Thursday, February 11, 2016

Benefits of Having Many Advisers

A friend called me, telling about a new business venture he was planning. After he briefly outlined his intentions, I asked whether he had done his “due diligence” in fully researching this kind of enterprise. He assured me that he had and felt ready to proceed.

This wasn’t a field of endeavor I knew anything about, but I had two other friends that I knew had run similar businesses in the past. I suggested that my friend talk with them before casting his plans in concrete, literally and figuratively. My desire wasn’t to change his mind, but rather to ensure he had carefully examined all aspects of his proposed enterprise to avoid the potential for unanticipated problems in the future.

Decisions: What's really 
behind the door?
Years ago I learned an important principle of decision-making. In many instances we make our decisions based on emotion, and then justify those decisions by gathering facts that support the course of action we want to take. Sometimes this works, but other times an emotions-first, facts-second approach can lead to disaster.

Have you heard the saying, “How can it be wrong when it feels so right”? The problem is, feelings can and frequently do cloud sound judgment. So how do we counter that? By seeking out advice and wise counsel from people we trust – even those who won’t necessarily agree with whatever we wish to do.

The book of Proverbs has much to say on this topic. For instance, it states, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure” (Proverbs 11:14). A similar passage tells us, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).

Through the years I’ve experienced the truth of these words in both positive and negative ways. Determined to do things my way, I have either avoided asking others what they thought, or chose only people who would “tickle my ears” and agree with my foregone conclusions. Later I would discover, too late, what the Bible says about this. Proverbs 12:15 asserts, “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.” In some cases I’ve indeed taken “the way of a fool,” but experience and wisdom have since taught me the importance of seeking and listening to advice.

Our decisions – especially hasty ones – can be very easily justified and excused. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and if I don’t act now, I’ll miss out!” we reason. Or we tell ourselves, “They don’t agree, but they just don’t understand.” But as the Scriptures tell us, “He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe” (Proverbs 28:26).

“Walking in wisdom” can involve being humble enough to consult with others wiser and more savvy than ourselves – and willing to receive and seriously consider their counsel. Which is why Proverbs 19:20 declares, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” Looking at the same question from the opposite angle, we’re told, “Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge” (Proverbs 19:27).

“Hindsight is 20:20,” the familiar adage informs us. But one benefit of seeking wise counsel – especially when pondering difficult, complex, even life-changing decisions – is that others can offer their own hard-earned 20:20 hindsight without our having to gain it through the pain of foolishness and failure.

It’s unhealthy to live in a constant state of regret over wrong choices in the past, but it becomes much easier when we minimize bad decisions. And one of the best ways to do that, I’ve learned (often the hard way), is to “make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance” (Proverbs 20:18). That way, rather than having to devote much of our time to damage control or suffering harsh consequences, we can instead enjoy the fruits of making wise decisions that don’t need to be corrected later.

Another adage wisely urges us to “look before you leap.” Wouldn’t it make sense to look before leaping at critical junctures in life not only from our own limited perspectives, but also through the eyes of others who can offer different points of view? Just as long as our advisers aren’t named Eeny, Meeny, Miney, and Moe!

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