My 14-year-old son yawned and rolled his eyes. He was getting tired of being lectured. I was getting tired having to remind him to clean up his room, take out the trash and help with family chores.
I saw a losing battle and stormed away mad. I walked up the stairs to my bedroom, grumbling to myself, thinking of all the lectures and even good advice that I’ve gotten over the years. Some were good, some were so-so, but they’ve all left a mark on me.
I remember my oldest brother pointing a finger at my chest and telling me to not be lazy and to work hard in school. I remember him yelling at me, “Grades matter.” A few years later my other brother wrote me a note right about the time he was set to graduate and told me to “believe in myself.”
I remember other advice too:
–I was never the fastest cross country runner in high school. Heck, I ran junior varsity many more times than I ran on the varsity team, but a good friend, one of the better runners on the team, told me once when I let down my guard and told him I was worried about messing up: “to not worry about others, to run my own race.” My friend died much too young, but his words have stuck me over the years, probably even more now than they did at the time.
–In one of my first jobs as a reporter, I had an editor who had a habit of looking over his glasses when he read your copy and giving you a look like he had just tasted sour milk. The sound of him hammering the keys on the keyboard would rocket throughout the news room. You’d try to peak a look to see if he was making significant changes or simply scrolling through the story, but you could never really tell. Once when I had the courage to ask, he told me, “Brian, if your mother tells you that she loves you, don’t trust her, check it out. If you’ve asked her, then check again and again. She might really like your brother or sister more.” I told him that he I didn’t have a sisters. He looked at me straight-faced and asked if I was certain.
–My parents didn’t give it. It didn’t come from a teacher or friend. The advice came from an 80s’ movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s not spot on. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it,” Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
–When people talk about advice, they often point to Maya Angelou’s famous quote stating: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” While a wonderful piece of advice, I’ve always preferred this Angelou saying: “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”
–I had been married to my wife only a few years. We were getting ready to celebrate maybe our second or third anniversary. I had big ideas of getting her something special, but I didn’t have a lot of money and work demands got in the way. I was working a ton of hours and raced to the flower shop to pick up a bouquet of roses. When I told the shop owner what I needed, he noticed the stressed look on my face and asked me if he could give me some advice. Sure, I told him. “Roses are nice, lilies are lovely, but do you tell your wife that you love her? Do you pick her up when she’s down? Do you hold her hand for no reason at all other than just to let her know that your thinking of her? Is she the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about in the evening? If you can say yes to those things, then tell her so. Let her know that you love her. Let her know that you’re a team.”
–There are many other pieces of advice. Hopefully my little lectures to my son have worked. Only time will tell. Of course, there’s always this classic from my mother, “Call your mom.”
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