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The Tinkered Mind
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November 15th, 2022
Who isn’t guilty of giving unsolicited advice? Certainly the wiser clue into the futility of this habit and learn the benefits of biting one’s tongue faster and more often than others.
But why the impulse in the first place?
I’ve certainly been very guilty of this, but I’m getting better. I’m very mindful when the urge pops up in my mind, and very deliberate to recognize when someone is genuinely asking for my perspective on what they should do. This can be a hard one: especially because venting can seem like a request for advice. Often it’s not, it’s just blowing off steam. All situations, whether they be venting or an internal urge can be properly cloistered with the right question: would you like my opinion on what I’d do in your situation? But be careful about those who will say ‘yes’ just to be polite. If this is the case and your honest opinion is something they don’t like, well, then perhaps it’s just better to simply wait until someone explicitly asks for advice.
The initial urge though has been on my mind lately. Why does it occur? And a possible explanation finally hit me.
Personally, I’m constantly tinkering with as many variables related to health as I can. Whether it be exercise, diet, supplements, altering gut health, mental training or breathing techniques, there’s little that I’m unwilling to try so long as there’s either a reasonable mechanism behind the practice or a compelling bit of anecdata.
A quick aside about “anecdata” which is a combo of anecdote + data, meaning: if someone is seeing amazing results, it’s probably too good to be true, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be properly investigated! It’s been my experience that subtle tweaks CAN have profound effects, so while most things that seem too good to be true actually aren’t true, every once in a while one gets through the filter and it really is a subtle tweak with profound effects).
It’s this concept of anecdata combined with the woefully incomplete nature of science as it particularly relates to human health that lead me to a realization about what might be going on with this business of unsolicited advice.
It’s a replication desire. At least when it comes to myself and the unsolicited health advice I used to give family and friends. Because the science is so hazy and incomplete - or simply hasn’t been done, many of my own discoveries or hypothesis just don’t have much data behind them. But if I can get a family member or a friend to follow the same protocol and they do or don’t see similar results - well then that’s a way of verifying or falsifying my hypothesis. As a single individual I am an N-of-One, so it can be hard to tell what protocol is having which particular effect without strict isolation of protocols - something that is very inefficient simply because I’m ultimately looking for additive effects. If something works, I’m not going to cut it out in order to regress to a blank slate in order to test the effect of some other curiosity. But if I can get someone else to do the same protocol - someone with a different life and a different set of variables, and they end up having the same result? Well that’s a pretty robust signal.
Unfortunately, pretty much no one actually takes advice, especially unsolicited advice. So while it would be nice to use family and friends as guinea pigs to test our theories, whether they regard health, relationships, career, or whatever, it’s a pretty futile endeavor from start to finish.
C’est la vie.