When I Started Asking This One Question Everything Changed

A few years back I wrote a short lived, but well-loved, advice column called Honestleigh.com. It was launched after I had learned a profound piece of wisdom, that threw me for a loop. The advice I had read was: "You should never give advice unless someone asks."

The thought of only giving advice when asked, was somewhat mind blowing. I was the girl who would always say: "You know what you should do...?" or "Do you know what I would do?" and begin to ramble on with my unsolicited opinions. Working with this new information of only giving my option when prompted was eye opening. I thought, "What if no one asks me?"

So, I decided to create a forum for people to ask, in the form of a website called Honestleigh, where readers could write in about challenges they needed advice on and I'd solve them in my own Dear Abby kind of way. As much as I loved giving advice, and plenty of people were asking, I realized two very important things from this venture.

1. As someone who works hard to focus on positivity, being in the midst of everyone's problems, was a bit overwhelming.

My respect goes out to counseling professionals and advice columnists, because I found my empathy got the best of me and I took my readers problems to heart. I felt personally responsible for the resolution of each of their burdens.

2. More importantly, I was in no position to be giving advice.

Suffice it to say, I had a lot of work to do personally, to be a person fit to dole out advice on how to succeed I was 30, unemployed, and living in my parent's guest room. I felt like a phony... honestly. I could give great advice but I clearly was not taking my own, or leading by example. I was just surviving, and I was certainly not thriving.

After deep consideration, and self-reflection, I decided to shut down the site and work on becoming the person fit to advise myself on how to succeed. And instead of doling out advice, for once, I began asking for it.

I asked everyone I could, what was the best advice they'd ever received. I'd listen for hours as both close acquaintances, and perfect strangers, told me the greatest things they'd ever learned. Even at business meetings, and in interviews, when they'd say, "Does anyone have any questions?"
My question would always be the same: "What is the best advice you've ever received?"

I began to learn all sorts of things from people. Advice like "Never turn down a breath mint or a stick of gum if someone offers" from a presenter at a convention in Las Vegas; to "You are the creator of your own happiness and no one else can do it for you" from a housekeeper in a hotel room in D.C. The answers to my ongoing question have begun to shape me in a way that I never expected.

For this piece, I've gone out to my social media channels and collected some great advice from others to share with you. (Not that you asked.)

Samantha Guthrie beloved American journalist and co-anchor of the TODAY show shared this with me via twitter: "Think Big."

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Coco Rocha international supermodel shared this: "It's nice to be important, but it's important to be nice."

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Deepak Chopra famed author and public speaker shared: "Trust your innermost being whose language is silence."

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My mom, Cyndie McManus, gave me some great advice she had gotten from her mother, the late Marion Cassidy, a woman who you may have never heard of, but who impacted many with her unbelievably beautiful spirit. She said: "Befriend someone older and someone younger, someone you need and someone who needs you. It balances you."

I've been blessed to find that balance through great network of people, who are of all ages and walks of life, and their perspective is fascinating.

Here are my 15 favorite responses from my social media network to the question: "What's the best advice you've ever received?"

1. "Never quit on your worst day." - Jennifer Pilewski

2. "Always treat others as you want to be treated." - Darlene Gilbert

3. "Take life day by day, and be grateful for the little things. Don't get stressed over what you can't control." - Tara Fuentes

4. "It's not how much you earn, it's how much you save." - Christine Fedorys

5. "Love yourself." - Rita Gutman

6. "Choose your battles wisely and the ones you bring to the table will be taken seriously. Decide first if it's really that big of a deal. If it is not, let it go. If you do not choose your battles, you will fight over everything! " - Christi Chicola

7. "Your thoughts create your reality." - Michelle Kaufer

8. "Today's light can be tomorrow's darkness and today's darkness can be tomorrow's light." - Katherine Greenberg

9. "Everything works out in the end; if it hasn't worked out, it's not the end yet." - Brandee Decker

10. "Every single day make a conscious effort to offer a genuine compliment to at least one person. It will brighten their day, and keep you searching for positive moments." - Becky Ness

11. "Work smart, not hard." - Graham Fleming

12. "It takes one idiot to say something foolish. It takes two to make a conversation out of it." - Tracy Heath

13. "Strive for progress, not perfection." - Annette Luyten

14. "Nobody is perfect and everybody makes mistakes. Learning from them and being a better person each day is all you can ask of yourself." - P J Ford

15. "Let people/situations fascinate you, not frustrate you." - Claudine Mossberg

I've realized, that rather than merely giving advice, I can stand to learn much more by asking for it. Advice is a way we repurpose our past, or the experience of those who went before us, and attempt to give someone in the future a better chance at success.

In asking everyone I can what the best advice they've ever received, it's given me the collective intelligence of many people's life lessons. From what I've learned, when it comes to advice, it's better to receive than to give.

In closing, one of my favorite pieces of advice that was given to me by a homeless man in Penn Station, was: "The people with the best advice have usually been through the most."

I hope you take time to ask as many people as you can, what their favorite advice is. I'll go first, "What's the best advice you've ever received?"

Please share your comments below.

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