Monday, June 9, 2014


Many years ago I was tasked to give an opinion to a superior who was a couple of decades my senior. I studied the situation, analyzed the data, considered the options, and made my decision. As was expected of me, I made the case for my choice with great enthusiasm and in the strongest terms. When I finished my presentation I was quietly asked, “Is this want you think I should do?” to which I replied thus.

“It is my job to give you the very best advice I can based on the knowledge I have gathered and my experience. That is exactly what I have done. But I am quite certain that when I get to be your age, I will likely look back on this day and be embarrassed by what I have just recommended.”

The sagacity of my answer stemmed from times when I looked back at previously held certainties with a certain amount of mortification.

I have learned that no matter how carefully I study a problem or how convinced I am of the infallibility of my recommendations, my advice will rarely stand the test of time. Every season that passes has a way of adding golden reserves to our Fort Knox of experience. Time has a way of clarifying facts already thought clear and remolding opinions once thought chiseled in granite.

My old, fat Pappy used to say: “Son, free advice is usually worth what you paid for it.” As with so many things, he was right about that. I have also found that advice you pay for is, in time, often worth far less than you paid.

So, should you ignore all advice? No! Listen to advice. Take it into consideration as you think about your options. Make a decision, act upon it, and move on with your life. Chances are that in 20 years the choice you make will embarrass you! Chances are that in 20 years the choice you make will seem far less important than it does right now.

©2014 William L. Steen

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