Five Things

Another Sunday another rewrite of the week's instalment of Five Things. The previous version of this post was written on my phone while the boy was drifting off to sleep. I generally keep him company at night so that he can relax more easily and fall asleep sooner. When he's left alone, the kid will sing every song he knows on repeat until well after 10:00pm, which usually results in a pretty cranky boy the next morning. Reading two books1 and staying with him for the next half hour is generally enough to have the intended results, and this is a prime opportunity to take out the phone and hammer out a quick post in Byword — my casual writing tool of choice.

Unfortunately, the previous post was heading in a direction that I wasn't too keen on sharing with the world. It came across as unnecessarily harsh towards someone's online project and I thought it was unfair. As my grandmother — and grandmothers the world over — used to say: If you can't say anything nice ….

These are words of wisdom.

When we're young, we often hear our elders give us these bits of knowledge. Some of them we take to heart. Others we outright ignore. A few stick with us for life. This week I thought it would be interesting to share just five of the many bits of wisdom that wiser people have tried to share with me.

It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.

This is from the King James version of Ecclesiastes 7:5 and is sometimes seen in the New Living Translation of the bible: "Better to be criticized by a wise person than to be praised by a fool." The meaning is self-evident and important to remember when receiving feedback. I generally listen to a person critiquing my work so that I might learn something new. This isn't always the case but, when something actionable is offered, the end result is almost always better.

Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

Another bit of wisdom from the King James version of the Bible and sometimes translated as "just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions." A lot of people can talk the talk, but few are willing or able to perform actions that align with their words. Sanctimonious people are generally not worth the time of day and it's better that we identify and avoid them early on.

People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

Attributed to George Bernard Shaw, this is something I read a couple of decades back in a magazine article about a start-up called Google. The general consensus in the late 90s was that the Internet was already so vast that it would be impossible to index all of it. While there may not be 100% coverage of every publicly-accessible page that currently exists, Google has remained the only search engine that gets pretty darn close. Bing, DuckDuckGo, and others put on a good show, but they're far less accurate and far less current than the company that once tried very hard to not be evil.

If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.

A quote from Albert Einstein who has managed to summarize to much of physics with E = mc² which basically says that mass and energy are the same thing. This quote is providing us with a litmus test for explanations that people give us throughout life and I've used it religiously at work and when learning new things. This has generally resulted in me getting a small "taste" of an idea from one person, then going in for a deep dive with a book or better-spoken professional. Mind you, this goes the other way as well. In situations where I'm trying to explain something and I can't answer all the follow-up questions, I've seen exactly where my knowledge on a subject was deficient and needed improving. This has generally worked out for the better.

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

From Pablo Picasso comes this interesting idea encourages people to push their boundaries at every opportunity. The things I don't know could fill a warehouse … or probably an entire continent of warehouses. Fortunately this means that there is always some new challenge ahead. Sticking to what we know is also an incredibly rapid way to become obsolete. A spouse wouldn't be interested in a person who didn't grow. An employer has no need for a person with outdated skills. It doesn't make sense to stagnate.

These are just five of the thousands of bits of wisdom that I've been exposed to over the course of my lifetime and there are undoubtedly millions more to be found online in an inspirational image gallery. My grandparents were all well read and would say things like this all the time, though most of the ones I act out came from books. Perhaps by the time my kid has children of his own, I'll get a chance to share the ones that have worked best over the years.


  1. I've given him a cap of 2 books, otherwise he'd want to have every book in the house read to him. Fortunately he doesn't know about the hundreds of digital books that sit on the tablet nor does he know anything about the Internet and the plethora of reading material that is available day and night.