SOME VERY IMPORTANT ADVICE ABOUT ADVICE | 2001-12-14
All through your life you will be asking for advice. The advice you get will not be the advice you want.
But if you follow some simple rules you can generally sort out what you want from what you get.
For example, Thomas Edison is quoted all the time as saying that "Success is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."
Generation after generation of Americans have gleefully repeated this piece of pure horsehockey as Great Wisdom.
First of all, what Edison did was what all advice-givers do: He thought, "What advice can I give that will make me look good?" He decided that he wanted to look like a Hard Worker.
But Hard Work was actually only a minor part of the reason for his success and a lot of poor people in his day worked a lot harder than Edison did.
Like all successes, Edison had a good brain, a lot of talent, and he was lucky enough to come on the scene at the right time. But he didn't mention any of that because he didn't earn any of it and so none of these things would make him look good.
Naturally, Edison's advice presents him as a man who earned everything he got so his success is the result of pure virtue. So he made himself look good and as a result what he said was perfect nonsense.
It was also not original.
Karl Marx said many years before Edison's great advice came out that all production was 100% labor. Edison was just repeating 99% Marxism.
By the way, when people give advice, they don't even tell themselves that, "I am going to say what makes me look good." What they say makes them look virtuous, but they tell themselves that they are just trying to promote virtue, not that they are trying to promote themselves.
So Edison gave nonsense advice that he told himself would promote Hard Work.