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All About Context: Why Startups Must Take Their Own Advice To Succeed

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The thing that frustrates me the most about people dishing out advice is the lack of context the advice is given with. People tend to give advice to others without taking into account the situation they are in.

“You should follow your dreams and quit your job” could be a terrible piece of advice, if you’re a 20-year-old, single mother who has no financial support.

“You should focus on 20 percent of the results” is a direct contradiction to “be detail-oriented.” Yet, both are common pieces of advice in the startup community.

Take, for example, "Give the people what they want." What if customers want faster horses, but need cars? This is a classic example that throws core advice out the window.

“Make something people want” is great advice, if you know what to listen for, and if you can conduct customer interviews very well. Yet, many people don't do that.

Here’s another example. Many young, first-time founders take the lean start-up philosophy to the absolute extreme. There are important parts of the hiring process that should not be done “the minimum viable” way. Bad hiring kills startups all the time.

There are countless articles on why failure is good for success. But I disagree.

Failure is a negative thing, by definition. The opportunity to learn is good, but it is by no means exclusive to failing. If you’re going to fail, you should learn from it. That’s the only context in which it is “good."

People who are searching for advice also need to stop viewing advice as their potential silver bullets. There is no silver bullet, so get to work.

Most people ask for advice as easier alternatives to putting their heads down and getting to work.

What action can we all take to better understand if a piece of advice should be taken in context?

A lot of it just comes down to understanding your own context and your own problems really well. The vast majority of us fail to take the time to put things into context because we’ll get caught up in the moment, or blindly accept advice based on someone’s reputation.

That being said, let’s pull things back into context. Take advice based on your own situations, no one else's.