The Quest for Good Advice

August 29, 2019

Casually thumbing through a magazine a few days back I came across the article, “What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?”  Some of the publication’s regular readers weighed in:

  • Stop worrying about things you have no control over.
  • We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.
  • Don’t act like the destination is more important than the journey.  If you can’t enjoy the way there, you aren’t properly preparing yourself for the goal.
  • A boss told me:  “When you come discuss problems with me, you also should bring me solutions, options, or recommendations to choose from.”
  • It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.
  • You can’t get it if you don’t ask.
  • It’s not what you earn, it’s what you do with what you earn
  • Don’t have a huge expensive wedding.  Save up that money and put it toward a home purchase.

Conversely in that same piece was the reminder that not all advice is good:

  • My grandpa once told me not to use my blinker when driving because “it’s no one’s business where you’re going.
  • I was told once to use hairspray so my makeup would stay.  Turns out it just makes your face sticky…and a little crunchy.
  • No flashlight on your phone?  Take a photo of the sun, and use it in the dark.
  • Mom said to always say what’s on your mind.  That advice is why I was called into HR today.
  • My friend’s dad told her, “If you’re doing something that you’ll regret in the morning, just sleep until the afternoon.”


How do you discern the caliber of the advice you receive?  Do you measure it up against the character or reputation of those offering the recommendation?  Is it a quantitative process whereby statistically “nine out of the ten or so times I’ve done this, it’s turned out ok?”  Are you watching what family, friends, or trusted neighbors think, say or do?  How influential are the opinions of communications media or prominent public figures?  What concerns do you have of “what people may think” based on your acceptance or rejection of the advice?


Where to start? 


A good place to begin is with your personal values.  Many of us derive them from our faith beliefs be it as Christ Followers or other religious persuasions.  We also remember watching our parents, or whoever was entrusted with our primary upbringing, and likely tried to borrow from what seemed to best work.  At school we had a favorite teacher who was usually fair, strict, disciplined, and taught us lessons that transcended what might be gleaned from a textbook.  In our earliest work environments as we made our mistakes, there was often a boss or co-worker who effectively set us straight. 


Trust your instincts.  We always seemed to know the “tough” kids in the neighborhood.  Later as teens, when driving around with the windows down on a mild evening, you learned the places to avoid.  In transactional business you might get a feeling in your gut when you would come across the proverbial “snake oil” salesman. 


In 1932, Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor created The Four-Way Test.  It is a nonpartisan and nonsectarian ethical guide for Rotarians to use for their personal and professional relationships and is often cited at the commencement of club meetings.  The test asks the following questions:


Of the things we think, say or do:

  • Is it the truth?
  • Is if fair to all concerned?
  • Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  • Will it be beneficial to all concerned?


Many years before Mr. Taylor, the Apostle Paul, in speaking to the church in Galatia, presented that the fruit of the Spirit of God is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 


I look to these characteristics when considering the legitimacy of the advice giver or weighing their advice.  To date, I have found no better yardstick than these tenets from the 5th Chapter of Galatians.


The Seed Sower