Sometimes when you ask for help, people keep giving you the same advice.

“You should quit your job.”

“Why don’t you move?”

“Write more unit tests.”

Whatever the case may be.

My first reaction to this is always frustration. What’s the point of having such an interesting, smart, diverse group of friends and advisors if they all just repeat the same cliche?

And sometimes this is valid. People definitely pattern-match on hearing your problems and come up with the first plausible-sounding solution idea.

But sometimes! Sometimes this is a great gift, a sign that you are on the right track.

Most of the hard part of solving a problem is coming up with a problem statement (a “representation”) that makes the solution obvious. If everyone is giving you the same answer it means that you’ve done the hard work already! You’ve come up with a way of framing the problem that makes everyone give you the same solution. You’re so deep in your own head that you don’t realize the answer when it’s staring right up at you.

Of course, sometimes the “solution” is so unsatisfying that you realize you’ve framed the problem wrong. This too, is progress.

Update: interesting discussion on twitter.