It’s Time To Stop Being A Follower & Think For Yourself

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Cable television.


Your spouse’s mother’s college roommate’s second cousin’s husband.

There is an abundance of “sources” of information for every subject under the sun.

Some are just looking for attention by attaching themselves to a hot-button topic.

Some are reliable.

Some are just full of shit.

What many lacks, however, is a sense of reality.

The reality is that what they say, no matter the intention is almost certainly not going to be applicable to everyone who reads it.

Advice about money and any of those other topics have no meaning without context.

Without context, you in no way should take any information as being meant for you.

But why?

Let’s start with the meaning of context for the benefit of those who may not be familiar with the term.

Context is the set of circumstances surrounding the story or information which gives it meaning to a particular person or group.

A great example is newspaper article headlines: they are often sensationalized to attract attention, yet most of the time have a distinctly different tone or meaning than the articles themselves.

Here’s a perfect example that occurred during the NFL playoffs:

Headline: “Falcons Vs. Giants: Justin Tuck Calls Atlanta Linemen ‘Dirtbags”

Source from the article:

We know they have that quote-unquote reputation,” Tuck said. “But in a way it kind of is exciting. Most people, you would call them dirtbags. But it is what it is. We got to make sure we do our job and if we are doing our job well, then they will be upset and they will be trying to do things to get us off our game and we got to take that as a compliment. But in the same sense, you got to protect yourself and hopefully, the referees have 20-20 vision this week.

At no time did the quoted player, Justin Tuck, call the Atlanta Falcons “dirtbags”.

His actual message was that the players had a reputation and that most people would call them dirtbags based on that reputation.

The headline purposefully takes a portion of his quote out of context, which grabbed the readers’ attention but completely misguided them into thinking the article was about a war of words.

Because the context can be the difference between relevance to you and total rubbish and because the writers of most of these “informative” pieces don’t take you as an individual into consideration, you really need to learn to think for yourself instead of following this stuff blindly.

So, now that everyone has a better understanding of how context comes into play here, let’s get back to the original point…

It was fun as a kid to play follow the leader, but as grown-ups, we have a responsibility to break from that habit and learn to think for ourselves.

You need to stop being lazy!

Don’t simply follow the advice you see on the internet or hear on talk shows because it comes from some “financial guru”.

Don’t take someone’s word at face value just because their blog seems to be popular.

Don’t follow the plan that a person lays out just because it worked for them.

Don’t assume that anything you see, read, or hear is real until you examine it more closely to determine how it would impact your individual set of circumstances.

Anyone can tell the story of their neighbor, family member, friend, or co-worker.

That doesn’t make it 100% true.

Facts may be changed, left out, or exaggerated along the way.

Just think of that game telephone–how as the message gets relayed further away from the source it changes more and more.

Or how “eyewitness” testimony is usually the least accurate–everyone sees and interprets things from different vantage points, and has different prejudices and experiences which affect them differently.

Anyone can post a link to the IRS website and tell you to do this or do that–they don’t necessarily know what the heck the meaning behind it is, or how to apply the tax code.

They can tell you about this tax deduction or that credit but be inexperienced enough to not know that filing status, income, previous use of certain credits, etc. all may make their advice null and void in your case.

Many articles in money magazines are notorious for this–they simply don’t tell the whole story and give incomplete financial advice.

All television, radio, and print advertisements are marketing tricks meant to put products in the most favorable light possible.

They often leave out the negatives or at the very least either put disclaimers in microscopic fonts or use a speed talker to make the disclosures.

Remember, advertising is meant to attract consumers, not repel them by admitting that the product is not for everyone or revealing the not-so-perfect aspects.

Anyone can rattle off ways that they think you should handle money.

They tell you tales of how their life is so great because they do the things they do, but forsake the things they don’t do because they are a waste of money.

They don’t live in your shoes, they simply know what works for them.

Just because they are able to make it work doesn’t mean that you will be able to as well, or if you will even benefit from their methods.

Anyone can go on and on about a certain diet they used to lose weight quickly.

They can tell you all about the benefits of a certain nutritional supplement to improve this function, that function, or turn fat into muscle.

They don’t know what your medical history is, what your body needs and what it can’t be exposed to.

You may be on medication that can have adverse reactions to certain interactions.

Your situation is most likely very different from anyone else’s, no matter how similar it would appear on the surface.

You need to take the time and effort to do what applies and works for you (and your family).

Sure, it may be easier to blindly follow someone else’s “advice”, but that would just be a disservice to you and the ones who depend on you.

You owe it to them, as well as to yourself, to be diligent and make the right decisions but those decisions have to be right for you.

