Cleaning fish is easy dude

The advice monster is everywhere. My last encounter had me thinking through an endless chain of examples where I've been both guilty as and victim to the advice monster. Check out this cool fish tale example I made up.


Dude : Hey bro, can you help me filet this... hold on I'll show you...

Bro: Ah dude, cleaning a fish is easy. You grab your filet knife...

Dude: Yeah but...

Bro: Then you start at the gills and slice down to the bone...

Dude: Right but...

Bro: Then you follow the bone all the way down to the tail...

Dude: But I can't...

Bro: Just wait, I'm still explaining! It'll all make sense.  So, then you...

Dude: But look at this thing bro! (holds up the fish) How am I supposed to get through the skin?!

Bro: Oh, that's a gar dude, you should have said so. None of that's gonna work. Their scales are like kevlar. You can't even use that knife. Do you have a hacksaw?



My most recent experience with the advice monster went a bit like this. I desperately tried to explain that I couldn't even get past step one in the "solution". While my advisor took a moment to catch their breath I blurted out my obstacle. This got them asking some more helpful questions.

It's hard consulting anyone without meeting their advice monster. It's hard even if the person is actively experimenting with you and deliberately following a more Socratic method style set of rules. If you're speaking to an advice monster, it might help to ask for a pause, and explain that you want to clarify the problem more. Say something like "you just made me think to ask myself..." and "you're helping me paint a clearer picture in my head". Treat them like a coach, and don't ask for advice to solve the problem. Ask them to help you understand the problem you're working on.