"Life’s too short to make all the mistakes yourself."
-Geoffrey Woo

Today's topic is around the idea that life is too short to make all the mistakes yourself. So what is the best approach framework thought process to learn and take advice?

I'm going to break down this talk into two parts, which is one how to best receive and understand and, make advice useful and that the consideration and thoughts of how to select the inputs of information and how to open up and how to foster these types of relationships. And the second part, talking about how to give advice. And I've been very fortunate over the years to receive a lot of good advice, some bad advice as well, and in a more recent lucky position where I have enough battle scars, thoughts, ideas, where my advice could be useful for some folks, whether that's in health, human performance, startups, all of the experiences that I might have a little bit of experience in.

So let's get started because life is so short. It's too short to make all the mistakes yourself. How do we best learn from other people's mistakes? Absorb those pains, absorb those scars. We don't have to make our own mistakes to understand those lessons.


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How to seek advice? And when people think about advice, they think, Oh, I need a mentor. I need a Elon Musk, I need Kanye West, I need Michelle Obama to be my personal mentor. And I'm going to go try to be their friend and try to sit down for a coffee or a phone call now that is unrealistic and not a very useful format to seek advice and advice doesn't have to be given in-person advice is simply information transferred from one person experience to another. And that information can be stored embedded transmitted through video, through a podcast or YouTube channel, through a book. And that's where I want to open up the scope of this conversation, which is that oftentimes the best advice is in timeless Lindy books that have passed down and stood the test of time for thousands of years. For example, Marcus releases meditation's, very interesting work and very interesting to understand the mindset of a Roman emperor whose empire is crumbling and being invaded by barbarians. Very interesting, framework to deal with, resilience, stress, and the stoicism how to fight through all of that exogenous external conflict. For example, and I would say that oftentimes a lot of the holy texts are oftentimes very useful inspirations in terms of getting advice of how to live a well lived life. So the point here is that advice is not, Hey, I need to talk to a person I have respect and sit down with them. And because that's too high of a bar, I can get a sit down meeting with Elon Musk. I can't get a sit down meeting with Michelle Obama. So do I just give up? no, I look and seek for ways to understand their mindset through their work, through their literature, through their writings, through their interviews and start getting a template model of how they approach how they think and have that character in my brain. So it can have an internal dialogue of me with my mental model of how someone like Marcus really is, or Michelle Obama or Jay Z or Oprah would deal with some of the problems that I might be dealing with on a personal basis.

So that's important fact one, but that's very broad, right? If I have a book of Marcus Relius or try to build a mental model of a Michelle Obama in my head, that’s not actually useful if I’m trying to take and solve day-to-day problems. So I think that's where the difference or the nuance should be further explored. So general frameworks, general holistic thoughts around how to live a well live life. How to general deal with classes of problems, right? Oh, how should I deal with someone being mean to me? How should I deal with this type of general business problem? How should I deal with this type of health problem? Sure. A book that's in personal could be useful to at least oriented self towards a frame.

Now, what should we do when there's an actual tactical specific issue that we want to work through? And that's where a general advice is not as useful. So this is important to then figure out who are your confidence you can talk to on a synchronous live basis and actually problem solve together. Now there's two things to consider when you let people into that fold. And it's a pretty simple checklist for me. And this is something that I think we all should do more formally because if you take the wrong advice, it's oftentimes backfires and makes the initial problem even worse. Not let me tell you why, one, when I take advice from people, I first need to understand my own mental state. I need to be self-aware of what I want out of this advice session. Oftentimes we just want self-affirmation we just want a yes person to say, Hey, Geoff, you're really smart. Do what you wanted to do, which is fine. Sometimes we just need that support and a cheerleader. But oftentimes it's not that we actually want to learn. We actually have confusion. We actually have doubt. So understand what you want personally, out of that advice. And that takes some self-awareness. You need to really self analyze and say, Hey, do I just want a cheerleader here, or to actually want to have my assumptions, my thought process, my framework, challenged and potentially reversed. So you need to understand where you are at

