Over the course of my life, I’ve received lots of good advice ranging from the practical ”Purchase a plunger before you need it” … to the religious, “pray about it” … to the philosophical, “everyone ends up in the same place”. Some advice has been more influential to my life philosophy than others. These are the five best pieces of advice I have ever received:
1. ”Will it matter on your wedding day? At your funeral? No? Then don’t stress.” - my parents
When something hurts, sucks, or feels like the end of the world, this little mantra makes it all seem so much smaller, so much less significant. This pain/darkness/upset will end, and better days will come.
But more importantly, this piece of advice applies to decision making. Have you been stressing about whether or not to go to Louisiana or Arizona for vacation? Trying to decide if you should paint your walls or not? Figuring out if it’s worth buying a new pair of shoes? Chances are, this decision is not as big as you are making it out to be. Take a step back and look at it in the context of the rest of your life, and don’t make mountains out of molehills.
But if the answer is ever YES. Yes, this will matter on my wedding day. Yes, this will matter at my funeral. Then you know it is time to stop, think, evaluate, get advice, research, and make an informed decision based on gut feeling, knowledge, emotion, and outside input. This is something you need to take seriously.
2. If you climb down that tree, you won’t be able to get back up - Rega
At the time it was a very practical and straight forward piece of knowledge that prevented me from using a tree to get down a cliff and dropping down to the ground below. If I went down, I wasn’t coming back up that way, and from there I would need to find a new route. It wasn’t “no. don’t do that”. It was “think. and if you make that decision be ready to deal with the consequences”.
In life, this is important.
Sometimes, the easiest solution to get what you want right now, is not the best solution in the long run.
Sometimes, you have to take a small leap of faith to get where you want to be, but you need to recognize that it won’t all be easy from there and you may need to improvise.
Sometimes, you just need to hold your impulses back and not be a moron.
3. If you pee in the woods, it’s better to wipe with a stick than leaves. – Carly Dearest
This is the most straight-forward piece of advice on this list, and I don’t have anything to add to it. I just can’t tell you how many times this has come in handy.
4. You should play rugby - Fruitcup, Jynx,and Strawberry
On the surface, this one is pretty straight forward. Try rugby, I think you’ll like it. She was right, I loved it. I was good at it. I met some pretty awesome people. I learned new skills, got to compete, and had the opportunity to travel. If we left it right there at the literal translation, this would already be a great piece of advice.
But there was more to it than that. Try rugby meant try something new, try something different, try something that not a lot of people know about. Take a risk, take a chance, experience something. Don’t be afraid of the unknown, don’t be scared of joining a team where you know nobody, don’t shy away from it because you know nothing about it. Learn something new, and find out if you want it to be part of your life.
But there is more than even that. The conversation that led to this piece of advice was my own lament that I did not like my current track team. I was unhappy, and wanted the world to right itself and fix my problems. This piece of advice was to stop that. To stop sticking with what had made me happy in the past simply because it had made me happy in the past, and what find what could make me happy in the present and into the future. If what you’re doing isn’t working, do something else.
5. Don’t fuck up and die. Everything else is just details - Rock Climber
The man who told me this was a complete stranger. He said it as a passing comment while in a rock gym 7 years ago, and his words have stuck with me ever since as probably one of the most profound pieces of advice I have ever received.
If you live, if you survive, if you are happy, if you are safe, if you are healthy, if you have people … if all of this, nothing else matters much. There’s not a “right” way to live. There’s not “right” way to do a lot of things. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t , try again. Try again and try again. Don’t worry about finesse. Don’t worry about perfection.
Be willing to learn. Be willing to accept advice. Be willing to change and adapt. Be willing to progress. But don’t stress about it if you don’t know how or why or the history. It’s not always important. And if it doesn’t kill you, you’ve always got the opportunity to learn it later.