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Choiceology: Season 4 Episode 3

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When it comes to advice, it just might be better to give than to receive.

Say you have a colleague who is struggling to complete a project at work. You might offer them some tips and tricks based on your own experience with similar projects. And it’s reasonable to expect those tips might be helpful to your colleague. But what if it turned out that the act of giving that advice might provide a measurable benefit to you as well?

In this episode of Choiceology with Katy Milkman, we look at how giving advice can benefit the giver—as much or even more than the person receiving the advice.

  • We begin the episode with Mike Mangini. Mike is a talented drummer, best known in the world of progressive rock. He has toured and recorded with numerous artists, including Steve Vai and Extreme. He also spent many years teaching drums privately and at the Berklee College of Music. It was in the process of teaching that he developed a system to codify his approach to playing drums. That system helped Mike navigate an intense audition for one of the biggest progressive rock bands in the world.
  • From the heady world of arena rock, we move to more practical examples of the power of giving advice. You’ll hear several people offering advice on a number of challenges—and then hear them realize the usefulness of their own advice in real time.
  • Next, Katy speaks with both Lauren Eskreis-Winkler and Angela Duckworth about the science behind advice giving. Lauren had the initial insight into this phenomenon. She and Angela, her doctoral adviser, ran a large-scale field experiment, along with Katy and Dena M. Gromet. The study demonstrates the measurable power of the advice-giving effect.

Lauren Eskreis-Winkler is a postdoctoral fellow at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. You can read her paper on the advice-giving effect here.

Angela Duckworth is the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

Choiceology is an original podcast from Charles Schwab.

If you enjoy the show, please leave a rating or review on Apple Podcasts.

Click to show the transcript

Katy Milkman: Picture the classic scene from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Luke Skywalker is training in the humid swamps of the planet Dagobah with Yoda, the tiny green 900-year-old Jedi master. As the scene unfolds, Yoda offers several pearls of Jedi wisdom to Luke. He prods Luke to clear his mind of questions. Tells him that he must unlearn what he has learned, that he must do or do not. There is no try. Sure, some of the advice is vague and grammatically problematic. And Luke seems reluctant to follow every suggestion, but I want to pose a question that you might not be expecting. What does Yoda get out of this arrangement?

It’s a common trope in movies, the master and the student, the Karate Kid and Mr. Miyagi, Professor Dumbledore and Harry Potter, Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins. In these fictional examples, we all assume that the value of the advice is always greater for the student, but in real life is this always the case? In this episode of Choiceology, we’ll talk about a newly discovered benefit of giving advice, a phenomenon that could be useful for anyone working towards a challenging goal, whether that’s a high school student trying to improve her grades or a rock drummer doing the audition of a lifetime.

I’m Katy Milkman, and this is Choiceology, an original podcast from Charles Schwab. It’s a show about the psychology and economics behind the decisions people make. We bring you true stories involving high-stakes choices, and then we explore the latest research and behavioral science to help you avoid costly mistakes and achieve your goals.

Mike Mangini: An example of a rock beat would be the opposite of a Brazilian beat. A rock beat would be [singing]—where one and two, three and four, but a Brazilian beat goes one, two and three, four. One, two and three, four. So the two hits …

Katy Milkman: This is Mike.

Mike Mangini: Hi, my name is Mike Mangini.

Katy Milkman: Mike is a phenomenal drummer. He’s best known for his work in progressive rock and metal bands, but he can play any style. He started out playing Beatles music as a five-year-old.

Mike Mangini: Then when I was nine, my brother took me to see Buddy Rich.

Katy Milkman: Buddy Rich was a legendary Jazz drummer, who played with incredible speed and precision and flair.

Mike Mangini: But I just remember seeing this drummer make me feel like I wanted to just … I start shaking my fists. I don’t know what different way to describe it. He energized me and I saw how fast it could go, but that he was a musician and a musical drummer because I realized a drummer could go fast, and smile, and be just a lunatic up there, hitting everything in sight, but also be a great musician.

