There are many people in our lives who have good intentions and sage advice for us. A famous scene in the 1967 movie The Graduate plays out this dynamic well. Benjamin Braddock, portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, is at a party after his graduation from college. Everyone is fascinated by what he might do next in life. A friend of the family, Mr. McGuire, corners Benjamin and the following exchange occurs;
Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
Mr. McGuire was probably right. Benjamin would have made a fortune in the plastic business. The problem was that Ben had another idea. He tells his father that he just wants to be different.
We do not have to follow a path that has been prescribed for us by well-meaning family members, friends, and mentors. Their expectations, experiences, and visions for our path are barely relevant to the one that we must forge on our own. We can be led to the crossroad but, in the final analysis, must travel on alone.
Our personal passions and dreams are unique unto us. When we take the road that was traveled by others and fail to follow ours, life will not be satisfying. As Joseph Campbell would say, ‘follow your bliss’. It might be scary but your own adventure is perfectly fit just for you.
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“Wisdom is ofttimes nearer when we stoop than when we soar.”~ William Wordsworth
The wounds and pain that we suffer are the very experiences that provide us with information to navigate as we progress along the winding path of life. It has been said that the bamboo reed growing in the wetlands must be cut, carved and smoothed in order to make sweet music. This is not only true of the reed but of us as well. The wounds that we receive can serve to define us in ways that allow our own unique music to play while assisting and inspiring others. They should never be seen as cuts that have left us unattractive.
Most of us think that we know everything when we are thirty only to find at fifty that we know almost nothing. My grandfather used to say; “Too soon old…Too late smart.” When we finally recognize that our experiences can be used to benefit those who struggle with their own distress and suffering, our lives will take on a new dimension. The fullness of understanding and real wisdom will follow. We will begin to intuitively know what to do and what to say when people ask our advice and counsel. While intelligence is something with which we might be endowed at birth, true wisdom only comes with time and age.
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Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse. In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers. His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation. Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast