The Gift of Advice

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!!

children advice

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.

fight

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.

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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

flow

24 Replies to “The Gift of Advice”

  1. As Always yet have a big smile on my face reading your blog on advice yet another experience of having learnt so much …..
    My personal take is being a good listener most of times helps more then any advice one can offer….

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  2. One thing I learnt about giving advice is to be detached from others acceptance of the same. If I expect others to follow my advice I am in trouble. If I am able to accept that others need not accept any of it, I am fine.

    The other is about my nor accepting it from people who I gave a bias about. May be good for me but the filter prevents me from accepting the same.

    Beautifully written as usual. I admire your erudition

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    1. VJ
      many thanks for your comment
      and kind words of praise

      I agree we cannot get attached to our own advice to believe only we know the truth and what is best . We must respect the right of the receiver to accept fully, in part, or not at all what we are saying. Finally it is his life. and he knows his reality the best.
      What you are calling filter I refer to as “perception”. That totally colors what we see and what we speak. And everyone’s world view is different.
      add to that our own bias of “my view” my opinion” my suggestion: truly a treacherous path with many a slip between the lip and the ear… the real challenge of life

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  3. As always, a great choice of topic, and a very well written flowing article, replete with relevant quotes… 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼
    Loved all the points and all the quotes, but particularly the S. T. Coleridge one about advice being like the snow. Brings to mind a beautiful and simple piece of advice I received years ago, and have cherished till date.

    This was in 2008/9, when I was doing clinical research in J&J. Our work involved frequent site visits, each of which had to be later documented in a detailed (read lengthy, time-consuming, boring) visit report. The timeline for this report was within 10 working days after the visit.
    Being a startup division, we were an under-resourced, but young, action-loving group. Needless to say, this dull “necessary evil” report used to get pushed to the last day (and many a times beyond). This was a common problem across the group, but I was by far the worst defaulter in this regard.

    Then one day, my manager Pratap took me aside and said these 4 simple lines, which have stayed with me verbatim for a decade now:
    “देख यार, visit तूने किया है, तो report तुझे बनाना है.
    २ दिन में बनाया तो भी तुझे बनाना है; १० दिन में बनाया तो भी तुझे बनाना है.
    हँसकर बनाया तो भी तुझे बनाना है; रोकर बनाया तो भी तुझे बनाना है.
    तो एक काम कर ना, २ दिन में बना और हँसकर बना.”
    (See my friend, you have done the visit, so you are the one who has to make the report.
    Whether you make it in 2 days or 10 days, you are the one who has to make it.
    Whether you make it with a smile or a frown, you are the one who has to make it.
    So why not make it in 2 days, and with a smile.)

    That was all he said. No tantrums, no gyaan, nothing. That was it. But the impact it made on me was immense.
    To begin with, I made a rule for myself of not going to the office (work from home was a new upcoming concept for us back then) until the report was made. A couple of times, I even took a leave if my report wasn’t done on the day after the visit.
    Then I took it up a notch, and started making the report offline during the return flight. I’d synchronise it at night after reaching home later. The report would be in place before I reached office the next day.

    From being the worst defaulter, I could reach (and maintain) the unthinkable “Zero-day TAT”. And all it took was those 4 lines.
    That beautiful piece of advice has stayed with me professionally all these years. Whenever I need to force myself to do some unwanted but necessary activity (trackers, trainings etc), I think of Pratap and these lines. I’ve also passed it on to my teams/mentees, whenever applicable. The softer the snow falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks indeed.

    (Unfortunately, I’m far far away from implementing it in personal life. Guess that connects to the John Steinbeck quote about acting upon advice only when it agrees with your own thought process. 😜)

    Thanks again for sharing a wonderful piece. As always, keep inspiring… 🤘🏼🤘🏼🤘🏼

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    1. Amu
      Pratap was indeed a wise man
      and gave flawlessly superb advice
      we all are guilty of procrastination
      and pushing till the last those aspects that we like the least
      in my case it was an insight that by postponing what I don’t like: it remains open longer and exposes me to follow up etc which I hate
      so I started doing what I don’t like first off
      get done and move ahead and do not have to look at that again
      maybe quality of that output was the “min to get by” and not “max possible” but who cares? it was the pits anyways

      as re Steinbeck : think what we do is not wrong
      finally it is my life
      and so I will live it in a way that I am comfortable and happy
      and what is wrong with that?
      all questions that life poses before us have multiple solution sets anyways
      and there is not one but multiple ways to seek the Allah
      so let thousand flowers bloom
      be happy always

