“Men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repeat too soon, and seldom drive business home to the full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success” (Francis Bacon).
IT IS TRUE, AS FRANCIS BACON SAID, THAT SOME FOLKS SPEND TOO MUCH TIME CONSULTING. Fearful of doing anything unsafe, the overly cautious person wants to know what “most people” think about the decision he must make. No amount of input is ever enough, and he spends his whole life conducting opinion polls.
Yet many of us have the opposite problem: we fail to consult when we should. We don’t profit from people who have greater expertise by checking our thinking against their wisdom.
To “consult” means to confer with another person about a problem. It involves “putting our heads together” or “comparing notes” with someone who has special knowledge about a particular question. Physicians, of course, frequently use this concept, and we’re mighty glad they do. Presented with a problem that he or she is not completely sure about, a physician will “consult” with a specialist in that area, and our prospects for diagnosis and treatment are greatly increased by the pooling of their wisdom. Would you want a doctor who never saw the need to consult with another doctor? No, you wouldn’t.
In our own lives, there is also a need for consultation — and I’m not here talking about “professional counseling.” I mean we often need to get the benefit of a good friend’s wisdom or an older person’s perspective. Even when we’re pretty sure we’re on the right track, it’s often helpful to have another set of eyes to look at our situation. Especially when an important decision has to be made, it’s good to consult with someone who can help us double-check our thinking and “validate the input,” as the computer people say.
Perhaps there are many reasons why we fail to consult when we should. Sometimes it’s just carelessness or overconfidence. At other times, however, it’s pride that keeps us from consulting, and if that’s the case, we’ve got a serious problem. Not only will pride destroy our character; it will sabotage our success. When success requires asking for help, as it often does, the proud are doomed to failure.
“Without consultation, plans are frustrated” (The Book of Proverbs).