Katy Milkman: Mike, grew up listening to greats like the Beatles and Buddy Rich. And later he became fascinated with the heavier drum sounds of hard rock.

Mike Mangini: As a child, the posters I put up on my bedroom wall, were the bands Led Zeppelin, Boston, U.K., Lynyrd Skynyrd. … Oh my gosh, now that I think back, I’m actually picturing the wall, but what’s really cool for me in my life is either becoming friends with the people in those posters or actually doing gigs with them. It’s just mind blowing to me.

Katy Milkman: Mike would end up performing with some of the biggest names in rock, including guitar god Steve Vai and the band Extreme. And he would cross paths with some of his childhood heroes.

Mike Mangini: When I was in the band Extreme, we were on the same bill together with Page and Plant. You know what I remember about it is being in the catering line next to Robert Plant, the singer from Led Zeppelin, and seeing how tall he was. I think I asked him what food he’s going to have—the chicken leg or the pork or something—I don’t remember what I said.

Katy Milkman: Before he became a touring musician, Mike made his living as a software engineer, but people who heard him play began to ask him for private drum lessons.

Mike Mangini: I started to give drum lessons in the late ’80s, where I had a rehearsal room with a Van Halen tribute band, but there were 66 rehearsal rooms in the music complex, and I started to become friends with people there. And what happened was, I used to show up as early as I could and stay as late as I could, and I would practice and practice and practice, and other drummers in the building, little did I know, but they would listen outside of my door, and one by one, many, many of them asked me to give them drum lessons, and I at first refused because I didn’t feel qualified.

I didn’t have a piece of paper that said I was a teacher, so I balked at first, but then, because I got close with people and they said, “Look, just, just try it. Just please just show me what you’re doing.” I found just showing them things was one thing. That’s what anybody can do, but I wanted to explain to them what they should think and when they should think it. Just one thing led to another, and I ended up getting so many students that I was able to quit my software engineering job.

Katy Milkman: As Mike was adding more and more students, his career as a performer started to progress in exciting ways.

Mike Mangini: I did have a private teaching business myself, but then I got a job playing for the guitarist Steve Vai after I had worked with the band Extreme for two and a half years. So that job with Steve Vai led me to live in California. That led me to being on the cover of drum magazines.

Katy Milkman: That exposure led to more teaching work in the form of drum clinics, which are basically informal group lessons.

Mike Mangini: Which means I show up to a hall, or a music store, or a venue, I discuss how to play, what I played, and I played the music tracks, which led to my making contact with a friend who did teach at Berklee College and another friend who also knew the chair of the music department, who told them, “Hey, Mike is thinking of moving back to Boston. Do you want to hire him?” And the answer was yes.

Katy Milkman: The Berklee College of Music, which is one of the top music schools in the country, added Mike Mangini to the faculty. It was there that Mike really honed his approach to teaching drums.

Mike Mangini: The actual philosophy itself when I’m teaching is to explain to somebody what to think and when to think it. That is the key, because you’re training many, many areas of your mind, brain, and body. It involves the eyes, the ears, and the sense of touch.

[teaching] In that example, I tried to transition from one idea to the next without changing too many things …

Katy Milkman: Mike began to develop a system based on his experience as a drum teacher. He found that breaking down rhythms and techniques into small elemental parts resulted in much faster learning for his students. And he would do this for several different styles of music.

Mike Mangini: What I did is I quickly showed them how to strike a drum for jazz, Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, funk, and rock music—the five different strikes. And what I did is I broke it down. I drew the grid on a giant whiteboard, and I explained to them what made each strike different, and each time signature a dynamic level or drum part, and then they saw the whole grid in use.

Katy Milkman: This deconstruction of complex techniques led Mike to develop a more formal system for teaching. He calls it the Grid.

Mike Mangini: My Grid system is like the periodic table for chemistry. It’s got all the elements in there, and those elements are in categories. My Grid contains seven categories across the top. They are time signature, subdivision, dynamics, instrument sound, limbs, musical style, and phrases. Using the Grid system, I’m able to teach a drummer how to play five different styles in under 30 minutes—styles that they were not able to play when they walked in the room.

I think the Grid is such an effective teaching tool for learning anything really, any musician, but drummers specifically, because it gives a person everything there is to do on one page. In other words, it’s easy to conjure up this image in your mind. It’s not complicated. In fact, any musician could improvise in any situation using this one-page Grid.

Katy Milkman: Mike taught using this approach for several years, but one day he got news of a chance to join the world-famous progressive metal band Dream Theater. It was the kind of band that required a highly skilled drummer, and it was an incredible opportunity for someone like Mike.

Mike Mangini: The drummer in the band Dream Theater quit. The music is not that easy to play, so they held a worldwide audition and flew drummers in from every continent. I had to travel to New York with these other drummers to compete. There were seven of us, and we were tested on the same drums, within the same two rooms, with the same tests. We had three different tests: We had to play 30 minutes of their music, we had to be tested on our ability to quickly learn very complex time signatures, and we had to just jam with them and just improvise and make stuff up.

I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t have time to be nervous. So now, the improvisation happens, and I look over, and the guitarist, John, just starts playing a line. So I just have to start playing after one of the musicians starts making something up.

Katy Milkman: This is the moment where all of Mike’s teaching experience and all the work he did on his Grid made the difference, and he knew he had what it would take to nail this audition.

Mike Mangini: So I used the Grid to identify the amount of notes in the phrase he was using. In other words, he had played a line, and I had recognized time signatures—six, four—subdivision—four—there were four notes in every one of the beats he’s playing. Dynamics? He’s playing medium. Instruments? Well, I’m going to use my high hat, kick, and snare drum. Musical style? It’s progressive and it’s rock, so I have to play something progressive and rock.

I literally was violently hitting those drums as if I was fighting everyone else I was auditioning against, as if I was in a fight. Then I was doing it with every single fiber of my soul that I could, because if I was going to hit a drum, I was going to hit a darn drum, and I wasn’t going to pull back. The keyboard player, Jordan, stopped numerous times during the audition to literally get off his keyboard and literally walk over to me to ask me, “How did you know what I was going to play?” I’m improvising. You didn’t know this. How did you know it?” I was able to recognize what he was playing almost instantly because of my training with the Grid system.

That’s what the Grid does. It teaches you how to do that.

Katy Milkman: Mike had clearly impressed the band with his technique, his musicianship, and his ability to improvise, but was it enough?

Mike Mangini: So I was at my home in a suburb of Boston. I got the phone call telling me that I got the Dream Theater job. I actually was looking out the window with downtown Boston, and what struck me the most deeply, believe it or not, was that I realized that I was not going to have to sit in that God-forsaken traffic every day, for the rest of my life. Because I loved my job at Berklee, I got to tell you. But I cried. I was not able to speak coherently. “Oh my gosh! My children. They’re going to be able to go to the school I want to send them to. I’ll be able to afford that now. My family, my parents, my sister, and my brother are going to be so happy for me.

Katy Milkman: Mike credits teaching other drummers for years with giving him the confidence and ability to ace that audition.

Mike Mangini: If I have not created the Grid system the way that I did, I am not sure that I would have been chosen as the new drummer for Dream Theater, because so many things in a high-stress situation can prevent a person from thinking straight. That the one thing I had going in there was a system of thinking straight.

The first show I played with Dream Theater, people were going bananas. I saw my name on signs high in the air. I mean, I was just flooded with thoughts, but I will tell you that I was grounded with my timing. I was grounded in hearing where the beat was supposed to be.

The feeling of hearing 80,000 people erupt after our band finishes the song and especially after we finish a set is surreal; it’s the kind of thing that I see it happening in real time, and I every now and then go back to when I was a kid and I had posters on my wall of other bands in similar situations, but to be up there doing it, experiencing it myself, is liberating and it’s rewarding.

Katy Milkman: Mike Mangini is a sought-after drummer and drum instructor. He’s performed with well-known acts such as Steve Vai and Extreme. He currently tours and records with the band Dream Theater. You heard a few excerpts from Dream Theater’s latest album, Distance Over Time, courtesy of their label, Inside Out. As of February 2019, Dream Theater had sold over 12 million records throughout the world. Special thanks to Hudson Music for clips from Mike Mangini’s instructional video, The Grid. I have links to Mike’s work in the show notes and at schwab.com/podcast.

Mike Mangini is obviously very talented and hardworking, but there’s a particularly interesting aspect of his career arc that I want to flag. He had an early start as a musician, and early success with some impressive bands, but it was his time spent teaching that seemed to raise his performance to the next level. Working with students, refining and developing confidence in his approach to music theory and technique, and formalizing his method gave him a leg-up on the other drummers who auditioned for the Dream Theater gig.

Other drummers might’ve taken a different path. They might’ve focused solely on practice, putting in as many hours as possible on the drums each day. They might’ve sought out new and different teachers, and of course those would have been great options, but Mike partly outstripped his competitors because he did that and more. He taught drums to other aspiring musicians, and it turns out there’s a tangible benefit to us when we give other people advice in an arena where we hope to improve. Now we want to take you out of the auditorium and into a couple of phone calls to show you how this works when it comes to goals that are a little more modest than joining a world-famous metal band.

Interviewer: Tell me about a goal you have.

Speaker 4: A goal that I have is to own my own property, hoping to get a house in, like, a more rural area.

Speaker 5: I was always interested in languages in school, so even though I didn’t do French immersion, that was something that I achieved when I was in school, but it was always sort of my goal to be trilingual and have a third language under my belt.

Interviewer: So let’s say you have a friend who has the exact same goal—what advice would you give them to help them achieve it?

Speaker 4: A big one for this goal in particular would be having a budget.

Speaker 5: You can’t really learn a language, I think, from textbooks or online courses. You have to hear people speaking it natively. So I would say to go and try to immerse yourself in a language and see if that helps you learn it more quickly.

Interviewer: Is that something that you’re doing right now?

Speaker 5: No, not at all. I’m just speaking English all the time, all day.

Speaker 4: No.

Interviewer: So a conversation like this, has hearing your own advice that you would give to this imaginary friend, has it given you any insight on how you might approach this goal or future goals moving forward?

Speaker 4: Yeah. It is something that I need to go home and work on right now. I should take that advice, take a look at my budget, and my finances, and see where I’m at.

Speaker 5: Yeah, I mean, it’s a bit of a wake-up call when you clearly know the path you should take to reach your goal and are for some reason not doing it.

Katy Milkman: There’s an interesting thing going on here. Notice that the people giving advice feel pretty good about their suggestions. Good enough to consider taking some of those suggestions themselves. While it can be very useful to receive advice, it turns out that giving someone else advice can have a really positive effect on you, the advisor. New research by a Wharton postdoctoral scholar named Lauren Eskreis-Winkler has demonstrated across a variety of settings that advisors benefit themselves from giving out advice.

I’m one of several people including Lauren’s doctoral advisor, Angela Duckworth, who’s had the good fortune to collaborate with Lauren on this research. Lauren calls the phenomenon she’s identified the advice-giving effect. I’ve asked both Lauren and her mentor onto the show to talk about this effect. First up is Angela Duckworth, who many listeners will be familiar with from her past appearance on Choiceology and from her bestselling book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

Angela is a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the advisor to many successful students, which may help explain her own success.

Hi, Angela. Thanks so much for joining.

Angela Duckworth: Hi, Katie. I’m glad to be here.

Katy Milkman: Could you tell me a little bit about why advice giving changes behavior?

Angela Duckworth: It’s not intuitive, is it? That if I give you advice, I as the advisor should somehow benefit. But in fact, that is actually what happens. In other words, when I tell you, “Hey, Katie, here’s a way to stop procrastinating” or “Here’s a way to stay off your cell phone when you don’t want to,” what happens is actually probably a number of things, but the net result is that I myself am more motivated and more effective at engaging in exactly the same behaviors that I was advocating for. I think it happens actually for a number of reasons, so I’ll just begin with saying the benefits of advice giving are non-intuitive, but I think they’re very real.

Katy Milkman: Could you dive in a little bit to why you think this happens?

Angela Duckworth: Say I give you advice about not procrastinating on your writing … which by the way, we both know is not a problem for you, but imagine …

Katy Milkman: Oh, thank you.

Angela Duckworth: … you’re not a procrastinator. But imagine that you were, and I say, “You know, Katie, one thing that really helps me is if I break down a big goal into little goals and that each day I set out almost a tiny goal. Like, “Please work on this paper for one minute,” I say to myself. That’s a goal that anybody could do. So I use that trick. Now when I share that piece of advice with you … oh, well, for one thing I have actually now done a little bit more processing, a little more reflection, than if you hadn’t asked me for my advice about how not to procrastinate.

The second thing is I think I’ve drawn attention, in this advice-giving process, to the things that are under my control. When you give advice to another person, you don’t name all of the many things that are going to influence their behavior that are not under their control. It’s actually in the nature of advice giving itself that we focus on things that other people can change. And in so doing, of course, we’re also focusing on things that we ourselves can change. And I think actually that gets to a very related mechanism, which is confidence. The idea that when I give you advice about how you can do better, I indirectly motivate myself. I increase my own confidence in part, I think, because I’ve drawn attention to things that … you know, as I articulate them, it’s just so clear. Like, “Oh, these are the things that I have control over, as opposed to things I don’t have control over.”

I think finally there’s a matter of cognitive dissonance. So if I advise you to break down big goals into little goals and to not procrastinate, and then the next time my own deadline looms and I end up watching re-runs of Game of Thrones instead of doing my work, I will experience dissonance, which is very uncomfortable—having said one thing and engaging in the exact opposite behavior. And human beings, including myself, don’t like to say one thing and do another. We don’t like dissonance. This inconsistency, both versions of this cannot be true. So that desire to close the gap, I think, is another reason why advice giving could work.

Katy Milkman: Let’s talk a little bit about the science behind the advice-giving effect. Could you describe the paper that you wrote with Lauren Eskreis-Winkler and Ayelet Fishbach?

Angela Duckworth: The credit for the idea of advice giving really goes to Lauren Eskreis-Winkler, who was a graduate student with me and now a postdoctoral fellow with Ayelet Fishbach. When she had this idea, it was originally when we were studying grit. And we asked each other, if we know that grit is somewhat predictive of certain success outcomes, the next question is, how do you increase grit?

And she came back to me with the idea that if you want people to be gritty, you should get them to give advice to other people about how to be gritty. And it was counterintuitive in the sense that you don’t really give people anything in her idea of an intervention. You don’t tell them any new information. You don’t give them any tips or hacks. You just tell them to give other people advice. And the idea that people could somehow unlock some kind of information or some wisdom inside themselves without being given anything and then materially improve their motivation and performance, I thought, was really intriguing.

Katy Milkman: Angela, if you’re one of our listeners, you’re probably wondering, how can I use advice-giving to help me make better decisions? How do you think people can best take advantage for themselves of this insight, that giving advice is so useful?

Angela Duckworth: I think there’s a lesson here for leadership. If you want the weakest person on your team to improve, your impulse will probably be to shower them with advice. And that’s not entirely the wrong move because they might need to know things that they don’t know. But I wonder what the effect would be to take that weak link on your team and to ask them to mentor a new person. And I think what we might unlock there is confidence that had previously not been realized and intuitions that had not been carried out. In terms of ourselves, how would I do this?

I think maybe one thing is just to be reminded that we actually know things that we’re not using, and so if I am struggling with a problem, I could just hypothetically ask myself, “Well, if it weren’t me … or Katy—what would I say to Katy? What would I say to Katy if she were freaking out about the current problem in my life?” And I think that trick could be helpful in sort of self-administering the advice-giving nudge.

Katy Milkman: Thanks so much for doing this, Angela. It’s great to talk to you.

Angela Duckworth: Thanks, Katy. Thanks for having me.

Katy Milkman: Angela Duckworth is the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. I have a link in the show notes and at schwab.com/podcast.

Lauren Eskreis-Winkler is the one who had the original insight about the benefits of advice giving for the adviser. So I wanted to bring Lauren on the show to give you her perspective. Lauren is a postdoctoral fellow here at Wharton.

Thank you so much for joining me here today.

Lauren Eskreis-Winkler: Oh, thank you for having me.

Katy Milkman: I want to talk a little bit about the origins of this idea that you came up with to turn students into mentors and to recognize that by giving advice we sometimes become wiser ourselves. Where did this idea come from?

Lauren Eskreis-Winkler: So as a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, I was getting my PhD and actually running a bunch of different types of motivational interventions with kids, many of which were very didactic. So us as the scientists coming in and sharing insights with students, people in the workplace, really across the spectrum. And what I found is that people are kind of like their own little motivational psychologists. So we would go to schools and run focus groups, and the level of sophistication that students had when they were sharing their strategies for getting themselves to do homework was kind of mind-boggling.

There were kids who would tell us that they would put little candies at the end of their math homework pages, and as soon as they did all the math problems on the page, they could eat the candy, or one kid who imagined that his house was burning down and he had to finish his homework before the house burned down. You can imagine that as students got older, the strategies got even more sophisticated. And so it just sparked this idea that, yes, we’re psychologists, and we for sure have information to share with people. But maybe when it comes to motivation, half of the battle or even more than half the battle is getting people to enact what they already know.

Katy Milkman: So that led you to design a series of interventions where you would have people give advice to other people, with a hypothesis that it would lead to better outcomes, right? Could you talk a little bit about some of the experiments you’ve run and what the exact designs were like to test those hypotheses?

Lauren Eskreis-Winkler: Yeah, sure. So basically any self-control dilemma you could imagine. So people struggle to lose weight. They struggle to control their tempers. They struggle to motivate themselves at work. Kids struggle to motivate themselves in school. And so the first series of experiments we ran was actually testing the power of giving advice. So we appoint people who are struggling in all of these domains, and very counterintuitively we say, “Could you advise someone else who’s struggling with this problem?” And we ran studies in which we wanted to compare it to something. We didn’t just want to see whether giving advice helps. We wanted to see whether it helps more than practice as usual.

And practice as usual is pretty much always receiving advice. Like people who are struggling to lose weight, they go to the Mayo Clinic, and they ask a nutritionist for advice, or people struggling with anger management will ask a psychologist to advise them on how they can control their tempers. So we ran these studies in which people either gave or received advice. Received advice from experts. And what we found repeatedly is that people felt more motivated to strive towards these goals after giving advice than receiving it.

So after finding that people self-reported being much more motivated after giving advice, we went to the field and we started to test with students. We examined kids in school, right? If kids give advice to younger students, will they be more motivated to do their homework than if they receive advice from an expert teacher? And in fact they were. Up to a month later, kids are doing more homework and logging more hours online in their vocabulary training if they’ve given advice versus received advice. And most recently I’ve actually had the pleasure of collaborating with you—and Angela Duckworth and Dena Gromet—and we got to run this really, really amazing trial in schools with high school students and found that kids who gave advice at the end of the academic quarter, they had actually earned higher grades than kids in a control group.

Katy Milkman: So Lauren, can you tell us a little bit about what some of these interventions look like so a listener could imagine how they might deploy the strategy?

