Giving less advice


I’m often asked for advice. I’ve decided it’s time I give less of it. There are things I used to know that I just don’t know anymore. I should stop talking about those things — it’s unfair to anyone who’s listening.

If you want advice on product design, copywriting, reducing complexity, business strategy for a well-established small business, or building a team — happy to help. I know I can be valuable there because those are things I’m thinking about and working on every day. I’m current.

But if you want advice on how to start a new business, how to get your first customer, how to hire your first employee, or anything related to starting something brand new, I’m not your man. It’s been 16 years since I started my company. I just don’t remember what it’s like anymore. I’m out of touch.

Advice, like fruit, is best when it’s fresh. But advice quickly decays, and 16 year-old advice is bound to be radioactive. Sharing a life experience is one thing (grandparents are great at this — listen to them!), but advice is another thing. Don’t give advice about things you used to know. Just because you did something a long time ago doesn’t mean you’re qualified to talk about it today.

Think you’ll get a good answer from a 30 year old telling you what it’s like to be 15? Or a 20 year old remembering what it’s like to be 5? Shit, I’m 41 now, and all I remember about being 25 is that I wasn’t 26. How clearly do you really remember anything from 16 years ago? And how many of those memories are actually marred by time and current experiences? How many of those things really happened the way you recall them today?

If you want to know what it’s like to start a business, talk to someone who just successfully started one. If you want to know what it’s like to hire your first employee, talk to someone who just successfully hired theirs. If you want to know what it’s like to make an investment, talk to someone who just made a successful one.

While distance from the event itself can provide broader perspective, the closer you get to the event, the fresher the experience. If I want to know what something’s really like, I’d take a fresh recollection over a fuzzy memory. I think the same is true for advice.


Advice I will give: If you’ve got work to do, and it involves other people too, then Basecamp 3 is for you. Check out the all-new Basecamp 3 for free.

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