Have you ever thought about the forks in the road of life - when you could have gone one way but went the other? Otherwise known as the Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Sliding Door” moments. In sharing some of my forks in the road, you could see how one phrase or one thoughtful comment could shape another person’s life.
When I was a freshman, my cousin Honey-o (which is obviously a common nickname for Maria) moved from NY to CA. Talk about perfect timing - if it wasn’t for her, I am not sure I would have been excited about applying for colleges. My parents had always planned for me to go to college but they didn’t know anything about the process so I probably would have missed the application deadlines. In addition to being my pseudo college counselor, she was the one who taught me that you could get more bees with honey than vinegar. Fitting - Honey-o using a metaphor about honey. I’m not saying I was rude or mean before she came along, but that advice shaped me into the person that I am today. I call this type of advice a “golden nugget”. Honey-o has always been a go-getter with big plans. She knew that in order to get what she wanted, she needed to find those who could help her. Once she found them, she would turn on the charm. She was not fake by any means, she just knew that if people got to know her very well, all her vulnerabilities and her needs, eventually they would help her. I admired her technique and I still believe that being sweet is much easier than pissing people off. Thanks for teaching me about social skills Honey-o!
The next golden nugget came to me when I was a sophomore in high school and had a crush on the Filipino guy who claimed he was Hawaiian. As a typical teenager, I was really into being cool those days. I was a pretty good kid but decided to take up smoking cigarettes because smoking the occasional clove, which were expensive, wasn’t enough to show my cool factor. At a party, my crush saw me smoking but waited until the next week when he saw me at school to say, “Smoking doesn’t become you.” Huh? He thought I didn’t fit the smoking type. I remember thinking that he was pretty bold to tell me this but I continued to smoke. Shortly after, at another party - the kind of party where the parents were away and we were all sitting around the dining room table playing quarters - I caught my reflection in the floor-to-ceiling mirror smoking a cigarette. I had to admit - I looked ridiculous! I wasn’t even close to looking cool. Just plain silly. From that point on, I never smoked a cigarette again. I’ve told my friend many times that I am thankful he told me how he felt about me smoking. But I don’t know if he ever knew that my Dad smoked a pack a day since he was 15 years old, tried countless times to quit and he finally quit at the age of 52. I could have easily went down the same road. My friend saved my health, my money and my dignity. Thanks Steve!
Speaking of my Dad, he gave me lots of golden nuggets throughout the years but I’ll share two that he taught me early in my career. I thought I was going to make $75K my first year out of college but graduated during a recession so I was contemplating careers in order to make the most salary. My Dad sat across the breakfast table from me and said, “Do what you love and the money will come.” I LOVED my job as a media buyer intern and because I did, the money followed (as Dad said it would). When I was hired on as a media buying assistant, I started out making about $18,000/year. As I started making more money, my credit card debt started rising. My dad sat me down and spelled it out for me: when I made $18K I had no debt and now that I was making $50K, I had a ton of debt. This is when he said,”Don’t live above your means.” And so I had to struggle to pay back debt and get accustomed to the lifestyle of what I could afford. That fork in the road would have turned out differently if I chased a high paying salary job even if I didn’t like what I did. Ironically, both pieces of advice are struggles that I have been facing lately because I want to work but I can’t think of anything I LOVE to do and when I do start earning money again, I am fearful that I could get carried away with living above my means. So even though I’m still learning these life lessons - I’m so grateful for my Dad’s nuggets.
We never really know if a thoughtful comment or a piece of advice is going to effect a friend or loved one. We could only hope to give them advice in order to help them navigate thru life. If you’re looking to do something thoughtful today - tell the person who gave you important advice that what they did or said mattered. Wouldn’t you be happy to receive that thoughtful pinch?