What advice would you give a young person just starting to make their own way in the world? Good advice is a form of nostalgia born or wisdom. Bad advice is a form of boastfulness born of ego. A good piece of advice would be to never confuse the two and to always carry out due diligence, to “always get good advice” if you will.
When I was a young man back in Japan, finding my own way in the world, I travelled to Tokyo to see my uncle and help him in his business. Along the way I stopped in a beautiful park to have some lunch, take a rest and breathe the fragrant air. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom and the bird song was almost deafening. After a while I noticed out of the corner of my eye an elderly monk walking toward me. I was alone on the bench and I stood up and offered him a place next to me and to share my lunch. He nodded graciously and took a seat.
I prepared him some fried fish and rice from my supplies and a cup of water. We sat and ate in silence. After a time I spoke. I told him of my plans and that I was on my way to the big city and how excited I was about the future but also that I was somewhat nervous and more than a little sad to be leaving my home, my parents and my friends. I asked him if he had any advice for me on my life journey. He stared at me for a while, took a sip of water and nodded gently. What he said to me I have kept in my heart all along and it has stood me in very good stead throughout my life.
“There are five things” he said. “These will assist you greatly if you let them.”
I nodded and listened intently.
“Have the courage to live a life true to yourself, not the life others expect of you.”
“Do not make decisions when you are angry and do not make promises when you’re happy or in need.”
“Remember that you will always regret what you did not do more than what you did.”
“Be persistent. When knowledge and ability are simply not enough, be persistent.”
“And when you come to look for a wife, if you look hungry, you will starve.”
I thanked him for the good words of advice and he thanked me for the food and he shuffled off, into the park. It is a moment in time that I will never forget.
I often think of the old, wise monk.
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