Advice: Giving and Getting

You were kind of asking for this one. It’s totally your fault. The world wide web and the blogosphere are full of crackpots giving advice. I’m blogging, and you’re reading.

Don’t blame me.

Since you asked, here are my thoughts on advice. Both giving it and, Lord forbid, actually taking it.

Back in my day. You know you’re in for a treat when someone says, “Back in my day.” I got paid to give advice. I know what you all are thinking. Some are wondering, “You did?” Some are a bit skeptical, “That’s a thing?”

Believe it or not, it’s true. I got paid to give my advice. But what was even more incredible than getting paid, was that it didn’t matter if my clients took my advice. I got paid regardless. A government executive once told me that customers who didn’t take my advice should pay me more. He reasoned, I’d worked out a solution in my head, and now the customer was ignoring me. He said that must be stressful. More stressful than if they took my advice.

Just like in my working life, my personal life is chock-full of me giving advice. But, unlike my working life, nobody’s ever taken any of it. Over the years, I’ve told neighbors what color to paint their houses or when to mow their lawns. Yup, in one ear and out the other. I’ve explained to shoppers at the grocery store which brand of butter is better and why soy milk might be good for you, but it’s not real. And you don’t want to live a lie. Don’t buy the stuff. A blank stare, a shuffling of their shopping carts. Then, pretending not to make eye contact in the checkout aisle. My advice is totally useless.

Everyone loves to give advice. Advice is free; sometimes, people would be much better off if they listened. They never do. I bet you never heard a darn thing your parents ever said. I know I didn’t. Perhaps I should have, but I didn’t. So why am I shocked when my own children don’t listen to me? I think they should, but they don’t.

Doctors give out plenty of advice. Unfortunately, patients seldom take any of it. “Cut back to only a pack a day,” he said. “Sure thing,” you said. Next thing you know, you’re smoking through that little hole in your neck. “Cut down on those cheeseburgers,” the doctor said. But I wouldn’t need the cholesterol medicine you prescribed if I did. Here’s your refill, and stop the fries too. The list goes on and on. Doctors dole out plenty of good advice. Unfortunately, we ignore the vast majority of it. “Do you drink or smoke?” the doctor asks. “Nope, I never touched the stuff,” I say. I don’t want their good advice to go to waste.

Financial planners have good advice. Financial planners are smarter than doctors. You sit down with any of them, and the way they explain things makes heart surgery sound simpler. They try to impress you with their calculations. They also love showing graphs and actuary tables proving the exact day you will die. They prove you’ll die twenty-seven years after all your money has run out. Even Milton Friedman can’t comprehend the economic lingo they use.

Financial planners convince you your money will be all gone unless you hand over ten percent of your portfolio. Then they make you sign over all your money so they can manage it. They move your money out of perfectly good investments and put it into ones that give them a cut. They want to move your money and change your mutual funds, and you must let them. They do this because they’re tired of explaining stuff to you. You’re so dumb. Financial planners are way smarter than doctors.

The police officer who pulls you over for speeding has good advice. That is until he’s out of sight. Cruise control back to eighty.

The dentist who suggests you floss more has good advice. It’s such good advice; they repeat it every time you visit.

Bosses have good advice. I once had a boss who took time out of his busy day to tell me how badly I screwed up. That was excellent advice.

Teachers often give the best advice of all. They know our aptitudes. They sense our potential. Stay away from the clarinet Gary. “For the love of my hearing, give up music and stick to the shop classes. And stay out of art class too. The next thing you paint better be a house.” The only problem with teachers giving you advice is- they’re still in school and you graduated.

Never take advice from a man. Men will talk your ear off about how they did it. They can spend hours explaining how they became so successful. Then, after a few hours, they belch, scratch themselves, and say, “It’s hopeless. You’ll never make it; your problem is– you’re not me.”

Never take advice from a woman. Women want to know how you feel. I wouldn’t be asking for advice if I knew how I felt. Women always answer your questions with a question. They’re too smart to be trapped by giving you advice. They’d rather take you on a voyage of discovery. I’ve taken that cruise ship many times. So never ask a woman for advice.

Don’t take advice from someone younger than yourself. At my age, I now don’t have to listen to the majority of folks on the planet. And don’t bother with older people, either. Anyone older than you is obsolete, and so is their advice. Their sell-by date has long since passed. Chances are they’ve already tried their advice on someone else. Nobody likes hand-me-downs.

Always take the advice of your spouse or significant other. Even better, do what I do. Whenever my darling bride wants to give me advice, I stop what I’m doing, stare deeply and intently into her eyes, and say, “Yes, dear. My focus is on you. Thank you for taking the time to help make me a better person.” Amazingly, this always works. My profound devotion and sincerity never fail to shock my bride. She forgets the advice she was going to give. It works every time.

If you have advice for me, please leave a comment. I will stare deeply at your words and thank you for taking time out of your busy day.