? Let's do this.

2 Tips for partnering well

Being happily married for 17 years is a lot easier if you don't make it harder for yourself. (Brilliant, right?) So here are two tips to help you partner well – which apply in business as much as they do in marriage.

No debate is worth more than the relationship

When you're young, and most people get into business and marriage partnerships young, the need to be right feels of utmost importance. But as you mature, I'm pretty sure you'll agree with me that being right never ended up delivering the kind of results you hoped for.

The truth is that being right, especially on a debatable point, doesn't pay the dividends that you think it does. It's ego. And training your ego to let go of the gold medal spot will serve you tremendously.

Most fights just aren't worth it.

A friend, years ago, suggested I think of it this way – you have an old six-shooter. Six bullets. Those are the only ammunition you have for your fights (no, this isn't about shooting someone). Is the fight worth one of your silver bullets?

Most of the time, you find that it's not.

If you're going to have a debate with your partner, make sure it's worthy of being one of the six you'll ever have.

You control how you think about your partner

Maybe you've heard of the experiment where they brought couples into a room after giving them a script for a fake fight. These couples weren't in a fight. It was a script.

And further, the script was about a dog that the couple didn't have. These were dogless couples who were having a scripted non-fight over a fake dog.

With me so far?

And yet, after recording them fight over the non-existent dog, with the audio turned off, researches could, with greater than 80% accuracy, predict which couples would divorce in the next 5 years.


Simple. They looked for a micro-expression on either partner's face. Once they saw it, they knew it was over. Here's what it looks like, according to the Paul Ekman Group.

The idea is actually pretty simple. If you show disrespect for your partner, even during a fake fight over a non-existent dog, you'll likely do it again during real fights. And that lack of respect will lead to the kind of thinking that kills partnerships and relationships.

My second tip is really simple. You can't control your partner. You can't control your spouse. But you can control how you think. And if you consistently treat a partner with respect, if you hold them in the highest regard, consistently, you'll be in a good place to last the test of time.

What? No more advice?

I know, you're probably thinking – 2 pieces of advice? That's it? If you really want more leadership advice, check out my other blog on leadership (which I have to start writing on again). (Also, I have a blog filled with advice for my kids.)

But it does bring me to the other topic I mentioned at the start of the post – the art of giving and getting advice.

Me telling you tons of other tips on relationships will likely be useless to you because advice requires context. And it would take me hours to give you enough context so that you could appreciate the rest of the advice I could give you on relationships.

Advice should always come with context

When it comes to giving advice, we would all be wise to remember this. It's why so much of my advice follows a simple formula. First I tell you a story. Then I give you the moral of the story. But the point isn't to waste your time by talking so much before I give you my advice. The point is to ground the advice in the context.

If I tell you that I think you should sell your company, but you don't know the dynamics around the times I've sold companies I've been a part of, then you don't know where my advice is coming from.

If I tell you that I think in this case you shouldn't sell your company, but don't explain the context of where I've seen these red flags before, then it's just an opinion.

Either way, you hearing the context helps you determine if it's useful to you or not.

The job of getting advice is yours

The other day I gave advice, in the form of a blog post, on pricing for a SaaS product. It was both generic, and specific for a friend.

If you read that post, it has all the context I was just mentioning. But also, you'll note that by publishing a post, I was simply articulating my point of view. That's all I can do when giving advice.

Getting advice is on you. In other words, it's the job of the listener (or in this case, the reader) to determine whether the advice applies. What part applies? What part can be discarded?

Complaining that you got bad advice is, in my humble opinion, silly. The job of teasing out something you can use is not up to the giver of the advice. It's up to you.

Giving and getting advice

There are people who believe you shouldn't go around giving advice. They like to learn on their own, and often consider people like me (who are out there giving advice) unhelpful.

I get it. It's hard to give good advice. It requires a lot of listening. A lot of experience. And a lot of context creation before delivering advice.

But I'm not in that camp. Clearly. I give advice easily and often. That's because I'm in the other camp that thinks we'll all do better if we share what we've learned along the journey.

I hope these bits have helped you today.