One thing that constantly bothers me is how we give advice to other people and how people listen to our advice. I think we are generally predisposed to give our opinions and advice to others; whether it be for our own ego, genuine desire to help others, a social obligation or whatever else may drive us. The underlying reason is somewhat irrelevant to the point of this post.
The thing that bothers me most is when people give unqualified advice, which could vary from simply time wasting to harmful in terms of content.
Lately, the biggest offender I have noticed is tips about finding jobs from someone who just found a job. The job search process isn't a commodity. To clarify, I mean there is no standard process and to come up with any statistically meaningful insights, you would need a fairly large sample size from the employer side. The people that would be most qualified to give advice to others would be people who hire lots of people for lots of companies. Only they would have enough experience to give broad insights into what many employers are looking for (and perhaps why).
So who is offending this process? Recently employed. Some random person gets a job after searching for X amount of time and suddenly becomes qualified to give advice to others. With only 1 success of N applications, I can say fairly confidently that the knowledge being passed on comes with little statistical significance. Of course, they may have read more qualified advice which they are repeating, but that is rarely the case.
But they may have learned a lot from their failures! One might make that argument, and while that could be true, we have no way to tell because there is only one successful point preceded by a string of failures. Their recent employment could just as likely be dumb luck than anything they thought they learned or did differently.
But why do we listen? I don't have a scientific explanation, but there is probably some theories in psychology about this behavior, but until I find those out, I will make my own hypotheses. Perhaps it is because we idolize success without understanding? I watch kids practice really fancy tricks that famous sports players do to be like them (I definitely can be found guilty of this one as a kid). But is being able to do that trick what will turn me into a great player like my idol? Probably not. I suspect the years of fundamental practicing of skills, training their bodies and their minds is what allowed them to do get to a point where doing tricks is simply exploring creative spaces beyond being great players. But as a kid, being able to do that fancy trick is some shortcut to be just like them.
So if we applied this hypothesis to the jobs example, people would listen to recently successful job seekers because they have reached the status level that they want to also attain. Unlike professional sports which has vetted players for years and years, getting a job is a simple binary status, one has a job or one does not. We might even be convinced into thinking that someone who recently got a job is more qualified to give advice on how to get one than someone who hasn't been looking recently.
This behavior doesn't make sense if one is truly serious about reaching their goals. They should carefully choose who to listen to and be very comfortable with the reasoning behind that decision (in a rational world).
I wish I had a magic N point list of ways to verify the trustworthiness of a source, but I don't. For some problems, a statistical approach may help us understand reality, for others, it may not help much. But that doesn't mean all advice is created equal.
To end up a 'happier' note, sometimes people get it!