“One person will tell you this is the path. Another will point the other way and say that is the path. They’re both right for themselves, and they’re both probably wrong for you. We all chart our own course and burn the map afterward. It’s just how it is. If you want to find the way forward, then stop looking for maps and start walking.” -Chuck Wendig
Good advice is never a final solution. It’s only a starting point for further inquiry, further work, and further growth.
As a married man, I benefit greatly from the insights and experiences of other married couples on topics like communication, male/female differences, understanding love languages, etc. This is possible because there are fundamental issues and themes that all marriages have in common. When I experience difficulty in these areas, I can learn valuable lessons by paying attention to how others have navigated the challenges and complexities posed by those same issues.
There are things about relationships in general and communication in general that I absolutely must know if I wish to have a successful marriage. This knowledge, however, has its limits. At some point, I have to go beyond understanding relationships and communication in general and take responsibility for creating a harmonious relationship with the particular person that is my spouse.
My significant other has qualities that are unique to her personality. While she shares many things in common with other people, she also has attributes that make her unlike any other person that’s ever existed (or been written about in books on relationships). When I face creative challenges in my married life, there are things I can learn from others, but there are also things I can only learn by engaging my spouse and attending to the unique dynamic of our relationship.
I use marriage as an example, but the underlying message is true for every creative challenge regardless of context:
No matter how much you benefit from the wisdom of other people’s experiences, there is at least one thing you’ll have to figure out on your own.
All problems are universal and unique. There is a sense in which everyone goes through what you’re going through, but there is another sense in which you are the only person in history who will ever go through what you’re going through.
We are never alone. Yet we are never without the need for self-reliance.
Even with a great map, you still need to find your own way.