Now after doing that self work, that self-analysis. Now you need to understand who to talk with and do they have enough context to actually understand your situation? Now, most people do not care enough. You don't have enough context. Do not have enough experience to give you actually useful advice. Oftentimes if the person giving advice is not a domain expert in your area, nor do they have enough context to actually understand your specific problem. They're random spouting of general maxums or aphorisms are not useful. Oftentimes they will back fire because they're dealing with less information, less skin in the game to actually think through the problem, to the level that you've already thought through. Right? So I’m assuming that if you're trying to seek advice on a problem that you're facing, you probably have a lot of skill and gave me probably care a lot. You probably thought through this much more than some arbitrary person that you're talking to, because one, you have a lot of skin in the game. Two, you've thought through a lot of scenarios. Three, you have the deepest context of all the little idiosyncrasies of your specific situation. And four, you probably have some expertise in this area. So when I seek advice on a specific physiology problem or a business problem or a negotiation problem, I have to think who in my network is actually a subject matter expert. For example, Tom Brady, greatest quarterback of all time, but I'm not necessarily gonna come to him to talk about ecommerce infrastructure, right? Because although he is the best at his field of American football, of the practical applications of longevity, he isn't necessarily an e-commerce expert. And I would also say he's not necessarily expert physiologists or sports nutritionist to maybe give comments on what is the best diet for a holistic population, right? You have to understand where that person is specifically a world expert send that expertise does not necessarily translate to everything else. So you gotta be smart about that. So yes, practical applications of longevity, I'm going to listen to Tom Brady, but advice around clinical trials for different molecules, for small drug development for longevity, I'm going to talk to an academic or a clinician who's actually doing this on a day-to-day basis, not someone who is a specimen of this concept, but someone who's actually implementing and seeing data there. So that's very important. You need to choose and talk with people that actually have expertise in the problem that you're trying to solve. So whether that's nutrition, talk to someone who actually seen and track data around their weight management or their body composition, right?

And I think this is where it's interesting when I look at practitioners or clinicians who aren't healthy, especially when it comes to health or weight, if they're not really walking the walk and they’re giving you the talk that is less credible to me. If you cannot implement this in your own life of being fit of being healthy, then it’s hard for me to take your advice seriously, because one, your advice doesn't work because it clearly has not worked for you or two, you don't actually believe it. You're not actually implementing it. So that's important too, when you take advice, take it from advice that from people who actually have credibility reputation, actually walk the walk.

So already limits the box of people that you should consult with. Of course you need to trust and have like an actual relationship there. I think this goes into part two, which is that they have to understand enough context of your specific situation. So you could talk to me about a startup problem or something about fasting or ketogenic diet. And, you know, I would say that I am fairly expert in the practical applications, as well as the physiology of ketogenic diet fasting. I'm a published scientist in the space. I've seen probably as much data as anyone now over the last seven years, looking at academic data, anecdotal data and seeing the applications at the very, very high end of elite military, elite athletics. So in that sense, I am, I would say, right reasonably qualified to comment and give advice on this general. But if I do not know your specific context or issue, it's hard for anyone to actually give specific advice. So for example, if an arbitrary person says, Hey, should I use a ketogenic diet? Should I fast? I can give you the general holistic answer for the pot general average American, which is okay, you're 75% of us are overweight obese. 33% of us are pre-diabetic, 80% of our metabolic syndrome. I'll probably cater an answer to that average American. But if you're a tour de France athlete, if you're an MMA fighter, if you're a boxer, you're a Olympic power lifting athlete, I'm going to have a very different nuanced answer and advice for you. So when you take advice from someone who is a qualified expert, in your opinion, you have to give them enough context, all the details that you've thought through that you've considered all the variables and make sure they have enough of that context that actually comment intelligently. So this part is important because you might have someone in your life that is an expert under space, but if they do not have enough context or do not care enough to actually dive into your life, understand the issue, then they're not going to give you the quality of advice that you're really rying to steek. So that's the one, two punch, right?

So internally you need to understand, are you looking for a yes man or a yes woman, or are you actually seeing it to learn and put yourself in the mind a self-awareness to actually understand what you're trying to get out of an advice session, and then, two assess them. Are they qualified to actually be an expert in the area that you're trying to solve? And then two, are you giving them enough context? And I think that's an essentially important thing to talk about because oftentimes if you're proud and have an ego, you don't want to share all your problems. So you're hiding or you're being overly optimistic, or you're kind of hand-waving through some of the more critical pieces of information and that backfires, right? Because if you're not actually going to the root issues that you're trying to solve, how can someone actually help you, right? If you're lying to yourself and then lying to the person that you're trying to get advice from about your situation, you're trying to make it not sound as bad. Cause you want to be embarrassed. You want to look like incompetent or stupid. I think that's something that you need to be self-aware about and work through internally. So you can resolve that insecurity to actually get advice from someone that you trust and care about. So they can actually reciprocate that trust and care and help you out. So those are some of the considerations and frameworks of how I think abot receiving advice, right?

