The Weekly Dream: Check Your Sources
“And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counseled in those days, was as if a man had enquired at the oracle of God: so was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom.”-2 Samuel 16:23
“Where there is no good advice, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety”-Proverbs 11:14
Growing up, the old folks used to say “opinions are like butt holes, everybody has one.” In the corporate world, they say that free advice is sometimes the most costly. Or to paraphrase, free advice is free because it is not worth very much. Now I would not go that far. Some advice is invaluable. However, I am constantly surprised at how often people take advice without checking their sources. And then these same people wonder why they keep running in place.
Check the Freshness Date
Let’s begin with a general principle: it is a privilege to allow someone to speak into your life. Secondly, there is no higher honor than to take someone’s advice. With that said, we need ground rules for taking advice. The most common misstep is that of credibility. People take advice from people who frankly do not know what they are talking about. What does a poor man know about becoming a millionaire? What do your bitter, lonely friends or your gigolo homeboy know about monogamy? You can learn what not to do from them, unless they have a good head on their shoulders. But then the question becomes, if they know better, how come they are not doing better? Yet, these suspect sources are constantly consulted.
In law school, after every sentence we write, we have to cite some authority. There are strict rules regarding this practice. Some sources have more weight in court than others and we spend the better part of our legal training learning how to search and sort these authorities. The same should go for you. I have often stated in this column the importance of having many counselors before you go to “war.” Make sure they are tight and you are not consulting them on a topic in which they are not knowledgeable.
The second misstep is that people do not assess the personal agendas of their source. Do they have your best interests at heart? Are they being objective or projecting from their own bad experiences? Sometimes even fools can have a “jewel” to share. Always keep your ears and eyes open and separate the jewels from the trash.
No Yes Men Allowed
Throughout history, kings and other important men have risked their lives on the words of their advisors. In the Mafia, the advisor, known as the Consigliere was the third most powerful person in the family after the boss and the underboss. In the Old Testament, King David’s son took some bad advice from a credible source, bringing shame to his father and sparking a civil war. But the counselor had a personal agenda and it spelled disaster for the young prince.
I told one of my friends that the greatest task of adulthood is finding answers to your own problems. Make sure you assess the person, as well as the advice you are getting. Also, keep these things in mind when you are called to offer your opinion. There is no shame in saying that you do not know. It takes a great amount of humility to acknowledge your limitations. However, it may save you a headache to just stay out of it; everyone has that one hardheaded, stiff necked friend who does not know how to take good advice.
As the old folks say, “The hard headed never learn.” And eventually, a hard head leads to a soft behind. Make sure you don’t fall into that category, because a whipping from life or the Good Lord is way worse than anything your Mama or Daddy could give you.
Keep ya head up and your noses clean.
Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas