Taking Advice as opposed to giving it….

Those of us in the consulting biz give advice for a living. This tendency also bleeds over in regular everyday life – especially as one grows older and presumably wiser. After many decades of making mistakes, it’s fairly simple to look at younger people and see where they might be going wrong…but sometimes the tables get turned…

We recently started using a new plumbing contractor for a remodeling job – a very friendly young man who wears a sincere smile most all of the time. That in itself seems a rare thing these days. I could tell right away that he was the type of fella who doesn’t take advantage of anyone and shows up as promised. My instincts proved correct when he gave a very low price for what I considered a fairly tough job.

He showed up at the agreed upon time and got to work digging up the ground to work on a plumbing connection. He was using guesswork to determine where to dig (hopefully to find the waterline) and I was joking with him about divining for water. He laughed and said what we needed was good luck. I asked him if he was a lucky guy…and he answered most affirmatively YES.  Lo and Behold, he found the waterline quickly so the job cost me less!

As he was finishing up he was talking with me and his helper about how a nearby Casino treats him royally – giving him free transportation (including in their airplane!) and free rooms and food. Knowing that such perks are only given to those who wager fairly large, I asked him how much he gambles on weekend trips…he said it was in the thousands of dollars each trip. I couldn’t help but think – here he was standing with a shovel in this hand and working hard for a few hundred dollars – and then pissing it away at the tables! And so – I couldn’t help it – I dispensed my advice. I said “someday you will remember how hard you worked for all of that money and think to yourself that you could REALLY use those extra bucks in your account”.

At that he explained “Ah, I really enjoy it. I bring the wife up there and we have a couple drinks and I’ve only lost about $10,000 total in the 7 years I’ve been going to the Casino. I work hard and I also like to relax and play hard when I have some down time”……well, once I heard it was less than $1500 (probably 3 days pay for him) which he was losing per year, I remarked that it wasn’t so bad – habits like a boat or a motorcycle or going to fancy concerts would cost as much or more…

“You have to enjoy life – because you never know what tomorrow brings” he said. It wasn’t with the usual defeatist attitude, but with the conviction of someone who knows. After he said that, he lifted up his T-Shirt and showed me the vast scars down his side and his front. He told me he had congenital heart defects which required multiple open heart surgeries….as well as some other surgeries. A generation or two ago he would probably never have made past childhood – but here he was at 35 (approx.) with a his own business and a loving family – and a life which he has decided to make the most of.

He left with the same smile he came with – after charging me on the very low end of his estimate range.

He was right. He has good luck. But he gave some of that to me with his presence and outlook on life…and I suspect he gives the same to all the people he comes in contact with.

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