So as a summary here, advice is simply transfer between another lived experience of human to you. And that can be transmitted through texts, writing, audio, conversation in person. Now, obviously when you actually go to bespoke tactical advice and not just general frameworks, that's where a conversation needs to happen. And I walked through considerations of how to choose the people that you want to open up to. And what are the important things to take into consideration when you open up to them. So you can actually have a full context dump so they can actually work through the problem with you. And maybe that's like the one last point that I'll leave there, which is that talking through and solving the problem together is often the best framework for advice. When you know personal mentors, advisors of mine, Alex Cronguard oftentimes when I have periods of doubt, insecurity, fear, stress, often I think we worked through the problem together, and that is kind of the right framework to think about it, which is that you can't really come into conversation and being like, Hey, I am helpless. Save me. You have to actually work through the problem together because the person giving you advice, can't run your life for you, right? Like it's your life to live. So you need to work through with your advisors, your mentors, to solve the problem together. So that's the last thing in terms of being a good mentee or advice taker, don't just come in, being helpless, come through with a problem agenda, Hey, this is how I'm thinking about it. This is, these are the considerations. These are possible scenarios work through that together. So hopefully that is helpful from an advice taking perspective.

Now, let's talk about the inverse, which is giving advice. And this is especially important in this day and age where I would argue that there's more noise than ever, and there's a lot of bad information or fake news out there. So we need to be thoughtful around when we are open-minded and ready to have a fair dialogue and give people the space and area and oxygen to breathe. And also when we have to be more closed minded, meaning that we have to focus on what is the task at hand, and we do not want to be distracted by the noise, and this might sound like I'm narrow-minded or provincial, but I think this is a very modern problem where this is actually just keeping sane. You cannot expect to have an information drip of constant noise coming into your head. So my thought of being narrow-minded and open-minded is a reaction to the overwhelming information dump where algorithms machine learning is designed to steal your attention from you as much as possible for some of the biggest tech companies business models.

So this is not some aesthetic philosophical reason to say we should be closed minded. It is saying that we have to be closed minded to stay sane in the modern intellectual information economy. So we need to understand and be self-aware. When is the right time to be open-minded open for debate, open for new information, and when we need to actually be noise canceling, calm things down, be in our own mind headspace actually think through problems from first principles. And that's where I think about when I'm in a position where I'm asked to give advice, because there's so much noise out there already. I want my information, my advice to not add to what I see as a negative part of too much information. I want my voice, my ideas to be clear, crisp, and useful.

So just like you can be a good advice seeker, advice learner, I think there are some attributes on being a good advice giver. And just like, there's a series of questions that you should tick through as you're taking advice, there’s the same almost analogous inverse take a questions on the giving side. Again, there's multiple different mediums you can play with, right? With a podcast or a YouTube channel or a conversation, I can scale out the advice at least from a holistic framework perspective, and spend 20-30 minutes talking through an idea and have this information be the source of stored archives searchable for tens of thousands of hundreds of thousands of listeners down the line as that as opposed to, Hey, I need to schedule 30 minutes in series and my time is so limited to be able to do that. So we can play with the mediums.

And then a second question to think about is why do you want to give advice? And just like, there's an ego protection on the advice seat, taking side. I think there is a responsibility to understand why do people even want to give advice? And I think for better, or for worse, a lot of people like the ego rush of bossing other people around, and I don't think that's a bad thing, necessarily. Ego is part of the human experience. We all have egos, but I think it is important to understand that you don't use your ego to then put people down when you're giving them advice. You need to understand that, Hey, someone's opening up to you. Don't just show off your ego and become overly arrogant and overly proud and have hubris because someone else is putting you up on a pedestal where you're taking their advice. I think the sensible approach is yes, understanding there's an ego component, but there should be a deeper alignment, deeper meaning there, which is that, is there a shared alignment or dream with the person you're having a conversation with. I think that is oftentimes the most common context in which people actually have advice conversation where we share business interests, right? We're on the same team or we share a philosophy of how to best build our community and society, we have a shared philosophy on nutrition, right? Like we think that fasting windows, we think reducing refined carbohydrates would be a better type of food culture that we should all live in. And if we can solve that, we can change the shape of our healthcare system and every day livelihood by improving the quality of life where no one has where we reduce the chronic condition rates. Right? So like there is a shared alignment of why we were even having a conversation spending time together. Or it's you genuinely care for the best of the other person, which I think is like the most rare altruistic form. Right? I think a lot of people give advice because of ego. I think a lot of people give advice because there's a shared economic or philosophical interests where if I help you succeed, I get a piece of the skin, I have some skin in the game or it helps move my agenda forward. So again, knock on that type of shared interest or alignment of values, but something to just call out specifically as, uh, a context of why you're giving advice. And I think what's most rare is just generally caring. So this is likely a family member or close friend where you literally just want to see them succeed because you care for them.

