Advice: The Great, the Bad & Good Intentions Turned Toxic Dogma

advice, success, writing, life coachingKristen Lamb, success

advice, success, writing, life coachingKristen Lamb, success

Advice floats around everywhere. We get it from friends, family, cutesy memes, gurus, life coaches, books, television, podcasts and…bloggers *giggles*. We’re subjected to advice, whether we want it or not.

Please, let me be clear. Wise counsel is a good thing. Definitely.

We certainly don’t want to try and do this “life thing” with zero guidance. But the influx of so many opinions can be confusing, maybe even make us a tad crazy.

But these days, advice has gotten out of hand. It’s even invaded fortune cookies. Our FORTUNE COOKIES! Yes, we’ve been ordering a lot of take-out recently.

Remember those who persist enjoy success.

Okay, I’m throwing a flag on the play. THAT???? Is NOT a fortune cookie. Fortune cookies don’t offer unsolicited advice. I have a mom for that (I love you, Mom).

A fortune cookie is FUN and something we know is probably bunk, but would be super cool if it were true.

You will soon have good fortune in your endeavors.

Granted, we have no idea WTH that means. Maybe it’s good fortune regarding our endeavors investing in the stock market. Or maybe it’s our endeavors finding the bottom of that master closet we’ve been promising to clean out for three years. That isn’t the point.

Fortune cookie? FUN. Lecture Cookie? NOT FUN.

Great Advice

Ah, who doesn’t love great advice? Granted, there are certain tenets that remain true no matter the time period we happen to be living in. Most of us don’t struggle in those areas. Like probably a good idea not to murder people or go around robbing banks.

We’re solid on those, hopefully.

Since I talk mostly about writing, publishing, and the processes and components of success on this blog, we’re going to narrow the scope a bit.

If you want to write professionally—or do anything at the professional level—then the greatest advice I’ve gathered, is to learn everything you can about what you’re doing.


For novelists, we can’t break rules until we understand the rules. My advice is to read a TON of fiction—I recommend reading extensively inside as well as outside of the genre you wish to master. Add in reading craft books, blogs as well as taking classes. Then practice, practice, practice.

I learned all this the hard way, which is one of the main reasons that, even though I’m a recognized expert at branding and platform building, I still dedicate a lot of time and effort to teaching craft.

When we struggle? Then it’s time to seek out colleagues and professionals to teach us how to deal with specific issues. This advice is instructional, but still put a pin in this.

Back in the day when I was new? When it came to writing fiction, I had zero idea why my submissions kept getting rejected.

Professional Advice

advice, Kristen Lamb, writing, publishing, goals, success

advice, Kristen Lamb, writing, publishing, goals, success

After banging my head into a wall enough times, I finally reached out to an expert who did me the favor of telling me the truth. He gave excellent advice. I didn’t understand structure. My story was…all over.

That’s saying it nicely.

With this critical bit of insight, however, I could formulate a strategy. I went to everyone I respected to explain story structure and then I studied.

I read countless books, then broke those stories apart. Not only that, I made sure to do this in all genres, with every variety of structure.

I even applied what I was learning to movies and television series and dedicated countless hours until I turned what had once been my greatest weakness into one of my greatest strengths.

Sure, I continued to hone my other skills. But, I also understood that anyone considered “great” stood on the shoulders of those who’d come before.

Why reinvent the wheel? The wheel works!

Advice can be critical and can shorten the learning curve significantly. We can transition from neophyte to the artist we long to be in a MUCH shorter time frame if we’re humble enough to seek outside help.

The Art of Discernment

Immersion and mastery is critical. This is true in all professions, not just in writing.

But there is another benefit that comes from gathering all the guidance you can from those whom you respect, then giving their suggestions at least a try. You learn what works, what doesn’t, and what might need to be modified.

It also keeps us from falling into fads, and being tossed along on the tides of other people’s opinions.

