I first wrote about “tips posts” in 2011, but I thought that as we start the Year of the Peer, it’s a topic worth revisiting. The title, of course, is a play on the line, “Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts” which comes from the story of Troy and how the Greeks used a wooden horse to trick their way into the city. Sophocles described it as, “foes’ gifts are no gifts; profit they bring none.”
For me, “tips posts” are no different. They should come with a warning label. While I don’t believe everyone who writes an article or blog post that offers 5 tips for this or 10 ways to accomplish something else is necessarily a geek or one’s enemy, I would suggest, however, that we consume such articles with caution. They typically address symptoms rather than underlying causes. And because they rarely provide the necessary background or root principles that lay beneath them, we’re left with one-liners that, while entertaining, will never by themselves help us transform our behavior in any meaningful way. For that, we have to go deeper.
Can they be helpful from time to time? Sure. Do I read these articles just like everyone else? Absolutely. Heck, I’ve written a few, although I try to avoid it. Let’s face it, any post or article that promises a simple, numerically organized way to address a timely, complex issue can be hard to resist. That’s why writers write them and readers read them. It’s link candy. I’m just suggesting that a steady diet of these posts without something more can be bad for you.
So what are we to do? Two things: 1) Next time, you read a really good “tips” article, engage the writer in the comments section and ask for a deeper dive. Most of the people who write these posts really know what they’re talking about and are more than happy to share what they know. The better you understand the advice, the more likely you will be to adopt it. 2) Read more posts that take you on a more meaningful journey. Click on headlines that don’t give away what the piece is all about. Explore more often and you’ll discover more frequently. Your peers have a lot to offer you!
By balancing our “tips” fascination with a deeper dive into underlying causes and the mindset that drives our basic assumptions, we stand a good chance of converting short-term tips to life-long best practices.
How about this for a post?
Five Ways To Convert Short-term Tips To Life-long Best Practices!