I still remember my chance meeting with an English professor the summer before I started law school. He sat in the corner of a local Dallas coffee shop. When I walked in, I saw him flipping the light-creme pages of a a thick book. I knew it was him even before he raised his head to say Hello. He always had an academic, but preppy look to him. Brown loafers, tailored pants, and a cashmere sweater were his must-haves. My conversation with him was brief, but important. I failed to realize the gravity of his words until much later. He asked what I planned to do in the fall and without hesitation I told him, “I plan to go to law school.”
His face glazed over and his eyes popped wide. In one sentence he stated “I don’t believe the law will agree with you.” He made a few more statements about how many unhappy lawyers he knew and he thought my skills were better suited for the arts. Of course, I did not pay attention to his advice. My mind made up, I intended to attend law school. I dismissed his advice and later pursued a career in the legal field. It’s been 6 years since I’ve practiced law and now his advice, flashes like a Broadway Musical in my head. What if I took his advice? Where would my path lead me? I am not certain.
This conversation came to mind because I read through Ann Quindlen’s very tiny book, “A Short Guide to a Happy Life,” and “This Is Water,” by David Foster Wallace. I started thinking about all the advice I’ve ever received and what words steered me in a different direction and altered the course of my life. One that comes to mind recently came in the form of a question, “Do you believe in second chances?” Saying yes to this question altered a decision I planned on making. I also love this passage in Quindlen’s book: “But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just life of our mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.”
This examination on advice transports me to this question:What is the best piece of advice you ever received? And why?