The Bard had observed “Neither a lender nor a borrower be, for loan oft loses both itself and a friend”. Shakespeare might as well have spoken about the fate and prognosis of advice, instead of a monetary loan. Like money, advice often distances both the giver and the receiver. And truly genuine and “good” advice may end up alienating friends.
We all are always ready to give advice. But at the same time , consider our own selves to be above the need for any guidance/advice. In fact, advice is the cheapest currency in social interaction, as everyone is very liberal in sharing and giving advice. And yet when the transaction reverses and we are at the receiving end of any advice, our approach u-turns and we feel we are on top of the situation, we understand every nuance of the case and so there is no need at all for us to get any advice from anyone else. We live Benjamin Franklin’ wisdom “Wise men don’t need advice. And fools won’t take it”
As evidence I put forth experiences we all have had in dealing with the people closest to us….our wife and our children. Breathes there a man who has not felt the frustration of trying to get his significant other to follow a course of action, that you see as perfectly logical and “crystal clear”, being fought tooth and nail and your better half obviously sees it very, very differently, and wonders why you cannot see it her way (“be reasonable, do it my way”)!!! The problem becomes far more acute, when you have children who are growing up. Whatever you tell them seems to be wrong from their perspective!!! And if you persist in trying to save them from a certain fall down a deep precipice, the response you get is “Baba let it be… Let me get my own experience… You just can’t see it my way… Why don’t you leave it to me?” leading up to the final retort ” Will you please get off my case??!!” Experiences with family and friends have proven that to profit from good advice requires more wisdom than to give it!!
On one side of the spectrum is the faith and trust of Henry Ford who avers “I believe God is managing affairs and that He does not need any advice from me. With God in charge everything will work out for the best in the end”. But how many of us have the same faith and trust? In the short run, we feel the need to tinker and turn; especially if the events are happening in our friend’s life. We are quick to put on our thinking hat, sharpen our claws, and dig in…shovelling loads of “good” advice and opinions to illuminate our “dumb” friend’s path!! We gleefully forget the axiom of Samuel Coleridge “Advice is like snow…the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks in the mind” .
It is good to remember the age old wisdom of Cicero “Nobody gives you wiser advice than yourself”. Caught in a difficult and uncertain situation, we find ourselves confused as to what is the right way out of the maze, and so so we open ourselves to counsel and advice. Even this would be fine if we had the demeanour of Thornton Wilder “My advice to you is not to inquire why and whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it is on the plate”. Even when we ourselves have sought intervention or indulgence of friends, we still want to second guess, twist and modify their advice, and remain in control. Which would be OK (remember Cicero?). But unfortunately we hear only what we want to hear, we listen only to what we wish to. We fall into the trap defined by John Steinbeck “You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway”. And thus we lose out on a fresh and different perspective, a contrarian view, an alternate approach which could have better resolved the issue on hand. Getting external help is based on the faith that the master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried!!! So indeed there is great value in sound and independent advice.
Having said this, I do not deny that sometimes you have to consciously UNFOLLOW some people in real life. Some of our “friends” have given rise to the euphemism “with friends like these who needs enemies?” All people in your life are not around to smoothen your victory path and clap for your wins. Some may not necessarily guide you on the right track, they may not themselves know what is good, or in the worst case, lead you down a garden path strewn with bristles & thorns to enjoy your discomfiture!!! After all, it takes all types to make the world. And this makes life interesting!!!! But one needs to have one’s own lodestar, one’s own litmus test to separate the wheat from the chaff; to know the right path and stick to it! Elon Musk suggests “It is important to have a feedback loop…that is the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself“. Sound advice to keep us on an even keel and our life on the right course.
I cannot pen an article on Advice and not give you some of my own. So here goes!!! These are my “parasmani”, my lodestars, my touch stones to check if the advice I am being given is right for me.
- Do what is right, not what is easy. Remember Abe Lincoln as a child, accepting he cut the tree.
- Face your fears. Neil Armstrong’s colleague was to be the first man on the moon. He hesitated. NASA ordered Neil to step forward. Rest is history.
- Make small changes. Rome was not built in a day.
- Expect less, Give more. Hands should be stretched to Give, and not only to Take.
- Learn to say no. A reluctant, half hearted Yes is a life waster.
- Admit what you don’t know. When you say you don’t know and then you learn, you are saying you are smarter now, than earlier…every day…every way become smarter and brighter.
Vade Mecum (Come with me) : Drink deeply the Elixir of Life. Use these “Philosopher’s Stones” to convert all that comes into your life to sheer gold!!!
Remember the best project you will work on is YOU. PT Barnum (The Greatest Show on Earth) while convincing the “human abnormalities” to agree to public display left some great advice : “No one ever made a difference by being someone else”. And as you live this joyous life, you must use all the gifts that you have got; all the advice that well meaning folks have showered on you and craft the way ahead to be a shining star. When looking back does not interest you anymore, I would say you are doing something right. The Ark was built by a novice, while the Titanic was designed by professionals. So do not hesitate. Chart your own journey. And be happy.
Be you. The world will adjust : vikas