27 March 2023

Opinions Aren’t Equal

Does everyone have valuable opinions? Yes

Does everyone have a valuable opinion about my issue, concern, goal or intention? No

The point of this post is not to tell you that some people are never worth listening to but rather that each of us have different strengths and weaknesses due to a unique variety of experience and knowledge.

Imagine you’re watching a football match and it’s half time. Would you expect any of the following to appear to deliver their analysis and if not, why not?

  • TV Cameraman
  • Fashion Designer
  • Sports Lawyer
  • Biologist
  • Housing Mogul
  • Teacher

These people don’t appear because the viewer holds very little value or interest in their opinion. They may all be experts in their field but this does not mean it transfers directly to another subject or topic. Instead you will almost certainly see:

  • A presenter
  • Retired professional players
  • Football managers
  • Referees

The presenters job is essentially to dictate the direction of the analysis/ conversation and draw out the opinions from the subject matter experts in the room who are the players, managers and referees. Each of these people have a large amount of experience and knowledge regarding the game and therefore the audience is interested in their opinion. This allows the viewer to see tactics, issues and concerns that they may otherwise have missed and gives a deeper and more enjoyable viewing experience.

Our individual lives make us unique so take advantage

Do we apply these principles in our own world?

If the above makes sense to us then it also makes sense that we only seek the opinions of those who not only have experience and knowledge in the relevant field and also want to help you succeed…. but this often isn’t the case.


Often our attitude will be entirely different depending on whether we are looking for work advice from a co-worker compared to personal advice. In a work situation we are likely to:

  • Speak to a co-worker who performs a similar role
  • Get advice from a line manager
  • Speak to a subject matter expert – IT specialist, civil engineer, trainer etc.

In the workplace it seems to be much easier to get advice from someone with experience because they are employed to provide exactly that. Personally I would likely ask someone working near me (who performs a similar role to me) if they have dealt with the same issue and if not my default response would be to seek advice from the relevant department who are likely to be able to give me suitable, useful and specialised information. This is advice i would usually trust and therefore implement.


Although a large percentage of us will likely do the same as me in the above situation this does not always translate to our methods to gain help for a personal issue, goal or project. I’m sure we’ve all been in the position where we look for and value advice from people simply because they are our friends or family. This absolutely does not mean that their guidance is not useful but merely that you shouldn’t put complete trust in the opinion of somebody you respect who in reality may know very little about the topic.

Personally I’ve been extremely guilty of this in the past and this can have negative consequences for the following reasons:

Friends and family often want to help but their advice isn’t infallible
  • Negativity towards your plan/idea – You may have someone in your life who cares about you and does not want you to fail so they immediately gravitate towards pointing out flaws with your concept even though they know very little about it
  • Ignorance – No knowledge or information regarding your idea but you seek it anyway and put a lot of value in their opinion.
  • False positive – Somebody may not want to disagree with you and therefore just agree with everything you said

It’s possible that you may have a fantastic idea for a business, product or a project but the chance of this coming to fruition will be directly affected by who you choose to speak to initially. If you are inexperienced you may not have the confidence to have conviction in your idea and therefore one negative person who is out of their depth could bury it forever. Whereas is you spoke to someone in the know they could give you confidence and belief while advising small tweaks and improvements because they have been in your shoes and made those mistakes before.

Value opinions of people with experience in what you want to achieve

Put simply, what I’m trying to advise in this post (and possibly not doing a good job of explaining) is that it matters hugely who you choose to seek advice from and therefore you need to carefully consider this when it is something of importance to you. Aim to question someone who has walked the path you are following and has both good and bad experiences.

If you have somebody in your life who only shoots down you ideas and finds problems then don’t go to them for advice initially. At some point you will need to review the flaws but to start here will lead to discontent, helplessness, low confidence and finally the thought implanted that everything you do is wrong. This will lead you to stop trying and therefore stagnate and achieve very little.

Look for those who will help you find ways to succeed.

Throughout life we are affected by ‘survivor bias’ which leads us to only see peoples successes but not their failures. Speak to or read about anyone who has achieved something significant and almost certainly they will have projects and ideas that failed catastrophically. Do they regret these? Unusually because they learnt from their mistakes and this led to their future successes.

Disney brainstorming method

Walt Disney used one of the most powerful brainstorming methods to think of and refine ideas and this has been a factor for his/their huge success throughout the years. The process is split into three distinct chunks with no overlap between them. The principles of it can be used by any of us and it works like this:

The Dreamer – During this stage it was all about fantasizing and creating ideas. Nothing was off limits, nothing was too absurd, raw ideas and no plan of how plan of how to implement it.

The Realist – The ideas dreamt of above would now be re-examined and transformed into something more practical. At no point would it be discussed how something could not be achieved but only about how it could be done.

The Spoiler – Finally and only after the above stages were completed would the critics take their turn to shoot holes in the ideas and target previously unfound flaws.

The ideas that survived the above treatment would be the projects Disney would work on and eventually transform into some of the most popular films of all time. By giving each stage space and freedom without the shackles of negativity, creativity was amplified and compounded. As critics don’t get to start until the idea is well thought out and structured one dream will lead to another and another and finally another which may be implemented. If the first dream had been heavily criticised version two and three would likely never have existed. So serious was Walt Disney about this that each stage had it’s own room, criticise in the ‘dream’ room and expect to be removed.

Coronavirus Example

The Corona virus pandemic was one instance in which the idea that everyone’s opinion is equal was brought to the foreground and what followed in the UK was ultimately a disaster which could have been reduced if precautions were taken and the certain opinions valued over others. The idea that you are ‘entitled to your opinion’ is correct but all too often this is used to shelter long held beliefs that the owner cannot debate or argue for and can quickly transition into the idea that it is disrespectful to even challenge their views regardless of how it may affect others. In the below example who should we have paid more attention to during the start of the pandemic?

  • A highly qualified, experienced virologist who has worked within the medical field for decades
  • A front line nurse dealing with victims from the virus
  • Tony in the work zoom meeting who’s wife and son are GP’s (family doctors)
  • Paul at work who spend 5 minutes on google and watched the news last night
  • The CEO of an airline who’s business is in meltdown
  • Karen on Facebook who’s been part of an antivax group and only reads news posted there

In an ideal world the order in which their listed is the order in which advice should be sought but too often this is not the case. In the digital age advice can be found from pretty much anybody (including dodgy blogs) and the value you place on said information is up to you.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully during this post you will have realised how valuable it really is to have a large network of people you trust with different backgrounds, experiences, beliefs and mentalities. With this network you can seek useful advice about a wide range of topics and get the encouragement you may need. Part of the reason for starting this blog was that I wanted to meet and interact more with like minded people who offer something different than the friends and family I already have and cherish.

Be careful of who you look to for advice, don’t be afraid of failure and surround yourself with positive people who want you to succeed.


A 28 year old project engineer with a passion for travelling, financial literacy and learning new skills. I'm hoping that by running this blog I can track my path from corporate worker to backpacking adventurer.

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