Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Advisory Speed

Advice is everywhere.  It lurks in your road signs, your fluoridated water, your medical system, the RDAs on your box of girl scout cookies.  But is it any good?  I mean, we've all gotten, and perhaps given, plenty of advice that was glib, oversimplified, or just plain wrong.  Here are some of my favorites:

Do what you love and the money will follow.
 This is true if what you love is investment banking.  If it is novel-reading, video-game-playing, loafing, ambling, lolling, or shooting the shit, then not so much.

It's what's on the inside that counts.
If by counting you mean enumerating how many cookies you have, then yes.

You can be anything you want to be.
But you probably won't.

Yet, sometimes -only sometimes, mind, and not even very many sometimeses- you get a piece of advice that is so bang on the nose, and so novel, that it actually manages to change you.  The change might not be particularly large or important, but change is hard to pull off, and the fact that it's words -words!- that have driven you to it is pretty damn stunning.  I suppose this is why I still read the Agony Aunts, despite my suspicion that Ann Landers is a cryogenically preserved early Medieval pope.

This is what they call good advice.  And I can count the pieces I've received on one hand:

Don't focus on how you're different from people.  Focus on what you've got in common.
Thanks, Dad.

You don't want to be a Musicologist.  
No, Professor B, I didn't.

You need more practice.
Spoken by my tottering, whey-faced driver's ed instructor as he shot out of the test vehicle.  He was right.

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