You’ve probably heard plenty of examples of conventional wisdom.
People love giving out advice whether asked for or not. Conventional wisdom is the kind of advice that people generally consider to be true and that everyone should follow.
But is it really good though?
I often see pieces of conventional “wisdom” that are all over the place, but that are actually terrible. So, in this post, I’ll cover 10 common conventional “pearls of wisdom” that are completely wrong. Following this advice can really harm you and your success.
So let’s dive right in.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
What is Conventional Wisdom?
Let’s first start by getting on the same page here.
What is conventional wisdom?
Conventional wisdom is a belief or theory that is generally accepted by most people. It is something that most people believe to be true or even common sense.
That’s the most simple definition of it.
It is important to note however that conventional wisdom shifts. A good example of this is that in the 50s and 60s smoking was generally considered okay and not harmful at all. Everyone would smoke to their heart’s content.
Of course, now we know this isn’t true at all.
It has shifted to: smoking is unhealthy and can cause severe illnesses.
Conventional Wisdom Examples
To clarify, here are some examples of conventional wisdom:
- If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
- Honesty is the best policy.
- You get what you pay for.
Things like that.
There are many examples of conventional. Just listen to most of the advice people throw around all the time. You’ll hear a lot of the same advice being given over and over again, because people generally believe it’s the best thing to do.
Is Conventional Wisdom Good or Bad?
Before I go into the 10 pieces of conventional wisdom that are completely wrong, let me talk about my general opinion on conventional wisdom.
In general, I would say this:
There are definitely reasons why conventional wisdom is good. It’s advice that is being repeated over and over for a reason. I’m not against it in any way. Especially if they’re based in science.
The conventional wisdom that smoking is bad for you, that you should have a varied diet to get all the required nutrients, that you should drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. Things like that.
Why You Should Always Question Conventional Wisdom
But here’s the problem with conventional wisdom:
Most people think these ideas or beliefs are true.
Why is that an issue?
For a moment, just think about the average person. Would you be not only willing but actually excited to trade places with them?
If not, that’s your answer!
The problem with conventional wisdom is that most people hold these beliefs. If you do what everyone else does, you will get similar results! And that’s probably not what you want. The fact that you’re here to break through and become your best self, means you really want to be better than just average!
And that’s why questioning conventional wisdom is important.
Before you take on ANY advice ask yourself these questions:
- Who is giving you the advice?
- What’s the history? Where does the advice come from?
- Where is this person coming from?
- Does this advice make sense?
- Is this advice right for YOU?
Let’s go through each of these one at a time.
When to Accept Conventional Wisdom
Let’s walk through these questions.
Who is giving the advice?
Whether it’s conventional wisdom, some stranger on the internet, your friends and family or even a “professional” opinion. Always consider WHO is giving this advice.
Here’s my rule of thumb:
If the person giving out the advice does not have the results I want (or is on their way to get there), I will not follow that advice most of the time.
Would you take dieting or exercise advice from someone who’s 100 pounds overweight and is out of breath after walking up the stairs?
Probably not, right?
I do make some exceptions for this rule when I see that my other questions are satisfied. So it’s not black and white.
Where is the advice coming from?
I gave you an example earlier: Smoking wasn’t considered dangerous.
Ask yourself what the history is.
In this case, back in the days people did not have the knowledge and tools to diagnose diseases and other problems as a result of smoking. And so they assumed it was okay.
Of course, when we got the tools and knowledge, that conventional wisdom shifted.
Back thousands of years (think ancient Greece, Egypt, Rome, etc.), conventional wisdom was that gods were responsible for everything they couldn’t understand. Things like seasons, weather, nature, etc.
So looking at history is a great way to tell sound advice and bullshit apart!
Ask yourself this:
What is the reason why people recommend doing this? Is this something that has been going on for a long time? What’s the origin? In a lot of cases, you’ll find that a lot of conventional wisdom & advice is outdated and not applicable anymore.
Where is this person coming from?
Let me give you an example:
Let’s say you want to start a business, but one or more of your friends try to do everything in their power to talk you out of it. It could be a legit concern for your idea or business plan, but it could be something else too.
