September 13, 2017

If I Had Heeded This Advice...

Which why to go?

....from my grandfather when I was 12 years old, my life would have been totally different. It is likely I would have not developed an intense interest in radio that led to a 40 year career. Without that decision I would have not been in a particular town to meet a particular woman who would become my wife. 

The backstory is simple: at the age of twelve I had been selected to become a counselor in training at a YMCA camp an hour or so from my home. I was too young to have much authority, so my job was to help the 16 year old counselors manage the young boys in our dormitory, make sure they got enough sleep, made it to breakfast, and spent their two weeks having fun.

Apparently, I was a rather "young" twelve. I didn't know how to motivate the younger kids. I allowed cliques to develop that targeted certain boys for bullying. Within four or five days I was homesick and wanted to leave. My parents suggested I give the experience another few days to see if things evened out. They did not. So, at the end of the first week, mom and dad drove to the camp, picked me up, and took me home. They were obviously disappointed but didn't make me feel bad about my "failure" to stick it out.

When my grandfather was informed, he wrote me a long letter (back in the days when letters were the way to communicate!).  After several supportive comments he began a section that he felt his grandson needed to hear: that I had given up too soon, I needed to give things time to develop, and I had to keep commitments. He let me know he loved me and hoped I had learned some valuable lessons from the experience. He suggested I return the next summer and stick it out.

So, how did this change my life? Since  I was home for the summer instead of away at camp, I discovered a passion that would be the center of my life for the rest of my working years. I visited a local radio station and fell in love. Within 3 years I would be a 15 year old disc jockey with my own show after school and on weekends.

That would lead to other radio stations and other cities. In one I  fell head over heels in love with a woman who would become my wife and the mother of my children. Eventually, I would decide to come off the air and become a consultant and market researcher, helping almost 200 other radio stations maximize their potentials. That allowed me to save and invest enough to retire at 52 and begin my satisfying retirement.

My grandfather wasn't wrong. His advice was correct and something I needed to be told. He let me know I had some growing up to do. But, as things worked out, if I had gone back to the camp the following year, it is likely the circumstances that put me inside a radio station and became my career would not have been the same. 

The point of this story? Sometimes an event that shapes our lives is triggered by a disappointing outcome or failure of some kind. We can let that define us and limit what we are willing to try. Or, we can chalk it up to a learning experience and move in another direction or attack the problem with a new perspective.

Advice should come with a warning label. It could be exactly what you need to hear, or might be "hazardous to your health." That is a decision you will have to make. I am quite comfortable that I ended up on the right path.



20 comments:

  1. Funny, how things happen like that. Synchronicity, fate, happenstance...all things, whatever you call it seem to guide us to where we are supposed to go. Great story!
    b

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    1. Whatever is guiding things to their proper conclusion is not a force to be messed with!

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  2. Exactly why you do not need to write another book. Today's blog is " right on". If I had listened to advice I would still be bagging groceries on the south side of Chicago. In addition my high school guidance counselor told my parents it would be a waste of time and money should I go to college. Instead I should join the army and become "cannon fodder". Literally. I believe said counselor had her Black Belt in counseling.

    3 degrees from 3 major universities by the time I was 30 and a 40 year academic career I feel I did okay. Also met my wife at my first career academic institution. 45 years later having the times of our lives.

    Don't do another book. You did well. Your blog is delicious and reaches far more people immediately. Oops. This sounds like advice. Forget what I said.

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    1. Thanks, Jack. Are you sure your counselor wasn't named Nurse Ratched?

      I will pardon your advice slip!

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  3. I am always intrigued by stories about how people find what I call their passion, or perhaps their calling. A "calling" is a concept rooted in Protestant, especially Calvinist, theology.
    The belief is that Christians have a moral obligation to follow a call by taking advantage of opportunities. The reason is that this builds and enhances the human community. This is true, even if the call brings personal profit, because this too is a gift that can help others. Your post is more about how well meant advice might deflect one from a discovery of calling, but even that is interesting because adults, especially teachers, frequently tell children, "I think you should be this, or do this, or think about becoming this." Even simple, well meant, and seemingly harmless words coming from admired adults might turn out to be deflectors from a path that might have been a true passion, had a child discovered it on his or her own.

