By Kirk McCarley
Thumbing through a magazine, one came across the article, “What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?” Some of the publication’s regular readers weighed in:
- We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.
- Don’t act like the destination is more important than the journey. If you can’t enjoy the way there, you aren’t properly preparing yourself for the goal.
- A boss told me: “When you come discuss problems with me, you also should bring me solutions, options, or recommendations to choose from.”
- You can’t get it if you don’t ask.
- Don’t have a huge expensive wedding. Save up that money and put it toward a home purchase.
Conversely, in that same piece, was a reminder that not all advice is good:
- My grandpa once told me not to use my blinker when driving because “it’s no one’s business where you’re going.”
- No flashlight on your phone? Take a photo of the sun, and use it in the dark.
- Mom said to always say what’s on your mind. That advice is why I was called into HR today.
- My friend’s dad told her, “If you’re doing something that you’ll regret in the morning, just sleep until the afternoon.”
How does one discern the caliber of the advice received? Does it measure up against the character or reputation of those offering the recommendation? Is it a quantitative process whereby statistically “nine out of the ten or so times it’s turned out ok?” Does one watch what family, friends, or trusted neighbors think, say or do? How influential are the opinions of media or prominent public figures? What concerns does one have of “what people may think” based on acceptance or rejection of the advice?
Where to start?
A good place to begin is with one’s personal values. Many derive them from their faith beliefs. One remembers watching their parents, or whomever was entrusted with primary upbringing, and likely tried to borrow from what seemed to their best work. At school there was a favorite teacher who probably taught lessons that transcended what might be gleaned from a textbook. In earliest work environments as one made mistakes, there was often a boss or co-worker who effectively set it straight.
Trust instincts. Everyone knows the “tough” kids in the neighborhood. Later as teens, when driving around with the windows down on a mild evening, one learned the places to avoid. In transactional business, one gets a feeling in the gut when he comes across the proverbial “snake oil” salesman.
Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor created The Four-Way Test. It is an ethical guide for rotarians to use for their personal and professional relationships and is often cited at the commencement of club meetings. The test asks the following questions:
Of the things one thinks, says or does:
- Is it the truth?
- Is if fair to all concerned?
- Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
- Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Many years before Mr. Taylor, the Apostle Paul, in speaking to the church in Galatia, presented that the fruit of the Spirit of God is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Look to these characteristics when considering the legitimacy of the advice giver or weighing their advice. To date, there’s no better yardstick than these tenets from the 5th Chapter of Galatians.