Normally, advice would look something like this: "You can't take it with you." It's trying to convince you (and everyone else, because it failed to be diagnostic to actual problems observed in the person getting the advice) that you ought to spend money, largely on experiences or gifts, because once your dead things that only you like won't matter.

So, here's a question I've been thinking about: what's the default advice this type of thing is supposed to replace? And when is that advice good?

Money is super useful – that's got to be a big part of this default advice set. You can use it to do a whole lot of things, and if you're fancy enough to hire assistants, you can even hire someone helping you in a more general sense. But money being useful is obvious – people assume that you'd notice that – so they give advice that they estimate will balance that out better.

I can't help but observe: I suspect many people would be happier if they were told how useful money is, when they are young. Children are hyper-insulated from the productive economy, and how useful money is has stopped being obvious. You can notice a bad neighborhood, even if you don't have much to compare it to. You probably can't notice bad food, as a child. You definitely can't notice the virtue of having a solid savings account. This advice needs to be shared: money is great to have, and just about everyone can get it. There are some real dummies making serious bank – some with risky or immoral jobs, but most of them with boring jobs where they take responsibility for things largely out of their control. People don't like that, and so if you step up, you can find opportunities that pay well. That's probably a good idea for most people.

"Be a good teammate" is excellent advice. The default advice, obviously, is selfishness and trying to promote yourself and highlight your own effectiveness, even in dysfunctional systems. But in situations where teamwork as a value is already part of the culture, like modern American policing, it probably does more harm than good at the margin to update away from generally highlighting your own success. I don't understand why there ought to be a strong prejudice against Internal Affairs – they solve crimes just like every other cop – but that's what happens when you overdo it on teamwork. Cops shouldn't cover up any crimes, and covering up crimes that stop law enforcement from building the trust they need in a community seems downright backwards. And yet, because of how avidly we push pro-teamwork advice in the general culture, the default advice (which could help them) gets minimized.

People say "never give up", but having spent a single evening in a writer's group in Los Angeles, let me assure you: many people need to give up on their dreams. Writing is a great skill, and written language is the best way to share some of that infinite unreachable self that you keep inside – which sounds a little poetic, but it's got 95% of the dividends in industrial and business communications. But these people aren't dreaming of becoming better communicators (though that is what they sorely need). Theirs are completely selfish dreams largely concerned with a romantic vision of who they might be, instead of, for example, trying to help people. But we're all in this together, and that seems really strange to me. Most people need to stick with things more – but the default advice, "stop wasting your time when you don't get results" – is desperately needed by writers and actors all across Hollyweird.

Sometimes the default advice is still the most common - I hear people extoll the virtues of being confident all the time. But most people persue interpersonal and business success by being competent, kind and understanding. That seems about right.

What default advice is out there? When can it be useful, even for fully-matured adults?