There’s a lot of conventional wisdom out there that gets touted as gospel. But if we want to live a fuller life, we need to examine the old way of thinking. Here are four pieces of advice that deserve to be ignored.
1. ONLY BORING PEOPLE GET BORED
Now admittedly I’m without much of a wild and crazy side, but this statement, often spouted by the supposedly never bored, needs questioning, especially by those of us who are decidedly dull. The person who never gets bored during a meeting, conference call or time-share sales pitch should, perhaps, have their head examined.
Boredom is a natural state of being, and it’s good for us. Often it’s the impetus for creativity and change.
Think about what happens when you’re doodling or staring off into space; your mind hits the white wall and then it starts to crawl free.
Of late, there has been a big push to allow kids time to be bored. Research shows that boredom helps develop imagination and promotes self-reflection.
The take-away: Only over-scheduled, constantly active people never get bored. And that’s a shame.
2. DON’T SAY “ALWAYS” OR “NEVER” IN A FIGHT
According to marriage and relationship experts, it isn’t fighting fair to use the words “always” or “never” in an argument. Healthy parties don’t use statements like “You never take out the trash” or “I’m always the first one to apologize” because these are generalities, not facts.
I was listening to a podcast on compromise recently, and the speaker challenged this line of thinking. While these wide-sweeping statements typically aren’t true, he said, what about when they are?
The take-away: Question advice that tells you never to say “always.”
3. DON’T ASK A QUESTION IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER
This dictum is often used by lawyers. During cross-examination, it is said that a lawyer shouldn’t ask a question whose answer they don’t already know. It’s detrimental advice. No matter how thorough or prepared you are, it’s impossible to know the answer to every question beforehand. What about times when you want to know what a witness was thinking or what motivated them at a particular moment?
Sometimes when attorneys see this advice as short-sighted, they modify it. It becomes: Never ask a question whose answer could harm you. But again, this isn’t logical. How can you know the impact of the answer if you don’t know the answer?
Asking a questioning “cold” can be risky. The answer can blindside you; it can damage your case. But often, asking is the only way to know. It teaches you to think on your feet and to learn to ask better questions. This is true in the law and life.
This advice is more appropriate phrased: Don’t ask a question whose answer you don’t need to learn.
The take-away: Question to learn, regurgitate to maintain the status quo .
4. WRITE ABOUT WHAT YOU KNOW
Stephen King challenges this line of thinking, which has long been told to writers, in his book, On Writing. How would we ever get sci-fi books or fiction if people only wrote what they knew? We’d only get books about plumbing and accounting.
Instead, he says people should write “Anything at all… as long as you tell the truth.” Refreshing.
Think about this advice for a moment. Swap about the word “write” for “live.” What if we were told to only “live what we know”? What a boring, monochromatic world that would be.
As someone who enjoys writing, I believe that writing is a kind of living. It’s an outlet, an escape, a compulsion, an otherworld. Writing helps me find answers to questions I didn’t even know I had.
The take-away: Write what you live. And live loud.