Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Many have quoted those lines, preceding them with "As Shakespeare says. . ." English major that I am, I want to say (and sometimes do)--well, actually Shakespeare puts that speech in the mouth of Polonius who happens to be an inflated self-important windbag, who is usually wrong. Conversation stopper, that!
The subject of this blog is ADVICE. Hence, the reference to and use of Polonius. Advice stays with us, if it is sound and comes from someone we respect. I offer two of the best pieces of advice I ever got. And, as you read, perhaps you can reflect on the best advice you have ever gotten.
BEST ADVICE # 1
One time, my father and I were talking--this conversation occurred in the basement of the parsonage at the Cleona (Pennsylvania) Church my dad happened to be pastor of at the time. I don't know what exactly prompted it, but I suspect it was my impending marriage. My father said that he believes the secret to a happy marriage is that each partner is always giving 51% in the marriage, while the other partner is giving 49%. Now, think about that. If each is giving 51% they are both giving more than half to make the marriage successful. He didn't just give that advice--he must have lived it as well. When my mother died 17 years ago, they had been happily married for 48 and a half years. In fact, my dad rued the fact that they did not reach their 50th anniversary. (My dad has since remarried, and can continue to put into practice his secret of a happy marriage.)
BEST ADVICE # 2
When I graduated from college, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I had a degree in English Literature, but no specific thought in mind as to career. So, I did what any thinking college graduate does who doesn't have a clue about the future--I went to grad school. While I was there, I wrote a letter to one of my all-time favorite profs at my alma mater and said "if there is anything I can do to repay you for being such a great professor, let me know." Imagine my surprise (and delight) when he wrote back to say--we have an opening in the English department; one of the professors is going on sabbatical. Can you fill in for a year? Could I ever! That year turned into 8 years of college teaching.
Before I began teaching, I asked him what advice he would give a new teacher. He said--never be afraid to talk above your students' knowledge level and never be afraid to say "I don't know." Each of those little tidbits sounds so simple. Talking over students' heads? Almost counter-intuitive. But, he went on to explain that if you only ever teach to the level a student has already mastered, the student never grows. So teaching above them (occasionally) forces them to stretch and grow academically. And the advice to say "I don't know" was also counter-intuitive. Aren't professors supposed to know EVERYTHING. Well, I was quite relieved, because as a really new teacher and someone who just a year before had been a student myself, I knew I didn't know a whole lot.
A few years after I had stopped teaching at that college, I got a letter from a former student. She was full of praise remembering my teaching. One thing, she said, really stood out for her--that I would acknowledge that I didn't know everything, and that I was willing to see a point a student made by saying "I never thought of it that way." She remarked how refreshing it was to have a professor who allowed as how students could be the source of wisdom.
Well, enough of my meandering. What good advice have you received along your way?