Advice is not subject to the ordinary rules of arithmetic. If a man gives you a piece of his advice, it does not decrease his supply. Everyone seems to draw from an unlimited advice stockpile except for the professional advice-givers who have formalized the process with adjoining price lists.
Amateurs are more than willing, even anxious, to give us their valuable advice, free of charge. We often get our money’s worth.
Heaven knows the world would be in even sadder shape if we didn’t care enough about each other to go through the trouble of offering our so-called valuable opinions. The most generous among us send their suggestions in letters to the editors, hoping to enlighten thousands of “wrong-headed” readers.
Some advisors, however, are reluctant to admit to giving us a bum steer. “Yes, I remember I told you to bet heavily on the Giants, but I was sure you knew enough not when they played the Packers, Eagles or the Bears. “
There is also the authoritive type of opinion-giver: “So, this is your garden?”
“Yes, it’s taken a great deal of planning and work, but I’m happy with the results.”
“Do you want my advice?”
“No, I really don’t, but if you have some spare fertilizer I could ceratinly use that. I already have an oversupply of advice. “
“You should switch the marigolds and the zinnias. The color scheme would be greatly improved.”
‘You’re suggesting I transplant 120 full-grown plants? That would be back-breaking and I’d probably lose a lot of them.”
“It would be more than worth the effort and the risk. That’s my advice.”
“That’s not advice. That’s more like the fertizer I told you I need. You know, the kind we get from bulls and horses. “
Bad advice is not always recognizable. There is the case of workmen installing a two-ton statue of George Washington. The monument was dangling from the crane when a large sedan pulled up and a well-dressed gentleman stepped out. “A great work of art, a wonderful tribute!” he said, looking up at the statue.
“He should face City Hall across the street, right?” the foreman asked
“No, no,” the man replied with some irritation. He should face the the west and the nation’s future expansion.”
“I’m glad I asked ,”the foreman said and motioned the statue down to the pedastel where it was rotated and permanently bolted into place, facing the sunset. “It’s a good thing you showed up. I didn’t know they’d changed their minds,” he said.
“Who?” asked the gentleman.
“The Parks Department. Aren’t you from the Parks Department?”
“No, I’m an interior decorator. I have to meet a client in town and stopped to ask for directions.”
“But, why did you tell me…..?”
” Well, you asked.”
Much advice has been given by “wise men” down through the centuries on how to avoid the damage inflicted by advice-givers…… “Never give advice in a crowd,” the Arab proverb warns…… The Spanish version is more specific: “Never advise anyone to go to war or to marry.”……An old German saying cautions us to “never give advice unless asked.”
But wait a minute. Who asked the old German for that advice?