A long time ago, I gave bad advice to someone. It only changed this person’s life for a blink, but it changed mine forever.
Over the years, I’ve talked to a few people about it and the general consensus was this person was going to veer in a different direction in life and what I had to say at the time was only a feathery nudge, not a full-fledged push. However, at the time it felt as if I was responsible for the course change.
As I grow older and a tiny bit wiser, I realize most people take advice in one ear and out the other. If my advice proves correct and they don’t act on it, I’ll sometimes get a “You were right” acknowledgment. Being right rarely makes me feel good for more than a few seconds.
Advice and encouragement are two different animals. Advice tends to deal with conflicting situations in a person’s life. Encouragement is the cheering squad after a person makes a decision. I like to be the cheerleader rather than the coach.
Advice relies on expertise in a field. I rebel somewhat when it comes to experts, even when I believe I am one. After all, what was correct one hundred years ago or even yesterday is not necessarily correct today.
In addition, individuals have different needs and goals. What works for one may not work for another. Expert advice should be tailored, but I imagine most experts would not take kindly to altering their cemented opinions for different people.
Encouragement is the after party. “You can do this” sounds so much better than “I told you so.” The planted seedling is sprouting and you get to be an attentive gardener. As an encourager, you are not directly responsible for the success of the plant. Victory or defeat is ultimately up to the plant.
I try not to give opinionated advice; I try to offer only suggestions. I’m glad to declare my children still listen to me, but they make their own decisions. My only expertise comes from the course of my own life. If someone looks at my history and can relate in a way that is helpful to them, I’m glad.
My history includes my adventures in writing. The cold fact remains that my writing is what it is. I can’t change how I tell a tale. Even when I write in different genres, my style bleeds through.
A while back, in half jest I told my publisher that I knew how to disappear and live under the grid. I’d learned how from all the research I’d done when writing my books. He told me that he’d know my writing style no matter what name I chose to write under.
The way we, the authors, write is unique to each of us. In the immortal words of Popeye, “I yam what I yam.” So is everyone else no matter how much we want to change how they write or walk or eat or anything else.
Advice, suggestions and opinions, whether directed to me or coming from me, have merit. But, even when I put myself in another person’s shoes, I am not that person. There are too many unknown nuances and variables in individuals. The way I handle wanted and unwanted advice and opinions is to mix them all together like cake batter, put the mixture in a pan in the oven and bake it for the best.
So, my peoples, the moral to this tale is I fight the urge to give irrevocable opinions which end up making me sound like a nasally pompous ass. I’m working hard to be an ebb and flow counselor. I’m attempting to overcome the part of human nature that wants the accolades due for correctly telling the future of another.
In honor of my live and let live attitude today, I feel the need to let my hippy side loose for a quick second:
Don’t let your own self-righteousness drag you down.
Fly a little freer and lighten the heavy load of your opinion.
Right on, man. Right on.
Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch