Wicked Wednesday — A Gift of Advice

She generally gave very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it). Lewis Carroll

Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it. Agatha Christie

Advice gets a lot of bad press. What is the best gift of advice you’ve received? How old were you when you got it? Did you pass it on to anyone else?

My grandfather, whom we called Poppa, about thirty years earlier in his late 30s. He looked exactly the same except for white hair!

Edith: When I was starting ninth grade, and young for my class (that is, still half teen, half kid), one day after school I’d been trying to fly a kite in front of our house. I was sitting on the curb with a hopelessly tangled ball of string. My father’s father, Allan Sr.,  was living with us at the time for about nine months (until he died suddenly) – and I loved having him with us. He was coming back from his constitutional, as he called his walk and saw my plight. I probably said I was just going to cut it all off and give up. He said, “If you start something, Edie, finish it.” I took it to heart, untangled the string, and have carried that lesson with me ever since. And yes, I tried to pass it on to my sons.


Jessie: Like most writers, there was a point on my road to being published when I was querying agents. Like most other writers, I discovered it was a pretty miserable experience. By the time I had received my seventh rejection letter in six days I was starting to feel a bit discouraged. My husband called me to ask how things were going and I confessed it was starting to be a pretty hard slog. He said something to me I remind myself every time I start to lose heart “Chin up, pen down”. If I ever get a tattoo that will probably be what I choose. There is even an app to try out a tattoo before you commit to anything permanent!

Barb: The day I turned thirty a group of women from work, including Nancy Fohl and Kathy Schiff, took me out to lunch. I have no idea what was going on in my life that day, but I do know as a young mother I often felt completely discombobulated. I’d just get a project at work under control and then my kid would get an ear infection. Or my kid would sleep through the night but then the car wouldn’t start. And so on. It was always something. Anyway, I told my lunchmates this, and said something like, “I just wish things would settle down for awhile.” Nancy Fohl said, “It’s never going to settle down. What you’re describing is life. Now that you’re thirty, it’s time for you to know the truth.” And then Kathy said, “It’s only because you’re a WASP that you ever believed things could be under control in the first place. You need to get over that now.” I admit there are still times when I crave routine, no surprises, everything under control, but now I remind myself life doesn’t work that way for anyone and it gives me what I need to keep going.

Liz: When I was a still pretty young, probably a teenager, someone (I don’t even remember who at this point) told me that you can never please everyone and you shouldn’t waste time trying. That the only person you really needed to make happy is yourself. At the time I thought that was ridiculous, because you know, as a teenager I wanted everyone to like me, be proud of me, etc. I wish I had listened back then. Instead I had to learn it the hard way over the past few years. I think this is probably the most important piece of advice ever.

Sherry: I was in 9th grade and getting ready to enter high school. My mom sat me down and told me if I really wanted to enjoy high school I should participate in a lot of activities. I took that advice to heart and did as much as I could. The two most valuable experiences were being involved in school plays and the yearbook. Plays gave me confidence and the yearbook taught me how to work with a group and how to be organized. I’ve carried that advice about being involved throughout my life and because of that have met many wonderful people. So here is my senior picture and the list of activities that went along with it.

I confess I’m pretty stunned to see intramurals in there because I was not athletic. Someone must have forced me to do something!

Julie: Best piece of advice I’ve gotten? One of them is from Hank Phillippi Ryan, when my first book was about to be published. “Enjoy every step of this. Enjoy every moment.” That’s good life advice too, as it turns out.

Readers: Please share the one piece of good advice that has stuck with you.

33 Thoughts

  1. Weighty topic! Julie, Hank gave me the same advice and she was/is so right!

    The other best advice came from Sr. Marie Therese in tenth grade, she said, “Kindness is always the right answer.”

  2. Sherry Harris, I love your senior picture. I have to admit I had to look up the word intramurals, LOL. There was a lot of good advice given to all of you. Barbara Ross, your friend Kathy must have been very close to you to make the statement that she did. I know for myself it’s the norm that things will be much harder to achieve in life, unfortunately, just because of how I look. For someone to point out to you that you shouldn’t expect things to happen easily just because of who you are stood out to me. I thought it was very commendable of you to include that in your post. ( :

    1. I think she was semi-kidding. Kathy had a great sense of humor. At the time, I didn’t see it as a comment on my privilege, but as a comment on the attitudes of my tribe–ie you were always supposed to have your sh*t together, never show a crack. However, I can see the other interpretation now, and it’s an interesting one. I did expect I would have to keep things under control–but I also expected the world to cooperate with me. Both of my expectations were wrong.

  3. A few years back, when I was clinically depressed and white-knuckling it until I could see a psychiatrist, a friend told me I was important to have in her life to keep HER going.

  4. When I was struggling during my first year of college (what the heck am I doing here? can I handle it?) my mother gave me a rare piece of advice: you have to let people know who you are. It’s not always easy if you’re a shy or insecure person, but if you don’t open up to others you’ll never find friends.

  5. It seems I’ve been hearing the same advice from various teachers over the years: Relax. You don’t have to be perfect the first time.

    I’m still working on accepting it. 🙂

  6. So much good sense here!

    In my early twenties I had a great boss who taught me many things. But the single best advice he gave me was to say Thank You often. He said, “You can never say ‘thank you’ too many times.”

    So thanks to all of you, for your friendship most of all, but also for the many hours of entertainment you have provided, between the blog and your many books. I so appreciate you all.

  7. I’ve gotten lots of good advice, but the one that always comes to mind is my mom saying simply “Do.” She anticipated Nike’s Just Do It by several decades! Whenever I get stuck – in anything, writing especially – thinking of this is a kick in the pants. Just do.

  8. So much good advice. I’m thinking of something along the lines of “If it interests you, do it.” It’s how come I read cozies, watch superhero shows, play ultimate Frisbee, bowl, and do mud runs. Very different activities, but they are all fun. At times it gets you very strange looks (especially when someone finds the High School Musical movies on your bookshelf), but life is too short to avoid something you like because of what others will think.

  9. All wonderful advice. What sticks in my mind most is when I was teenager I came home from the store with my arms really full and couldn’t get the door to the house open. I called for help. My daddy came to the door and opened it for me, but said, “I’ll always help you as long as I’m here, but I won’t be here forever, so you have to figure out how to do things yourself.” That has gotten me through many difficult times over the 50+ years since.

    I also worked for a British doctor who would say, “Press on, undaunted.”

  10. One of my favorite principals advised me, early on, when I was determined that all my students should succeed, “Pick your battles” because some aren’t ready to try. She would tell students, “The best discipline is self-discipline.” (I know because they told me).
    My high school counselor knew just how to get me to sign up for journalism, future teachers, and drama. He told me colleges looked for activities along with good grades. He was right, and having fun was a very good bonus.

  11. I think I read this in a magazine. It said to think of what you would say to your friend instead of yourself. Very helpful when I start to dwell on mistakes.

  12. I have gotten tons of great advice from so many people. My mother is the best at it and unfortunately mother’s are usually right, lol. When I was reading this I thought about one certain thing someone said to me. I had a habit of always saying I was sorry. Even as a child, the first thing I wanted to learn how to write was “I am sorry”. It got so bad people even called me the sorry lady (along with the candy lady, lol). I was in Germany when my cousin was in a horrible accident. I was telling one of my other cousin’s girlfriends how sorry I was that this had happened. She looked at me and asked me just who I thought I was. Now I was taken aback for sure. She explained that it was silly for me to be sorry for something I had no control over. I learned then that instead of saying I was sorry, I really meant I felt bad for the person, I had empathy, so many other things, but it was not my fault and I was not sorry. Silly I know, but it was a big thing for me

    1. Don’t remember when, where, or who, but advice on the “I’m sorry” phrase: discipline yourself to say “I apologize” when the thing that happened is in your control and “I’m sorry” when expressing empathy. Even better for empathy is a phrase given to me by a 10 yr old boy (writing the words I can’t get his inflection) “I know.” Not “I know how you feel” , but simplly “I know”to acknowledge another’s pain or sorrow.

  13. I like Tony Horton’s motto. “Do your best, and forget the rest.” I say it to my husband all the time when he’s complaining about his workload.

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