Words of wisdom are all around us if we are just aware enough to see and hear them. Some of that advice is given to us directly by others. Some of it we read in books. And some we just pick up by being aware of what's going on around us, observing, and then applying the lessons learned.
In this blog post, I want to share just a few of the words of wisdom that I consider among the best I've ever received, whatever the means by which I received them. Just for the sake of order, I've organized them in three broad categories: time-management advice, moral advice, and career advice. Maybe some of this advice will help you as it has--and does--me.
"Measure twice, cut once." I learned this lesson while working for a short time in a manufactory, banging out pre-hung doors of all types. It involved a lot of measuring and cutting and fitting together, and the customers ordering the doors expected precision. So did the shop foreman. Following this advice tended to keep all of them happy. And that, of course, meant that I would be happy, too!
"If you don't have time to do it right, will you have time to do it over?" I'm not sure where I first heard this bit of advice, but I'm sure I was asked it by various people. Again, taking time to do something right the first time is worth the time and effort it requires. The alternative usually doesn't end well.
"Do right!" This short and pithy but profound statement I first read in a book by that title written by the founder of my alma mater. The book was assigned reading for the mandatory freshman orientation course, and we heard it over and over during the course of our college years. Its simplicity belies its profundity. If we only thought carefully of those two simple words before we did something, what a difference it would make.
"It's never right to do wrong--even to get a chance to do right." Another bit of sage advice from the same source as the preceding saying. Sometimes we're tempted to do something that is a little shady, mentally justifying it by thinking that good somehow will come from it. But the end does not justify the means!
"When in doubt, don't." This life rule has been attributed to Davy Crockett. Trust your instincts, and if there is any doubt, it's better not to act. Similar, but more on the positive side, is this second bit of advice from Crockett: "Be sure you're right, then go ahead."
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." This was an entry in the journal of Jim Elliot, a missionary whose life was taken by the very people he was trying to reach for Christ. But he had an eternal perspective on things. He lost his life but gained eternity, and, eventually, the gospel he was the first to take to the Auca Indians bore fruit on that field.
"Invest yourself where you're most needed." That place might--or might not--be in your own backyard. We often have our eyes on an opportunity far, far away while missing the greater opportunities right in our own backyard. The grass on the other side of the fence just seems greener. Going hand in hand is this piece of advice: "Devote yourself to some cause greater than yourself." It might not be what pays the best, but that's where true fulfillment will be found.
"Focus on the front sight." This piece of advice comes from shooting instructors. Whenever shooters can't seem to hit the target, the instructor will often ask what they're looking at. Many people will say the target, and that sounds good and even logical, but it's wrong. Others will say the back sight, the one closest to their eye, but that, too, is wrong. The way to hit the target is to focus on the sight at the end of the barrel. We should set our sights neither solely on the present moment nor on the distant future but rather on the near term but far enough ahead to give us something to reach for, something to inspire us. If we do, we'll still be bale to see both the rear sight and the target, but our focus will be on the front sight.
"Put the cookies on the bottom shelf." I'm unsure where I heard this advice, but I've found it helpful in both my teaching and my writing. If I put my teaching on a level at which the slowest learner can understand what I mean, then everyone else, including those who have greater experience and greater mental ability, will be able to understand me. If I choose the simpler word rather than the most complex word I can find in my thesaurus, everyone will surely understand what I mean.
These pithy sayings are by no means all the advice I've received over the years (and heaven knows I could use a lot more!), but they are some of the most important lessons I've been taught and try to apply.
What is the best advice you've ever received?