I saw General Colin Powell on The Daily Show the other night and he was discussing a message he likes to emphasize w/ kids. Nowww…I don’t actually remember what that piece of crucial advice actually was (which is kinda the point), but I DO remember that what he said was about one sentence long. MAYBE TWO at most.
It’s often said that the sign of an intelligent person is the ability to take a complicated concept or idea, and reduce it into a few words w/out losing any of the understanding or significance. I happen to agree. We often see this in songwriting. Think of your absolute favorite song and tell me it doesn’t convey some extremely profound emotion that you went through at some point in your life. And during that time, that emotion was either so blissful, so devastating, so full of pleasure, so heartbroken, so intimately content, so completely connected, or perhaps even so completely disconnected. However you felt, and no matter how strongly you felt that emotion, no matter how indescribable, there was a genius songwriter that wrote in amazingly few words – sometimes even a couplet – exactly how you felt at that time.
But here’s the downside to this story – those songwriters pen those lyrics of genius AFTER they have already learned the lesson. 20/20 hindsight, right? AND most of us can’t even recognize the genius of that particular written word until AFTER we ourselves go through a similar situation. But until we actually go through that situation, the song just sounds like any other song. It might be a terrible song. It might be a great song. It may even be beautifully composed and masterfully executed to perfection. But it will never be your favorite if you didn’t go through it or you can intimately and personally relate. You’ll never cherish it or put it on your Playlist of Dreams.
The same is true for advice. It’s written and said in hindsight. The best advice is usually given by the person that’s already learned the lesson the hard way. More people then go through the same shit, ’cause for some reason we like learning lessons the hard way; then more people give similar advice. More idiots ignore the advice, and do more dumb shit, aaaaaaand…you see where this is going.
Viola! A cliché is born!
“Hey kids, if you want to be successful, you stay in school and get your education.” – First recorded saying by Inmate 769921
Kids have heard it a thousand times over. Doesn’t seem to quite stick for some odd reason. No hindsight, perhaps? [said in a high pitched sarcastic arm shrug kinda way]
So they’re just words…just another stupid song on the radio.
Until they end up in prison for moving that weight…thennnnnn it’s, “Kids, you should stay in school and get your education, ’cause you don’t wanna end up like me.”…………………….just words again.
Kids don’t listen to that crap. [BOOM! Fit the title in the body – boom, got it in.]
We have to appeal to them in another way. We have to deliver the message differently if we ever want to get through. I think I know how, but we’ll save that for another post. [Hint: It involves getting adults past the clichés they’ve been brought up in, but don’t really believe themselves anymore.]
In the mean time, just know that no matter how profound you find that Confucius quote; and how it woulda helped you out if you woulda known back then what you know now – STOP – get real for a second, and then think if someone would have quoted you that line back at that time, at that age, would you have listened – or made the same decision you made?
Write you’re own example in the comments. Everyone has a story.