tl;dr: If your advisor’s definition of success is different from yours, you may be better off ignoring their advice.

During my final year of undergrad, I met an expert academic counselor for help with my Masters’ applications. This counselor boasted “guaranteed admission” to US universities, and offered a freemium deal: the first 30 minutes of counseling were free, but the full-service “guaranteed admission” package would cost thousands.

Here’s how the first 3 minutes of our meeting went: She introduced herself, and immediately asked to see my list of target universities. I had written Stanford, Harvard, MIT, UCLA, and Michigan.

Her: “You’re aiming too high. You will do better if you apply to tier 2 colleges.”

Me: “But you haven’t even looked at my qualifications. I have a 1560 in GRE, 293 in TOEFL, 3 international internships. What about all that?”

Her: “No, you should apply to lower ranked colleges. I can help you find the right ones.”

I decided to end the meeting right there. And (with truckloads of luck) got into Michigan and Stanford.

As a first-year consultant, I told my mentor that my goal was to get promoted at the end of the year.

Him: “You are being too impatient. Usually people get promoted in year two or three.”

I ended up getting promoted in year 1. And then again in year 2. And again in year 3.

Wifey and I were looking for a financial advisor.

Them: “Our fee is 1% of all assets under management.”

Us: “So… even if we lose money in a year, you still charge us? Why not take 10% of profits? Doesn’t that seem fairer?”

Them: “It’s standard policy.”

We were interviewing realtors to help sell our house.

Her: “Don’t aim too high. Look at the market average and price it slightly lower. Here’s what I think is a good price.”

Us: “But that is $25K lower than what our house is estimated at!”

Her: “That’s okay, it’ll make it easier to sell.”

Beware advisors whose interests aren’t aligned with yours. Their games remind me of the old Mad TV skit about increasing happiness by lowering expectations.

Lowered Expectations

The academic advisor wanted an admission - I wanted admission into a good university.

The mentor was managing my expectations - I wanted to manage my career.

The realtor wanted a quick sale for minimal effort; the $25K we’d lose would be just a $750 loss to them.

The financial advisor wanted to charge a fee regardess of my profit or loss - I wanted profits.

When the expert advisor is measuring their success by a different metric than yours, listen to their advice, but then stick to what you really want.