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  1. Yes media and marketers sure can be deceptive. It’s why I don’t feel so bad about not renewing my newspaper subscription. Most of it was just fluff propped up on an exciting headline.

    When you mentioned financial advice I couldn’t help but think of Dave Ramsey. His advice has become so popular that countless people take on his strategies just because he gets a lot of exposure. Really though, his strategies just aren’t for everyone. People’s situations are all unique and there is very rarely advice that works for everyone out there.

    I do admit that I personally often follow advice without looking into it further. I know that I should verify stuff, but it can be tough to spend the time doing so.

  2. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that popular opinion doesn’t have to be so important in terms of grounding my own opinon on any given topic. In terms of decisions for our own lives, we need to do what is best for us – not listen to what other people think we should do or expect us to do. This requires, independent, critical thinking – which I think is a good life skill to have, actually.

  3. I was in this position recently. I gave some advice, then the next day I was in the same position. I forced myself to take my own advice just because I had just suggested it to someone else.

    Mainly what I try to do is help people change the way they think about certain topics so they can make their own personal decisions.

    1. I won’t ask for the details, but sometimes what you advise others to do isn’t what you should be doing. The premise for giving is the same for getting advice in my opinion. I know it may be a little counter-intuitive based on the old saying about “taking your own advice” but the facts are the facts. And those fact vary from person to person, so looking at things from a fresh perspective for each person is the most rational way to approach it.

    1. The one problem I have with getting too nuts with research is the lost value. If you spend so much time researching something for a purchase, by the time you decide that you will do it, the price may be higher, the promotion may be over, or something more beneficial may have come along. Otherwise, I’m all in when it comes to not taking someone else’s word and looking into things from your own perspective.

  4. VERY true. There are so many different strategies and thoughts from around the world…from different people. You really have NO idea what is right and wrong anymore. When I google info – there are so many conflicting answers, it’s overwhelming. At the same time, it’s good to have more knowledge as opposed to just visiting one doctor and relying on one person’s opinion (or CPA or tax consultant or financial advisor).

    1. Even when you do a search, most of the first results are all opinion sites with no real credibility behind the users. It’s also a reason I dislike certain blogs and forums where people go for genuine advice, yet idiots who hide behind a computer hand out the most asinine responses. As for right and wrong–that would be you! Only you can know for sure what the best decision would be. But, if you need tax advice you can always ask me and it will be the best ever!

  5. I am not always perfect. Sometimes I do things based on what I read, but I try hard to look in more depth and make my own educated decisions, particularly about money.

    1. I’m a cynic by nature, so I almost always have to research stuff for myself. Best example is my tv situation. My father tells me he loves his plasma and it’s perfect for his needs. Unfortunately, I have a different layout for my living room and I’d like everything to be networked together, so I won’t just go run and purchase the same one he has. Of course, we can’t be on the ball 100% of the time.

  6. Right on man. Advertising is marketed to mess with your head. Things are taken out of context in the news. Other people’s stories of so-and-sos success at whatever may be true or may be inaccurate, but either way, it’s not your situation. It’s really important to take all the advice, thoughts, opinions, etc that you hear, see, and remember and think about them each in regards to YOUR life. Does it make sense for ME and MY FAMILY? Becuase llots of times, it doesn’t make sense!

    1. Heck yeah! Sometimes, it’s just taking the easy way out to follow the crowd or what a person in an “authoritative” position says. I could care less about what you got out of something if I know it’s probably not for me.

  7. I do my own research for absolutely everything. I’m either paranoid, or just a skeptic. Probably both. Somebody says one thing, and I won’t believe them until I see it for myself/find proof.

    1. I’m the same way. It also stems from the same basic principal of how people have different views on politics, religion, and just about any other topic–upbringing and life experience. Some people simply go with what anyone will tell them. Sometimes it good to be cynical 😉

  8. I’m a big fan of the Freakonmics book and in their last book, they talk about statistics and how they fluctuate to help perceive a picture to people about things that aren’t necessarily true, such as the rates of social causes, like homelessness. A lot of websites have incomplete data to help convince you this way is better than that way and vice versa. I just really enjoyed the way they authors explained it because a lot of people don’t take into consideration when someone says 1 out of 5, how many people that exactly would amount to be and how outrageous it is. Hence why you shouldn’t listen to people, 95% of the time.

    Back to the original question, I do as much research as I can for the majority of my purchases. My last big purchase was my car in December and although my stomach hurt for a lot of it, I’m pretty confident I did the right thing.

    1. I love those “surveys”. The thing that Andrea mentioned the other day may me laugh–the website that did a “survey” of 1500 people between 18 & 35 regarding what kind of mate you would be based on the dog you own. That was priceless entertainment and fodder for me. Just goes to reinforce the point of not having a complete picture.