Sunday, November 7, 2010

Be good, or be good at it

"Be good, or be good at it" is probably not the best advice to give someone--at least to someone who you actually care about and want to be a good person. What's another saying about advice? "Free advice usually worth what you pay for it."
I've actually gotten a lot of good advice over the years. Some that come to mind are "don't chew tinfoil", "never spit into the wind" and "never fall asleep with gum in your mouth (it usually ends up in your hair)".
Then there are the immortal words you learn while camping with the scouts. If we ever got a cut or a scrape, we were advised to "rub a little dirt on it--you'll be fine". For a twisted ankle or knee? It was always, "walk it off--you'll be fine". If your hot dog you were cooking on the end of a stick falls to the ground? "Rub the dirt off of it--you'll be fine." If you get caught in an avalanche? "Swim with the snow, and once you get buried alive, spit, so you can tell which way is up, then start to claw your way out." Thank goodness I never had to test the last one to see if it worked.
Fortune cookies are very generous with advice. Here are some that I remember: "Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret." "Eat your vegetables and will grow up to be strong like Popeye." "The greatest danger could be your stupidity." "Never forget a friend, especially if he owes you." And my favorite of all time: "Ignore previous cookie."
Another bit of advice along those lines is: "Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes. Then, when you judge him, you will be a mile away--and you'll have his shoes."
One of the best bits of advice was from my parents-in-law when my wife and I were married. In our wedding card from them, in big letters that were underlined was one word: "COMMUNICATE!" At the time, I thought Well, duh! Of course we'll talk to each other. Nineteen years later, I've truly come to understand what that means.
My wife and are different. I know how shocking that may seem. Granted, we have a lot in common, but we are also different in a lot of ways. One thing we've become especially good at is communicating effectively. Often, that results in me saying "Yes, dear" a lot. (Alright, not really) But what we have learned is that the way one of us does, or would do, something may not be the only way, or even the best way. It's amazing how much I've learned by keeping my lips from flapping and opening my ears and heart to what my wife is saying.
The last bit of advice I'm going to share is one of the worst pieces of advice I have ever gotten. I've held management or supervisory positions at my places of employment for a good part of the last 20 years. When I was hired at one of my jobs, my boss told me his key to successful leadership: "You have to make your employees fear you. They have to feel like their job is always at risk unless they do as they are told. Only then, will you be successful."
My response? "With all due respect, I've never seen that type of behavior be effective in the long run. I believe that you should teach people what is expected of them, make sure they know how to do it, and if they can't or won't do it, what the consequences of their actions will be."
He laughed and said, "Good luck with that!"
By the time I left that position, we had a solid team that worked together well and produced outstanding results. People told me what an amazing job I had done with the department. When asked, "What was the key to your success?" I responded, "Ignore previous cookie."


  1. This is an excellent post. People are always so happy to give advice--it's a great reminder to take it with a grain of salt and only apply what rings true to you.

  2. Awesome post Jason. Too often free advice isn't even worth that price. Learning to taking in what others say, then making our own decisions is not an easy thing, but vital to our success.