This person has rushed into some business himself without proper research and skills. Only to fail miserably. They could now be projecting THEIR insecurities onto you and it has nothing to do with your plan.
See the point?
Another thing to be wary of is hidden motives.
If you go to a butcher for advice on what to eat, the answer will always be meat. He might recommend different kinds of meat depending on your taste, but he’s not gonna tell you to eat tofu today!
This is true for quite a few conventional wisdoms.
There are cases where some parties have an interest in keeping a certain status quo. Like cigarette companies telling you smoking isn’t that bad or banks wanting people to believe a home is the best investment (they sell the mortgage).
Does this Advice Make Sense?
This one is HUGE!
Look at this article for example, or any article on this site for that matter. You’ll notice I spend a LOT of time on this 1 area, on helping you understand a topic or issue. Seek to understand your problems, as well as possible solutions so that you can figure out what advice actually makes sense.
Understanding and context.
I could have just given you these 12 conventional wisdoms that you should not follow, but what good would it do?
Not much really…
Once you understand how something works, then you can start using it. So you should always question the soundness. Does this make sense? Rather than having you blindly push away these beliefs, I want you to think for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
Is it Right for You?
And finally, another critical factor:
We are all different and unique, so the advice that works wonders for me could be terrible advice for you. It all depends on your situation.
People don’t have full context.
They don’t know everything about your life, you do. So it’s always up to you to evaluate popular and unpopular opinions, advice and conventional wisdom to see what would work for you specifically.
12 Pieces of Conventional Wisdom You Should NOT Follow and Why
Whelp, that was a long introduction.
But hopefully you’ll find great value in my reasoning when it comes to conventional wisdom and how to think in general. It’ll be more valuable to you in the long run.
But without further ado, let’s get into the list of terrible conventional wisdom and advice. Note that this is advice that is hindering the growth of millions of people!
So let’s get rid of the junk!
(Note, this list is in no particular order of severity or magnitude whatsoever)
Never Judge a Book by its Cover
I get where people come from with this one, but it’s just terrible advice.
Just to clarify:
Yes, what’s inside of a person is more important than the outside. Don’t get me wrong there.
But there are 2 problems here:
- It simply isn’t true!
- The implications are terrible for people.
First things first:
We judge books by their covers all the time! It’s literally something we do unconsciously. Without even knowing why. We just have an idea or a feeling about people within seconds of meeting them. We already have an idea of whether or not we want to get to know them.
You cannot turn that off!
The second part is even more important:
If you believe that people should not, and do not judge you based on that first impression or your looks, you’ll make less of an effort.
If you go on a date, to a meeting or to a job interview (or any place really), you WANT people to judge you by parts of how you look. And by that I mean the parts you can control.
- How you dress
- Looking well groomed
- Being open and friendly
People will ALWAYS make assumptions and form an opinion within seconds, also known as your thin slice. Go against this conventional wisdom by making sure you make a good first impression!
A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned
And it’s still just a fucking penny!
Many people who believe in this conventional wisdom have a misaligned focus. It’s like letting go of a dollar to pick up that penny.
It’s terrible advice for 2 reasons:
An example would be extreme couponers who take saving to the max. And I do like watching the show sometimes. It’s impressive to see people go from $200 in groceries down to literally 0!
When you look at the show, you see that they often spend 20 hours or more in order to do that! That’s just ridiculous to me. Even working at minimum wage, you would EARN more than you save! That’s what I mean by letting go of a dollar to pick up a penny.
And sure, there is merit to saving!
I highly recommend it in fact. You need to be saving money, so that you can invest the difference and build up your wealth as well as passive income! It is how you spend your money that determines your financial future, so you definitely need to improve your financial education.
However, there is only so much you can do with saving. And for a lot of you reading this, you would be way better off spending your time on increasing your income instead!
Saving heavily in the example might leave you with $200/month extra, but a simple negotiation at work or shifting jobs could make you $1000/month! And with a business or side hustle, you can do way more than that.
Your pick. 😉
The second part is about WHY you save, because for most people it’s insecurity. However the problem is that you’re actually LOSING money by just saving! As of me writing this, interest rates are lower than inflation, so your money loses value by having it in the bank!
