I’ve got a series of blogs worked up in my head that center around the theme of advice that I will be coming out with over the course of the next week or so, but before I did that I wanted to do some kind of overview on the nature of advice–that way you know where I’m coming from.
When I pastored a local church people would often come to talk to me, but I rarely gave them any advice. I usually just listened and then prayed with them. I stopped offering advice because whenever I offered it up, most people always had an excuse on why that wouldn’t work in their particular situation. If people asked for advice or my opinion I most definitely gave it, but that was rare. It was rare because of this simple truth: Most people don’t really want wise advice–what they want is someone who will agree with what they already want to do and they will generally keep looking around until they find someone who will validate their bad idea.
When should you seek advice? Anytime is a good time to learn from the wisdom of others, but here are some specific times in your life when you might want to consider getting someone’s input.
1. When you are making a big decision that impacts your future and the future of others.
2. When you feel like your life is out of control or when you feel like things are stuck and you’re going nowhere.
3. There is a problem that will not go away.
4. You are faced with a task of which you know little about.
Where can a person get good advice? I have observed that where people get their advice often determines their outcome. Fools tend to congregate and share their folly and commiserate their outcomes with even more poor decisions. To make progress in this world, I suggest that you get advice from these kind of people.
1. People you admire and whom you want to be like.
2. People older than you, usually a generation or two older.
3. Someone who has no interest in your decision or outcome other than wanting the best for you.
4. A person who is spiritually mature.
By the same token, these are the types of people you should never get serious advice from.
1. Business partners.
2. People who have failed and messed their lives up completely.
3. Spiritually weak people.
4. Anyone who could possibly benefit financially, strategically, or relationally from your decision or situation.
In today’s atomized world, a lot of folks might not have a vibrant community where wisdom flows freely, so people might ask, “What if I don’t know anyone who might give good advice?” Well, here are some suggestions.
1. Make friends.
2. Call a professional in the field (business adviser) or pastor or get a referral. Don’t be afraid to pay for good advice (doctor, lawyer, etc…)
3. Sometimes the best advice comes from dead people so read a book.
Sometimes the best advice ever is not specific like, “do this, then do that, and finally make sure and put this over it and wrap it up with a rubber band,” but instead it is general–general principles that help guide us through the choices we have to make. To that end, here are the three best pieces of advice I have ever found.
“This above all, to thine own self be true” Polonius’ last bit of advice to his son Laetes, from Hamlet by William Shakespeare.
“You’ve got know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” The Gambler by Kenny Rogers
“He has told you, O Man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8