5 Pieces of Advice That Aren’t Cliches


“It is easy when we are in prosperity to give advice to the afflicted.” ~Aeschylus

Earlier this year I got some feedback from the ‘tween magazine I wrote for: “It sounds like good advice, but kids probably won’t do any of that.”

In my head it all sounded logical but I didn't consider whether I'd have taken that advice as a kid. Or now, for that matter.

People do it all the time: look at a situation from a removed, non-emotional place and hurl suggestions that are far easier said than done. And sometimes, just plain unrealistic.

I’ve listed five of these hard-to-follow, cliché pieces of advice, along with alternative suggestions you may actually be inclined to take.

1. Don’t worry about what other people think.

Unless you are a complete narcissist you will likely never master this one. Try as you may to turn off the part of your brain that thinks about other people’s perceptions, you will always care on some level.

This is a good thing. It’s what allows us to feel compassion. It reminds us to consider other people before we make choices that could be hurtful. It humbles us and reminds us to be better every day, both for ourselves and the people around us.

Instead of trying not to worry about what people think, learn to filter your worries into two buckets in your head:

Worry you can channel for something good.

If you’re worried that your employer thinks you’re incompetent because you did poorly on your last task, turn it into determination to improve. If you’re worried your friend’s upset because you forgot her birthday, put that feeling into a belated card and let her know how much she means to you.

Worry you need to let go of.

You experience this when you’re worried about strangers’ perceptions, for example. You can’t strong-arm strangers into seeing you the way you want to be seen. You can only work harder to actually be that person. Put your energy into that and let your worry fade behind your efforts as best you can.

2. You don’t need other people to make you happy.

Derivatives of this advice include: Be your own best friend. All you need is you. Complete yourself. All wonderful platitudes that may make you feel empowered and strong for a while.

And maybe for longer, if you’re not one of these people Barbara Streisand sings about. You know: people who need people. Most of us do need people. Maybe not to be complete, but to feel a sense of connection.

Instead of trying to be an army of one, work on depending on yourself and needing people simultaneously. Devote time to the things that make you happy, and risk letting other people be a large part of that.

If you walk around thinking,I don’t need anyone” you might close yourself off from potentially deep and amazing connections.

It’s like Christopher McCandless said: true happiness is shared. Find your own happiness and let people give it to you, too.

3. Do what you love and the money will follow.

Forgive me for not sugar-coating, but this is a complete fallacy. You’re more likely to make money if you do something you love because you’ll put your heart in it, even when things get tough—which means you’ll keep going long enough to see some type of reward. But there’s no guarantee here.

If this statement were universally true there would be no starving artists. No crowds of hopefuls at American Idol auditions.

Passion is not a magic potion that ensures you’ll be successful. It helps your cause, but it can't support it alone. Most people don’t stumble into acclaim or wealth; a very small percentage of the world was at one point discovered by someone and then handed success.

If what you want is money, work hard at whatever you do, whether you love it or not. You’ll probably need to arrive earlier and leave later than other people. You’ll have to sacrifice other things in your life, like time with your family and friends.

If you do what you love and work hard, then the money may follow. If you do what you love and balance work with play, you’ll likely make enough money to be comfortable and happy.

4. Smile and the whole world smiles with you.

You probably have a very nice smile, but odds are it won’t spontaneously inspire seven billion people to follow suit—or even the fifty people in your vicinity. Maybe not even the four people in your living room.

Don’t get me wrong; smiling is often contagious. Someone who is in a good mood can very easily uplift people in her midst, but it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes, try as you may to share positive energy, the people around you stay stubbornly immersed in their own negativity.

A better piece of advice: smile and accept that some people may act in opposition. Those people may stay upset or bitter about whatever they’re holding onto. They may even be annoyed by your good mood because they can’t find it within them to let go of their pain.

But you will affect others. And inspire them. And motivate them to find and hold onto happiness. Act for yourself and those people. It’s not the whole world, but it’s a whole lot to fill your heart with.

Okay, this is just four—I'm leaving the fifth up to you. I’m sure you can think of a lot more advice that sounds good on paper but doesn’t apply so easily to real-world situations. Add them in the comments. You get what you give. (Another cliché—true or not?)

Photos found here and here.

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • Ladyblink

    My favourite two pieces of advice are ones that my father continually reinforced throughout my childhood and teenage years. As I have grown older, I find myself still turning back to these two pieces of advice:
    1. It's all about attitude. While you can't change what has already happened, you can change the way you deal with it. He always told me, if you think you can do it, you can. If you think you can't, you can't.

    2. “Let it be like water off of a duck's back” In other words, don't let things that other people say about you bother you. Don't let the fact that you haven't made it to where you want to be bother you. It is kind of related to the first piece of advice but for me, it is the visualization that I get from this phrase that helps me actually achieve the meaning.

  • Stormy

    GREAT post today! Thank you for taking a real-life perspective. Now, this advice I can hold onto.

  • u get what you give: or you get back what you give out, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, tit for tat….

    1.i also think we “get” what we need to learn from, which can often be a diversion from the way we generally are or treat people & situations.
    2.i also do not like the attachment in this statement to what we do- that we will get it back. i gave 5 bucks to a homeless person the other week- yes- it made both of us feel great- did i care if i got the 5 bucks back? no! not on my mind- but what if it was? you could get quite bitter if you expected to get back all that you gave out. maybe i got my 5 bucks back with a sense of well being for not abandoning someone that needed help.
    but it is not “tit for tat”

    other then that- i DO believe in balance and reflecting or mirroring of actions and emotions. the attitude in which we function DOES affect those situations. so when you give or share- i would just be aware of the intention or expectations you have surrounding that action. that is where the difference may lie:) not what comes back- but your perspective on it.

  • This is fantastic. The best is response to “Do what you love the money will follow,” BS!

  • Hi Jane. I love what you've discussed here, particularly the part about our emotions and attitudes affecting situations. I think people often assume it's the opposite–that situations create our feelings, which isn't always true. We have far more power than we think! Thank you for offering your thoughts…and Happy New Year!

  • Your number one reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.”

    This has been tremendously helpful to me through the years when I've difficult circumstances to deal with.

    I never heard your second piece of advice, but it sounds very wise!

  • Awesome! I'm glad it resonated with you. Happy 2010!

  • Thanks Tess! I think a lot of people hold onto that popular misconception and find themselves misguided and disappointed.

  • Nikki Fuller

    Great post, great comments. Coming to Tiny Buddha always makes me think carefully about things, and always make me happy as well! Happy 2010 Lori!!

  • That's awesome Nikki! I'm so glad you like the site. Happy 2010 to you, too! Hope your year's off to a great start.

  • That's awesome Nikki! I'm so glad you like the site. Happy 2010 to you, too! Hope your year's off to a great start.

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  • Jen_Arg

    nice! but im gonna have to disagree with the …passion isnt enough because according to the laws of the universe, the reason people dont succed financially while doing what the love is because you are too scared of failure which is what the universe keep delivering to you..not because it cant happen.

  • Hi Jen!

    I think we may see things a little differently in this regard. I don’t believe that the universe delivers anything unless we go out and grab it. And I think that sometimes, even if we’ve put in our best efforts, things don’t work out.

    I’ve known some people who put years and all their heart into creative fields, like acting and singing–without any fear of failure–who never succeeded financially. It wasn’t for lack of passion, courage or whatever. It was just that they were in competitive fields, and as much as we’d like to think reward is always on the other side of hard work, there are no guaranteed outcomes in life. There are likely outcomes, but none that are guaranteed.

    But as I said, this is just how I see it.

    Thanks for reading. I hope you’re having a great weekend!

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  • My most often shared piece of advice is from a scene in House Party 3. This is one of my personal tennets, though sometimes it proves difficult to abide by. (Disclaimer: NSFW language)

    I take it to mean: If you are a good person, and you’re doing things that make you happy, and you’re doing no harm, then if people still don’t like you, oh well.

  • bud-ahh

    4. Smile and the whole world smiles with you.

    The correct saying, and it is a saying rather than a cliche, is:

    “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you weep alone.”

    It is not meant to be taken literally, rather to point out something obvious and seemingly true in human behaviour as good advice. Basically people will tend to prefer positive over negative. Especially when it is your reaction to ridicule or jokes being played on you. Better to laugh than to take yourself too seriously and risk crying.

  • James Jiao

    Thank you Lori… but where is the fifth piece of advice? I can’t seem to see it anywhere.

  • You’re most welcome! Check out the final paragraph…

  • Bender Rodriguez

    The most lazy response a listener can give to someone who is venting or confiding is “Oh, don’t let it bother you!” It’s like saying, “You feel that way? Then stop feeling that way.” Oh, that easy, huh?!


    The best thing you can do for most people is listen to the woes, find something in there that is human nature that you identify with, point out, “Yes, I can see how that can be bothersome, try as you might to ignore it. People can be bothersome. Overcoming it is the hard part. Any ideas?” And then let them continue to work it out. If they ask, give a suggestion (and not “Other people have it worse.”)

    Other people may respond well to other tactics such as going out with the boys/girls, shooting hoops, a cathartic trash-talking session, what have you. Never, “Don’t let it bother you.”

    “Don’t let it bother you” is uttered by clueless people who would not like it if told the same thing if in the middle of their own hurt feelings.

  • Nick

    tits for that

  • Niji Potamus

    Do unto others as you would have them do into you; or rather don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.

    The latter is always true, while the former is wishful thinking and almost never pan out(because it’s a self interest and entitled way of thinking, well potentially it’s also incredibly dangerous if you are a masochist or sducidal since you would try to kill and harm others if you followed that motto). Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you is very reliable. Most or perhaps all humans(that is ones that are not are abberitions or perhaps new/different creatures and not Homo Sapiens) are mirrors of their environment and reflect how they are treated and how they were treated by others. You often here “being with you makes me a better person when you are around” and they are a terrible human being otherwise. This is the power in how you treat another and others mere presence affects you. So if you don’t want to be treated poorly by someone don’t treat them poorly. But treating them how you want to be treated won’t make them treat you that way but NOT treating them how you DONT want to be treated is wildly sucessful as humans respond in preset ways to certain treatment and avoiding them by being savy about how you treat someone will make them treat you makes it easy to avoid an individuals conditioned response to your behavior, but you can’t know if how you want them to treat you is even in their ability (or anyone’s) at all, where as the avoidant things are ever present in most humans since all most all humans have to go through the same detrimental stimulus and environments while any humans that have had compatible beneficial ones vary wildly. The golden rule might have sucess of you specifically encounter someone that believes in ENFORCING it “I will treat others exactly how they treat me..” But following the confusciousism secures that the majority of humanity will not treat you how you don’t want to be treated so long as you are not treating them that way. If you manage to remake yourself to do both by reworking your view of how to interact with fellow humans you might be a little more sucessful than either method. Treating others how you want to be treated is a surefire way to get an opposite or wildly different treatment than you are “expecting” actually.

  • Niji Potamus

    The universe and life in general is entirely dynamic and doesn’t have “rules” as you are trying to use the word. “Go with the flow” might better sum up how it is. Keeping in mind the flow is a raging maelstrom some of the “time” =]