(Not So) Easy Advice

I’m often asked for advice.

By many people. About many things.

Health. Or relationships.

Money. Or career options.

Parents. Or children.

And many others, too.

Only rarely – very rarely – do these problems have simple or easy solutions.

Most of the time, the kind of issues I’m asked about are tangled, complex and convoluted.

“My teenager is having trouble coping with peers – and is rude to his mom. I don’t know what to do!”

“My wife is going through menopause and acting bizarre at times. How should I deal with it?”

“I’m so confused and worried about funding my retirement. With all this news of financial scams, should I buy stocks now? Or sell them?”

Nope. No easy answers. 🤷‍♂️

And each of them requires me to dig deep into reserves of lived experience, emotional strength, and energizing optimism.

Because there’s a reason why people ask for advice.

And there’s a process and attitude to offer such advice.

(Hmm… maybe that’s fodder for an entire other note soon.)

I usually find myself adopting this approach.

1. Do I want to help with this?

It depends.

On the person.

And my relationship with him/her.

And on the root cause. If it’s a self-created mess, I may react one way. If it’s a fate-imposed challenge, I may act differently.

2. Should I try to solve – or support?

That also depends.

On whether the person seeks technical advice on resolving an issue.

Or is simply looking for a patient ear to listen.

Or strong shoulder to cry on.

3. Be practical – or inspirational?

It’s circumstance driven.

There are occasions for a pragmatic approach that tackles concerns or sorts out a mess effectively.

And others when it’s better (also more helpful) to arm and equip them with confidence, self-esteem and faith.

Finally, the most critical question is…

4. Should I get hands on?

When a dear friend was diagnosed with cancer, I tore up the sheet of paper on which I’d outlined all my extensive short-term plans. And plunged fully into the crisis. Being there with him, to help fight all the mental/emotional demons, and cope with the physical challenges ahead.

When a cousin asked about a tricky and worrisome problem, I had a long chat about it. Offered her a few suggestions. But then, only thought of her situation once in a while, wondering if it’s all going well.

When another friend sought guidance on his daughter’s choice of a college course, I spent an hour counselling them both – and then forgot all about it… until a few weeks later, when he informed me of her decision.

Each of these problems was critical – for the people facing them.

All were life- (or future-) threatening.

In one sense or the other.

And yet, you can’t give yourself over completely to each of them.

So you do your best.

Make your own choices.

  • Of how deeply to get involved.
  • Of how much to be invested.
  • Of how closely to identify.

Still, it’s a tragedy to see just how hands-off many of us have grown.

We hesitate to reach out.

Seldom offer to be there for another.

Simple advice or favors, even when sought, isn’t always offered willingly.

We’ve grown more and more isolated.

Cocooned inside our little, selfish islands.

Unwilling to be put to any inconvenience or hardship – for others’ sake.

So here’s some (not so) easy advice to take…

Try consciously to reach out and help people.

Even if only a few.

Even if only now and then.

Even if only superficially.

Start now.

Share your wisdom and learning.

Give your experience and insight.

For their benefit.

If and when they ask.

Or sometimes, even when they don’t!

(Like what I’m doing right here? 😂 )

Don’t hold back, making excuses.

  • “Oh, but they won’t listen to me!” (Try it – you’ll be surprised.)
  • “Ah, but what do I know?” (Quite a lot, if you’ve lived a few decades!)
  • “It’s their life, their choice!” (Sure – but you caring to help is YOURS 🙄 )

If we all gave advice whenever it’s solicited…

Then we’d likely influence many minds and hearts for the better.

But if we all held back, for whatever reason, the world at large would lose – collectively.

Think about it.

That’s my UNSOLICITED advice for today!