We gain a sense of who we are and that, what might be a fantastic approach for one author (or entrepreneur, marathon runner, parent, etc.), might not be the best for us. Better still, we’re able to articulate WHY this or that tactic does or doesn’t work for us.

Bad Advice

advice, goals, success, life coaching, Kristen Lamb, publishing, writing

advice, goals, success, life coaching, Kristen Lamb, publishing, writing

This is where things might start to get a bit hazy, because in many instances, bad is subjective. Also bad advice and good advice are fluid.

Life isn’t static.

What worked great for me this time last year, certainly crumbled once my health collapsed this past winter with what was deemed a COVID-LIKE ILLNESS.

I can preach all day long about persistence and why emotions can’t dictate putting your @$$ in the chair and getting words on a page—and have—but when you can’t even make it out of bed?

That advice goes out the window…along with anyone giving it. KIDDING!

….I wouldn’t have been strong enough 😛 .

But my time off—which has been enough to make me want to live in my blanket fort forever—has made me think about a lot of the Rah! Rah! quotes we hear all the time, especially in self-help and business success books.

***Which, for the record, I still love those. Mostly.

Yet, during my forced convalescence, I listened to a lot of audio books. I strive to be optimistic, but was really down in the dumps.

Suddenly, my go-to reads I’d always used to perk me up were doing the exact opposite. The phrases (mantras) that once cheered me up were…well, pissing me off.

I believe we’ve heard a lot of these quotes so many times, we simply accept them, regurgitate them, and try to live up to them. Then, when we don’t? We’re even more miserable.

But today? Let’s unpack some of these advice bricks, the ones made from good intentions that are paving the road to personal hell. What once was sound advice has—in my POV—become dogma. Toxic dogma.

Maybe I’m being dramatic. We’ll see.

Good Intentions & Toxic Dogma

advice, toxic advice, success, Kristen Lamb, publishing, writing

advice, toxic advice, success, Kristen Lamb, publishing, writing

If medicine can change, then maybe our motivational quotes should too?

I presume most of you have heard the proverb, The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Every one of those bricks, or at least many, have some of the quotes I’d like to rip apart parse for further examination.

#1 Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day.

advice, Kristen Lamb, publishing, writing, motivational quotes

advice, Kristen Lamb, publishing, writing, motivational quotes

How many times has this quote made me feel like dirt? Man, I took time to read a book for FUN? Or go to an amusement park or simply do…nothing? Look at all these amazing people accomplishing greatness.

They’re world-changers because they’ve mastered time-management!

So I’d buy another organizer, another book on how to do more stuff in less time, download another app and still…

Weighed, measured and found wanting.

But let’s look at this credo honestly. Did Leonardo DaVinci have to wash his own laundry? Clean his own house? Cook his own food? Go shopping? Pay bills? Watch kids?

Shuttle a rowdy team of jousters and their equipment from event to event?

No. He had wealthy patrons with servants who took care of aaaaalllll the other stuff so he could do what HE DID and do it WELL.

Same (or similar enough) with Michelangelo, Isaac Newton, Dale Carnegie, blah blah blah….

Not saying they didn’t achieve greatness, but they…um, well let’s say they had a lot of other people to delegate the more mundane matters of life to.

Modern examples. Do we really believe we have the same 24 hours as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Kim Kardashian, J-Lo, Marissa Mayer (former C.E.O. of Yahoo), or any other “icon” from any industry?


Frankly, I was up to my eyes in laundry recently when an article crossed my phone. Gwyneth Paltrow had a piece filled with advice about how I could achieve more peace and work-life balance.

*left eye twitches*

Nothing against Ms. Paltrow but…seriously?

advice, success, Kristen Lamb, publishing, writing, life coaching

advice, success, Kristen Lamb, publishing, writing, life coaching

I’m happy we live in a world where people can do and achieve great things and certainly don’t begrudge success or resent those who are blessed with more. But don’t act as if we have the same 24 hours in a day, because we don’t.