Here’s what to do instead:
When I recommend people to save money, I want you to take the money you’re saving and INVEST it! This is the skill of money making money. Again, it’s putting your focus on earning more, rather than having a scarcity mindset with saving.
Parents Should Shield Their Children from all Negativity!
Normally, I stay away from giving parenting advice.
The reason is simple.
I don’t have any children myself, so I am not really qualified to give advice on the subject. I simply lack the experience there.
However, in this case, it’s different.
From looking all around both online and off, it seems to be consensus, or conventional wisdom that parents should be doing EVERYTHING in their power to protect their children against the world.
Let me give you some examples:
- Weaknesses don’t exist, their children are perfect as is.
- Being unrealistic about what is and isn’t possible
- “Oh no, you didn’t lose, here’s your 13th place trophy!”
- Trying to take away literally every negative thing in their lives
And guess what?
That’s not how life works!
If you do this as a parent, listen closely:
You are NOT doing your child any favors this way, at all! By doing this you’re turning your child into a beautiful piece of glass. Wonderful as long as everything is going well…
But a single pebble would break them!
This is what’s happening to millions of children, teens and young adults! They have been shielded from all negativity and been told how great they are, so at the first sight of resistance, they break!
- Rejecting? Meltdown!
- Poked fun at? Can’t handle it!
- Lose at something? Cry!
- Not getting what they want? Frustration!
The list goes on and on!
What to do Instead?
Hopefully, you’re starting to see how harmful this behavior is.
So let’s break the conventional wisdom!
Here’s an example:
Gary Vee is a huge advocate of this. And when his son said he wanted to learn how to dunk (he wouldn’t grow very tall), Gary shot him down and told him it wouldn’t happen. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a great basketball player though and they work on other techniques.
Let me tell you this about parenting:
Your goal is NOT to shield them from all negativity. You can do that when they’re small, but that’s not how the world works! By trying to do so, you raise children that can’t even handle the slightest bit of critique or conflict.
Focus on building up their confidence and their resilience, so that they can handle a bit of negativity! Build them up to the point where they are strong mentally and they know setbacks are part of life!
Don’t Talk to Strangers
This is where it’s important to realize where the advice is coming from.
And it’s children.
For small children it’s conventional wisdom that they shouldn’t talk to strangers, because someone with ill intent can easily take advantage.
But does this hold true as an adult?
- Your (future) boss? Stranger.
- Love of your life? Stranger.
- Fellow students in college or at work? Strangers.
- Making new friends? Can’t do that, strangers.
See the point?
It’s advice that is useful in some settings, but not in many others. But because we push it so heavily, the idea sticks with people way longer than the amount of time it’s useful for.
Networking is an important skill in life!
It’s a skills that creates opportunities, meaningful connections, builds empires and creates massive success in just about every area of our lives. You NEED other people, but if they’re strangers, it won’t do you any good. And to make those meaningful connections, you need to talk to strangers.
Life is Short
This “conventional wisdom” cripples millions of people!
I see it all the time:
People share their stories online on how they feel they wasted so much time doing dumb stuff. How they wasted their time and “life has passed by”. How they don’t know what to do with their lives, and so on.
These kinds of posts, for the most part, are not coming from 50+ year olds. Rather they come from people in their early 30’s, mid 20’s, and shit, I’ve even seen a lot of posts by teens who think this way!
And it’s because everyone keeps saying “life is short”.
Well, that’s what I call conventional bullshit!
Life is NOT short!
- You don’t have to know what your passion is at age 15.
- You don’t need to graduate by age 20.
- You don’t need to have found your lifelong partner at 25.
- You don’t need to have your perfect career at age 30.
Fuck all of that shit!
If you’re 20, with the way healthcare & science progress, you’ve got like 80 years left, most of which you’ll live being healthy and vibrant! It’s like you have JUST completed the tutorial in a video game. You are literallyjust getting started!
And guess what?
You can screw around for 30 years more years before you figure it out complete, and you have half of your life remaining to enjoy it! And if you’re 50 right now, you still have half of your life ahead of you in which you can make your wildest dreams come true!
- Alan Rickman was 42 when he got his breakthrough.
- Henry Ford invented the car when he was 45.
- Ray Kroc didn’t buy and grow Mc Donald’s before he was 52.
