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On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

The 5 Most Important Pieces of Advice I've Ever Been Given

Robert Manni - Monday, October 17, 2016

In most cases opinions are like, well you know what part of the body I’m referring to. Hint: everyone has one and you are probably sitting on yours while you’re reading. But on rare occasion a pearl of wisdom is bestowed on each of us that truly resonates and helps guide us to a better experience in life. These nuggets are memorable and stick to our ribs. So when a fellow Guy’s Guy suggested that I write about the best pieces of advice I’d ever received, I first asked myself if anything quickly came to of mind, and sure enough, five bits of helpful advice almost instantly popped up in my mind. And I think you will agree that these are truths that have stood the test of time. So in no particular order, here they are, along with whom they are attributed to. Drum roll please….

1. PAY ATTENTION – At the end of the third date with my future wife, I said something like, “I’m really enjoying our getting to know one another. I’ve dated quite a few women and had ongoing relationships, but obviously they did not work out. What can I do to be a good boyfriend?” Without even a moment’s hesitation, she replied, “Pay attention.” I raised my eyebrows and said, “That’s it? Anything else?” She looked me in the eye and said, “No.” In a flash I got the message. I realized that I, like so many men, was too focused on me and my world and not paying enough mind to my partner and the “little things” that women keep a handle on. I decided right there that I would work on being more attentive. We’ve been married for six years, so I must be making progress. But, make no mistake about it. Paying attention is a way of life that transcends romantic relationships into every key area of our life- work, family, money, friendships. Basically, all of our human interactions.

2. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF – About twenty years ago I was in the midst of a personal crisis due to a job loss. I’d built up a sterling resume, but for some reason had not connected to my next gig yet, and it was driving me crazy.  I often visited my folks in Jersey during this time, just being a good son. But, I was obviously giving off an anxious vibe due my frustrations.  My father always asked me about work and it became annoying to keep telling him I was not back in the saddle yet. I guess he was paying attention though, because he sent a card to me in the city that really hit home. On the cover was a drawing of a young boy on a stage facing a huge crowd. He was holding a violin behind his back. I opened the card curiously and stopped in my tracks when I read the inscription. It simply said, “Believe in yourself”, Love Dad. I placed the card on top of the doorway that led into the main room and it remained there for a decade. I landed a great job pretty soon thereafter, but left the card perched on the molding as a reminder. It’s tucked away somewhere now, but the message still burns in my consciousness. I believe in myself and will always be thankful for my father’s sensitivity to me and his support and encouragement. My father traveled quite a bit during my younger years and I had to figure out a lot of things on my own, so it was heartwarming to receive this gift from him.

3. THIS TOO SHALL PASS – Many people are under the impression that this famous quote comes from the Bible, but it doesn’t. Some scholars attribute it to King Solomon or Sufi poets, but its origins remain unknown. It came to me from my mother. I’ll bet she thinks it comes from the Bible, too, but what matters is the underlying truth in this statement that is often shared with someone going through a tough time. The bottom line is that it’s true—this too will pass. Things eventually change. That means everything, the bad and the good. The lesson is to not get too caught up in what we are currently experiencing because it is temporary. Life is transitory. And although you might not always get want you want, when you think about some of those things you may have missed out on a few years later, we often realize that the thing, person, or opportunity we were obsessed with was probably not right for us and we are better off that it did not happen. And when you think about it, there really is no past or a future. The only thing that matters is right now. So, try not to get too hung up on what looks like a bad situation. Things change, life is transitory, and you have free will.

4. IT’S ALL CONNECTED – Probably my all time favorite job to date was at a small, hip, and now defunct NYC ad agency. I can honestly say that I never once got up in the morning and dreaded coming to work. In fact, it was just the opposite. I actually looked forward to every new day at the agency and the challenges my team faced rebuilding a global vodka brand and catapulting a now world-famous gin to new heights. Every day was an adventure. The agency had a wonderful work ethic and environment with great people who got along, as well as fifty or so advertising people can get along. And we did great work and succeeded in building our clients’ businesses. What else could you ask for? Well, maybe a higher salary, but I made enough and had a nice expense account so no complaints. Like most situations in the ad game, at a certain point the landscape shifts.  If you're smart you can see the changes on the horizon. So, I accepted a bigger job on a massive global account at another agency. On my last day, my boss, the agency’s owner, stopped by my office. He was a man of few words. But he said two things that stuck with me to this day. First, he said, “good job”. That was high praise because he wasn’t one to dole out the flowery compliments. I knew I had kicked ass and he validate it. Then he leaned in and said, “Remember, it’s all connected.”  Then he shook my hand and walked out. The message did not sink in at that moment, but it still resonates with me until this day. He was right. Everything we are and do is connected, and we are surely connected to each other. That was been a huge gift and I remain appreciative of this gift of teaching me about “Oneness” as it applies to career, people, and our lives.

5. NEVER TURN YOUR BACK ON THE OCEAN OR ONCOMING TRAFFIC – (another reminder about paying attention). Sounds pretty obvious, right? But often even the simplest common sense tenants are ignored and often times followed by dire consequences. I’m not sure where I heard these two tidbits, but I keep them in mind each time I go for a swim at the Jersey Shore or step off of the curb in New York City.

We’ve all seen pedestrians rush across city streets in traffic without looking both ways. And virtually every time I go for a swim in the Atlantic, so many people turn their backs when the waves get rough.  And we all know how many accidents there are in the city and in the water. I think this advice also applies to all aspects of our lives. It’s always best to pay attention and look before you leap.

So there you have it. Five pieces of advice that have helped me live a better life. I hope they will help you, too. That’s all I’ve got for right now. Peace out.

This week’s GUY’S GUY OF THE WEEK is Serge Manni, my Dad, for having my back when I needed a boost and for always being there for me, even if at times it was only in spirit. 

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