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    1. You are right on the mark. My wife was told by a few unthinking art teachers that her talents were limited or she should pursue another field. Anyone who has seen her paintings and her photography know how wrong those people were. But, that "advice" scared her away from what could have been her calling as a career and relegated it to a hobby. Even now she has doubts about her talents because of those early words.

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  4. Great story. But I always wonder about these things -- do you think you would have found radio anyway, some other way, under some other circumstances, because that's your passion?

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    1. Betty and I talked about this last night. We thought that writing would have been a more likely path, or business management. Radio would probably not have been something I would have been exposed to without that one visit with my mother.

      Intetestingly, my brother followed my path and had quite a nice radio career. In fact, he is still doing voice over work at the ripe old age of 65.

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  5. When my daughter comes to me for life advice, I remind her that she disregarded all the advice I have given her about major life decisions...and everything turned out great. So my advice to her now is not to listen to me!

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    1. So, what you're saying is she will ignore that advice about not listening to you...and ask your opinion about something! Isn't being a parent fun!

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    2. So true. And she will then proceed to ignore that too.

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  6. I was supposed to be a nurse. It was a good and "proper" career for a woman, and from as early as I remember I was told by my grandmother, parents and friends that I would be a great nurse. I worked as a nurse's aide for many years, beginning in high school, and enjoyed it. I was accepted into nursing school, and completed nearly two years before realizing that nursing was everyone else's dream for me, that it wasn't what I wanted to do.

    Buying into everyone else's dream meant I didn't have a clue about the path I wanted to take. I stumbled around for a while, got married and enjoyed many years of being a stay-at-home parent (my husband was career navy and deployed more often than he was home, or so it seemed). I eventually went back to school and got a degree in teaching English as a second language, a field I was interested in. I had a long and happy career teaching English to immigrants and refugees who taught me things I wouldn't have know otherwise, and showed a strength and resolve I still admire to this day.

    My children have asked for advice, but besides giving it I also tell them that they have to listen to their own hearts, that my advice is just one small piece of the whole, and that they will figure it out. Sometimes they will stumble, but hopefully I've taught them to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and keep going.

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    1. "Everyone else's dream" is an excellent way of describing the problem with advise that may not be best for the person receiving it. Naturally, children tend to listen to authority figures. Everyone wants the same thing: success and happiness for the young person, but there are limitations that can be expressed.

      Thanks for sharing your story and your ability to finally find the path that was best for you.

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  7. All those years ago when I started my career as a nurse, it was optional to buy into the pension plan that was offered. It's hard to fathom in this day and age, but we were told things like - no need to worry about that; your husband will look after you. And during wage negotiations, why would you need a liveable wage when you're married and once again, your husband will look after you. I didn't listen to that well-meaning advice; I don't know why. It's all paid off in the end.

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    1. Things have changed in that regard, thank heavens.

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  8. This is kind of like that one door closes and another opens things. You'll never know what you would have had or lost on the other side, but your're darned sure you like what happened on this end. Somtimes we simply need to ignore advice and go with our gut?

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  9. I have a relative who has always shunned others' advice. He has recently retired, having lived his life without pursuing an education, without finding a life partner, and after spending his entire career working for a company he despised. He is angry and unhappy with the world. Long ago, I stopped offering him advice, unless he specifically asked me (and even then he generally ignored what I said). I offer this counter example to suggest that there is a middle way in between being unduly influenced by others' expectations and stubbornly persisting in a course of action despite feedback from others. When offered advice or suggestions by someone whom you respect and love, I believe that it is always worth considering what they have to say, even if, in the end, you go in a different direction. In the case of your grandfather's advice, I would bet that you took to heart the essence of his advice -- that often when something is difficult, it is important to persist rather than give up -- even though you did not follow through with the specific recommendation to go back to the camp again next year.

    Jude

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    1. Absolutely. I loved and respected my grandfather tremendously and was very proud of his accomplishments. He was 100% correct in his assessment of my performance at that time. He was also completely supportive of whatever finally happened.

      I still miss Ralph to this day, even though he died 1975. I am proud to be part of his family. Wikipedia said of him, he "was an eminent figure in the field of American and international library and information science." He was quite a guy.

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