At the end of last week, I was spending some time procrastinating work by catching up with Lizzie. It’s been a while since we talked and it was good to hear from her. I told her about the stress coming from my job, and she told me that she was actually leaving her job to go back to school, which is awesome! The only problem was that she, as everyone does, was having trouble writing her letter of resignation.
After spending some time tossing around ideas of the best way to phrase, “I fucking hate this place and I never want to see any of you again,” she mentioned to me that one of her best friends from the office had offered to help with editing the letter. The only problem was her friend sucked at giving advice and Lizzie didn’t know how to turn down her words of wisdom.
“Just say ‘Thanks,” and then ignore it,” I said.
“Ugh, I would but she’ll get pissed,” she responded.
“Because she’s taking time out of her day to give advice!”
“So? It was bad advice.”
The subject changed from there, but ever since then I’ve been thinking about advice and feedback. Advice I’ve received. Feedback I’ve given. The amount of times that I never took someone’s advice, and how many times someone ignored mine. It’s not like I blatantly told someone, “Hey dude, I appreciate it, but that’s shitty advice I think I’m going to do my own thing here.” But at the same time, would it be such a bad thing to tell someone that?
Think about it. There are some people out there that straight up suck at giving advice, and for one reason or another, they’re the ones always giving it. Sure, I lucked out last weekend when I received some sage wisdom from a homeless man, but the dude I worked with in college who told me I should be doing lines of blow before heading into my job as a line cook? All I did was nod along and think to myself, “Dude, I don’t even know how to drink yet, I’m not ready to jump up to the majors.” The problem is that not every kid is going to think like that, so someone else probably took that advice and ran with it. Had I told him that he was a fucking idiot for suggesting that, maybe he would have been like, “Oh, yeah, you’re right, you shouldn’t be around knives when you’re coked up,” and never gone there again.
On the other hand, sometimes there’s good advice out there that you don’t take, for whatever reason. Let’s revisit the homeless guy. He basically told me that I don’t really have it so bad, and to stop obsessing over small things and look at the big picture. I can guaran-damn-tee you that I’m not going to heed that wisdom. Maybe not this week or next, but at some point I’m going to fall back into thinking the world is crashing around me because I didn’t get invited to the beach or some shit.
The thing is, I’ve done shit like that over and over again, and with reckless abandon. Advice I’ve ignored includes, but is not limited to, “If you want to go into marketing, you should major in marketing,” “Don’t bring straight bags of salami and cheese on the bus to formal, Charlie,” and “Don’t take that shot of Jameson, it’ll make you break out into hives.”
I think fellow writer Madoff put it best when he said that sometimes the best way to learn is the hard way. Sure, some advice sucks, but even if we don’t take the good stuff, we may end up finding ourselves in situations we could have never expected. If we don’t listen, maybe we end up facing the kind of shit-on-your-face adversity that we come out on the other side of as the person we’re supposed to become. Or, maybe we just learn that we’re allergic to Jameson.
Either way, the next time someone gives you shitty advice, do me a favor. Tactfully tell them that their advice sucked, and that you probably won’t do what they’re suggesting to do. Then, let me know how it goes. Let’s end the stigma of making people feel good about giving advice even when it’s shit..