Reader Topic #1: "What is the best advice you ever got that you didn't take?"
"Bad associations spoil useful habits."
This advice was given by my parents via our church. It is a biblical reference and it was frequently cited when other people fell into "bad associations" and their "useful habits" went by the wayside. I sincerely respect what my parents were trying to do, however it seems like the examples were all about morality. There's so much more to this advice that I didn't understand, and therefore, did not heed.
Did you know that "bad associations" can also mean people who suck
the life out of you? Well, I didn't. I learned... but only after being burned - a lot!
It took me a while to understand that ethics and morality are not mutually exclusive. I know many delightfully immoral people who set high standard for ethics in this world. Likewise, I've known some very moral individuals who have the ethics of a serial killer. It's all relative, right?
In the end, the part I didn't take was staying away from people who treat me poorly (I do now). Associating with toxic people brings me down and has been responsible for everything from depression to financial problems. Plus, I don't like who I am when these people have influence in my life. So, now I've changed what "bad associations" mean to me, and I'm much better for it. I have no problem separating myself from negativity or people who, as a rule, mistreat me or those whom I love.
Here are a few others:
"Always learn from the mistakes of others!"
Advice from my big brother! He was always good at sharing the wisdom he'd learned in life. Being seven years older than me meant I was always just ahead of the curve. His brotherly words of wisdom probably saved my butt more times than I know. Yet, I still didn't take it to heart enough. I frequently went through my "superhero phase" and thought I was above it. Almost every damn time that I KNEW the public consensus was against me, I got burned. I don't want him to get too big of a head, but I have to chalk this one up to him because it feeds into several others...
"You're dating WHO? That dude's crazy!"
"Oh, thanks! NOW you tell me!" I said to my friend who issued a serious warning about someone I was seeing about 10 years ago. But, I had already deemed the person to be rather delightful and ignored the signs of insanity. The result? I ended up with a stalker who "gained illegal entry" into my house on a couple of occasions, slandered me, and did a pretty serious number on my peace of mind. Yeah... should have listened.
"Never, never, NEVER co-sign a loan for anyone!"
"Thanks, Suzy Ormond, but I'm wearing a cape and have a checkbook of Kryptonite." Good grief! What was I thinking? I'm still paying off that loan!
Advice from my GUT!
This is the biggest bit of advice I've ignored. We all have that little voice
inside that warns us something isn't right. Sometimes it's just a
thought. Sometimes it is a simple feeling of dis-ease. Yet we often
ignore it because we don't trust ourselves - or we think we're above it - especially if it would
result in something unpopular or unpleasant.
guilty of this. Pride often went-eth before my falls. I worried what others might
think. As a result, I learned a lot of hard lessons. As a man of almost
40 years old, I'm pretty good at "going with my gut." All that's left is to discern between my gut trying to tell me something and irrational fear. I'm still working on that one.
In the end, ignoring advice is like crossing the street against a flashing yellow crosswalk sign. At the very least, you need to double & triple
check for oncoming traffic. If you choose to cross anyway, so be it. But if you get hit by a car...
well... you kind of knew that was a possibility.
I'm glad I was able to revisit advice from my past. It makes me much more humble and mindful of the advice I share with others. I'm sure there's a few people who will appreciate that.
In closing, I'll share my favorite quote about advice:
"Be careful whose advice you buy. But, be patient with those who
supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of
fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the
ugly parts, and recycling it for more than it's worth." - Baz Luhrman
Note: This is an excerpt from a 1999 college commencement speech entitled "Wear Suncreen" that was turned into - what we'd now call - a viral video. It's by Screenwriter/Director, Baz Luhrmann (Great Gatsby, 2013) and It's AWESOME! Check it out here.