“Four eyes see better than two” (Anonymous).
IT’S A FOOLISH PERSON INDEED WHO DOESN’T APPRECIATE THE VALUE OF ADVICE. When we’re looking at a situation that calls for a decision, not any of us sees every single thing that can be seen. We need the extra vision that comes from other sets of eyes, and to the extent that we let our viewpoint be enlarged and improved by other people’s perspectives, our decisions will tend to turn out better.
There are some, no doubt, who go to the opposite extreme and take the advice of everyone they meet, without regard to whether the advice is good, bad, or mediocre. But the person who takes everyone’s advice is just as foolish as the person who doesn’t take anybody’s. At some point, we have to take responsibility for our own choices, heeding good advice and disregarding that which is not so good.
But therein lies the trick! If we could always tell the difference between good and bad advice, we probably wouldn’t need any advice. As John Churton Collins said, “To profit from good advice requires more wisdom than to give it.” So each of us needs to grow in wisdom — the wisdom that’s required both to recognize and act on good advice.
The most common mistake we make is disregarding any advice that conflicts with our preferences and preconceived ideas. Whoever agrees with our preferred course of action is “wise” and his advice is “good,” while the fellow who warns us that we’re on the wrong road is usually written off as someone who “just doesn’t understand.”
But sometimes the best advice is that which is the most uncomfortable. And not only that, the best advice sometimes comes from unwelcome sources, perhaps even our enemies. Yet if we know what’s good for us, we’ll learn to profit from helpful advice, regardless of where it comes from or how little we may want to hear it.
In my experience, the best advice usually has to be sought out. It doesn’t come looking for us; we have to take the initiative. Because they desire to be courteous, many of our wisest friends won’t speak frankly about our circumstances unless we ask them to. And as we all know, asking for advice can be hard. But in the long run, we only hurt ourselves if we keep silent when we should be asking for help.
“I not only use all the brains I have but all I can borrow” (Woodrow Wilson).