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Seeking advice

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By Ken Begley

Years ago, I was having my uncle, Jimmie Carrico, build an addition on to my house. Uncle Jimmie is a true craftsman who can construct most anything that involves wood, concrete or running heavy construction equipment.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t hammer a nail straight into a 2x4 even if my life depended on it. As we were talking about what I wanted done, Uncle Jimmie kept politely saying, “Now, if I was you, I would do this” and “If I was you, I would do that.”

I would then nod approval. After a while of this, I finally said, “Do whatever you think is best. I don’t know anything about this and I know you’re a real expert. Just do what you think is right and I’ll be happy you did it your way.”

When I was young, I thought I knew it all and would seldom ask for advice unless I just wanted someone to agree with what I had already decided. Of course, if they didn’t agree with what I had already decided, then they were obviously in error and their opinion was dismissed with a wave of my hand. If they did agree with me, then they were obviously extremely intelligent to come up with the same conclusion that I had decided on.

Sound familiar?

I have become a much humbler person as the years have passed with many disastrous life experiences that would fill out a lot of space in these columns.

There are three signs of wisdom in my opinion.

First is knowing what you do know and what you don’t know. The second is what you can do and what you can’t do. The last is whom you should ask advice from and whom you should not.

I’m never above asking for advice from folks, but at times, I’ve had free unsolicited advice given to me that was probably overpriced. So be careful of who you’re listening to.

For instance, my kids were giving me a lot of problems one day and I was griping about it. The guy next to me suddenly started giving me all sorts of advice and I listened to him with great interest. My interest wasn’t because I thought he knew what he was talking about. It was because I was pretty certain he didn’t have any kids that he was raising. I, on the other hand, had a ton of firsthand experience dealing with my five kids.

I listened politely to his words of wisdom then said, “Do you have any kids that you’re raising now?”

He said “Well, no I don’t.”

“Well, alrighty then. I just wanted to know if your advice was based on wild (expletive deleted) conjecture or actual experience.”

In another case, I was visiting an army reserve unit and met a very opinionated master sergeant. I’m also an opinionated master sergeant, but that’s a story for another day. This master sergeant was in charge of an extremely small detachment of troops.

How small?

It was him and one other guy.

Heck, I’ve had privates under me in charge of more soldiers. But you would have thought he was General Patton in charge of the 3rd U.S. Army. He kind of got off-topic and began to give “words of wisdom” to us lesser mortals in a fatherly sort of way.

I looked up at him and asked how old he was. He was my age of 57.

That’s not exactly my father’s age, and then I found out he had only been in the reserves for 24 years to my almost 40 years. Shoot, I had been a master sergeant for as long as he had been in the army.

Anyway, I wasn’t feeling too nice that day and snapped back at him, which threw him and his one troop verbally off their heals. For him to give me advice was like me trying to give God advice on how to interpret the Bible. Ain’t going to happen.

So, before you start to give anyone advice, take stock of your experience level and theirs before you begin. Then, remember what Robert K. Mueller said: “You who think you know it all are very annoying to those of us that do.” The second comes from Abraham Lincoln who said: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”

Here’s some free advice that’s worth every cent you paid for it:

Don’t forget to laugh this week.

It’s good for the soul.

Catch you later!