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“Man Will Not Fly For Fifty Years,” Wilbur Wright Said To His Brother Orville In 1901*

May 16, 2010

You’d better learn secretarial work or else get married.
• Emmeline Snively, director of the Blue Book Modeling Agency, counseling would-be model Marilyn Monroe, 1944

Advice is certainly useful, but if I could only give one piece of advice, here it is: Listen to—but don’t necessarily believe—the advice of well-meaning people. I’ve had lots of experience listening to, believing, and giving advice, and I know that in the end, everyone has to listen to her or his own inner voice after carefully weighing the advice of others.

You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.
• Jim Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, giving Elvis Presley the boot after one performance in September 1954

My high school counselor wouldn’t even discuss the possibility of scholarships with me despite my high verbal SAT score that appeared to qualify me for some funds. Here’s what he told me: “ A cute little thing like you will just get married and have children, so it would be a waste of money.” There are some words that stick with you, even years later. His still bother me because I felt then, and still do, that he didn’t see who I really was and didn’t listen at all as I tried to explain who I wanted to become.

Just so-so in center field.
• The New York Daily News, reporting on Willie Mays, May 26, 1951, a player whom many consider to be one of the greatest all-around baseball players of all time

I’ve had the advice conversation recently with older folks considering returning to school, with two people thinking about doctoral programs, and with someone who’s hoping for an academic promotion next year. In each case, they were looking for wisdom regarding what to do. I am wary of offering advice, but I do it anyway. I have come to think of this as a human failing. Someone asks and I feel compelled to respond.

The so-called theories of Einstein are merely the ravings of a mind polluted with liberal, democratic nonsense which is utterly unacceptable to Germen men of science.
• Dr. Walter Gross, March 1940

My advice was the same in all cases and I believe in it despite its triteness: Be true to who you are. Pursue your dreams with authenticity. Don’t listen to people who tell you what or who you should be (she says somewhat ironically, realizing that even authenticity is an imperative).

The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty—a fad.
• The president of the Michigan Savings Bank in 1903, advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rockham, not to invest in the Ford Motor Company

Have you ever been given advice you knew just wasn’t right for you? What did you do? What’s your advice for yourself?

The singer will have to go.
• Eric Easton, the new manager of the Rolling Stones (c. 1963), about Mick Jager’s value to the group

* December 17, 1903, was their first successful flight.

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2 comments

  1. Not so much advice as critique of my writing. Taking advice from someone better educated, more knowledgeable in the field and frequently published may seem like a good idea, but sometimes you just know what’s right for you. I decided to only take advice that agrees with what I feel. If I don’t think so much and tap into what I really feel, I wind up doing what is really right for me. Advice is nice, but intuition leads to a deeper truth.


  2. Amen. As a multigenrist and autoethnographer who utilizes first person scholarly narrative in my professional writing, I’ve heard a lot of advice about writing from those whose opinions I respect, but whose perspectives about the way things are–or should be–don’t resonate with me. I’m after the deeper truth too. W-OZ



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