A good friend of mine recently shared a post from Jane Fonda with the “sage advice” she’d received from her friends. Now, Jane’s friends had perfectly decent advice like “Fake it ’til you make it,” but I was sure that my friends could top them, so I threw out the challenge on Facebook. And hoo boy*, did said friends deliver. I had about a hundred comments on my post, and while I attempted to include as many as I could, I may have had to cut some here or there. Please don’t be offended if yours didn’t make the list, and know that I have internalized all your advice and am a better person for it.
Let’s start with some classics:
From my friend Kathy:
Never go to bed angry.
A good corollary to this piece of advice is: get yourself a body pillow to punch when you’re angry in bed to alert your partner of said anger. Mine (my body pillow, not my partner) is named Buddy, and he’s taken his share of hits.
From my old friend and beloved former boss, Tony:
There’s no elevator to success. Only stairs.
This is also true of Fitbit competition domination.
From my handy friend Beau:
Measure twice, cut once.
This especially applies to bangs, in my experience. Let’s just say I know why Miss Lippy turned to a life of glue-sniffing.
From my new friend Kristina:
Everything is temporary.
I found this very comforting while sleep training my kids.
From Beth, who’s clearly a lover not a fighter:
Make love, not war.
Certainly more fun and hopefully fewer casualties
People often quote ancient philosophers, famous authors, and renowned minds of history. One of my favorite quotes, for example, is from the esteemed Reese Witherspoon:
“If you’re not yelling at your kids, you’re not spending enough time with them.”
It appears — checks vocal cords – yep, I’m spending plenty of time with my little angels.
And perhaps relatedly, my most frequently quoted words come from the muse known as Frank Costanza:
Here are a few more words of advice friends borrowed from the greats:
My friend Tom offered this from Mark Twain (but which may be from Dr. Kerr L White or Rita Mae Brown, depending on whom you ask):
“Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment”.
By the transitive property, I’m assuming this means bad judgment leads to good judgment, so that bodes well for all of us. Bam! Looks like I have a whole bunch of good judgment headed my way!
My friend and another beloved old boss, Jim Eiche shared this gem from Kurt Vonnegut:
“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”
Follow up question for Kurt: what if you laugh until you cry? I do that watching Melissa McCarthy movies.
My childhood friend Leslie says they quote the fantastic Michelle Obama every day in her house:
“When they go low, we go high.”
Leslie, you must be high as a kite by now.
My friend Ashley said something very similar to this Maya Angelou quote:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
You know what other fountain of wisdom mentioned this quote lately? A contestant from The Bachelor. You’re in good company, Ash.
My friend Shameka paraphrased Michael Scott quoting Wayne Gretzky:
You miss all the shots you don’t take!
Shameka started her own executive coaching company, so I’d say she’s taken her fair share of shots and my money’s on her not missing.
My idol Jessica paraphrased this Alexander Graham Bell quote:
“When one door closes, another one opens.”
This is never truer than when you’re in a restaurant (remember restaurants?) in winter and you’re sitting near the door, and every time someone walks in, you’re like, “shut the door!” and then some jagoff opens another one? This probably isn’t what AGB or Jess meant; I see that now.
My friend Jen once got a card that quoted a Leonard Cohen song, Anthem. She said it’s been perfect during challenging times:
“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
God, Len-Co would make an awesome life coach.
Famous people are great and all, but have you heard of dads? You can’t ask for advice and not get a heaping teaspoon of Dad Wisdom. Here’s some to expand our knowledge beyond, “Money doesn’t grow on trees,” and, “Don’t make me turn this car around.”
From my friend Andrea’s dad, when someone would complain, “Ugh…I wish_______”:
“Shit in one hand, wish in the other, see which one fills up faster.”
It’s an expression, guys. Please don’t literally do this. (Also, spoiler alert: it’s the shit hand.)
My friend Emily’s dad invented a ghost to blame when things got heated, to dissolve the tension of sibling blamefests:
“When there’s no one else left to blame, blame The Ghost!“
In somewhat related news, I had an imaginary friend named Tues (pronounced “Tuss”) who I often blamed stuff on when I was a kid. The other day, I called my kids weirdos and Hazy came back with, “This from someone who had an imaginary friend named Tues?!” Dang, owned by an 11-year old.
