Everybody’s Favorite Thing: unsolicited advice

Today’s topic: A piece of advice you have for others.

I almost skipped today’s topic. I rarely feel comfortable giving advice, even when solicited. It usually makes me feel like a hypocrite. But then, no one keeps even their best advice perfectly, right?

And then I thought of something. I thought of something I have been living by for a few years now, and it doesn’t seem to have done me any harm. So I’m doing it. I’m giving you advice, whether you want it or not. Ready?

Sit in the front row.

Or otherwise translated: do what you are afraid to do. 

When I was in college, there were a few classes I was afraid of taking. I was worried an A wouldn’t come easily to me, or that I would be with a bunch of upperclassmen, or the professor would be the kind of person who randomly called on students (my worst nightmare is to be unprepared for any situation), or there would be no one I knew, etc. One day though, I read a study that said that students who wore glasses and sat on the front row were more likely to get higher grades: simply because it caused a subconscious association with being a bright student in a professor’s mind. 

It has been a life long sorrow of mine that, as a pretty-much-nerd, I have 20/20 vision. What’s up with that? So, while I couldn’t wear glasses I could sit on the front row. From that point on, if the class was going to be challenging, or if I was afraid of it for any reason, I sat on the front row. I faced my fear of being possibly vulnerable in a public place.

I sat on the front row, made frequent eye-contact with my professors, and was never once called on simply to see if I was paying attention. I don’t think my work in ancient Greek philosophy was particularly brilliant, but I got an A and I really do feel it was because I showed up, and always sat in the front row. I sat in the front row of Latin, Scandinavian history, Public Law and Private Rights, and other philosophy classes. It just became my thing, and it worked for me. A surprising result was that it gave me a little extra confidence as I pretended to be the confident smart kid who deserved to sit in the front row.

I am not in college anymore, but this rule applies to lots of things outside of college: like work meetings. Or simply meeting important or intimidating people (hey, I’m the kid who sat in the front row, and I’m going to act like it). It applies to every area of life where you are put outside of your comfort zone. It’s not about your line up in a row of chairs, as much as it is about pretending to be one step ahead of yourself, and making yourself meet your own small challenges on a consistent basis. 

Doing what you are afraid to do in small things, leads to bravery in bigger things. It didn’t kill me to sit on the front row, even if it was a little scary at first. I’m going to go one step further than “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and say: seek out what won’t kill you, and chase it. It might make you look stupid. And you will learn that everyone survives looking stupid. That’s catchy, right? 

And here is what I meant about not particularly enjoying giving advice: sometimes, on occasion, I give myself a break and sit on the back row. Sometimes it’s stress-relieving to pretend you’re the bad kid who hates learning and promoting yourself in any way. So take everything I just said with a grain of salt, uhkay? 

P.S. If unsolicited marriage advice is your thing, I have that for you, too: here. It’s advice someone gave to me, by the way, lest you judge prematurely after I just told you I don’t like giving advice.

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