What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! Proverbs 4:7 (NLT)

What is the best advice you have ever been given? Recently I heard an interview where that question was asked of a nationally known leader. It caught him off guard and gave him serious pause. After a long silence he said, “Gosh, that is a tough question…ah…I can…I can put maybe in the top five…in terms of something someone once told me that was like wow…ah…” Then he proceeded to mention the name of a person and tell a story about the outstanding advice he had been given.

It was such a great question that it got me thinking immediately about how I might answer it as I tuned out his answer. It was so intriguing that I grabbed a pad and pen and began to write my own top five list of the best advice I have ever been given. Over the course of the next quarter of an hour I ended up noodling an ever growing list of thirteen items. It was a very rewarding and revealing exercise. You might be similarly rewarded in seeing what would make your list.

Several things struck me about the process. It forced me to go to the file cabinet of my life and chronologically from a teenager on, thumb through all the file folders labeled with names of people who have greatly influenced me.

1. The best advice in our lives does not all come from sources we readily imagine. While some folders were much thicker than others because of the years I’ve known them and the sheer volume of our interactions I was surprised to find that not all of them were people with whom I had a close relationship. Some were people I did not even know personally. In fact I discovered that more than half of the great advice I was coming up with came from books I have read or messages I have heard, in person or by recording, from people I did not have a personal relationship at all or have never met. Most of their file folders were very thin, but in terms of impact, the few things I had filed in each of them warranted a red label and they were worn from being pulled so frequently.

12 things I have lived long enough to know

The repetitive nature of the daily news is an indication of how old a person is getting and hopefully an impetus to garner some wisdom from it all. Recently I realized I’ve been ingesting a regurgitation of the same sound bites for over 50 years. How could it be that I’ve spent my entire life monitoring global hotspots in Africa and the Middle East, sword rattling over oil supplies and nuclear weapons, uncertain market forecasts, political campaign mudslinging, dastardly mind-boggling crimes and the latest woes of local sports teams?

I couldn’t help but think of the writer of Ecclesiastes, who looking back over his long life threw his hands up in frustration and said “Meaningless, meaningless . . . Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (1:2) Then he asks the question of the ages: “What does a man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?” (1:3) This question essentially frames the answers he paints on the canvas of the rest of the book

I’ve taken some of those brush strokes of wisdom to embellish a sampling of what I’ve learned from my many years of making meaning of the repetitious nature of life.

I am calling them twelve things I’ve lived long enough to know . . .

1. Increasing the number of channels will never solve the problem of why there isn’t anything worth watching on TV. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. (1:8)

2. Living through a Southeast Asian war, a cold war and several Gulf wars has convinced me there will always be oppressors and attempts to dethrone them. History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. (1:9 NLT) Jesus: You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. (Matthew 24:6)

3. Doing what you love to do is the most rewarding employment there is. So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is why we are here. (3:22 NLT)

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