Lauren Eskreis-Winkler: Yeah, the studies we’ve actually ran so far are so incredibly simple. I’d almost call them proof of concept. I could imagine a much more detailed advice-giving intervention, a much lengthier advice-giving intervention. But what we’ve done to date is just these very simple exercises where literally you walk in or you sign into a computer and you’re asked to give advice to somebody else on the exact issue you’re struggling with. So in the intervention that I think has had the most impressive effects, which is raising kids’ grades, you would think that we came and we worked with kids over weeks and months and asked them to advise 50 times, but it was actually just one session, one 8-10 minute session in which we said, “Actually, we think you have a lot of knowledge that you could share with somebody else.”

And so it’s this really brief exercise where they signed in and we asked them some specific questions like, “How would you avoid procrastinating?” “Can you write a note to another student who’s struggling to do better in school?” There were some multiple-choice questions, where they would tell us, like, what’s the most effective place to study? But really this incredibly brief intervention that seems to have had these long-term effects.

Katy Milkman: And when you say, “Sign in.” You mean they’re going onto a computer and doing this digitally?

Lauren Eskreis-Winkler: Yeah. Yeah. Almost all of the interventions we’ve run have been only done digitally only because it’s so much more efficient from a researcher and scientific and administrative standpoint.

Katy Milkman: So Lauren, Angela Duckworth shared some of her thoughts on this, but why do you think that leading people to give others advice is such an incredibly potent tool for changing behavior in positive directions? 

Lauren Eskreis-Winkler: In the act of giving advice, you have to think really concretely and specifically about what to do. You might even have to form a specific plan to advise somebody else. And so we think that might be what’s going on—that students or people in the workplace, they didn’t really think so hard about what they know and put it in concrete suggestions, and our intervention might force them to do that.

Katy Milkman: And that’s a really good one to talk about in this episode in particular because we’ve just talked about a drummer who really used a tool that he created for others to enhance his own career.

Lauren Eskreis-Winkler: Exactly. And I think the last possibility, which I think is so intriguing and gets back to some of the stuff I was talking about at the beginning, is that when you give advice, it is totally customized to you. I’ve actually been in seminars where a teacher asked everyone to go around and talk about how they motivate themselves to sit down and write. And there were 10 people in the room, and the 10 people gave 10 completely different suggestions. And so as opposed to lots of other motivational interventions in psychology that offer blanket solutions … and this is the exact opposite. It’s allowing every single person to customize and remind themselves about what works best for them, and that’s what they share with somebody else.

Katy Milkman: Lauren, thank you so much for joining me. This was really interesting.

Lauren Eskreis-Winkler: Oh, thanks for having me, Katy.

Katy Milkman: Lauren Eskreis-Winkler is a postdoctoral fellow here at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. I’ve included links to her research papers about the advice-giving effect in the show notes and at schwab.com/podcast.

Katy Milkman: The nice thing about the advice-giving effect is that unlike topics we often cover, this effect doesn’t suggest some systematic mistake you’ll want to sidestep. This is actually a technique you can use to help you achieve your goals. If you’re trying to save for a vacation, try giving someone advice on strategies for saving money. You can check out our sister podcast, Financial Decoder, and the episode “How Can You Save More?” to find some good tips. If you’re trying to get in shape, walking someone else through a plan might help you follow through on your own. If you manage a team at work, and one of your team members is underperforming, try assigning them a mentee.

Giving advice can boost our confidence, increase our commitment to following through, and help us see things more clearly so success becomes easier. And you’re helping someone else to boot. What’s not to like? Best of all, it’s easy. There are lots of people looking for advice who you can easily connect with to start spit-balling ideas. So if you’ve got a goal you’ve been struggling to achieve, why not give a little advice? You’re probably more qualified than you realize to offer tips. In the immortal words of the Roman philosopher Seneca, “When we teach, we learn.”

You’ve been listening to Choiceology, an original podcast from Charles Schwab. If you’ve enjoyed the show, leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. You can subscribe for free in your favorite podcasting apps—that way you won’t miss an episode. Next time, we’ll look at a bias that affects your tolerance for risk and can cloud your investment decisions. I’m Katy Milkman. Talk to you soon.

Speaker 8: For important disclosures, see the show notes or visit schwab.com/podcast.

Important Disclosures

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