Why leaders give abstract advice

This bothers me.

I find someone who shares the nitty gritty details of how to do something, like, say, start a blog. As the person matures, though, the advice moves from practical advice to theoretical advice.

Most of my favorite bloggers have done that: Steve Pavlina,  Seth Godin, and Scott H. Young to name a few.

Why? Why don’t they stick to the detailed advice since that’s where most people actually struggle?

Here’s what I think: we don’t actually need the detailed advice – in most cases, we already have it. We don’t need more info. We need reminders of what we already know. The details are probably already available for free somewhere online for those willing to find them.

Problem is, most people aren’t willing to find them. They don’t want it enough.

So leaders stop giving practical advice. They realize that we don’t need the details. We need the encouragement to push through to want to find the details. Once that happens, the rest isn’t so difficult.

That said, here’s why I still think the practical details are important, and why we should continue to share them: I think the practical details are what encourage us.

Let me explain.

Once upon a time, a writer spoke at a writer’s convention. He walked up to the podium, looked out to the audience, and said, “Do you really want to write? If so, you shouldn’t be listening to me. Go write.” Then he calmly stepped off the stage.

That sounds fantastic, sounds profound. And my guess is that if the story is true, the speaker was probably just fed up with the lack of “go out and get ’em” spirit in the writing community. He knew they didn’t need more advice. They just needed to go out and start writing.

But did anyone take his advice? My theory is that telling someone to go out and start writing won’t actually get them to write.

Same goes for a lot of the abstract advice leaders like to give. For them, the advice is wonderful. They’ve already attached examples to the concepts, so the abstract advice is a simplification for them. The rest of us, though, don’t have those concrete examples yet. The advice sounds profound, but we quickly forgot it.

We’re much more likely to do something with the advice if it came attached to specific examples or specific steps we could take. I get that many of the most important things in life don’t follow specific steps, but without even offering some sort of framework, most people never push through to the creative side.

Like asking a professional dancer how he dances. What if he said, “I just move my body, man”? That might be accurate, but it downplays the training that’s gone into “just moving his body.”

Once you internalize it, like the professional dancer, you can do it without thinking. But before then,  you need that framework, the practical details, to get us moving.

If you’re a pro, that frameworks cut into your creativity, which is why many leaders stop sharing that framework. It’s like if that professional dancer has to think to dance, it’s not authentic. Fine… for the pro.

But beginners needs it. Without it, all the creativity in the world won’t matter because they’ll  never start moving.

Of course, once in motion, like the leaders, the abstract advice starts to become more useful. At least that’s how it seems to work for me.

In short, leaders stop offering practical advice because they start to realize that it’s already available. What’s missing is the courage to follow through. When that happens, though, I think leaders are overlooking the power of practical advice to break through the fear and start the initial movement.

We’ll see though. I’m pretty abstract as it is, and I have a long way to go before I can consider myself a leader in the conventional sense. Maybe I’ll change my mind. Maybe you’ll help me change it.

Have any thoughts on why we start getting abstract?

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