The takeaway? This quote is bull sprinkles. Yes, time is precious and a nonrenewable resource. Use it well. But give yourself permission to be who you are and where you are.

Unless you can snap your fingers and have a personal assistant appear with your triple espresso extra hot, three copies of your manuscript printed off as requested for edits (with three colors of your favorite fountain pens specially ordered) so you can work while you wait on your personal chef to deliver your egg white omelette?

Chillax already.

#2 Winners never quit & quitters never win.

Love you, Vince…but no. This is a quote from famous football coach Vince Lombardi. My third year in university I slipped on ice and fractured my back, thus losing my full ride military scholarship.

With no scholarship, I had to work two jobs. One happened to be at Successories, that cool mall store with all the motivational posters and books.

I’m not per se a football fan, though I love football stories, movies and quotes. There were plenty of quote books in the store and virtually every one of them had this very famous line.

Granted, for a time this quote helped a lot. I was on a cane for a year and back then there were no laws mandating handicapped access. #FunTimes

Then, as I got older and gained more experience, I came up with my own quote.

Persistence can look a lot like stupid.

~ Kristen Lamb

Thing is, winners DO quit. They quit all the time. In fact, learning how and when to quit is a secret to success.

How many writers are working on that same first novel year after year? Instead of taking it for what it is—a part of the learning process—and thanking it for what it provided? They keep rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

The first novel is a place to play, to learn and experiment and find our voice.

Maybe it can transformed into a glimmering horse-drawn carriage, but more likely than not? It’s just a pumpkin that no amount of bippity-boppity-boo is going to save.

It’s a pumpkin and we can keep adding layers and layers of verbal glitter, but it won’t stop it from stinking.


I’ve been a business consultant, doomed to stand helpless watching entrepreneurs (who’d hired me to help) throw good money after bad. Instead of going back to the original plan, hot-washing, and realizing they’d gotten off track and needed to STOP?

They kept going, plunging ahead, refusing to listen…and spending more. Throwing good money after bad.

All this “learning quitting is okay stuff” is a lot like math. I know! Don’t shout me down yet. I get most creatives shudder at the M-word, but suck it up, Buttercups 😛 .

If we’re attempting to solve a math problem and suspect we’ve made a mistake somewhere, the best course of action is to QUIT. Erase and go BACK.

Sometimes the way forward is the way baaaaack.

Yes, I am semi-quoting the movie Labyrinth.

If something isn’t working? QUIT. Then examine WHY it wasn’t working. Only fools keep going ahead even when it’s clear they’ve obviously taken a wrong turn. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome.

#3 You can do/be anything, if you just try hard enough.

This one? I might be a bit more immune since I’m from the ever-jaded Generation X. Yet, notice I said, a “bit” more immune, not completely immune.

Sometimes, we can want to do or be something and we just don’t have what it takes. I’ve posited this debate when it comes to writing fiction, but today we’ll go to a more practical story from my….colorful life.

Remember I won a military scholarship? I won a scholarship to become a doctor, which was why I majored (for a long while) in Neuroscience. Anyway, I got this brilliant idea I’d be a surgeon.

That was, until I took Majors Biology (meant for pre-med students)…in summer school.

Wakeup Call. I was NOT Special.

Don’t get me wrong, I kicked @$$ with the book work and tests. But then we had to dissect a starfish. For anyone new to this blog, I come from a military and medical family, so am far from squeamish. The gooey dissection wasn’t the problem.

Here was the problem…

We get our starfish and start to work. At the end?


The foreign exchange student next to me? His starfish looked as if it belonged framed in a laboratory…or a museum. Everything was perfect, precise, each anatomical part pinned to the board with excruciating precision with the delicacy of an artist.

MY starfish looked as if as if some big guy with a middle name THE (Jimmy the Hammer, Vinnie the Fish, Joey the Screwdriver) had caught up with my starfish to collect on gambling debts my starfish, sadly, could not pay.