- The Huffington Post was founded by Arianna when she was 55.
I can go on and on, but the point is:
And plenty of it too, so take things at your own pace, figure out YOUR path and remember to enjoy the journey (not just the destination)!
Never Talk About Money (at the dinner table)!
Conventional wisdom is that talking about money (especially at the dinner table) is impolite.
Just like things as:
- Religion (I agree on this one)
- “Too much information” stories (Agreed)
- Controversial topics
As you can see, I disagree about most of the “definite no-gos”. I think they are subjects that people should absolutely talk about.
Let’s start with the subject of money.
It’s stigmas like this that cause (among other things) significant income inequality in developed countries! The problem with poverty is not Wall Street, politics, the economy, the rich, etc.
Lack of financial literacy.
Most poor and middle class people have no clue about how money and the economy work! In a test conducted, researchers found that most Americans couldn’t answer most of the relatively simple questions about money.
And so they get themselves into terrible financial situations.
And want to know something else?
You can be sure as hell that most rich people DO talk about money at the dinner table. Especially to their children. It’s how they teach their kids about money. School certainly won’t, which is one of the main causes for poverty in developed countries.
So please DO talk about money!
By talking about it – even if you have little knowledge on the subject – you will help each other understand things better. Or at least spark an interest to research topics that come up. Without knowledge on finance and money, you’ll never get yourself out of a bad financial situation!
Next up: Politics & Arguments (especially about controversial topics)
I’m grouping these together since one can quickly escalate into the other.
2 important notes here:
- This is NOT arguing for the sake of arguing. It’s not even to convince the other person and get them to take on your opinion. Talking or arguing about politics is about getting an understanding of the topics.
- This should go without saying, but there should be mutual respect here! Meaning, don’t get personal about the other person, no bashing for political (or other) beliefs, no raising voices, not going into which politician you like/hate, etc. Stick to the topics of debate in politics and try to understand them better.
If you keep those 2 things in mind, politics is a GREAT topic to discuss at the dinner table! Especially when you don’t agree on a lot of them.
Most people are blinded by their own bullshit!
They are attached to their opinions, and don’t take well to contradictions. If you can be open enough to see other points of view and objectively evaluate them, you’re way ahead of most people mentally.
Plus it can be fun to argue like this as well!
With some of the friend groups we have, we can argue all night. With very leftist people and rightist people as well, and we enjoy these arguments! It leads to many new insights we wouldn’t consider otherwise. We never really convince one another, but each of us gets out of it it wiser.
“The government/institutions/some other group should take care of this!”
You are hereby forbidden from ever using that kind of language again!
Changing your life or getting out of a tough spot is YOUR responsibility, period. Without that mentality, you’ll always play the victim and never make your dreams a reality! Don’t wait for your knight in shining armor, break through your obstacles yourself!
I hear this one a LOT. People often like to believe that it’s someone else’s job to fix their problems. They push their own responsibilities on others and never take any responsibility themselves.
Just the other day, there were protests here in the Netherlands against the housing market.
Let that sink in for a moment…
People were literally protesting against the economy. Together we ARE the economy, it’s literally everyone on earth making their financial choices. It’s fucking useless to protest against this! A protest will not improve the situation anytime soon.
It’s so much easier to blame someone or something else for your situation. It’s easy to say the government should help you when you’re in poverty or have lost your job (and to some degree it is). It’s easy to say you didn’t get your goal because of something someone else did.
However, it is HARD to admit that your failure is on you!
Which is why many people blame others.
Let me give you an example:
When many shops were forced to close down due to lockdowns, most “entrepreneurs” were looking towards governments to bail them out. They were making losses so they look towards other to fix their situation for them.
At the same time, there was a store in my hometown where the owner is a real entrepreneur and a winner at life in general. Instead of praying for someone to bail her out, she got her webshop up in a week, does daily videos to show off new collections, and became way more active on socials.
Her business is doing more in online sales alone than it ever did before corona!
See the point?
When you don’t take responsibility and point fingers at others, you become helpless! When you realize YOU are both the cause and the solution, then you can fix things!
Back to the previous example:
If the people complaining had either saved and invested their money earlier rather than spend it on stupid shit or started a side hustle, they would be able to afford a house! The housing market is bad for buyers right now, but there is always something you can do yourself!
