There are so many things in this world that I want to do. And most of them I have never done before. In many matters, I muddle along myself because there is joy in the learning. But when it is something important, I seek advice on how to proceed.
For example, learning how to cook a new meal, I just experiment – throw in a little of this, a little of that. See how it comes out and then make adjustments. That is very simple because there are no long-term consequences if it comes out poorly.
But when it truly matters, the first thing I do is look for people who are not only doing what I want to do, but are doing it well.
Finding people who are doing it well is the difficult part. There are lots of people who pretend to be experts when the truth is that they have no real experience or expertise. They’re just reporting what they’ve heard or learned second-hand. I avoid those people.
When my oldest children were very little, I would watch the families around us. I would look for parents who had children I found impressive (particularly if they also had older children) and watch their parenting skills. I learned a lot just by watching.
But there were times when I needed to seek active advice because I was struggling with a behavior in one of my children.
I knew exactly which parents to seek out and which parents to avoid.
When I began Goat Milk Stuff, we quickly sought out the advice of a lawyer and an accountant to help us properly set up the business. I’m constantly telling my family, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” These professionals filled in the legal and financial gaps and answered questions that we didn’t even know we should be asking.
I often tell my children that it is very important to carefully choose your advisers and counselors. You need to look at the people you are considering asking and evaluate their lives.
- Do you admire their life? Their family? Their business?
- Do you see any faults in what you know about them that you need to consider to balance out their advice?
- Are they experienced and wise enough to offer you counsel from experience?
- Have they survived any pitfalls?
There are no “perfect” advisers, but you can help yourself if you seek out the advisers who are successful at what you are asking about.
Once you’ve found these advisers, you need to listen to them carefully. Sometime we’re just looking for people to validate what we want to do. We ignore those opinions that don’t agree with what we secretly already want to do.
But ignoring wise counsel is foolishness.
If you don’t understand or agree with the counsel, ask questions. Probe deeper. Study the situation. Pray. Oftentimes advice from wise counselors that we don’t initially agree with starts to make more sense over time.
And what if you’re the one giving the advice?
I’ve been happily married to my husband and best friend for over 22 years. I’ve been joyfully parenting and homeschooling my children for over 20 years. I’ve been successfully running a family business for over 9 years. I have made a lot of mistakes, but I have studied those mistakes and learned from them.
While I don’t necessarily feel like an expert, I do feel like I’ve learned a lot and have much to share. I regularly receive and answer many questions on a regular basis, and I’ve noticed that the people I counsel tend to fall into two camps.
The first group are the people who listen to every word I say and do their best to implement my advice.
The second group are those who think they want my advice, listen to it carefully, and then go and do the exact opposite of what I advise.
And that’s ok – I’m not God and I don’t always know what is best for someone. But I often find that this second group tends to run into a lot more problems.
As an example, a few years ago I had a woman consult with me about starting her own goat milk soap business. This woman was just starting out and had made soap, but hadn’t sold any of it yet. She wanted my advice about what equipment she needed to purchase to be able to ramp up her production.
My advice was that she needed to not invest money into equipment just yet, but that she needed to start selling soap first and reinvest those profits into marketing. When her sales grew to the point that she couldn’t keep up with production on her current equipment, then it was time to invest in better equipment that would allow her to efficiently produce more soap.
This woman didn’t like that answer and invested a few thousand dollars in equipment. Within the year, she contacted me again and asked me if I would like to purchase the equipment because she couldn’t sell her soap and was shutting down her business.
That’s just one example, but I have lots more just like it.
It can be frustrating to give advice and have it ignored. You may even be tempted to stop counseling anyone because it can feel like you are casting pearls before swine. But please don’t give up. It’s not your job to make people follow your advice, but I believe that we do have a God-given responsibility to share what we have learned and to attempt to help others.
There are times when I’m talking or consulting with someone and I can tell that they don’t really want to follow what I’m telling them. They want to take the easy road instead of the tougher road I am suggesting they follow.
With these people I’ve started prefacing my counsel with these sentences: “I know you’re not going to listen to me and do as I advise, but I’m going to tell you this anyway. Some day, Lord willing, you will remember these words and you will actually understand what I am trying to communicate to you today.”
Usually the person just looks at me blankly.
But I have a reason for saying those words. It actually takes the person by surprise and it makes them listen just a little bit harder because they want to see whether or not they agree with what I am about to say.
So many people seeking advice are still “wise in their own eyes” and don’t yet realize how much they still have to learn. I have found that shaking them up a little bit can help them hear me more clearly.
For me, consulting with strangers can be easier than counseling my family.
I truly want to help people and feel I need to share the wisdom God has taught me. When strangers don’t take my advice and I forsee a much harder walk for them, it makes me sad. But I typically have very little personally invested in the ultimate outcome.
But when loved ones ignore solid counsel, it is hard to watch them walk straight into the pitfalls that we see looming before them.
I console myself by reminding myself that everyone has to live their own life and make their own mistakes. It is in those mistakes that they often grow and become closer to God. So I give them my hard-earned wisdom, allow them to live their lives, and pray that they learn from their mistakes.
I also remind myself and them, “I know you’re not going to listen to me, but I’m going to tell you anyway. And some day you’ll realize the truth in my words.”
Has there been any good advice you’ve given or been given that’s been ignored or well received?