My friend Kristin’s dad always says:
“Everything in moderation”.
Not everything though, right, Mr. Hatteberg? Nachos are practically my only vice now.
My friend Courtney’s dad offered up this classic:
The only thing constant in life is change.
Indeed. Change, and Natasha thinking about nachos.
And my friend Heather R’s dad had this wisdom to share:
Your peace is more important than proving your point… let it go.
Heather noted this was way before Frozen, by the way.
Gretchen’s dad’s advice:
“A man’s car is an extension of his penis.”
Marry a man with a big car? Learn how to drive a stick shift? I guess some context will help. Gretchen’s dad taught her this when she was in high school. His point was that teenage boys will drive fast, trying to impress girls. “Tell them to stop, get out of the car, and call me or your mom from anywhere. We will come and get you. Always.” Aw, that’s actually quite sweet. You should be ashamed you thought anything otherwise, perverts.
From my buddy Brian, who should probably guest-write a chapter in my parenting book:
Children need encouragement. If your kid gets an answer right, tell him it was a lucky guess. That way he develops a good, lucky feeling.
Grandpas are dads squared, so they definitely count. My friend Leah’s grandpa Leo, a doctor no less, dropped this knowledge:
“Leave it alone, it will be better in the morning.”
Editor’s note: I tried this with my messy kitchen; it did not work. Paging Dr. Leo
This is my buddy Chäd’s dad-like advice, and he’s a dad, so it counts:
Call your Mom.
Quick question, and Mom (and Gram), feel free to weigh in: is there an unspoken rules that moms must be the callees vs the caller? Asking for a daughter friend.
And from my own dad, who’s given me a lot of great advice, but this is one of my favorites:
Always buy one extra lobster than the number of people eating.
You will never regret this. Unless you are a lobster, in which case, sorry for the whole serial killing thing.
Yo, dads, I’m really happy for you and Imma let you finish, but moms give some of the best advice of all time. Some of the best advice of all time!
My friend Nichole, mom of 2, suggest:
No matter how hard the day is, take a moment and watch your children sleep. Think about how you could have done better today and how you will do better tomorrow.
Is it okay if I just do the first part, Nichole? #halfassedparenting
My friend Jonelle, mom of 3, dropped this k-bomb:
As long as the kids are happy, healthy, safe, and loved you’re doing a good job and nothing else matters.
I’ve bragged before about how I have the sweetest friends, but I should also mention, they’re also really fun. So it’s no surprise that there was a recurring theme of the importance of both kindness and fun. (Kindness without fun always reminds me of Melanie from Gone with the Wind, like we get it, you’re nice, but you’re so damn boring, Melanie!)
My friend Martha summed it up nicely:
“If you can’t be good, have fun!”
I always do, Martha.
Speaking of fun, as my friend Pamela advises…
Always put on the swimsuit and get in the pool, it’s more fun than watching others splash and laugh.
From my friend Brian, who is not only nice but more importantly, kind:
It’s nice to be important but it’s important to be nice.
My dear friend Diane reminds us that kindness is free:
Kindness: it costs nothing but means everything
In another life, I shared a cubicle with both Diane and Stacy; the latter shared this gem:
Treat others how you want to be treated. (And don’t forget to have some fun along the way!)
I can attest that both Stacy and Diane live by these words.
My friend Jess reminds us that kindness shouldn’t be reserved only for other people:
Be gentle on yourself.
Don’t overlook this one just because it’s short. I seriously think this is one of the best pieces of advice. Imagine if we talked to our friends like we talked to ourselves? Would you ever tell a friend they’re an impostor, or gross or a terrible parent? Actually, I’m pretty sure I’ve told friends they are gross before (Beth, remember that time we grew a grey “cat” in the rice cooker?), but you know what I mean.
A good guideline from my friend Jenni:
Before you say something to someone, ask yourself: is it true, is it kind, is it necessary. If it isn’t 2 of the 3 – don’t say it.
I’m so glad you said we only need 2 of the 3, Jenni, could lord knows most of what I say is unnecessary.
And now for a brief interlude into pet advice:
90% of the time I’d agree with my friend Heather, who said:
Life is better with a dog.
But what about cats? Well, according to my friend Carol, who says:
Cats know stuff but they don’t tell anyone.
