Choose Mentors One Step Ahead of You

I found a comment I wrote in response to a blog in 2012.  The blog post was written by some guy who clearly had never been overweight in his life.  He wrote a whole post about “How to be slim” and his advice was “Be hungry once in a while and lift weights.”

That blog post really pissed me off.

I was obese at the time, and the way he could be so cavalier about something I wanted so desperately, and had tried with every fiber of my being to do multiple times, really triggered me back then.

I told him all about how it just wasn’t that easy.  I told him about how I had spent six weeks once eating 1200 calories per day and running about 20-30 minutes every other day and didn’t lose a damn pound, which was true.  I told him about the sugar withdrawals I had when I tried to give up sugar (I got headaches, huge hunger and energy swings, and I basically became the biggest bitch.)  I told him about how you have to eat three times a day, and each time you eat, you have to mentally battle and choose eating healthy, and how exhausting that is, and how going “cold turkey” on eating is just not possible.  I told him about how the “how” is fairly straightforward in practice, but the mental game made it damn near impossible, and if it was all about just being hungry sometimes and lifting occasionally, we would not have an obesity epidemic, but we do, and so he’s missing so much of the puzzle as to make his solution worthless.

I have a slightly different perspective now.

It made me think about how people give advice, and how people can receive it.

It reminded me of the Wheaton Eco-Scale.  The Wheaton Eco-Scale is a scale developed to describe where people are in terms of the environment and their impact on it. It describes 10 levels, and the behaviors a person might exhibit in each level, which each level being about 10 times more rare than the one previous to it.  Level 0 is someone who regularly uses pesticides on their lawn and makes absolutely no effort to reduce their environmental impact in any way. Thinking about that stuff is something other people do. Level 3 has a decent sized organic garden, uses strictly LED light bulbs and is thinking about going zero-waste. Power bill is 1/2 the average and they have a good compost pile going. Level 6 can nearly feed herself entirely from her garden and teaches others how to do the same. Levels 9-10 are world famous for their contribution to changing the behaviors of others and leading by example.

Most people will find folks one or two levels above them pretty cool.  People one or two levels above us are role models and we generally aspire to be them.  We find people three levels up a bit crazy. Four or five levels up are definitely downright crazy.  And if we manage to find someone six levels separated from us, generally we think that person should probably be institutionalized.

At the same time, people one level below you are ignorant. Two levels back are jerks. Any further back and they should be shot on sight for the betterment of society as a whole.

It sort of brings a new perspective to the idea of “Everyone who drives faster than me is a maniac, and everyone who drives slower than me is an idiot”. 🙂

Bottom line: if you encounter someone you believe to be “extreme”,”crazy”, “illogical”, or “stupid” – they probably aren’t. They are probably just many levels separated from you on the topic of the day.

It’s why Warren Buffett can’t give us investing advice beyond “Get some index funds”.

By the way, I get told I’m insane and extreme, a lot.

So, coming back to the topic at hand… Mr. Blog Post guy was trying to give advice to obese people who aren’t slim. The problem was that he was trying to talk down way too many levels. He was never far down enough on the scale to understand where people like me were coming from, and what our challenges are. And he was too high up on the scale to reach me with his message. The communication gap was just too big.

So if you want to find a mentor, or someone to take advice from, find someone who’s just a step or two ahead of you. Your situation is fresh to them, because they’ve been where you are recently, and they will be able to use language you can understand to help you advance in your own levels.

If you want to help someone, your help is going to be best received by those just a level or two below you. If someone is just too far back, communication barriers become serious issues.

This is true pretty much universally.

I can best help people who value saving money, and have already had some success at it, but want to get more traction and momentum at it. Maybe they just got out of credit card debt, and they’re excited about that. You want someone to get your accounts set up to save for retirement on auto-pilot? I’m your girl. Wanna sell your car on Craigslist and find a more frugal option? Seriously, I’m practically a pro.  Are you sick of paying $40 per month, or more for cell service? My office is the one you need to step into, my friend.

I can best help people who have tried to lose weight before, but haven’t managed to commit to a program for more than two weeks. Maybe they’ve tried a few diets and a few exercise programs, but nothing has stuck, and they’re not sure what they’re doing wrong. I can help you start figuring out what your worst habits are, and what new habits will give you the best bang for your buck, to help you get into a normal BMI.

I CAN’T easily help people who live paycheck to paycheck and think carrying credit card debt isn’t a big deal. We each would think the other person is insane.

I CAN’T easily help someone who’s morbidly obese and can’t walk down the driveway to get their mail. I don’t understand where they are, not really, having never been in that situation. I don’t actually know what their biggest problems are, and the advice I’d give would piss them off just like Mr. Blog Post guy pissed me off. Also, the farther away my past becomes, the less I remember what it used to be like to be overweight and unable to change it.

Asking for business advice from the world’s most successful blogger would be a waste of time for both of us. I’m too far behind. He’s too far ahead.

Hiring Mr. Universe to design a diet and fitness routine for me would be overkill. I can definitely tell you I’d think that guy was probably insane. He’d think I was lazy.

It’s why you hear the advice about how you should teach what you know, even if what you know is very small. So if you started an online business and you made $100- that’s something worth writing about. Because there are a bunch of people behind you only making $0-100, and they will get more out of your piece of work, than they would from someone making $10000+. Because of levels.

So I’m teaching what I know. And this blog will eventually be a testament to my progression in my levels.

PS: In response to my blog comment way back then, I got a bunch of bro science from a ton of different people about how 1200 calories worth of food was both not enough, and also, too much, about how cardio is useless, and also, how I wasn’t doing enough, and I need to be strength training too, and how calories aren’t calories, but yet, they are and still need to be counted, but they better be natural, and also not carbs, or else my body is just oh so confused! Seriously, people have no idea what’s going on, including yours truly. The amount of sheer noise in this space is truly incredible.

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