what’s the best advice you were ever given?

straight up advice

“What’s the best advice you were ever given?” was the short-film assignment for the 2015 class of Team Oscar. I was totally stumped when I asked the question of myself. I couldn’t think of anything. Sure, I’m fine with doling out the advice, but to pick the best? While I have lists of what I’ve learned from my mother and learned from my father, and a list of advice I’d give my younger self, this question prompted me to come up with a list of valued advice—a vault of wisdom.

GO OUTSIDE: both literally and mentally. Look beyond now; look beyond yourself. Look up at the stars and realize there’s a universe growing outside of your dramas. It throws everything you’re experiencing into proportion and helps you gain some perspective.

GOSSIPING MAKES YOU UNTRUSTWORTHY: If you’re talking shit about her, chances are you’re talking shit about me, too.

FAKE IT TO MAKE IT: Belief follows behavior. If you fake it long enough, your brain begins to believe it’s true. It says, “Hmm, look at this behavior I’ve got going on. If I’m behaving this way, I must feel that way. Not feeling sexy, confident, patient? Pretend that you are. Act as if it’s true, and soon it will be.

BRING RAIN BOOTS TO A CEMETERY: Have tissues at hand, sure, but what about your feet? Do yourself a favor before you get in the funeral procession and get some rain boots in your car.

MAKE OTHER PEOPLE FEEL IMPORTANT: Goodness, so much of “bad behavior” is fueled by a need to feel important, to be top dog, to feel validated, to get the gold star. When you realize this inherent need, it’s so easy to give people what they need. Even if it does feel like you’re “pandering,” as Phil would say. Why wouldn’t you do it if it makes someone happier?

DON’T HAVE A ‘BEST FRIEND’: It’s very limiting, especially to kids, to declare a best friend. And it’s limiting of the parent to smack the name on her child’s friendships. We should all aim to have several dear friends.

DON’T SAY, “I’M HERE IF YOU NEED ANYTHING”: When offering sympathy to someone who’s dealing with a difficult time, show up in the specifics. Don’t be vague with a “don’t hesitate to call me.” Instead, get specific or just get busy doing. Drop off dinners without asking, leave them at the door. Ask, “Can I take the kids to a movie tomorrow at 4:20pm then take them for pizza?”

‘FAIR IS FAIR’ IS UNFAIR: Do unto others is a hot steaming lie pie. “What is good for one type is equally good for another type” just doesn’t work in relationships. “Fair is fair” is actually unfair because here’s the rub: we’re different, and what bothers one person might not bother the other. We express love differently, and we receive love differently. Don’t do what you’d want done for you. Do what THEY want done for them.

YOU’RE NOT A BROKEN FAILURE JUST BECAUSE THE RELATIONSHIP ENDED: Sure, introspection is helpful. Fail better, all that. Learn something from the lesson, okay. But don’t for a second think that there MUST be something wrong with you or what you’re doing simply because a relationship ends. Sometimes you’re just not a good match, and there’s something better suited for you around the corner.

VALIDATE DON’T FIX: With kids, with your spouse, instead of asking them “why” they did something (that you clearly don’t like), try to show the person that you’ve heard them. You don’t need to agree or disagree, just let the person feel heard.


View the 60-second film Winners on YouTube
My favorite advice of these shorts? “Never make eye contact while eating a banana.”

go ahead, ask


If you have questions or need advice on anything from where to eat to how to get over the bastard, just email your question to my advice email address.



  1. Default to kind.

    If you don’t have anything nice to say – don’t say anything at all.

    Mom’s great words of wisdom. In this world, especially lately it seems, everyone defaults to vicious and critical. Instead, hold your tongue – take a minute – say something kind, non-committal or just be still. No one needs the noise of mean.

  2. This isn’t a one-liner, but the best advice I was given was at a time when I was struggling with making a major change in my career. The change meant leaving the path that I had always planned for myself, letting go of the dream I had been trying to build, and doing something completely different (though also challenging and rewarding). As I explained that my main hesitation was over letting go of the plan I had had for so long, my mentor said “Maybe you have grown. The plan you had was good for that period of your career, and you learned a lot over the years. But maybe now you have outgrown it, and it is time for the next challenge.” Her comment gave me some much needed perspective. The dreams you had when you were in your early 20’s may not fit your late 30’s life, and that’s ok. It isn’t a failure, it is growth. I made the change I had been considering, and I could not be happier. I will always be grateful to her for that advice.

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