And I think the world would be much more compassionate and understanding place if we all open ourselves up to that kind of vulnerability of more of these class three, Hey, I'm just spending my time to be in your shoes, really understand your situation and just genuinely wanting the best for you, even if it's at the discount of my personal interests. So those are important to go through again, from a self-awareness perspective on why you're giving advice.

And then again, I think just like taking advice, are you actually qualified to give advice on this topic? Or you just BSing, right? Does the person want just affirmation and a cheerleader or do they actually want to problem solve with you? So I think as an advice giver, you should run through that same exercise. Hey, Geoff, do you just want a friend? You want a support? I I'm your I'm your cheerleader, right? And just understanding if that's what they actually want and you can play that role. Great! Or, Hey, you actually want me to problem solve with you. You gotta think, Hey, am I even qualified to help here? And then two, do I have enough information before I start spouting off random ideas to actually understand and genuinely care enough to solve that specific problem? So those I think are just super important because I think it's too flippant to just share bad advice around that backfires for people.

And lastly, and this is something that I'm imperfect on and continually improve on, which is how do you best communicate to that person? And my style is generally more direct, more blunt. To me, there's something powerful and just being blunt direct and shaking people out of their stupore, they're complacency, but often that sometimes doesn't work on different types of people where they want more of a congenial approach to taking advice.

So for me, it's personally as an area of improvement is if I am caring enough to spend my time giving advice, I need to be thoughtful on the form, tone, a way to deliver the advice. And that's just because I want to maintain as high fidelity of communication and transmission of information of my head to yours. And if I'm not doing it in transmitting it properly, then it defeats the purpose. So it's not like PC or tone police or being snowflakes about talking. But I think there isn't part to deliver clear, concise, precise language, precise advice without stepping in the lines of being patronizing aggressive blunt, because people get defensive. Now they close off because it's too direct, too aggressive. So that is something that I think we can all can improve on this. And I know that's something that I explicitly want to improve on, which is that we have very cool, you know, arguably clear ideas in our heads. And it's important how we can translate that into the very imprecise, fuzzy, language of human language, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, these are encapsulations of emotions are so complex. So the words, the vocal sounds coming out of my voice right now are very imprecise manifestations of deep complex ideas. So as we are both giving and receiving advice, understand, and this is my information theory computer science background guy coming out. Understand that the signal is imperfect because ideas are not perfectly captured by the English language. So there is some loss and understand that we can always improve to reduce the loss rate. So I think the dream state is something like a neural link or an ability to really translate the emotional and mental context of my brain into your brain and vice vers, and we can then truly walk in each other's shoes. That would be one very brave new world. Obviously, the technology is not going to exist for quite some time, if possible. But I think it is a good thought experiment to understand what I mean by perfect information state transfer. If that is the height, the clearest bar of communication that we want to reach, then we know that the precision, the diction, the word choice, the tone, the cadence of the words that we speak are so important to try to mimic and hit that bar of perfect mental, emotional state memory transfer as a form of communication.

So I'm going to wrap it up here and I hopefully gave you some food for thought in terms of how to maximize the lessons and pains and learnings from all of humanity. So each of us as individuals don't need to make all of those mistakes. My personal goal here is basically, life's too short to make everyone else's mistakes, If that cannot make everyone else's mistakes, and that's going to be putting in so much of a stronger starting position to accomplish and figure out your own personal life's mission and dream.

So hope this was useful. Hope this makes you a better advice seeker and a better advice giver, as if you liked this, please do share it with your friends. Hopefully this is useful to foster discussion between friend groups or family groups in terms of just giving better communication and better advice in between your trusted circles. So if you share this much appreciated, if you have comments, thoughts, feedback on my thoughts, framework of how I think about advice, comment tweet at me @geoffreywoo or @HVMN. As always stay resilient, stay thoughtful, keep moving forward and hope you have a great weekend.

Talk to you guys all very soon. Bye.