After beating my starfish unconscious, the crew then ran it over…multiple times to prevent a proper I.D.

In short, it was pretty clear I was not destined to be a surgeon.

My Advice? Limits are No Biggie

Limits are…limits. We live in a world that shames failure, yet humans are designed to learn by failing. How do we learn to walk? By toddling around and falling until we get it right.

When we quit the wrong things, we can make way for the right things. Those who’ve followed my blog over the years know I started out professionally in corporate sales. I guess I could have forced myself to stay in that world.

But then I wouldn’t be here, making bad starfish jokes 😀 .

Trust me, I had a LOT of pushback when I left sales.

I said, “I’m going to become a professional author.”

My grandparents (who’d raised me most of my life) heard, “Leaving super lucrative job blah blah writing blah throwing away expensive college degree blah blah becoming author blah blah blah joining a cult and worshipping Satan.”

They didn’t speak to me for two years.

Quitting Can be Tough

Quitting sales was hard. Sales had a company car, health insurance, and I didn’t have to live with my mom, which is uncool when you’re over thirty. Yep, caught a ton of crap for that.

Even my MOM caught a ton of pushback for helping me. Friends, family, church members were certain I was a loser who’d be dealing crack out of her living room any day!

***Even though I’ve never even seen crack or 99% of all other illegal drugs outside of a movie, but oh-kay.

Didn’t matter, because my mom ROCKS. She believed in me and didn’t care, so long as I was writing 😉 . And obviously not cooking crack in her kitchen. Or baking crack? Making crack in a crock pot? Whatever one does to create crack…just wasn’t to do THAT.

But what would have happened, where would I be if I’d NEVER QUIT corporate sales?

Well, I don’t know where I WOULD be. But I do know where I WOULDN’T be.

I wouldn’t be here with y’all. I wouldn’t have had the honor, privilege, and sheer FUN of your company for these many years. Would not have enjoyed helping y’all navigate the changing publishing paradigm, the emerging digital world, or helped you learn about craft and maybe even laugh along the way.

Advice is Just That…Advice

advice, toxic advice, Kristen Lamb, life coaching, success, writing, publishing

advice, toxic advice, Kristen Lamb, life coaching, success, writing, publishing

In the end, offering advice is a very human way of showing we care. Maybe it’s especially a female thing. Or maybe it’s me. Helpful Hannah here!

We always have the option of simply saying, “Thank you for sharing. I’ll consider what you said.”

As for the stuff floating around the success and self-help world? I love a lot of that sort of content. Mentorship is essential, even if that “mentorship” comes from books, podcasts, lectures, seminars, etc.

My goal here is to merely challenge y’all to pause a moment and examine what you take in. How does it make you feel? Is it truly applicable or even useful? Take what works. What doesn’t work or apply? Like that first manuscript.

Thank it for sharing and let it GO!

What Are Your Thoughts?

Do you feel like a lot of the success advice is absurd? I enjoy inspirational books and quotes and strive to take what I need and leave the rest, but struggle. Seems like I can be my own worst enemy.

What about you? Like with the whole COVID thing. I was really sick. It’s been a battle to get back to even feeling normal and it’s tough not to berate all the things I’ve not accomplished instead of paying attention to all I have accomplished.

And I’d keep a gratitude journal….but then I’d probably miss a week and feel like crap for missing a week on my gratitude journal, LOL.

Come on! SHARE! Laundry can wait. No one is wearing real pants anymore anyway…

I LOVE hearing from you!

On Demand Classes

I’m working on new material to teach, so enjoy these babies while there is still a steep discount.

On Demand: There & Back Again—From Good Idea to Successful Novel

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On Demand: The Unreliable Narrator—Turning Your Reader’s World Upside Down

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On Demand: Dark Arts, Building Your Villain

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Kristen Lamb

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Kristen Lamb