Stop looking at others to fix your shit, fix your actual shit!
Take back control of your own mind and your own life.
Good Thing Come to Those Who Wait
I can be very short about this one:
It is utter bullshit!
This is connected to the next piece of “conventional wisdom” on the list. This is just a flawed mindset that is prevalent with many people these days.
Here’s all I’ll say about this one:
Good things come to those that take massive action!
Your Circumstances Determine Your Future
It saddens me to hear this all the time…
- “I wasn’t born in a wealthy/educated family, so I cannot become rich.”
- “She’s become successful? She must have gotten lucky!”
- “I wish I could be X, but it will never work for me.”
- “I could never do Y because of my circumstances…”
- “My parents were overprotective, so I don’t have confidence.”
This kind of thinking holds back so many people. They think they are unable to achieve their goals and dreams because of where they started. Not realizing that you can do anything you set your mind to, regardless of where you come from.
Here’s what I can guarantee you:
It doesn’t matter what it is that you’re trying to achieve (but think you can’t). I can promise you that there are people who have already achieved it, that started from a (way) worse situation than you!
Let me give you an example:
Before I got heavily into blogging, I read about Jon Morrow, who had built his site to 6-figures (probably 7 by now). Really an amazing amount of revenue! Oh and he’s completely paralyzed from the neck down! He has to do everything by using his voice and mouth.
Yet, he became incredibly successful.
You know the book The Great Gatsby?
The author F. Scott Fitzgerald is dyslectic! And yet he wrote a literary bestseller and is renowned as one of the greatest authors of the 20th century. He didn’t let his circumstances dictate his future. He didn’t say “Well I have
sex daily dyslexia, so I cannot write a novel”.
So, what’s your excuse?
Ditch the victim mentality and do take life in your own hands!
Play it Safe and Don’t Take Risks!
You’ll hear this conventional wisdom in various formats:
- “I’m keeping this job as it’s stable and secure.” (Even though they hate it)
- “Don’t start that business, it’ll never work!” (Hint: Literally every successful entrepreneur has heard this “advice”)
- “Work and save, don’t invest.”
- “Don’t do X, because Y might happen.”
Instead, do this:
Take calculated risk.
Always playing it safe is like going to the cinema:
You’re in your seat and you’re not going anywhere. Meanwhile you see life passing by as if it were a movie. A movie where you’re just a spectator, or a minor character for comic release at best! You’d be fucking Jar Jar fooling around while the plot of the lives around you are unfolding!
Is that the life you desire?
Yeah, me neither!
The truth is you need risk, period.
- No successful business made it without taking on risk.
- Every married person had to risk getting rejected (and likely got rejected a LOT).
- Your dream job probably requires taking a leap of faith.
- It’s nearly impossible to get rich without investing part of your money. (Hint: investing is WAY less risky than you may think!)
Be willing to accept risk.
Otherwise, there will come a point in life where you come to realize you let it pass by. That you didn’t give it your all. That you let fear push you into submission!
You really wanted to win…
But the fear of losing was greater than the excitement of winning, so you never made the effort!
The people that tell you to play it safe. Those who tell you to be “realistic” and give up on your “crazy” dreams…
Those are the ones who have given up on their own dreams!
- It’s their fear.
- It’s their mindset.
- It’s their outlook.
Remember that good things come to those who take massive action.
Use your mind, do your research, learn the right skills and take that massive action! Risk is always greatly diminished when you actually know what you’re doing! But if you’re unwilling to take any risk at all, you’ll never grow and rise to the greatness you could achieve!
Always Question Conventional Wisdom!
I’ll leave you with this idea:
Whenever you find yourself on the same side as the vast majority of people, it’s time to pause and reconsider. The majority of people don’t have the life you want, so why take on their advice and their conventional wisdom? Be selective with the information you take into your mind!
Question everything, even when it’s considered common sense.
Think for yourself, don’t blindly take on new beliefs, and do what is best for YOU. Carefully consider any piece of advice before accepting it and use the questions I shared earlier to test the soundness. Be proactive in your life, take massive action and don’t blindly follow others.
Do that and you will thrive!