Monday, March 28, 2011

Best Advice Ever

ROBERTA: I was scrolling through recently sold books in publishers marketplace and came across this entry in the advice/relationships department: Katie Couric's THE BEST ADVICE I EVER GOT: Lessons From Extraordinary Lives, collecting essays, brief comments and poems from over 100 well-known people, inspired by her own commencement address at Case-Western Reserve, to Susan Mercandetti at Random House, for publication April 12, 2011.

Gosh we could have come up with that one! But since we didn't, I thought it would be fun to talk about the best or most memorable advice we Jungle Reds have ever gotten. I'll start with a couple of pearls from my mother, both of which came in my teenage years.

First: Never lie down on a blanket with a boy. Nuff said.

Second: One day you'll feel about a man the way you do about the cat. (My husband is still waiting for that one to materialize!)

So what about you Jungle Reds? Best advice ever? (Can be writing-related or just about life.)

DEB: From my dad--"Smile when you speak to someone on the phone. They can hear it." He was in sales his entire life, and this was one of his mantras. But it works for EVERYTHING and EVERYONE you deal with on the phone. My dad was a self-made man whose bible was Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. He lived by "treating others as you would like to be treated." Can't do much better than that.

JAN: Wow Deb. I'm going to use that one. That's terrific. I do a meditation which involves smiling and the effect is amazing. The best advice I got was also from my father and I repeat it all the time. He used to tell me, if you aren't actively trying to be a better person, you start sliding backwards. I think that's especially true as you age and get set in your ways.

Also, this is the best advice that I give my kids. Don't think about anything important after 9 p.m. at night. All thoughts get distorted as you get tired. And especially don't think of anything important as you are trying to go to sleep. Think about the plot of a movie or TV show -- someone ELSE's life, not yours.

HALLIE: Great advice, Jan - I confess, I churn late at night and it's pointless. I "go" places in my head--wander through the halls of my elementary school or through Robinson's department store near where I used to live. Before I know it I'm asleep.

My mother used to say things like Don't cut off your nose to spite your face. And Don't throw out the baby with the bath water. I rarely knew what she was going on about. But the one piece of advice I've taken to heart: Take notes.

ROSEMARY: Deb...I actually write down the word SMILE when I give a radio was right! I like all of these suggestions. I didn't take much advice from my father but I do remember him saying - as my mother dragged me to church and he stayed home - "just be a good person, you don't need all those rules." I try. Interesting that most of these words of wisdom came from our fathers. Maybe that's because our mothers just kept telling how how wonderful we were??

HANK: (RO, not mine....:-)) My mother told me "Thoughtful consideration of others is the sign of a true lady." We used to SNEER! Now I think, oh, I see what she means. Once I had lunch with my Dad, I was oh, about 22. And working at Rolling Stone, and CLUELESS. And I knew I was clueless. I said to dad--gosh, I am so nervous about work! I have no idea what I'm doing,I am just making it up as I go along every day.

And Dad (a foreign service officer) said, Oh, honey, that's what we're all doing. Everyone is making it up as they go along.

I was SHOCKED. And relived. And reassured. And I still think about that all the time.

And Roberta, yeah, we could have thought of it. Absolutamente. But we are not Katie Couric.

ROBERTA: Hank, to us you are definitely in Katie's league!

JULIA: Hank is like Katie Couric with better hair. Roberta, your mother's advice about "never lie on a blanket with a boy" reminds me of what my mom said before I left for college: "Aspirin is a sure-fire birth control method. You just place one between your knees and hold it there." That still makes me laugh, all these years later.

The piece of advice from my dad that still echoes in my head (and in my teenagers', since I regularly pass it on to them) is, "Assume everyone else on the road is an idiot." My dad is the best defensive driver EVER (even if we do tease him about always going five miles below the speed limit.)

For me, though, the best advice I ever got was in premarital couple's counseling, with Ross. The priest who was going to marry us was talking about how love is something you do, not just something you feel, and he said, "There will be times when you don't feel loving toward your spouse. There will be times when you don't even LIKE your spouse. But if you always act in a loving, considerate way toward each other, the feelings will follow your actions." (I add in passing this has also been very useful advice for the times when I feel like strangling my children.)

ROBERTA: Oh I love these suggestions! How about you, Jungle reds, best advice ever?


  1. Father: Don't worry too much what other people are thinking about when they look at you. Most of the time, they're wondering what you're thinking about them.

  2. Austin, that is SO TRUE! I used to come home from school as a kid, complaining that "Nobody liked me." My mother would say--you think the kids are spending all their time thinking about YOU?

  3. Great Post! (And Hank's hair is amazing).

    Father: If you're going to dream, dream big.

    Mother: You can do anything you put your mind to. Don't listen to those that say you can't

  4. Austin and Jamie--what smart parents! thanks for sharing...

  5. My mother wasn't much for giving advice, but she often said "So, if everyone else jumps off a bridge, does that mean you have to do it, too?"

