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Smiling in the midst of mayhem

There’s both the profound and the ridiculous that we could chat about when it comes to the year 2020 and all those “vision” quips everyone was throwing about at the beginning of the year. Such is the benefit of hindsight. (Lol or don’t at the pun, but it’s true.)

Photo: Imke Botha

This photo for me sums up #goals for this year. In the midst of the mayhem, I want to be able to smile and laugh.

Eugene Peterson said something profound in an interview he did on the Psalms with Bono. He said, “I don’t want to escape the violence.” Either the guy was cuckoo, or he had a peace that the Bible describes as “surpasses understanding”. That’s not an absence of understanding – it’s implying that it’s achieved and gone beyond that.

So the obvious question is: how do we get that?

Right now, one of the ways I think, is to know the value of listening to advice from others. But to utilize advice when navigating your way forward in this tumultuous 2020, we have to learn to separate the wheat from the chaff. In other words: the good advice from the bad.

How do we find some sense of peace and order? What advice should we be listening to?

I’ve been considering how advice is often freely given. However, as a buyer, beware: you often get exactly what you pay for.

So here are some thoughts on how to separate quality advice from that which should be politely received, but quickly discarded.

I’m generally mindful of the context in which advice dispensed. Great advice can come in a bar or in a board room. But great advice rarely comes at a bar at 2am after a night of tequila shooters. Some of you will disagree, I know. Let me know how the inside of that cell is treating you.

Everyone has something they’re in as well as something they’re striving towards. And they’ll speak to you from that point. I’ve learned (often the hard way) that the bigger picture and the context in which the advice is being given is a real determining factor in figuring out how helpful it actually is.

Unsolicited Advice
Some people need to hear themselves talk. Switch off your hearing aid to the jabberers.

If someone’s motivation is to garner attention for themselves as apart from advancing your wellbeing, anything which emanates from their mouth must be taken with a grain of salt the size of Gibraltar.

On the subject of motivation, I like how entrepreneur Mathew Swyers puts it:

“Always ask yourself what is this person’s end game in giving me this advice? Are they trying to help me determine if my concept can work or do they have some latent and ulterior motive in mind? Often the most valuable advice you can receive is from a potential investor or venture capitalist as they want you to make money, and they want to as well. But asking a friend, someone who themselves has never had the courage to strike out themselves, is often fraught with peril. They will externalize their own fears of opening their own business through their ‘advice’ such that any thoughts they may have on the business almost always focuses on the negative aspects of the hurdles as opposed to the positive challenges in opportunities.”

Bibliography versus Bogus
I’m sure you’ve encountered a know-it-all at some stage in your life. The discussion can be anything between spear-fishing and baking with children, and Mr Brainiac will claim to have all sorts of in-depth knowledge on the subject and… chips! Here it comes!

The obvious questions are whether or not their knowledge is reliable and where did it come from?

Here’s something to try: politely listen to the fountain of knowledge spewing sprouting forth, and when Smarty Pants stops to take a breath, simply inquire: “That’s great stuff! Thank you. Did you read that somewhere or how did you come by this?”

We like legitimate answers. Blank stares and waffle advice can be disposed.


“By their fruit you will recognise them.”

Jesus, Matthew 7:16

Anyone sporting a dadbod and giving me diet advice is about as convincing as a governmental spokesperson during a pandemic.

Let’s say you want to start a business. I would say you’re unlikely to glean any proper entrepreneurial wisdom from someone who has never done it. That is not to say that their advice may not be valuable, but again it must be understood that there’s a difference between those who have done it and those who have not done it.

This is true of most things. Marriage, parenting, finances, careers…

How do you find peace? Ask those who have it. Jesus is a good start.

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