I received an email the other day. A colleague of mine had passed away. My attitude about death is a little…removed, I’d say. I see it as inevitable, and only view it as a tragedy when someone hasn’t had the opportunity to ‘do their thing’–to contribute, to express themselves, to have their time up to bat and take a big swing. This gentleman had lived a full life, so I was sad to hear it. But all I could say was, Well done, sir.
One of the things I remember about this man was his reluctance (unlike me!) to give advice. He had a serious intellect, unparalleled legal mind, and a generous spirit. He could dissect a position or an argument in moments, laying bare weaknesses (and oftentimes adversaries) with a few soft-spoken words. However, he would never opine on a personal issue.
I once asked him why. He told me that, as a lawyer, he was trained to ask a lot of questions first, and get as much information as possible about a legal issue, and only then offer a moderated opinion. While he felt comfortable doing this as it related to the law, he felt in personal matters there was no way for him to ever have enough information to accurately give solid advice. The person who needed the advice certainly wasn’t telling him everything. He probably didn’t know the other parties involved. What was a right or good choice for him might not be right or good for someone else. So, despite a wealth if intelligence and experience, he remained silent.
I was a fairly confident young man when he confided this to me, and I freely shared my less-than-considered opinions with any and all at the drop of a hat. I retreated from that behavior soon after this conversation.
If P—- was asking a lot of questions, and then, and only then giving a measured and careful opinion, and he was ten times smarter than me, I’d best clam up, or ask a lot of questions, and go a little slower in before putting my 2 cent’s worth in on a subject.
Now, years later, I consider the awareness of ‘how much one may not know about a thing, or anything’ to be one of the Signs of Intelligent Life. I also appreciate and miss the man who shared that insight with me.