I have a problem. Yeah, yeah, I known what you are thinking, I have lots of problems – and that’s true, but there is one biggie that concerns what I am doing at the moment, and that’s the one I would like to talk about today.
You see, I don’t really want to tell other people what to do but it could easily be argued that is exactly what I do in this space week after week, so in an effort to deal with that issue I’d like to state quite clearly here and now that the stuff I’m shovelling out is mainly my opinion or information about things that have worked for me in my particular circumstances. I don’t really expect anyone to take it too seriously.
We are all different and we all have our own unique problems to deal with so there is no reason to believe other people can understand our lives well enough to sort out our difficulties, and, as feminist poet Edna St. Vincent Millay once said, that probably is a good thing:
“I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes.”
That sentiment goes back to something I’ve mentioned in earlier columns: I actually think most of our problems are learning opportunities so I believe we should try to work things out for ourselves as much as possible so that we can learn all the lessons that are on offer. Of course that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek advice or give it when someone else asks our opinion – as The Voice has done with me – but I think we should always take the advice of others with a grain of salt.
Besides, all the advice that has ever been given in the history of the world can probably be boiled down to the same basic message: Be more like I am – or at least the way I like to think I am – and do things the way I do them and everything will be fine.
We should also be aware, as the following story illustrates, that seeking advice can sometimes be dangerous:
A doctor and a lawyer were attending a cocktail party when the doctor was approached by a man who asked advice on how to handle his ulcer. The doctor mumbled some medical advice, then turned to the lawyer and remarked, “I never know how to handle the situation when I’m asked for medical advice during a social function. Is it acceptable to send a bill for such advice?” The lawyer replied that it was certainly acceptable to do so.
The next day, the doctor sent the ulcer-stricken man a bill. The lawyer also sent one to the doctor.
And finally, I would like to leave you with possibly the most valuable bit of advice I found in my search for a solution to the advice problem. It comes from the Roman poet Horace who once wrote:
Whatever advice you give, be brief.