The Best Advice I Ever Got, Pt. 1

I’ve gotten a lot of advice in my day from: “Don’t buy junks!” (thanks, Mom) to “Go to yoga!…please, please, PUH-LEEZE, Go. To. Yoga!” (uhhh…thanks, kids?).

I think one of the best pieces of advice I ever got came from one of my professors in grad school. One of the first steps on the long and arduous journey to a Ph.D. was the  proseminar that all beginning graduate students in my department were required to take in our first semester of studies. The professor was a runner, and used to live in hilly Vermont. She told us that she would dread the last stretch of her daily run up a steep hill. Each step was agonizingly painful and it always seemed to her as if she would never reach the top. One day she decided that instead of looking at her final destination at the top of the hill as she ran, she would look down at her feet. She was amazed to find how much easier it was to get to the top of the hill.

“Keep looking down at your feet,” she told us, “Put one foot in front of the other. You’ll get there before you know it.” That piece of advice has stuck with me and I’ve passed it along to my own students and others who are facing long uphill battles.

My brother-in-law also received some sage advice in grad school. After having completed his degree, he was having one last consultation with his thesis advisor before he headed out into the wide world.

“I have one piece of advice for you,” this wise and distinguished MIT professor told my brother-in-law in his thick Greek accent.

My brother-in-law leaned in to receive the precious nugget of wisdom distilled from many decades of study and experience that was about to be bestowed upon him by his mentor…

“When you buy furniture, don’t buy CRRRAAAPPP!”

I polled friends and family to hear what they considered the best advice they ever got:


“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again.”

Child 1:

“Don’t get married to only one way of achieving a goal.” (I have to admit, I was worried about the direction this piece of advice was heading until he got to the second half of the sentence)!

Child 2:

“Don’t cry over spilt milk.” (I know I’ve said this more than once to my children, but I’ve usually added: “Just hurry up and get some paper towels to clean it up!”)

Child 3:

“Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

My sister gave me a few good ones:

“It’s o.k. not to talk during an awkward silence.”

“Relax-you’re not curing cancer.” (“But what if you are?!” my dogs might ask – see yesterday’s post).

“When you’re really stressed out about a situation, think about how much it will matter tomorrow, next week, or next year.”

“Don’t put off traveling the world until you’ve retired and have time and money to spend – you may not have your health or life by then.”

“Don’t burn your bridges.”


“If you’re having fun, then you’re doing the right thing.”


“Be a whole person. Life is more than work.”


“Just because someone asks a personal question, it doesn’t mean you have to answer it. Secondly, you don’t necessarily need to elaborate or provide explanations when you answer. It’s your business, you chose which bits of information you want to share.”


“Holding onto hatred or anger only hurts yourself.”


“Don’t forget to eat breakfast!”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Please leave a reply!

Tomorrow: More great advice.

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