For every rule there is an exception. Take business advice for example.
Since the late 1930s, every budding industrialist, investment banker, and entrepreneur has read Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People.
It’s loaded with sage, but simplistic advice like listening and smiling.
Large corporations hand it out to their sales and customer service teams. Writers clamour for a copy. Just about everybody in the world has read it.
Except my grandfather.
As a young adult, husband, and father, my dad’s dad was in the insurance business. Strange, considering he was a blunt instrument. A rugged, dead-to-the-feelings-of-the-world individual. A bull in a china shop.
Annoy him and you could expect something along the lines of, “I hate you and the horse you rode in on.”
This made selling insurance difficult. This made working with others difficult. His superiors suggested he read How to Win Friends and Influence People. He refused and quit.
I love that story. Not because it exalts hard-headedness or rebellion. But because it doesn’t end there.
From the insurance business my grandfather went on to snap up a few apartment buildings and houses he eventually renovated and rented.
In addition, he bought a shotgun-style sundry store with tar paper floors (he refused to replace) that became a downtown staple of Collinsville, IL (my childhood home).
As far as I know he didn’t get filthy rich, but he was financially independent … and vastly satisfied.
I love this story because he carved out his life in direct opposition to conventional wisdom. Until the day he died he maintained that snarl.
It would be wrong of me, however, not to point out that he was, indeed, a very caring and generous person. To me, my sister, his own children. His community, his lodge. He had dozens of good friends. You just had to know Brad — and how to bear Brad — to enjoy Brad’s company.
The moral of the story: know when to listen to conventional wisdom. And when to ignore it.
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