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    1. Saheb “hachi nem ata na phire maghari…. ” my father used to tell his main “punji(earning)” was not money but good friends!!! “Aayushyat kai kela….Manasa jodli” were his words. I am privileged to have his legacy…. and privileged to have genuine true friends like you

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  4. It is again a different way of looking at things, very nicely scripted . Article full of thoughts to ponder. Nothing is Good or bad as long it is helping one to swim through. Vikas sir keep sharing you experiences🙏🙏

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  5. Loved these lines – “The Ark was built by a novice, while the Titanic was designed by professionals.” The implication being the Titanic still sank.

    In my particular case, I seldom seek another person’s advice. Not because I do not think there are other wise people but because I know that they have not walked in my shoes. Only we know what we have been through and what we are willing to put up with.

    But when one has looked at a challenge from all angles and the path still seems unclear, it is good to seek advice. And once you seek advice, involve another person, it is only wise to trust his/her counsel.

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    1. Neelu My fav line was Be you. The world will adjust. Very often for no rhyme and reason we try to bend backwards in trying to cope. That is so wrong. We were all crafted and moulded differently And Viva la Difference.
      I tend to differ slightly on your point once you seek advice, it is wise to trust. While yes trust is important, I still feel I am the captain of my ship. And I need to pilot and charter it thru the seas. So while others views are welcome: they are still others’ views. Customisation and adaptation is my business. As it is my life after all.

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  6. Excellent thoughts penned with very pointed and relevant quotes. One thing many people put in practise is giving advice when you are not asked for and ultimately they look like Ultracrepidarians. I am in complete agreement when It comes to dealing with the young generation. When your experience says what they may be doing is not going to help them any advice to put them in the in right track is frowned upon. This I feel is the result of the connected world we are all currently living in. The easy access to information thanks to internet has become their guiding force and not the wisdom of the older generation. Many a times they fail to understand that feedback is the breakfast of champions.

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    1. Gopi thanks for your kind words.
      I use the quotes more to reassure myself that I am not off tangent and others ( better than me by a margin) also think similarly.
      As re my daughter (only one) I can never forget that she was all of 9/10 years old in the 5/6th std and one day I was giving her some gyan and she told me: Baba it is my life. I felt bad initially but then realised what she said was right. Since then I suggest. and then accept whatever is her decision.
      Yes in today’s world people have great access to information and exposure to what the entire world is up to Twitter Instagram and other social media are shaping their world view. So one lone voice is irrelevant, so what if you are elder/experienced/father/etc etc

      I loved Elon Musk quote only because it asks you to take feedback and mend your ways. Possibly the best advice for all: whatever our situation

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  7. One more insightful (advice😀) writing. What you said is true. Just a point from me: we seek advice when we are not sure, not confident and confused. I sometimes practice clear message when my advice is requested, “this is my view which is best in situation, however you will be doing that way at your risk, I am neither to get credit nor blame for the result”. My experience is people think i am funny😀

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    1. KK my dear friend we have been through so much together for so long that your words reflect my reality and vice versa. I have also tried to paint both sides of the picture and never take a final decision for anyone. That is the individual life-owner’s prerogative. Some people understand and respect you for that. Some feel you are funny, not helpful, etc. But fortunately this latter tribe is dwindling

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  8. Sir, the timing of your article couldn’t have come at a better time. With your blessings we have made significant progress in our business. However, we need advise from people like you who would show us the path from here to our journey further. I will call you during the next week to seek your advice. Keep enlightening us as always. God bless

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    1. Prasanna Great to hear of the rapid strides by Core Integra. All the best always. And do count on me for whatever support and contribution I can make.
      I look fw to talking to you and meeting you soon

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  9. Advice is like snow…the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks in the mind…
    Thanks Sir.
    Among other things, this golden thought will remain with me, from your thoughtful contribution.

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    1. Thanks Nitin. I choose my quotes such that they elucidate the point I am making and also reassure me that I am not alone: others are also thinking on the similar lines. Glad you liked my outpouring. Keep reading and Keep encouraging me

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