I was talking with one of the Praxis participants recently, and he told me he’d been dealing with one difficulty after another. “It’s got to get better soon”, he said, “They say bad things happen in threes.”
Of course It’s highly unlikely that the universe has a law that bad things will befall individuals in threes. But the truth or falsehood of the adage isn’t the point. The adage is useful, regardless of its truth value. It helps us stay lighthearted. Sometimes even believing it to be true can bring some mental relief, or change our perspective so that we fail to notice the next bad thing to happen. After all, the badness of a great many things are highly dependent on how we perceive them.
The same goes for advice, tips, how-to’s, best practices and the like. We can debate endlessly whether a particular productivity hack is really a good idea, or whether marital advice is true. But that’s not the point. There is no such thing as universally or objectively good advice.
Good advice is advice that is helpful to you in a particular time and place.
The real value of advice is the courage it gives us to do what we already know on some level we ought to do. It can put into words intuitions we have, or lend inspiration and support for things we’re afraid to do.
The answer to the ironic question in the title of this post is whenever it’s useful.