I have been getting a lot of advice lately. Fortunately, almost all of it is in the form of old postcards, so there is no need for me to make a personal decision on whether it’s good or not.
Some genius whose name I have forgotten once wrote that all advice is both good and bad: it is useful in some situations but hopelessly harmful in others.
“So how do you know which advice is which in your situation?” he was asked.
He smiled upon his listener. “If you can tell that, you don’t need the advice.”
Some of the advice I find on elderly postcards strikes me as dubious, though it may work perfectly well for the right person at the right time. I have been working on the aphorism at the top of this column for quite some time, and I have come out where I went in. I THINK I know what this postcard is getting at, but I can’t quite figure out the analogy. I’m thinking of lemons when I should be thinking of the life lesson I’m being offered.
This advice seems a little disjointed, too, but that’s just because it is based on a play on words about “getting soaked”, which ALMOST works.
Now, this is fairly obvious, and I value it as a demonstration of the fact that there is no proverb—“All things come to he who waits”—without an equal and opposite proverb.
It also demonstrates that our ancestors were no strangers to the idea of the go-getter winning out over all opposition. I am, personally, as ambivalent about this as Helen’s client here. (You DID get the joke about “Go to Helen Hunt for it”, right? Just checking.)
There’s a reason that “Do It Now” is the subject of so many postcards and cartoons through the year. Here’s another admonition to seize the moment…or something.
The attitude will get you into trouble nowadays, of course. To a sales professional, you see, no never means no. (I have seen sales texts criticized ust for saying that you must never ask a potential customer any question that can be answered with Yes or No, because you can’t give anyone the opportunity to say no.)
There was also a great belief in the power of positive thinking. (I am reminded of Thorne Smith’s tale of a businessman whose motto was “Keep smiling and SMILE the Depression away.” The reason his business did not go under during the Depression, Smith notes, is because he had partners who didn’t smile and worked overtime.)
So for a lot of our postcard philosophers, it was all about energy, positivity, and efficiency. This advice beats all the others for sheer efficiency. Squeeze two lemons with one at one go, I say.