"Everything in moderation, including moderation." Oscar Wilde
All my life I’ve been surrounded with people trying to give you their two cents. Most of them had good intentions but some of them didn’t. Some was solicited advice and some not. As a young girl, you generally tend to listen to those that seem older, wiser and like they’ve been there. It took a whole lot of years and growth to realize that not all advice is to be taken at face value. It took lots and lots of mistakes to know that it won’t always turn out for you like it did for the one advising you, and it took a whole lot of confidence to know that all advice is to be put into consideration but not all of it is to be acted upon. I have found that for me and the specific set up that is my life, most of the advice given works better with a slight twist.
If I had to group all the advice I’ve been given over the years that I’m happy I didn’t take into five categories, it’d fall under the following;
1) Better the devil you know than the angel you don’t know
This goes hand in hand with other common sayings like “An old broom know all the corners”, and thinking inside the box. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people even to this day still dish out this advice and I get it; it’s safe, you know exactly what you’re getting into and you can control it from start to finish. This advice was given to me in reference to friends, romantic relationships, business opportunities, travel, beauty products, name it! But guess what, the devil you now know was once an angel you didn’t know. Here’s another fact for you; you can’t control everything in life no matter how hard you try. Here’s another even truer fact; nothing great was ever achieved in a comfort zone. You have to take some risks. I’m not saying throw caution to the wind, but allow yourself to step out of your box of comfort and try something new. It can be a calculated risk (there’s professionals now that can do that for you). Life in itself is a risk because you could die at any minute. I’m glad I didn’t take this advice so literally because some of these “angels I didn’t know” turned out to be some of the best decisions I ever made!
Twist: Give the angel you don’t know at least one chance and then make an informed non-biased and open-minded decision.
2) When in Rome, do as the Romans do
Spoiler alert; sometimes even the “Romans” are looking for fresh ideas! They are looking for someone with a fresh perspective to shake things up a little bit. I must warn you that this has a lot to do with timing. My friends and colleagues have told me repeatedly to try to blend in. Keep your head down and do what others do but I can assure you that I’ve seen this piece of advice disproved over and over especially in the work setting. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always a good idea to first find out how the “Romans” have been doing it and why they’ve been doing it that way, but after you have this information, don’t be afraid to respectfully speak out about the ideas brewing in your mind that could improve efficiency where needed. I remember this one high school I went to where girls were allowed to wear their hair long but only if it was in its natural state. This was a time before we had easy access to all these amazing Natural hair products on the market today. Because of the natural texture of African hair, water is like the worst enemy for most hair-do’s. By the time I joined this school, shampoo was persona-non-grata on the Beginning of term shopping list. Washing your hair while at school was A CRIME. When I inquired as to why no one ever dared to have shampoo, it was because no one needed it since no one was going to risk washing their hair in school. Everyone believed that if you did, your hair would shrink beyond redemption. So when I began to carry shampoo with me to school, the other girls watched from a safe distance as I embarked on washing my hair at least once a week. Yes the hair did shrink but it would be back to its normal state within a day. It wasn’t long before shampoo was appearing on the shopping lists of more girls in that school. I’m not saying your new-age ideas will always be accepted with open arms but the worst that could happen is your idea being rejected. On the flip side of that coin, the potential benefits are limitless.
Twist: When in Rome, find out why the Romans do what they do, then “pimp that joint up!!”
3) Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve
I have to admit that this advice was accurate more times than I preferred. For a long while it felt like every time I didn’t listen to this advice, I got burned. For me, it translated into “don’t trust people” and “never give your all because you will be disappointed”, and let’s face it, in this world, there’s enough disappointment to serve seven billion people. One thing kept me coming back though: PASSION. I couldn’t bring myself to do things just for the sake of it. Passion was literally what drove me, it was my fuel. Without it, I was like a car with no engine and that would have been of no use to myself or those around me. It took me a while but eventually I developed a healthy balance that allows me to be passionate in whatever I do. I learnt about forgiving those that misused my trust. I learned that you can still love people from a distance. I learned that trust is earned not just given. I learned that wearing your heart on your sleeve does not necessarily mean being as sweet as a Georgia peach 24/7. I learned what to say and what to keep to myself and how to differentiate the two. I also learned that there will be times when actions spoke louder than words and other times when words would be of greater impact. I learned that not everybody wished you well so sometimes you have to tread carefully. I learned that even after learning all these things, you will still get disappointed every now and then and that’s ok. But I learned all these with heart. And passion. This is the one advice that I’m ever so glad I didn’t take because it has helped me GROW into the person I am. It has made me strong and brave and “full of life”.
Twist: Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve, but wear it somewhere anyway.
4) Money changes people
Wow. This is the most complex of all pieces of advice. Even to this day, I feel like I’m still discovering the entirety of what it means. It could mean that when someone starts to make a lot of money, then they start to act like they are better than everyone else. It could also mean that when someone starts to make a lot of money, they expect to be treated better than everyone else. It could also mean that when someone starts to make a lot of money, you need to treat them better than anyone else. Now I am a firm believer in the Bible and it says (to paraphrase) not to treat someone better because they are rich or worse because they are poor but we all know that’s not the reality we are living in. I will say this however, from my observation, even before this rich individual changes, the people around him/her start to change. Once you start to become more successful, people change the way they talk to you, the way they treat you and even the way they talk about you. For me, it looks like money doesn’t really change you the person as much as it changes those around this person. And this refers to making money as equally as it does to losing money. Usually, the person in question will change in reaction to the change in the people around him/her. So maybe before you start judging a person for their good (or bad) fortune and how it has changed them, first be sure that it hasn’t changed you more.
Twist: money changes people, but not before it changes those around them.
5) A leopard never changes its spots
The final piece of advice I’m glad I didn’t take is this one. For me, it talks about not only giving second chances but also the gift of acceptance. Now as a person that has received more second chances in this life time than I deserve, I admit I may be a little biased. But which one of us has never messed up so bad that you would do just about anything for a chance to turn back time and do it all different, for a chance to make amends? Which one of us can say they are the exact same person they were five, ten years ago, nothing at all has changed in their character? Why is it that we are so lenient with ourselves and not the same with others? Why is it that we believe we have changed for the better but the evil person you knew ten years ago is always going to be that way? I am not ashamed to say that I am a leopard whose spots changed and continue to change for better! This goes back to advice #1 above. I mean I’m not going to trust you with my bank details if the last time we met you conned me and cleaned out my account, and I definitely won’t write a recommendation for you for your job as a cashier, but that doesn’t mean I won’t give you a place to crash for a few days when you’re in a tight spot, or attend your child’s christening. I will give you the benefit of a doubt and allow you to prove yourself. These chances have a limit in number of course (I’m not Jesus. Although I’m working towards that. Can I get an Amen?!) But you can be sure it will be more than one. Because from one leopard to another, spots can change. Sometimes all the leopard needs is someone willing to see that.
Twist: Some leopards never change their spots, some just need you to look closer.
I’m grateful to have people in my life that take time to drop some wisdom on me, but for the five pieces above, I’m even more grateful that I never listened.