by KATE HUNTER
Through life, we collect gems of wisdom which act as signposts on our journey. They might come from our grandparents, our teachers or, more recently, in Facebook memes. Because she’s an old-fashioned kinda gal, Rebecca Sparrow found one in a book, and wrote about it last year:
“I heard something recently that made me stop and think. It was from Elizabeth Gilbert – the author of that mega-seller Eat Pray Love. Stop rolling your eyes. I know her book divided people into two camps. The couldn’t-put-it-down camp and the this-is-self-indulgent-drivel camp. Personally, I liked it. And I like Gilbert. So I’m watching an old TV interview with her and she’s talking about how crazy her life has been post-Eat Pray Love. And then she said, “I’ve worked out I’m my best person when I have less on my plate.”
And for whatever reason that quote resonated with me. When I’m stressed and my life is crazy busy, I’m not a great person to live with. And I think Gilbert is right – for me anyway – I am my best person when I have less on my plate. I’m less stressed. And I’m happier. Which in turn means I can give more. And instead of doing a half-assed job on a dozen things, I can give proper attention and care to say six. Okay, three.
“In our world there is still kudos gained from being ‘busy,” says Jo Basset, creator of the website Living Savvy. “There is a misbelief that busy people are important people or doing important things. In my quest to live a savvy life I endeavour to live a life that is full and filling not busy, juggled and stressed.”
Full and filling – not busy, juggled and stressed. I can’t think of a better mantra to take with me into my fortieth year. Along with an emptier plate.”
Of course, if you tried to live by ALL the fabulous, inspirational pieces of advice you hear and see, you’d end up in therapy, getting more advice. So we need to be selective.
I stopped pinning meaningful phrases above my desk a few months ago. The sheer volume was getting me down, which was defeating the purpose. I’m trying to hold just three pieces of advice in my mind.
1) Put all your eggs in the family basket. This was from writer Frances Whiting. Bec (Mamamia’s Contributing Editor) told it to me when I was struggling with whether or not I could do a job. How could I decide? The pros were even Stevens with the cons – I was stressed and confused. Could I have a bet each way? The family basket advice bought clarity and simplicity to my decision.
Life isn’t a share portfolio – I’m not diversifying. Nothing offers greater returns than investments you make in your family. Of course, Bec also once talked me into having my eye makeup done at a shop at Sydney airport – not all her advice is gold.
2) Bite Off More Than You Can Chew, Then Chew Like Hell. This was from my brother in law. He’s a politician, so I normally take his advice with a fistful of salt. But I’m a procrastinator with a low boredom threshold. Unless I have a deadline and an impossible task to complete, I’ll Google ‘Funny Dog Names’. So I often take on things I shouldn’t – like signing a contract to write a novel I hadn’t started. I very nearly choked a dozen times, but I kept on chewing and somehow got it done.
3) Bust your arse. Pay Attention. Fall In Love. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld used this as a basis for a speech he first gave at a performing arts school in New York. The first two are self-explanatory – the third refers not to romantic love, but loving what you do. If you love what you do, it won’t feel like work, you’ll want to spend all your time doing it and you’ll get better and better. I might put that one back on my wall.
Just in case this is all too cosmic –Oprah-karma reach-for-the-stars for you, let me say that there are many pieces of advice I believe are crap choose to ignore.
1) If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. If something fails, I prefer to try a different way, or do something else.
2) If you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re probably right. This reminds me of the very excellent post by Stella Young, ‘We’re not here for your inspiration.’ Stella is in a wheelchair and pointed out that thinking REALLYPOSITIVELY about getting up a flight of stairs won’t help her – a ramp would be far more useful.
3) If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It. This features on gym singlets worn by hot kindy mums at drop-off. It’s also on a pony poster hanging on my nine year old daughter’s wall. I don’t want to burst my little girl’s bubble, bur she can dream all she likes – but she won’t be riding a palomino filly in a gymkhana anytime soon.
Kate Hunter is Mamamia’s contributing editor and an advertising copywriter with over 20 years experience and one Gruen Transfer appearance to her name. Kate is also the author of the Mosquito Advertising series of novels. You can buy them here.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard? And what advice have you been given that makes no sense?