Graduation Season: The Best Advice I Ever Got

Recently I read an excerpt from Katie Couric’s book,“The Best Advice I Ever Got.” It’s an collection of contemporary (20th-21st century) famous people sharing tips they received from mentors and heroes.

What some people shared was not specific advice, but stories that stuck with him or her, and shaped who he or she became. All the stories and advice in the book are interspersed with author/collector Katie Couric’s own anecdotes.

The excerpt I am recalling is by Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell says he was a big baseball fan from early childhood. He passionately followed the Expos though they weren’t a stellar team. His favorite sportswriter regularly covering the Expos was Bob Elliott.

Gladwell recalls vividly in 1984 when the Montreal Expos sold one of their founding members, Gary Carter. He was their best player, what were they thinking? How could they? Gladwell says this event instilled in him that they sold their greatest asset and this was a huge mistake; if a person gives up on their own greatest asset, they are missing out and possibly doomed to failure or worse, mediocrity.

Gladwell shares that his father urged him to not pursue journalism as a career, which is ironic given his success in that field. Gladwell credits his mother for his desire to be a writer. Perhaps, Gladwell feels if he had not pursued journalism and writing, he would have made a big mistake, failing to make the most of a potentially big asset.

Fast forward 30+ years: Bob Elliott is in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for his prolific career in sports journalism. Gladwell is a famous journalist, and author of multiple bestselling books. He’s become a thought leader of his time: when Gladwell observes something, people listen, and links to his articles tend to go viral on social media. The Expos aren’t a team you hear about much today. That’s because they were moved to Washington, DC in 2004, and renamed the Nationals.

Gary Carter had a remarkable career in baseball before dying from brain cancer in 2012. Back in 1984, it would have been easy for Carter to feel rejected and just quit playing his best when his team sold him to the Mets. Carter’s career actually just kept right on swinging (pardon the pun), and soared to amazing heights.  His new teammates included Strawberry, Hernandez, and Gooden. The link (see Carter’s name) goes to an ESPN story about his life and career. Here’s another one at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Even if you don’t follow baseball, Carter is an inspiring, perseverant person to read about.

“The Best Advice I Ever Got” was published several years ago. Now that it’s 2015, it may be at your local library, downloadable to a digital reader, or on the front shelves at a big chain bookstore. It could be all of the above.

Printed books get a  mere flickering moment on chain bookstore shelves before they are moved to make way for the next batch of potential bestsellers. Just because this is the nature of the business,  though, it  doesn’t mean some books’ were only relevant for two weeks.

People of all ages and generations ask, “what am I doing with my life?” and that’s when books like“The Best Advice I Ever Got” are a thought-provoking reference and a consolation that no one is alone, no matter what age he/she is when asking these questions.