advice and skin in the game

From Nassim Taleb's incredible book Antifragile:

“The psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer has a simple heuristic. Never ask the doctor what you should do. Ask him what he would do if he were in your place. You would be surprised at the difference."

A strange feature of growing into "adulthood" is the increasing presence of people willing to dispense advice.

Often, this advice seems to act as a socialization scheme to convert crazy, idealistic young folk into jaded, play-within-the-rules social climbers. Eager advice-givers often frame their advice as answers, rather than questions. They cite their decades of experience rather than the principles guiding their thought processes.

Nowhere else is this more prevalent than in New York City. It's also prevalent in Silicon Valley, though in its own weird way where "disruption" and "breaking the rules" all ends up looking the same way.

The truth, however, is that not all advice is created the same. Usually, the primary purpose of advice is to tell you more about the person giving it than to provide deeper value to the person receiving it.

Advice tells you what kind of skin the giver has in the game of giving advice. What does this person have to gain or lose from dispensing "wisdom?" 

A grumpy but well-intentioned veteran teacher once watched me teach a lesson on linear equations. After class, she chided me for trying too hard to build rapport with the students.
"They will eat you for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Just give it a couple more weeks. I highly suggest you cut out the summer camp feel-good stuff."
Later that same day, another teacher came to observe my classroom (I enjoyed having veterans watch my classes; it helped me gauge how badly I was sucking). She was one of the most loved teachers at the school; her no-nonsense yet nurturing personality made it difficult for anyone to not want to make her happy. This was her advice for me:
"I really like what you're trying to do to get the kids involved, but you still have a long ways to go. Don't fall in the trap of structure. Learn to embrace and orchestrate the chaos. Kids don't learn passively; you need to get their energy levels up, then manage that energy."
And then she offered to show me how to do it. 

The very next day, she taught a lesson to my first period class. It was organized chaos. Students clambering out of their seats to get a better look at the board; kids yelling out answers, then quickly covering their mouths (because they knew they shouldn't have blurted it out). 

Yet the teacher was in complete control. She already knew every single student by name and had already developed strong relationships with most of them. So a single stern look immediately translated to "I love you, but if you don't shut up, me and your mom are going to have a chat later this week."

Everything I had been told about these types of scenes - that they only happen in movies - was pretty much demonstrated to be false. Sure, every day can't look like this, but this teacher showed me it can actually happen in real life.

This teacher had skin in the game. Whatever she presented to me as a theory, she had actually successfully practiced in the past, and continues to practice in the present. That's advice I can get behind.