WHAT ARE YOU HIDING, CATS? Also, there’s definitely some stuff they don’t know.
Of course, since I polled my friends, there was also plenty of food and drink-related advice:
From my friend Kanchan, who owns a fantastic wine company (not a sponsor!):
There’s a Wine for That.
This is very true, and p.s. it’s never chardonnay.
From my friend Leah, the powerful ex-chairwoman of the Curley School Parent Council:
Don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t want to drink.
As a related corollary, my friend Misong taught me about “cooking wine,” which is wine you drink while you cook. Highly recommend.
Where there’s wine, there should be cheese, and my friend David advises:
Never cut the nose off the Brie.
Don’t worry, I’ve asked the tough follow up questions, like, “What?” and David says the nose is the tip and this most likely means you should always cut your brie in wedges and not just cut the front of the triangle off like some kind of psycho.
When life deals you lemons, make lemonade. Then, add vodka. Repeat as necessary.
This recipe is short and sweet, and we didn’t have to scroll past three pages of you telling a story about making lemonade (cough, cough, Pinterest), and we appreciate that, Sky.
From smart chef Laurie:
Double the garlic. Always.
Alternatively, double the everything by making Chrissy Teigen’s Armadillo Cheesy Garlic Bread, which is disgustingly good, emphasis on the disgusting. You’ll have uber garlic breath and a deep feeling of shame after eating it, but it’s 100% worth it.
From my buddy Chris:
Buy plain loose sausage meat and add your own spices. Chopped rolled sage works especially well.
And from my friend Kerry, who I’m pretty sure has this superpower:
If you can learn to only eat when you are hungry, you essentially have superpowers and will save yourself lots of money in the future.
Kerry, if you could teach people this superpower, you’d be a billionaire. I think I’m gonna try the wine, lemonade and sausage things first though, k?
Here are some DO’s and DON’T’s from my brain trust:
DO the best you can and that will be good enough. -Carla
One time I was really, really torn up about a major life decision. I called my brother crying. He said, “whatever you decide, it will be the right decision.” It seemed both laughably simple and incredibly freeing. He was right.
DON’T sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things. -Darcey
What do you mean by sweaty things?! I can only think of armpits and balls.
Don’t save things for special occasions – find things to celebrate so you can eat that cake, wear that outfit, show off that jewelry! -Laurie
Thank you for justifying all my Boogiebee jewelry purchases, Laurie.
Don’t offer unsolicited advice – it just makes shit awkward. -Seb, who was sure to point out that I did in fact solicit this advice.
Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides. -Kate (Because, as my friend Southie says, “Nobody’s keeping score.”)
Don’t post or publicly share anything you wouldn’t want to see on the whiteboard in front of every classmate and teacher. -Beth
Don’t go where you’re not wanted. -Amelia
And a few quick takes:
From my talented and hard-working friend, Zach:
Diligence beats talent.
You don’t need to tell the tone-deaf winner of Connelly Idol 2014, Zach.
From pretty woman (but not that Pretty Woman) Cynthia:
As someone who worked on the Fixodent account for several years and learned unspeakable things about dentures, I’ll second this.
From my beautiful lion-rescuer friend (seriously, look it up), Kelcey:
I’m right here, guys, waiting for your comments.
From my wicked smart friend, Karin:
Do today’s work today.
You can’t make me, Karin!
From the lovely and talented Jennifer:
Do what got you invited.
Have my mom call her mom up and insist I be included? Just kidding.
From my flyest friend Ivan:
Be more fly!
Girl, please. The only way I could be more fly is if I accidentally let a fly into my teleportation machine right before its maiden voyage.
If you want to bump yourself right up the top of the Beyoncé-to-Sasha Fierce scale** in terms of taking control of your life, here’s some advice for you:
From my old friend Heather R:
You’re responsible for how long you let what hurt you, haunt you.
Yeah, beat it, ghosts.
From the wise and kind Sara:
You can’t control others actions, but you can control how you respond.
Say it with me: Not with your fists. Not with your fists.
From the very zen Sarah:
Assume positive intent. Most people aren’t trying to hurt you. They’re scared, confused, or ignorant.
This is a big one in our household. There are a lot of dramatic reenactments of disagreements that are not flattering to the original speaker.
From my friend Julie:
Remove toxic people from your life, even if they are family. You do not owe anyone toxic a place in your life.
