Never Take Financial Advice From a Brick Maker

“Get your data from the right sources”
— Grant Cardone

Advice is given out like candy on Halloween these days. Everyone has their own “two cents” to give regardless of whether or not they are qualified to give advice on a particular subject. What’s worse is that sometimes we don’t even notice that we’re getting bad advice. It is critical that one learns how to get advice from the right sources.

The Richest Man in Babylon is a book that delivers timeless financial advice through a set of parables. There’s a wonderful short story in it about the perils of taking the wrong advice. The story is that of a young man named Arkad who one day decided to take financial advice from the wrong guy: a brick maker. Arkad tells the story himself about how he came to entrust the man with his life-savings. I’ve summarised it here:

“I have given it to Azmur, the brick maker, who told me he was traveling over the far seas and in Tyre he would buy for me the rare jewels of the Phoenicians. When he returns, we shall sell these at high prices and divide the earnings.

And it was as he [Arkad’s financial mentor] said. For the Phoenicians are scoundrels and sold to Azmur worthless bits of glass that looked like gems.”

The brickmaker turned out to have very little knowledge of gems (shocker!), just as Arkad’s mentor had warned him. Arkad had received bad advice from an unqualified source and paid for it with his life-savings.

The story itself may sound funny, but it is more common in today’s world than you’d initially think. People pick their stocks based on what a coworker mentioned was good one day. Teenagers in school are setting their career paths based on the advice of teachers and professors.

But how do you know that your coworker is qualified to give advice on stocks? Are they some sort of investing expert or multimillionaire? Have they done extensive research? Do they even hold the stock in their portfolio? These are important questions to ask when taking someone’s advice because the answers determine whether or not the advice is actually reliable.

The exact same thing goes for the other example. Why should a young person take the advice of a teacher to become an accountant, engineer, or doctor? The teacher is certainly qualified to give advice on whether or not the student might succeed in teaching, but totally unqualified to be giving advice on those other professions.

“Why trust the knowledge of a brick maker about jewels? Would you go to the bread maker to inquire about the stars? No, you would go to the astrologer, if you had the power to think.”
— Algamish, The Richest Man in Babylon

Unqualified advice is the worst thing you can follow. If no one gives you any advice then at least you can experiment on your own to figure it out. But with unqualified advice, you could be heading in a completely wrong direction! This is really unfortunate because it leads people to have big financial losses and get stuck in dead-end careers.

Point being: don’t take advice from unqualified, non-expert sources.

Now comes the positive part of our story: you still can and certainly should get advice from experts. Expert advice offers you a tremendous advantage to get ahead and make sure you’re making the right moves.

“If you would have advice about jewels, go to the jewel merchant. If you would know the truth about sheep, go to the herdsman. Advice is one thing that is freely given away, but watch that you take only what is worth having.”
— Algamish, The Richest Man in Babylon

Perhaps your coworker has no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to stocks. But maybe you know an expert through family or friends that has done well in the stock market who can give you better information. Even better, there are plenty of books written by expert investors that you can get the very best information from. For example, every year, Warren Buffett’s annual letters to shareholders get publicly published — it’s expert advice from one of the greatest investors of all-time.

For your career path, your teachers and professors aren’t going to be the best sources of advice since they have very little industry experience. But there are certainly many other people you can talk to among family and friends that are older and have been in their field for decades. Even better than that, you can reach out directly to people on LinkedIn who are doing well in their career to ask for their advice. People are usually open to offering a helping hand if you’re asking genuinely.

The main point we really want to drive home here is that you should always seek advice from the very best expert source you can find. Amateur advice is at best lucky and at worst catastrophic to your progress. But expert advice is like a shortcut. You’re quickly getting the wisdom gained by the expert through decades of experience. You make your own life easier by learning from the knowledge and experience of the very best.

“A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether.”
— Roy H. Williams

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