Although I am frequently asked to comment about issues related to shyness, which I always enjoy doing, I was asked recently to comment on the worst advice I ever received.  In thinking about that, it took me back some 37 years to my early 20s. Back then, one of the many jobs I had while working my way through school was selling sporting goods. One of my best customers was a guy in the insurance business. One day, he asked me about my major at college.  When I told him I was majoring in psychology, he told me that I was wasting my time because I would never be able to get a job with a psychology degree. As an alternative, his advice to me was that if I wanted to make some real money, I should come to work in his insurance business. As it turns out, that was the worst advice I had ever received.  In retrospect, his advice was that I should reject as a career choice something I was really interested in to pursue a career that was all about making money. While Deep Throat’s suggestion to “follow the money” might have been great advice for Woodward and Bernstein in their investigation of the Watergate scandal, my customer’s advice to follow the money as a career choice was probably the worst advice I have ever received. 

In opposition to his bad advice, I followed my passion for psychology. “Following my passion” instead of “following the money” has made it possible for me to have a career as a professor of psychology that allows me to pursue those intellectual ideas that I find most fascinating, as well as the opportunity to share them with my students. Following my passion for psychology instead of following the money has made it possible for me to do everything I ever hoped to do with my degree in psychology, including being an author of feature articles appearing in Psychology Today.More specifically, shortly before receiving what I now consider to be the worst advice ever given to me, I had what has turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences related to my early years as a psychology major. The experience was that while reading the first issue of my new subscription to Psychology Today (PT) in 1973, I can remember thinking that one day I hoped I would be fortunate enough to appear as an author in PT. Some 20 years later in the 1995 Nov./Dec. issue of PT, that dream came true.  So my advice to others is to follow your dreams, not just the money. 

I should add that I still have that first issue of PT, and every time I look at it, I am reminded of the worst advice I ever received, and why I am so glad that I ignored it completely. What is the worst advice you ever received?  If you care to share it, I would love to hear it.

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Breaking the Ice

The Worst Advice I Ever Received: Why Deep Throat Had It All Wrong

Don’t be shy about following your passions when making career choices.

Are We Born Shy?

Genetics, environment, and bashfulness.