The Best No-Brainer Advice

When I read BJ Novak’s hilarious book of short stories months ago, one story really stuck out…

Here’s an excerpt:


The Girl Who Gave Great Advice

“Well,” she would say, and then narrow her eyes at the person she was talking to: “what does your heart tell you?” (Sometimes she would use “gut” instead of “heart.” She switched those up sometimes.)

“Yes. Yes!” the friend would say, as the girl who gave great advice held her squint and then added a slow, small nod one and a half seconds later. “You’re right! Thank you! You give the best advice. I feel so much better. Thank you!”

That’s how it happened most of the time. But sometimes, her task was more complicated. These were the times the person would say “my heart tells me…” (or “my gut tells me”) but would then say something in a tone of voice that made it sound like the person wasn’t necessarily all that happy to be saying what he or she was saying.

The girl who gave great advice knew how to handle these situations, too. She would lower her head thirty degrees and then tilt it back up after two and a half seconds, and ask at a slightly slower pace in a slightly lower voice: “And what does your…” and then she would say either “gut” or “heart,” just whichever one she hadn’t said before. (This was the part she had to be most careful about. Once, she had said the same word as she had the first time—”heart,” twice—and the whole thing fell apart.)

If her first piece of advice hasn’t worked, this second piece of advice always made everything all right. “Yes! Yes! Now I know what to do! You give the best advice!” everyone told her. “The best! Ever!”


The story originally just made me laugh—Novak is obviously joking about her advice being pat and orchestrated—but since then, I’ve found myself secretly using the tip in real life. As someone who overanalyzes every decision, I’ve tried to step back and think, Okay, well, what does my heart tell me? and, more often than not, my answer will crystalize. (For example, when deciding who to hire, I was going back and forth for ages, and then I tried to just trust my gut. And—poof!—the answer was clear.) When you’re making a tough decision, do you usually follow your head or heart? It’s funny how subconsciously you really do know the answers. Maybe this girl is wiser than we had thought!

P.S. Another favorite piece of advice.

(Photo of Coline)