Life-Changing Advice


Did you ever receive terse advice from someone, and it changed your thinking?

Years ago, I paid for college by cleaning houses for wealthy people. One of the ladies I cleaned for had been the daughter of the Canadian ambassador to Tokyo in her younger years. She was curt and efficient.

At the end of the school year, I announced to her that I wouldn’t be coming back the next year, because I was going back to secretarial work. My comment was, “It’s only manual labor.”

I said the wrong thing to this stalwart lady. She shot me “the look” and said, “Young lady, we had servants when I was growing up, and lots of them. And my mother could do everything better than the servants.”

The message? Don’t underestimate the value of physical labor. All work is honorable as long as it’s honest. I continued cleaning houses the next year, thanks to Mrs. N. It paid the bills.

The same lady gave me another piece of advice: “You can learn something from everybody—even if it’s what NOT to do.”

How did that play out? By watching the college goof-offs, I learned that you get put on academic probation if you play when you should study. And enough academic probation gets you sent home in disgrace. I kept my grades up, because I loved to study. But I learned that what you get in life is what you have earned.

I learned from a wise Bible college president that “Holy shoddy still is shoddy.” He was referring not only to academics, but also day-to-day living. How you clean your room. How you construct a project. I learned that being “religious” is no excuse for slip-shod work.

The same college president said, “It’s never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.” THAT principle has carried me far and saved a lot of grief. And I think it would have changed our culture a long time ago, had more people really grasped the concept.

My older sister lent a valuable piece of advice when she commented on people who treat you rudely: “Kill ‘em with kindness.” That’s not a put-on act but sincere kindness, coming from having forgiven them. I’ve found that those who treat us the worst often do a double-take when we treat them unlike they treat us.

I learned from fellow-students in the dorm that some people will find a way to sneak around rules they don’t like. That bothered me; however, I learned to live by the code of conduct I gleaned from God’s guidebook, no matter what others did.

And that has made all the difference.

How about you? Ever receive a great piece of advice from someone? Join the discussion below.