How do you differentiate between good advice and bad advice?
This is a critically important thing to understand in life, because bad advice can really fuck your life up, and good advice can catapult you orders of magnitude beyond your current level of performance - in whatever you're doing.
I've paid for advice in the form of coaching from experts (for example, in writing fiction), received terrible advice from adults who massively retarded by development, and given excellent advice that was harshly rebuked because it offended the ego of the person receiving it.
The first, and most important thing to understand about advice is that advice is autobiography. If you ask someone how to accomplish a specific task, all they can really tell you is how they accomplished that task.
The key question to ask yourself is: is this person like me? Do they have the same skills as me? The same aptitude? If not, are we similar in whatever respect is salient to the task at hand?
If not, then the advice they have to give might not apply to you. If a man who's naturally good at basketball tries to teach you the fundamentals of the sport, it's probably completely useless to you if you have no natural aptitude - you're solving entirely different problems.
Worse even than advice on how to do something is advice on why to do something. This really just amounts to one person telling you what they value, and that you should value the same thing. I wasted years of my life believing fictions about the fundamental nature of reality because I mindlessly trusted the advice of my elders, and from pastors, on how I should live and direct my life.
So much effort, so much suffering, for total nonsense.
Instead of listening to what they valued, I should have asked them why they valued it. It's the meta-question that matters, because it's not clear that we should all value the same things. Certain values map on better to a person's happiness than others. There is variation in this, as there is variation in everything else. Those of us who are inclined to be artists should value creativity - others, perhaps not so much.
I was eventually able to dig myself out of this pit I had dug for myself by finding mentors who taught me not only how to accomplish my goals, but after undertaking a thorough search about why I should focus on certain things.
Finally, don't underestimate the importance of luck and uncertainty in decision-making. Randomness plays a huge component in all manner of successes, and is almost always under-appreciated due to hindsight bias. It's all so obvious looking back, but few things are obvious looking forward.
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis