Making of a mentor – The perils of unsolicited advice

Mentoring is the highest form of self-actualization in the hierarchy of needs of executives. Especially for those of us who have failed to earn our glory through our guts, or stripes through our sweat. But alas, we confuse mentoring with advising (Our English teachers, dictionaries and Roget’s thesaurus have to share the responsibility of this heinous crime, but we will not mix issues here)

So most of the time, we believe the easiest path for us to be part of a success story (if not script it or be the protagonist) is by strewing unsolicited advice to whoever crosses our path. We can then take vicarious pleasure, once they succeed, in telling the world, that “I told her to take that assignment” or “I advised him not to…”. You know.

Though the strategy is sound, it is not fool-proof. Since most of us are unable to distinguish between calamity and opportunity, more often than not we end up with a biff in our face and a flea in our ear. From those we seek out to advice.

Lot of times, we end up rushing to advice those who are under severe mental and physical stress (Working late hours, missed out on promotion, no invite to boss’s house warming party, ….). Not advisable. The reasons are not far behind to see.

Unsolicited advice delivered post-facto, is the unkindest cut of all the worthy words that ever cross the lips of self-appointed, supposedly well meaning well-wishers. It thrives on misery. It is the proverbial salt rubbed on one’s wounds; the grating sandpaper scrubbed into their sensitive soul.

Most of the hapless parties are so deep into their own desolation at the time that it is shoveled into their ears; they fail to recognize the goodness in the advice. Anger and the loss of whatever it is they lost clouds their discerning power.

And to worsen the matters, they may even feel (mistakenly so, for you and I know the truth) the adviser (you, or me) is invariably a peer who has reaped the benefits from that which they have lost. Or we have a safety-net or a mighty big nest-egg. And we may be inwardly laughing at their state of affairs safe in our cozy comfort.

Whatever be the reason, they sport a hurt-look. They show one finger or the mighty fist and storm out of our presence. Sometimes they may even stay put and condescend to counter advice on the likely nooks and crannies we can shove our advice in.

I used to be a Flash Gordon, wearing my mantle of a mentor, in rushing to the rescue of such colleagues in bereavement earlier. Now I play Houdini. Why, you ask? Read on.


One rainy day a primate, all wet and shivering, took shelter under a tree waiting for the shower to stop so that it can go about its monkey business.

The tree was a safe-haven to many a chirping bird who have built their nests and stored their customary nuts and fruits just for such a day. They nestled in their warm beds, feeding their kids, kissing their mates or having a go at a nutritious seed with their sharp beaks. Most of the birds cast a lazy or disdainful look towards the simian, but none stirred from their respective places to extend a helping hand. Save one sparrow.

The lowliest of the creatures seizing the chance to do its bit of good deed, looked at the quivering monkey and proceeded to offer its words of wisdom thus.

Sparrow In Nest (SIN): “Hey, how are you feeling?”

Wet and shivering primate (WASP): “What do you think?” (Baring its teeth)

SIN: “Just asking. You know, you should have built a nest or something like the rest of us”

WASP: “gggrrrrrr…….”.

SIN: “I mean, you know it rains every year. You can see that don’t you? You could have saved yourself on this rainy day, and many such in future”

WASP: “GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR” (gesticulating wildly)

SIN: “I have lot of fruits and nuts stored in my nest. I sweated, flew far and wide, gathered from this tree and that. You can climb trees can’t you? You could have done it too”

WASP: “YES. And here I come

SIN: “kkkkkkkeeeeeeeeechhhhhhh..Hey what the….eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” (furious flutter of wings. A bit of a struggle)

Thud (Sound of a limp body hitting the ground)

Scrunch. Scrunch. Scrunch. (Sound of sharp teeth digging into scrumptious and juicy fruits)


If you sin by rushing into giving unsolicited advice, you get stung. Fatally so.

So listen all you mentors in the making. Take my advice and desist from advising. Kapish?


17 Comments Add yours

  1. Meenakshi says:

    I like the way you have used SIN and WASP acronyms…

  2. M P Shyni says:

    This is the reason I nvr Donate my Valuable Advice unless there is a Desperate Needy who would Act upon My Advice…!!!!! 🙂

  3. Anne Egros says:

    Thanks, very good thinking. Always ask permission before offering advices. Answering practical questions sometimes with a “how to do” can speed-up the learning curve and elevate the level of thinking, just enough to empower someone and stop the analysis paralysis. I started Twitter 2 weeks ago @AnneEgros and I am so glad to have experts helping me with free advices and knowledge. So really advices can be the worst thing or the best thing, especially with new technologies.

  4. Arun,
    Very true; This is also becoming a big issue at home front. With 3 or possibly 4 generations under roof the Advice takes front seat from one gen to next. Requires a lot patience as well as matured to mind our own business to keep reputation intact…
    Keep flowing.

  5. Jyoti Navel says:

    Hello Mr arun,

    Know when to speak; for many times it brings Danger to give the best advice to kings.

    Realy we should give advice only when asked for…… unnecessary of it might put ourself into trouble happened wit sin.Advice should always be provided with solution.Even in our day to day life we end up in troubles sometimes if we give free advice to others which is not required.

    Those who give bad advice to the prudent, both lose their pains and are laughed to scorn.

    Got another lesson to learn from ur blog….:)

    keep going on…….

  6. Hareesh Bhargavan says:

    Gud one. Better to give silent advises, through non verbal means if its too tough to restrain gems of wisdom at the most inapproiate moments. 🙂

  7. kapilesh says:

    I guess anyone who speaks anything to any one is only his own opinion. So the advise that comes is from a person the way life touched him and what he feels about life which may be different for you.
    Everybody runs his life through some guidelines or maps and a map of mumbai will not work in delhi.

  8. Sumita says:

    Adding to the unsolicited advice..
    When you are at receiving end make sure you take only those points which will be help full to you, keeping the rest advice for the advisor… that’s what I follow.
    Sometime it really help in getting an answer to your queries. Yes to be clear sometime…it really works. Depend how you take it.
    This post as usual Mr. Vemuri is knowledge enhancement for me.

    Cheers !!!!!

  9. Vidushi Gupta says:

    Hi Arun,

    As always…it has to be good…but its much better this time..!!

    Quite true…again..i agree with meenal…the crux of ur story is very much digestible..
    At times its better to see the drama…act like a fool..rather than poking our nose..and facing the consequence like that if SIN…
    I think..the same i did right now..:)

    Keep penning…Congratulations…:)


  10. Suresh Cooduvalli says:

    Dear Arun

    Though, I was getting the web alert; had no time to read it. I finished reading all the stories

    “One is better than the other”

    Good & great work

    Keep it going


    Suresh Cooduvalli

  11. vivek miranda says:

    Hi Arun

    Once again a good entry

    My take on this lesson ” give solutions to problems than mere uncalled for advice”


    Vivek Miranda

  12. Pavan says:

    Yep. Or so it seems that the saying “silence is golden” is true … but ….
    Maybe the story does not end here. The sparrow grew wiser & stronger from this setback & in the world of sparrows went on to become successful( became a Dhirubhai amongst the sparrows !!!! ).
    There is a saying ” The path to heaven is through hell . The deeper one experiences the agony of hell, the higher one can soar into heaven ”

    Cheers Vemuri.

  13. Kunle says:

    Good one Arun. Never cease to be inspired by your writings. But you never really clarified about solicited mentoring. What’s your take on that?

  14. jayraj says:

    U know as they say, the only thing that is actually FREE in the world is advice.
    One major thing to learn from the story is that never never advise someone who you think is much higher or stronger, someone who can screw your happiness if he/she wants to, like it happened to SIN. In such a case it is better to keep mum or if you REALLY cant see someone in trouble either give a SUGGESTION (so to say!!!!), or give out a direct solution, The SIN should have either kept mum or she should have fed the Monkey. These were the only 2 ways to either make or break her life (read CAREER).
    Just a perspective.

    Arun, another feather to your cap, liked it as always mate. (think am gonna be the first buyer of your book as it comes out)

  15. Pinky says:

    Message of the day from Arun:
    ” dont tell everybody your secret to success towards your marvellous resources”
    That is why the rich and famous are normally the other extreme before they become rich and famous again 😀

    That’s what I digestedfrom this blog entry.

  16. Shirin Ara says:

    Hey Arun,

    Nice n Interesting Article Again…. 🙂

    Advice is normally meant to be given when asked for…But advice out of concern is not a crime..

    However,its not only about unasked or unsolicited advice, its more about “giving the right advice at the right time”..just like doing the right thing at the right time!!

    Had the SIN given the WASP a useful advice on how to get shelter n food, she wudnt have gone thru what she did!!!

    A good lesson to learn though…Think twice before you advice!!! 🙂

    Keep Writing!! Good One


    Shirin Ara

  17. Meenal says:

    Hmmm….I wouldn’t agree with the severity of actions but yes, i agree with the gist of it. Unsolicited advice is the worst possible advice. I say “If I want advice, I’ll ask for it.” Till then, you can keep it to yourself…

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