When I was brand new at the day job, eons ago, my boss told me he wanted me to be “just like Sandy” (not her name but it’ll do). His advice was if I could do everything the way she did, I’d have a terrific career. Um yeah. He had me spend an hour sitting with her, watching and listening to how she handled big complex government subcontracts, dealt with scientists and negotiated with suppliers. At the end of the hour, I was seriously thinking, “Wow, dude, if you hired me to be like her, you were delusional and I am in trouble!”
Sandy, bless her heart, was an old school dame, which I say with admiration and respect. Hard drinking, hard living, smoked like a chimney, cussed everybody out, hung up on people, threw things, slammed doors….Me? Sweet little college grad with my suits and my silk blouses and pearl earrings. “Sh*t” was my strongest expletive at the time and I had to be REALLY upset to hurl that around.
Luckily for me, I was secure enough in my own skills to know that while Sandy’s way worked for her, it would be an unmitigated disaster for me to emulate. I proceeded to do things in a fashion that seemed best for me…been at the day job for a long time now, made Principal and received a NASA Exceptional Service Medal (Sandy also earned one in her time as well by the way), so I think I made the right decision for me, re that long gone boss’s well meant advice. I did the exact opposite LOL! So that was best advice in reverse. (#1)
#2 Now the actual best piece of advice I ever received was “You don’t have to catch the ball.” It wasn’t in a sports setting (I’m really bad at sports, except for archery but that’s another blog post). I received this suggestion in the workplace. That one sentence really set me free, because prior to being told that, I would earnestly and often at my own cost, try to field and respond to everything. But our consultant showed me that often the best thing to do is not rise to the bait, especially in e mails or meetings. Either ignore the remark, or say something to acknowledge that I heard it (not that I agreed necessarily), and then keep going in the direction I wanted to go. Yes! A lot of ugly or unpleasant situations were derailed just from that one piece of advice.
#3 Another good one was “You’re not the mother of the organization.” We had a lot of stressful things happening in the workplace, I was trying to keep a lid on all of it, help people with problems and issues, etc etc etc. And in my usual “people person” style, I had unknowingly put myself in a box of unbearable stress. I wasn’t their mother. I needed to watch over my assigned area, make recommendations about the bigger issue but then my job was done. What upper management chose to do was their call. Wow, talk about reduction of stress! And you know what? The whole thing worked itself out eventually. I recite that advice to myself on occasion still when I find myself trying to mother people who aren’t my offspring LOL.
The most useless advice I’ve ever received was “duck and cover.” No, not in the middle of a battle, when it might actually be useful – but in case of a nuclear attack. Right. I think we all know how much help huddling in a corner curled up into a ball will be if some hostile country ever sends nukes our way.
And I wouldn’t place much faith in the Indiana Jones method of nuclear survival – getting into a 1950’s refrigerator and being hurled to safety by the blast wave. Only in the movies, folks!
Advice I give all the time? “Just write. Every day. Get the words out of your head and onto the paper.”
Speaking of which, I need to get my thousand words or better for the day so I’ll leave you with this pithy quote:
Advice is like snow – the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
OR, if that’s too literary:
She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it).
And my idol, Erma Bombeck gets the last word:
“When your mother asks, ‘Do you want a piece of advice?’ it is a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway.”
What’s the best, or worst, piece of advice you ever received?