Recently, I had lunch at a Chinese restaurant with a friend. As is customary, we both opened our fortune cookies. The absurdity of taking advice from a cookie was immediately evident. His promised an “exotic trip to a foreign land”; mine, “a new challenge.”
We laughed as we read them. It’s not likely my friend would be taking exotic trips anytime soon and I couldn’t tell if mine was meant to serve as a warning. I already have plenty of new challenges. They come every day, it seems, from the variety of ventures I’m engaged in and from new ones I’m cultivating. Neither fortune hit the mark very well. We jokingly considered the possibility we had picked up each other’s fortune.
Yet, looking at those scraps of paper, meant to inspire, left me wondering, Is my advice any better than a fortune cookie?
Fortune cookies are mass-produced. If I’m not careful, my advice can be that way, too. When others tell me about their challenges, it’s easy to roll out some advice they likely haven’t forgotten:
- Just give it some time. Things will get clearer.
- God will work all things to your good.
- You learn best from failure. Just look at Edison: a thousand ways not to make a lightbulb.
- Just do the next thing you can.
None of these are untruths. They become useless, however, when they are dispensed as quickly as a fortune cookie thrown on a plate of chow mien.
Face it, which is easier? To say: I know you’ll be successful soon or Your pursuit is going to tax you in ways you probably can’t even imagine yet and I want to help. One asserts a sugary confidence with a quick pat on the back. The other affirms the gritty reality of a situation and solidarity in the pursuit.
Turn the tables now. Which would you rather receive: words tucked in sugary confection that burn off quickly or those more deeply connected to your present concerns?
Today, you and I have the opportunity to influence another’s venture. Let’s offer them something better than a fortune cookie.
What was the last fortune cookie advice you received from someone?