“The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 12:15
I have tried it both ways, and without question listening to advice always leads to better outcomes, even when I disagree or choose not to follow it. As a young man starting out I once had two job offers, and being naïve as I was back then, chose the one I thought was most suitable for me. A few days later I received a phone call from my dad, who rarely imposed his opinions on my decisions as an adult. But on this particular occasion he insisted in no uncertain terms that I was making a huge mistake and should reconsider my decision. Perhaps it was because I was caught off guard by my dad’s uncharacteristic intervention that I could hardly do anything except hear him out, after which I did reconsider. That intervention was a beautiful gift from my dad. And one of the greatest favors I ever did for myself was following his sage advice.
Fast forward several years when I was well established in that career, having achieved enough success where my ego had grown a bit too large, along came another job offer. This was the career opportunity of a lifetime, so I thought. But just before I accepted the offer an older and wiser friend took me to lunch one day to warn me that I might be making a mistake. This time, though, convinced I knew better, I ignored his advice. What a fool I was for not listening, a mistake that almost destroyed my career.
The story is told that during the American Civil War President Lincoln decided to make a certain strategic move with the Union Army. But when secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, received the order from the President he refused to carry it out declaring that the President was a fool. “If Stanton said I’m a fool,” Lincoln replied, “then it must be, for he is always right.” After further discussion between the two Lincoln realized Stanton was indeed right, and that his decision would have been a colossal mistake.
All of us suffer blind spots in our thinking and perspective from time to time. The best way to avoid them is by listening to the advice and counsel of others, whether we ultimately agree or disagree. Either way, simply listening to other ideas and perspectives can help identify and avoid blind spots. Yet, failure to do so can greatly increase the odds of making foolish choices and sometimes colossal mistakes. As the old proverb says, “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.”