    I had an insurance business for many years, and I found that smiling made a huge difference when cold calling for appointments. I was the queen of cold calling in the office! Woohoo, there's a distinction! :-)

    My advice to my kids: Attitude is everything. When I found it embroidered on a sweatshirt I bought it, and said to the girls, "See? It must be true; it's on a sweatshirt!"

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  7. Great topic.

    Me, sitting on the curb in 9th grade contemplating getting the scissors instead of untangling the mess of kite string. My grandfather, who lived with us, walks up and says, "If you start something, finish it."

    My (Brazilian host) father, lecturing me on how I was wasting the exchange year by becoming an introvert (ME?) even though I had picked up Portuguese in six months, said, "Ask people about themselves. Everybody has something they like to talk about."


  8. Queen of cold calling Karen? we need to put you in charge of marketing JRW!

    Edith, so glad you're back in business. hope the back feels better each day. And you, introverted? You've come a long ways!

  9. Oh no. I posted yesterday and someho!w my two cents worth didn't register! Strange internet on the road or the altitude at Santa Fe maybe.

    Anyway great advice and didn't we all have fabulous mothers? Love the one about the aspirin, Julia!

    My father was full of quaint sayings like "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."

    But my mantra saying is "Worry can't add one minute to your life."

  10. Hank is like Katie Couric with better hair - true! And a better smile, too.

    In my last conversation with my father before he died he said: "always remember, love is the most important thing."

    He was right, of course.

    Brenda B. in Maine

  11. The aspirin comment is a riot! And my mother used that "bridge" line on me, too - only it was specific, the Brooklyn Bridge. Were kids everywhere told that ...the Trenton Makes bridge, the Tallahatchie bridge..?

    BTW...saw Laurie King and Zoe Sharp at Left Coast Crime and they were THRILLED with their advanced reaing copies of One was a Soldier! A few small fights broke out over the remaining copies ;-)

    Also got to meet the charming (and very handsome) John aka Mr. Rhys.

  12. Hank definitely has better hair than Katie Couric:-) Love the aspirin.

    And Julia, what great advice from your priest. I'm going to print that one out and put it up where I can see it.

  13. Yes Julia,
    I copied your advice and emailed it to my husband! Edith, I'm afraid I would have succumbed to the scissors.

    And I think we are all agreed on Hank's hair! (Katie's green with envy).


  14. You all are too funny...Katie is hardly green, I think... as for my hair, thank you. Or thank Charlie, the hair guy. (Yes, his name is Charlie, and no, it never crossed my mind.)

  15. The aspirin always makes me giggle, though my mother was a bit more blunt. She told me to make sure the boy was prepared. I gave her a blank stare. She explained in very blunt terms about that packet boys used to carry in their wallets, and used the vernacular name. I was too stunned to remind her I was on the pill.

    My dad, however, was more of a romantic. "Always set aside some dreaming time." I always have.

  16. My mother will be pleased her aspirin wisdom lives on on the internet.

    Edith, I agree with your Brazilian host father: ask people about themselves and then really listen is the best conversational advice there is.

    Did anyone else's mother advise always having some "mad money" on a date, in case your escort turned out to be a jerk? In a time before ATM cards and cell phones, it could be a lifesaver.

  17. Julia, you reminded me that I have a sterling silver charm bracelet (somewhere...) You slipped a dime in one of the charms and it said on the back, "if you're ever in trouble, here's the price of a call."

  18. I heard a lot of these sayings growing up. I always carry 'mad money.' Not sure which parent told me that one.

    When I got my driver’s license I remember what my Dad said, “That little piece of paper in your hand is a privilege and a responsibility. Use it wisely… it CAN be taken away.” The next thing was never, ever stop for gasoline when you see the delivery truck at the gas station. I still laugh when I see people doing that. And the third,
    "What does it mean when you see a puddle?"
    "Ah, it rained."
    "No, there's a pot hole in the road."

    My Mom told me to keep my knees together, guess she forgot the aspirin part.

    Both my parents told me I could smoke if I wanted to but the rules were: 1) You smoke at home, 2) You buy your own cigarettes. Best health advice they both ever gave us. Four daughters and none of us ever smoked. We had better things to do with our money.

    Best advice I ever gave my kids (1 girl, 2 boys): You need a good education so you can get a job to support yourself. You need to learn how to handle your money wisely, to do your own laundry, to take care of your car, clean enough to be live in a healthy environment and cook enough to keep from starving…and if someone comes along to share your life consider yourself lucky.

    Yep, Hank, I’m jealous of the hair.

  19. I'm so using that aspirin line when my daughter is older...thanks for the laugh!

  20. Here's some truly great advice handed down by my friend Deb's grandmother: "Just because it comes in your size, doesn't mean you should wear it."

    Pretty wise, I'd say.