You’ve been warned, Marco. Beating me at Scrabble is pretty toxic.
From my friend Kerri:
Carrying anger over long past incidents is never worth the stress. What’s passed is past. Carry the memories that feed your happiness and let the rest go.
From my friend Lauren, who’s helped me through some major life stuff before:
Fear and anxiety are your body’s alarm bells letting you know that the thoughts you are having aren’t true.
I wish I’d had those alarm bells when I thought a ghost had kidnapped Hazy but it turned out she was just pooping. I’ll save that story for another time.
From the measured Brad:
Reactions are always emotional. Objectivity takes time.
Thanks to this esteemed advice, I looked back at my anger towards the Old Sandwich race director and realized…Nope, that guy still sucks. Maybe needs a little more time.
From the Yoga-like Flader:
The quality of your thoughts correlates directly to the quality of your life, and you’re the gatekeeper of those thoughts. The realization that you can challenge your own thoughts and reactions that pop up, that you can control that, is in itself life-changing.
I love this, and it reminds me of this Roald Dahl quote which I swear is about my Nana: “If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
From my friend Susan:
You’ll rarely regret taking time off work to do something that matters to you (no matter how much it may feel like work won’t work without you).
100% agree. One of my favorite Office Space quotes, “You’ve been missing a lot of work lately.” “I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it, Bob.”
From my inspirational friend Dina:
The only way to be happy: Don’t live in the past, it will depress you. Don’t live in the future, you will be anxious. Live in the now & be free.
I’m free! And I’m watching the Bachelor.
From my friend JoAnne:
When someone frustrates you because they’re rude, notice how they treat everyone else. It likely has nothing to do with you so don’t take it personally.
In other words, fuck off, Karens!
From my friend Zoë:
Breathe. When you feel yourself getting angry, step away. Wait. Don’t get defensive. Focus and time provide perspective.
Ever honk at someone who’s not taking a right at a red light, only to realize a second later that there’s a “no right on red” sign and then you want to un-honk but my un-horn hasn’t been invented yet so you do that weird “I’m sorry” hand signal, which is the same as the “thank you” hand signal but with your shoulders up? Yeah, me neither.
From my friend Katie:
Don’t “should” on others. Shoulda woulda coulda on someone else makes them feel bad and doesn’t produce the thing you’re after.
Don’t shoulda all over your friends, peeps.
Some serious financial advice:
From my super successful friend Sue:
Start contributing to your 401k the minute you are eligible.
And pray that a bunch of Redditors don’t F it up before you retire.
From Bob, who I’m pretty sure has a boat, so pay attention:
Debt creates debt, saving creates savings.
And debt is bad, right?
From my beloved Joseph:
Don’t short stocks anymore, I think.
First they came for GameStop and we said nothing.
From the ever-wise Alynda:
Spend money on the stuff you use every day. It’ll add to your peace of mind.
If I’m understanding you correctly, Alynda, I should buy a new Macbook and some cheese, stat.
Some less serious, um, non-financial advice:
From my friend Heather R:
Pay attention to 4th grade math, you might be teaching it to your kids one day in a pandemic.
This one’s for all my child readers.
From my friend Steven, who’s a Laird, so clearly knows some shit:
If you want to run with the tall dogs learn to pee in the high grass.
I’ll add, remember to check for ticks!
From my fucking smart friend Kerri:
Swearing is a sign of intelligence and a great way to release stress. Fuck anyone that says swearing is a bad habit.
Yes to all this shit.
From my friend Steve, who quotes the wise Ernest T. Bass:
“When you’re angry, count to ten. The ensuing calm will improve your rock throwing aim.”
Who says my rock game needs improving, Steve?
And one more from Tony:
Live life like Natasha.
Interpret this how you will, but I’d say for starters, you should up your nachos intake.
I’m going to leave you with this thought from my wise friend, Josie, and this picture of my idol, Nana, who’s way older than 90 and has lived a life of beauty, kindness and grace (some of her advice here):
As the Acton Boxborough Regional High School ’93 football team t-shirts said on the back, “No excuses, no regrets.”
*I’ve been listening to a lot of Tig Notaro lately.
**Imagine being Beyoncé and still needing to create an imaginary persona to feel confident. That alone should make you feel better about not always feeling 100% confident.