Can’t Tell Them What They Don’t Know

Having far surpassed my early formative years, I look back at the advice I was given in a different light. I now find myself sometimes in the role of advice giver1 and I try to be a good role model for those that come after me.

There are a few times in your life when you can tell someone about an experience you’ve had in hopes of giving them some insight into their own future.

The three that I can think of off the top of my head are as follows:

  • A teenager about life in general – specifically about being yourself and love/relationships
  • A first-time expecting parent on what raising a child is like
  • A person starting at a new company

As girls became less of a weird fascination and more of a “Hello there” <insert Flynn Rider voice> interest, my father would often repeat the following nugget of advice.

“They’re (women) are just as afraid and nervous about talking to you as you are of them. Go talk to them. The worst that could happen is they say no.”

Looking back, this is some of the best advice I’ve ever been given. I wish2 I would have learned to put aside my fears of talking to people – especially people I liked – and just go and say hello. Not just in romantic relationships either, but for all situations where a simple hello would have gotten me much farther than awkward shoe-gazing.

Case in point. Last summer I got to meet a designer and all around excellent guy at a conference where he presented. I, a grown adult, was sweating bullets as I approached him after his speech. I introduced myself and said that I was jealous of the city from which he hails and that I’d love to visit it again someday. He said thanks and invited me to contact him if he was ever in town. This summer I hope to do exactly that.

Had I not made such a simple effort I would have regretted it much more than any possible ‘no’ of embarrassment. I need to do this more often.

The feeling of watching over your daughter as she sleeps can be explained in great detail, but it isn’t until you experience it for yourself that the impact can be felt. There’s a feeling that no tale can invoke and all attempts to are shallow and pale. But I shall try.

Knowing that a decision was made that led to, out of billions of possible outcomes, the life of this little thing. A being who at one moment can amaze you with naiveté and a depth of curiosity, frustrate you with misunderstanding and shorten your patience in the space of a second.
That’s part of being a parent that can never be explained in a guide to parenting or book about child development. It has to be experienced.
The expression “the grass is always greener” is perplexing. I understand the meaning, but in my experience it’s more like “the grass is always grass”. They are all different, but the same in so many ways.
I joined a much larger non-profit than the prior one I worked at. 10x larger in the number of employees across 4 states instead of two campuses and in a totally different sector of business. Yet some of the same struggles I faced in the smaller and more tightly knit community I see in the larger and more dispersed organization.
When you’re thinking about joining a new organization you hopefully can do some legwork to find out more about what the organization does, what kind of people work there and what the general culture is like. You’ll compare it to past jobs, past relationships and past experiences in general. It won’t be until you’re at the new place of work for some time until you fully realize what you’ve gotten yourself into.
After getting the nerve to ask someone on a date and having it go well – you get this feeling.
When you read your child a familiar story and they laugh at a joke they missed before – you get this feeling.
After stressing about your role in the organization and the boss congratulates you on completing a project or task at work – you get this feeling.
That feeling is important. It’s you leveling up. Experience is gained. The kind that can’t be read from a guide or bypassed with any shortcut.

  1. Not to imply that I’m done learning from good advice. In fact that is part and parcel of being able to give good advice. Once must receive before they can give.

  2. I didn’t have the guts to ask my wife out on our first date. She asked me. Derp.

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